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Chapter One – Grandmother Figg


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Chapter One – Grandmother Figg

 

September 20, Gryffindor Common Room, Hogwarts Castle



 

Harry was sitting in a large squashy armchair before the massive stone fireplace in the common room.  He gazed steadily at the flames, lost in thought.  “Well, he had done it”, he thought to himself.  He was beginning to wonder if it had been such a good idea after all. 

 

What he had done, to be precise, was to disappear under his father’s invisibility cloak, slip into the girl’s dormitory and leave a birthday present at the foot of Hermione’s four poster bed.   What was bothering him now, as he sat before the fire, was whether or not his gift would be well received.  On the surface, giving a high-performance racing broom to Hermione Granger seemed a rather unusual way to celebrate her birthday.  “Still,” he thought, “Hermione so loved flying this summer in Cornwall, and she needs an outlet here at Hogwarts – something to take her mind off her endless schoolwork.” 



 

His mind drifted back to Cornwall.  What a wonderful time they had had together.  The ghost of a smile flickered across his face.   Even now, these many weeks later, he was amazed at how Cornwall had worked its magic on him.  Still recovering from the shock of witnessing Lord Voldemort’s re-birth and the murder of Cedric Diggory, Harry had been forced to return to Privet Drive at the end of term.  He was, as usual, unwelcome.  But this summer he found himself edgy and prone to pacing as he wondered what was going on in the wizarding world he had left behind.  Was Hagrid serving as an envoy to the giants as Dumbledore suggested?  Had Snape resumed his double agent role?  Had Sirius made it to Professor Lupin’s?  And worst of all, where was Voldemort and what were he and Wormtail doing? 

 

Harry hadn’t received a single owl.  He felt cut off – isolated from everything and everyone he cared about.  When Hermione’s call came, it was like a lifeline.  She was clever enough not to tell Harry’s Uncle Vernon that she knew Harry from school, and so was able to speak to him briefly one evening about two weeks into their summer holidays.  “Harry?” came the familiar voice.   “Hermione!  Oh it’s great to hear from you.  How are you?” Harry was ecstatic to hear the voice of one of his closest friends. “I’m fine Harry, but listen, I must see you, I must talk to you, I’ve just gotten the most amazing letter from my grandmother.” said Hermione all in one breath.  “Your grandmother?  I thought your family didn’t have much contact with her..” Harry replied, curious to know more.   “We don’t, but now I know why.  She isn’t a Muggle!  She’s kept it a secret all these years, even from her own daughter.  Can you imagine?  My mother never new that Grandmother Figg was a witch!  Grandmother Figg is undoubtedly the ancestor from whom my powers descend.”  Although he couldn’t see her face, Harry knew she was beaming.  “Have you ever met her?”  “No, but she has invited me to come to her summer home in Cornwall.  She says that I can bring friends with me provided, of course, that they are witches or wizards.  She says she wants to be able to be free and open with me about her life and her powers.  She says there are things she needs to tell me, to show me.  I can hardly wait.  Say you’ll go with me!” “I’d love to go, but what about Dumbledore?  He has me here for a reason…” Harry broke off awkwardly because he desperately wanted to go with Hermione, but knew that there were at least two obstacles standing in his way.  The Dursley’s were one and Dumbledore was the other. 



 

 The Dursleys would, of course, never want Harry to do anything that might give him a moment’s pleasure.  They were sure to say “no” to a summer holiday in Cornwall, even if it did get Harry out from under their roof.  But Harry could be persuasive.  He might be able to bring them around.  Then, there was the matter of Dumbledore.  He had placed certain protections around Harry while he was on Privet Drive.  Enchantments so ancient and so powerful that even Voldemort couldn’t touch Harry while he was with the Dursley’s.  Given Voldemort’s re-birth, Harry found it hard to imagine that Dumbledore would let him go off to the Cornish Riviera with Hermione.

 

Hermione overruled his objections at once.  “Grandmother Figg says in her letter that she is an old friend of Dumbledore’s.  She suspected that I might want to bring you and has already written to Dumbledore asking his permission.  He has agreed - with a few provisions of course.”  This time, it was Hermione who could imagine the grin on Harry’s handsome face.  The pleasure in his voice was obvious.  “Well then, I’ll work something out with the Muggles tonight.  When were you planning on leaving?”  “This Friday.  Mom, Dad and I will pick you up at Privet Drive.  They’ll drive us to the station in London and we can take the train to Cornwall.  Grandmother will meet us at the station when we arrive.”  



 

“How about Ron?  Will he be joining us?”  “No, not yet, he may come later, but for now he’s stuck in Romania with Charlie and his parents.  The Weasley’s decided to visit Charlie this summer, since they saw Bill last summer.  I don’t think Ron’s very keen about being around all those dragons though. “  Hermione suppressed a giggle.  “I wonder if he’s seen Norbert?” Harry laughed.  “See you Friday, Harry!” 

 

And see him she did.  With only a little trouble, Harry convinced his Uncle Vernon to let him visit with the Grangers and their Grandmother Figg for the summer.  Partly because Hermione’s parents were Muggles and would be picking Harry up in “the normal” way, and mostly because he would be out of their hair for the summer, they let him go.  He couldn’t believe his luck.



 Meeting Hermione’s parents had been a joy.  They were kind, intelligent people who, although isolated from the wizarding world Hermione loved, supported her completely and took pride in her accomplishments.  For Harry, it had been a nice change to be introduced to someone new and not see them react to his name, or perform the automatic flick of the eye up to his scar.  To them, he was no more or less than one of Hermione’s two closest friends.  As such, they were happy to meet him for who he was, not who he defeated.  Harry was sorry they weren’t coming to Cornwall with them. 

 Their journey on the train seemed to fly by.  There was no shortage of things to discuss and, as they had a compartment to themselves, they were able to be pretty free about what they discussed.  It seemed strange to travel among Muggles now, where it had once been so natural to both of them.  Of course, traveling anywhere with a great snowy owl in a cage would probably always be a little unusual.

At last they reached the small station near the village where Hermione’s grandmother lived.  Hermione wondered aloud how they were going to recognize her on the platform, when she found them.  “Hermione!  Harry! Over here!”, called an oddly familiar voice.  Harry turned to see…Mrs. Figg from around the corner at Privet drive.  He stared into her softly wrinkled face and she began to laugh.  Hermione looked from one to the other in confusion.  “But you’re Mrs. Figg…” Harry stammered.  “None other!  Come my dears, I’ll explain everything in the car”.  Arabella Figg chivied them into an old Bentley and eased away from the station.

 Everyone began talking at once…”You know each other?” “You’re Hermione’s grandmother?”  “Yes, yes to everything!” she laughed.  When Harry and Hermione composed themselves, she began…“First of all, Hermione it is lovely to finally meet you.  For many reasons, I have kept away from you and your family.  I have felt the absence of a relationship with my only granddaughter keenly. But I loved you and your mother too much to risk your safety.  I kept away from you to protect you from Lord Voldemort who, had he known you were my granddaughter, might have hunted you as he once hunted the Potters and as he now hunts Harry.    In recent months however, circumstances have changed, not the least of which is that you are growing up and have proved yourself an intelligent, powerful and clever witch.  Now it is time to reveal your true heritage to you. Can you forgive me for appearing to neglect our relationship for all these years?”  Tears streamed silently down Hermione’s face.  Her throat too tight to speak, she simply nodded.

 

“And now, as for you Harry, can you guess why I lived in your neighborhood for years posing as a Muggle?”  “To protect me”, came Harry’s undeniable reply “To protect me because Dumbledore must have asked  you to.”    The car fell silent for a moment.  “Grandmother, I hardly know where to begin…” faltered Hermione.  “I do” said Harry quietly.  “Thank you.  Thank you for all those years of watching me and for being kind to me when the Dursley’s stuck me with you.  But why?  Why did you do this for me? For us?”  “All in good time Harry, all in good time.   It will take time for me to explain and time for you to comprehend. For now, know that you are safe, and that over the next few weeks, much will be revealed to you.” They rode in silence, each with much to consider.



 

“Look out your window!” Hermione gasped. Before them stretched an expanse of turquoise water like nothing Harry had ever seen before in his life.  Small boats bobbed on the sparkling surface and gulls wheeled high overhead.  Although he had lived in England all his life, Harry had seen very little of it.  His life so far had either been at Privet Drive, in London, or at Hogwarts.  To see this breathtaking countryside and to know that questions that had plagued him for years would soon be answered filled him with a joyous energy, almost as if he had heard phoenix song.

 

Their track had roughly followed the coast, but now turned inland up a gentle slope.  At the top of the hill were a set of stone gates and an avenue of trees.  Arabella (as she now refused to be called anything else) swung the Bentley smoothly through the gates and up the gravel drive.  “Welcome home my children, welcome home” she murmured.



Chapter Two - Paravel

 

As they rounded a bend in the drive, Harry and Hermione got their first glimpse of the house.  It was a rambling old manor with a hodge-podge of towers and gables overlooking a sloping lawn and beyond that, the sea.  The ancient stone walls were nearly covered with ivy, and stately oaks dotted a park to the front and side of the house.  At the door, they were met by a butler who greeted them warmly, but formally, and took their things (including Hedwig and Crookshanks) up to their rooms. 



 

Arabella ushered them into a comfortable sitting room.  Inside, was a curious mixture of Muggle and magic.  Arabella had artfully combined the best of both worlds to create a household that offered all the modern Muggle conveniences, with no shortage of wizarding comforts.  An aura of peace and safety seemed emanate from every room – from each exquisite piece of furniture and art.  Both Harry and Hermione instantly felt at home as perhaps they had only ever felt at Hogwarts.  But Paravel, as Arabella called her home, was no drafty castle, it was snug and clean, and smelt of the sea.   

 

“Can I get you anything?” Arabella asked. “Hopkins can bring us tea now if you like…” but Harry and Hermione were too restless to eat.  “In that case,” she said, “how about a ramble ‘round the grounds with me?”  You can get your bearings and ask me all the questions you like.”  Harry and Hermione readily agreed.  “Well then, pop up to your rooms, freshen up a bit, and meet me back here in say, fifteen minutes?”  “Perfect”, they answered in unison.



 

Arabella rang for Hopkins who led Harry and Hermione from the sitting room, through the entrance hall and up an impressive flight of stairs.  At the second landing, Hopkins directed them down a long carpeted hall.  Their rooms were adjacent to each other and had beautiful views of the park and sea.  From their rooms they could see a small courtyard at the back of the house and a path winding down to a cove.  A shimmering white crescent of sand stretched out at the foot of low rock cliffs.  It was breathtaking.

      

Hermione’s room was generously sized and filled with antique furnishings. Chintz draped the windows and bed.  She gave a gasp of delight at the sight and fell to unpacking her things.  But, try though she might, Hermione was simply unable to focus on the task at hand.  Her mind raced and her hands trembled.  Certainly, she was thrilled to at last meet a grandmother who clearly loved her and had much to teach her, but overshadowing the happy reunion was the thought of Voldemort seeking to destroy her and her family as he had tried to do with Harry.  At last, unable to concentrate and too overwhelmed by it all to continue unpacking, Hermione sought Harry in his room.



 

One door down from hers, his room was similarly sized, but furnished in a more masculine manner.  Darker woods and richer colors gave it the feeling of a men’s club room.  It suited him perfectly.  Hedwig hooted softly from her cage in the corner, and Harry’s Firebolt stood beside a beautifully carved fireplace.  Harry had changed into a soft long-sleeved shirt and jeans - perfect for a walk on this breezy coast. 

 

Hermione burst in on him without knocking to find him putting away the last of his things.  He could see by the look on her face the array of conflicting emotions she was experiencing.  Harry thought that Arabella must have seen it too, and had intentionally given them a few moments together in private to try to internalize what had thus far been revealed.



 

Unable to resist, Harry turned to Hermione and gave her a quick hug.  “Are you okay, Hermione?” he asked reassuringly.  Her eyes were over bright. “It’s a bit of a shock - exciting and scary at the same time, like when I got my Hogwarts letter and first realized I was a witch.”  Hermione dropped limply into a chair by Harry’s bed.   “It is rather unpleasant to find out that Voldemort would like to kill you if he could, take it from me, I know…” Harry grinned ruefully.  “Try to focus on the fact that a wonderful woman, a caring woman has come into your life.  She must be a powerful witch or Dumbledore would have never sent her to Privet Drive.  She could be a wonderful mentor and friend not only to you, but to me and Ron as well.  Just think, if we could have asked her first, none of us would have ever signed up for Divination!”  Hermione gave him a tense smile.   Encouraged, he went on. “Thank you for bringing me here Hermione.  I have the feeling that Arabella has the answers to loads of the questions I have about my parents.”  Hermione nodded and then said “Shall we go?”.   Harry rose to leave, and then, because he thought she needed it, he caught her hand in his and squeezed it gently.  “It’s going to be alright.” he whispered.

 

Arabella was waiting for then in the sitting room when they came downstairs.  She smiled her warmest smile and held out her arms.  Spontaneously, she folded both of them into a hug.  “You’ve no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that”.  Suddenly embarrassed, they broke apart, and her manner became brisk.  “So, how about that walk?”    They stepped blinking into the afternoon sun and headed along the path toward the cove.  “Paravel has been in my family for six generations,” Arabella began.  “Each generation of witches and wizards has brought aspects of their own personality to the place.  I think it gives it a timeless quality, don’t you?” she enthused. They smiled at her obvious pride.  “There are about a thousand acres belonging to the Estate.  Of course, at one time our holdings were much larger, but over the years pieces have been sold off by one family member or another.  One of Dumbledore’s provisions for your stay here, Harry, is that neither you nor Hermione may leave the Estate unaccompanied. Also, while you are here, in the heart of the Estate, the decree for the restriction of under-aged wizardry has been suspended.  Feel free to carry your wands, use your broomsticks, or send messages with Hedwig.”  “What about Hopkins?” Hermione asked, “is he a wizard?”  “Yes, he is among the paid staff of witches and wizards here at Paravel.”  Almost as if she read Hermione’s mind she laughed and said, “There are no house elves here!”  Harry burst out laughing. 



 

As they continued down the ever steepening path, Arabella continued. “Paravel is something of a haven for witches and wizards in this part of England.  It’s a special place where witches and wizards are able to be themselves (within reason) much like the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, or Hogsmeade.  Muggles visit sometimes and comment that there is a sense of enchantment about the place.  Little do they know…!”  They had reached the bottom of the path and now stood among a group of large boulders at the edge of the beach.  The tide was coming in and the beautiful crescent of sand was now awash in dark blue-green waves and creamy white foam.  Occasionally the spray from a large wave would reach them where they stood among the rocks.

Hermione spoke first.  “Arabella, why has Voldemort singled out certain families to target?  Why the Potters?  Why me, if he knew I was your granddaughter?  Was it just because he knew the Potters would never go over to the dark side?  But then why did he say that Lily needn’t have died?”  “You don’t waste any time do you?” came Arabella’s gentle reply.  “Alas my dear, this is one question that I can’t answer completely for you.  Only Dumbledore has the right to do that.”  Harry remembered asking almost the same question of Dumbledore years earlier.  “Dumbledore said he would tell me the truth when the time was right – when I was ready.” Harry interposed.  “Yes Harry, I know he did, and now it seems is the time.  In a few weeks Dumbledore will be coming here himself to tell you much more than I can.”  “Dumbledore is coming here?” Harry replied, stunned.  “He often spends his summers with me,” Arabella said lightly, “but this time his purpose in coming is much more serious.”  

 

“What can you tell us then?” Hermione urged.   “What I can tell you both,” said Arabella taking a deep breath, “is that some witches and wizards are uniquely gifted.  They seem to have been born with an unusual number of natural abilities - the ability to perform unfocused magic, to know what others are thinking, to master spells quickly and to use them with remarkable force and accuracy.  Generally these individuals tend to crop up within a common family line - in other words, the gifted, begat the gifted.  But it may skip generations.  Occasionally, one of these gifted individuals will emerge from a family that hitherto has shown no special magical ability.  Dumbledore is an example.  As you know, he is the most powerful wizard of this age, but he descends from witches and wizards who, while there were certainly qualified and competent, were otherwise, unremarkable.”



The sun was setting and dusk was falling all around them.  Arabella started them back up the path toward home, but continued talking.  “When one of these gifted individuals reaches a critical point in his or her development, they may, if they are lucky, receive some additional education that will forever set them apart from other witches and wizards.  They become more powerful, and thus, better equipped to mount a defense against those who practice the dark arts.  Naturally, Voldemort would be loathe to see these individuals emerge as a force for good in the dark world he envisions.   Nothing would please him more than to turn them to his side, or simply destroy them before they could get to him.” 

 “Harry, I know that you think you aren’t really unique, that the only reason Voldemort wasn’t able to kill you when you were a baby was because of your Mother’s sacrifice.  You may be right about your Mother’s sacrifice saving you, but you are unique in ways you don’t understand yet.  Did you ever wonder why flying came so naturally to you or why you were able to use unfocused magic before you even knew you were a wizard?  Did you ever wonder how it was that at the age of thirteen you produced a Patronus that drove away hundreds of dementors? The Potter Family is one of those family lines that over many generations produced the gifted individuals of whom I speak.  You are one of them.”  Harry’s features showed a mingling of wonder and confirmation. 

Turning to Hermione, Arabella said, “as are you, my granddaughter”.  Hermione gasped.  Arabella smiled gently and said, “You, who always thought that your power stemmed only from books and cleverness are in fact one of the remarkable people I’ve been talking about.  Harry wasn’t the only one who used unfocused magic before he came to Hogwarts.  Think Hermione, think!  Didn’t you always know there was something different about you?  In your years at Hogwarts haven’t you realized that you are different from the other witches around you?  Why do you think they let you have a time-turner?”

 

 Arabella seemed to know everything, to know their whole lives. Not for the first time, Harry had the sensation that she knew what he was thinking.  “To answer your question,” she said with a laugh, “No, I am not among the gifted, merely the skilled.”  She smiled.  “People like Dumbledore, like you and Hermione come along only a few times in each century.   That the two of you should come along in the same generation is unheard of, and for that reason, it has been kept a secret.  It would never do for Voldemort to know that there are two of you, although I daresay, he will find out eventually.”  An uneasy silence fell among them.



 

Darkness had fallen completely now and the lights of Paravel shone in the distance.  Tired and hungry, they went with Arabella directly to the dining room where a sumptuous meal had been laid.  Initially the silence continued, broken only by polite exchanges to do with the meal.  Eventually, the tension began to ease, and their conversation became more natural, even jolly.  After dessert and coffee, Arabella suggested they return to the sitting room where Hopkins had lit a fire in the grate.  Even in the summer, the sea air could become quite chilly and the warmth from the fire felt good on Hermione’s face and hands.  She and Harry found themselves edging closer to the flames. 

Hopkins appeared bearing a silver salver with glasses of sherry for each of them.  Sherry was something new for them both, but it quickly became part of the evening ritual at Paravel in the weeks that followed.  Sipping slowly, Arabella returned to the topic of Harry and Hermione’s gifted nature.  “You have each been blessed with a capacity for greatness.  However, with great power comes great responsibility.  You have the opportunity to help create peace and prosperity among your fellow kind.  For all our sakes, you must not squander the gifts you have been given.  Like it or not, it will fall to the two of you to make hard choices and to undergo tremendous personal sacrifice, but knowing you both as I do, I feel sure you wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

“What do we have to do?  What’s going to happen here this summer?”  Harry and Hermione asked simultaneously.  “What you have to do is prepare yourselves for the additional training in all aspects of wizardry that will begin in a few weeks time.”  “But how can we prepare?” Hermione almost moaned.  Arabella smiled and said, “Seek your center.  Seek a physical, emotional, and intellectual balance in your life.  In your case Hermione, put the books down and pick up a broomstick.  You need the physical release that flying brings.  Harry, you are to teach her to fly.”  “I know how to fly!” Hermione said with some indignation.  “No, Hermione, I mean really fly, as though it is second nature to you.  Borrow my broom and start tomorrow.”



 

“What about me?” said Harry, whose voice betrayed some anxiety.  “The first thing I want you to do is send Hedwig to Sirius with a note letting him know where you are, then I want you to start reading about animal transformations.  Reflect on an animal form that might serve you well if you could assume it.  Hermione, your help to Harry in this will be invaluable.  Lets, see, what else”, she mused, “oh yes, apparition!  You should begin reading the theories behind apparating and disapparating.  You’ll find I have an excellent library.”  She saw the looks of disbelief on both their faces, but continued briskly, “Now off to bed with you both”.

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