Arrogance and Ignorance
Chapter 1 – The Girl in the Mirror-
She stared at her reflection in the mirror and saw nothing special, nothing of consequence, and nothing that would set her apart. As far as she was concerned, she was completely plain, perhaps passable, but nothing that would lead her to a favourable future. She frowned. She did not have money, status, blood purity, or a title. Nothing that would lead her to marry well. She had brains, but in this world run by men, intelligence in a woman meant next to nothing.
If she had to make her own way in the world, she was afraid that she would not be able to, and that one singular thought scared her to death. She was alone now that her mother passed away. Hopelessly and utterly alone. Regardless of the romantic notion that was the folly of fables and fairy tales, being orphaned had no romantic connotations. A woman alone without fortune or future did not equal a happy circumstance.
She packed all of her worldly possession into two trunks and one carpetbag. How sad - her life could be reduced to such a small bundle. She put her wand in her pocket, but not before levitating her bags downstairs. She put her hat on her head and prepared herself for her future.
She stood on the porch of the little stone cottage to await the coach. The sun began slowly to fade from the sky as the day turned to night. She had a long ride ahead of her. She would have had her cousin Apparate with her, but her stepfather did not know about her ‘abilities’ so she had to keep her secret, one last time. The sounds of the country, the nightingale, the crickets playing their night songs, were usually a comfort to her. Now they only caused her pain, as they served a constant reminder of all she was about to lose.
There was no turning back now. Decisions had been made, lives had been changed, and she was not one to mess with fate. Fate was fickle enough as it was. Life left unbalanced soon faltered one way or the other, and often of its own accord. No, she would not let others decide her fate. She would not let others tell her what was right and what was wrong. She would decide these things for herself. She had to, and as she concluded, there was no turning back.
She walked off the porch and looked up at the little house where she had lived since birth. It seemed so empty since her mother died. She tried to remember how it once appeared: a picture that hung above the fireplace, a hook rug beside the hearth, and her grandmother’s little white rocker, with its faded paint, in the corner. Gone, all gone. The house was now empty and abandoned, just as her heart felt empty and abandoned.
She felt she earned the right to feel melancholy. She went back in the front door to make sure she had not forgotten anything, although she already knew she had not. The only things she left were two coat hangers in her closet and some dust under the bed. She bit her bottom lip as she recalled the real reason she was leaving and was never going to come back. She was alone. Alone.
Things would never be the same. In a way, she always knew this day would come.
Her mother married Ernest Simpson when she was fourteen years old. He was a good husband to her mother and a good stepfather. However, he never knew about her magic, and her mother told her she was never to tell. She had only gone away to school for two years, and then was forced to return when her mother became ill. In fact, she lived in a village of all Muggles, where magic was sometimes discussed, but only in hushed tones, and only with fear. Her mother’s sister was a witch, also. She had a son, Harry. She had met her cousin only twice, although they had written back and forth to each other most of their lives. His parents died when he was a child, and his godfather raised him. His godfather died when he was fifteen. Hermione and her mother made the trip to Godric’s Hollow to pay their respects when Sirius Black died.
She found an immediate and kindred spirit in her first cousin. The only other time she saw him was last month when her own mother died. Harry came and insisted that she come back to Godric’s Hollow with him. He told her it was an all-magical community. He said that he was very well off, and he wanted to hire a tutor for her, so she could continue the education that she was forced to abandon. He told her she could learn more about potions, which was her passion. He said he was alone in his large house and he wanted to take care of her. She had nowhere else to go, so she agreed to live with Harry and his former tutor, a man named Remus Lupin.
Harry was of age now and had just come into his fortune. Hermione had no idea how much money Harry had, or how large his house was, but she knew anything was better than staying here.
Her stepfather remarried already. He married their housekeeper a week after her mother died. They moved to a larger house, and he sold this house. Her house. Rightfully hers, but only in her heart. He did inherit it, so he had the right to do what he wished. He told her she could live with them, but his new wife did not think that would be prudent.
How right the woman was.
Her stepfather walked through the gate and said, “I came to see you off, Hermione. Isn’t the coach here yet?”
“No, Harry said he would send the coach no later than 6:30, so I’m not sure where it is,” Hermione said in a fretful voice.
“I came to help you with your trunks, but I see you managed them. How did you get them down here by yourself?” he asked.
Before she had to think of a response, she saw the coach coming around the bend on the little dirt road toward the little stone cottage.
“Well, goodbye, Ernest,” Hermione said. She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “I hope you are happy.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t take better care of you,” he said to her. He squeezed her hand. “Do you have everything?”
“I think so,” she answered.
“Will I ever see you again?” he asked.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” she said truthfully.
“Your mother loved you, you know,” he smiled.
“She loved you, too,” Hermione said.
The footman climbed off the back of the carriage and loaded her trunks. He took her hand and helped her inside. She leaned out the window and looked at the little stone house once more. It was over. This part of her life was over, and a new chapter had begun. It was the natural order of things. It did not make it any easier knowing it was preordained to turn out this way; it just was what it was.
The world lay at her feet and all she could do was to go where her feet led her. Wherever the wind blew her, was where she was meant to be. No more living on borrowed time. Her life was now and forever her own. She waved to her stepfather one last time. Leaving felt strange, yet it felt right.
They traveled all night. She tried the best she could to sleep in the carriage, but it was uncomfortable. They stopped at an inn near their destination, so she could take a bath and change her clothes. The footman told her that the viscount had arranged it. At first, she did not know whom they meant. ‘Oh, Harry’, she thought. How kind of him.
She cleaned up and changed to a nicer dress. It was teal green, with white ribbons and lace. It was actually her nicest dress, but she knew it would not be considered anything special to the lords and ladies of Godric’s Hollow. She was a little country girl, and things that were fine to her, she was sure would be considered common to them.
Finally, the coach pulled up to the town square. The footman climbed down and opened the carriage door. “Lord Potter told us to leave you here in the village, and he would personally collect you in his private carriage and take you to Potter’s Hall.”
“Potter’s Hall?” she asked.
“His manor, Miss,” the man said.
She looked at her watch, which she wore on a little chain around her neck. She was twenty minutes early, so she would have to find something to do to wile away the time while she waited for Harry. Although this was a magical community, it still catered to the morals of the day, and with this being the 1800’s England, 1818 to be exact, it would be unseemly for a woman to walk around the town square unaccompanied by either an elder male relative, a guardian, a chaperone, or fellow females. Even though the magical community held women at a higher regard, educating them, letting them inherit property, it was still backwards in many ways. She did not want to do anything unseemly, or that might embarrass her cousin, as he was a much-respected member of this community. Therefore, since a single woman of her age could not traipse about by herself, she walked over to the mercantile and sat down on a bench to wait.
After waiting another twenty minutes, in the warm noonday sun, she decided to walk into the little store. The coach had already taken her trunks and luggage, and had left her with only her money purse, her parasol, and her carpetbag. She left her bag outside and went into the store. The man behind the counter smiled at her. “May I help you with anything, lass?”
“I am waiting for my cousin, Harry Potter,” she said.
“Oh my, you are Lord Potter’s cousin? We have all been patiently awaiting your arrival, I shall tell you that much,” the man beamed. “Feel free to wait in here, away from the sun.”
Hermione smiled her thanks and began to look around the clean little store.
Two men entered the store, and Hermione looked up from the book she was looking at, to watch them as they bounded in the store, laughing and acting rowdy.
“I swear, Malfoy,” a tall man with light brown hair said, “You are a cad. Challenging the man to a wizard’s duel right in front of his sister, the one to whom you supposedly spoiled!”
The good-looking blond man laughed and said, “Well, he insulted my boots. These are elf made Hessian boots, and they cost a pretty penny. More money than the oaf and his cow of a sister would see in a thousand years. He deserved it!”
“But to do so in front of so many of his family! You are lucky I came by when I did,” the other man laughed. “And seriously, you insulted his sister, and all he did was to insult your boots!”
Hermione looked over at his boots. They did not seem special to her. She looked back at her book. The exchange did not escape the blond man’s attention.
“Well, Nott, he insulted my companions face!” Malfoy said, as he looked back at his friend.
“Come, come, Malfoy, saying that Pansy has a pug face is the truth, not an insult,” the other man laughed. Malfoy laughed as well.
Hermione reached up to the top shelf to replace the book, and her straw hat, which was tied with a ribbon and hanging down her back, slipped from her shoulders, and fell to the floor. Both sharp dressed men turned to look at her. Her long honey brown and golden curls fell free of their binding when her hat fell, and her hair cascaded down her back and across her shoulders.
She turned quickly to try to catch the hat, and in turn, dropped her book as well. She bent at the waist to pick up the book. When it was secured in her hand, she turned for her hat. The blond man already had it in his hand. He stood up tall, as did she. She curtseyed and bowed her head. He bowed and presented her hat to her. Without a gentleman of either’s previous knowledge there to introduce them, they could not exchange pleasantries. When he passed her hat to her, his fingertips touched hers briefly. She blushed scarlet, and her hand recoiled to her side, at the impropriety of his touch. He looked at her through masked eyes, and she tried to figure out what he was thinking.
They both stood still, merely staring at the other. He finally bowed again, as a form of goodbye, and she curtseyed once more. She knew it would be improper to speak to a gentleman she had never met. He placed his hat on his head, tipped it once, and walked back over to his friend.
Nott said, “Who do you suppose that is?”
Malfoy answered, “I have no idea, but apparently she is someone of breeding and status. I wonder why she is alone, and not with a chaperone or companion.” He turned to the storeowner and said, “You there, who is the young woman in the corner?”
“That is Lord Potter’s cousin, here to stay and live with him,” the man said.
“Too bad, Draco,” Nott laughed, hitting the man’s arm. “Even if she is of consequence, she’s related to the one man you hate the most. Still, she is fetching, and she certainly does not have a pug face.”
Hermione heard the entire exchange and turned around. Draco looked at her, again with an expression that she could not make sense of, but this time, she thought she saw arrogance for some reason. He said, “Yes, she’s very fetching, even if she is related to Potter.” Hermione thought that the man was not only arrogant, but ignorant as well.
He watched as she blushed again and she turned back around. This time he smiled. She was modest, too. He found that refreshing.
At that moment, Harry Potter walked into the store. Harry noticed Nott and Malfoy and merely nodded his head and said, “Nott, Malfoy.”
“Potter,” Draco acknowledged, with a quick bow to the waist. Nott bowed as well. It was not something Draco was happy about, but Harry Potter was a Viscount, even if he was a half blood. The title held him slightly above the other land barons in the community. Potter was of high standing and well liked by most people in their village and though it pained Draco to admit it, their world owed him a large service, for he rid their world of a great threat when he killed the Dark Lord, and for that, even Draco would be thankful.
In addition, his late godfather was Draco’s cousin, on Draco’s mother’s side. Draco grew up with Potter, but still, he never liked him and he never would. The thought that the prettiest girl to come to their town in possibly a century was related to the big buffoon was not something Draco could easily forget. He did wonder though, was she related on the Potter side or on Harry’s mother’s side? It might make a difference if she were pureblood or not.
The real reason Draco hated Harry Potter, though it pained him to admit it, was because he was jealous of him, and now, with the addition of this beautiful young girl in the Potter household, Draco was even more jealous. He was not jealous of Potter’s wealth, because while he was wealthy indeed, his fortune still could not match Draco’s fortune. Moreover, Draco would always have something that Potter would never have: blood status. Draco was a pureblood, Harry was not, and not all the money, fame, and titles in the world would ever change that fact. Draco was superior because of his blood. Yes, he was better than the man was and he knew it, even if no one else did. Now if he could just get over this jealous feeling.
Harry rushed up to the woman, who had her back to the door, and he said, “Hermione?”
Hermione turned and smiled. Draco felt lost in her beauty. His desire for the woman quickly turned to dismay when he realized that once again, her smile was reserved exclusively for Harry Potter. The most striking woman to cross Draco’s path in a decade and she was Harry Potter’s relative. She held out her hand and said, “Hello, Cousin.”
“A handshake, I think not!” Harry grabbed her and pulled her in for a tight hug. It embarrassed her to a certain degree, especially since the two men from earlier were still there.
Draco felt he had just wasted the last ten minutes of his life thinking about the woman’s bright completion and pretty smile, only to find out she was related to the man he hated most. The thought that she was a kin to Potter made him want to retch.
Nott said, “Are you going to introduce us, Potter?”
Before Draco heard another word, he excused himself and walked outside, resolute not to hear the woman’s name, and also not to waste another precious moment thinking of her long curly hair, her warm brown eyes, her perfectly arched brow, her perfect posture, her…damn! He was wasting time thinking about her again. He took his horse from the hitching post and was determined to ride home, and never to think of the bloody woman again, when he noticed what surely had to be the woman’s luggage being stolen by a local thief. He was a gentleman, so he rode after the man to retrieve the woman’s belongings.
Yes, it appeared fate had other plans for Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger.