Subtle Alterations

This story is set in 2002, 5 years after the Battle of Hogwarts.

Angelina Johnson looked up from her journal at the sound of the unusual doorbell of Irie Bridal Shop. The three tone horn was slightly muffled as Hermione Granger stepped in from the busy street and hastened to stow her wet umbrella and raincoat on the coat stand just inside the shop door. Angelina smiled as she watched Hermione’s eyes search the room before finally landing on her, where she sat on a pink chaise lounge near a set of dressing rooms. Hermione waved and made her way towards the dressing rooms as Angelina stood to greet her with a hug.

“It’s great to see you, Hermione,” said Angelina earnestly. She had been looking forward to this opportunity to speak with Hermione for weeks. “I’m glad you found the shop alright.”

Hermione smiled as she pulled out of the hug and tucked a lock of her short curly bob behind her ear. “You too, Angelina. It wasn’t hard to find and it’s nice to spend some time in Muggle London. Hard to get away from the Ministry, you know.”

Angelina nodded, “Mr. Weasley mentioned you and Percy are in one of the busiest and most competitive departments,” she paused and then added playfully, “of course Percy’s mentioned it just a few times too.”  

Hermione laughed and shook her head but before she could reply, the shop owner joined them. The woman carried a warm smile on her face and a buoyancy in her step. Angelina knew her to be in her mid 50s, but she could pass for much younger. “Ah, your friend is right on time, Angelina. Nice to meet you, my dear. I’m Ms. Abigay.” Hermione stuck out her hand to introduce herself but Abigay pulled her into a hug. “Yes, yes. I know your name, darling. Angelina has told me and the two others had such lovely things to say about you when they were here. What a beautiful bridal party you’ll all make together.”

Angelina answered the unspoken question asked by Hermione’s puzzled look, “Ginny and Luna had to change their fitting time. They came by earlier this morning. Ms. Abigay says they picked out a few designs they thought we would like, though.”

“Mmhm,” the shop owner chimed in. “They have an eye for tasteful fashion, though I’ve swapped out some of the dresses with others that I think will better bring out the undertones in both of your skin,” she winked. “They’re all hanging in the fitting room for you to try on at your own pace.”

“Thanks so much, Ms. Abigay,” said Angelina. Motioning towards the fitting room door, she added, “Let’s have a look, Hermione.”

“Let me know if you need any help,” Abigay called as she made her way back to the front of the store where another customer had just entered. 

The fitting room was a private area with four individual changing stalls positioned around the corners. The sitting area was decorated with four ornate full length mirrors and large armchairs that matched the light gray and yellow wallpaper. The mirrors had their own lighting which filled the fitting room with a warm glow. Angelina and Hermione each dropped their bags into an armchair before beginning to shuffle through the dresses on the clothing rack in the middle of the room. Each dress was unique in style, though they shared a  mix of pink and gold shades to match the colors Ginny had selected for her wedding. When Angelina stepped out of her changing stall to view the first dress she’d tried on, a gold dress with a slim fit that hung off her left shoulder, Hermione was already standing in front of the mirrors in a pretty high-low pink option.

“That looks great, Hermione,” Angelina gushed.

“You too,” Hermione grinned before turning back to her mirror. “Have a look at these mirrors. They’re so flattering. If I didn’t know better, I would say they worked with the same magic as the ones in the dorms at Hogwarts.”

“Oh?” Angelina asked innocently before adding, “I didn’t notice anything,” and turning away from Hermione to admire the gold dress at a new angle.

“Well,” Hermione persisted, “I’m sure the dress looks good, but not THAT good, you know?” She came to stand beside Angelina in her mirror turning side to side. “There’s just a certain glow to my reflection.”

“I think you’re selling yourself short,” Angelina shrugged nervously. She was not ready to talk about the magic just yet. Not having spent too much time alone with Hermione, it was important to build genuine connection first. Angelina popped out her hip and mocked walking down a runway. “I don’t think I need to try on any others, do you?”

“I think Ms. Abigay might be offended if you don’t,” Hermione said pointedly. 

“Too true,” Angelina agreed and with a snap of her fingers, a pink halter dress switched places with the gold, which was hung neatly back on the rack. 

“Wandless magic?” Hermione asked impressed.

“My parents were always adamant that Alex and I learn.” Angelina replied, now motioning with her hands and guiding her long braids up into a neat bun, revealing her neck and collarbones. She smirked in amusement before adding, “Comes in HANDY.”

Hermione chuckled despite herself, “That sounds like one George came up with.”

“Well,” Angelina sighed, “he doesn’t joke so much anymore, but I have gotten very good at the one liners that will make him smile.” Angelina could feel her own smile betraying her as it failed to mask the sadness that came over her. “I’ll have to find the right moment to share that one with him.” There was a quiet moment and Angelina could tell Hermione was searching for the right thing to say. Angelina quickly changed the topic, trying not to stumble over words as she asked, “So who are you standing with then?” and handed Hermione a second dress option from the rack.

There was a slight flush in Hermione’s cheeks and she fumbled the dress as she replied, “Umm, Dean actually.”

“That’ll be fun,” said Angelina, trying not to betray too much excitement or interest. She already knew from Alex that Dean was particularly excited about seeing Hermione at the wedding and wondered if he knew they were partnered. “Dean would make a handsome partner for anyone.”

“Well, you know, Ron is Harry’s best man and Luna is maid-of-honor so they’re paired together. You’re standing with George, and Neville and Anthony are together so that leaves us,” Hermione explained calculatedly.

“He’s so tall. You’ll be able to wear heels and go with a longer dress if you’d like to,” Angelina reasoned. “May I?” she asked Hermione, extending her hand. Hermione nodded and Angelina snapped her fingers, returning the dress Hermione held and the one she was wearing to the rack and replacing it with a strapless floor length gold gown. 

Beaming at her reflection in the mirror and shifting to see how the dress moved with her, Hermione said, “It’ll be good to see Dean again.” 

“Definitely,” Angelina agreed. “The last time I saw him was with Lee at my mum’s funeral.”

Hermione stopped moving and turned to look directly at Angelina. Speaking with great earnest, she said, “I’m so sorry, again, for your loss, Angelina.” Dropping her eyes just slightly, Hermione added, “And I’m sorry that I wasn’t there at the funeral. I should have been there for you and Alex.”

Angelina placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder and felt her release some of the tension in her body under the touch. Crossing the room to sit in one of the large armchairs, Angelina said kindly, “It’s okay. I know you’ve been so busy, and funerals have been hard for all of us since the battle.”

Hermione nodded her appreciation.”Still, George, Ginny, and Harry were there. I should have been too. You’ve been such a good friend to me since our Hogwarts BSU days. I owe you one, friend.”

Angelina thought for a moment. The subject of the funeral had come up organically, but she could use it to propel the conversation forward. “Thanks, Hermione.” Angelina responded warmly and then added in a conversational tone, “Ms. Abigay actually tailored our outfits for the funeral. My mother always loved her designs.”

“You’ve known her a long time then?” Hermione asked curiously as she sat down in the chair beside Angelina’s.

“Yup, since I was a kid. This is my old neighborhood. My dad’s shop is just down the street.” Angelina gestured.

“I don’t think I realized you grew up in Muggle London.” said Hermione. “Your mum was a writer for the Prophet right? They did an obituary.”

Angelina nodded in confirmation, ignoring the fatigue she felt creeping in; that her mother worked for the Prophet was probably the least exciting thing about her in Angelina’s opinion and yet it was the fact that most people knew and remembered her for. “Yes, she wrote for the Prophet but she liked the time away from the drama of the wizarding world too. My dad had already established his shop when they met and she didn’t see the point in having him uproot when she could easily commute.”

Hermione nodded interestedly, “She was Muggle-born then?”

Angelina shook her head in laughter and felt new energy begin to stir inside at thought of finally being able to share the full story with Hermione. “She was a Squib. The first ever to write for the Prophet actually. They conveniently left that out of the obituary.”

Hermione gasped, “No way? That’s incredible. How could they leave out something that was bound to shape her experience there?”

“Well,” sighed Angelina, “we all know the wizard prejudices didn’t die with Voldemort. Not many people liked it when she first started with the Prophet but with time people chose to conveniently forget, especially after she had Alex and I. No one knew if a Squib and a Muggle could produce magical children and my mum and dad had two.”

Hermione shook her head in frustration. “It’s absurd that the British wizarding society still treats Squibs so poorly anyway. I know from my work that the isolation of Squibs from wizarding society is very much a European custom. In many other parts of the world, Squibs are integrated in a multitude of ways and more than that, they are honored as connectors of both worlds.”

“I know!” Angelina added in both excitement and exasperation. “We saw that in our travels with my mum. She refused to be excommunicated from the wizarding world both as a child growing up in a magical family and as an adult raising two magical children.” Angelina paused a moment remembering the stories her mother told her of studying the books her siblings brought home from Hogwarts over the summers and the ways in which her mother could manipulate magical objects, plants, and potions as well as any skilled witch. Her mother’s teaching more than any she received from Hogwarts informed the development of her now famous magical hair care line. Angelina felt tears start to form in her eyes but smiled at Hermione as she shared, “Even though my mum couldn’t perform magic, she could understand it—better than most witches and wizards I reckon. It’s why she wanted us to understand wandless magic; she thought it was magic in its purest form.”

Hermione looked awestruck. She reached out and hugged Angelina before settling back down in her seat again. “What a truly beautiful legacy to leave behind.”

“Mmm,” Angelina sounded her agreement. Conjuring a tissue from her messenger bag and wiping the tears from her face, she added, “I want to carry on her legacy, Hermione. In both worlds.”

“In both worlds?” Hermione asked as she tucked her feet underneath her, all thought of the dress fitting to the side.

Angelina smiled at her interest and attention, realizing the pride and joy it brought her to talk about her mother in this way. “Yup. She wrote about wizarding politics for the Prophet but she made sure to keep up with politics in the Muggle world as well. She saw her role as a reminder of the power, privilege, and responsibility that comes with magic because she knew what it meant to navigate the world without it. My dad has always been an activist in his community and my mum would accompany him to meetings and support his causes and efforts.”

“So you want to be more in tune with what’s happening in the Muggle world then?” Hermione asked. “And continue working with your dad.” 

Angelina looked at Hermione piercingly. This was it. She took a breath and said, “That would just be the start. I plan to use magic where I can to fight for peace and progress in the Muggle world too. Just like I’ve fought against supremacy in the wizarding one. My mum understood how to utilize magic performed by others to aid and protect Muggles in an unnoticeable and harmless way.”

Hermione’s face was hard to read. “Define harmless,” she inquired.

“Gifting plants that aid in health, safeguarding buildings with charms or for temporary protection—that sort of thing,” Angelina replied, unfazed. “A few times she brought along magical family members when there was some wand work to be done.”

“She risked a lot,” said Hermione thoughtfully. “If she had been caught breaking the Statute of Secrecy in that way…”

Angelina rolled her eyes and said sarcastically, “I don’t know that it ever occurred to lawmakers that Squibs could break the Statute of Secrecy.”

Hermione was silent for a moment. She looked away from Angelina for the first time since the beginning of the story and catching a glimpse of the mirrors on the wall snapped back to catch her gaze again. “The mirrors.”

Angelina raised an eyebrow and smiled in amusement, “Yes?”

“So they are magical…and now that you say it I can feel the protection around this building…I didn’t notice because I wasn’t expecting…Did you do this?” Hermione seemed caught between surprise and offense.

“Are you going to report me to the Ministry, Ms. Granger?” Angelina joked.

“Well, no. Obviously,” Hermione huffed, folding her arms. “I just don’t understand why. It’s not like wizards are killing Muggles in Britain anymore, or like Ms. Abigay couldn’t sell these gowns without the help.”

“Well that, I will give you,” said Angelina. “I thought the mirrors were just a nice touch—help people feel good about themselves. But you and I both know that prejudiced wizards are not the only danger to Black people in the Muggle world.” Hermione said nothing but did tilt her head in acknowledgement. “I want to continue my mother’s legacy, Hermione. I want to make sure I’m fighting to protect people from prejudice and oppression in both worlds. And I want you to help me,” Angelina said with confidence.

“Me?” Hermione asked, looking slightly alarmed at this development in the conversation.

“Well, you and others,” Angelina smiled. “I’d like to establish a Hogwarts BSU Alumni Chapter.”

“Well that should be simple enough—” Hermione started.

And I want to focus our efforts on community building and activism in the wizarding AND Muggle worlds.” Hermione blinked. Angelina could see her processing all the information she had been given. Nervously, Angelina wondered if it had been too much at once. Perhaps she should have spread the conversation out over time. She was about to suggest they table the conversation for later when Hermione finally spoke.

“That,” said Hermione standing again and beginning to pace in front of the mirrors, “is the part that is tricky. We can talk about how to best protect Muggles in moments of danger, but using magic whenever we feel it will be helpful or for problems that don’t involve other wizards is technically illegal. You can build awareness without that risk. The Ministry would just never go for it.”

Angelina frowned, “I think Kingsley would understand.”

Hermione shook her head somberly, “He may be sympathetic yes, but you know the wizarding community has him under a microscope. They had to make him Minister five years ago after the Battle of Hogwarts because he was the best man for the job, but many of the quietly racist wizards and witches are still unhappy to have a Black Minister and I think they would work to discredit him for allowing a group like the one you’re proposing to exist under his watch.”

“You’re proving my point for me, Hermione.” Angelina added as she stood, cutting off Hermione’s pacing and straightening her back to stand as tall as she could. “We know that many wizards carry the same racist ideas that we face in the Muggle world, and the only reason they don’t act on it overtly is because of our magical power. Think of everything Blaise had to go through in Slytherin House.” 

Hermione nodded but said nothing. It was Blaise who had the idea to form the Hogwarts Black Student Union after being so isolated and targeted by the people who should have been his Hogwarts family. 

“The Statute of Secrecy does no service to Black witches and wizards,” Angelina continued. “Racist wizards are more than happy to watch us struggle to navigate a Muggle world that doesn’t understand us and abuses us while we helplessly maintain secrecy. We know those same wizards are willing to abuse Black Muggle people in the same way. We have to make a continued effort to support our people Hermione. Their liberation is tied to our own.” Angelina was pleading now. “I thought for a long time about which BSU member to bring this idea to first, and I decided on you. I know we share these values and everyone knows about your magical talent and ability.” Angelina cracked a sudden smile, “And like you said earlier—you OWE me.”

Hermione bit her lip and ran her hands through her hair. She looked slightly agitated. Taking a deep breath, she said quietly, “You’re right. I know you’re right.”

“Yes!” Angelina cheered before remembering they were in a place of business.

“Don’t get too excited,” Hermione cautioned. “I still need to think about this. What it would look like. Keeping it all a secret. Getting things started. Contacting everyone we trust and convincing them to break the law with us.”

Angelina smiled and playfully gestured towards the clothing rack like a gameshow host revealing a prize, “Well, the contacting part will be easy. I happen to know of a huge event that’s due to have major attendance and many of our trusted BSU members next season.” 

Hermione laughed for the first time since Angelina proposed the Alumni Chapter, “You want to turn Ginny and Harry’s wedding into a recruitment event?”

Undeterred by her laughter, Angelina said, “Precisely.” Then, grinning, she added, “Even if Harry and Ginny found out, how could they be mad at us as founding members of their own secret organization. George thinks it’s a great idea, but…” she paused for effect and then added teasingly,  “I also understand if you mean to use that time for catching up with…specific friends.”

Hermione averted her gaze and tried to play off the slight crack in her voice as she hurriedly  replied, “Nothing other than celebrating the bride and groom. Fine, you’ve got it. We’ll let everyone know about the idea for an Alumni Chapter at the wedding and then use the first meeting to pitch your idea.”

Angelina ran over to hug Hermione, who responded in laughter and a tight squeeze. “Seems like we should decide on our uniform for this secret mission then.” 

Hermione smiled and the two spent the next 15 minutes trying on their remaining dresses before calling Ms. Abigay over to help them make the final decisions and check out their purchases. 

Stepping out of the shop and into the city street next to Hermione, Angelina felt lighter, full of purpose and excitement. The street was just busy enough that no one would notice a carefully timed Apparition. Angelina glanced at Hermione who looked both weary and resolved. Angelina followed Hermione’s gaze and saw a young Muggle mother who was struggling with the umbrella that had been protecting both she and her pram from the rain drops overhead. Angelina felt surprise and glee as she watched Hermione point the tip of her wand out of her purse and quietly whisper “Reparo.” She gave Hermione’s hand a squeeze before they pulled apart and did their individual pirouettes, disappearing on the spot as they headed to their separate destinations, to continue reflecting on their newly shared commitment. 

In memory and honor of the mothers who helped cultivate our magic.