Chapter 1 : Two Years Later
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Hermione Granger sat on a cold stone bench, staring blankly at the scene before her. She hadn’t been here in a long time. Too long, if she was being honest with herself. Today, of all days, she needed to come. She closed her eyes tightly as she tried to block out the chaos that had been the last few years.
A week after the Battle of Hogwarts, Hermione had traveled to Australia to track down her parents. Ron had wanted to come, but Hermione insisted that this was something she wanted -- needed -- to do on her own. It wasn’t that hard to find them, really. Hermione half-hoped she would have more time to figure out what to say to them after she restored their memories. They were hurt and more than a little angry, but in the end accepted that Hermione had acted rightly. She probably saved their lives by modifying their memories and sending them out of the country.
After the family had returned to their home in England, Hermione decided that she would return to finish her 7th and final year at Hogwarts. The summer went too quickly, and before she or her parents were ready to say goodbye again, Hermione was off on the Hogwarts Express, promising to come home for the holidays. She'd miss her parents terribly, but was excited to get back to Hogwarts -- back to learning. Professor McGonagall had offered her the position of Head Girl, but Hermione had declined, feeling that she'd prefer to have a quiet year without too many responsibilities.
Letters were exchanged often between them by owl, and Hermione felt herself settling into a comfortable rhythm. She loved Hogwarts. She would never understand how Harry and Ron had chosen to go straight into Auror training instead of returning to school. Ron and Hermione wrote each other weekly, although Hermione felt like the letters sounded more like they were between friends instead of lovers.
It was on one cool, Autumn morning Hermione was sitting in the Gryffindor common room, putting the finishing touches on a letter to Ron when the portrait hole opened and a fifth-year prefect climbed in.
“Hermione? The headmistriss needs you up in her office.” The girl smiled awkwardly at Hermione and headed upstairs to the dormitories without another word.
Hermione didn't move for a moment. What would McGonagall be needing to talk to Hermione about so early, and on a Saturday? She shrugged and gathered her things, folding Ron’s letter carefully and sliding it into the pocket of her bag. She walked quickly to the headmistress’s office, pausing only to give the stone gargoyle the password (“Dumbledore!” McGonagall hadn’t had the heart to change it yet.) before hurrying up the stone staircase.
The door to Professor McGonagall’s office was open, and she could hear the scratching of a quill on parchment. Knocking gently, Hermione peeked her head into the office.
“P-professor? You sent for me?” Hermione asked.
Minerva McGonagall stood quickly from her desk. Her expression was guarded, with a hint of pity. Hermione felt nervous. Whatever McGonagall was about to say, it couldn’t be good.
“What’s happened? Has something--” Hermione began, but Professor McGonagall held up a hand. Hermione was quiet.
The headmistress took a deep breath before beginning. “Perhaps you ought to sit, Miss Granger…” She gestured to a plush chair in front of her desk. Hermione stayed on her feet. She shook her head, shivering with anxiety.
Professor McGonagall sighed again before lowering herself into her own seat.
“I received...disturbing information...this morning,” she said in a wavering voice, not meeting Hermione’s eyes.
Hermione’s heart clenched. “Just tell me, Professor,” she whispered.
“It’s your parents…” She finally looked at Hermione.
A rushing sound filled Hermione’s brain. She barely processed what Professor McGonagall was saying. She slumped into the chair next to her and put her hands over her eyes as Professor McGonagall continued to deliver the awful news. The words “car accident” and “tragic” and “nothing could have been done” flitted through Hermione’s ears while Professor McGonagall spoke.
Even now, two years later, Hermione had a hard time thinking about that day. That awful, dark day. She had lived through too much pain and the deaths of too many friends already. Losing her parents, especially so soon after the war, had broken her.
Hermione had refused to return to Hogwarts after her parents’ funeral. She told people it was because she didn’t feel the need to continue her education, but in truth, she actually resented the school now. She was convinced that if she hadn’t gone back to Hogwarts in the first place, her parents might still be alive. Perhaps they wouldn’t have been driving that day, at that time, or perhaps Hermione would have been there to protect them.
When Ron asked Hermione to move in with him, she hesitated only a moment before accepting. She knew the relationship wasn’t going to last, but she couldn’t bring herself to hurt the one person who was holding her together. He was still healing, too, after Fred’s death. Sometimes Hermione would feel guilty, like she was using him, but every time she even thought about breaking it off, Ron would come home from Auror training with a big hug and kiss for Hermione and tell her how much he loved her. She thought that she could eventually come to love him in the way he loved her. Maybe she just wasn’t trying hard enough.
As the months passed, Hermione’s depression worsened. Night terrors plagued her sleep and the constant feeling that danger was right around the corner never went away. Ron seemed just fine, though. He snored through Hermione’s gasps and screams after she woke from yet another nightmare, and he left their flat every morning with a smile on his face.
It took over a year for Hermione to gather the strength to leave. She wasn’t recovering, no matter how much she wanted to. A week ago, Ron had come home to find Hermione in the kitchen with her suitcase.
“Are you going somewhere?” he asked curiously. Hermione took a breath, looked straight into his eyes, and explained the situation to him. He yelled and interrupted a lot, before flatly refusing to accept it. She’d come back to him, he insisted. They were meant for each other. Hermione just shook her head and left, closing the door behind her.
She had been staying at a small muggle inn for the past week, where she knew Ron wouldn’t find her. Hermione had felt very alone for a very long time, and felt like it was time to try to heal herself. And that is how she found herself shivering in a graveyard on the anniversary of her parents’ deaths.
“Hi, Mum. Hi, Dad.” She sniffed. A tear leaked out of her eye and she rubbed it away with her sleeve. She had been to her parents’ graves only once, at the funeral, after which she'd refused to come back.
Hermione sat quietly for what seemed hours, reminiscing about her childhood and thinking sadly of what should have been. She hardly noticed when night fell and stars filled the sky.
A man’s voice cut into her thoughts.
Hermione’s head turned so quickly her neck spasmed. Heart racing, she squinted into the night to see who had spoken, holding her wand up to defend herself if needed. A familiar mop of red hair stood out in the darkness. Hermione’s heart sank. Please, not Ron, she thought.
The man came closer. “Hermione, is that you?” He stopped in front of her.
Hermione stared at him. The red haired man was definitely a Weasley, but shorter and stockier than Ron. She recognized his face, one that she hadn’t seen in years. He looked different, his hair longer (Hermione assumed it was to cover his lack of an ear), but he still looked very much the same.
“G-George?” she asked. She hadn’t seen George Weasley since Fred’s funeral. He had shut himself in his flat above the joke shop for weeks before taking off on an extended trip to Europe, with no clear plans of coming back. Seeing him here, now, made Hermione feel very anxious. “Has something happened? Is everyone okay?”
He looked at her before saying bluntly, “You’re not.”
Hermione sighed and turned back to the headstones she had been staring at. “Did Ron send to you?”
He shook his head.
“Then how’d you find me?” she asked, confused.
George took a seat next to her on the stone bench. “I knew what day it was,” he replied. “I just didn’t want you to be alone.”
Hermione turned to look up at him, eyes filling with tears. George put his arm around her and held her shaking body against him, and Hermione let herself cry. She sobbed like she hadn’t done in years while George gently rubbed her back with comforting shushing sounds. After a while, Hermione’s tears slowed.
“Let’s get you out of here,” George said into her hair. Hermione nodded and George picked her up in his arms. He held her tightly and turned on the spot. With a small crack, they disappeared, and the cemetery was empty.
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