September 20, 1990 - One year prior
Diagon Alley was a feast for her eyes.
Professor McGonagall was being very patient and tolerant with her, even as Hermione bombarded her with questions.
"Self-stirring? Does that mean that there's a spoon that's enchanted to stir the cauldron, or does the cauldron itself have an enchantment on it that causes a whirlpool inside it so everything gets stirred up?"
"It means an enchanted stirring rod," McGonagall said, without showing a trace of weariness. "Come – we're at Gringotts, the Wizard Bank."
Hermione turned her eyes to the huge white marble building, her eyes scanning the windows of the doors to read the ominous warning placed there.
"That's… very direct," she mused aloud. "Muggle banks don't have any threats written on the doors like this. I wonder if they should…?"
McGonagall tugged her through the doors. The sheer size of the bank, the teller desk, and the sight of the odd creatures manning the desks nearly sent Hermione into a faint.
"Goblins," McGonagall murmured in an undertone. "Don't insult them."
McGonagall led her over to desk with a goblin, who looked down at her with a nasty look.
"I am Bloodthorne," he informed her. Hermione hesitated.
"Pleased to meet you, Bloodthorne," Hermione said, offering him a small bow, her mind scrambling for any sort of etiquette that might be appropriate here. "I am Hermione Granger. Pleased to meet you." She offered him a small, nervous smile. "I would like to change this Muggle money over to wizarding money, if it's not too much trouble…?"
The goblin looked down at her with a hard stare, before sitting back.
"No trouble at all," he told her, the nasty look on his face somewhat lessened. "Do you have bank notes or a check?"
Hermione scrambled to open her purse.
"Ah, a check. Is that alright?" She handed it over to Bloodthorne, who took it and examined it with a magnifying glass.
"It appears everything is in order," he told her. "Will you be wanting this in cash or placed in a vault?"
Hermione looked up at McGonagall, lost. "Ah… a 'vault'?"
"We will be needing to open a vault for Miss Granger today as well," McGonagall told the goblin, "but most of it in coin, if you please."
The goblin nodded. "Hand, please?"
Hermione reached over to him, and was surprised when instead of taking her thumbprint, he stabbed her with a small needle, drawing blood.
"We need a blood sample to establish your vault," he told her. "Vaults are carried through family lines, and you are the first to establish your line."
Hermione looked at him curious. "Family lines…?"
Bloodthorne ignored her. "This check will get you 123 galleons and 6 sickles. We can open the vault by leaving the 20 galleons in it and give you the rest in coin. Is this acceptable?"
McGonagall opened her mouth to speak, when Hermione interrupted.
"I'm sorry to delay you, but can I see the exchange rate from galleons to pounds, please?"
Both Bloodthorne and McGonagall raised their eyebrows, but Bloodthorne wordlessly handed down a sheet of parchment for Hermione to look over.
Hermione squinted at the paper, searching for the information she was looking for. There weren't percentages noted – just how many pounds to the galleon the bank was currently offering.
"Professor, how much is a bottled drink in the Wizarding world?" she asked. "Or some other good that exists in both worlds?"
McGonagall considered. "A butterbeer is 2 sickles," she told her. "It'd be roughly equivalent to a beer at a muggle pub."
Hermione considered. "How many sickles to a galleon?"
Hermione considered, mentally scratching things out as she multiplied.
"…you're taking nearly twenty percent in the exchange!" she exclaimed. "That check is for 750 pounds – a perfect conversion would be roughly 150 galleons!"
The goblin sneered. "The price of doing business."
"That's ridiculous," Hermione insisted. "Standard exchange rates are 0.13!"
"Not in the wizarding world."
"I want at least 145 galleons," Hermione told him fiercely. "That's still nearly 5% pure profit for you."
Bloodthorne looked horrified. "I would never-"
"It's just an exchange. Surely you'll make a profit over having me as a customer and using my account to hold water for your loans?"
Bloodthorne stopped short at that. His eyes narrowed suspiciously, a greedy glint sparking inside.
Hermione's eyes widened.
"Do you… do you literally just hoard piles of gold underground?" she said. She whirled around to face McGonagall. "Professor, how does this banking system work? I need to know what kind of-"
"Perhaps another day, Miss Granger," McGonagall said gently. "We have a lot we need to get done."
Hermione turned back to Bloodthorne, who was looking at her with a new respect in his eyes.
"Ten percent," he told her. "And you will come back to discuss this 'loan' business with me later, once you have settled into the wizarding world."
"Deal," Hermione said firmly, offering him her hand.
The goblin stared at her hand as if it were grossly offensive, and Hermione was afraid she'd made some horrible mistake, before the goblin grabbed her hand firmly and grinned.
He had a mouth full of very, very pointy teeth.
Flourish and Blotts was, by far, Hermione's favorite place in Diagon Alley.
There were so many books. It was incredible. And they were spell books.
Well, some of them. Others looked like cookbooks. But still-!
Hermione barely restrained the urge to dance around in glee. Steadying herself to act in a normal manner, she set about finding her assigned textbooks.
Most of the textbooks were fairly easy to find – the store had a display in the back with what seemed to be standard textbooks for all the years. Hermione picked up her own, then, after a moment's hesitation, grabbed The Standard Book of Spells for grades 2, 3, and 4 as well. Intermediate Transfiguration went into her basket along with her assigned A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration, and she grabbed The Essential Defense Against the Dark Arts and Defensive Magical Theory. She took Magical Drafts and Potions, One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, as well as Book of Potions, and she grabbed Perfecting your Potions from a nearby shelf to round out her collection, though it looked less like a textbook and more like a nonfiction guide intended for adults. As tempted as she was to grab more, Hermione knew that the others on the table looked a bit more advanced. She'd always be able to come back and get them later, right? It wasn't as if she wouldn't have access to buy spell books next year. She could come back whenever she wanted.
Hermione roamed around the store, looking for information on the wizarding world in general. She picked up a few history texts (one for ancient, one for 17th-20th centuries, and one for more recent history), as well as a couple on wizarding society in general. She was just considering which etiquette guide to get (The Finest of Fine Manners or Pureblood Customs and Manners) when she was interrupted.
"You're New Blood."
Hermione turned to see a very pale blonde girl right behind her, standing almost too close to be appropriate. Her hair had an odd kink to it that made it sort of float around, and she was wearing earrings made of bottle caps.
"New Blood?" she repeated.
The girl nodded, and Hermione watched as the girl's eyes abruptly rolled back in her head. Her mouth opened, and her voice was not the airy, light tone she had used a moment ago.
"The viper borne to Muggles shall be the New Blood to change the world
By clearing the cluttered path with those who answer her call
Whether gifted or claimed, true, faked, or false, pure magic unfurled,
The she-serpent borne of teeth shall rise and triumph over them all."
The girl's eyes swam before refocusing. She turned to face Hermione, who looked horrified.
"Did I do it again?" the girl sighed. "I'm trying to get better at channeling it through my conscious mind instead of subconscious. Did I at least get the New Blood part in?"
Wordlessly, Hermione nodded.
"Good," the girl said simply.
Hermione looked at the girl, who looked back at her, her eyes neutral.
"Are… are you quoting something?" Hermione said slowly.
The girl tilted her head.
"I don't think so," she said. "I mean, I'm not sure, because I don't remember what I said, but prophecies generally aren't quoted from something else. I've never heard of one being like that, at any rate."
"A- a prophecy?" Hermione felt a sudden hand of terror squeezing around her heart. "You- you can see the future?"
The girl smiled. "Kind of?" she offered. "I can see bits and pieces of the most likely paths sometimes, but not entirely." She smiled at Hermione. "Don't worry – the future isn't predestined. You still have your free will."
Slowly, Hermione relaxed.
"I'm Hermione Granger," Hermione told the girl, offering her a hand. "I'm going to Hogwarts next year."
"I'm Luna Lovegood," the girl told her. She put something into Hermione's hand instead of shaking it. "I'll be in Hogwarts the year after you."
Hermione turned over the object Luna had put in her hand to see an ugly sort of crystallized flower. She looked up at Luna quizzically.
"To ward off humdingers," Luna said, nodding. "Keep it on you to keep them away."
"…Thanks," said Hermione, pocketing it. "I'll be sure to keep it nearby."
Luna beamed at Hermione, and Hermione smiled back slowly.
"Luna," Hermione said suddenly, an idea abruptly occurring. "Do you know what other books I might need to take with me to school that aren't on the book list?"
"…I don't know specifically, but I can suggest things that might be important for someone who wants to change the world?" Luna ventured. "Here…"
By the time Luna and Hermione were done, Hermione had both books on etiquette, a book called The Pureblood Directory, a couple more books on Magical Theory and History, a book on modern laws and another on how the Ministry of Magic worked, and, to her shock, a book called The Call of the Dark, as well as one called Grey, both of which looked… ominous.
"It's important to be well-rounded," Luna said, helping her carry her books up to the front. "That means knowing about good as well as evil." She flashed her a small smile. "Just don't get caught!"
The man at the counter dully counted up her books, and when the total was announced, Hermione was immediately glad she'd come here last – she'd used up nearly all of her remaining funds. She was glad she'd argued with the goblin – the last twenty galleons had made a difference.
As her books were bundled up, Hermione looked at Luna and paused.
"…here," she said.
Hermione took off her charm bracelet and put it on Luna's wrist. Luna held it up in front of her face, looking at it curiously.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It's… Muggle magic," Hermione told her. "Each charm represents something specific, and each will protect you or bless you." She showed them to Luna. "Right now, it has one for good luck, one for knowledge, and one for happiness. But you can get more, for whatever you want, out in the Muggle world."
Luna looked at Hermione and beamed. "I've never had Muggle magic before!" she said. "My Dad doesn't really ever venture out into the Muggle world, but I'll be sure to use your charms!"
"I have to go," Hermione told Luna, disappointed at hearing McGonagall's voice. She was excited to meet another witch her age, to learn what magical life might be like. "I'll- I'll see you in school?" she added.
Luna nodded, smiling. "In a couple years. We can be the best of friends."
Hermione's eyes widened, and she blinked rapidly, lest Luna see her tears.
She'd never had a friend at school before.
"Best of friends," Hermione told her, gripping her hands tightly, before grabbing her bags of books and hurrying out of the store. "Good-bye, Luna!"
"Good-bye, Lady Granger," Luna intoned, with a smile. "May Magic guide you as you follow your New Blood and found a Great House."
Hermione was confused at that, and as she leaned back to ask Luna another question, McGonagall pulled her back out onto the street, exclaiming at the number of books she'd purchased, and helping her fit them all into her new cauldron before they set off for home.
Hermione ran over Luna's words in her mind over and over and over.
What did that even mean?