First Signs of Magic: Hermione Granger
It was a rather upscale neighbourhood, not too
trendy, populated by the families of doctors, lawyers, and the vice presidents
of companies that sprouted dozens such. Lawn sprinklers were a hazard to
passing cars, while tricycles and garden hoses decorated manicured lawns.
Here, everyone belonged to the same parenting groups and yoga classes; they
saw each other outside football practice and ballet class, although they
were more likely to remember the children's names - or even the name of the
dog - than the obligatory parents.
It was a warm summer's day, one of those lazy sorts that envelop and make
sleepy the last weeks of the school year. In the parking lot outside Madame
Rousseau's Ballet Studio, a little girl hopped up and down in a pint-sized
"Daddy, daddy, daddy!" Her hair bounced like a fluffy pom-pom on
her shoulders as she was hoisted into the air by Dr Edward
Granger. Her mother, the other Dr Granger, was
waiting in the car, looking a little worn out from traffic.
"Daddy! I learned how to do a plie - that's
French! - and Emma's the best at them in class
but she's two years older than the rest of us and Madame Rousseau says that
it's better if we start learning when we're little-so-that's-okay-and – "
"Whoa, whoa! Hermione, slow down!" Dr Granger
laughed as he carried her on his shoulder the few steps to the car. "I'm
lost in the flood of explication! For starters, who is Emma?"
Dr Granger was a big believer in not dumbing down
his language for children. He and his wife had read all about how doing so
could stunt a child's vocabulary. Not that there was much chance of that
really, in this case. They had started building their Hermione's vocabulary
with cue cards and educational games shortly after she'd said her first word.
Though they still argued whether 'plbl' had meant
'pebble' or 'Plato.' They were very earnest parents, and wanted to do the
best they could for their little girl.
"Well, for starters, Emma's older than us,
and a lot taller and she's the best ballet dancer in the class – " Hermione began.
Her mother interrupted with a simpler version.
"She's over there," she said, and motioned to a pretty brown-haired girl. Dr Marilyn
Granger had less patience for her daughter's 'babble,' as she called it,
than her husband.
" – and she's over there," Hermione ended,
with a sheepish look at her father.
He, on the other hand, was always amused and charmed by his daughter's adorable
chatter. Unfortunately, not only was he amused, he also encouraged it.
"Yes, but I know next to nothing about this fascinating creature.
Tell me all about her," he said, swinging Hermione to the ground as he opened to car door for her.
He gave his wife an impish twinkling wink. She sagged a bit onto the steering
wheel and looked slightly more tired. Their energetic daughter bounded into
the back, leaned up to her father's seat and talked a mile a minute about
the marvelous Emma, while her father nodded at the appropriate intervals.
"Seat belt." Her mother reminded her, and Hermione dutifully buckled herself in, without pausing for
breath in her description as the car pulled away.
Her father interjected "You don't say?" and "Is that so?" at
her infrequent pauses, as the ballet school disappeared behind them.
Dr Marilyn Granger shook her head fondly, letting
the flood of words wash over her. Sometimes her husband and daughter were
far too much alike. He was smitten, and Marily Granger
basked in the glow of a father's adoration for his daughter. She smiled. Hermione was
even picking up his speech patterns: 'isn't it fascinating?' and 'they
were ever so kind.' It sounded oddly mature from an eight-year-old.
That night after dinner, Hermione helped her father
clear the table, careful not to drop anything, while her mother put the dishes
in the dishwasher. It was a satisfyingly ordinary evening, with her husband
It was too bad Edward had to travel so much, Marilyn Granger thought. Hermione missed
him so. But orthodontics was a demanding field, and required conferences
and classes to keep up to date on the latest. She was grateful to have stayed
in family dentistry, where your experience still counted a year later.
Dishes done, Marilyn Granger shooed Hermione out
of the kitchen. "Upstairs with you. Time to do your homework." Her
husband clicked on the telly in the next room.
Predictably, her husband protested. "She can watch with us. Her homework's
not due till next week."
Hermione turned, though not too hopefully. She
"Tut, tut. Good
habits start young." Her mother looked reprovingly at her husband. "And
so do the bad ones. You are the worst procrastinator, Edward."
"And you, my dear, are a slave-driver," he said lazily, leaning
over to kiss her. "But I'm afraid I must concede to a higher authority."
"Daddy…" Hermione whined. "You're
hardly ever home!"
"Go!" he said, chasing her up the stairs. She giggled hysterically
and stopped at the top of the stairs, peeking over the banister. Then he
plunked onto the couch and patted the spot next to him comfortably. "The
quicker you're done, the sooner you'll be here."
"I'll do it the fast way!" Hermione brightened
and scampered the rest of the way up the stairs.
"What's the 'fast' way?" Edward asked, puzzled. His wife shrugged. Hermione was
a very bright girl, but she had been doing her homework in record time lately.
"Whatever it is, she'll be done in fifteen minutes or less," Marilyn
said, "and her work will still be top notch."
He raised his eyebrows. "Maybe they should move her ahead a class…"
"No," her mother said, firmly, "it's developmentally important Hermione be
with kids her own age. We've been through this before."
"I thought you were going to let me wear the pants in this house every
now and then," he smiled.
"Don't be ridiculous, Edward," Marilyn Granger laughed cheerfully
as he dragged her onto the couch. "You knew exactly who you married."
Several minutes later, Hermione's mother went
upstairs to check on her daughter's progress. Downstairs, Hermione's father heard his wife gasp.
"Hermione -- Edward… honey…" His wife
didn't shout but Edward recognized the note of alarm in her voice.
Dr Edward Granger took the stairs two at a time.
He visualised the worst, most horrible accidents
with a vividness only medical school could provide.
"Am I doing something wrong?" There was a frantic shrill note
in Hermione's voice, but he was ever so grateful
just to hear her. It couldn't be that bad then.
He arrived just in time to see it.
Two pens moved of their own accord across two sheets of paper, while Hermione was
apparently writing on a third. Or had been. The third pen and paper were
on the floor. In that moment, the other two pens fell over in unison, and
lay innocently on her little desk. Dr and Dr Granger stared, open-mouthed.
They couldn't have imagined it. Could they? Already their eyes refused to
believe those pens had moved in midair.
Marilyn recovered quickly, speaking very carefully. "Everything is
going to be all right, sweetie."
"Am I not supposed to do that?" Hermione asked, her voice rising in panic.
If Hermione hadn't done that, if it hadn't happened,
then why was she talking about it? Both the doctors were grateful the other
had seen it. Otherwise they would never have believed each other. Dr Marilyn
Granger wasn't sure she believed herself, even now.
"So. You did that," her father said quietly.
Hermione glanced from her mother to her father. "It's
the fastest way. To write all three at once. They're just multiple choice.
It's easy. I'm not going to mess up," she said anxiously.
Dr Marilyn Granger put a hand to her face. This
was certainly never covered in the parenting books. Except maybe: 'In an
emergency, reassure your child.'
"You haven't done anything wrong, Hermione," she
Somehow her toneless voice had the exact opposite effect on her daughter.
Or perhaps she had said it one too many times when things were very, very
wrong. Damn those books anyway. They were never useful when you really needed
They stared at those pens. Then each other.
As a family, they made the decision to panic.
Hermione had her hand over her mouth as Dr Edward
Granger grabbed a handful of coats, forgetting that it was summer; Dr Marilyn
Granger grabbed the car keys and ran with her daughter in tow out the front
door. Edward passed a man in a florid purple suit coming up their walk, and
skipped around him as the gentleman said - "Uh,
hello! Are you -?" - skidding on the slick lawn as he did so.
Normally, Dr Edward Granger would have paused
to consider such a visitor, or at least said hello, but he was far too busy
stuffing a wide-eyed Hermione into the back seat
of their car. He had barely closed the door when they pealed out of the driveway
in a puff of burning blue smoke. The noise turned heads up and down the street
in their peaceful neighborhood, quite unused to the quiet, intellectual doctors
acting irrationally. Dr and Dr Granger cursed, drove like demons and dodged traffic as
they took Hermione to the nearest hospital.
It was relief to finally pull into the emergency room entrance, surrounded
by the usual urgent bustle of the hospital. Taking a deep breath, Dr Edward
Granger and little Hermione got out at the curb, and he stared at the signs
while his wife parked illegally in a handicap space.
There was a large sign that read "Welcome to Saint Mary's."
But beyond that, the signage was rather peculiar.
At first glance, nothing seemed amiss in the simple, prim block letters and
comforting doctorly terms. The sign read:
Pen Emergency Room
Now, although the Grangers were both dentists, they were well acquainted
with the medical profession and knew full well there was not usually a 'Pen
Emergency Room.' Despite the fact that they did have, at the moment, a Pen
Peculiar. The Doctors Granger glanced at each other. They looked at the
sign again, and Dr Edward Granger realised they hadn't read far enough. Though he didn't recall
there being anything else on the sign before. But that was impossible, of
course. The sign continued:
Pen Emergency Room
Marble Emergency Room
Bottlecap Emergency Room
Well. Children did get into all sorts of scrapes, now didn't they? No doubt
this Hospital simply had an unusually large Pediatrics Department. Which
was in itself immensely reassuring. They noticed a little arrow beside 'Pen
Emergency Room' that directed them down a long hallway.
Still nonplused, they obediently followed the signs.
Another sign at the end of the hallway directed them to a narrower passage.
A third directed them to the left; another to the right. As they walked,
they noticed there were fewer and fewer people about; fewer and fewer of
those reassuring badges clipped to pockets on ugly green smocks. The lighting
was rather dim in this part of the hospital too, as smooth walls gave way
to mortared stone, painted in that same recognisable hospital
color of course.
Finally, the signs ended at a janitorial closet.
The closet was labeled, in rather small letters, 'Pen Emergency Room.' It
looked as though the tacky little sign had just been put up that day.
"I believe we've come the wrong way." Dr Edward Granger stated the obvious.
His wife and daughter looked about themselves in helpless confusion; they
couldn't spot the signs that had led them here in the first place. Dr Edward
Granger hoped to spy someone who could give them directions back to the regular
Emergency Room. They were clearly lost. Which was not a good thing when you
had a Pen Emergency. He imagined for a moment that the signs had disappeared.
Of course, that was impossible.
Fortunately, this part of the hospital wasn't entirely deserted. A young
orderly rounded the corner, pushing an empty but rather squeaky gurney towards
them. He wore a brightly-coloured smock and headphones
over his ears. He sang tunelessly, too loudly, unable to hear himself over
his music. "Woo-woo! Billy Jeeeean… s'Not.
My. Luv -ah… She's just a giiii-iirl…!"
As he drew closer, Dr Edward Granger saw the familiar
hospital badge bouncing on the pocket of his odd rainbow-coloured smock
and breathed a sigh of relief. He was just about to ask the young man directions,
when the gurney squeaked to a stop of its own accord and the man pulled off
"You looking for the Pen Emergency Room?" he asked brusquely.
"Er… yes." Dr Granger felt a little silly all of a sudden. Whoever heard
of a 'Pen Emergency Room'? Out loud it sounded patently ridiculous.
"Through that door," the young man nodded curtly at the closet
and replaced his headphones. Despite the ID badge pinned to his rainbow smock,
the young man seemed a bit odd somehow. Though he did have the usual hurried
indifference of a hospital employee.
"Right. Thank you," Dr Granger said
politely, staring after the young man who rudely ignored his gratitude just
like any normal hospital employee.
But his wife and daughter were already pushing their way through the door
behind him. The bustling sounds that came from there now were certainly not
those of a janitorial closet. Edward Granger turned to follow, but looked
over his shoulder at the fast-disappearing orderly.
Fangs, Dr Granger realised. The young man with the headphones had had fangs.
And it wasn't Hallowe'en.
They were greeted with a large, friendly sign that said 'Welcome to St. Mungo's.'
But the first thing Dr Edward Granger noticed as he bumped into his wife was
a man in flames, quietly reading a newspaper. He looked bored as turned the
A doctor rushed by them. "What have you got for me, Antigone?"
"Unicorn goring, operating theatre twelve."
"Damn, when will those kids learn? Just 'cause they're pretty doesn't
mean they're not dangerous!" He snapped on gloves and hurried through
some swinging doors.
"Mum!" Hermione said in a stage whisper, "that
man has a tentacle for a hand!"
"Sh," said Dr Marilyn Granger, "it's not polite to stare, dear." Being
calm in a crisis was something she had always been good at, and she saw no
reason to stop now.
The room looked quite ordinary. It was white, with white floors, white walls,
and a white ceiling. It was filled with a number of uncomfortable-looking
white plastic chairs that didn't seem to suit the strange array of patients.
The man with the bull's head and cloven hooves in the leather smock looked
far too large for his chair, for one, but he bore it patiently. In the far
corner, an elderly gentleman wearing flowing robes imprinted with stars seemed
to have brought his own chair, though how he managed to drag in a chaise
"Granger. Hermione," an enormous woman
at the front desk called. She had a staggeringly high beehive hairdo. Hesitantly
the Grangers approached. "Says here 'Pen Emergency', correct?"
"Er… yes." Dr Granger had the feeling their story wasn't going to be
so extraordinary after all.
"You're Muggles, correct?"
"Beg your pardon?"
"You'll have to fill out a few forms first," she said brusquely.
The woman dropped a stack of papers roughly the height of a dictionary into
Marilyn Granger's hands. It was oddly reassuring, those papers. St. Mungo's couldn't
be too far different from any other hospital. His wife mutely took the forms
and Hermione to one of the many uncomfortable-looking
chairs in the waiting room, and pulled out her little gold pen. As Edward
Granger hovered near the front desk, Marilyn suddenly squinted at the forms
as if they were written in code.
"Um… Madam?" Dr Granger asked in his most polite voice. "The orderly
in the hall… he had, well, fangs…"
"We're an Equal Opportunity Employer here at St. Mungo's, sir, regardless of race, sex, creed or breed. Besides,
as I always say, who better than a vampire to look after the blood bank?
Killer quality control they've got."
"Now, none of that racist stuff! That's not accepted around here. Mungo's is
run by the government, it is… where the minorities – " (here several
other employees joined in) " – are the majority!"
A black woman weighing some kind of large gold coin behind the desk laughed.
"I've… no prejudice against, er… vampires," Dr Granger
felt obligated to say.
"Well, that puts you in the minority, that's for sure." The black
lady laughed again.
A young woman with a mop giggled. "Hey, you could work here, then!" The
hospital employees all laughed at their inside joke.
Dr Granger wanted to say that he had a job, thank
you, but felt the conversation had already gone quite beyond his control.
His wife motioned for him to come over, in any case. He sat between his wife
and an old woman dressed like a witch, peaked hat and all. The man with the
tentacle was waving a stick at a drinking fountain, and holding Hermione up to take a sip.
She whispered, "Edward… some of these questions are truly bizarre.
I can't make heads or tails of it. Look at this one:"
Question 29.a) Do you consider yourself to be:
1 - Pureblood
2 - Muggle
3 - Partial Born [Part Muggle, Part Pureblood]
4 - Other
Dr Marilyn Granger was exasperated. "I'm
tempted to say 'other' just to be on the safe side."
The old lady in the peaked hat leaned over conspirationally, "That's one's optional, just a 'survey'
they say. But I'd check 'Pureblood' if I were you.
I've never trusted the Ministry's motives on that question."
"Mum, their drinking fountains have hot chocolate!" Hermione skipped
over and sat next to the old woman, looking up at her in awe. "Hi. Are
you a real witch?"
Well. The woman did dress like one after all.
The helpful lady laughed. "No more than you are, my dear," she
chortled, and then seemed to think this very funny.
At that moment, a woman in a rainbow smock, who was probably a nurse, poked
her head around the corner. "Granger. Hermione.
The doctor will see you now."
"I'm afraid we haven't quite finished filling out these forms…" Dr Marilyn
Granger began apologetically.
"That's quite all right. We just throw them in the trash anyway." The
nurse winked. "Saves time filing. But don't tell anyone I told you."
That convinced Dr Edward Granger that St. Mungo's was
a real hospital, despite its strangeness.
Dr Marilyn Granger muttered, "I always suspected
It was good thing Dr Edward Granger was feeling
especially confident this was real hospital, because the doctor's office
was anything but normal.
The shelves of the doctor's office were filled with beakers, vials, ancient-looking
leather books, and a number of rather strange exotic plants. Some of which
were moving. There appeared to be some sort of distillation process happening
on the back wall.
It seemed St. Mungo's practiced 'alternative medicine.'
The doctor herself was an older woman with short, curly grey hair and spectacles, seated behind a broad oak desk.
She wore the obligatory colourful hospital smock,
and appeared to be stirring some sort of soup on a tiny Bunsen burner.
She looked up and smiled. "Sorry. I always end up eating dinner at
my desk these days. Late shift."
"Now. What can I do for you?" She picked up a stick, and several
chairs moved closer. They couldn't see the mechanism for it, although Dr Edward
Granger assumed that there must have been magnets in the floor. "The
Nurse's Station seems to have lost the paperwork again. Pen emergency, is
"Uh, yes. We…" Dr Edward Granger felt very foolish all of the sudden. How
does one explain something like this?
"Pens moving through the air, writing on their own?"
"Yes! Exactly! Hermione here, well, she was
doing her homework - and these two pens -"
"Two pens? Say no more. Happens all the time." The doctor
waved dismissively. She turned to Hermione. "Though
you, my little lady, are quite the precocious one. How old are you?"
"Eight and three-quarters!" Hermione chirped,
swinging her feet.
The doctor seemed to be counting on her hands. "Give it two more years.
She'll be fine. There's no harm in it. Maybe a little less pressure on the
"What is going on?!"
"I'll explain. Your daughter is a very talented little lady." The
Grangers nodded; Hermione was very bright, yes. "In
a couple of years, she will receive a letter from a school called Hogwarts that
will help her make the most of her abilities." The Grangers blinked.
Some sort of school for the gifted? "It's by invitation only, this school.
Normally we would wait until the letter to mention it, but we had to redirect
you from St. Mary's. The, ah, public relations officer,
missed you at your house. And we can't have Muggle doctors
and scientists experimenting on bright little girls, now can we?" She
scrunched her nose at Hermione, who giggled.
"No, of course not. Well, we at St. Mungo's are
the specialists in this sort of thing. So there won't be any experiments.
It will all be fine in a couple of years."
"You mean, she'll grow out of it?"
"Well. She'll grow into it, rather." The doctor turned her attention
to their daughter. "Now, Hermione. Your parents
might forget some things from this visit, so you'll have to remember, okay?"
The Grangers smiled at each other. It was an excellent technique to get
a child to pay rapt attention.
"No more pens, little lady! You have to do your homework the slow way."
"I know, it seems so unfair now. But you need to not [need not to]
frighten your Mum and Dad. Can you remember that?"
Hermione nodded vigorously.
"All right then. It won't be long, not to worry. And I have a little
secret for you."
Hermione leaned closer, eagerly. She liked secrets.
The doctor leaned down to Hermione and spoke in
a stage whisper.
"Your First Signs
of Magic show what you're going to be best at later when you're doing all
kinds of magical tricks and spells and stuff," the doctor said conspirationally. "So
you'll always be especially good at charming objects, and you'll always
be good at doing lots of different things all at once. Now charming objects
is pretty common, that happens all the time. But doing lots of things at
once – that's a talent. Someday, you may even be able to make a whole orchestra
The Grangers beamed. This doctor had a wonderful bedside manner, and what
an adorable fairy tale to entertain and put their daughter at ease! They
had to admit she was after all, a little stressed from the day.
"Now, Dr Granger, and… you're also Dr Granger,
"Yes." Dr Edward nodded for both of
them. They were really eager to learn from these strange 'specialists' as
they called themselves, just what they thought was going on. Although he
intended to seek a second opinion, of course. Naturopathic medicine
was all well and good, but one shouldn't rely on it alone.
"I have just one word for you," the doctor picked up the stick
she had used earlier with the chairs. "Obliviate!"
Moments later, Dr and Dr Granger were being ushered out of St. Mary's. The smiling
doctor with curly grey hair was giving them some
advice. And aspirin. What were they doing here?
"Your daughter is just a little stressed, that is all," the doctor
was saying. "I recommend you put a little less pressure on her to finish
her homework quickly, yes?"
The two doctors nodded, wondering vaguely how they got here. Then Dr Marilyn
Granger groaned. There was a ticket on her car for parking in the handicap
The doctor gently took the ticket from her hands. "Don't worry about
that. We'll take care of it."
"Oh. Why, thank you!" Marilyn Granger said, still bemused.
The doctor nodded in satisfaction. "Now, Hermione. You remember what I said?"
Hermione dug at the concrete with her toe, and
answered reluctantly. "Yeeeeeeees."