Success is the result of perfection, hard work, leaning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.
4 May 1998
Hermione felt too queasy to eat much of a breakfast, though the spread Mrs. Weasley set out smelt wonderful. She meticulously spread jam on her toast, her strokes slow as she concentrated on watching Ron across the table. They’d talked about the Assistant Auror position again and again, and though she’d accepted that he would be leaving for the Ministry that morning, she was far from happy about it.
Yesterday, hiding inside while everyone else went out to join in on the celebration George had started, Hermione had tried not to think about the issue and just be a comfort for Ron, but he’d noticed her tense movements and wouldn’t stop worrying about it. Only her determination not to start an argument stopped them from fighting again. She refused to be the nagging, controlling girlfriend that she realized she could easily turn into, so she’d talked herself into shutting up and accepting that fact that Ron would be part of the Auror department.
At least she wasn’t the only one worrying.
“Make sure you eat enough,” Mrs. Weasley said, sliding another omelette onto Ron’s plate. “You’ve got a long day today.”
“We’re just going over procedures today, Mum,” Ron said as Mrs. Weasley started filling up Harry’s plate again. “We’re not going to be doing anything but sitting around the office.”
“It’s your first full day of work,” Mrs. Weasley tutted. “Who knows how late you’ll be to dinner. You both need at least one proper meal today.”
Ron rolled his eyes, glancing at his watch. “Mum, we really have to go. Kingsley wants to meet with us at his office at eight thirty before we go to the Auror Department.”
“Yes, yes, all right,” Mrs. Weasley said, relenting. “I suppose you do have to walk outside your father’s protection spells in order to Apparate.” She summoned the boys’ dishes to the sink, then straightened out the wrinkles in their shirts as they stood up. Ron only rolled his eyes in protest, perhaps unwilling to give his mother too much grief right now.
Mrs. Weasley insisted on walking them out, so Hermione volunteered to go as well. Ron smiled tentatively at her. She must have been better at playing the supportive girlfriend role than she thought.
As they made their way through the front door, Harry asked Mrs. Weasley about Hogwarts and Professor McGonagall’s plans to rebuild it, slowing Mrs. Weasley down and giving her and Ron plenty of space. While Hermione wasn’t exactly keen on being alone with him before he left for a job she disagreed with, Ron seemed more than happy to quicken their pace and isolate themselves.
“A real miracle that she’s finally letting us go,” Ron muttered as they walked out of earshot. “It’s not like we’re gonna be gone long. We’ll be home for dinner.”
“She’s worried,” Hermione said. “Understandably so.”
“You’re not still upset with me, are you?” He looked down at her with big pleading eyes.
Hermione sighed. “I guess since you’ll be in the office all day going over paperwork…”
“So you aren’t mad at me anymore?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes. No. Just a little.”
He grinned at her stumbling words. “I’ll take the first answer.”
She smiled at him, still wishing he would change his mind but not pushing it. After his sullenness yesterday, she had to admit it was nice to see him smiling. They paused at the edge of the front garden where the protection charms ended. Before Harry and Mrs. Weasley got too close, Hermione hugged him and creased his shirt as she buried her head as close as she could to him. His arms held her close and made her wish that if she could only hold on to him tight enough, he would stay with her.
As Harry and Mrs. Weasley approached, she took a step back from him, though kept her hands on his chest. His smile shifted into a more serious, nervous, line. “Well, be careful, you know, at Hogwarts.”
“I think I’ll be just fine,” she answered with a smile, trying not to get caught up in the awkwardness of the goodbye. There were so many firsts as a couple: first kiss, first cry, first goodbye. Sometimes she forgot they’d only been dating a few days until another first snuck up on them.
“I dunno. I hear a lot of weird shit happens up there.” He grinned, and Hermione was happy to hear him joking, even if it did involved a little language.
“I think it might have something to do with that Harry Potter. You’ll be dealing with the trouble that follows him today, not me.” Even though he smiled at her light-heartedness and took her head in her hands for a a quick kiss, Hermione couldn’t stop worrying about exactly the kind of trouble that might find Harry today.
Luckily, Ron had enough sense to break off the kiss before his mother got too close, but Hermione still avoided her eyes as she hugged Harry goodbye and wished him good luck. She had no idea how Mrs. Weasley felt about her new relationship with her youngest son, and until she figured it out, Hermione was going to be careful not to overstep her boundaries. She only touched Ron’s hand again as she actually said goodbye.
After he’d Disapparated, she already missed him.
“You’ve been taking care of them for a long time,” Mrs. Weasley said.
“I suppose so,” she agreed.
“And you understand my worries.”
“Yes, mostly definitely.”
Hermione thought that might be all of the conversation as Mrs. Weasley turned and led the way back across the garden, but then she asked, “But you decided not to go with them?”
Hermione was taken back a bit by the question but answered honestly. “I’ve decided to go back to Hogwarts to help rebuild it. I feel that’s where I belong this summer since I plan on retuning next year to finish my N.E.W.T.’s.”
Mrs. Weasley nodded. “The decision does fit you, dear. Do you think Ron and Harry will go back?”
“I don’t know,” Hermione said, feeling lost by the question she’d been asking herself. “Kingsley mentioned permanent positions after this summer but… they don’t have to take them.” She knew her words were true, but she also knew there was no way they wouldn’t take Kingsley up on the offer.
“I’m sorry that I tried to delay you three leaving last summer,” Mrs. Weasley blurted out, once again surprising Hermione with the sudden change in topic. The older witch must have noticed the bewilderment on her face because she explained, “I just had a thought about how to keep Ron and Harry here as long as possible and reminded myself of that week. You left with so little preparation and that was my fault.” She sniffled. “I tried not to do that to them again this morning, but it was harder than I thought it would be.”
“It’s okay,” Hermione said lamely, not sure what else to say. She had been annoyed with Mrs. Weasley when she’d kept them so busy with wedding preparations last year that Hermione had had to plan everything by herself, but who was she to pass blame when she would have been glad to let Mrs. Weasley delay the boys’ leaving this morning.
“I just worry so much,” Mrs. Weasley said in a small voice.
“That’s natural,” Hermione said, remembering her mother and father’s own worries whenever she left for another year at Hogwarts. Part of being a parent was the worrying. Besides, Hermione fretted about Ron and Harry far more than she would ever let them know. She added, “I do too.”
That seemed to comfort Mrs. Weasley, or at least helped her relax. “And what will you do after Hogwarts is repaired?” she asked, and Hermione was thankful for her more familiar cheerful tone. “It won’t take all summer. Will you return to your parents’ home? Will you visit them beforehand? They must be worried sick about you.”
“Actually,” Hermione said, knowing she had to tell Mrs. Weasley about her parents before she and Ron went to Australia but not having planned for that moment to come so soon, “I’ll have to do some travelling to bring them back.”
“Bring them back?” Mrs. Weasley asked. “Are they in hiding somewhere?”
“Um, yes. In Australia…”
“Australia?” Mrs. Weasley gasped.
Hermione struggled to explain, not ready to go through all the details yet, already feeling close to tears just mentioning how far away her parents were. “To keep them safe from the Death Eaters. England was no longer safe for Muggles, and I wanted them as far from the war as possible. I thought it best that only I know where they were, just in case. The less people who knew, the less likely the Death Eaters would be able to find out where they had gone.”
“Of course, yes,” Mrs. Weasley said, taking in the confession better than Hermione had expected. “I’ll do all I can to help you fetch them when the time comes.”
“Thank you. I appreciate any help I can get.”
Mrs. Weasley held open the front door for her, then followed her inside. Hermione started walking away, preparing to make sure Ginny was awake and dressed, but Mrs. Weasley spoke again. “And you always have a home here, even when they are back in England.”
Hermione turned around and smiled at Mrs. Weasley, glad to have another person who knew even a bit of the truth. She felt closer to Ron’s mother than she ever had before and even thought about telling her how Ron planned on going to Australia with her. She thought better of it at the last second, though, knowing that was a conversation Ron would have to have with his mother on his own.
Luckily, Ginny came into the kitchen at that moment and Mrs. Weasley’s attention turned to breakfast. Hermione took her seat again and found herself even less hungry than she had been before. She put on a show of fiddling with her food, but she only had to pretend for a few moments before Mrs. Weasley grabbed a mug of hot tea and said she wanted to check on George before he left.
Hermione wiped her hands on a napkin and looked over at Ginny, who looked much better and more rested than she had yesterday. She at least had much more of an appetite than Hermione did.
“Now, explain why I’m going to Hogwarts with you all?” Ginny asked. “I can’t even do magic. How much help will I be?”
“Well, technically, you’ll be at school,” Hermione said.
Ginny's face lit up. “That’s true. And no Ministry officials came to arrest me for hexing the reporter yesterday. Maybe they stopped caring about underage magic.”
“More likely they’ve got other things to worry about,” Hermione suggested, but Ginny waved it away. When she left the table to get changed, she practically skipped out of the room.
Unfortunately, Professor McGonagall did not condone underage magic, even given the circumstances.
After arriving at Hogwarts with Ginny, Mrs. Weasley, and Charlie and gathering on the grounds, Professor McGonagall had explained to all the volunteers her plan of dividing up sections of the castle for groups headed by a professor or Ministry employee, then aptly reminded everyone that no underage magic was allowed. Hermione had to listen to Ginny’s grumbling about manual labor as they were assigned to work with Professor Sinistra, Susan Bones, and Hannah Abbott.
Their walk to their assigned classrooms on the first floor was short but quiet, making their task seem more ominous than it was. Hermione glanced at each of the women, trying to figure out why she felt a sudden wave of doom. Ginny had transformed into her first year self as soon as they entered Hogwarts: head bent so her hair blocked her face, sluggish walk, arms wrapped around herself as if she were eternally cold. Coming to Hogwarts probably wasn’t the best place for her to get her mind off of Fred.
Hannah and Susan shared similarly haunted looks. Hermione had spent a decent part of last night reading old Prophets instead of sleeping, checking to see which deaths she had missed throughout the year. Susan’s father had been one of them, which at the time hadn’t surprised Hermione – it was no secret the Death Eaters targeted the Bones family – but seeing Susan now, Hermione wished she’d had more sympathetic thoughts at the time. All Susan had left now was her mother who, if she was as unstable as the rumors suggested, didn’t offer much support.
Hannah had lost her mother almost a year ago, but she didn’t seem to be any better than when she’d first found out. Hermione recalled from previous conversations that Hannah had developed a strained relationship with her father and younger non-magical brother since the loss. Her father had sworn off magic, blaming his magical ties for the death of his wife, and hadn’t wanted Hannah to return for the second half of her sixth year. From the distress lining her face, Hermione guessed the situation hadn’t improved.
When they finally reached the classroom, Hermione’s sadness only increased. The desks were turned over and piled in a line across the room, resembling a barricade. She could imagine the Death Eaters forcing their way inside while the people behind the desks tried to fend them off.
They hadn’t been successful. She could tell by the gaping hole in the very center of the barricade. The Death Eaters had won this small battle.
Professor Sinistra suggested she, Hermione, and Ginny stay there while Susan and Hannah worked on their next room, explaining that the classrooms were small enough that five people would only get in each other’s ways. After everyone agreed, Professor Sinistra escorted Susan and Hannah to their classroom, leaving Hermione and Ginny to the task at hand.
Hermione concentrated on the windows, using a delicate Repairing Spell since anything more powerful would only shatter the glass more. Ginny hauled the less damaged desks and chairs to their rightful positions. A few minutes later, Professor Sinistra returned to mend the open wall, stepping outside where most of the shattered pieces were.
Hermione felt hopeful that the day would be as uneventful as she’d hoped when she heard Ginny gasp. Hermione turned away from her finished window to see Ginny holding a black leather book in her shaking hands.
“What is it?” Hermione asked, walking towards her, but Ginny didn’t answer. She threw the book across the room and covered her ears with her hands.
She muttered over and over again, “It’s not real. It’s not real.”
Hermione hurried to inspect the book, readying to call for Professor Sinistra at any moment, but as soon as she approached it, the book split in two and grew in height. Then her parents were standing in front of her.
“Who are you?” Mum asked in her fake kind voice that she often used with patients or strangers.
Somewhere in her mind, Hermione knew her parents weren’t really in front of her and that this was just a boggart, but she hadn’t seen them in so long. She was overwhelmed with the urge to hug them, even if they were fake.
“I’m your daughter, Hermione.”
“Daughter?” Dad asked, chuckling at the idea. “We haven’t got a daughter. You must be confused.”
“No, it’s true.” She didn’t understand her compulsion to make the illusion understand but she couldn’t stop herself from going on. “You don’t remember because I used memory enchantment on you, but as soon as I undo it–“
“Enchantment? What are you on about?” Dad asked.
“Perhaps she’s telling the truth, dear,” Mum said, looking at Hermione like she almost recognized her.
“Well even if she is, we’ll be happier without a daughter like that.” Her father’s words took the breath from Hermione’s lungs. “Why would we want to be involved with a girl who curses her own parents and sends them away? No, I think we’ll be much better off how we are right now: childless.”
Hermione tried to push away her distress to think of something to make the situation funny, but all her thoughts could come up with were failure, failure, failure.
Something swooped down over her parents, and they disappeared.
Hermione wiped at the tears in her eyes, clearing her vision to see Ginny holding down a box over the boggart, gripping it tightly as it jerked around. “Who needs a wand, eh?” Ginny said with a proud grin.
Hermione didn’t know what to say, still stunned from the boggart’s words, when Professor Sinistra stepped inside through the much smaller hole in the wall. “How is everything in here, girls?” She stopped when her eyes found them. “Is everything all right?” she asked as she hurried over. “What did you put under that box?”
“Just a boggart, Professor,” Hermione said, putting on her prefect voice to hide her shot nerves. She couldn’t even handle a boggart and Kingsley had wanted her to be an Assistant Auror?
“I’ll handle this.” Professor Sinistra flicked her wand so the box turned over but sealed itself before the boggart could escape. “You can assist Miss Bones and Miss Abbott in the other room. You’ve done a wonderful job in here. I’ll just finish up.” Hermione took the cue and led Ginny out.
As they walked through the corridor, Professor McGonagall rounded the corner in front of them. “I was hoping to run into you,” she said as she walked towards them. “Miss Granger, I’d like a word with you if you can leave your team for a few minutes.”
“Yes, of course,” Hermione said, exchanging a look with Ginny before following Professor McGonagall to the Great Hall. She paused in the doorway, taken back by how nice it looked. The tables had been set back up and even the enchanted ceiling reflected a bright blue sky. “It looks wonderful,” she said as Professor McGonagall took a seat at what would normally be the Ravenclaw table, and Hermione took the seat across from her.
“It was our top priority," Professor McGonagall explained. “If parents visit, we want them to see the progress we’ve made. We need all the help we can get in convincing students to come back next year. A battle scene isn’t exactly what parents look for in a school.”
“But with Voldemort gone, there’s nothing more for parents to fear.”
“Oh, there’s always a new danger waiting to be uncovered.” Professor McGonagall gave Hermione a knowing look. “It was often you and your friends who found it.”
Hermione felt a blush flush her cheeks. “To be honest, Professor, it seemed that the trouble always found us.”
Professor McGonagall smiled. “Yes, so it seemed. I do hope that trend will discontinue in the coming year, if you do choose to return.”
“I would like it to,” Hermione said. “How possible is it for me to return next year?”
“Oh, it’s very possible.” Professor McGonagall summoned a piece of parchment and a quill from the front staff table. “It is exactly what I’d like to discuss with you. I’m assuming you’d like to take up all of your previous lessons?” Hermione nodded, and Professor McGonagall made a quick note. “Now, the last time we spoke, you expressed interest in Magical Law. Is that still a goal of yours?”
“Now more than ever,” Hermione answered, remembering her visit to the Ministry disguised as Mafalda Hopkirk. She’d do anything to make the changes she wanted.
“I’ve also heard rumors about a certain Elfish Rights movement that was behind the collection of hats that frightened a number of our own house-elves.”
Hermione’s cheeks reddened more. “Yes, that was me. I saw the way Barty Crouch Sr abused poor Winky and perhaps I got a bit carried away. I’ve learned that house-elves are happy to work, but I still want them to have the right to be paid and receive holidays and other workers’ rights.”
Professor McGonagall nodded, listening to her points. “I believe, with a passion like that, it best you look into working with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures after graduation.”
“But I don’t want to control any of them,” Hermione said, scared her words had been misunderstood. “I want to help them.”
“It has been my experience,” Professor McGonagall said in a calm voice, “that in order to bring about new ideas, you must first live and understand the old ways, or else no one will listen to you.”
Hermione nodded in understanding, not liking the idea of working under those who abused house-elves and werewolves and centaurs, but seeing that she would have to, as Professor McGonagall said, understand the old laws to learn how to convince others to change them. “But how can I find work in that department without a Care of Magical Creatures N.E.W.T.?”
“A perfect segue to my next proposal.” Professor McGonagall folded her hands on the table, putting the quill and parchment to the side. “The rule on taking the N.E.W.T. exam in any subject is simply that one must have a passing O.W.L. We keep that loophole well hidden since advising any student to take an exam they are ill-prepared for would be reckless, but as the top student in your class, I’ve made the executive decision to make this rule known to you. It is your choice what you would like to do with the information.” Her eyes glinted behind her spectacles, already knowing what Hermione wanted to do.
“Would I be able to take the seventh year N.E.W.T. class?” she asked, knowing she would need the hands on experience in order to pass the exam at the end of the year.
“Naturally, and with supplementation with Hagrid, I don’t believe it will take you long to catch up with the others.”
“Thank you, Professor,” Hermione said, not sure she could say that enough to express how grateful she was to her Head of House.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Professor McGonagall said. “You will have to drop Ancient Runes.”
“That’s fine,” Hermione said quickly, willing to give up almost anything to accept the exception Professor McGonagall was making for her.
Professor McGonagall nodded, seemingly to hide a smile as she grabbed her parchment and quill to make another note. “We do have one last order of business to take care of,” she said, her expression tightening into a more serious face. “Kingsley asked I discuss the matter of your parents with you.” Hermione’s heart jumped in surprise, not expecting the conversation to turn to her parents. “He would like to talk to you personally, but with the Ministry as it is, he regrets having to pass on the responsibility to me for the time being.”
Hermione swallowed, any happiness she felt about her change in school lessons ebbing away as the emotions from seeing her boggart surfaced again. She took a deep breath, then nodded, signaling to Professor McGonagall that she was ready to talk.
“What exactly did you do to their memories?” Professor McGonagall asked, tapping her quill with her wand so it stood up on the parchment to take notes. “Take your time answering. I know it must be difficult to talk about them.”
Hermione didn’t take time to think. She opened her mouth and started talking, hoping to get everything that Professor McGonagall and Kingsley needed to know out in one go. “Last summer, I put a memory charm on them so they thought their names were Wendell and Monica Wilkins. It also made them believe they desired to go to Australia more than anything else in the world. They also forgot they had a daughter.” She couldn’t bring herself to say “they forgot about me.”
“They moved to Australia soon after I went to stay with the Weasleys. I don’t know where exactly. I didn’t want to know in case someone tried to use Legilimency on me to find them. I also hid all of my things and any photos of myself in my room and Disillusioned the door so no one would know it was there. I’ve no idea if the house sold or how I’ll deal with that if it is, but I plan on working out a more definite plan as the summer goes on.”
As her mouth rattled off the story, her mind wandered to different thoughts to keep away the emotions attached to her spoken words. She would have to collaborate with Kingsley to set up intentional portkeys, if portkeys could travel that far. Would she and Ron have to take a boat or a plane at some point? She didn’t think he would be too fond of that idea.
“That is very impressive spell work,” Professor McGonagall said, looking genuinely impressed and not the least bit mad at Hermione for doing something that had to be illegal. “Though finding them after all this time will be difficult. Kingsley will have to work with the Australian Ministry. Perhaps they can help locate them before you arrive. Will you be going alone?”
“Um, no,” Hermione said, feeling herself blush. She tried to push it away, wanting to come off as confident and mature, but she was unable to look Professor McGonagall in the eye. “Ron will be coming with me.”
“I expected as much,” Professor McGonagall said, and Hermione could have sworn her flash of a smile was rather smug. “Can I also expect he and Mr. Potter to stay with the Auror department and not return to Hogwarts in the fall?”
“It’s hard to say,” Hermione said, not yet willing to admit that Ron would be staying with the Aurors permanently after the summer. She could delude herself with the idea that he would go back to Hogwarts with her in autumn for a little while longer. Professor McGonagall seemed less willing to pretend otherwise, though. She seemed surprised at Hermione’s answer but didn’t push the topic.
She gathered the parchment in front of her and said, “I believe that is all. Kingsley or I will be in contact with you again in a few weeks to discuss Australia more.” Hermione didn’t miss that Professor McGonagall referred to the trip as “Australia” rather then “her parents.”
Hermione stood, about to walk away when Professor McGonagall added, “And watch out for Miss Weasley, Bones, and Abbot, will you? They could all use some borrowed strength.” Hermione nodded, not sure what else to say. She would never tell anyone her strength was quickly draining.
Chapter Endnotes: Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed the story so far!