Disclaimer: Not mine, don't own it — I wish! Unfortunately, Harry Potter belongs to JKR and not to me; I'm just playing in her sandbox.
» Hermione changes her name during the story. However, to make it easier to understand, I'll continue to refer to Hermione by the name we all know. The only times her new name will be used is when she introduces herself to new people, or when someone is speaking to her and addresses her by name.
» This story is has been written in full and will be posted at the rate of approximately one chapter a week.
» Thank you to atokkota for her support and feedback.
Hermione Granger walked into the flat she shared with her boyfriend, Ronald Weasley, with a Cheshire Cat grin on her face. Hermione was a trainee Healer at St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries in London and lately had been working long hours as more often than not, Ron had plans in the evenings that did not include her. When she had spent a year finishing off her schooling after the war, Ron had chosen not to return to Hogwarts.
Over that year, Ron had got into the habit of going out with his mates every night and saw no reason to change once Hermione had finished school and moved in with him. She had been living with Ron for nearly a year now and could count on the fingers of one hand the number of evenings they had spent together during that time. While Hermione very much enjoyed spending an evening curled up relaxing on the sofa with a good book and glass of wine, that did not mean she was averse to going out and having fun. However, Ron had decided that all she wanted to do was sit at home and read and never the most flexible of people, having pigeon-holed her in his mind, nothing else registered with him. Most evenings, she would come home only to find him on his way out.
"I'm just going down to the pub to meet the lads. You enjoy your book, I'll see you later," was the common greeting from her boyfriend as she arrived home.
However, today she had come home at midday to prepare a surprise for him. Not only did she want to do something special for his birthday, she also had exciting news to share and she hoped that this would mark a change for the better in their relationship, as they had been rowing a lot lately over Ron's tendency to go out and leave Hermione at home alone.
Hermione headed to the bedroom, wanting to shower and change before preparing the meal that she had planned for herself and Ron. As she walked into their bedroom, however, she was stunned to see Ron in bed with Romilda Vane. Romilda had been in Gryffindor House with Hermione and Ron at Hogwarts but Hermione had not thought that Romilda had any interest in Ron. In fact, Romilda had tried to dose her other best friend, Harry Potter, with love potions but had not spared as much as a glance for Harry's ginger side-kick.
Hermione gasped in shock. "Ron!" she cried out, hurt evident in her voice.
The two people in the bed jumped apart at the sound of her voice. They looked around and seeing the upset woman standing in the doorway, they both smirked at her. Ron leaned over to kiss Romilda and then looked back towards Hermione.
"Happy birthday to me," he said meanly.
"I know things haven't been good between us lately but why would you cheat on me, Ron? You could have just said you didn't want to be with me any more," Hermione said sadly, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"And have everyone blame me for breaking up with you? Not likely! I'm not the one at fault here. It's all your fault. If you were a proper woman, I wouldn't need to look at someone else, would I?" he sneered.
Climbing out the bed, Ron stalked over to Hermione. "Romilda's a real woman, who likes to make me happy."
"You mean she's desperate to snag herself a boyfriend who has even the slightest bit of fame!" Hermione retorted.
As he loomed over her menacingly, Hermione drew out her wand. Before she could fire off a spell, Ron lunged towards her, trapping her against the wall with his hand around her throat.
"You're just a nagging, bossy cow that no one likes. You're ugly, Hermione. I'm embarrassed to be seen with you," he snarled in her ear.
"When did you get so mean, Ron?" she gasped, trying not to be scared of the man who at this moment she did not recognise, while Romilda lay in Hermione's bed, enjoying the show.
Hermione tried to knee him in the groin but he blocked her move and punched her in the face. Hermione's head snapped back and banged into the wall behind her.
"Don't you dare talk to me like that!" he ordered. "I'm beginning to think that Malfoy was right and you're just an annoying Mudblood who needs to learn her place. Romilda's pregnant and she's moving in with me. You can get lost, I don't give a shit what anyone else thinks any more."
Ron backhanded Hermione hard across the face and she went flying, landing in a heap on the floor. He kicked her once in her side. "Go on, get out!"
Hermione tried to stand up but her head was spinning and she collapsed again. "Get out, I said!" Ron ordered, aiming another kick at her. Hermione shielded her torso and crawled out the room. Dragging herself up to sit against the wall in the hallway, she sat listening as Ron and Romilda mocked her nastily before getting down to business. After a few minutes, when they sounded distracted, Hermione peeked through the doorway. Seeing that they were paying no attention to her, she aimed her wand at them and stunned them both. She then applied a Healer's sleeping spell to them, which would keep them unconscious until she lifted it.
Forcing herself to her feet, she considered what she needed to do. Ron did not like her books 'cluttering up the place' and he thought her photographs of her family were 'creepy and weird' because they were Muggle pictures which did not move like wizarding photographs, so few of her belongings had been unpacked and most were still sitting in boxes in the spare room. She only needed to pack her clothes, shrink all the boxes and place everything in her beaded bag, which had long ago been charmed with undetectable expansion and feather-light charms.
Hermione staggered into the bedroom, clutching her ribs. She was fairly sure Ron had cracked at least one but did not want to take the time to check. All she wanted at that moment was to leave the flat as quickly as possible. She waved her wand and all her clothes sailed towards her, landing in neat piles on the dresser. Pulling out a couple of holdalls from the bottom of the wardrobe, both of which also had extension and feather-light charms on them, she waved her wand again. "Pack," she said and the clothes all sailed into one holdall, which she closed and shrunk. Then she summoned all her shoes, toiletries, cosmetics and other sundries, which she packed into the second holdall, with liberal cushioning charms so that nothing would break. Closing and shrinking the second holdall, she headed into the spare bedroom. She shrunk all her boxes and put them and the holdalls into her beaded bag.
Making a last sweep round the flat to make sure she had not forgotten anything, she paused in the doorway to the bedroom, looking at the unconscious couple in the bed. She desperately wanted to hex the living daylights out of both of them but suspected that if she did any damage to them, Ron would come after her with a vengeance. Disappointed not to be able to get any retribution, she turned to leave when a thought struck her and she paused. In her fifth year of Hogwarts, the Ministry had foisted a viciously unpleasant and vindictive woman on the school in the guise of a Defence teacher. As Dolores Umbridge had chosen not teach the students anything practical, they had formed a secret defence club. When one member of the club had snitched on them to Umbridge, Hermione's vengeance had seen the girl's face break out in boils spelling the word SNEAK across her face. Hermione dearly wanted to jinx Ron similarly, branding him with the word CHEATER, however, it occurred to her that she could adapt the jinx, so that it would embarrass Ron but not cause him any actual damage, thereby, not giving anyone reason to prosecute her for attacking a Pureblood. With a self-satisfied smirk on her face, she waved her wand and murmured a few words. Instead of actually being branded, Ron and Romilda would see CHEATER and TROLLOP respectively displayed across their faces every time they looked in a mirror. It was an illusion that no one else would be able to see and it should fade in about six months or so. Without a further glance backwards, Hermione left, lifting the sleeping charm on her way out.
Hermione immediately apparated away, not wanting to hang around outside the flat while she tried to work out where to go. She needed to tend to her injuries — in addition to the cracked rib, one eye was swollen shut from Ron's punch, she had a split lip from where he backhanded her, she could feel that she had painful bruises around her neck and she thought she might have a mild concussion from banging her head against the wall — and find somewhere safe to stay. After a few moments' consideration, Hermione apparated again, this time landing on the doorstep of 12 Grimmauld Place, the home owned by her best friend, Harry Potter. Since she and Ron had started rowing Harry had distanced himself from her but Hermione was sure he would not turn her away under the present circumstances.
She knocked on the door and waited for an answer. When it swung open, she looked down to see Harry's house elf, Kreacher.
"What can Kreacher do for Missy Hermy?" he asked.
"You could let me in, please, Kreacher," she said.
Kreacher shook his head. "Kreacher is sorry, Missy Hermy, but Master has instructed Kreacher that he is not to be disturbed."
"Kreacher, I desperately need somewhere safe to stay for the night. Please could you ask Harry to let me in? I'll stay out his way — he won't even know I'm here, I promise," she begged.
Kreacher nodded. "Please wait, Missy Hermy."
He closed the door and went to speak to Harry, who was sitting chatting to the Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and the Headmistress of Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall. Harry had instructed Kreacher that once their meeting began, they were not to be interrupted but as they were waiting for Severus Snape, Potions Master and Head of Slytherin House to join them, the house elf figured it would be all right to talk to Harry now.
"What is it, Kreacher. Who was at the door?" asked Harry, seeing his house elf.
"It was Missy Hermy, Master. She wanted to come in. Kreacher told her that Master is not to be disturbed and Missy Hermy promised to stay out the way."
Harry sighed. "Oh, for Merlin's sake! Don't tell me she's had another row with Ron. Why does she have to be so difficult and make life so hard for him?"
"And of course you're sure Miss Granger is the one who is at fault," drawled Severus who had just exited the fireplace behind Harry.
Harry swung round to look at Severus. "Ron's always complaining about her nagging. She's always having a go at him."
"Well, if Mr Weasley says so then it must be true," replied Severus drily, exchanging a look with Minerva and Kingsley. They had all noticed over the last few months that Ron had become increasingly unpleasant towards Hermione, who in turn had become ever more quiet and withdrawn. They were all aware of Harry's penchant for siding with Ron against Hermione and were worried about the Muggle-born witch who, apart from Harry and the Weasleys, had no other family remaining.
Severus, Minerva and Kingsley were disturbed to note that Harry and the Weasleys seemed to be turning their backs on Hermione, although they did not think that it was done intentionally or maliciously. It was natural that the Weasleys would side with Ron, since he was family, and Harry could be unbelievably oblivious at times. Severus, Minerva and Kingsley had all offered Hermione their friendship but she had shut herself off from everyone, instead working increasing hours at St Mungo's. This was the perfect opening for Severus to express their concerns and he took it.
"And the fact that, unlike Mr Weasley, Miss Granger prefers not to put you in the middle, given your friendship with both of them, naturally means that she's in the wrong," he said acerbically.
"What are you implying, Snape?" Harry demanded.
"Nothing at all," he replied urbanely. "However, my experience of Miss Granger and Mr Weasley is that she is the more logical, reasonable and level-headed of the two. Not to mention more caring, loyal and generous. Or was it in fact Miss Granger who abandoned you during the Tri-wizard Tournament in your fourth year and again during the Horcrux hunt, and not Mr Weasley?"
Kingsley was particularly perturbed because Ron was in training to become an Auror and, as a former Auror himself, he did not feel that Ron's general attitude — and in particular his attitude towards the brilliant young witch who was so considerate towards others — made him a suitable candidate for the Auror Office. Kingsley therefore wanted to address this issue before Ron completed his training. He also felt it advisable to give Harry a timely reminder about not taking things at face value.
"Have you spoken to Hermione about it? As a trainee Auror, you must be aware of the need to hear both sides of the story and investigate any dispute properly," Kingsley inquired blandly.
"Well, I'm not getting involved! Kreacher, tell Hermione I'm in an important meeting and she'll have to come back tomorrow. Even better, tell her to go and apologise for whatever she's done this time!"
"And that's not getting involved?" asked Severus in incredulity. "I thought Miss Granger was your friend, Potter!"
Harry flushed, although Severus could not tell if it was in embarrassment or in anger.
In the meantime, Kreacher had returned to Hermione. "Master is in a meeting with Minister Shacks, Potions Master Snape and Mistress McGonagy and he can't disturbed by anyone, Missy Hermy," he apologised. "You is to come back tomorrow."
"I'm not just anyone, Kreacher! Please can you let me in? I don't have anywhere else to go. I promise I'll go right up to my room and I won't leave it until morning. You can lock me in and put silencing charms on the door so I can't hear anything," she implored, with tears running down her cheeks.
Kreacher hung his head sadly, as he had become very fond of Hermione, who was always kind to him. "Kreacher is very sorry. Master told Kreacher not to let Missy Hermy in because you should be nicer to the Wheezy. Master says Missy Hermy is to say sorry to the Wheezy."
Hermione nodded and turned away.
"Does Missy Hermy want Kreacher to heal her?" he asked, stopping her in her tracks.
"Please," she whispered brokenly.
Hermione felt the tingle of the house elf's magic healing her injuries. "Thank you, Kreacher. I appreciate all you've done for me. Goodbye, Kreacher," she said, before she twisted and apparated away.
In a daze, Hermione landed in the back yard of the Leaky Cauldron. After Ron's actions and with this final rejection from Harry, she decided she no longer had a reason to remain in the wizarding world which had caused her so much pain over the years. With her dissatisfaction over her relationship with Ron and the way she was treated at work, this was something she had often considered recently but, not wanting to lose the only family she had left, she had stayed, hoping that things would improve. This, however, was the final straw and she now saw no reason to remain in this world. Somewhere deep down she realised that she was perhaps not being entirely rational and that she should wait to make a decision until she was less emotional but, unable to think clearly, she let her instincts guide her and they were telling her to flee.
Operating entirely on auto-pilot, Hermione entered Diagon Alley and headed down towards Gringotts. Entering the bank, she made her way to a teller who was free. "I'd like to close my vault, please, and I'd like the monies to be transferred to my Muggle bank account."
Raising an eyebrow in surprise, the teller nodded and made the magical transfer for her as requested. Thanking the goblin for his assistance, Hermione turned round to leave, bumping into Draco Malfoy who was standing behind her.
"Moving all your funds to a Muggle bank account, Granger? Have you finally realised you're not welcome in the wizarding world?" he said coldly.
"Piss off, Malfoy!" she snapped, brushing past him to leave.
"I'm talking to you, Granger," he said imperiously, grabbing her arm.
Hermione rammed her elbow backwards hard into his gut and he folded in on himself, gasping for breath. "Well, I'm not talking to you, Malfoy. Now leave me alone," she growled and exited the bank.
This encounter with Draco Malfoy was the final straw and with growing resolution, Hermione went to the owl post office where she sent a letter to her supervisor at St Mungo's, handing in her notice with immediate effect and apologising for the short notice. She made one more stop and then left Diagon Alley, heading off to a café in Muggle London while she considered what she needed to do.
When she entered the café, Hermione visited the toilet and, securely locked in a cubicle, cast a diagnostic spell on herself. The exciting news that she had wanted to tell Ron was that she was pregnant. She had put it off because she had been in shock but now she needed to check that her baby was all right, after the kicking she had received from Ron. Breathing a sigh of relief when the diagnostic spell showed that the baby was in perfect health, Hermione mentally thanked Kreacher again for healing her.
However, Hermione was very worried about what would happen to her child if Ron ever found out about it. She had been horrified by the hatred Ron had just displayed towards her and she knew that he would be spiteful enough to try to claim the baby from her. Being both female and Muggle-born would count against her in a case brought before the Wizengamot by a Pureblood wizard and she would not stand a chance of being allowed to keep her child. She also convinced herself that if she was attacked by any of her enemies from the war, such as Malfoy, or even by Ron himself, who she now also counted as an enemy, no one would come to her aid. After all, if Harry Potter saw no reason to help her, his supposed best friend, then why should anyone else?
Fortunately, Hermione had done the pregnancy test herself privately and so there was no official record of her pregnancy yet, meaning that Ron would continue to remain unaware of it. Hermione blinked tears out of her eyes as she thought about her baby. It hurt badly to realise that Ron would not want this child, except as a means to spite her, and yet he was happily welcoming her baby's sibling through Romilda Vane. What hurt and terrified her even more was the realisation that if he could physically attack Hermione, even after all they had been through together and all that they had meant to each other, there was no telling what he might do to this child. Even if Romilda had been feeding Ron love potions, that did not justify or explain the violence he had shown towards her and she had no intention of putting herself or her unborn child in a position where it could happen again; she would not give Ron the opportunity to lay so much as a finger on her baby.
Sitting with a cup of tea, she came to a conclusion. 'I'm fed up with the wizarding world. I was only ever tolerated for Harry and Ron's sakes and now that I'm no longer useful to them, there's clearly no place for me there; Ron, Romilda, Harry and Malfoy just proved that. Hell, even though the war is over and was won by the light side, half the patients at St Mungo's refuse to be treated by me because I'm a Mudblood and the majority of the staff treat me like something on the bottom of their shoes. Barely anyone has a civil word for me these days. It's time to leave.'
During the war, Hermione had set up a false identity for herself, just in case the war went badly and she would need to disappear into the Muggle world. At the same time as preparing her own false identity, Hermione had Obliviated her parents of all knowledge of her and the magical world and had sent them away to Australia with a new identity. She had done this knowing that she would never be able to restore their memories but her priority had been to keep them safe. She had even undertaken a ritual to change her parents' names magically. Aware that she would never be able to regain her parents after the Obliviation, she had completely severed their kinship with her before giving them new names. This meant that, magically, they could not be traced through any connection to her.
Hermione's new identity papers were still in a safety deposit box in a Muggle bank and now she would collect these and undertake the same ritual on her own behalf, changing her name to that of her secret identity. As far as magic was concerned, Hermione Granger would no longer exist and she would be free to leave the country and start over, without fear of being traced by Ron or anyone else from the wizarding world. Hermione knew that she was likely being paranoid but her gut instinct was telling her that she needed to do this, as much for her emotional and mental well-being as to protect herself and her unborn child. 'Constant vigilance!' she thought to herself, remembering the paranoid former Auror, Alastor Moody, whose favourite saying that had been.
Following the plan that she had prepared during the war, Hermione apparated from the café to the Muggle bank holding her safety deposit box. Emptying it, she removed cash, a credit card and a number of documents, all in the name of Nonie Gale. From there, she headed off to the nearest branch of the bank that held Hermione Granger's Muggle account. Checking at the ATM to be sure that her Gringotts funds had been deposited — 'Thank goodness for magic, everything happens instantly' — she then made her way to a public telephone box and made a call to an old friend of her father's.
Todd Fox and John Granger had been friends since their schooldays, when they attended the same boarding school. Todd and John had become friends in their first year and had remained friends ever since, despite leading very different lives since leaving school. John had gone to university and qualified as a dentist while Todd had gone on to serve in the army. Todd was honourably discharged from the army after a distinguished career, including a term in the SAS — which John suspected but had never discussed with his friend — and had joined a top Risk & Security Consultancy.
When Hermione had approached Todd to help hide her parents, she had been stunned to learn that he was in fact a squib and knew all about magic. He made a point of keeping track of what was happening in the wizarding world in case Muggles may have to intervene and had indeed put two and two together, realising that his friend's daughter was the Muggle-born best friend of the infamous Boy-Who-Lived. Had Hermione not approached him herself, he had fully intended to contact her with regard to protecting her parents. Although he regretted the need to Obliviate her parents, he had agreed that it was the best option, which helped Hermione come to terms with her heart-breaking decision. He had taken care of everything: creating new identities for them, getting authentic paperwork in their new names (such as visas, passports, drivers' licences, birth certificates, a wedding certificate, dental qualifications etc) and selling their home and business and transferring the funds untraceably to their new accounts. He had also taken care of details that had not occurred to Hermione, such as creating a credit history for their new identities.
Todd had also provided Hermione with the necessary documents for Nonie Gale that she had just removed from her safety deposit box. He agreed to meet her when she called and she apparated to the location he suggested. There she explained that she was leaving Britain and the magical world immediately and she asked for his assistance in transferring untraceably the monies in the bank account of Hermione Granger to that of Nonie Gale. To her relief, he did not ask questions but merely promised to take care of everything for her straight away.
Before hiding her parents, Hermione had discussed magical banking with Ron's brother, Bill, a Gringotts employee, and had learned that magicals did not understand how to trace the movement of money in the Muggle world. The Auror Office may perhaps have a basic understanding of the concept but would not know how to trace money — and, therefore, people — themselves. Nor would the average Gringotts employee would be able to track money transfers made in the Muggle world by someone who knew how to hide their tracks, and Todd Fox most certainly knew how to do just that. Gringotts' top experts might possibly be able to trace the movement of the money from Hermione Granger's account — for a hefty fee, of course — but it was doubtful if they would cooperate with any such request without very good reason.
Hermione had paid reparations to Gringotts for the break-in during the war, unlike Harry and Ron — Ron felt that as 'saviours of the wizarding world' such things were beneath them and, as always, Harry went along with whatever Ron decreed — therefore, she was now on very good terms with the goblins, meaning that they would ignore any demands from the boys, who they regarded with extreme disfavour. Having no love for the Ministry of Magic, the goblins were equally unlikely to assist them in any such endeavour should Harry and Ron try to use official means to find her, unless the Ministry were to brand her a criminal, and she did not think that Harry, or even Ron, had sunk far enough as to do that. In fact, when Ron found out how much it would cost him to have Gringotts help find her, she was certain that he would wash his hands of her immediately.
'What next?' she thought, after bidding farewell to Todd. 'I need to go somewhere I can do magic but I don't want to be seen by anyone from the wizarding world.'
After a few moments' consideration, Hermione apparated to Epping Forest. There she cast a Notice-Me-Not Charm on herself and disappeared into the woodland. Double checking that there was no one around, Muggle or otherwise, she summoned a knife from her bag. Cutting her right palm, she held her wand in her bloodied hand and gave a magical oath: "I hereby declare on my magic that the name Hermione Jane Granger is no longer mine."
Sparks shot up from her wand and her hand was magically healed, indicating magic's confirmation of her declaration. Had Hermione merely changed her name, the name change would have registered at the Ministry. By dividing the ritual into two separate steps, the name Hermione Jane Granger ceased to exist in the Ministry's records at the moment of the first oath and a new name would come into being separately, unconnected to her previous name, only when she subsequently declared her new name by magical oath. Hermione intended to wait and make the second oath the next day in France, so that there would be no record in the British Ministry of a new name suddenly springing into being at exactly the same time as her previous name was no more. She was also hoping that by making the second oath in France, the record of her new name would appear at the French Ministry and not the British Ministry, just in case anyone was monitoring the records in Britain for the appearance of a new name.
She then apparated to Waterloo Station, where she bought a ticket on the next Eurostar train leaving for Paris. Boarding the train, she sank wearily into her seat. 'I really shouldn't be apparating while I'm pregnant because it can cause a miscarriage but I seem to be all right. No unwanted cramps. After apparating so many times today, the foetus would already be in distress if I were going to miscarry. When Kreacher healed me, I wonder if he might have also put some kind of protection on my womb? Still, there's no need apparate any more now.'
Upon her arrival in Paris, Hermione again visited the toilets, where she pulled out one of her holdalls from her beaded bag, to make it look like she had luggage. She then made her way to a budget hotel recommended by Todd, where she checked in as Nonie Gale. Fortunately, the fact that according to magic she currently had no name did not send up any red flags with the Muggles. By now, it was early evening and, having dozed through the journey, Hermione was hungry, having had no more than a cup of tea since breakfast. Getting advice from the desk-clerk, she headed out to find an internet café, where, using Nonie Gale's credit card, she booked herself a plane ticket to Toronto, leaving in two days' time. She then bought herself some sandwiches before leaving the café and, exhausted and finally able to relax, she returned to her hotel to eat. Relaxing was out of the question, however: although determined not to, she cried herself to sleep over the events of the day and the betrayal of her two best friends.