Harry could only speculate as to how Hermione felt when the heard a voice he recognized as her mother’s, though her accent now had a very faint Australian tinge, saying “I’ll get it, Wendell, it’s probably just…” Then the door was open and there she was. It had been a very long time since Harry had last seen her, during which time she had cut her hair, changed her glasses, and aged a bit, though the weird thing was the strange look in her eyes, like there wasn’t as much life lived in them as there had once been. “And who are you three?” she asked.
Instead of responding, Hermione just said, not shouting it but with the volume of her voice all the way up, “FINITE INCANTATEM.”
The air all around them whooshed violently, a whirlwind that knocked all three of Harry, Ron, and Mrs. Granger to the ground before flying into the house, and they heard another thump which sounded like Mr. Granger getting knocked down too. The two boys pulled themselves to their feet as it dissipated to find Hermione hurrying over to help her mother up. “Do you remember who you are now, mum?” she asked. “Do you remember me?”
Then the woman lifted her head, and even though the lines and contours of her face hadn’t changed any, it still seemed to Harry to be much more the face he remembered. Except that it bore a mix of shock, anger, and fear, and her first words to her daughter then were, “What did you do to us, Hermione?”
“I…” Hermione was taken aback. “I told you, remember? That should be the last thing you remember now, right before I cast the spell. I had to do this for your own safety. Lord Voldemort would have killed you.”
“You had to…” Her mother was shaking her head. “You destroyed who we were. You made us…you made us forget you. How could you, Hermione?”
“Hermione?” Mr. Granger had stumbled in. He looked dazed and shocked too, and frightened, but not as angry. “Are you…what’s…you said someone would kill us?”
“Yes,” said Hermione, “but he’s dead now, so now you can come back home. It’s over. I’m sorry I had to erase your memories-”
“Had to?!” Her mother demanded. “Had to? You did not have to do any such thing, Hermione. You did not have to do any of this. You should not have made us flee.”
“But they would’ve killed you!” she protested, tears in her eyes. “I don’t care what you think, mum; that’s the plain fact of it. You were my parents, and I was the Muggle-born best friend of Lord Voldemort’s greatest enemy, and there’s no way I could have kept you safe unless you left the country, and even then, I didn’t know…”
Why hadn’t the Order moved them, though, Harry wondered. After all, they’d moved the Dursleys. But under the circumstances, he wasn’t about the ask that question out loud.
Especially when Mrs. Granger, now on her feet, was backing away, shaking her head. “No, Hermione,” she said. “You still didn’t have to do this to us. And you never should have. I…I never thought I would have to say this to my own daughter…”
“Jean, stop!” Mr. Granger cut her off, and he now sounded not anything else so much as panicked. “Don’t say something to her you’ll regret tomorrow.”
“How can you…” She whirled on him. “Daniel, do you realize what she did to us?”
“I do,” he said gravely. “And believe me, Hermione, I am angry at you. But…” He shook his head. “What I think you might have been about to say to her, I think maybe you should wait until tomorrow morning, and then see then if you still want to say it. Perhaps, Hermione, you should come and see us again, then?”
“My mind won’t be changed,” Mrs. Granger hissed.
“If you are certain of that,” said her husband, “then there’s no harm in waiting until tomorrow to make you mind known. You should come back at about ten tomorrow, Hermione.”
“I will, then,” said Hermione, and they both looked expectantly at her, before she said, “And I am sorry, you know, that I caused you this pain.” Which wasn’t exactly her saying she was sorry she’d done it, Harry thought. The problem was, he didn’t think she was ready to go that far. She genuinely believed, he was sure, that what she had done had saved their lives, and maybe she was right there, but that almost didn’t matter. Almost.
He wasn’t sure it would matter much to Mrs. Granger. She wasn’t even looking at her daughter anymore, walking slowly away and further into the house.
“Until then?” Mr. Granger offered, shrugging helplessly. But he didn’t moved to even touch his daughter, which Harry was pretty sure had to hurt, probably for both of them. He just waved, and Hermione reluctantly stepped back and closed the door.
Softly as Harry had ever heard him speak, Ron said, “Are you going to be okay, Hermione?”
Her response was to simply turn and walk off. They followed her without a word.
But they were all three of them hungry, and none of them in any mood to go out looking for food. Luckily Hermione had, at some point in time, gotten her hands on a menu for some local Chinese place that did deliveries. Neither he nor Ron knew much about Chinese food; the Dursleys had not cared for it, so both their experience with it was limited to a couple of times the previous year when it had happened the be the food they’d been able to get their hands on. So they let Hermione order things, sitting at the edge of the bed while she stood by the desk.
When she hung up, Ron asked, “What are we going to do if your mum’s attitude doesn’t change by tomorrow?”
There was too long a pause before she admitted, “I don’t know,” and her voice cracked. It was only then Harry noticed how shiny her eyes were already, and how she didn’t look steady. Was it right to tell her it was okay if she needed to cry?
“She’s ungrateful,” said Ron. “You saved their lives. Don’t forget that. They would’ve been like...like *Fred* if you hadn’t.”
He’d meant it, and he’d meant it well, but it might have been the wrong thing to say, because Hermione at his words lost the battle not to cry, collapsing against the desk. Both of them got off the bed and knelt by her. Ron reached an arm around her, even when she barely looked at him in response, and had no reaction when he said, “I’m sorry, Hermione, I’m so sorry.”
Eventually she sank into his embrace, and down to the floor, Ron following, and Harry went and sat down on it too. For a few minutes after that she just continued to cry, but then, through her tears, she said, “I was so scared, you know. When I got home. Part of why I chose to do what I did was because I knew I could do it within a couple of days. At that point I figured I was lucky as it was; I didn’t know when they were going to decide my parents would be a good target. And all the way home from London, they were asking how things were going, and you know, technically, I’d told them about everything, but they never comprehended how big the threat was, not really, and I think in a way, they saw it as a threat to me and to the world was I was going off to every year, but not to them.”
“They were…” Ron started, then stopped himself. Harry admired his restraint; he, too, badly wanted to comment on how idiotic that had been of them.
“When we walked into the house,” she continued, “I had my hand on my wand. I was ready for a whole squad of Death Eaters to immediately burst out of the shadows and kill us all. I didn’t sleep that first night at home, just lay awake, still holding my wand. If I’d had any doubt about what I had to do…I’d originally planned to wait a week. Just allow myself one last week with my parents…” She broke down again, and they both moved to comfort her, Harry grabbing a box of tissues from the desk to give to her. “But by the time I’d been home for a day, I knew I didn’t dare. It took me three days to fully plan things out and be ready to do the spell. Occasionally I couldn’t bear it and took an hour or so off, and spent it with them, of course, and afterwards I’d always think, ‘What if I needed that hour to get them away from here in time?’”
“But didn’t they need more time to move anyway?” pointed out Harry. “I mean, you can’t just pick up and move to Australia in a day or so.”
“Oh, that was the worst part,” she said with a bitter laugh. “I stayed and watched, you know, sealed off a part of the attic and hoarded enough food to last for a couple of weeks. I did what I could to prepare everything and give them as little to do as possible-I knocked them out for a few hours so I could go around the house, get rid of or hide anything that indicated they’d had a daughter, go through everything they had to change the names, that sort of thing. Put them to bed, so they woke up the next day Wendell and Monica Wilkins.
It took them eleven days.” She spoke the last two words with deep pain; it had clearly been the longest eleven days of her life. “I even followed them to Heathrow, at least until they went through security and headed for their gate. In the main terminal I sat near the monitor and waited until their plane had departed. Although even then I spent hours not knowing for sure they’d been on it, until there wasn’t any report of anyone being found dead, and then I told myself the Death Eaters wouldn’t have bothered removing the bodies of Muggles they’d killed in a Muggle location; if they’d been killed in the airport, I’d have known by then.”
“Will you tell them all that tomorrow?” Ron asked. “They ought to know about it.”
Hermione shook her head. “I don’t think they’d listen.”
“Some parents, then! Their daughter goes through all that to save their lives, and that’s how they repay her?” It seemed Ron just wouldn’t let this go. “You know what? If you don’t tell them tomorrow, Harry and I should.”
“Ron, please!” she protested. “If I know anything about my mother, that would just make things worse!”
“Oh how much worse can they get? Unless she does come to her senses, anyway.”
“At least my father’s talking to me.”
“He’s not being very nice, is he? You know, if my mum were here, she wouldn’t have stood for how either of your parents behaved today…”
“But she’s not,” and Hermione was getting louder now, even as a few more tears still escaped her. Harry started glancing at the door, trying to will the Chinese food to come quicker; he couldn’t leave when Hermione was like this, but he really didn’t feel like just sitting there and hearing them argue.
But then Ron said, “Maybe she should come here. You should have someone who treats you as a mother should right now, and she will.”
The suggestion clearly took Hermione by surprise as well; she had been opening her mouth to say something else, but now she closed it and just stared for a moment. But then she shook her head again, “She’s got enough to deal with right now.”
“None of that’s more important than seeing all her children are all right, and being there for the one who needs her.” He took her hand as he said this, and the statement he was making was unmistakable.
Harry thought he was right, too. Especially now that he and Hermione were dating, but even if they hadn’t been.
“Seriously,” said Ron, “what time is it in Britain right now? I mean, I don’t know if we still have that fellytone I used to try to call Harry that one time, but if I can remember the number, you can try to dial it after we eat dinner. And we should send her an owl tomorrow anyway, once we find a place here we can get one.”
“There’s a public owlery in the city,” said Hermione; of course she’d looked already. “I’ll write a letter tonight and we can delivery it tomorrow morning, before we go back. It’ll take some time to get to her, though. We might get home first, although I don't think we'll leave that quickly.”
When there was a knock on the door, Harry answered. He’d intended to ask Hermione questions about what she’d gotten them, but now he wasn’t sure he wanted to bother her. There was something with vegetables and brown rice, and something that looked like dumplings, and something with very thick yellow noodles. Also plain white rice. Ron made a funny face when he first tasted the noodles which made Hermione roll her eyes, but at least they’d included normal utensils as well as the chopsticks. Ultimately dinner passed quietly enough, the three of them passing the white boxes around to each other until they were all full and the boxes were all empty.
At least they were finally getting used to eating their fill again; during those days at Shell Cottage eating three full meals a day had been enough to make Harry feel overfed and uncomfortable. He’d occasionally needed to lie down afterwards. But now he just felt restless, enough so that he asked, “I’ll go to my own room now?”
“You should,” said Hermione. “Going to be a busy day tomorrow.”
Still before going, he found his hands reaching out, just wanting to have contact with his two friends before he left them for the night. Ron brushed it with his own, and then Hermione leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, and said, “Good night, Harry.”
Walking to the end of the hotel corridor and staring out the window at the city of Brisbane didn’t get rid of the restlessness. Nor did taking the lift down to the lobby and sitting down and watching the people who came in and out, though it did distract him from it for moments at a time. Nor did going out and taking a walk around the block. If anything, that just made him feel more nervous; he kept having to remind himself that no one was about to attack him or do anything else unpleasant.
He gave up, went back upstairs, changed into his sleeping clothes, and crawled under the blankets of his hotel bed with the lamp next to it still on; he didn’t want to be in the dark right now. He wished Ginny were there. They wouldn’t even have to do anything she didn’t want to do yet; he just wanted to hold her in his arms again. Not that he wouldn’t mind doing more either. He even briefly considering jerking off while thinking about that, but something in him just felt like that wouldn’t feel right, at least not right now. He’d never really done it that much anyway, at least not as much as he was sure the other boys did it, soundproofing the curtains in their bed(maybe that was why they had curtains?), so he couldn’t know how often they did. Really, for the past couple of years life had always been tiring him out too much by the end of the day.
Instead he got out of bed, went to his suitcases, and started fishing through them for the Marauder’s Map. It was kind of silly to have it, especially since the other Weasleys weren’t even going to go back to Hogwarts this year, since there wasn’t much point to it at the moment. But he thought it would be comforting just to see the outline of the castle, seeing activity being carried out within it.
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” and there it was again. Harry was especially impressed with how the map had been able to track what had happened to the castle; those areas which had been sufficiently pulverized saw that reflected in the current map. It was late morning in Britain, and the Great Hall was mostly deserted, but Harry was surprised to see how many people were in the Entrance Hall, including Professor Sprout, Dean, Demelza, several Hufflepuffs whom Ginny had mentioned as being in her year, and some other names he didn’t recognize.
It comforted him to see even those people, to know they were all alive and doing well. He looked further on the map, at the individual classes, at least those that were still being held. Professor McGonagall was still holding hers, although he didn’t recognize any of the names in her classroom with her; younger students, probably. Down in the dungeons, Professor Slughorn was teaching a seventh-year group: Harry didn’t like all the names he saw there, but it was good to see Ernie’s. Firenze has returned to Hogwarts as well: Harry could see walls ghosted where they had been suspended, and Lavender and Parvati among those grouped near him. Luna, on the other hand, was up with the other sixth-year Divination students with Professor Trelawney. Neville and Seamus had a free period; they were out on the grounds together.
He ended up studying the map, happily locating almost everyone he knew still at the school, until classes started to wrap up in anticipation of lunch, and the names all started to converge on the Great Hall. The map was surprisingly good at showing multiple names even when they were all crowded in one location, but even so it had its limits. But even then Harry didn’t bother turning off the map, just lay down in bed with it, and stared at all the familiar names that swam before his eyes, until finally he succumbed to sleep.
Just before they walked up to her parents’ door, Hermione stopped, reached into her bag, and pulled out a large binder. Harry opened his mouth to offer to knock if she wanted, but clutching it to her chest she strode up to the door and knocked even as Harry and Ron hastily caught up with her.
Her father answered the door alone, and she held the binder out to him. “Even if you don’t want to talk to me, you’ll still need these,” she said. “In them is everything you need to resume your old identities and get back to Britain. I’ll even pay you back for the plane tickets; I don’t have the money right now, but I think it’s likely I can get it pretty soon.” Idly Harry wondered if maybe someone in the Order who had the money might be willing to pay for it. Given they’d done nothing else for the Grangers. even when Hermione being their daughter had put them in danger, there was an argument they ought to.
Mr. Granger took through the papers, and flipped through them. “Thank you,” he said, “and we’ll take these and keep them. But the two of us talked about it last night, and we’ve actually decided we’d like to stay here in Australia, at least for now. We’ve gotten used to the place, we’ve made a number of friends, and also managed to acquire a number of customers, and we do like it here.”
Hermione’s face fell, and he said, “That’s not to say we don’t want you to be in our lives anymore,” he said. “At least, I don’t feel that way, and I honestly don’t think your mother wants you gone either, though she might not give that impression right now. You could come see us.”
But she’d be with them a lot less, and they clearly had no problem with that. But Hermione didn’t say that, just lowered her head and said, “If that’s what you want to do.”
His face softened, and he said, “Come in, Hermione. We still need to talk.”
He led them into a small but comfortable-looking living room, where they sat in armchairs which didn’t look pretty, but were soft. Mrs. Granger was already seated in one of them. She didn’t look at any of them as Mr. Granger said, “I don’t know how much you should tell us about your adventures, honestly, Hermione, but would you like to know what we’ve done this past year? I’m not sure how much there really is to tell…”
“I would like to know how you ended up here in Brisbane.” said Hermione. “Also, you seem to be running a successful business here and to all together be doing well?”
“It was actually because of one of the friends we have now that we ended up here,” explained Mr. Granger. “Initially we settled in Sydney…” And he told the story of their month in Sydney, where they had struggled a bit to get used to Australia, and how helpful their new oral hygienist Craig was, and how when he had wanted to move to Brisbane to be closer to his ailing parents they’d seen no reason not to move the whole business there themselves. “I would like you to meet Craig,” he said. “If the three of you even think you could do with a dental checkup…”
“We probably could,” said Harry thoughtfully. “If you have time for it, of course.”
“Well, not today; we’re actually booked up for today. We have one spot open tomorrow, and two for next week. Do you three plan to be here next week?”
The three of them looked at each other. “We don’t know,” said Harry. “There are things we need to be back in Britain for later in the month, but we also plan to be back here in June for our own reasons. We don’t know what days yet, though I suppose we’ll have to arrive by June 13.”
“Jean?” Mr. Granger looked at his wife. “I think we have room for two patients on the 12th?”
Mrs. Granger thought for a moment, and then nodded. “Last two slots of the day.”
Ron and Hermione looked at each other in a clear moment of unspoken communication. Then Ron said, “You should look at Harry first. The two of us will wait until June.” Both her parents looked so relieved at this Harry didn’t protest.
There was a moment of silence where they all tried to think of what to say next. Then Ron said, “We’re dating, you know. The two of us.”
“I…thought that already,” said Mrs. Granger, and the grief in her voice was pretty telling; she’d thought that would happen long before her memories had been changed. “Does it…does it make you happy, Hermione?”
“Yes, it does, mother,” said Hermione. When her father looked a little skeptical, she said, “Well, it’s not like we don’t still argue, but we’ve been doing that and managed to stay in each other’s lives for seven years now, so…” Ron looked very happy to hear her words; Harry supposed they were reassuring to him too.
“I am glad to hear he makes you happy,” said Mr. Granger, measuring out his words. “But I will want to have a long talk with you, Mr. Weasley. In June; I’m not ready for that sort of thing today.”
“Yes, sir,” said Ron, trying not to sound too nervous.
Uncomfortable silence again, and then Mrs. Granger said, “You three should go out this afternoon. See a little of the city. Have you been to see Titanic yet? It doesn’t exactly sound like you have.”
“Seen what?” asked a confused Hermione.
That got Mr. Granger to smile, though Mrs. Granger didn’t react to the question. “It’s a movie that came out last Christmas that everyone in the world’s seen. Obviously you three haven’t been seeing any movies at all or even hearing about them. I think you should go see it too. There’s a cinema not far from here where it’s still showing. I can give you directions.”
He got up and went to get a map. When he was out of the room, Mrs. Granger looked down. Harry saw her lips move, but they did not part. Ron quietly reached out and took Hermione’s hand; she squeezed it tight.
Harry found himself concentrating on listening to Mr. Granger’s footsteps as he went further into the house. The three of them had gotten pretty skilled at listening to footsteps during the past year; more than one of their activities had required it. Hearing the feet on wood was comforting; it brought back memories of the Burrow, rather than of the tent at night. Still, when Mrs. Granger shifted on her seat, it did take a moment for Harry to remind himself there were all safe here and now.
When Mr. Granger came back in, after, in Harry’s opinion, taking way too much time and leaving them to have sat together like this way too long, he did so with a small notepad. “Here,” he said. “I not only wrote down the address and directions to the cinema, but also names and addresses for some good restaurants, if you want to eat out.” Was that a message to them that they should go out for lunch too, and so leave before then? Harry wasn’t sure.
But it wasn’t lunchtime yet, and he sat back down, and said, “I do want to know something about what you have been doing this past year, Hermione.”
She might have said, the previous night, that she told her parents everything, whether they understood it or not, but even so, it felt strangely shocking to hear her immediately start talking about Voldemort. They of course had no reaction to hearing her say his name, although Harry had a sudden momentary fear it was going to cause Death Eaters to burst in. At one point her father asked, “You were out in the wilderness, like that? For months?” and from the look on her mother’s face, Harry was sure she had the impulse to fret over her daughter, the way Mrs. Weasley would’ve. When she talked about Ron leaving, she said simply of the motivation that he’d had an argument with the two of them, for which Harry was thankful, and he was sure Ron was too. It didn’t stop Mr. Granger from giving his daughter’s boyfriend a very perturbed look, though.
She also downplayed what had happened to her at Malfoy Manor, but when her voice faltered a little bit, Harry could tell that they noticed, and he thought they probably did know enough to know they’d have wanted to hurt her more because of her parentage. Still they didn’t interrupt then. It was only when she got to the part about breaking into Gringotts that her mother suddenly exclaimed, “You robbed a bank?!”
Hermione didn’t seem to know how to respond. Her father saved her by saying, “I think, under the circumstances…”
They didn’t have any visible reaction to hearing about the dragon. Harry wondered if maybe some things of the wizarding world were so alien to their own that they didn’t really process them. They didn’t have any reactions to the final battle when she was telling it, not even to the remembered pain in her voice when she talked about them thinking Harry actually had been killed, but when she at least concluded her account with, “So now we’re probably all going to go back to school next year, and the surviving Death Eaters and collaborators are going to go on trial, and we’re going to be busy testifying, and I’m not sure about everything we’re going to be doing, but that’s the general plan, and also, as I said, we’re coming back here in June,” both her parents looked very somber and sympathetic.
“I think,” Mr. Granger finally said, “that we’re in the position of parents whose child has come back from fighting a war.”
Yes, thought Harry, that was exactly the position they were in. That was what they’d been doing, and he’d long known that. But it felt different to hear someone actually say it.
“That doesn’t excuse what she did,” said Mrs. Granger, but her voice was devoid of anger.
“You know what I said about that last night, Jean.”
“Monica,” she said. “That’s been my name for the past year, and if we’re to stay here, what explanation could we give everyone we know for changing our names? After all,” she laughed darkly, “we’re not allowed to tell the truth, are we? So if we’re staying here, we have to stay Wendell and Monica.”
“Right. Monica. So, I think it’s time you three should be getting off to lunch. It will take you some time to get to any of the restaurants I've listed.”
They took the cue, standing up along with him. Hermione’s mother didn’t accompany them to the door.
Her father did, however, and when they reached it, he said, “I want to hug my daughter.” They both looked awkwardly at Harry and Ron; they clearly wouldn’t be comfortable having this moment in front of them. They looked at each other, and without speaking stepped out and let the front door close behind them.
“I think, if it goes right,” Ron said to Harry, in the same soft way he had spoken after they'd walked out the previous day, “they’ll be in there for at least a few minutes.”
Hermione didn’t come out for over ten.