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The hairs on Nyah’s arms stood on end. Mother was clearly irate to be called away from the party planning … and she hadn’t even laid eyes on the women in her sitting room …

Chapter 7 – Parental Permission 

Her voice ripped through the very walls of the house. It was like a locomotive picking up steam … … “I will not be bothered today. I don’t care who they think they are … coming here in the middle of the week. I am far too busy to deal with ordinary, school marms!” The closer she got to the sitting room, the more shrill and piercing her voice became, rather like an angry Banshee.

“Don’t blame me if Saturday comes and the party is a disaster. Call me away … required … who do they think …” Mother turned the corner still screaming at Anna … her voice trailed off and her mouth dropped open as she caught her first glimpse at the women standing in her house. She wrinkled her nose, as she often did, when she encountered something or someone she felt was beneath her.

Headmistress McGonagall pursed her lips as she stood from her seat, while Professor Weasley clasped her hands together and smiled politely. They had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into … but they were about to find out.

Mother surveyed both women, as she removed her riding gloves. Handing them to Mrs. Cleary, she turned to Anna and said in her sweetest voice, “Anna darling, I believe Alexander wished to go on a ride, and since I will be unable to accompany him, I’d like you to go in my place.”

Anna sighed and glanced at Nyah. She had hoped to stay … but as instructed, she simply said, “Yes, Mother,” and turned to walk away.

Mother walked silently into the room and gracefully sat in the high wing-back chair near the fireplace, saying to both women, “Sit, please. Would you like some tea?”  She snapped her fingers and Mrs. Cleary appeared at her side. “Fresh tea for our guests and bring mine the way I like it.”

The room was cold and silent, save the sound of fresh teacups being passed about, and when the Headmistress spoke, Nyah was so startled, she nearly dropped her cup. Mother’s eyes went dreadfully angry at Nyah before looking once again to the Headmistress signaling her to continue.

“Well, Mrs. Stewart, I am Headmistress Minerva McGonagall and this is Professor Hermione Granger-Weasley. We are from a school called Hogwarts.”

Mother looked up from her tea at the word ‘Hogwarts’ as though the Headmistress had just cursed in her home. “Hogwarts … what a preposterous name for a school!” as she laughed into her tea. “But - you’re serious …” Mother quietly said, “oh, well … do go on.”

“Yes, then,” the Headmistress continued, her face a bit pink around the edges and her mouth sitting firm, “I’m sure you’ve noticed that Nyah possesses some very special gifts. Our school is designed to teach young boys and girls how to use their ... shall we say … ‘talents’.”

Mother laughed, “You think Pricilla has ‘gifts’?” Mother asked, her face matching McGonagall’s and raising it a shade. “Is that what you call blowing things up, turning people’s faces blue, and all the other crazy things that go on around here? That is not talent … that is a nuisance!” Mother said, leaning in with a loud whisper.

Nyah turned to silently apologize to the Professor and Headmistress, but they were staring at Mrs. Stewart with looks ranging from irritation to outright anger.

“I am a very busy woman,” Mother said, setting her teacup down. “So, if you don’t mind, can we just speed things up a bit?” she added, waving her hand in circles. “Why are you here? And how does it concern Pricilla?”

It seemed the Headmistress might explode if she spoke, so Professor Weasley took over, “Mrs. Stewart, Hogwarts is a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Nyah is, in fact, a witch,” she said, beaming at Nyah.

Professor Weasley continued, “It’s actually a rare thing for a witch to be born to non-magic parents. I, myself, am a muggle-born witch, and there are very few of us. In fact, the odds are approximately 1 in 100 a witch or wizard is a true muggle-born, which is very exciting.”

Mother’s eyes were getting larger and larger as Professor Weasley spoke. Nyah couldn’t be sure, but she thought she saw one of her eyes actually twitching with every word the professor said.

“We are offering Nyah the opportunity to come to Hogwarts School to learn more about her gift.” Professor Weasley looked between Nyah and her mother for some indication as to how things were going.

Mrs. Stewart sat back in her chair, seemingly deep in thought, and then looked at Professor Weasley. “Weasley, is that correct? Interesting name,” she said, wrinkling her nose as though she smelled something foul. “So, to clarify … you think Pricilla is a witch, and you want her to come to a school with other people like her, to learn more about being a witch?”

“That’s a very basic understanding of what we do, yes.” Professor Weasley started. “But there is so much more to the education she would receive.”

Catherine’s small smile never left her face as she stood and addressed the room. “I appreciate you coming out today, but I can tell you that my husband and I are looking to cure Pricilla … not to encourage this negative behavior. Her medication works quite well … when she takes it,” she said, looking directly at Nyah, “and I can assure you that bolstering this feeling of ‘special talents’ or ‘gifts’ as you call them will only slow her progress. Now, if you will excuse me, Mrs. Cleary will show you out. I do have people waiting,” and she motioned towards the door, excusing the women from her house.

Headmistress McGonagall and Professor Weasley stood and gathered their things. As the parchment for parental permission to attend the school was rolled up, Professor Weasley turned to look at Nyah. She could see the desperation in the young girl’s eyes.

Nyah reminded her of Harry Potter, who grew up in a family much like this. His Aunt and Uncle despised him and wanted nothing to do with the wizarding world. Harry said many times that Hogwarts was his home … and what if the same held true for Nyah … what if Hogwarts could be to her what it was for Harry? She looked around the posh room and knew this wasn’t ‘home’ to Nyah. And that’s when the idea hit …

“You do realize, Mrs. Stewart,” Hermione announced as Catherine was leaving the room, “that Hogwarts is a full-time school. Nyah would actually live at Hogwarts.” 

Catherine stopped in her tracks and turned to look at Hermione. Nyah watched as Mother analyzed what the young woman had just said. A smile cut across the headmistress’s face as she realized what Hermione was doing.

The woman slowly walked back into the room. “She would actually stay … at the school … year round?” Catherine asked, clasping her hands in front of her.

“Except for summer break, arrangements can be made for her to stay over holidays as well,” the Headmistress responded.

“What if we say … ‘donated’ extra funds … could it be arranged for her to stay summers as well?” Catherine asked with greed in her voice.

Headmistress McGonagall glared at Mrs. Stewart, disliking her more and more with every word the woman spoke. She was actually asking that Nyah not come home at all … what kind of mother would do that to her child?

The Headmistress was faced with a decision she’d never had to make before. She knew if Nyah had to come home during the summers, Mrs. Stewart may not allow her to come to Hogwarts at all, but no student had ever been permitted to stay year-round at Hogwarts.

Hermione wondered what would have happened had Harry not been permitted to attend Hogwarts. It would have been devastating, not only to Harry, but to the wizarding and muggle worlds alike.

“We can look into special arrangements for Nyah if that is your wish,” McGonagall simply replied.

“Fine … done then,” Catherine answered quickly. “To whom do I make out the check?”
She turned to Nyah and pointed to the stairs, “Go pack your things. And don’t put anything in that you know doesn’t belong to you!”

Nyah couldn’t believe what had just happened … Mother had said yes … Nyah was actually going to Hogwarts School for witchcraft and wizardry! She turned to run to her room, as the Headmistress said that Mother still needed to sign the parental permission form.

“Some additions will need to be made, of course, considering the circumstances,” Professor Weasley noted as she made the necessary adjustments to the contract, smiling at this small victory.

Nyah watched as Mother took the quill from Professor Weasley to sign the contract … a contract for freedom … she would finally be free … and then … 

Mrs. Stewart pushed and pushed towards the parchment, but the quill wouldn’t touch the paper. “What are you playing at, giving me some trick feather that won’t write?” Catherine exclaimed. “Mrs. Cleary, fetch me a proper pen,” she huffed.

The Headmistress and Professor Weasley looked at each other, neither one believing what just took place. “Please try again, Mrs. Stewart,” Hermione requested.

Nothing … no matter how hard she tried to touch the paper, the quill refused to allow her to sign. Hermione looked directly at the exasperated woman as she continued her attempt to sign Nyah away.

“Mrs. Stewart, there are only two ways this quill will refuse your signature. One is if your intentions are not clear,” Hermione said as she began pacing the floor. “You do want Nyah to attend Hogwarts School as we discussed, is that correct?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Catherine, trying in vain to make the quill work for her.

“Professor, what is the other condition the quill takes into consideration?” the housekeeper quietly asked, afraid of the answer.

“The only other requirement for the parent to sign is … that you are her biological mother or her true legal guardian. If you are neither of these – the quill will refuse your signature,” Hermione said, looking between the headmistress and Mrs. Stewart.

Nyah sank to the stairs. No … it can’t be, she thought as the realization set in.

Hermione reached out and gently took the quill from Mrs. Stewart’s hand.

The room was eerily silent.

“Mrs. Stewart … Catherine …” Professor Weasley said, gently touching the visibly shaken woman “is there something you need to tell us?”

“We can’t help you or Nyah unless we know the truth,” the Headmistress added.

Catherine sat with her head low, her hands laid in her lap. Realizing how she must look … she sat up straight, gained her composure, and looked at both teachers. “What does it matter anyway? What’s done is done. Obviously, your quill has simply malfunctioned,” she snapped to the women.

“Please, Mrs. Stewart. We need to know who she is … where she came from,” Hermione said, trying to reason with the woman.

“I couldn’t tell you … even if I knew,” Catherine said, her knee bouncing anxiously, betraying the calm look on her face. 

The tall, anxious woman stood and paced the floor for a moment before stopping to look at the photos on the mantle. Her face softened a bit as she reached out for a small silver frame, the picture of a man smiling back at her. She visibly struggled with her decision.

Without looking at the other women, she sighed and said, “It was such a long time ago … I didn’t know what else to do.” She turned and stared at the Headmistress, “I could lose everything. If they find out I’ve breathed a word to anyone …”

She took a deep breath to calm herself, clasping the picture to her chest, as she looked at the women in the room. “The twins’ father took off not long after they were born. He wasn’t ready for a family, or so he said. So there I was; no money, no husband, and two babies to take care of.”

Catherine paused a moment, placing the picture back in its proper spot. “A friend of mine from school was kind enough to take us in. She lived above a pub in London. After a while, I settled into a job as a barmaid there.”

Both Hermione and McGonagall found it difficult to believe the woman standing before them ever worked as a barmaid, but they listened intently.

A comforting look from Mrs. Cleary encouraged Catherine to continue … “The kids were tended to by Mallory, my roommate, while I worked at night. About a year after I started, Robert came into the pub one night.”  Her eyes sparkled as she remembered. “He was in town for a business meeting and staying at the hotel nearby. We chatted and he left. The next time he was in town, he stopped in again … this time for a longer stay. One thing led to another … and well, we fell in love. He was everything I’d ever wanted; rich, handsome, kind … but,” and Catherine sighed … “he was married.”

She returned to her seat, staring at the tray of biscuits. “He always talked about how unhappy he was with her … and I of course, encouraged him to leave her. But he said with the business he was in, a messy divorce could ruin him. So, we quietly continued to see each other as often as we could.”

Catherine started sipping on her tea. “The children loved him and he adored them. His wife had never given him a child, and he desperately wanted to be a father.”

“It didn’t take long for the rumors to start around and Robert called one night before I was due to work and put a stop to the whole thing. He said he couldn’t see me again. It was done … over.” Tears betrayed her eyes, the controlled façade crumbling.

“Go on, dear,” Mrs. Cleary said, getting a tissue for her.

“I had to work that night and was a mess. It was a nasty, stormy night out, and there were only a few patrons. I remember sitting on one of the bar stools trying to figure out what I was going to do … how I could win him back, when someone sat down next to me.” She sat up straighter … her eyes clear. “He just simply asked why I was crying … and I told him … I told him the whole story.”

Catherine admitted that with the heavy amounts of whiskey she had consumed that evening, most of the conversation with this man was fuzzy at best. “But he said he could help,” she explained, “and that’s all I wanted. He said he could get me exactly what I wanted … for a price.” Her head fell, slightly. “I had been so upset … but when he looked at me, his eyes looked straight inside me, and it was as if someone poured ice cold water straight through my heart.” Catherine visibly trembled, remembering his eyes.

“Yet, he was talking, reassuring me. Then he asked what I was willing to do, to gain everything I wanted … Robert … a marriage … a father for the twins … money … If there was a way, would I do it? I said ‘yes’. He said he could arrange it …” she said, glancing at the women, “and all he wanted was a favor.”

The women looked to one another, but no one spoke.

Catherine detailed, as best she could, what happened next. “He pulled out a small rolled paper. I asked him what the favor was, and …” she trailed off, her voice choking a bit, “he said it was just a small favor. All I had to do was take in a child, an orphan that needed a home. But that it wouldn’t be right away.” She stood and began pacing again, this time, biting on her perfectly manicured nails.

“I took his frilly pen, like that one,” as she pointed to Hermione’s quill, “and I signed. I still have the scar to prove it, too.” Catherine took her tissue and ran it over her left hand where ‘I will take the child’ was etched into her hand.

Hermione gasped as she touched the woman’s scar. She was all-too-familiar with what kind of quill caused damage like this.

“I’ve tried everything to remove it, but it refuses to leave. I’ve even tried surgery, but nothing!” Catherine explained as she sat down again, this time on the sofa.

Hermione was then the one that started pacing … she always thought more clearly when she paced. “So how did Nyah come to be with you?” she asked Catherine.

“Well, after that night, everything with Robert happened so quickly. He actually called the next morning begging me to forgive him. He said he was filing for a divorce and his wife was moving out; happily, I might add. We were married within a month and the children and I moved directly here, into the Manor. Not long after, he adopted the twins, making them legally his own.” Catherine beamed, remembering. “We were happy … really, really happy. Things were … well, perfect.”

Her face fell a bit as she continued, “We had just celebrated our fourth anniversary and were gearing up for the twins’ sixth birthday party. Other than this irritating little scar and some rather fuzzy memories, I had completely forgotten the grey-eyed man from the bar … until the night the doorbell rang.” Catherine began to shake.

“The devil himself was at my door … I could see it in his eyes. I instantly regretted signing his silly paper. But had I refused his offer,” and she motioned around the room, “none of this would be mine. Anyway, it was very late in the day; nearly nighttime. I remember it had been unusually cold weather for July. I had even taken to wearing a jumper inside the house.”

Hermione remembered that odd summer … the muggles thought it had been just foul weather, but it had actually been a mass breeding of dementors. The few surviving Death Eaters were recruiting, and with control of some dementors, they encouraged them to increase their numbers. Harry was away on vacation with his family to France, and the other Aurors were working overtime to undue the damage. That vacation turned out to be a very dark time for the Weasley family, and it had very little to do with dementor breeding and round up. Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted by Minerva.

“Hermione, I think it might be wise to jot down some of this information,” the Headmistress instructed.

“Oh … of course … yes, sorry Professor … I mean, Minerva,” Hermione stammered a bit. She still had trouble referring to the headmistress by her first name.

Hermione grabbed a blank parchment from her bag and started scribbling furiously all of the facts up to this point. Ink was splattered on her face, her hand, as well as the couch, and she gasped for breath as though she had just run sprints. “Please Catherine, continue.” Hermione was poised, ready to write.

“They were in this very room, waiting for me,” Catherine said, clasping her hands tightly. “They had a child with them, wrapped in a blanket. She was sleeping very soundly. They simply placed her on the sofa and started to leave.”

“I asked what I was supposed to do with her, and he coldly reminded me of the deal we had made; that I was to take in the child and raise it … until he came to collect her.”

“Collect her?  What?” the headmistress exclaimed, nearly choking on her tea. “This person was just dropping her off until some time that he would come and collect her, like … like lost luggage?”

“Catherine, was Nyah his daughter?” Hermione asked, tapping her quill on the parchment.

Nyah could barely hear what Mother was saying, and she dared to peek around the corner. Headmistress McGonagall saw her and put her finger to her lips and motioned for her to sit back. Nyah sighed and scooted back to her original position. She prayed that Mother would continue, soon.

Catherine thought for a moment, and said, “No, she was not his daughter. When I asked about her parents, he simply said that they had, just that night, tragically met their demise in a nasty accident. But then he smiled … a cruel, twisted smile.”

“They had left some of her things in a bag they brought with her. He said that she wouldn’t remember anything, so I was to tell her nothing of our meeting; to raise her as my daughter, and should anything funny start to happen with her to simply ignore it and he would tend to her when the time was right.”

“Then they left, into the night. And I was left with her,” Catherine said simply, examining the state her nails were in.

“What happened after they were gone?” Hermione asked.

“Well, Robert had obviously heard the bell and was curious who would be stopping by that late. I didn’t want him to see the items they left with her, so I took the blanket and the bag they left and threw them in a box from Robert’s office. I taped it up and set it with his other office files that we were going to store in the attic. I don’t know why, but I thought I should somehow mark it, so I would know which one was hers, just in case. I grabbed a marker and then realized I had no idea what her name was. I glanced through the files Robert kept on his desk and there was a ‘Pricilla Diane’ so that’s what I wrote … ‘Pricilla’.”

“Robert came into the room just as I set the marker back on his desk. It dawned on me that I had no idea what to tell him about the child in the next room … so I lied. I told him that a distant cousin of mine had been tragically killed in a fire and since I was the only living relative, the child automatically came to me. He never questioned it and was happy to add another child to the family.”

Catherine stood and began pacing again, her arms crossed, “Being a lawyer has some distinct advantages; one being that when Robert went to the judge about a birth certificate for Pricilla so she could start nursery school, it was granted without question. We, of course, didn’t know her exact birthdate, but she had told us the first few days here that she was going to be four ‘next week’, so we simply set it for the week after the twins.”

“So you have no idea who her parents were?” Hermione asked.

Catherine, looking a bit frustrated, sighed and said, “No, but surely they are dead, like he told me, or wouldn’t someone have come looking for her?”

“Perhaps,” McGonagall replied, her face taking on different shades of irritation, “but this is just unheard of … taking in a child you know nothing about … from someone who just knocks on your door!”

“Please, try and understand … he was offering me everything … everything! I had no choice!” Catherine exclaimed rather loudly.

“No choice? You made a pact with the devil! I’d say that’s some choice …” McGonagall said, anger rising in her voice.

The two women squared off, the tension between them threatening to ignite.

Hoping to calm the situation and distract the tense situation, Hermione asked, “Professor, what about Nyah? We can’t take her with us without permission.”

“No!” Nyah cried, running into the room, “You have to take me … you promised!”

“Nyah, without knowing who your parents really are, and whether they are alive or not, we have no legal right to take you.” Hermione tried to explain.

But Nyah was crying, “I give you permission … doesn’t that count?” 

She reached out her small hands, making a connection with Hermione, silently pleading with her.

“Pricilla, where are your manners?” Catherine scolded the young girl, pointing her finger, happy to spend some energy and anger on Nyah.

The young girl turned and glared at the once-frightening woman before her.  “Don’t you talk to me about manners, Mother,” Nyah spat back. “You are not my mother … you never were … and you lied to me, to Father, to everyone! So don’t talk to me … just - just don’t!”

Nyah turned back to Hermione, again pleading with her.

The teachers looked at one another, trying to come up with a solution.

“We could petition the Ministry. I’m sure I could talk to Kingsley and get emergency custody, although I’ve never heard of a case such as this. But … yes, just until we figure this out. I’m sure he can do something,” Hermione stated, pacing the floor. She was rambling rather, as though a light had popped on in her head.

“Very good, that’s a place to start, but I think it needs to come directly from me,” Minerva said, walking towards the door. “They are going to want to know where she’ll be staying and in whose name the custody should be,” she added, looking to Hermione.

“Please tell them she’ll be staying with Ron and me in Hogsmeade,” Hermione said, glancing at Nyah, “and to ask the papers to be put in my name. I’ll apparate over to sign once you are back, if everything goes well.”

Hermione knew the young girl needed to be with her, but she had no idea why. She reached out and pushed Nyah’s hair behind her ear, smiling back at the face before her … it seemed so familiar … but that was silly … she’d never met her before … but still. 

Once Headmistress McGonagall had gone, the room returned to its stale silence.

Hermione sifted through the parchment, checking and rechecking her notes.

“Catherine, is there anything you can tell me about the man you met or the people who dropped Nyah off to you?” Hermione asked, grabbing her parchment and quill.

Catherine stared off … as if tying to unlock a door in her mind she had closed long ago … “The man at the bar was the same man who came here. He was slightly taller than me, thin, with a walking cane, but just for show. Like I said, his eyes were cold grey.”

“Anything else … an accent, birthmark, his hair color, perhaps?” prodded Hermione, desperate for clues.

“Long and very pale blond.”

Hermione shook her head as if to clear away any cloudy thoughts … “Grey eyes and pale blond hair … are you sure?”

“Yes, of course.” Catherine said curtly, her former self returning somewhat.

“And the other person who came here that night, can you describe him as well?”

“It was a woman, not a man. She was carrying Pricilla, and not well, I might add. She had long red hair; slender, attractive, quiet … in fact, the only thing she said made no sense whatsoever.”

“And what was that?” Hermione asked, still writing furiously.

“Filthy little blood traitor.”

Hermione dropped her quill, and Nyah ran to pick it up. “What’s a blood traitor?” Nyah started to ask Hermione, when the doorbell rang. “So, what is it?” she asked again.

Catherine continued … “I mean, yes, she was filthy, but blood traitor … there’s no such thing, is there?”

At that moment, Mrs. Cleary walked in with the headmistress who wore a small triumphant smile that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. “The papers will be ready for you to sign as soon as you arrive. Go directly to Minister Shacklebolt’s office; he’s waiting and may have some questions,” McGonagall directed to Hermione.

“Catherine,” McGonagall continued, “I too, have some questions. May we?” she said as she motioned to the dining room.

The headmistress walked with Catherine to the far end of the table, as Hermione readied herself to leave. She turned to Nyah. “Why don’t you start packing, and I’ll come and help you as soon as I return.”

Nyah started to worry about her newly-appointed guardian. “You will come back for me, won’t you?”

Hermione walked back to the girl, and once again, felt a familiar lurch deep inside of her. “Of course, Nyah … I won’t leave you here.” She pulled the girl into a small hug, confused at her own feelings.

Nyah turned and ran part-way up the stairs. “What should I call you, please?”

“Well, why don’t we start with Hermione, for now?” she said, smiling at Nyah.

Nyah nodded and said, “Hurry back, Hermione.”

And with that, Hermione left the Stewart Manor to apparate to the Ministry of Magic … to the new mystery of Nyah’s parentage … and to request an official Ministry meeting with none other than one Lucius Malfoy. 

Author's Notes ... I'd love to hear what you think!  Please leave a review.  :-)  
Thanks go out to Girldetective, Browneyes, Silver Thimble, JLHufflepuff, and everyone else who's been kind enough to leave a review and offer tips and hints or to ask questions!  {{{{{hugs}}}}}


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