AUTHOR'S NOTE: Blah blah blah, I don't own these characters and J.K. Rowling is very nice for allowing us to write these non-profit stories, blah blah. Anyway. I wanted to tell an original story, something nobody had done before, and I think "Parselmouth Hermione" may well be a first. There are a few other creative ideas that will come up as the plot advances. I also wanted to write a plausible version of First Year Hermione as she is described in 'Philosopher's Stone' — an excitable, bossy little girl with a tendancy to babble — which is only too rarely done; stories tend to either make her unsympathetic, or instead idealize her and have her be like her older self from Day One. Anyway, I plan for this to be a rather short, episodic sort of story. As always reviews are very much appreciated!
The Parselmouth of Gryffindor
Chapter I: The Muggleborn Parselmouth
Hermione Granger could talk to snakes. That was the one oddity to this bushy-haired eleven-year-old bookworm, born of perfectly ordinary dentists in perfectly ordinary London. Ever since she'd discovered this ability, it had been her greatest secret pride. What other children (to an extent) and the grown-ups respected her for was her intelligence and her academic memory, and certainly, she was proud of those, too — but there were many other precocious students in the world, whereas talking to snake was special. Hermione had looked in every library she was allowed to go, and there were no records of anyone ever speaking to a snake at all. In fact, the thicker books on snake biology said snakes were actually quite deaf. This had made the snake she'd told giggle like mad — or whatever the snake equivalent for giggling was.
At any rate, Daniel and Sally Granger knew about this, and, while extremely confused, loved their daughter no less for it. And a few months before their daughter's eleventh birthday, they received the first strange visit of many to come.
It was a strange woman wearing an out-of-date red dress. Hermione answered the door, as she always did when her parents were farther away from the entryway than she was:
"Yes, ma'm?" she asked in her still somewhat squeaky voice.
"Ah, you must be Miss Hermione Granger." said the woman, sounding mildly pleased over her Scottish accent. "I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, and there is something of importance I must discuss with your parents."
"Oh, is it about your teeth?" asked Hermione. "They look fine to me. And where did you find this dress? What are you a professor of? Why…"
"Dear!" said Sally Granger's voice behind her, cutting her off. "We talked about this. Curiosity is a fine quality in a young girl, but you shouldn't just swarm strangers with questions."
"Madam, I do apologize for my daughter's outburst", said Sally's husband, ever the formal practician. "I am Doctor Daniel Granger. What is your business?"
"As it happens, Dr Granger", said McGonagall, "it concerns young Hermione herself. Let me get to the point… you must have noticed… peculiar events happening around her."
"Oh, ma'am, did we ever!" said Hermione before her parents could silence her. Powerless, they nodded.
"Very good, very good!" said McGonagall. "I see you have not taken issue with… Oh, of course you would not. What are a few flickering light and broken objects… The other muggles do fuss over the smallest things, all things considered."
"Lights? Objects?" asked Mr Granger, who was growing more and more confused.
"Oh…" said a disappointed Hermione. "I thought you were talking about my ability to talk to snakes… Of course you wouldn't know. Just my luck."
Professor McGonagall's demeanor shifted rather remarkably at that.
"Talking to snakes?! Indeed?" she said with obvious interest and surprise.
"Oh, hm, yes, we…" stammered Mrs Granger, not knowing what to say. Though they privately believed their daughter, Daniel and Sally had elected not to mention this… bizarreness… outside of the family circle, at least until Hermione was of age. No need to make her a media freak before she even turned fourteen.
"Don't worry, Dr Granger… Par- talking to snakes is also considered a sign of what I am talking about… though quite an unusual one. Simply put, your daughter Hermione… is a witch."
Through the flood of questions that followed, it surfaced that Professor McGonagall was the Deputy Headmistress of the British Isles' only school of Magic; that Hermione could study in that school if she so wished, for free (which had Daniel beaming instantly); that Magic had nothing to do with demonic summonings of any sort, and was an inherent and morally neutral talent; that there was a whole secret world of wizards out there; and that any further questions could be answered by the books Hermione would soon be purchasing in London's wizarding district under the Professor's own guidance.
McGonagall led the young witch to the 'Leaky Cauldron' the very next day. Her parents would have loved to come, of course, but they had some clients scheduled to come that day. They reasoned there would always be time to discover the new world and magic, whereas there was money to be made today. To be precise, that had been Daniel Granger's reasoning.
"Why is the entrance to Diagon Alley disguised as a pub?" Hermione asked as they walked through the crowded establishment. "Is it really a pub, or just a disguise? Does it belong to the Ministry of Magic? If not, does the Ministry pay the actual owner for the use they make of -"
"Miss Granger! Calm yourself!" tampered McGonagall. "I reiterate that all of your questions will be answered either at Hogwarts itself, or in the numerous books you will no doubt be buying today."
"Oh yes!" said Hermione eagerly. "Will we soon get to the bookshop, Professor?"
"Uhm… As you will no doubt spend the longest time there, I would advise you to save the best for last, so to speak. Here, let us buy some proper wizarding robes for you!" said McGonagall, pointing to Madam Malkin's with evident relief and ushering the girl in before Hermione could even ask about what she meant, exactly, by 'robes', 'wizarding' and 'proper'.
There, she found herself measured by a still, silent woman and eventually offered several sizes of a set of black robes and pointy hat. She payed quite a few pounds for the clothes, but Madam Malkin assured her in a quiet voice that the robes had several enchantments on them to justify the price.
Next stop, McGonagall said, was Gringotts Bank, where she could exchange her pounds for wizarding money, as only Madam Malkin's accepted Muggle coin.
Oh, really? Wizards had their own currency? What was it called? What was its exchange rate? Was it the same for wizards in other countries? Were there wizards in other countries?
Hermione's economical questions were however soon drowned out when she came across the bank-tellers.
"Oh my God. They're not human!" she squeaked in surprise. "You didn't tell me there were other species in the wizarding world… Oh dear oh dear, what are they, exactly? Do they speak English?"
Somewhat amused, Professor McGonagall answered:
"They are Goblins, Miss Granger. They do have their own nation and language, but of course the bank-tellers in Gringotts are fluent, or nearly so, in most European languages and some besides."
Hermione gasped but then regained her decorum and strode to a free desk. She bowed briefly.
"Excuse me, sir?" she asked as politely as she could manage.
The goblin — an old, withered creature with yellowed teeth and claws, wearing silver-branched spectacles — leaned towards the young girl.
"Yes…?" he acquiesced.
"I'm sorry, sir, but my name is Hermione Granger." (She bowed again.) "I'm a muggleborn and I would like to exchange two hundred pounds' worth into galleons, please." (Another bow.)
Staring intently at her, the old goblin extended a clawed, skeletal hand in which she placed the bank notes. Almost immediately, he gave her a small bag of heavy wizarding coins in return.
"Thank you very much — sir." said Hermione, bowing again.
A few months earlier, a rude boy in her class had joked she 'probably didn't know any fairy tales', and, taking the insult very seriously, she'd read up all she could on fairies. The point was that many books said goblins were a type of fae, and all the books agreed it was best to always be polite when dealing with the fae.
While she trotted off to meet a stunned McGonagall, the old goblin whispered in Gobbledegook to his colleague sitting next to him:
[That witch is barmy. Does she think I'm a hippogriff or something?]
Together, Hermione and her Professor bought a cauldron and assorted instruments, parchments and quills, and a telescope — none of which was particularly interesting. Afterwards, she was finally allowed into Flourish and Blotts, the magical bookshop, where she bought nearly everything she could on magic, goblins, and wizarding society. She looked all she could but did not find anything about snakes — from Mr Blotts' reaction when she asked about it, it sounded like wizards weren't on the best terms with snakes, for some reason.
McGonagall, Hermione decided, had to be a very good witch, as she managed to create a self-powered wagon for transporting her purchases. Yes, she was definitely looking forward to having that woman as her teacher.
Then, she was asked to go to a faded boutique called Ollivanders to buy 'the most essential piece of equipment' — a wand.
"Ah… a new muggleborn, is that it, Minerva?" asked Mr Ollivander without greeting either of them, emerging from behind a shelf.
"Indeed, Garrick. May I introduce — Miss Hermione Granger. Miss Granger is an eager mind… and a Parselmouth" said McGonagall with a peculiar tone of voice.
"Is she now?" said Ollivander, his pale, already twinkling eyes becoming even brighter. "How fascinating! How very interesting indeed. I haven't equipped a Parselmouth since… oh, since… ah, you wouldn't remember the boy's name, Miss Granger, but the point is it was more than fifty years ago. Now…"
With a flick of his own wand, the wandmaker sent several strange tape measurers floating about Hermione, and he began explaining:
"Now, you see, the wand chooses the witch, Miss Granger, not the other way around. It's not always clear why, but -"
"Excuse me", asked Hermione, "but if the wand chooses the witch, why are all these tests necessary?"
Ollivander looked like he'd accidentally swallowed a porcupine.
"Ah, uhm, this reminds me. Minerva, the choosing of the wand is a private event, especially for someone so special… if you would kindly wait outside…"
Somewhat surprised, the Professor left the shop.
"It is rare that a student should ask such a thing", said Ollivander, his eyes twinkling. "I am no Sorting Hat, but I daresay you may do well in Ravenclaw, young parselmouth… Now, you see… there is an art in helping a witch or wizard find their first wand; if I didn't have a rough ideas what wands to suggest, why, the choosing of the wand would take hours."
"Then if it's so innocent, then why did you ask Professor McGonagall to leave us alone?" asked Hermione, curious.
"Well, there is an art, it's true, but it's all in the feelings — the tapes are just a little bit of decorum. I'm afraid if people knew that wandlore is not nearly so scientific as I make it out to be, they wouldn't listen to a word I say, and instead I'd have to deal with excited youngsters pouncing on the wands in my shelves. And I do so enjoy my quiet little monologues…"
Hermione, pleased to have found out something Professor McGonagall had obviously never noticed, readily agreed to keep this nice Mr Ollivander's secret, and they moved on to finding her a wand.
"Now let me see… The mind of a Ravenclaw, the independence of a Gryffindor… and something of a Slytherin too, not to mention the Parseltongue…"
So saying, Ollivander was running his hands over the numerous wands in his possession.
"Perhaps this?" he said, holding out a light-colored wand of about average length, before he explained the wand's properties with obvious pride: "Vine wood, dragon heartstring core, 10¾ inches, a powerful wand for one with hidden depths and an aptitude to learn."
Hermione took the wand in her little hands and flicked it. A few sparks flew out, but she felt some sort of resistance — a bit like trying to run in sand. She said so.
"Hmmm. Yes. Were you not a Parselmouth, I think this would be the one, but… oh, yes, a Parselmouth after all, why not? I was keeping it for… but here, try this one."
Ollivander had drawn a dusty-looking wand from the back of the farthest shelf.
"Holly and Phoenix Feather… Unusual combination, but a powerful wand indeed… the last Parselmouth that came to my shop bought the wand's brother, you see, so I wouldn't be surprised…"
"Brothers? How can wands be 'brothers'?" asked Hermione derisively. "Wands are man-made wooden objects!" she explained further, simultaneously fighting back laughter and patronizing the old wizard.
"Miss Granger", said the man, obviously ruffled. "Two wands are said to be 'brothers' when they share cores taken from the same magical creature."
"Oh…" apologized Hermione. "I'm sorry. I'll try it then."
She took the wand and tried to give it a wave. Instead of sparkles, little bolts flew off the tip of the wand and it began to smoke a bit.
"Oh, dear me, no, no, not at all", muttered Ollivander, snatching the wand away and placing it back in its native drawer, looking a tad disappointed.
Three wands later, however, she obtained a working wand, of walnut and dragon heartstring, 11 inches. It was still not a perfect match (Ollivander lamented he had no Horned Serpent horns in stock), but it was acceptable and still the best out of the set. Besides, Hermione did have other things to do today (mostly reading) and it was getting late. She decided she could buy a new wand later on if this one really didn't do, and by then it'd be a nice plus to have the first wand as a spare.
Hermione politely waved goodbye to Ollivander and got out to find her Professor had turned into a cat and was contemplating a mouse with obvious interest.
"Oh, Professor, it would be terribly nice of you to change back", Hermione whispered (she didn't want to be seen talking to a cat if it turned out she was mistaken and this wasn't Minerva McGonagall).
She was saved the embarrassment when McGonagall reluctantly let go of the rodent and shifted back into a middle-aged Scottish woman.
"So. I trust you have purchased a fitting wand?"
"Oh yes, it was very interesting. And now, could you take me home? I have quite a bit of background reading to do."
"Fine. Now, let's test your memory, young witch. Do you remember the way to the Leaky Cauldron from here?"
"Of course, Professor, but I really would like to go home early, and my legs are rather tired… Couldn't we Apparate?"
Conversations with snakes had taught Hermione that there was nothng to be gained in tiring yourself out when there was another, perfectly good, lazy option. Apparation — the method of magical teleportation McGonagall had mentioned in their little improvised Q&A the previous day — sounded absolutely wonderful in that regard.
"Well, I suppose I can take you in Side-Along Apparation, if you insist." said McGonagall.
Hermione gripped McGonagall's free hand — she had her other one holding the moving trolley — and in a cracking sound, she felt herself be twisted through space-time and then zapped back into conventional three-dimensional space in the back of the Granger family's garden. It was all very interesting, but Hermione nonetheless hurried to the bathroom immediately under McGonagall's covertly amused glare, the enchanted trolley full of books still trailing behind her obediently.
After two months spent frantically reading up on magic and on wizarding society, Hermione was dropped off at King's Cross Station by Daniel and Sally Granger. She quickly climbed into the Express, McGonagall's surprisingly resilient enchanted trolley (now loaded with her trunk rather than her books, though most of said books were of course contained in the trunk) on her heels, and found herself a free, comfy compartment about midway through the train.
As she set to work, skimming through Hogwarts, A History for the fourth time — it did seem the most relevant volume aside from her course-books proper — she only barely noticed the train start moving.
A little while later, a shy-looking boy peeked in.
"I'm sorry, my name's Neville and I lost my toad… Have you seen him?"
"No, I'm afraid not. What sort of toad is it?" she asked him back, her voice as bossy and practical as her father's.
"I don't know… About this big?" answered Neville, making vague, unhelpful gestures with his stubby little hands.
"I think we could use a Summoning Spell then. Here", she said, correcting his grip on his wand, "the incantation is Accio. Ah-kee-oh, you see? And you swish your wand like this. Oh, and we'd better do it in the corridor."
Neville was dragged into the corridor and, under Hermione's firm stare (which rather reminded him of his gran's, scarily enough), he was forced to try out the spell. The slight whistle of a spell being cast was heard, but a few sparks flew off the tip of Neville's wand, just like what Hermione had seen on some of the mismatched wand she'd tried at Ollivanders. No toad appeared, either.
"Hmm. I'll try it", said Hermione confidently, inwardly upset that her idea hadn't worked. "Accio Neville's toad!"
This time, all signs pointed to the spell having been accurately cast, but again nothing happened.
"Well, I suppose he's out of range, or restrained. We'll just have to go through the whole train" Hermione said, again covering up her frustration.
The first compartment they tried had green leather-covered seats and was inhabited by three rude boys. Their leader was a pale, blonde-haired little wizard with a pointed chin and a sour expression. He'd asked for her last name before she'd even finished her question, and, after she'd refused, consequently refused to acknowledge her presence any further.
Others were more polite, but not particularly more helpful for it. In the end they got to the very last compartment in the whole train, which housed two boys — one of whom bore a lightning scar on his forehead.
"I'm sorry, but have you seen a toad? Neville here has lost one, and we suspect it may be crouching somewhere in a compartment."
"No, sorry", said the other boy, a thin red-head whom Hermione thought looked rather cute. "Neville already came by earlier."
Hermione glared at Neville, who helplessly shrugged. Nothing needed to be said, his look clearly conveyed: I did try to tell you, but you just stepped right past me and opened the door, because you're bossy and overconfident. At least, that's how Hermione interpreted it. To escape the uncomfortable realization that she'd made a mistake yet again, the witch latched onto the first conversation topic she found. The boys had their magic wands in and, the red-head pointing his in the direction of a shabby-looking rat on his lap.
"Oh, are you doing magic?" she babbled. "I've only tried a few spells for the moment — I did have so many things to do — read and learn — I know all of my course-books by heart of course, the important parts anyway, I hope it will be enough —"
At the stares she received from the three other children, Hermione finally realized that she'd slipped again.
"Oh. Hm." she finished awkwardly. "So my name is Hermione Granger. What are yours?"
"I'm Ron Weasley," said the read-head. "And that's Harry."
"Harry Potter", Harry completed.
"Oh! I did think it was you, but it would have been terribly rude to ask, wouldn't it? Would you have minded? Do…"
"Oh, no it's okay", Harry interrupted, trying to stop Hermione before she went off again and choked to death because she forgot to take a breath.
"Ah, uh, alright. …What spell were you trying?"
"A charm to turn Scabbers' fur yellow. It doesn't really work though."
"Oh, a color-changing charm? That's rather advanced, you know. You don't have to feel bad if it doesn't work. In fact, I'd rather say it was clever of you to try. It's always good to test one's limits, that's what my mother always says. Not about magic, of course — she's not a witch, you know, nobody is in my family, Professor McGonagall's visit was ever such a surprise…"
And so the conversation went on throughout the trip, going from babble to babble and topic to topic. Ron and Harry appeared to think she was a bit weird, but Hermione was used to it, and the longer they were together, the more the boys began to see her as the right, endearing kind of weird, which was about as good as a know-it-all who spoke to snakes could hope for, in Hermione's opinion. Not that she'd mentioned that particular talent to her new friends yet, but then, she had just met them today. It could wait.