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The Harder Struggle by Ericfmc
Chapter 15 : Something So Important
 
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The four were standing on a leafy suburban street about 100 yards from Hermione’s parents’ home. Hermione went through the plan one more time. It was a very simple plan.

“If I don’t come out within 30 minutes go back to the hotel and wait for me to contact you.”

“Yes, Hermione,” replied Ron, “we got it the fifth time. Are you sure you don’t want me to come in with you?” Hermione was clearly very nervous and Ron was concerned.

“No Ron, I have to do this myself. It will just complicate things for my parents if you’re there. We’ve been through this.”

Ron still wasn’t convinced.

“All right, here goes,” and she turned and walked to her parents’ home.

She stood at the front door for several minutes before finally ringing the bell. No one answered. Hermione was about to leave when she heard the door opening.

“It’s you!” said her mother looking shocked.

That was the last thing Hermione expected to hear. Her surprise, her anxiousness and her relief at seeing her mother alive and well combined leaving her momentarily confused.

“You know me?” she asked.

“Yes…and no. It’s like I’ve always known you ….but then I don’t know you at all. I’m sorry I must sound a little confused.

“Maybe I can help,” replied Hermione. “May I come in?”

Hermione’s mother eyed her with growing apprehension. Her need to understand overcame her fear and in a small, tentative voice she replied “yes.” She showed Hermione into a comfortable, well lit lounge room and indicated a sofa. Hermione sat down. Her attention was immediately attracted by a large and very well executed drawing that was hung on the wall. It was a very accurate portrait of Hermione. She froze.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” asked her mother.

“Did you draw that?” asked Hermione. Her mother had always had a talent for drawing but this was far better than anything she had done before.

Her mother nodded, “I see you in my dreams. It’s a little frightening to see you in the flesh.”

“Perhaps if you could ask da… your husband to join us I might be able to explain.”

Jean Granger wavered for a moment then made a decision. She entered the hall and called out “Robert, could you come to the lounge room please. We have a guest.”

She turned back to Hermione and said “he won’t be long. Can I get you something; a cup of tea perhaps.”

“Tea would be nice, thank you.”

A few minutes later she returned with a black tea with no sugar, just as Hermione always took it. Robert Granger entered the room. He was about to give Hermione a cordial greeting when he suddenly stopped. He looked from Hermione to the portrait and back again.

“It’s you,” was all he could say. Hermione nodded.
After a while he added, “I don’t want to sound abrupt, but can you explain who you are and why my wife has become obsessed with the image of someone she has never met or even seen before, someone who it now appears is very real and just happens to walk through our front door?”

Hermione shrunk from the aggressive tone. She was finding it very hard to be having a conversation with her parents when they didn’t know who she was.

“Perhaps if you both sit down, I can help you find an answer.”

Warily they both sat down opposite her. She whipped out her wand and quickly stunned them, then started the lengthy counter spells to restore their memory. When she was done she reversed the stunning spell.

“Just relax, you’re both going to feel disoriented and nauseous for a little while, then you will be fine,” said Hermione with a calmness she didn’t feel. She watched as her parents went through the unpleasant process of memory reintegration as their old true memories displaced the false. They would still retain memories of their recent real life as Wendell and Monica Wilkins.

Her father recovered first. He was staring hard at Hermione. He stared at her for a long time.

“You did it,” he accused. “We said no, but you did it anyway.”

“I didn’t have a choice; they would have killed you, Dad.”

“You can’t know that, Hermione,” he spat with such vehemence that Hermione was silenced.

“So why have you come back now, got tired of your little adventure have we?”

“It’s over.”

“Good, maybe you can explain to your mother why she has spent night after night obsessed with trying to capture an image she knew was so important but couldn’t remember. Maybe you can explain why for the last year we have both felt this huge emptiness inside as if something important had been ripped out of our lives though we had no idea what it was.”

“Dad –“

“Maybe you can use that brain of yours to work out how we are going to get out of the hole you have dug for us. Didn’t it occur to you that you were turning us into criminals; we are illegal immigrants using false identities. We’ve been practicing dentistry for the best part of a year with false credentials.”

“Dad –“

“We were just about to sign a contract to buy a dental practice here, under false names I might add. Heavens knows what has happened to our practice in London. It took years of work to build that up.”

“Dad, I had to do it.” Hermione was close to tears.

“It wasn’t your choice to make, Hermione. I never thought I would see the day when you turned your power against your own parents. You betrayed our trust. You betrayed us.”

Hermione was deeply upset and broke into tears unable to say anything.

“Robert,” said Hermione’s mother, reaching out a hand to stay her husband. She had been shell shocked, first by her recovered memories and then by Robert’s angry tirade. She was angry too but was becoming increasingly upset for her daughter. She was about to say more when the doorbell rang. In a semi daze she went to answer.

“Ron, isn’t it?” she said recognising the gangling red haired boy who had featured so much in Hermione’s letter’s home over so many years. A part of her mind noted that perhaps Ron was no longer a boy. He had certainly filled out since she had last seen him, but more than that, there was something else, an inner quality that hadn’t been there before.

“Good afternoon Mrs Granger,” Ron said politely.

“You better come in,” she replied and showed him into the lounge room.

Ron immediately saw that Hermione was very distressed. Ignoring Robert Granger for the moment, he moved to her and sat by her side. She immediately put her arms around his waist and silently sobbed into his shoulder. Ron folded Hermione in his arms and comforted her.

Mr Granger glared at Ron then said, “I suppose you’ve been off on this adventure too.”

Ron immediately felt his anger rising. He knew he had to control it for Hermione’s sake. The last thing Harry said to him when he announced he was going in, despite Hermione’s instructions, was “Ron, remember these are Hermione’s parents. She loves them. Don’t get angry or insult them, it won’t help anyone.”

Ron took a few deep breaths then spoke in a measured tone, “Mr Granger, Hermione said to me that her parents would hate her for what she had done. I told her that wasn’t possible, that you loved her. I hope I wasn’t wrong.”

These words cut Mr Granger deeply. They brought Mrs Granger close to tears.

“Who are you to be telling me how I should act with my own daughter,” Mr Granger said angrily.

“The man who loves your daughter,” Ron replied calmly.

“Man?” he laughed mockingly, “boy, more like. Hermione had no right to do what she did.”

“She saved your lives.”

“You can’t know that!”

“Yes, I can.” Ron said firmly. He continued, with great deliberation, speaking simply and calmly.

“These are the plain facts. Four days after Hermione altered your memories, two days after you left for Australia, the wizarding government fell and Lord Voldemort effectively became the government with the full power of the Ministry of Magic behind him. He immediately made his top priority finding and killing Harry Potter. Known close associates of Harry were top of the target list. That meant Hermione and I. Harry, Hermione and I went on the run. Two days later a squad of Death Eaters, followers of Voldemort, invaded your home in London. They trashed it and scrawled ugly messages such as ‘Death to all Mudbloods’ on the walls. That was your daughter they were referring to as a mudblood. I have no doubt whatsoever based on what they did in many other cases that if you had been there they would have tortured you to find out where Hermione was. They wouldn’t have cared whether you knew or not. They would have tortured you until there was nothing left of your mind. Then they would have killed you.”

Both Mr and Mrs Granger had gone deathly pale. They were staring at Ron in disbelief.

“Let me tell you a little about our little adventure as you put it,” Ron continued relentlessly, in measured tones, without anger. “We were on the run, most of the time living in a tent, changing locations every few days to avoid detection. We were often cold and hungry, but we had a mission. We knew what had to be done to defeat Voldemort, something only we could do, something we had to do. It took us nine months. We had to take a lot of risks. We each came close to being killed on several occasions. At one point we were captured.” Ron halted, the emotion catching in his throat, a tear coming to his eye. “Hermione got the worst of it. Your daughter was tortured. Harry and I couldn’t get to her. We just couldn’t. Finally, with help, we escaped and rescued her.”

Ron paused once more gather in his emotions. Both of Hermione’s parents were rigid with horror as Ron continued with the story.

“Despite what she’d been through, Hermione soon joined us planning the next step in our mission. The whole thing culminated in a great battle a little over two weeks ago. We won at great cost. Harry killed Voldemort and now it’s all over. We’ve been to a lot of funerals of good people since then, including that of my brother Fred. Now we’ve come to Australia for you.”

There was silence for a while. Both Hermione’s parents were unable to speak.

Ron continued. “The last nine months have been very hard but there has hardly been a day when Hermione hasn’t thought about you, hoped you were well and safe, hoped you would forgive her, hoped you would understand.”

It was too much for Jean. She hurried to her daughter and took her in her arms. “Of course we forgive you Hermione my darling. I’m so sorry; thank God you’re safe now.” She held Hermione tightly. “Thank God I have you back.” They both wept in each other’s arms.

“Love you Mum,” said Hermione.

“Love you too sweetheart.”

Robert, still looking distressed, moved to Hermione and took her from her mother’s arms. He folded her in his. “I’m sorry Hermione, can you forgive me sweetheart. I was shocked and angry. I didn’t understand.”

“I’m sorry too, Dad, can you forgive me?” said Hermione quietly still very anxious.

“Of course sweetheart.”

“You don’t hate me then?”

Robert held Hermione by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “Hermione, we could never hate you. This young man was right about that. We love you, we always will.” He crushed her to him and for the first time in many years he wept. After a while he pulled in his wife and they shared a three way hug.

Ron sat on the couch, looking on at this reunion and felt very pleased with himself. When the others finally noticed him, he stood up and announced, “Perhaps I should leave you three to catch up with each other.”

“You don’t have to go Ron,” said Jean.

Ron looked at Hermione to see what she wanted.

“Why don’t you go and tell Harry and Ginny everything is fine and then come back in about half an hour,” said Hermione.

“We could all go out for a celebratory dinner later. There’s a nice restaurant near here that I’ve wanted to try,” suggested Jean.

“The Australian Ministry has put us up at nice hotel with a view of the harbour. Maybe you could join us there for dinner. You could meet with Harry and my sister Ginny,” suggested Ron.

“It really is a nice view,” chimed in Hermione.

“If that’s what you want sweetheart, then that’s what we’ll do,” said Jean.

“I’ll be back in about half an hour” said Ron. Hermione gave him a big hug and a kiss and a heartfelt thank you. Ron then turned on the spot and disappeared with a clap of sound.

“Well that’s the way to make an exit!” said Jean. “Is that what you call disapparating?”

“Yes Mum.”

“It sounds so good to be called mum again. Let’s look at you Hermione.”

Jean gave her daughter a thorough looking over. “Oh Hermione, you’re so thin.” She felt a new tear come to her eye.

“I was worse a couple of weeks ago. Molly Weasley has been trying to fatten me up.”

“Is that a scar on your neck? How did you get that?” Jean asked, dreading the answer.

“You don’t want to know that, Mum.”

“Yes we do Hermione,” replied her father firmly. “It’s fairly clear that you’ve been holding back a fair bit over the years. We need a new start here, OK”

“OK Dad. I will tell you everything. We took Ron’s family through the whole story and we’ll do the same for you, but not today OK. It’s too much. We did what we had to do, we won, it’s all over and we’re alive; let that be enough for now.”

Both her parents could see the pained almost haunted look in Hermione’s eyes. It affected them deeply. “OK sweetheart, whenever you’re ready.”

“Let’s sit down and we can talk about something else,” said Jean. “How about I get everyone some tea?” She went to the kitchen.

“Hermione,” her father started, “even when we didn’t know you existed we still missed you. Don’t ever doubt we love you. Nothing could ever change that. Just don’t shut us out of your life, OK. We know we can’t share in every part of your life but we still want to be part of it.”

“OK Dad.”

When Jean returned she served tea then sat down next to her husband. “Now Hermione you can tell us all about Ron.”

“Ron?”

“Don’t act dumb Miss Granger; you know exactly what I’m asking. That was an impressive performance your young man just put on. You’re not going to deny he is your young man are you?”

“No,” she answered quietly looking at her father.

He smiled and said “I have to say I was very impressed too. It takes a lot of courage and control to say to a girl’s father what he said to me. He must care for you very much.”

“He loves me, Dad, and I love him, very much. He’s the one for me.”

“He has been for a long time if I’m not mistaken,” said Jean.

“Yes, though as everyone keeps telling us, it’s taken us a long time to work it out.”

Jean looked her daughter straight in the eye and asked “so how long have you two been lovers?”

Hermione almost choked on her tea. “Mum!” Hermione protested but Jean just raised her eyebrows and waited for an answer. Robert looked stunned.

“How did you know?”

“The way you touch, the way you look at each other. It’s obvious.”

“For about two weeks, from a few days after the battle.”

Robert’s mouth was agape. Fighting but failing to gain some semblance of control he blurted out a series of questions and statements without seeming connection. “You’ve been staying at the Weasleys haven’t you, they don’t object? You haven’t gotten married have you? I thought they were fairly straight laced about these sorts of things. He better never hurt you.”

“No Dad, we haven’t gotten married though I’m pretty sure one day we will, and no, The Weasleys don’t object. They understand the strength of our relationship. And Dad, Ron would never, never hurt me. He would protect me at the cost of his own life. That’s not an empty phrase. In the last nine months he has demonstrated that in real situations. When I was tortured he begged them to take him instead. He’s a good, good man, Dad, and I love him very much.”

It was clear that both her parents were deeply moved. Robert, though, felt there was something he needed to say.

“Hermione, don’t take this the wrong way, I just want you to be sure. Sometimes when people undergo traumatic events they can mistake --- “

“Dad, I know what you’re going to say. It isn’t true in our case. If it did anything, the trauma blew away all the nonsense so we could both clearly see what was already there. Nearly losing each other made us see how precious what we have is. When we completed our mission, we weren’t going to hold back any more. The Weasleys could see this. That is why they didn’t object, even though as you say, they are fairly conservative.”

Hermione paused. She saw her parents taking in what she said, accepting it. She continued. “There’s something else too, though I think it’s best if we wait till Ron returns …and no, I’m not pregnant,” she added quickly, seeing her father’s reaction. “We witches have ways of controlling that.”

As if on cue there was a pop in the corridor and then Ron poked his head gingerly into the lounge room. “Sorry, I hope I didn’t startle you.”

“That’s going to take some getting used to,” said Jean catching her breath. “Come in and join us, Ron. We were just talking about you.”

Ron’s ears went red. He walked over and sat down next to Hermione.

“My parents know all about us. They’re OK with it,” she said bringing Ron up to speed.

“I don’t recall actually saying that, Hermione,” said Robert trying to regain some measure of control of the situation. There was part of him that wanted a little payback on Ron. Jean wanted to intervene but she understood she had to let the two men come to terms.

Ron swallowed and looked at Mr Granger with apprehension. Now that Hermione was alright he felt his self-assurance slipping away.

“So tell me, Ron, what are your plans? Are you going back to school now?”

Ron saw the trap but decided it didn’t matter. “No, I plan to spend the next six months helping my brother George get his business back on track. Fred was both George’s twin brother and his business partner. Fred was killed in the battle. After I have done that, I intend to join the Aurors.”

“I’m very sorry to hear about your brother Ron, that must be very hard,” said Robert gently.

“It is. It’s not just Fred. We lost a lot of really good people…too many.” Ron was beginning to choke up. Hermione put an arm around him.

It was beginning to sink in to Robert and Jean the scale of the ordeal Hermione and her friends had endured. Robert decided that now was not the time to press Ron further, but Ron decided he would answer Robert’s unasked question.

“As for Hermione and I, Mr Granger, I can’t tell you the exact when, what and how. We are only just getting used to the idea that we each now have futures. What I can tell you is that there isn’t a version of my future I care to imagine that doesn’t have Hermione at the centre of it. We are committed to one another. We will make it work, whatever it takes.”

“There’s something more,” Hermione took up the thread. “Among magical folk when there is a strong bond of love between a man and a woman, something special occasionally happens. The bond sets up a connection that allows the magic to flow one to the other. It enriches and strengthens the relationship. It’s called a lifebond and Ron and I have it.”

Hermione explained a little more and told them about the ceremony at the Burrow. When she had finished she turned to Ron and said “so I guess you’re stuck with me my love.”

“Such a dreadful fate,” he replied with a big smile. They beamed at each other almost forgetting Hermione’s parents were in the room.

“Well this is turning into quite some day,” said Robert feeling more than a little overwhelmed. “All we need to do now is sort out our financial mess and our legal status,” he added laughing a little hysterically.

“I don’t believe it is as bad as you think,” said Hermione. She then explained how she had organised her parents’ good friend, Max Harrington, who was a gifted businessman to manage their practice while they were away. He was going to employ locums and tell people that the Grangers were on sabbatical in California and would eventually be back.

“As for your legal issues I’m sure Kingsley and the Australian Ministry can sort it out,” concluded Hermione.

“And why should they go to the trouble?” asked Robert, very sceptical.

“You forget your daughter is a war hero,” said Ron. “In any case, Kingsley is a good friend and the Australian ministry has already gone out of its way to help us.”

“We’ll see.”

Robert gave Max Harrington a call and was pleased to discover their practice was thriving; indeed a sizable amount in profits had been banked and was waiting for them. He was relieved.

Conversation then turned to less stressful topics. Robert and Jean told Hermione and Ron about their time in Australia and Hermione told them of her plans for the next year.

About 6:30 Robert said “It’s about time to get going if we’re going to get into the city by 7:30.”

“We could apparate if you like. We can take you side along. It’s not particularly pleasant but it sure is fast.” Robert seemed excited by the prospect though Jean looked a little dubious. She agreed though.

At 7:30, Hermione with her father, Ron with Jean apparated to just outside the door to the Sydney suite. Hermione rang the bell.

“What hotel did you say this was?” asked Robert once he got his breath back.

“The Park Hyatt,” responded Hermione. Robert’s eyebrows rose in surprise. When the door opened, his jaw dropped. He was mesmerised by the room and the view beyond. He barely registered when he was introduced to Harry and Ginny though he did somehow manage to express his condolences to Ginny over Fred’s death.

In contrast to her father who was looking pale, Hermione noticed that Ginny was glowing. Harry, on the other hand was having trouble looking Ron in the eye. Fortunately, Ron didn’t notice this. She would have to have a serious talk to Ginny soon.

Hermione gave her parents a quick tour of the suite, excluding the bedrooms. Robert quickly recovered. He knew precisely how much a suite like this would cost and he was beginning to worry about the price that would be extracted from Hermione and her friends in exchange.

They sat out on the veranda where the butler served drinks and canapés. The evening was cool, as usual for this time of year, but the view was well worth it. The conversation flowed easily. It was the beginning of what would be a lifelong friendship between Hermione’s parents and Harry and Ginny.

They moved into their private dining room for dinner, the six of them feeling a little strange spread out around the large table. Harry informed them that George Lonnergan had rung and that the Minister of magic was hosting a reception for them on Friday night, in two days’ time. The Grangers were invited also. Both Ginny and Hermione immediately declared they had nothing to wear. Jean offered to take them shopping, the next day. Apparently George’s sister Michelle had also offered to take them shopping and they decided to ask her along too. The girls thought that Michelle would have a far better idea of what to wear and where to get it than Jean, but they didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

After a while Robert raised the issue that had been clearly troubling him. He made sure the butler was not around before he spoke.

“I don’t want to sound like a spoil sport but this suite is costing someone an arm and a leg. I am sure they are appreciative of what you have done but no one spends this sort of money unless they want something in return. Do you know what their price is and are you prepared to pay it?”

Harry responded. “They want us to push legal, social and political reforms in Britain and Europe. As a liberal democracy with unusually close connections to the muggle community they feel particularly isolated in the wider wizarding world. Britain’s wizarding community is not a democracy for example. The Wizengamot is effectively self-appointing.”

“We had already decided to push for reform in Britain,” continued Hermione. “We think if we don’t there will soon be another monster like Voldemort. Then we, or more likely our children, will have to do it all over again. We don’t want that. We are happy to set up an alliance with the Australians if it is going to help us in our struggle. We won the war. Now we want to win the peace.”

Both Robert and Jean were having trouble getting their heads around the scope of the ambition of these four young people and were having difficulty believing that their 18 year old daughter and her friends would have the kind of influence that would make the Australians go to so much effort. It was Jean who voiced this.

“Hermione, I don’t want to be negative, but surely you don’t have the sort of political clout or the skills for all this to make sense.”

“Just at the moment we have enormous clout. What we did has been front page news around the wizarding world for more than a week. Last week Harry shared a stage with the Prime Minister, and it was Harry who got to make the speech. But you are right, that won’t last. We have to leverage that into something more permanent. We are not alone though. The current British Minister for Magic is our ally and friend. He was part of the same resistance group as Ron’s parents. We have many other allies as well. We have already started building a movement.”

Ginny disappeared for a few moments and then came back with a wad of press clippings. She showed them to Hermione’s parents who were once more gobsmacked.

The four teenagers gave Hermione’s parents a rundown on the state of British wizarding society and the reforms they wanted to pursue.

“It seems to me,” said Robert thoughtfully, “that wizarding society is at much the same stage as muggle society in the nineteenth century. You may do well to study the politics of that time and see how the reforms were achieved.”

“That,” said Ron, “sounds like a job for Hermione.”

“Won’t you lot ever read?” asked an exasperated Hermione.

oOo

Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please review if you can – thanks.


 
 
 


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