A/N: I appologize for this being so late. I thought I was going to have time to post before I left for college, but that didn't happen and ever since I got here life has been crazy. I am going to try to post another chapter before the end of this month, possibly tomorrow, to make up for it. :)
Hope you enjoy!!!
Saturday, August 8th, 1998. A day that would be etched into Hermione's brain for the rest of her life.
Things were just beginning to return to normal. She had, with Ron's help, located her parents in their hiding place and had returned their memories to their pre-war state. Hermione had felt overjoyed the day they found them, feeling her mother's embrace, hearing her father laugh, after being away from them for so long. True she had been away for a good portion of the time since she was eleven, but they always had the summer together, not to mention the holidays and their correspondence by mail that allowed them to stay in touch. This was different, and now that she had found them, she never wanted to let go again.
The eighth was a sparkling day. Hermione would have been content to stay home, just watching her parents go about their daily routines. They had decided to wait on reopening the practice, wanting to take a little time for readjusting to their real lives. But her mother insisted that they go out, that there were a few things they desperately needed to buy from the store and it had been so long since she had gone there that she just had to go. Hermione, who couldn’t help but to act like an overprotective mother towards her mum, offered to accompany the older woman on her errand.
"You sure you'll be alright all by yourself, Dad?" she asked as she slung her purse over her shoulder.
Robert Granger placed his hands on his daughter's shoulders and looked her straight in the eye. "Hermione, I'm a grown man, I can manage to be on my own for an hour or two."
Hermione smiled. "I know,"
Her father swept her into a huge bear hug. "Love you sweet-pea,"
"Love you too, Dad,"
Her mother swooped in as Hermione moved away to give her husband a peck on the cheek and to inquire if there was anything else he wanted her to put on her list, saying she'd refuse to go back for an item he'd failed to mention.
“I can’t think of anything, dear. But then again, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be,” he added with a good natured look towards his daughter who promptly turned the color of a tomato.
“We won’t be long, Robert,” his wife called from the doorway of the living room where the man of the house had settled down in an overstuffed chair.
Robert Granger laughed in his booming way. “Don’t worry Jean, take all the time you need. I’m going to spend some quality time getting reacquainted with the telly.”
Hermione couldn’t help but chuckle at her father as her mother whisked her out the door.
When the pair arrived home about two hours later, Hermione could feel instantly that something was wrong. The front door, which they had locked carefully prior to their departure was standing ajar. She gave her mother a silent signal to hold back and quickly drew out her wand. Hermione pushed open the door the rest of the way and found a house strewn with debris. Most of the furniture in the living room was smashed beyond all recognition and papers dusted the floor like fresh snow. But this was not what concerned Hermione. These material injuries could easily be fixed with a flick of her wand. What worried her most was the fact that her father was nowhere to be found.
“Dad?” she called out hesitantly, “Are you here?” There was no reply. She glanced over at her mother, whose face had turned an ashen gray at the sight of the mangled house. “Dad?” she called again fruitlessly, desperately hoping for a response. None came.
She slowly made her way over to the chair he had been sitting in before they had left. It was then that she noticed it. The remains of the chair were splattered in a red substance that looked all too much like blood.
Turning around to face her mother, Hermione said shakily, “I’m going to call Harry.”
That had been five years ago, now, five years to the day. They had never found her father, dead or alive, and most believed, including the authorities, that he had been killed in retaliation for Hermione’s part in Voldemort’s downfall. Though a part of her wanted to believe otherwise, Hermione had begun to accept the fact that he wasn’t coming home. She just couldn’t live her life waiting for him to come through the door and with the disappointment that came when it didn’t happen.
But her mother was a different story. She stubbornly refused to give up hope that her husband was still alive out there somewhere. At first Hermione had tried to reason with the matriarch, but that only ended in pointless arguments. Eventually they settled for letting each other believe what they will. However, Jean Granger had consented to having a memorial constructed for her husband, not because she thought him gone but because it would obviously help her daughter cope. They had built a little swing in the backyard complete with its own little plaque commemorating it to the memory of Robert Granger. Both Hermione and her mother would go out there and sit on the swing to sort out their thoughts, although both thought of their lost family member in a slightly different manner.
Hermione stood next to her mother at the memorial. It was fairly early in the morning, thought the sun had been up for a good hour or so. The slight chill that tends to accompany summer mornings was just beginning to be bullied away by the sharp rays of the sunlight, and it was obvious that it was going to be a sweltering hot day.
The young woman studied her mother. The older of the two wore the same clothes, down to the underwear even that she had worn the day of her husband’s disappearance. It was almost as if she expected him to pop out at any minute and things could go back to the way things were as if nothing had happened, as if no time had passed. Hermione had to force herself not to shake her head. No matter how much they wished that things could be like they were before, they just couldn’t. She couldn’t see how the deceptions that her mother allowed herself to be healthy, yet she just couldn’t bring herself to burst the illusionary bubble. She saw the pain etched deeply into her mother’s face, pouring out of her eyes. It was clear that this little strand of hope, however imaginary, was what kept her able to function. There was no way that Hermione would take this last thing away from the woman who had already lost so much.
She reached out and grasped her mother’s hand in her own. Without looking at her daughter, Jean Granger returned the squeeze. Hermione could see tears threatening to spill over the confines of her mother’s hazel eyes. The anniversary was always particularly tough on her system. “I know,” Hermione whispered.
Suddenly she found herself locked in a tight embrace. Her mother held her close, and she could feel the warm trickle of tears as her mother’s control weakened and the monster of grief came pouring out. “I love you,” her mother whispered, holding on tighter. “I love you so, so much.”
“I know,” Hermione replied to the sobbing woman. They stood there like that for several minutes until the overwhelming wave of emotion had ebbed and her mother had regained some of her composure.
"I-I'm alright," her mother sighed wearily, rubbing her nose on the sleeve of her sweater. Hermione draped an arm over her mother's shoulder, and gently led her towards the house.
Suddenly, Hermione saw a shape through the hedges strolling up the front walk. On any other day Hermione wouldn't have given this a second, thought, but today she was slightly paranoid. "Stay behind me," she whispered to her mother as she drew out her ever-present wand. Constant Vigilance, Made-Eye mocked from the grave.
The faint ringing of the doorbell was audible from their post; their visitor obviously expected them to be inside. Slowly, Hermione crept up to the overgrowth next to the building, and looked though the boughs to observe who their visitor was.
A wave of warmth flooded through her system when all that her eyes took in was the familiar form of Neville Longbottom. Just to be sure, she called out, “Neville?”
She couldn’t help but laugh when he virtually jumped half a foot in the air. He obviously hadn’t been considering the possibility that the persons he sought might be found elsewhere.
“Her-Hermione,” the young man stammered, trying to conceal his surprise. He slowly drew his hand away from his right pocket. “I didn’t see you,”
She couldn’t help but laugh at his awkwardness; he hadn’t been like this for a while. Still, there was something not quite right about the sound. The tinkling tones seemed to clash ruthlessly with the somber mood that even graced the silent songbirds. This was a day for mourning, a day for remembrance, yet here she was laughing.
She shook her head. She couldn’t allow herself to get wrapped up in her thoughts of the past. She had to focus on the here and now. Pushing everything else aside, she ran forward and enveloped her friend in a welcoming hug, which was returned in good measure. “It’s good to see you,” Hermione informed him as she stepped back. “What brings you here so early?”
Her mother stepped out from behind the bushes once the identity of their visitor was revealed. Before replying, Neville turned his attention to the Granger matriarch. “Nice to see you again, Mrs. Granger,” he stated somewhat awkwardly, as if he didn’t know what else to say. He cleared his throat. “I wanted to stop by now, since I won’t be able to come with everyone else for the memorial. I have my first staff meeting today.”
“Hush,” Hermione cut him off. “You go be the best Herbology teacher that Hogwarts has ever seen.” She gestured towards the house. “Do you want to come in, have a cup of coffee, tea?”
Neville shook his head. “Luna’s expecting me back.”
“How’s she feeling, she was sick the other night, wasn’t she?” Hermione asked, slightly concerned. Luna never got sick.
A peculiar look came across Neville’s face. “She’s feeling fine. Actually, better than fine.” He looked around covertly as if he was about to deliver a state secret. “We weren’t going to tell anybody, but I think the two of you could do with some happy news today.” He looked at them with sheepish pride. “Luna’s pregnant. We’re having a baby.”
Hermione rushed at her friend. “That’s wonderful!” Though she was quite elated for them, somewhere deep down she felt a pang of jealousy. But she buried that quickly.
“Congratulations, Neville,” her mother said somewhat automatically. Though a smile was on her face, a look of sad nostalgia was in her eyes.
“How long have you known?”
“Not very long. We just thought she was sick. It didn’t seem to clear, so I took her over to St. Mungo’s and the checked her out and told us a few days ago. She doesn’t want anyone to know yet, I mean she’s told her father and I’ve told Gram, but she wanted it to stay quiet for a little bit. But I couldn’t help myself.” His grin could probably be seen from the moon. “I’d be screaming it from the rooftops if she’d let me!”
“Don’t worry, our lips are sealed,” Hermione assured him.
Neville pulled out his watch. “I really should be getting back.” He hugged both of the Grangers in parting. “Take care. Luna should be by later if she feels up to it.”
The three exchanged pleasantries and Neville was soon on his way.
“That boy has sure come a long way, hasn’t he.” Mrs. Granger uttered in amazement.
“Yes, Hermione agreed, “yes he has.”
Severus looked at the time. The staff meeting wasn’t until ten, still another hour to go. He sighed. There wasn’t much point in being there, he had been to so many of them over the years that he knew the routine by heart. Introducing the new staff, going over the ground rules (as if the changed from year to year-they had stayed the same since the war ended, and before that they were only greatly altered by certain cataclysmic catastrophies), planning for Hogsmeade weekends and the like. It was all very dull, and such a waste of time! Oh, how many potions could he work on in the time he spent sitting in those uncomfortable chairs, forced to pretend that he actually cared.
But there was no point in starting anything major now. There wasn’t enough time. He’d have to get to the meeting early, and besides, any potion that required any skill took much longer to complete. There was a leather bound book sitting next to his chair. He lethargically picked up the volume and began leafing through it. Snarky must have left it out when he was cleaning, the elf sometimes would read after his work was done, and wasn’t the best at remembering to put them back.
It wasn’t the kind of book that he normally would have read. It appeared to be some sort of a romance novel. Severus had no clue how it had gotten into the house. Over the years, his library had become a sort of magnet for random books, with strange novels popping up every once in a while. He wasn’t remotely interested in that fluffy crap, but he didn’t feel like going through all the work of finding another volume. He turned to the first page and began to read. Within a minute, his eyes began to droop. The next thing he knew, Snarky was shaking his hand.
“Sir! Sir!” He cried. “Sir wake up! Sir is being late for sir’s meeting!”
Severus fully awoke with a jolt. “What time is it?” he asked groggily.
“Quarter of ten it is being,” replied the elf.
With a grunt of thanks, Severus rushed to the bathroom to freshen up hurriedly. Well, he thought wryly, at least now I know what to do when I have trouble sleeping.
Ron paused as he wrote the date on the paperwork he was filling out. August 8th. This was the first time that he wasn’t by Hermione’s side on that day. She took it hard, even if she didn’t let it show. She didn’t want her mother to see how much it was affecting her, she wanted to be the strong one. And this year she would be alone.
But she wanted to be, the little voice reminded him in his head. She made the decision to leave you. You don’t owe her anything.
But that wasn’t true. He owed her everything. And regardless of how she felt about him, he loved her still, a part of him always would. He couldn’t bear the thought of her bearing that pain all alone.
She’s not alone, her Mum’s there for her, and Harry and Ginny, and probably my folks as well. She’ll be fine.
Ron tried to focus on his work, but all he could think about was her pain. She needed him. And hell, if she didn’t, well, he needed to help her. There, that was it. He wasn’t doing this for her, he was doing it for himself.
Thankfully the crime committing citizens of the Wizarding world were taking a day off, and it was a slow day. He left a note on his office door. He told one of his fellow co-workers that he was going out for the rest of the day. He took a deep breath. Here goes nothing.
Luna was the first to arrive. Hermione beamed as she opened the door. “It’s so good to see you!” she exclaimed, gently pulling her into a hug.
Luna looked at Hermione strangely. Though their relationship had warmed through the years, Hermione’s greeting had been much more over the top than usual. “Nice to see you too, but don’t get your Nargles in a tizzy!”
Hermione shook her head. She still didn’t get Luna. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine…” Luna replied slowly, obviously still confused.
“Have you picked out a name yet?”
“A name. For the baby,” As soon as she said it, Hermione remembered Neville’s words about his wife wanting to keep the news to themselves. Which probably meant he hadn’t told Luna that he had told anyone.
“How do you know about that?” Luna demanded in an uncharacteristically stern voice, the one that Hermione had learned that she reserved for when she was livid. “Neville. Neville told you. That blithering idiot. When he stopped by earlier, I knew he was up to no good. I’m going to kill him.”
“Luna,” Hermione said soothingly. “Luna, calm down. He only told my mother and me. And the only reason he did was because he thought we could use something to cheer us up today.” She smiled at her friend. “And it worked.”
A sigh escaped from Luna’s lips. “Fine, I don’t mind you knowing all that much. And I do believe he had noble intentions…”
“Don’t worry, we won’t say anything to anyone, you can still tell everyone the news when you’re ready.”
Luna laughed. “When I’m ready. Good one. It’s probably going to be sooner rather than later, with my husband Mister Blabbermouth over here!”
Hermione joined in her companion’s laughter. “Good point. Now, why don’t you come in, there are some snacks on the coffee table, help yourself…”
Jean Granger looked proudly at her daughter as she greeted their guests. She appreciated her daughter’s efforts, but she thought it was a waste. Hermione was set on remembering her father, as if he could never come back. Jean would rather spend that time searching for Robert. But she didn’t have the skills to find him, unless she had to identify him by only his teeth. So she let her daughter have her way. It was how Hermione coped with her father’s disappearance; who was she to judge?
“Jean?” a voice broke through her thoughts. She shook her head. Molly and Arthur Weasley were standing in front of her. A slight pang passed through her heart as it did whenever she saw a couple together, but she had learned to ignore it.
“I’m so glad you could come,” Jean told them with as much sincerity as she could muster.
Molly pulled her into a tight embrace. “How are you holding up, dear?”
“Alright,” It wasn’t a complete lie. She had been getting on with her life, getting involved in community activities to take her mind off things. But her heart still broke as she woke up every morning in an empty bed, she still expected him to come around the corner at any moment. “How’s Ron been, since, you know…” she trailed off awkwardly. It had only just hit her that she was conversing with the parents of her daughter’s ex. They had become so much like family over the years…it was going to be a strange transition.
“Well, he’s been better, obviously. But I think he’s getting over the initial shock now.” She shook her head. “Of course, this is only what I hear from Ginny. Like he talks to his mother.” She put your hand on Jeans arm. “You are so lucky you have a girl. I love my boys, but I wouldn’t know anything about their lives if it wasn’t for my Ginny!” Arthur silently chuckled as he shook his head at his wife, his eyes meeting Jean’s.
She smiled. It was nice to know that some things never changed.
Neville couldn’t help but fidget in his seat as he waited for his now fellow professors to trickle into the room. He still couldn’t believe it. He had been doing alright, with a job at the Ministry that Harry had helped him get, but he wasn’t happy with it. It was fine for people interested in that type of work, and it was a job and he needed the money, especially with a wedding so young. It was expensive to raise a family. When Pomona retired, he was honored that she had recommended him as her successor. He was finally going to have a job he loved. He couldn’t wait to begin.
He wasn’t quite sure as to how it was going to work out yet with Luna and the baby. He would have to talk to Minerva after the meeting.
It still felt so strange calling her Minerva. She had always been Professor McGonagall, even after he left school he still thought of that as her. But she was insistent on being on a first name basis. “We are co-workers now,” she had said, “ours in no longer a teacher student relationship. We are both adults, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t treat each other as such.”
The room was almost full, only two seats remained vacant, Minerva’s and the one next to his. Suddenly, a black cloaked figure rushed into the room, and quickly filled the seat adjacent to Neville’s. He turned to the new arrival, about to greet them as he had the others, when he froze. It was Professor Snape.
All of the pleasant feelings drained out of him as a terrified half smile remained unconsciously plastered on his face. He had never really gotten past the terror that his former professor had inflicted upon him. No matter how much his confidence had been built up over the years, one glance from Severus Snape and his legs turned to jelly. His mouth went dry. How the hell was he going to be able to work with him?
“Are you going to say something or are you just going to sit there with that ridiculous expression on your face?” Snape muttered mockingly under his breath, just loud enough so that Neville could hear him, but soft enough so the conversation remained between the two of them in the room that was buzzing with the conversations of colleagues.
“S-sorry, Professor Snape,” Neville replied, feeling the heat of embarrassment rush to his face.
Snape rolled his eyes. “It’s Severus. We’re working together now; we should at least be civil, even if we don’t care for one another.”
Neville couldn’t help but be shocked. Was this the same Professor Snape that he had dealt with for seven insufferable years? Hermione said he had improved a bit, but a part of him had never quite believed her. A big part.
“Alright, Severus it is then. You can call me Neville, I guess.” This was even stranger than being on a fist name basis with McGonagall.
“Sure thing, Longbottom,” Severus stated sarcastically. Yet some of the traditional malice, Neville noticed, was lacking. Most outsiders wouldn’t have noticed a difference, but he did.
His thoughts were interrupted by Minerva’s entrance. She stood before the group of professors. “Welcome, all of you to Hogwarts, I welcome back all of you to school*. We have a few new faces this year. Now, let’s begin.”
“Neville,” he heard Minerva call out to him after the meeting had ended and the professors were leaving the room. “Can I have a word with you?”
“Sure,” His heart was pounding. Even though he was fully grown, it felt like he was a child being reprimanded again. What could I have done wrong already?”
Minerva looked worried. “I have a huge favor to ask of you.”
Neville relaxed slightly. So he wasn’t in trouble.
“As you know,” his elder began, the Heads of House are typically from the house that they head. However, the past few years we’ve been without a Gryffindor on staff aside from myself. Saturnina Sinistra has been the acting Head of House, but she is a Ravenclaw. I was wondering if you would like to take on the job of Gryffindor Head of House. I know it’s a lot to ask for your first year teaching-”
“No,” Neville cute her off, “It wouldn’t be trouble at all. I’d love to do it.”
Minerva looked relieved. “Ah, thank you Neville, you don’t know how much simpler that makes things.”
“But will Saturnina mind? I wouldn’t want to take this away from her…”
Minerva shook her head. “Actually, she wanted to give it up. She enjoyed it, but it conflicted with her night Astronomy classes too often. I was going to have to appoint someone else anyways, but I thought I’d approach you first.”
Neville smiled. “Then I am honored. I hope I won’t let you down.”
“I’m sure you’ll do just fine, Neville,” Minerva reassured him.
Just wait until I tell Luna!
“I’d like to thank you all for coming today,” Hermione began, fighting back tears. The entire assembly was gathered outside around the swing memorial in the back yard. She grasped her mother’s hand tightly for support. “It really means a lot that you all care so much after so long. Thank you so much for all you have done not just for me but for my amazingly strong mother…I love you guys, and” she choked, “I love you Mum.” She couldn’t help it. The tears just started coming.
The next thing she knew she was in her mother’s arms. She hated breaking down like this, she was usually stronger! Then she noticed that hers were not the only tears being shed. As her mother had her wrapped in a comforting embrace, the elder Granger woman was shaking as well, sobbing. Hermione held on tighter. “I love you,” she whispered in her ear.
Sniffling, they drew apart, looking sheepishly at their guests, some of which were standing around awkwardly. “Sorry about that…” Hermione began.
“Nonsense!” Molly cried out. “That’s completely understandable. Come here, dear.” She stepped forward and embraced Hermione in a hug. “Better to break down crying in front of your friends that to kill someone…even if they had it coming.” Molly whispered in Hermione’s ear, winking as she drew away. Hermione couldn’t help but smile and wish that she still was in love with Ron if only so that Molly would become her mother-in-law.
The gathering slowly moved inside, and everyone took to chatting and munching, munching and chatting, trying to distract the Grangers from their pain. After about an hour, the door bell rang. Hermione saw he mother begin to stand up to answer it.
“No, Mum, let me take care of it. It’s probably someone trying to sell us something. Sit!”
Hermione bustled to the door, prepared to turn whoever it was away. It was about the right time of the month for a spam house call. She turned the knob, and pulled open the door. “Hello-” she began, only to be rendered speechless by the figure in the doorway.
Ron stood awkwardly before Hermione. He couldn’t tell much but the look on her face, except that he was not who she was expecting. I shouldn’t have come.
“Hi,” he began, not knowing what else to say.
His speaking seemed to make Hermione snap out of her shock. “Ron, this isn’t a good time. We have company over and today-”
“Hermione,” he cut her off, a serious tone to his voice, “I know perfectly well what today is.”
He couldn’t help his heart swelling as she crossed her arms, that cute little pout that she got when she was angry on her face. “Then why did you come?” she demanded.
Ron sighed. She always had to be difficult, didn’t she? “Because of today!” he exclaimed. “Look, regardless of how things are with us, I still care about you. And I know how hard this has been for you in the past, I was there, remember? I guess…I guess I just wanted to check in, make sure you were doing alright.”
Hermione looked dumbfounded. “Really?”
Ron couldn’t help smiling. “Yes, really.”
A hesitant, unbelieving look was on Hermione’s face. “So you don’t hate me?”
His heart broke at her doubting words, almost worse than when she left him. “Hermione, I could never hate you.”
With that, she flung her arms around him, sobbing into his shoulder, muttering some inaudible thing. As Ron stood there, patting her on the back, he was back in the past for a split second. She was in his arms, the sweet, marvelous smell of her shampoo enveloping him, the soft skin of her check rubbing against his face.
All too soon, she pulled away. “Sorry,” she muttered, her face becoming flushed not from excitement (much to Ron’s disappointment) but from embarrassment. “I seem to be doing that a lot lately.”
“Maybe it’s that time of the month,” Ron added, half joking and half serious. He used to keep track, just so he would know when she was the most volatile, and though he hadn’t checked since she had left, it had been getting close prior to her departure.
She punched him playfully on the shoulder, scowling. She then took a step back, looking like she had just seen a ghost.
“I appreciate you coming over, and you not hating me,” Hermione began, looking at her feet and fiddling with a lock of hair, “but this doesn’t mean I want to get back together.”
The words tore through his soul, crushing the last vestiges of hope that he had of reconciliation. But he tried his best to keep his emotions out of his face, he didn’t want Hermione to know how much her words hurt him, she would only go on to blame herself, and that wouldn’t help anyone.
“I know.” The words killed him, he hated himself for saying them. But he knew he had no other option. She was gone.
Hermione growled in frustration. “I hate this!” she exclaimed. “I hate how things are so awkward between us now…I miss my best friend.”
“I miss my best friend too.” That wasn’t a lie, though he missed his girlfriend too. “So let’s make this work.”
Hermione nodded. “So, friends?” She held out her hand.
Ron grasped it. “No. Best friends.” Her smiled response still lit a fire within him. I am so screwed.
“Come on in,” Hermione told him, pulling him toward her. “I think there are some people who’d love to see you.”
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