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The Road Home by Harry_Potter_Mom
Chapter 14: World's Apart
A vote was taken – a plan set in motion – a girl’s fate sealed – and a woman walked home with the knowledge that a child she has grown to love will die.
~Amazing chapter image by the fantastically talented chiQs09 of TDA~
Chapter 14 – World’s Apart
Hermione slumped in her favorite office chair, allowing the day’s fighting, disagreements, and remorse at the Ministry’s decision to wash over her. Hot tears spilled down her cheeks, pooling in the soft creases of her neck. Her body cried for sleep, as a silent nightfall overtook the cottage… but her mind would not rest, not now.
How could they? her head screamed in protest, as it leaned into her tired hands. How can they possibly consider sending her back to the Muggle world, stripped of her magic forever? Hermione’s hair spilled around her shoulders while the Ministry arguments played over in her head. The numerous names, faces, and arguments rushed at her, vying for attention…
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“…With all due respect, Minister, you simply can not strip this child from her magic and send her back to a world who shunned her, her entire life,” Hermione angrily stated to Minister Shaklebolt.
“Mrs. Weasley, please,” he said, drawing his hand to the air to quiet Hermione as well as the hundred-or-so delegates gathered, “our options are extremely limited at this point. Healer Sabinski’s testimony is clear: The child has proven to be a danger to herself and others – her magic is unstable. We must locate the wizard who performed the spell or we must permanently rupture her magic …” the Minister began.
“Again, it’s unethical to take that away from her!” Hermione interjected, her hand coming to rest a bit loudly on the podium. She addressed the delegation, pleading with them to give her time to figure out an alternative, and to hopefully locate the wizard who performed the spell.
“Do you have any evidence to assist in locating the child’s parents or perhaps the wizard who performed the spell?” a senior delegate asked.
“Well – no – not exactly,” Hermione stammered. “I do, however, have some theories.”
“We do not operate on theories, Mrs. Weasley – we operate on facts alone,” echoed a voice from within the delegation.
Hermione opened her mouth to argue her point and present her theories, but was cut off as the Minister of Magic addressed her.
“Mrs. Weasley – Hermione – our only other option … is to sit and do nothing,” Kingsley said, standing and looking directly at her as compassion filled his face. “If we choose that option, Miss Stewart will die. Are you willing to risk that?”
Hermione simply shook her head.
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The office was nearly pitch-black as Hermione began to pace the floor. If only Nyah could remember more about her past…
Veritaserum…illegal on a child. Legilimens… again, illegal. Muggle hypnosis… Come on, Hermione, think! She scolded herself like she used to as a student, unwilling to accept defeat. There must be something I missed.
Conjuring a blackboard and chalk, Hermione set about writing everything she knew about Nyah’s past. The timeline was filled with facts dating back to before Hermione and Ron were married.
She worked with such a fury, the night flew by, and as Hermione hit a stopping point in her thoughts, the first rays of light began peeking over the windowsill. She began pacing again, biting her bottom lip, fatigue creeping into her arms and legs.
“Ron, I need you,” Hermione whispered to the air, knowing she couldn’t wake him until at least noon. He had been spending extra time at the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes making up for the days he missed leaving France early, due to the Death Eaters attack on the cottage. The long hours were taking its toll, and Ron came home exhausted nearly every night.
Hermione always thought better when Ron, or even Harry, were here to bounce ideas off of. “Ginny!” Hermione exclaimed, as she grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill. Hoping it wasn’t too early in the day, Hermione attached the note to Pig, and begged him to hurry. As the owl flew off into the early morning sun, she felt time slipping away like water through her fingers.
Barely half-an-hour had gone by and Hermione was completely engrossed in mounds of parchment, searching for something – anything she might have overlooked earlier, when a horrible scream broke the concentrated silence of the morning. Grabbing her wand and tripping on her cloak in an effort to hurry, Hermione stumbled to the front room as Anna was running up the stairs.
“What happened?” gasped Hermione.
Ginny had just stepped onto the fireplace hearth. Brushing floo power off her shoulder, she exclaimed, “I have no idea! I just stepped out of the fireplace and – well – that girl goes screaming her head off! Do I look that bad?”
Laughing as she offered Ginny a quick hug, Hermione answered, “No, you look fine. Anna isn’t used to people walking out of fireplaces and such.”
Hermione studied her sister-in-law. The vacation and time away had obviously been good for her; she was sporting a slightly-shorter haircut that reached just below her shoulders – short enough for Ginny, while being long enough to keep Harry happy. Her skin glowed from time in the sun and she looked rested for the first time in ages.
“So Anna is the girl you wrote to me about?” Ginny questioned, glancing at the stairwell, with her eyebrows raised. “She doesn’t seem very at-ease here – maybe she would prefer the Muggle world.”
“No, no… it’s a girl named Nyah – that was her – sister,” Hermione hinted as she pulled Ginny towards the office. “Let’s talk in here.”
Hermione was certain she had heard a door creak upstairs, and did not wish to be overheard… not yet.
Once in the office, the women chatted about France, and Ginny asked about the Death Eater attack. While the ministry officials couldn’t confirm or deny the uprising of Death Eaters, Hermione was certain of what she saw, not to mention the testimonies of all three of the children.
“I do have a theory, but it’s really reaching,” Hermione explained to Ginny. “Ready? So far, this is what I absolutely know about Nyah Stewart ….”
Hermione gave Ginny an hour long oration on all the facts, sketchy areas, and a theory about Nyah’s past and present. She spoke as though she was back in her classroom at Hogwarts and Ginny was her pupil.
Ginny sat and listened, not daring to interrupt, but let out an audible gasp at the mention of the dream stating that someone named ‘Harry’ was Nyah’s father, but quickly rationalized, that within the wizarding world, ‘Harry’ was bound to be a popular name. Besides, she knew that Harry would never hurt her like that… going and having a child with another woman… it was an absurd thought and Ginny promptly dismissed it.
“What?” Hermione questioned, her forehead creased with worry.
“Nothing – really – nothing,” she said, shaking her head. Ginny smiled and continued, “I think you’ve grown to really care about this little girl. Why don’t you concentrate on finding the wizard, and offer to adopt her yourself.”
A small smile crept across Hermione’s face. It was true – she did love Nyah – and although finding the wizard who performed the spell was vital, she had given thought to abandoning the search for her biological parents. But something in her heart told her that the answers she was seeking were very close – and Hermione was not one to give up on a challenge.
Hermione was lost in her own thoughts when she realized Ginny was still talking. “I’m sorry – I’m a bit tired. I lost that last part,” she said, yawning.
“So, if worse comes to worst, and they do have to rupture her magic completely, she’s still going to be the same girl,” Ginny concluded, getting up to take a closer look at the blackboard.
“Ginny, can you imagine…” Hermione said, looking at the floor, “no – I expect you can’t. I remember growing up thinking I was, well, weird.”
Ginny cocked her head and quipped, “Well, you are a bit weird – look who you married.” She ducked as Hermione threw a small pillow at her.
Hermione continued, a bit more relaxed this time, “When Dumbledore came to the house to speak to my parents, everything fit.” The fire in her eyes grew as she recalled the Ministry hearing. “I can’t let them take that away from her. I also can’t imagine a mother’s grief at not knowing where my daughter was,” Hermione said, sighing.
After a few moments of concentrated silence, Hermione shook her head and argued with herself, “But see – that’s just it… there are no reports of a missing girl – none – here, or elsewhere. The only inquiry during that timeframe was… well… you know.” Hermione cast her eyes towards the pictures on the wall, landing on one with a beautiful girl of about three years old, walking down the aisle with a ring of delicate pale flowers in her black hair – the flower girl at Ron and Hermione's wedding.
The all-too-familiar ache ripped through Ginny’s heart and soul as she reached out to the picture on Hermione’s wall, touching the frame as she watched her little girl nearly dance up the aisle, throwing flower petals in the air and giggling; nearly seven years – and the hurt was still as fresh.
The smell of her baby’s hair – the sound of her laugh still lingered in the air – the whisper in the still of the night, calling for her ‘Mum’ still haunted Ginny. Her ams longed to hold her little girl one more time. Not a day had gone by that she didn’t wish for a way to go back – to do it over. Just one more day – I’d give anything to have just one more day …Ginny thought as absentmindedly put her hand to her heart.
Taking a deep breath, she made a mental note to stop by the Muggle flower shop and order flowers for Saturday. A sad smile found its way to her face as she thought about the spell Harry found to make the flowers perpetually fresh – it was a small thing, really, but it was all they could do for her now. Charmed flowers, placed on a cold grave. It wasn’t enough – it never would be – but what more was there?
Tenderly, Hermione asked, “How are the nightmares?”
Turning from the frame, Ginny glanced at the floor and pulled her arms around her as though driving off a chill. “There was a fairly nasty one about a week ago – while we were away. It was as though I was in physical pain, Hermione… much worse than the ones before.” Ginny choked back tears as she went on, whispering, “And… I could hear her, just faintly, as though she was tired… just calling to me.” She stood, tears trembling in her eyes as she recalled the haunting voice.
Upstairs, Nyah had spent the rest of the morning comforting Anna. Why did Hermione’s friend have to choose that particular moment to come tumbling out of the fireplace flames? Anna was now hiding underneath Nyah’s bed quilt, refusing to come out – afraid that someone might suddenly appear through the mirror or jump through the window. Although irritated, Nyah understood Anna’s surprise at the whole thing. She too, had been a bit taken aback the first time someone flooed in to the cottage.
Hermione had told Nyah all about the Floo Network, and even let her practice going from the office at Hogwarts and back to the cottage. Then, Nyah got, from what Hermione said, ‘A quick look around’ at her future school, lingering longest at the Herbology greenhouses, at which Nyah was fascinated.
Nyah excitedly told Anna about the talking paintings, the amazing classrooms, and the bewitched ceiling in the Great Hall. “I will be a bit nervous with Hermione teaching Transfiguration, but I’m sure it will be fine. She says the first year is quite easy. The lake was neat, and… oh, and they even have ghosts!” Nyah exclaimed, clapping her hands.
She was so engrossed in telling Anna about Hogwarts, she didn’t hear Hermione creep up the stairs to check on them.
“Stop – just stop!” Anna cried, popping up from under the covers. She crossed her arms tightly around her, as she glanced around the room. “I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to hear about flying broomsticks, or pictures that move, and paintings that talk,” her voice getting louder and louder, “And I don’t want to see people walking out of fireplaces Nyah! It’s not normal!”
Nyah sat quietly and stared at her sister in disbelief. This place, these things, and these people were all that were keeping Nyah sane. She had finally found the place where she fit, and Anna was telling her it was all abnormal.
“I want to go home,” whispered Anna, as she walked to the window, putting distance between Nyah and herself. Turning to catch her sister’s eye, she begged, “Come with me. These people… they took your magic so now Mother won’t have anything to worry about. You’ll finally fit in – you’ll be home.”
Nyah looked around the bedroom and thought of Hermione, Rose, Hugo, and Mrs. Weasley. “I can’t,” Nyah said. “This – this is my home. This is where I fit – with – or without my magic.”
A couple of hours later, all of Anna’s things were packed and sitting by the door. The bright pink cases were a stark contrast to their surroundings, as if they knew they didn’t belong there anymore than Anna.
Hermione had sent an owl to Mrs. Cleary letting her know they would be bringing Anna home a day early, and set up transport with the Knight Bus to the London train station.
After a few, long, hair-raising minutes on the Knight Bus, Nyah excitedly stepped off, followed by Anna who was bearing a lovely shade of green. Hermione was eager to get Anna home, but wasn’t looking forward to the half-hour-long train ride to get her there.
Once the train was moving, Anna’s color returned to a more-normal shade. Hermione reminded her that once she stepped off the train, she would be unable to find her way back. She would also not remember most of the ‘magical’ qualities of her trip. While she would remember going to lunch and shopping, she would forget how the plates magically appeared and the drinks levitated to their table.
Anna understood and was grateful. “Will I forget the red-haired woman walking out of the fireplace, too?” she asked, hopefulness in her eyes.
“Yes, that too,” Hermione laughed, shaking her head.
Anna sighed in relief. Hermione continued to talk to Anna, as Nyah looked out the window. Her eyelids dropped and closed… train rides always made her sleepy...
Mum was singing again, her red hair blowing in the breeze of the open car window … the voice Nyah loved that was now so familiar … ‘Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, Teach us something, please!’
“Okay, okay, teach her something different” the voice of her dad said with a gentle laugh, reaching to take Mum’s hand …
“So, where are we going tomorrow?”
“I thought we’d head to central Paris and I’d take my girls shopping … unless you’d rather just stay in the hotel,” Dad said, winking.
“Oh no, I think our little one needs some new shoes and maybe a dress, and presents for a very special birthday next week,” Mum said as she turned to look at the little girl in the back seat.
Nyah’s head felt heavy and her eyes opened and closed, fighting sleep on the back seat.
Suddenly, the car lost its footing on the road, swerving.
She heard her mother scream – Nyah turned and saw the familiar flash of red hair … “Mum” … and again, only one word … ‘Harry.’
Nyah was crying, “Daddy!”
Someone walked to the car and peered inside. Nyah screamed, calling for her Mum and Dad – but they didn’t wake up – they didn’t move. The door opened and unfriendly, pale hands grabbed her out of the seat, standing her harshly on the road.
He looked down his nose at the little girl with disgust and triumph mixed on his face. His cold eyes stared deep into her as she cried, clutching her owl and blanket, calling for her Mum.
“Quiet!” he hissed.
From the shadows in the rain, a second hooded figure came to stand just behind the first. A small gust of wind took the hood from the latter, revealing long blonde hair and eyes identical to the man who had pulled her from the car.
Nyah stood silently shaking, as she continued to watch the men before her. They talked in hushed angry tones, and finally the taller of the two took his place in front of Nyah, pushing aside the still-hooded figure.
The blonde-haired man walked a complete circle around Nyah, surveying her. She ventured another look to his eyes, where she met only indifference.
“Father, please rethink this,” the still-hooded figure quietly cautioned, “You don’t…”
“Enough!” resonated through the air.
Nyah’s eyes went wide with fear as the father drew his wand, pointing it at Nyah’s head. “Geminio Corporis!” tore through the cold rain, as he traced the girl’s frame. An identical version of Nyah appeared on the ground next to her, unmoving.
The still-cloaked man reached down and picked up the duplicate little girl from the ground and placed it in the car. Nyah watched in horror as the head slumped onto the seat. Nyah’s bag from the car was tossed on the ground. She picked the sac off the muddy road, and held it tight to her chest.
“Quick, get the hair for the potion…” the father spat to the cloaked figure.
Nyah’s Mum had begun to stir, lifting her head and touching her forehead. Nyah tried to scream, but a hand clamped over her mouth, preventing any sound from escaping. A wand blast sent the car skidding off the edge of the road, out of sight.
Strong arms from the cloaked figure surrounded her, and her hand clasped tightly over the end of his wand. The men turned, apparating away with the little girl between them. A small ‘snap’ from the wand was heard as the air was squeezed out of her – and one final cry escaped her mouth.
They came to rest on a lawn of soft grass. There was no rain, but it was still quite cold. The two men had taken a few steps away, leaving Nyah sitting in the grass, a long piece of wand in her hand. She tucked it quickly into her bag and pulled her blanket closer to her chest, hot tears running down her face.
Looking back to the men, she was surprised to see only the father talking to a thin woman with long red hair…
“Mum?” Nyah sobbed.
The red-haired woman grabbed her by the arm and spat in a deep voice, “You wish. Now stand up!”
A pale wand was pointed at her as a voice rang out, “Magiannullo!”
Nyah screamed as she was thrown to the ground by the force of the spell – and inside her – something shifted and shattered… pieces of herself buried. The last thing she remembered was the look in the eyes of the person standing over her – cold, grey, and filled with disgust.
Nyah sat up, out of breath, the new images and words thundering through her head. She heard Hermione’s voice calling, “Deep breath, Nyah, deep breath.”
“Hermione, I don’t feel well,” Nyah whispered as she closed her eyes again, holding her stomach.
Hermione guided her to rest on the train’s seat. “Lie down and relax,” she said.
After a few quiet moments, Nyah was finally able to gather her senses and sit up, slowly. A refreshing breeze was pushing its way through the train. The sun was still high in the sky and Nyah could still feel its warmth on her skin.
A hand reached out, landing on her knee, and Hermione’s voice broke through the silence. “Nyah, tell me what you saw – in your dream.”
Nyah opened her eyes, struggling whether to repeat the dream or not. Her dreams were special – private – and the only connection to her parents she had. Sharing them seemed so wrong – even with Hermione. She sat silently with her head hung, playing with a stray thread on the train seat.
“Nyah, even the smallest detail may help,” Hermione whispered.
Nyah looked into Hermione’s face. There was no judgement or malice – only comfort and understanding. Nyah turned to look out the train window, the scenery flying by. She took a deep breath and told them – everything – about the dream.
When she was finished, Nyah glanced at Anna, who looked livid. “You’ve stopped taking your medication and look – the nightmares are back,” she hissed, sounding very similar to Mrs. Stewart.
Anna turned her glare to Hermione. “Mother told you – bad things happen when she doesn’t take her medications!” she said, scolding the grown woman, as she rummaged through her knapsack with fury. “I know I’ve got one here somewhere…”
“What?” Nyah tiredly asked, knowing the answer.
“Your pill of course,” she said as she handed Nyah a pearly white tablet. “Go on,” Anna said, shoving the pill in Nyah’s hand, “take it!”
Nyah slumped in the seat and whispered, “No.”
“What – why not?” Anna cried, her eyes wide in disbelief.
“Because I’ll never find out who I am,” Nyah said, pulling her knees to her chest, retreating back into her own thoughts.
“Fine!” Anna yelled as she thrust the pill back in her knapsack.
Hermione had been making notes about Nyah’s dream – her heart filled with excitement – but her mind cautioning the impulse. Nyah’s dream could only mean one thing, and Hermione was determined to get back to the cottage as soon as possible – armed with this newfound knowledge.
The train arrived at the station, and the three ladies exited the compartment with Anna’s luggage in tow. Mr. Whittaker, the caretaker and occasional chauffeur, was there to meet them. Nyah hid behind Hermione as she stepped off the train. Anna came last, and as her foot touched the platform, her face changed, softening a bit – the spell complete. She would forever forget the magical world, and quite possibly, forget Nyah as well. The girls exchanged quiet hugs, both realizing their paths were taking them in opposite directions; neither one willing to stray from their own road.
Anna walked towards the car without even a glace back, as Mr. Whittaker carried the luggage behind her.
Nyah reached and found Hermione’s hand. A small squeeze from Hermione was the comfort Nyah needed to watch Anna walk away – forever.
Author's notes: I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter. Any theories or clues to questions you had before? Do you have it figured out?
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