Chapter 1 : Goodbyes
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To anyone else, it was a positively gorgeous summer day, complete with birdsong, golden sunshine, and the steady, almost hypnotic hum of the bees that lurked in the Weasley apple trees, thinking that they had found the best hiding spots in the world. The wizarding world had been Voldemort-free for months, and people were still celebrating, riding on the wave of post-terror ecstasy for as long as they could. Most of the Dark Side followers had been incarcerated for the rest of their days, and those who had not already been locked up were standing trial for their crimes. Most witches and wizards couldn't really see why people like Lucius Malfoy even bothered asking for a trial; they all knew full well that there was nothing they could do to save themselves from spending the remainder of their miserable lives in Azkaban, after the things they had done while under the reign of their 'Lord'. Some magical folks even considered the Death Eaters to be stupid, having realized that standing trial instead of just accepting to go to prison quietly gave prosecutors more time to find evidence that could lead to the punishment of all punishments for evil witches and wizards: the Dementor's Kiss.
To anyone else, this bright, warm summer day was just about as close to perfect as the real world could get.
To the nine Weasleys, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, the same bright, warm summer day was absolutely miserable, all thanks to two people that hadn't really been on anyone's mind until very recently: Mr. and Mrs. Granger. Hermione's parents, who no one had really met until, seven years after Hermione had appeared in the magical world, the two eldest Grangers had come bursting into that same world with misery and other assorted forms of emotional upheaval in tow.
How could two seemingly kind, quiet people have caused such pain and trouble? The Weasleys, Harry and Hermione all knew, but that knowledge didn't do much to dull the emotional pain as they gathered outside The Burrow on that fateful summer day.
It had been very simple, really, nothing more than a battle of a parent's wishes against a child's. After being retrieved from Australia by their daughter and her two best friends, the Grangers had been very upset by the fact that their only child had, in short, destroyed her parent's identities and given them lives that they had never asked for, without ever giving them a single word of warning. Hermione's explanation of her motives for doing such a thing hadn't helped matters, as the Grangers had been very unsettled by the fact that their little girl had been in so much danger that she had felt it necessary to move her parents across the globe in order to protect them. Their solution had been a quick and easy one: their daughter would no longer be part of a world that could put her at that sort of risk. Simple as that.
Hermione's protests had fallen on deaf ears, her tears on blind eyes. She had assured her parents that the threat had passed and that she was perfectly safe, but the Grangers hadn't been swayed. When Hermione had reminded them that she was an adult in both the magical and Muggle worlds, her angered parents had gone so far as to threaten her with disownment, leaving their daughter faced with two choices: lose her friends or lose her family.
Hermione had been torn. She loved her friends, but she loved her family just as much, and she didn't want to lose either one, but she had had to pick one or the other. Her parents hadn't been sympathetic, only giving her a short time in which to decide whom she valued more: the people who had kept her alive for the past seven years, or the people who had given her life in the first place. She had fretted over this ultimatum for days, before her friends had, on the very last day that she had been given to decide, urged her to go with her parents, telling her that no matter how much they were all going to miss her, her family was more important than they could ever be. The exchange had reduced the entire party, boys and men included, to tears, but Hermione had decided that her friends were right. So, she had swallowed her tears, packed her things, and given The Burrow one last, sad look, before joining her best friends outside. Her parents were due to arrive in all of fifteen short minutes.
They stood in silence, too miserable to speak. No one had really been able to come to terms with what was about to take place, not able to believe that someone who had been part of their lives for seven years was about to been ripped away from them by the two people who were supposed to want only the best for her.
Eventually, a cloud of dust in the distance announced the Grangers' approach, and the small group shuffled their feet in collective awkwardness, no one wanting to be the first to say goodbye. Reluctantly, Hermione took the goodbyes into her own hands, setting her bags on the ground before approaching Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. She immediately found herself engulfed in a crushing hug by a tearful Molly, who, though she knew that her feelings were somewhat irrational, couldn't help but feel like she was losing one of her own children.
Arthur came next, pulling Hermione into an uncharacteristic hug. He, too, couldn't help but feel like he was losing one of his own, having watched over Hermione during the seven years for which he had known her.
After Arthur came Bill, Charlie and Percy, who all hugged Hermione, knowing that they were all going to miss her, even though they hadn't known her as well as some of the other members of their large family had.
Fred and George were the next people to engulf Hermione in a simultaneous hug, not making jokes for the first time since she had known them. Even the owners of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes couldn't figure out a way to lighten the mood.
After Fred and George had said their goodbyes, it was Ginny's turn. Wordlessly, she pulled her friend into a bone-crushing hug, tears rolling down both sets of cheeks. Though she was younger than Hermione, the two had become close over the years, and neither could bear the thought of not having the other around. Ginny had missed Hermione terribly when the older girl had been Petrified in the Hogwarts hospital wing, and that had only been for a few months, not for the rest of their lives. She hugged her friend for as long as she could, needing that one hug to be enough for every last one that she might have needed to give Hermione in the future. Eventually, though, Hermione had to let go. There were still two more people who needed to say their goodbyes.
Tears dripped off of the end of Ron's rather long nose as he hugged his best friend for the last time. He and Hermione hadn't always gotten along perfectly, but they had been through the seven hardest years of their lives together, forging the sort of bond that could not be broken by petty disagreements or the occasional period of tense silence between them. He loved her like a second sister, like part of his family, and having her taken from him felt like a bereavement, or even a punch in the stomach.
As Hermione and Ron finished up their tearful goodbyes, the Grangers' car pulled up. The two occupants of the vehicle didn't get out, not wanting to have anything to do with the people who had spent the last few moments hugging Hermione goodbye, crying as though she was about to die, not just get into a car with her parents and disappear from their lives forever.
Hermione ignored her parents' arrival as she turned to the last person to whom she needed to say her goodbyes. He stood silently; gazing at the ground as unshed tears sparkled in his green eyes. He looked up only when she was close to him, taking in the sight of her for the last time, before pulling her into a tight embrace, holding her as if he would never let go. In response, she buried her face in his shoulder, wetting his shirt with her tears. The rest of the small group backed away quietly, leaving the two relatively alone. The eldest Grangers didn't know it, but they were not only taking their daughter away from the one world in which she felt accepted, but from the one boy – or man, or whatever you were supposed to call a seventeen-year-old who had experienced more horrors throughout his life than most of the wizarding population put together – who cared about her more than anyone in either world, be it magical or Muggle, ever had.
It had been in the tent, during the few weeks that Harry and Hermione had spent alone after Ron's temporary departure, that the two had finally confessed their true feelings to each other, having decided that it was silly to keep secrets when their time together could very easily be cut short at any given moment. The following months had been difficult, between robbing banks and destroying Horcruxes, but still a bit more pleasant than they could have been, as the two had at least had the opportunity to be open about their feelings for each other, and had even stolen a few tender embraces now and again when Ron wasn't around to pull good-natured faces at his friends' budding romance. Though he would never admit it, the redhead didn't really mind his friends snogging each other when they thought he wasn't looking. Any daft git with eyes could have seen it as easily as they could have seen a rampaging Hippogriff: Harry and Hermione were very much in love. And, despite the faces he may be required by the Unwritten Code of Males to pull and the 'complaints' he may have to make about them 'snogging each others' brains out where any innocent bystander could see them', Ron was happy for them. The rest of the Weasley family had followed his lead when they had been informed of the fact that Harry and Hermione were a couple, congratulating them and, in the case of the twins, rolling their eyes and saying that it was 'about time that the two stopped beating around the bush and just snogged each other already'.
But now, just as soon as their love story had begun, it was being cut short, and there was nothing the pair could do about it but hold each other one last time, both of them trying, in vain, to hold back their tears, neither wanting to upset the other. The Weasleys looked on helplessly, all wishing that they could do something to heal that hearts that were breaking before their eyes, but knowing that the only thing they could do to help was step back and give the young couple a few last moments together.
A few paces away from the helpless Weasleys, Hermione sniffled softly as she lifted her head from Harry's shoulder, looking at him properly. He was crying too, she saw, those green eyes of his seeming brighter than ever as a flood of unshed tears sparkled in them. Unable to bear the sight of him crying over her, she put her head back on his shoulder, leaning into the last embrace that they would ever get to share.
"I love you so much, Harry," she whispered tearfully, needing him to hear it one more time, before she would have to leave him forever. She'd told him that she loved him many times before, throughout the few blissful months that they had gotten to spend as a couple, but those times had always been very casual. Those three words had really seemed to be just that: three words. Three words that had followed the goodnight kisses she always gave him; three words that she had murmured to him when they had shared a few quiet moments, cuddled up together in the tent; three words that she had said because it just felt right to say them. This time, though, she wanted him to know that those three words weren't just three words, but both an apology for leaving him and, more importantly, a promise that not only did she love him then, but she would keep on loving him, no matter what circumstances forced them to be apart.
He sniffled as well, shifting a little so that he could wipe his eyes, before pulling her close to him once again. "I love you too," he whispered back, his words carrying all of the meaning that she hoped she had managed to put into hers. Neither of them really knew why they were whispering – everyone who could hear them knew about their relationship, after all – but it just felt like the right thing to do.
She snuggled her face into the fabric of his shirt once more. "I don't want to leave you," she whispered.
There was a moment of silence then, in which she heard him swallow with what sounded like some difficulty. "I don't want you to leave," he assured her. "But I do want you to be with your family, 'Mione, you know that," he reminded her, "and if that means we have to be apart, then…" he swallowed again, "then I guess I'll have to tough it out without you," he said, his tone somewhat lacking in conviction. "Not that I want to, of course," he added.
She sniffled again, extracting her face from the folds of his shirt and resting her head on his shoulder again. "I don't want to either," she said tearfully. "It hurts so much, leaving you."
"I know," he assured her quietly. "Believe me, I know, but you're… you're doing the right thing," he said, in a tone that suggested that he wanted to comfort her but couldn't quite bring himself to believe what he was saying.
"Am I?" she asked softly, though she knew that he couldn't know the answer any more than she could.
"Yes," he replied, though his tone indicated that he, too, knew that he couldn't know the truth. "Hermione, if there's one thing life has taught me so far, it's that your family is the most precious thing you'll ever have, and right now, I think that your time would be better spent with them than with me," he said, slightly shakily. "No matter how much I'm going to miss you," he added.
His words made her sniffle again. "Don't forget me," she whispered into his shoulder.
He gave her a momentary squeeze. "I couldn't if I tried, 'Mione," he assured her.
She felt slightly comforted by that. "I'll write," she promised. "It'll have to be by normal post, though," she added, remembering Hedwig with a pang of loss.
He nodded slowly. "I'll write back," he promised, "the moment I get your letters."
She nodded in response and the two drifted into silence for a few moments, before she sniffled once more, wiping her eyes. "It's not fair," she whispered, shaking her head. "I can't even kiss you goodbye. Not in front of them." She didn't need to specify who she meant by 'them'. Harry already knew.
He gently shifted her head off of his shoulder, allowing him to look at her properly. "That's OK," he murmured tearfully, lifting one hand to cup her cheek. "After you leave, pretend that you did. Pretend that it was like all those times you kissed me, back in the tent." The corners of his mouth twitched into a tiny smile. "Pretend this time was even better," he said, idly stroking her cheek with his thumb. After a moment, he pulled her close again. "And pretend I was able to hold you one last time without crying," he whispered, the sentence punctuated by a small sniffle. "Pretend I was able to be a man."
"Harry…" she murmured, wanting to tell him that, at least to her, only a real man would let himself cry in front of so many people, but not quite knowing how to put what she thought into words that he would believe. She was cut off, anyway, by the loud and unexpected wail of a car horn, which made everyone present jump a little. She wished her father had the sense to remember that while her friends had all ridden in cars before, the wizarding population was not generally disposed to be used to the ear-splitting racket of a horn. Even Harry, who had been raised as a Muggle, had forgotten what it was like to live outside of the normally quiet magical world.
"I have to go," she whispered, loosening her hold on him. With great reluctance, he did the same, and the two shared one more moment's look before Hermione turned away, gathering her bags from the ground while avoiding his gaze, as well as that of all of the Weasleys. If she saw one more pair of tear-filled eyes, she was going to change her mind and get herself disowned by refusing to leave with her parents. She knew it.
All of her things in hand, she turned towards her parents' car, took a single step, and stopped as she heard Harry's voice calling her name, still in a very soft tone.
"Yes?" she asked, turning back around with great reluctance. She doubted that her gaze would be met with a dry-eyed one. She was right. She fought the urge to embrace him again, knowing that she would never be able to leave him if she did. She reminded herself that he wanted her to be with her family, even if it meant leaving him. He had said so not five minutes ago.
"Don't forget me either," he said quietly, ignoring the tears that were sliding down his cheeks.
She had to wipe her own eyes to keep from bursting into fresh tears. "I won't," she promised. "I couldn't."
He didn't respond, unless you counted the infinitesimal movement of his head that may or may not have been a nod. After a moment, he seemed to find his voice again, and with what seemed to be quite an effort, he managed a whispered "Goodbye."
She sniffled once more. "Goodbye," she whispered back, before turning and making her way to the car at a somewhat brisker pace than she had intended, making her escape before he stopped her again and made her change her mind. She was quite sure that she would, should she even hear one more whisper from him. She opened the car door and haphazardly tossed her bags onto the back seat, before getting in and shutting the door behind her, with a strange feeling of shutting the door on the life that she had led for the past seven years.
Her parents didn't greet her. Her father merely waited the few moments it took for her to buckle her seat belt, then pulled away from The Burrow without a word. Looking back, Harry could see that Ron had taken Harry by the arm, as though intending to keep him from running after the Grangers. Harry, however, didn't look like he had the slightest intention of doing any such thing. He simply stood, watching the girl he loved slip away from him, tears trickling down his cheeks.
Hermione's father made a sort of 'pah!' sound, making her jump.
"Look at him," he said scornfully, "blubbering like an infant. Nancy-boy if I ever saw one."
Hermione's mouth remained resolutely shut. She'd realized that having a blazing row with her father only moments into the drive home was probably not a good idea.
Her father didn't seem to mind her unresponsiveness. "Is that that Harry boy you were always writing to us about?" he enquired, not sounding like he really cared all that much.
Hermione limited her response to a short nod.
Her father repeated the 'pah!' sound. "He's the one who's supposed to have saved the world? Somehow I find that hard to believe, Hermione," he said, in a tone that, to Hermione, sounded like the verbal equivalent of an eye-roll. "Or were you lying to us about him too?" her father continued.
"Rick…" her mother said softly, in a 'please don't start' kind of tone.
Hermione appreciated her mother's defence, but she didn't really need it. Her father might as well have been talking to himself, for all the mind Hermione intended to pay him. He could say whatever he wanted about Harry, the Weasleys, or anyone else Hermione held dear, and he wouldn't get a response. She didn't care if her parents would be angry with her. Nobody was going to hear a word out of Hermione Jane Granger for a good, long time.
A/N: So, what did you think? Too fluffy? I might have gone a little bit overboard when it came to Harry and Hermione's tearful goodbye, but that was the scene that inspired the entire story, so it's meant to be a critical moment.
Does Hermione seem OOC? I don't really know how to write such a depressed and lovesick Hermione without her sounding too much like JKR's version of a Hermione that was, as I read somewhere "A few broken nails away from stuffing her bra" (I don't know the source of that, it's just not mine!).
And don't worry, I'm not leaving the story here! It should be a two-to-four-shot. If you like, feel free to check my author page for updates.
HS followers! If you have any idea for the sequel, please add those to your reviews. I really need help. :(