The Isle of Skye, November 2020
The thunder echoed around the hills surrounding the town of Portree, with the occasional flash of lightning illuminating the landscape before plunging it back into darkness. Down the valley, on the coast, the people of Portree fastened their doors and windows and went to bed, hoping the storm would have blown over by morning and that there would be no serious damage from the wind and rain.
On a hillside a few hours walk up the valley from the town, there was a croft. A welcoming glow, as if from a real fire, shone through a gap in the curtains. If it had been daylight, the immaculate vegetable garden would have shown that the occupant was someone who strived for order, with rows of peas in a perfect straight line, and strawberry plants which always grew in the exact place their carer desired them.
This evening however, our hypothetical observer shrouded in the inky blackness of the storm, could just have made out the silhouette of the croft when the lightning struck. There was another flash of lightning, accompanied almost immediately by a roll of thunder, as the storm was directly overhead. A third flash came, and this time, appearing in the darkness between the two successive forks of lightning, there was a figure standing on the footpath leading through the orderly front garden to the door of the croft.
Minerva McGonagall was sitting in front of her fireplace knitting. The storm outside didn't faze her in the least, and the warmth of the fireplace made her small croft a cosy place. She had retired from being Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry some years ago now, and apart from doing some occasional tutoring for exceptionally able children, and corresponding with some of her former colleagues and pupils, she spent much of her time prowling around the surrounding countryside in her animagus form.
There was a loud rumbling sound as thunder sounded very close to her house, and Minerva reflected on how peaceful her life had been since she'd given up teaching. She missed some of it, such as the rewarding feeling when a student discovered they could indeed turn a teapot into a tortoise, but the constant noise of three hundred teenagers was something she was pleased to have left behind and didn't miss at all.
As another flash of lightning lit the night sky, there was a frantic knocking at the door. Who can it be at this time of night? Minerva thought. Suspiciously, she drew her wand as she stood up, and walked to the door. Cautiously she opened it, peering into the darkness as the wind blew the heavy rain in through the doorway.
A small figure in a black cloak collapsed into her arms. “Oh Professor,” a female voice wailed. “They've done it, they've finally done it!”.
“Why Hermione, whatever is the matter?”
Ten minutes later Hermione Weasley sat in a chair by the fire, wrapped in a blanket, as Minerva brought in a pot of tea from the kitchen. Hermione sat shaking as Minerva poured two cups of tea, although Minerva was unsure whether this was due to the soaking rain outside or the younger witch's sobbing. After handing one of them to Hermione, who took it rather mechanically, she sat on the opposite side of the fireplace.
“Now we've got some tea, what in Merlin's name is wrong?”
“Oh Professor, they've finally passed the new law.”
“What new law? And I told you ten years ago to call me Minerva, please don't stop doing so now.”
Minerva isolated herself from whatever idiocy the Ministry of Magic was doing. She had worked for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for two years and had left after becoming more and more dissatisfied with the Ministry, which had ultimately led her into teaching, and many years later in life as Headmistress of Hogwarts she had found the Ministry hadn't changed, despite the attempt to reform after the final fall of Voldemort. She didn't read a newspaper, she refused to accept invitations to visit the Minister, and she was quite happy leaving them to mismanage the Wizarding World while she enjoyed her retirement in peace.
“They've issued the order to round up Muggleborns, we're to be “examined” so they can find out why we've spontaneously manifested the ability to perform magic. The aurors have just been issued orders to start raids this evening. They talk about understanding what gives someone the ability to do magic, but I suspect they want to find a way to stop Muggleborns doing it. Otherwise should they not be rounding up Purebloods and squibs too?”
“Those imbeciles,” said Minerva, with a mixture of indignation and resignation at the perpetual stupidity of politicians. “Where is your husband in all of this?”
“Ron?” Hermione said bitterly. “He hasn't spoken to me for ages, since he took the children and moved back in with his mother. Honestly, I don't see why he objected to me leaving my job and doing a Muggle degree. No, Ronald probably doesn't even know about it, the order was kept very secret to stop us Muggleborns bolting, he'll find out when he goes on duty in the morning. I'm not sure if he'll care, though.”
Minerva had known that Ron and Hermione occasionally fell out over Hermione's refusal to give in to the social mores of the Wizarding World and become a “proper” wife rather than doing a Muggle degree, but moving back in with Molly Weasley and taking the children with him was more serious. Sadly, she reflected, a court would probably favour Ron as a Pureblood.
“How did you find out about it?” Minerva asked, curiously, as a thought occurred to her.
“Ah,” said Minerva. That explained a lot. Harry Potter had managed to walk the delicate balance between his two estranged best friends. Whilst he was married to Ron's sister and was still on speaking terms with Ron, he regarded Hermione as something akin to a sister himself, knowing that he'd probably have been dead many times over if it wasn't for her. It seemed that Potter, still being highly placed in the Department for Magical Law Enforcement, had tipped her off, which was probably technically illegal, although even over two decades later he still had some pull as the hero who defeated Voldemort and it was uncertain whether there would be any reprimand or prosecution.
“I'm sorry Profess-Minerva.” Hermione corrected herself mid-sentence. “I couldn't think of anywhere else to go. Harry's place will be the first place they look once they find me not at home and not at the university.”
“Of course, you're welcome to stay, but what do you intend to do?”
“I don't know what I can do. Harry tried to get them to stop the law, but they don't listen to him anymore, he's an inconvenient voice of reason, brought up by Muggles. I can't fight them. The Sorority has too much influence amongst the Purebloods, and they choose our government.”
Minerva sighed. The Sorority was the latest in a long line of Dark Wizards and Witches to disturb the Wizarding World. Still, she thought, it is the price of civilisation. Far better the occasional battle to put the Dark Lords and Ladies and let decent people live in peace than the anarchy which occurred outside Europe. America and the other colonies were still very much the “Wild West” in the Wizarding World, and although Hermione had continued studying magic and had even invented a few new spells, knowledge was only part of the battle in a place where the fastest to draw a wand was often the victor in any quarrel. The rest of the Wizarding World was little better, and Minerva often reflected that while the Muggle world advanced (she had been quite surprised by how far when she first visited a Muggleborn family to inform them that their son was a wizard), the magical world had stagnated.
As for the Dark Lady, no-one knew who she was. Some said she was a vampire. Some said it was Bellatrix Lestrange reincarnated. Still, their rhetoric was based on “good Pureblood values”, which appealed to all the other Pureblood families. Potter, as an apparent expert on Dark Lords and Ladies, had been asked to investigate, but as far as Minerva and her correspondents knew, had so far found nothing.
“My dear,” said Minerva, putting her now-empty cup down and patting Hermione on the arms as she started to sniffle again. “You're a Muggleborn. You have another government. Move into the Muggle world.”
“The Muggle government? What can they do?”
“I'm not sure. But surely their Queen and her ministers don't like the constant inexplicable accidents, the Obliviators popping around and erasing memories, and other weird happenings. The ones who know about Us must have a rather poor impression of the government of Magical Britain, and they may welcome a change.”
“I made a choice years ago when I married Ron to be part of this world, though,” Hermione said. “I know I'm studying at Oxford, but I still live in this world too. I've spent years trying to make the Wizarding World a better place from the inside.”
“And has it worked?” Minerva asked gently. Hermione wiped her eyes with her handkerchief, and her voice gained in confidence as she continued to speak.
“Well...not really. We really made a mistake when we defeated Voldemort.”
Minerva raised her eyebrows. She believed that they had all done everything possible to defeat Tom Riddle; indeed Harry and Hermione had (in her opinion) gone beyond the call of duty. At Minerva's expression Hermione hurriedly continued with some passion, her previous tears forgotten for the moment.
“We didn't have a plan for what to do when he fell, how to replace the current system with something better. So everyone went back to the status quo, with Dark Lords and Ladies rising every few decades, the old families governing by proxy in a quid pro quo. We should have had a plan for proper democratic elections, opening the Wizarding World up to more Muggle ideas, and reforming our laws and system of government to give rights to all magical creatures, rather than concentrating it in the hands of pureblood oligarchs.”
Inwardly Minerva smiled. Hermione still had that passion about her, the strong desire to make the world a better place. She privately suspected that she'd been put in Gryffindor because of that crusading spirit, rather than Ravenclaw where her intellectual gifts would be more at home. Minerva didn't really understand all the new-fangled Muggle devices and ideas, but she had more of an idea than most Purebloods – after all, she had been the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts for years and as such had been responsible for introducing many Muggleborns to the Wizarding World. “Democracy” sounded like one of those wild Muggle ideas which might actually work. She'd no idea how the millions of Muggles managed it, but with a population the size of Wizarding Britain it should be possible.
Hermione continued. “I suppose you're right, I'd better go Muggle. Those incompetents in the auror force won't be able to find me if I don't use magic – most of them probably can't even pronounce electricity, and the few who can I suspect will probably mysteriously be unable to track me down.” Hermione smiled slightly. Minerva assumed she was thinking of Mr Potter. “I'll go and stay in the Muggle world – not my parents, that's too obvious – and plan a way of contacting those Muggle government who know about magic without being traced by the Ministry. It won't be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.”
Having finished her tea, she put her mug next to Minerva's on the tray. “Thank you Minerva!” she said, still looking worried, but the fear which had gripped her earlier had been replaced by resolve. “I'll look in from time to time, if that's ok with you, to get news and pass on how my mission is going. It may be at odd times, I don't want to be caught, or to get you into trouble for harbouring a fugitive. If you see my children – or Harry – please give them my love.”
“Of course Hermione, I'll tell them when I see them, and you're welcome to visit whenever you think it's safe.”
Hermione stood, and there was a pop as she disapparated from Minerva's sitting room. Minerva sighed. Hermione would probably be back eventually, but now she needed to contact one Mr Potter to try and find out what was going on. She stood up, stretching like a cat as her knee joint cracked, and walked to the pot of Floo powder on the mantelpiece.