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Chapter 4 : Shattering
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Chapter image by heartfelt. @ TDA
“A word if I could, Miss Granger?”
I looked up from my table at the library where I was surrounded by textbooks and assignments from the last three years. Professor McGonagall hoped that by reading my previous work, I’d relearn faster than repeating my fifth and sixth years.
The woman herself was standing in front of me, and I nodded in response to her question. It was early evening, and the library was full of subdued chatter that I only noticed once I stopped reading. Classes had only restarted a few days ago, but clearly that didn’t stop professors from handing out homework already. Several students threw curious glances at us, but I hardly noticed anymore.
“Of course, Professor.”
“Perhaps my office would be more private,” she said, and I hurried to pack up my books. My thoughts were still moving slowly, and I couldn’t think past my essay on felix felicis to wonder what she wanted from me.
We made our way through the castle in silence. I couldn’t see beyond my reflection in the windows we passed, but I knew snow was falling again. We ran into a few rebuilding groups who still worked to clear the upper castle floors, but all in all everything was almost finished.
She held open the door to her office, and I walked in to find Harry and Ron waiting inside. I tried to smile at them, but was too distracted by the office. Where was Fawkes, and all of Dumbledore’s strange and interesting gadgets? Where was the squishy armchair and tea pot? Seeing the boys threw me further off guard. Surely they couldn’t be so tall, so drastically different to what I remembered from a few weeks ago?
No Hermione. Years. Three years, I told myself firmly as I sat down next to Harry.
“I have some news, Miss Granger,” McGonagall said, sitting opposite us and spearing me with her sharp gaze, “And I felt it appropriate for Mr Potter and Mr Weasley to be here. You may need their support.”
I immediately felt my usual feelings of uneasiness increase. What would be so important that I needed my best friends to hear also?
“Before your accident, you knew of your parent’s whereabouts. Given the current unfortunate circumstances however, you no longer know where in Australia they are.
“I have just received an owl, Miss Granger. Our embassy in Australia has informed me that a Mr and Mrs Granger have been discovered near the city of Brisbane.”
My head reeled, and Harry grasped my hand.
“No, Professor,” Ron protested before I could speak, “She’s too delicate to traipse around the world right now!”
He ignored my look of fury. Too delicate? This was my mum and dad we were talking about, of course I was going to see them, and nothing would stop me.
“Ronald!” I hissed, and he jumped in surprise, meeting my eyes with a pained look on his face. I frowned at his pain and asked, “What? What is it?”
“It’s just, well,” he sighed, looking away, “You haven’t talked to me like that since... Since your accident. It surprised me, that’s all.”
I shifted uncomfortably and turned back to McGonagall. “I’d like to see them Professor. Now, if I could.”
“I expected nothing less, Miss Granger. An international portkey has already been set up, and a Ministry ambassador is waiting for you at the other end.”
Pain warred with hope in my chest as I stood up, letting go of Harry’s hand. In my mind, I’d only just left my parents to go back to school. Dad had given me a kiss, and Mum had handed me a packet of sugar-free lollies for the train. But now, we’d all been through a war, they didn’t remember me, and I didn’t remember our last three years together.
“We’re coming, of course,” Harry said, grabbing the hem of my shirt as I took a step towards McGonagall. I shook him off, shaking my head.
“No, I need to do this alone, Harry. Here, look after my stuff,” I said, handing him my school bag, “I’m ready, Professor.”
“Very well, Miss Granger. You have two days to spend in Australia. You’ll be with a Ministry official for the whole time you’re away, for despite being well of age, you are still a Hogwarts student and you’re under my care and protection. Healer McDonald has requested to see you as soon as you’re back. I wish you luck, my dear,” McGonagall said warmly, briefly squeezing my arm.
I reached out to grasp the portkey on her desk – an old Quiddich Through The Ages – and felt the familiar tugging behind my navel. The last thing I saw before I was yanked forward was Ron’s anguished face.
The trip was longer than the one I took to the quiddich up last year –four years ago – and I was relieved when I finally tumbled into a heap onto the hard ground. I idly wondered if I knew how to apparate yet.
Straightening, the first thing to hit me was the heat. Here on the other side of the world it was summer, and my heavy Scottish winter uniform wasn’t doing me any favours.
“Here, Miss Granger, let me help,” a voice came, and I jumped. A tall man towered over me, dressed in shorts and a teeshirt. He had a kind face, and smiled as I grasped his welcomed helping hand.
“Hello,” I murmured, meeting his eyes briefly as I stumbled to my feet and glanced around us. I was inside of what looked to be an office, with curious faces glancing through the door.
“Peter O’Hanlon, Miss Granger. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I found myself liking the man as he enthusiastically shook my hand. It was a relief, meeting someone who I didn’t know; who couldn’t compare me to who I used to be.
“Likewise. Merlin, it’s so hot,” I said, looking out of the window at the clear blue sky.
“Air conditioning is down, I’m afraid. Here, take a seat,” Peter said, gesturing. He pointedly shut his door on the faces looking in, and sat at the desk opposite.
“If you don’t mind,” I began uncertainly, no longer as confident as I once upon a time was, “I’d like to see Mum and Dad now…”
“All in good time, Miss Granger. We need to have a chat first. Cup of tea?”
I nodded and sat down, but my heart tugged me towards somewhere outside of the hot, stuffy office. I needed to see my parents, and now. Perhaps if I saw them, and they saw me, both of our memories would be jogged. They could come home with me away from this hot hell-hole of a country, and we could… we could… what, live happily ever after?
The nasty voice in my mind hurt, and I glared down at the mug of tea that was passed to me. Too much had changed for me to have a happy ever after again.
“When we found your mum and dad, Miss Granger, I was a bit sceptical at first,” Peter was saying as he poured his own tea. I forced myself to focus my fly-away thoughts on his words, “I mean, there are countless expatriate Brits in Australia, and plenty who are of the same age as your parents. But there are not, however, many who have opened a dentist and a café in the same vicinity.”
My eyes filled with tears at his words; it had always been Dad’s dream to own a café and make coffees, and Mum would never give up her dentistry work.
“That – that sounds like them,” I said without looking up.
“They also match the pictures sent through to us. But Miss Granger, you have to understand and I have to be blunt. There is only the slightest, rarest chance that they will remember you. The memory spell you performed… Let me just say that if I, a wizard twice your age and experience, could perform so powerful a spell, then I sure as heck wouldn’t be working here still.”
He threw back his head and laughed, smile lines crinkling his face. I tried to smile with him, but his words only stabbed into me. I was the reason why all of this was happening. I was the reason why my parents had left their homes and settled into a foreign country. But Mum always hated the cold. And Dad has followed his dream. Maybe they’re better off without me.
“When can I see them, then?” I said, once again ignoring the nasty voice in my mind.
“Now that you understand what you might be up against, Miss Granger, we can go right away.”
I swallowed the sudden lump in my throat and stood up so fast that my chair screeched across the floor. Peter stood up and gestured to me. I grabbed his proffered wrist, and we apparated so quickly that I almost didn’t register the familiar feeling of being squeezed through a small tube. Perhaps I knew how to apparate after all.
The heat was even worse outside, and I wished I’d changed before I’d left Hogwarts. We’d ended up in a small alley, which smelled distinctly of the ocean. Dad loved the ocean.
“This way,” Peter called, and I hurried to follow him. We emerged onto a bustling main street in what was obviously a small town. Right in front of me, so much sooner than I had ever expected, so much sooner than I was ready for, was a shop bearing the sign ‘Coffee and Fillings’.
“That – that’s it?” I said, staring at it in trepidation.
“Indeed. I’ll wait here, Miss Granger. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to not give anything away or to confuse them. Take as long as you need.”
I spared him a nod as I advanced towards the sliding doors. Pushing them open, I was immediately bathed in cool air. I looked around, noting the counter running along one side of the shop and a waiting room set up on the other. There were several customers scattered across the place, and jazz music was playing. Mum’s favourite.
“Hello, love!” a familiar voice called out, and my stomach did somersaults as my head snapped around. From behind the coffee machine, a man with a receding hairline looked up. He turned the steam wand off and pulled away a jug of milk he was frothing. When I met his eyes, I remembered warmth and love.
I took a tentative step towards him, feeling a smile spread across my entire face.
“Dad,” I whispered, and then I took another step forward. He came towards me, a smile upon his own face. This was it. This was what I had been waiting for. A cuddle, and a kiss, and an “Everything is alright, Hermione love”. This was –
“Would you like to sit by the window?” he asked, and my heart shattered.
“S-s-sure,” I said, and tried not to lose my mind in front of my father.
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