Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns all, including the Epilogue, whether you like it or not.
The opening line is quoted from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Cover art adapted from ljiuy.
A/N: Yes, I'm using Daniel and Emma as Hermione's parents' names in an Epilogue-compliant fic. That's because I want them to be the same across all of my stories. If JK Rowling ever tells us their real names, I'll start using them in any new stories. I know some people dislike it, but I really appreciate how fanon is able to come to a (partial) consensus on things that weren't in the books, so I'm sticking to it.
It's odd considering all of the anguish I've poured into Hermione's hardships in the Arithmancer series, but I think this chapter was the most emotional one I've ever written.
"That wand's more trouble that it's worth," said Harry. "And quite honestly, I've had enough trouble for a lifetime."
"Now, just a minute, Harry," Hermione cut in. "I'm sorry for the bad timing, but weren't you still planning on becoming an Auror?"
"Er…I guess, maybe," Harry said in confusion.
"Well, don't you think that an Auror is an extremely bad career choice for the master of the Elder Wand?"
"Huh?" Harry and Ron said in unison.
"Honestly, Harry. Aurors get disarmed all the time—definitely in training and probably in the field, too. Who knows where the Elder Wand could wind up?"
"Actually, Miss Granger," Dumbledore's portrait said kindly, "that may not be such a serious problem. In my investigations, I found that the Elder Wand is only passed on between living owners if it is taken with intent to keep and use it, not to merely disarm an opponent. And of course, the peacetime death rate for Aurors is negligible."
"Oh. That's not so bad, then," Harry said optimistically.
"Well, I suppose not," Hermione conceded. "Except that you just announced that you're the master of the Elder Wand to the entire wizarding world…but in that case, it's probably better if you're a trained Auror…And it means one other thing."
"It means you can't give Malfoy his wand back."
That was only the first of many complications. The first two days after the battle were a haze of laughter, tears, and troubled sleep. Stories were told and retold until the tellers were sick of it because it took a while just for anything to sink in properly.
To Harry, Ron, and Hermione, it was odd and a little jarring to hear from the people who had spent the last eight months at Hogwarts, especially the younger students. In some ways, the war had not been as hard at Hogwarts as it was for the rest of the country. True, there were three Death Eaters on staff, the castle was surrounded by dementors (again), and detentions could involve Unforgivable Curses, but even for the sixth- and seventh-years, most of whom were either Dumbledore's Army or Death Eaters in training, life went on day to day. Most of the teachers continued teaching normally, and the only changes to the curriculum were Dark Arts and Muggle Studies.
At the same time, it seemed odd to many of the survivors that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had got off relatively easy at the very end—not that they resented them for it: those last, harrowing twenty-four hours more than made up for it. Still, even though the three of them had been on high alert for months, running around in the wilderness, and camping out as far from civilisation as possible, they hadn't been in that many fights, and for the past month, they had been safe and sound, recovering in Shell Cottage under Fidelius, while the students at Hogwarts and most of the witches and wizards in the country were still living in terror day in and day out.
In the end, they counted it as a wash. Everyone was far too familiar by now with the horrors of war.
Since the castle was still half in ruins after the battle, the rest of the term was cancelled, and the school was closed for repairs. No graduation ceremony would be held for the Class of 1998. Once the Ministry was back up and running, they announced that the Wizarding Examinations Authority would be open all summer so that students could sit O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams whenever they wished—and they needed that time to study, since a lot of the D.A. weren't trying very hard on their homework that year. It was awfully soon to be thinking of such things, but exams were still technically slated to begin on the first of June, so something needed to be done.
Most of the time, though, was taken up by beginning the rebuilding process and making arrangements. After all, there were fifty-four bodies to bury for the Light Side alone.
It had taken Hermione a week after the battle for her to seriously think about her parents again. She was just getting over her nightmares about her time in Malfoy Manor when the final battle dredged them all back up and added a whole bunch of new ones besides, so she was a little preoccupied. It still hurt, what she'd done to them. She'd been suppressing her guilt over it for nearly a year, but now, it came back, and there was little that could distract her from it. She wanted to get them back as soon as possible, but at the same time, she was scared. Would they be angry at her for modifying their memories? Very probably. She wasn't sure she could face them like that after everything else that had happened.
Ginny had disabused her of that notion with a hard slap across the face and some choice words fuelled by barely-contained grief over losing Fred. There was nothing, she said, more important than family. That had been enough motivation to book five plane tickets from London to Sydney with a stopover in Singapore for two weeks hence. Britain was under an ICW ban on international Portkey travel that would probably take all summer to lift, so they had to go muggle.
Deciding who would go had been an awkward conversation, especially so soon. Hermione desperately wanted Ron to come with her, but she worried about how both his parents and hers would react to the two of them travelling alone. Harry immediately volunteered to go with her either way, but that carried its own problems. For one thing, it would be very awkward if it was just the two of them, since they were both trying to (re-)start a relationship with someone else. For another, even though he was legally of age in the magical world, under muggle law, Harry was still a minor until the thirty-first of July and technically under the Dursleys' guardianship.
Fortunately, Dedalus Diggle and Hestia Jones were still alive and were able to take them to the safe house. The Dursleys were very unhappy to see Harry (except for Dudley), but they were certainly relieved that the evil wizard was gone for good and had no problem signing custody over to Arthur on the spot.
The last problem was Ginny. She was only sixteen, and neither of her parents wanted her to go. (They would rather Ron didn't go, either, but they couldn't stop him.) Harry's and Ginny's 'break-up' had been a sham, and they both knew it, even if they refused to admit it until after the fact. Once the dust had cleared, they wanted to pick up where they left off. Really, they were so afraid of losing any more than they had that they could hardly bear to be apart. And four hormonal teenagers travelling to the far side of world on their own in a 'muggle contraption' was too much for Molly's nerves. Even though three of them had been travelling alone for months already. Mothers were like that. And most of the 'responsible adults' who would have been open to going with them either were dead or couldn't be spared from the rebuilding.
After much arguing and some tears when George made the mistake of suggesting he could go, it was decided that Charlie was responsible enough to chaperon the four of them, and the trip was set for as soon as they felt they could reasonably get away. Harry paid for the tickets, to which everyone else reluctantly agreed. Hermione would have gone alone if she'd had to, but her surrogate family insisted she shouldn't be on her own at a time like this.
Of course, when Harry tried to pay for the plane tickets, they ran into another snag. The trio had, after all, just robbed Gringotts. It was lucky Kingsley thought of that before they just walked in. The goblins were technically a sovereign nation with a very tough penal code. If they'd caught any of the three inside the bank, it could have sparked a new goblin war.
It took nearly a week for Kingsley and President Ragnok to reach an agreement, and in the end, it was a pretty one-sided one. Harry, Ron, and Hermione would have to pay for all of the repairs to Gringotts as well as a hefty punitive fine for "breach of contract," and they would have to explain to the goblins exactly how they'd done it so they could close the holes in the security. Also, they had to return what was left of Hufflepuff's Cup to Bellatrix Lestrange's next of kin, Narcissa Malfoy, along with heavy restitution to her both for stealing it and for damaging it.
The deal only worked because Harry volunteered to pay everything for all three of them. It drained most of his inheritance from Sirius, but it didn't touch the Potter Vault, and since the alternative was being banned from Gringotts, losing everything, and being de facto shut out of the magical economy, it was still a pretty good deal.
"You're sure this is safe?" Ron said nervously when he saw the aeroplane.
"Yes, Ron," Hermione said, rolling her eyes as she took her boyfriend by the arm and led him to the air bridge. "It's much safer than driving, in fact."
"But this thing looks like a flying tin can."
"Shh!" She leaned closer and whispered, "Honestly, Ron, you flew an enchanted car across country at age twelve, and we flew on a blind dragon a few weeks ago. You're worried about an aeroplane?"
"But those were normal magic," he whispered back. "Even Dad doesn't get how aeroplanes fly."
Hermione sighed: "Ronald, I hate to break it to you, but your dad approaches muggle studies with hard work, unbridled enthusiasm, and an utter lack of native talent."
"Oi! Don't talk about my dad…eh, you're kind of right," he admitted.
The flight was exhausting—lasting a full day with the one connection, and they landed a day and a half later by the clock. By the time they got through customs, it was mid-afternoon, and they were all thoroughly jet-lagged.
"Oh God, how to muggles handle that all the time?" Charlie complained once they got off. "No room to move around, and it was too loud the whole time—and that's me saying that."
"My lips are chapped," Ginny said. "How are my lips chapped? We weren't even outside."
"The air's extremely dry at thirty-five thousand feet," Hermione said.
Ron groaned as he rolled his shoulders and worked a crick out of his neck. "Thank Merlin for Cushioning Charms," he said. "Those seats are really uncomfortable. I could barely sleep with them."
"That was reckless, Ron," Hermione scolded. "Using magic around muggles in such a crowded place."
"Hey, I got away with it, didn't I?"
Hermione rolled her eyes, but she smiled a little at his antics. "Well, you all can rest up at a hotel while I go talk to my parents."
"How are you going to find them?" Harry asked. "Send them an owl and follow it?"
"Of course not," she said. "Do you think I'd make that kind of mistake? I made them magically Untraceable before they left."
"Untraceable?" Ron said. "How're you gonna find them, then? Is there a muggle way?"
"There's the phone directory…" Harry said. "Except you don't know what city they're in."
"No, not the phone directory," she said. "Or not by itself. I have a way the Death Eaters would never, ever think of."
Hermione grinned at them: "The directory of the Australian Dental Association."
It took all of fifteen minutes for Hermione to find a telephone box, ring the ADA's headquarters, and ask for the address of the practice of Wendell and Monica Wilkins. She was sure they were still practising. She'd made sure their records were good, and they had few other marketable skills. As it happened, they were practising in Sydney, and their home address was in the phone directory as well, so she could've shortcut that step, but either way, it worked. An hour later, Ginny and the boys were settling in at a hotel, and Hermione went off to find her parents before dinner.
"Are you sure you don't want any of us to come with you?" Ginny said
"Yeah, you said it was gonna be tough," Ron agreed.
"I'm sure. I need to do this part alone. Plus, I don't think showing up with a boyfriend when I restore my parents' memories would give the right impression."
Ginny giggled, and Ron grimaced a little. He'd been trying not to think too much about the meeting-his-girlfriend's-father bit of this. Charlie clapped him on the back and said, "You asked for it, Ronniekins."
Hermione found the Wilkinses' home in about half an hour by taxi. It was larger than their home in England (lower property values out here)—a sprawling ranch-style house instead of a tall, angular Victorian. She stood motionless across the street, staring at it. Nothing about the place looked familiar—not the home, not the car, not even the name on the mailbox. It might as well have been a complete stranger's home, which was, after all, the idea.
Pushing aside her fears, she walked up to the front door and, before she could talk herself out of it, rang the doorbell.
The door opened, and Hermione froze in shock. Standing there was not her mother or her father, but a little girl of ten or eleven with bushy brown hair.
"G'day, ma'am," the girl said in an Australian accent.
Hermione just stared. The girl's eyes were blue, and she was more tanned, and her face wasn't quite as round as Hermione's had been at that age, but the similarity was obvious.
"Are you alright, ma'am?" she asked. "D'you need help?"
"H-h-hello…" Hermione said shakily. "I-I'm looking for…W-Wendell and Monica Wilkins?"
"Just a moment, please," the girl said politely before she turned and rushed into the house, calling, "Mum! Dad! There's a lady at the door askin' for you."
Hermione felt a pang in her chest. Mum? Dad? she thought. What happened in the past year? Her shock only grew worse when the girl's parents came to the door—her parents. Mum had grown her hair out again, and Dad had lost a bit more of his, but that was them. She felt faint.
"Hello, can we help—are you alright, miss?" Mum said worriedly. Her accent was still British.
"I-I-I'm f-fine, Mu—er, m-ma'am," she stammered. "I'm just…it's been a long day, and I was surprised b-by…" She glanced at the girl again. "…and I'm suddenly feeling very…very foolish…"
"You look like you've seen a ghost," Mum said. "Perhaps you should come in and sit down?"
Hermione nodded mutely and let her parents escort her inside, where she sat heavily in the nearest armchair. Distantly, she was surprised her parents were being so open with a complete stranger. Perhaps it was a subconscious recognition, or perhaps it was the fact that as an eighteen-year-old girl in clear distress and with no obvious place to carry a weapon, she didn't look threatening. It was odd to think of herself as non-threatening—to think of herself as something other than a soldier. But if she was lucky, she would never have to be one again.
The little girl sat curled up on the sofa. She had a book in front of her, but she wasn't reading it. Instead, she was staring at Hermione in confusion, as if she were a puzzle to be solved.
Unable to restrain herself, Hermione said, "Excuse me, but…is she yours?"
"Yes. Why wouldn't she be?" Mum said.
"Well, you don't—you didn't…er, when I looked you up, I was told you didn't have any children."
The girl's eyebrows shot up. She had clearly become a good deal more confused. Dad furrowed his brow and spoke up for the first time: "You're from England, aren't you?"
Hermione nodded. The accent should be obvious.
"How did you find us?"
"Um…through your old office," she lied. "It's a long story. I'm sorry; I was just curious."
"Oh, it's quite alright, Miss…" Mum started.
"Oh, pardon me—Granger, ma'am. Hermione Granger."
They didn't show any recognition at her name, which was good, she supposed. It meant she had done a good job. But God, it hurt to see her parents looking at her like a total stranger.
"Well, Miss Granger, we adopted Cordelia a few months ago."
Hermione coughed violently. "C-Cordelia?" she choked out.
"Excuse me!" Cordelia said in a huff.
"Oh! Er…I'm s-sorry…again," Hermione managed. "It's just that I…I don't think I've met anyone else with such a Shakespearean name before. It's…um, it's a very pretty name."
"We think it's delightful," Dad said with a smile.
"Yes, when we found Cordelia, it was like she filled in a piece of our lives that had been missing for…heaven knows how long," Mum added, and Cordelia beamed at her.
I know how long, Hermione thought darkly. Where did they even find this kid? She felt so stupid. She should have realised something like this would happen. She'd been the centre of her parents' lives for so long, she could block out their memories, but they would still feel her absence. She'd tried to make them think they were a happily childless couple, but they'd probably agonised for weeks instead over why they had gone so long without ever trying to have children. And then they looked and found a girl who looked so like a younger Hermione. But they really do love her, don't they? she thought. I can see it in their eyes. Oh, God, what is this going to do to her? They replaced me with her, and they didn't even know it.
"Are you alright, Miss Granger?" Dad asked.
"Just…just reminiscing. I told you, it's been a long day."
"Well, we're sorry you're having a difficult time, but we would like to know why you're here."
"Oh, right…" She bit her lip. This was just about the one situation she'd never expected. It was almost enough to make her consider walking away and leaving them be. Almost. "Alright, there's no easy way to say this…" she started. Then she took a deep breath and said, "I'm a witch."
"What?" Mum and Dad said.
Hermione skipped over the talking and drew a small stick with an ivy-pattern carving from her sleeve. "This is a magic wand," she said. She was so glad she'd been able to find her own wand again, intact in Malfoy Manor. She never could've kept using Bellatrix's.
"A magic wand?" Dad said skeptically.
"Mm hmm." She looked around and chose a small lamp on the side table. Wordlessly, she flicked her wand, and it rose into the air. Another flick, and it transformed into a white dove and flapped around the room.
"Oh my God! That's—!"
"Magic…" Cordelia whispered.
"It's…it's…magic…" Dad said as the dove came to rest back on the side table. Another flick of her wand, and Hermione changed it back into a lamp.
All three of the Wilkinses were now trembling in their seats. Hermione looked between them and blushed. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to frighten you."
"Okay," Mum said shakily. "So you're a…a witch. And…and magic is real, apparently. But…why are you here?"
"Because…" Hermione bit back tears. "Because I'm not just any witch…I'm also your daughter."
"What?!" Mum and Dad exclaimed.
But Cordelia's eyes widened, and she looked back and forth between the stranger and her adoptive parents. "You look like them," she said softly, and they all turned to stare at her. "You have Mum's hair, and…her nose and cheekbones. And you have Dad's eyes and mouth…You are their daughter aren't you? Their…their real daughter?"
Oh God, she's smart, too.
"No, that's impossible!" Dad said. "We never had any children before you, Cordelia."
"Yes, I'm sure this is just a very strange misunderstanding," Mum agreed. "Even you have my hair, after all, Cordelia."
"And why is that, Mum?" the little girl demanded. "You were looking for someone who looked like her—?"
"Cordelia!" Hermione interrupted before she could take it any further. Best to head this off early. She stood from her chair and dropped down on one knee in front of her. "Cordelia, it's not their fault. It's mine. But this is only going to get weirder, so I need you to understand this before anything else happens. I can tell your parents—our parents love you." Mum and Dad, who looked about to interfere, stopped and waited to hear what she had to say. "Believe me, I've known them my whole life. It's plain as day," she continued. "And that's not a lie. Magic can't fake real love, no matter how hard you try. That's one of the most important rules for magic.
"In fact, a very wise wizard once told me that love is the most powerful form of magic in the world. I know I've screwed up in a lot of ways, but what the three of you have—everything that's made you a…a family these past few months—it's real, and nothing can take that away from you. Okay?"
Cordelia had to wipe her eyes, but she nodded. Hermione was tearing up, herself. She was surprised how accepting the girl was being, but she supposed when someone turns a lamp into a bird in front of you, you pay attention.
"And as for me," she said, "I can already see what Mum and Dad see in you. You're a bright little girl, polite, and—well, you are a lot like I was at your age. To tell you the truth, I was always a little lonely growing up as an only child, so even though this happened by accident, I'd love to have you as a little sister."
Cordelia's eyes widened: "You would?"
"Of course I would. Besides, you're already family, and I certainly can't take that back."
Hermione thought Cordelia might hug her, but she didn't get to find out because Dad coughed and drew her attention. "Miss Granger…" he said, searching for words, "that's very kind of you to say, but the fact remains that we don't remember ever having another child, even if we'd given her up for adoption—"
"I know you don't, Dad," Hermione said. She had to take another deep breath. Here came the hard part. "But do you have gaps in your memories? Parts of your lives that don't make sense, going back eighteen or nineteen years?"
"I…" Dad said, and he stopped, confusion creeping over his face as things that didn't add up, which he had long dismissed came to the fore again.
"I remember being laid up sick and really anti-social for a year or so around then," Mum said slowly. "I…I stopped working full-time for several years, and I can't for the life of me remember why."
Hermione smiled weakly. "That would be when you were pregnant with me and when I was a baby," she said. "And you'll have years and years of gaps for school events and trips to the library and a strange fixation with Disney movies. I'm sure all that makes much more sense if you had a daughter, too."
"But why don't we remember it?" Dad demanded. "Was it some kind of magic?"
"Yes, it was. But please bear with me and let me explain what happened…There was a war going in Britain—a shadow war in the magical world—between the Ministry of Magic—the government—and…well, I guess in non-magical terms, you'd call the enemy a terrorist militia. The…the terrorists were especially after witches and wizards with no magical ancestry—people like me. Things were getting worse and worse, and about a year ago, we lost our last line of defence. By then…" she blinked back tears once again. "It was too dangerous. I knew it was only a matter of weeks before they staged a coup and took over the Ministry of Magic. I had to get you to safety. I was…I was too deep into it. My best friend—my friend from long before the war started—was the leader of the Resistance—long story. They would've been after all of us."
"You…you erased our memories?" Mum said in horror.
"No, Mum! No, I…suppressed them. Your memories are still there. I just have to unlock them again. Oh God, you're going to hate me. I knew you'd hate me for what I did, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do something to keep you safe. You were completely defenceless without magic, and—"
"Excuse me," Mum interrupted. "Miss Granger—er…Hermione…What exactly did you do?"
"I created false identities for you. Your…your real names are Daniel and Emma Granger. Sorry, maybe I should have said that earlier. I created false identities for you as Wendell and Monica Wilkins, a happily-childless couple with a sudden urge to move to Australia. But I was worried you'd slip up even if I could convince you to go, and I was worried they'd find you, even in Australia. So I modified your memories to make you think you were them. I promised myself I'd come and get you back as soon as the war was over—and I did. It ended three weeks ago, and I came for you as soon as I could manage it…We won."
"So you can reverse it?" Dad clarified.
"Of course I can! I'd never do anything permanent to you."
"And do we get a choice?" he said. "Cause if that…that—" He pointed to the lamp. "—is any indication, you could just wave that stick of yours and do it, couldn't you?"
Hermione didn't know how she kept from breaking down completely, then. She'd known, intellectually, that there was a chance her parents wouldn't want to go back, but she hadn't dared let herself think about it. "I c-could…" she choked out, "but I won't…If you're r-really happy h-here…with Cordelia, then I'll leave. It'll…it'll nearly kill me to do it, but I will…B-b-but I promise I'm telling the truth, and I want you back—all th-three of you. I'd make any magical vow I had to to prove it, but you wouldn't know enough to know the significance of it—"
"Now, now, there's no need for that, Hermione," Mum cut in. She stood up and rested a hand on her shoulder. "We believe you." She shot a look at Dad to make sure he agreed. "That bit with the lamp was convincing enough—and we can't deny that we do look a lot alike. Although if you really mean all that, I think you're a much better daughter than we deserve."
Hermione let out a half-laugh, half-sob. She was the one who didn't deserve them in her book. "No I'm not…" she cried. "Please…Please, just let me…"
"Alright. Alright. As long as you meant what you said about Cordelia—about…wanting her to be a part of your—our family—then I'm sure we'll be overjoyed to have you back, too." She backed up and stood beside Dad. "So you can just do it, then?"
She nodded. "Thank you," Hermione whispered. "Please don't be frightened, Cordelia." She raised her wand at the pair and cast, "Memento Veracia."
Mum and Dad suddenly seized up, and their eyes rolled back as eighteen years' worth of memories reasserted themselves.
"Mum! Dad!" Cordelia yelled.
"They'll be fine," Hermione said. "It might just take a minute…"
Cordelia looked uneasy, but she waited, and about half a minute later, they both slumped forward, taking deep breaths. They looked up, blinking to focus, and then, their eyes widened, and Daniel and Emma Granger stared at their daughter as if they had been aware the whole time of not seeing her for a year.
"Oh, God! Hermione!" they both cried, and Mum bowled her over so hard that they both landed on the floor. And Hermione finally broke down in sobs in her arms.
Dad quickly joined them on the floor, hugging her tight while Hermione cried, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"I can't believe it's been so long," Mum cried into Hermione's hair.
"I'm so, so sorry…"
"It's alright, Hermione. It's going to be alright."
"No…No it's not…" she whimpered. "I lied to you. I've been lying to you for years. The war started long before last year. I nearly died four times at school alone, and that's not counting the battle there."
Cordelia squeaked in surprise, but Mum and Dad just held Hermione tighter as they struggled to process anything at the moment.
"Hermione," Mum said. "Hermione, whatever it is, we'll get through it. You said this war was over, didn't you?" She nodded. "Then no matter what it is, we'll work it out. You're back, and that's all that matters."
The three of them kept crying as Cordelia approached, moved to tears herself by the display. "So it's all true, then?" she whispered.
Mum nodded, and then something seemed to click in her mind. Her head snapped up with wide eyes. "Oh my God!" she gasped.
"What?!" the others said.
Dad looked up, and his eyes widened, too: "Oh my God, Cordelia!"
"What?! What is it?!" she said fearfully.
"You're a witch!" Mum exclaimed.
"WHAT?!" Hermione yelled in unison with her new sister.
"All of those strange things that happen around you? They were accidental magic."
"I did magic?"
"Of course you did," Dad said, ticking off on his fingers. "Books jumping off the shelves and into your hands, the time you fell down the stairs and bounced clear to the sofa, the time you got so mad at Billy Harper at school you turned his hair pink—"
"That was me?"
"Of course it was. Once you've raised one witch, you can see it a mile away."
Cordelia was shocked. "But—but I can't be a witch," she sputtered. "I'm just…Cordelia."
Hermione laughed, wiping a tear from her eye. "Oh, 'just Cordelia.' Do you know what? I have a friend who thought he was 'just Harry' until he saved the world—several times. Here, give my wand a wave and see what happens."
She held her wand out, handle first. Cordelia took it in hand nervously and waved it. A few electric blue sparks shot out of the tip, and Hermione grinned.
"That's it! You're magical! Oh, you'll be able to do a lot more once you get your own wand—" And then she broke down, laughing so hard she found herself flat on her back and unable to breathe. This was karma, she was sure of it. Her laughter was infectious and started the rest of her family going.
"Hermione—Hermione, what is so funny?" Dad said.
"You!" she gasped. "This! This is just too much. I can believe you went and adopted a little girl. I can believe you found one with my hair and my brains. I can even believe you found one with a Shakespearean name. But then she turned out to be a witch, too? That's insane! The odds of that are astronomical. Oh, come here." Hermione called to her new sister, who was still standing at a distance, watching nervously. She pulled her into a hug and stroked her hair just like Mum used to do to her, trying to assure her she really was a part of the family. "I guess it's true, what Luna said: things have a way of coming back to us—just not the way we expect. So how old are you, Corrie?"
"I'll be eleven on the thirty-first," she said. "And don't call me Corrie."
Hermione giggled. "Oh, this is wonderful! Do you know what this means?"
"It means we can go to magic school together this autumn."
Cordelia looked up at her and wrinkled her nose. "The same school you nearly died in four times?" she questioned.
Wow, she really was a quick one. "Yes, but all four of those were because of the terrorists, and they're all gone now. We made sure they're gone for good this time. And if the school's rebuilt come September—"
"Wait a minute," Mum said. "Shouldn't you have graduated, Hermione? And what do you mean, rebuilt?"
She shook her head: "I didn't go back for my seventh year. It was too dangerous. With the Death Eaters in charge, I was a fugitive. I'll be going back for my seventh year in September. Assuming it's rebuilt by then. It was kind of in ruins when I left."
"Oh, we are going to have a long talk about this, I can tell," Dad said in his stern voice.
"But I think that can wait for another day," Mum cut him off. "For tonight, we can just be happy you're alright. What about your friends? Did they make it through? Harry? Ron? His family? That Luna girl and, what was his name? Neville?"
Hermione was pleased that her parents remembered her friends so clearly, but she still turned solemn. "We lost a lot of good people," she said. "Ron's brother Fred died. The rest of his family made it, though. Harry, Luna, and Neville are alright, too. Actually, Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Charlie are back at the hotel. But we lost a lot of others. Professor Dumbledore died a year ago. That's what started the whole thing. Professor Lupin and his wife. Harry's a newly minted godfather of their little boy, and he doesn't have a clue what to do with an infant. We lost Professor Babbling, too, and Professor Snape—we didn't know until after, but he was on our side the whole time. And also…also more students than I want to think about…" Mum wrapped her arms around her again, and Hermione collected herself and said, "but anyway, that's all over now, so we can go back…that is…if you want to go back?"
Mum and Dad looked at each other questioningly, and at both of their children. Finally, Dad replied. "Australia's never really felt right to us. You were the best thing about it, Cordelia. We really don't have any roots here. But this is a decision we need to make as a family—all four of us."
Cordelia squealed and hugged her parents. Even though she was technically a 'replacement' of sorts, at least she could be sure that she was still loved and wanted. She looked at Hermione and asked, "What's the magic school like in…in England?"
"Scotland. And Hogwarts. It's called Hogwarts," she said with a smile. "And it's probably the most beautiful place I've ever seen. It's in the Highlands, up on a mountain between a loch and a forest. It's in this massive medieval castle filled with moving staircases and talking paintings and all kinds of magic everywhere."
"Crikey! That sounds…it sounds wonderful."
"Yes, it is," Hermione said wistfully. "But…I looked into it, and there is a school of magic here in Australia, too. Out in the Outback, and I'm sure it's very nice. But Hogwarts…despite everything that's happened there, I love that place, and I'd love for you to come see it with me."
Cordelia considered this and slowly said, "Well…I do like Australia…but I only remember living in foster care here, so I don't have many roots either…Do you think we could visit both schools and check them out? I want to be sure to go to the best school."
Hermione laughed and hugged her again. "Cordelia, if I didn't know better, I'd say we were related by blood," she said. "I can make it happen. Powerful people owe me favours back home. Now, since my friends are here with me, we were wondering if you'd like to come to dinner. I told them we might prefer to just have family bonding time, but—"
"We'd be delighted," Mum said. "We haven't seen any of your friends in so long. We'll have plenty of time for bonding after."
"Great! Thank you so much. I just need to contact Harry." Hermione picked herself off the floor and pulled a gold coin from her pocket. She tapped out a message on it with her wand: I GOT THEM—COMING TO DINNER—PLEASE CALL AND ADD 1 TO RESERVATION.