The witch, the bear, the brute and the bullied
Following graduation Hermione feels the need to reconnect with the Muggle world for a short while. Being widely, and constantly, recognised as the cleverest witch of her generation (on top of the excitement (to put it mildly) during the last seven years of fighting and finally defeating the Dark Lord) has left its toll and she yearns for some time to think about little other than what to wear or whether or not to watch Love Island. She values and respects her intellect and her powers and she loves her wonderful wizard of a boyfriend so feels sure she will return to a life full of magical mystery but for now she wants to be nothing more than an ordinary human teenager. A little sulky at first, as is his inclination, her boyfriend Ron accepts (with a bit of help from his best friend) that if he lets, without a fuss, his beloved go for a while, they are more likely to have a happy, fulfilling, exciting and amazing future together.
Having answered, in a moment of boredom, the advert she spotted in her mum’s copy of The Lady Hermione doesn’t really expect a reply and so is surprised to receive one offering her the summer position managing a country estate and supervising its’ inhabitants whilst the owner spends most of his time elsewhere. Needing to make her way south west she takes the train from Paddington rather than her usual departure point of Kings Cross and travelling mid-morning the vehicle is quieter than might be expected at the end of July. Waking abruptly from a dream within which she is passionately arguing the case for the humane rights of elves and goblins she is disquieted to find herself being intently stared at by a pair of large brown eyes peeping out from under a felt hat of a similar colour. Despite his own fur coat, not to mention the warmth of the day, their owner is wearing a thick red duffle coat.
‘Hello,’ says Hermione.
‘How do you do, my name is Paddington Bear. Do you know how I might get to the Browns' house please?’, replies her travel companion.
After hearing of the bear’s experiences in both Peru and London Hermione begins to realise that one can have a life of adventure even when not in possession of magical powers. Given his tender age and that fact that they are near to Plymouth before he finishes his tale Hermione sensibly decides to take her new friend with her to Cornwall at least for the night.
The chauffeur who picks them up from Lostwithiel station is polite but mostly silent, his only display of emotion being a raised eyebrow when Paddington warmly shakes his hand. Hermione unpacks quickly – she can’t resist a quick flick of her wand every now and then– they both wash their faces and then descend the stairs for their dinner date with the master of the house, who is this day in residence. At first Paddington is resistant to the suggestion for after all he always carries a snack about his person but Hermione insists.
Their host rises to greet his new employee.
‘Good evening Miss Grainger’, his voice immediately displaying his public school upbringing.
‘I didn’t really expect you to bring a pet to this assignment.’
Taking a deep breath, in an attempt to stifle her own rising hackles, Hermione places a steadying hand on Paddington’s shoulder, as she feels rather than hears the beginnings of a deep growl.
‘Good evening Mr Rochester. May I introduce you to Mr Paddington Bear? He is not a pet but rather a bear who has mislaid his family whom I assure you we will locate as soon as we can. They must be missing him and after we have dined I will compose a social media message detailing his whereabouts. I feel sure the response will be swift. In the meantime I trust that a gentleman such as yourself will be happy to offer a lost bear shelter and sustenance for a night or two.'
Apparently unchastened, Mr Rochester nevertheless nods and holds a chair out for Hermione. They begin to eat; one a little more nosily than the other two. The conversation that accompanies the meal does little to improve Hermione’s mood. Try as he might though, and he certainly tries, the arrogant man opposite her is unable to top her knowledge of literature or history or persuade her that he has a more informed or surer grasp of politics or social justice than she. To the young, but worldly-wise witch, it feels like the interview that was not required to secure the position. That is until the coffee and brandy arrives when, self-assured in his own worth as he still is, her host begins to flirt with her in a way that clearly demonstrates that he believes he is doing her a favour. His clear sense of self-entitlement and his banter, which borders on insulting, demonstrates that his manners are definitely more 19th century patriarch than 21st century catch. Unwilling to put up with his behaviour any longer, nor to continue to subject an innocent bear to such a boastful display, Hermione interrupts, asking about her duties.
Realising that his charms are not working (his wealth sometimes swings it if not his wit) Rochester rises impatiently, suggesting that she meet the ‘monster’ immediately. Appalled at this description of someone, of anyone, and to cover her shock, Hermione outwardly wonders at the time of the meeting.
‘Isn’t it rather late?’
‘It will be fine, he hardly sleeps. Come.’
Taking her hand her new boss pulls a still reluctant Hermione to her feet and begins to take the stairs two at a time. Closely followed by Paddington, she runs to keep up, tripping twice on the three staircase trip to a tower not visible from the front of the house. Unlocking the door Rochester barks ‘stay back’ and enters the roughly furnished room, the young witch and the boy bear close behind. In the corner is a large man, his face a mish mash of scars. He retreats further and whimpers as the other man moves towards him. Moving quickly, Hermione steps in front of Rochester and gently holds her hands out to an individual that many others must surely label and treat as a monster. All the while she looks into his eyes, each a different colour, but both reflecting obvious fear. She smiles slowly and the poor creature moves his own lips in imitation.
‘Who are you? Where is your family?’ she asks quietly.
‘Frank-en-stein.’ Is the odd reply.
Continuing to hold the man’s hands in her own she turns to Rochester.
‘How can you treat him like this? How dare you keep him locked up with no rights and no affection?’
‘I’ve given him a home, who else would do that? What more could anybody demand or expect?’
The creature attempts to shrinks further into himself on hearing the raised voice.
Looking from the odd looking, and clearly unhappy man, who is trying his best to smile at Hermione to the haughty, angry and stony-faced one the small non-human animal in the room steps forward removing his hat for the first time that day. If ever there was an emergency this is it and with all the solemnity the presentation deserves Paddington Bear offers the marmalade sandwich, that previously had resided on his head, to the creature, the man. It’s this selfless act of kindness that convinces Hermione of the action that she must take and hesitating not a moment longer she clasps her two new friends to her with one arm whilst grasping the candlestick on the mantelpiece. As the conveniently placed Portkey, left by whom we will never know, does its’ magic Hermione imagines with pleasure her return to the wondrous magical life she now can’t wait to get back to.
And so, dear reader, what of Edward Rochester?
Left alone he has much time to ponder on how to improve both his conversation and his general hosting skills in preparation for the next time - if indeed there is a next time - he has visitors.