Disclaimer: Time shall unfold what plighted JK Rowling hides.

A/N: For those of you who are concerned, no, this story is not replacing Animagus at War. I already had these chapters written, along with first chapters of couple of other stories, and I decided to put them all up now for various reasons. Animagus at War is still my next priority after Lady Archimedes, but I will be updating this and possibly other stories as the inspiration strikes.


Chapter 2

The newly-reunited Granger Family waited as long as they could before going on to dinner. Dan and Emma wanted the full story of what was going on in the magical world, but since that would mean going all the way back to first year, that was easier said than done. Hermione had told them about the war before she sent them away, but she had downplayed it and especially her own role in it. And meanwhile, Cordelia wanted to know everything about magic. Hermione still carried her beaded bag everywhere with her like a security blanket, so she fished out her copy of Hogwarts, A History to give her. But while her new sister was very bright, she seemed more interested in the practical side of magic, and she was especially excited when Hermione mentioned flying on broomsticks.

"You mean witches actually fly on brooms?" she said. "Is it lots of fun? Do you go everywhere that way?"

"Whoa, slow down, Cordelia," Hermione cut her off. "Honestly, I don't really care for flying. I can do it if I need to, but I'm not that good, and I prefer to stay on the ground."

"What?" Cordelia gasped. "But how could you not like it? It's flying!"

"Trust me, it's not as fun as it sounds when you're sitting on an enchanted stick moving at high speeds with no safety equipment. And the other methods of flying aren't much better."

"What other methods have you tried?" Emma asked suspiciously.

"Oh, hippogriff—that's half horse, half eagle; thestral—an invisible winged horse; and dragon."

"Dragon?!" her family said. Cordelia was excited. Her parents weren't.

"Long story. I suppose a flying carpet wouldn't be too bad, but they're embargoed in Britain thanks to the broomstick lobby. But against a broomstick, give me a muggle aeroplane any day."

"Muggle?" Cordelia asked.

"Non-magical," Hermione and Emma said in unison, then looked at each other and laughed.

Cordelia just stared. This was by far the strangest day of her life. It was like flipping a switch, how her adoptive parents were suddenly talking about magic as if it had been second-nature to them for years—which of course it had. And it was even harder to believe that she had magic powers herself despite Hermione's wand producing sparks for her. Granted, it did explain a few things.

But seriously, she thought, wizards had trade embargoes?

"Don't you need a broom to get around, though, if witches don't have planes?" she asked.

"Oh, no," Hermione said. "We have three different methods of teleportation. That's how we get around most of the time."

"Three?"

"Four if you count Dumbledore's phoenix. They all work in different situations, though. It's a bit of a patchwork system, but we've rarely had problems with it." Well, besides Ron getting splinched, and Harry being kidnapped to resurrect Voldemort, and Harry coming out the wrong Floo when he was twelve…okay, maybe I'm being optimistic.

Hermione soon wound up having to explain about Apparition, Portkeys, the Floo Network, the Knight Bus and the Hogwarts Express, and why each was needed, which meant she had to think a lot more about them than she ever had herself. Why did they have so many overlapping modes of transportation? It was true, muggles had cars, including taxis, plus busses and trains, but wizards didn't need expensive hardware to get around.

"Apparition is like driving, except you can't go anywhere you haven't been before," she reasoned. "And it's not generally intended for passengers. Ironically, the Knight Bus acts more like a taxi service, and the Floo is probably the closest to a bus network. Portkeys serve more of the role of trains, although we do use actual trains to move large numbers of people." The system still seemed pretty redundant, she thought, but at least there was some logic to it.

To get to the restaurant, however, magic wouldn't help them, so amid the many questions, Hermione told them the address and they drove over. She had chosen what looked like a high-end restaurant in the phone directory, since this was supposed to be a celebratory reunion. The place turned out to be a fusion restaurant that offered everything from barbecue to curry, which was agreeable enough to everyone, and her friends had already found a table when the Grangers arrived and waved to them.

"Hey, Hermione," Harry greeted her. "Glad to see you found them."

"Who's the kid?" Ron asked.

"Ron, Harry, Ginny, Charlie, these are my parents," she said. "I think most of you have met them. And I'd like to introduce you to Cordelia Wilkins, soon to be Cordelia Granger…my sister."

Their jaws dropped to the floor.

"No. Bloody. Way!" Ron exclaimed. "No bloody way! Seven years, and you never told us you have a little sister?"

"Well, I didn't know until tonight, Ron," she replied. "My parents adopted her here in Australia."

The group looked in surprise between the two girls, who really did look like they could be blood sisters, trying to process this revelation. "Wow," Ginny said. "So…you didn't modify their memories quite as well as you thought."

The Grangers all winced at the reminder, but Hermione said, "Apparently not, but that's not the wildest part. Cordelia's a witch. If she likes Hogwarts, she'll be joining us there for her first year in September."

"Are you kidding us?" said Charlie. "But how? The odds of that have to be…"

"Really small," she confirmed. "Insanely small. I blame karma."

"Wait, wait, wait," Ginny said. "You have a sister now? Who's going to start at Hogwarts this autumn?"

"We're going to look at the Australian school first before we decide," Emma cautioned.

"But you have to come to Hogwarts!" Ginny said excitedly. "We'll have so much fun there!"

Cordelia stayed back and looked at Hermione with a clear Who is this? look on her face. Hermione coughed for Ginny to calm down to and turned to her parents. "Mum, Dad, I think I should reintroduce you since Cordelia doesn't know anyone here." She walked around and grabbed Ron by the arm to pull him up beside her. "This is Ron Weasley…my boyfriend."

Dan's and Emma's eyes widened, and they both gave Ron a very appraising look. "When did this happen?" Emma demanded.

"The night of the battle. Just a few weeks ago. Of course, we've been friends for years. We were just both too thick to admit it until now…and I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to talk about that later. Anyway, this is Ron's older brother, Charlie." She motioned to the stockier man. "He works as a dragon handler in Romania." That made Cordelia very excited. "Cordelia, this is Ron's sister, Ginny. She's a year behind us in school. And this is Ginny's boyfriend and my friend for many years, Harry Potter, the Saviour of the Wizarding World."

"Don't. Just don't, Hermione," he said.

"Who really doesn't like to be called that," she added with a grin.

"I know you don't like it, Harry, but you're never really gonna be able to escape it," Ginny said.

"We're in Australia, Ginny," he insisted. "I can escape it in Australia."

"Um, I think we missed something here," Dan said.

Charlie laughed. "Harry's the one who finally beat You-Know-Who, Mr. Granger," he said as he rose to shake their hands.

"Sort of," Harry said.

"Basically," Hermione agreed.

"I get the feeling it's a bit more complicated than that," Emma said.

Harry nodded. "It is, Mrs. Granger. The short version is that Dumbledore only had half a plan to beat Voldemort. He was trying to put the rest of the pieces together, but he…he got this terminal disease, and he didn't have time to finish it. So he had to rely on me to do it."

"Why you? Why not…you know, anyone else?"

"There was a prophecy that Harry would do it," Hermione said. "What worries me more is how he expected Harry to actually win. Honestly, we got really lucky. When Harry duelled Voldemort, he only won because of some convoluted plan of Dumbledore's that only makes less and less sense the more I think about it."

"Well, it wasn't that bad, Hermione," Harry said. "Dumbledore had that plan for years. It just had some complications to it."

"But if Snape hadn't been incredibly lucky to get those memories to you before he died—"

"Okay!" Ron interrupted. "You lot can argue later. We're supposed to be celebrating you getting your family back, Mione, so let's eat."

"Er, right, sorry," Hermione said, blushing.

Dan and Emma smiled at their daughter. It was good to see this war of hers hadn't changed her too much. "It's good to meet all of you again," Dan said.

"You too," Ginny said. "So did everything go okay—you know, at the house?"

The Grangers exchanged some uncomfortable glances. "Better than I expected," Hermione said.

"We decided to wait until tomorrow to discuss everything," Emma told her.

"That's good. The most important thing is getting back together as a family."

"I quite agree, Ginny," Emma agreed.

They ordered their food, taking their cues from Dan, Emma, and Cordelia on what to get. Hermione was more familiar with Indian food than her friends, but it had been a long time since she'd had it with the wizarding world being so behind the times. Her parents seemed to be settling back into their old lives well enough, while Cordelia was clearly still bursting with questions. Hermione just hoped things would stay lighthearted tonight.

"So where'd the kid come from?" Ron asked.

Charlie snickered: "Well, Ron, when a mummy and a daddy love each other very much—"

Ron punched him in the arm. "Not that, you dolt."

"I was as surprised as you are, Ron," Hermione said. "I almost thought I'd found the wrong house. I'd just walked up and rang the bell, and then this little sheila answered the door."

Suddenly, Cordelia burst out laughing. Dan and Emma snickered, too.

"What's so funny?" she asked.

"Hermione," Cordelia said teasingly, "no one under thirty says 'sheila' anymore."

"You're kidding."

"Afraid not, Hermione," said Emma. "It surprised us too."

"Oh…well, anyway, I really should have known," Hermione explained. "It's obvious when you know how the brain works. You can't just erase someone who's been a part of a person's life for eighteen years without leaving a big hole. And for my parents, the way to fill that hole was to adopt a child. It's not like they were replacing me, if you're worried about that…well, they didn't know they were replacing me. And honestly, I think I'm going to like having a sister."

"Yeah? You say that now—OW!" Ron said, and Ginny smacked him in the arm.

"So what's it like at Hogwarts?" Cordelia asked.

Hermione, Harry, and all the Weasleys present exchanged uncomfortable looks. They would rather not discuss this until tomorrow, but the story was going to come out sooner or later. "Well…you have to understand, our experience wasn't exactly typical…" Hermione started. She told Cordelia the story of how Professor McGonagall had come to deliver her first Hogwarts letter, how she'd been in awe at the new world of magic and so eager to start learning it. After all these years, even her view of her lonely first two months at Hogwarts was a pretty rosy one. However, the story quickly began to take a darker tone with, "But there was a giant three-headed guard dog behind it."

Cordelia gasped. "What was it doing there?" she said.

"Yes, what was it doing there," asked Emma. "I don't remember you telling us about that."

Hermione shook her head: "Back then, I was still too scared of getting in trouble for breaking the rules to mention it. We had no idea why it was there. I was the only one who noticed it was standing on a trapdoor, so I knew there must be some reason—"

"Because only Hermione would be paying attention to its feet and not its heads," Ron cut in affectionately.

"Yes, of course, Ron. Anyway, I wanted nothing more to do with it after that—"

Ron mimicked her eleven-year-old voice: "We all could have been killed—or worse, expelled."

Everyone but Hermione laughed. "I did not sound like that," she said.

"Yes, you did," Ron, Harry, and Ginny said in unison.

"You weren't even there, Ginny," she glared at the younger girl.

"You have to admit, it is kind of funny," Dan said.

Hermione muttered something that sounded like, "Never live it down."

"So how did you become friends with them if you didn't like them?" said Cordelia.

"Yes, well, that happened the first time I nearly got killed," she said uncomfortably. "And that one was completely not my fault. I had no idea there was a mountain troll in the castle."

"Is that like the trolls that live under bridges?" asked Cordelia.

"Worse. It was twelve feet tall, built like a gorilla, carried a club, and stank like a manure pile."

"Crikey! What was that doing there?"

"Our evil teacher of the year let it in," said Ron.

"Your…wait, what?"

Harry sighed and explained, "The Defence Against the Dark Arts job was cursed by Voldemort so that no one could hold it for more than a year. Something bad would always happen to them; most of them turned out to be evil."

"But the curse is gone now that Voldemort's dead," Hermione clarified.

"You can curse a teaching post?" Dan said.

"Why would you curse a teaching post?" asked Emma.

"Because Dumbledore wouldn't give him the job when he wanted it," Harry said.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry," she muttered. "That was clearly just a pretence," she told them. "He probably did it to keep his enemies weak."

"Well, there's that," Harry said.

"Okay…so…your evil teacher let a giant monster into the castle…" Dan got them back on track.

"Giant is a relative term, but yes," Hermione said. She quickly described how she had been cornered by the troll in the bathroom (glossing over why she had been in there) and how Ron and Harry had saved her. Her parents were naturally horrified, but Cordelia, though a little scared, was mostly in awe.

"That's…quite a story," Dan said. "And I have a bad feeling it's going to get worse." He turned to Ron: "I know it's a bit belated, but thank you for saving our daughter."

Ron grinned: "Best decision I ever made, Mr. Granger."

Hermione thought Ron had a few other moments that ranked close, but she didn't press the issue. "So, I hope you aren't starting to get scared of Hogwarts now?" she asked her new sister.

"Not really," Cordelia said. "That one was just a wild animal. This is Australia. All the animals want to kill you here."

She chuckled: "Unfortunately, that's true of the magical world, too."

"Oh, it'll be just like home, then," she replied cheerfully. Dan and Emma laughed nervously.

Hermione shook her head and smiled: "Cordelia, I don't think you know what you're getting into."

Cordelia put one hand on her hip and answered, "Please, we have nine of the world's ten deadliest snakes in this country."

"Yes, but we have snakes that can kill you with their eyes."

Cordelia didn't back down: "And the world's deadliest spiders."

"Trust me, they have nothing on ours."

"Oh, yeah? Have you seen the huntsman spiders? They're the size of a dinner plate." Ron squeaked in fear, and Cordelia giggled. "Aw, your boyfriend's arachnophobic, Hermione?"

"Yes!" Ron exclaimed.

"Cordelia, be nice," Hermione said.

"C'mon, mate," Harry said. "The acromantulas were way worse."

"Ugh, now those were bad," Ginny agreed. "I only had to face them once in the battle, and I still get creeped out by them."

"Do I want to known what an acromantula is?" asked Dan.

Hermione took a deep breath. "You know those giant spiders in The Hobbit? Basically that. They can grow bigger than a car."

"Crikey!" Cordelia squeaked. "Well…well…we have the saltwater crocodile."

"Do you remember the part where I rode a fire-breathing dragon?" she asked.

Cordelia opened her mouth, closed it, then crossed her arms: "Okay, you win."

Dan and Emma laughed. "Well, it looks like we know how to pick them," Emma said. "Cordelia's just as competitive as Hermione always was."

"You can say that again," Dan agreed. "So what happened after the—the troll thing? I remember you giving us an overview of your first year, but I think you downplayed most of what really happened."

"Well, to be fair, that was the most danger I was personally in that year," Hermione said.

Harry and Ron stared at her, their mouths gaping.

"It's true," she insisted. "For all the trouble we got in that year, that was the only time I actually got to the point of staring death in the face. Harry, you were the one nearly getting killed all the time. Remember? The very next week, Quirrell tried to throw you off your broom at the…Actually, why don't all you sports fiends explain to Cordelia about Quidditch?" she said with a grin.

The Weasleys all grinned back and launched into spirited rhapsodising about the wonders of Quidditch, complete with a hodge-podge explanation of the actual rules, long commentaries on why the Chudley Cannons sucked and why the Holyhead Harpies were the best, and betting on who would win in a Seeker duel between Harry and Charlie.

And unfortunately for Hermione, Cordelia's respond when they were finally done was, "Wow! Quidditch is awesome!"

Hermione's head dropped to the table with a thud. "I'm surrounded!" she cried.

"Hey, you're dating into this family," Ginny said. "This is what you get."

"Is it too late to dump Ron for Justin Finch-Fletchley?" she groaned.

"Yep, you're stuck with me," Ron said. He started to put his arm around her, but quickly backed off at a glare from Dan.

"So anyway," Hermione continued. "At the first Quidditch match, Quirrell tried to curse Harry off his broom."

"Yeah, except you thought it was Snape and set him on fire," Ron jumped in.

"Ron!"

"You set a teacher on fire?" Emma gasped.

"Just his robe. He wasn't hurt. And he really did look like he was cursing Harry."

"I'm sure," she replied dryly. "And why was this Quirrell trying to kill you, Harry?"

"Well, he was possessed by Voldemort—long story," Harry said.

It took some time, but they eventually explained everything that happened during Hermione's first year at Hogwarts—including the fun things, too, for Cordelia's sake. The younger girl was dealing with all of this remarkably well, Hermione thought, although the near-death experiences and Quirrell's two-faced appearance as Volemort's puppet still freaked her out. Dan and Emma were likewise very unhappy, although they were pleased with Hermione's conviction to support her friends and her quick thinking, and particularly, she was sure, the fact that she stayed out of the actual fight.

"Wow, that's quite a story," Dan said when they were done.

"Yeah, and that was only first year," Harry said.

"My God," Emma said. "If we'd known what the magical world was like when that Professor McGonagall showed up at our door—"

Hermione winced at the implication. If she'd never joined the magical world she couldn't help but think her life would be a lot poorer for it. To her surprise, though, Charlie was the one who spoke up in her defence. "Don't be too hard on her, Mr. and Mrs. Granger," he said. "It really was better that she went to Hogwarts. Even leaving aside the fact that the Ministry wouldn't allow a magical child to go uneducated, Hermione learnt to defend herself there, despite the lousy teaching. Without that, she would have been a sitting duck when the Death Eaters came to call—and they would. If she'd stayed at home—or maybe even if she'd gone to Beauxbatons if she wasn't paying attention—the Death Eaters would have found her name in the Book when they took over the school, and they would have come to kill all of you."

Dan and Emma looked at each other nervously, and then at Hermione and Cordelia. Cordelia really was looking scared now. "Sorry," Dan said. "This is just a lot to take in. Before…er, the last we knew about it, I mean, we barely even knew there was fighting going on. We never imagined it was this bad."

Hermione squeezed Cordelia's hand. "Hey, are you doing okay there?" she asked.

"Uh, yeah," she said softly. "It's just worse than I expected. But it's over now, right?"

"Yes. A few bad guys still running around, but they know they can't do anything. It's safe enough that they're rebuilding, and we were good to travel openly."

"That's good then."

"We're definitely glad it's over," Dan agreed. "So…you said you nearly died four times at school, Hermione," he reminded her. "Do we want to know how many brushes with death you had in this war out of school?"

"Probably not," she answered.

There was silence for a minute. "Will you tell us anyway?" he asked.

Hermione sighed and began counting on her fingers. Her parents were worried as she filled out her first hand and appalled when she continued on her other one. She paused on her last finger and said, "Ten…? I'm going with ten."

"So! Who wants to hear about dragon wrangling?" Charlie jumped in.


Charlie had definitely saved the dinner. Further discussing Hermione's time at Hogwarts had clearly become too heavy a topic for their celebration. By the end of the night, the Grangers were pretty well immersed in the wonder of the magical world thanks to his tales. Reluctantly, they split up, then, Hermione returning to the hotel, since her luggage was there. Her parents did have a guest room, but she kind of wanted to ease back into it, and she didn't think she could handle any more questions that night.

The next morning, Hermione returned to the "Wilkinses'" house early. This was when she really needed to fess up. The four of them sat around the living room to hear Hermione tell the story of her next five years at Hogwarts and her past year on the run. Dan and Emma were a little uncomfortable letting Cordelia stick around to listen, but Hermione insisted.

"She's old enough to handle it," she said firmly. "Besides, when we get back, it'll still probably be all anyone is talking about."

Thus, Hermione began to tell her story: Dobby's warning to Harry (this led to her attempting to give a balanced explanation about what house elves were), him and Ron flying a car to school, Lockhart, the voices, the attacks, the Duelling Club, eventually figuring out the basilisk and being petrified herself, and Harry and Ron seeking out the acromantulas and finally defeating the basilisk down in the Chamber of Secrets. She glossed over some things, like Lockhart's use of Memory Charms and just how bad getting petrified was, and she left out her illegal brewing of Polyjuice Potion entirely.

Then, there was Sirius Black, the dementors, learning about Harry's past, and the debacle that was the night in the Shrieking Shack. She had to fudge that story even more because she'd never told her parents about the Time Turner (a decision she'd debated every time she saw them for three years afterwards).

Fourth year started with the Quidditch World Cup and the Death Eater attack, which was one of the few things her parents did know about, although she had downplayed it at the time. She told them about the Triwizard Tournament, Harry's selection, the dragon, and the Yule Ball. She was surprised, though perhaps she shouldn't have been, when her being put in the Lake for the second task made her parents furious above everything else. They were talking about suing and considering criminal charges before she calmed them down enough to continue her story. She did note that three of the five organisers of the Tournament were dead, and a fourth had resigned in disgrace, which partially placated them.

The third task, of course, led to Voldemort's return, which then led into the part that made Hermione herself the most furious, which was pretty much her entire fifth year: from the dementor attack on Harry to his hearing to every single thing Umbridge did, along with Dumbledore's Army, the attack on Mr. Weasley, and eventually the raid on the Department of Mysteries, Sirius's death, and the curse injury that she had passed off to them as a magical illness at the time. Her parents were pretty angry at her for actively charging into danger like that, but they could at least admit they were proud of her for protecting her friends.

Sixth year was relatively quiet inside Hogwarts until the Death Eater attack, but after Dumbledore's death…well, suffice it to say, it took a lot of effort and tears to get through the story of the rest of the war. When she was finally done, and her parents and sister were coherent enough to continue the conversation, she braced herself for the grilling she knew she was going to receive from the start.

"Alright, Hermione," Dan said. "We've heard your story. Now, the most important question we have for you is, why didn't you tell us any of this?"

Hermione took a deep breath and told them the answer she had prepared: "When the troll happened, I thought it was just an isolated incident. Maybe I should've told you about it, but I was afraid you'd overreact and try to pull me out of school just when I'd finally made some friends. I know it was silly now, but I was only twelve, and anyway, I had no reason to think it would happen again.

"When Harry's broom was cursed in the first Quidditch match a week later, I thought it was just a specific teacher with a specific grudge against him. I didn't think they were related." Well, that was a bit of a stretch, but she certainly didn't think Snape would come after her. "Until I learnt the truth at the end of the year, I had no idea I'd made an enemy of a powerful dark wizard.

"Second year, with the basilisk, I was bloody scared—excuse me. I don't think I ever let on how scared I was, but I was still a foolhardy thirteen-year-old Gryffindor, and I thought I could solve the mystery on my own, and then I wouldn't have to worry about it. And actually, I kind of did, but by then, it was too late. But still, Harry killed the basilisk, so I thought the danger had passed.

"I did tell you what was going on in third year—with the dementors and Sirius and all—except for the very end. We all thought the Ministry security would be enough, and even after it wasn't, I thought the danger had passed again. So I…so I didn't tell you because I was still scared you'd overreact and pull me out of school."

"Do you really think it would've been overreacting at that point?" Dad said, and Cordelia agreed with a snort.

"Well, not now, in hindsight, but considering I thought the danger was over then…"

"Okay, I can admit I can see the logic on those things, Hermione," Mum said, "but what about after that?"

Hermione shivered a little: "Everything that happened after that was because of Voldemort and the war. I decided from the start that I was going to stand by my friends and fight with them, because they didn't have the choice to walk away, even if I did. Everything I did after that—" She blinked back tears. "It hurt me so much to do it—but everything I did after that I thought was the best thing I could do at the time. I know I wasn't even sixteen. I'm sure your horrified that I'd enlist myself in a war at all, let alone so young. But I had to do what I thought was right and not what was easy." She remembered the old, Goody Two-Shoes Hermione lying to a teacher all of two months into first year to protect the boys who had saved her. "In a way, I think I always have. And I know I didn't always get it right, but I tried. Every single time."

"And wiping our memories?" Dad asked sternly.

"Dad, Mum, that was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," she said, trying haltingly tried to get through her explanation. "I knew it was a terrible thing to do, but I couldn't think of any other way to keep you safe while still giving Harry the help he needed. It was too dangerous for all three of us to stay in Britain. It was far too late to do anything about that. It was probably too late the day Professor McGonagal showed up at our house. The thing is, I had magic and you didn't. You couldn't have protected yourselves. Trust me on that. With Dumbledore gone, there was no safe place to hide you, and I couldn't be around all the time to protect you. I was terrified I would lose you. I was terrified all through my sixth year, more than I ever told anyone. I had classmates whose parents were murdered in sixth year while they were at school, and they did have magic.

"And I know you're going to say I should have gone with you, but I told you, I had to stay for Harry and Ron. And actually, it was a lot bigger than just them, although they would have been enough. Dumbledore had a plan to defeat Voldemort, and that plan needed me personally. And yes, it was a pretty bad plan if it relied on three teenagers, but there was a prophecy involved, and we were all trapped by it. They needed me. If I'd left, it would have been abandoning the whole country to Wizard-Hitler—an immortal Wizard-Hitler with no prospects for being taken down by other countries and no assurances that he wouldn't take over the rest of the world sooner or later.

"Mum, Dad, you didn't know half of this stuff then. You've had some distance now, in a strange way. Can you honestly tell me, if I'd sprung this on you a year ago when the war was still going on, that you would have willingly left the country if I'd stayed behind?"

She looked up to see her parents faces, and as much as they might not want to admit it, it was clear their answer was no. "Look, I feel terrible about what I did," she said. "It still makes me sick to think about it, but looking back, I can't say that I would have done it any differently…Please, can you forgive me?"

Without hesitating, Mum stood up, came over and hugged her. "Hermione, of course we forgive you," she said. "Did you know Charlie talked to us in private last night after you went back to the hotel?" Hermione shook her head, although she wasn't surprised, and she was definitely grateful. "He explained some things to us," Mum continued, "and after that, your father and I had a long talk, and, while we disagree strongly with what you did, we understand why you did it. We're just happy to have you back, now…Just never, ever do that again."

"I won't, Mum. I promise," she said.

"Good. You know, as…as messed-up as this was, at the end of the day, from what Charlie told us, if you hadn't done it, we wouldn't be here today, one way or another. And we certainly wouldn't have Cordelia in our lives. So we truly do thank you for that."

Hermione smiled a little and snuggled closer into Mum's shoulder. They sat there for a while as she cried it out. When she finally felt that her family drama was resolved, she was able to turn her thoughts to the future.

"So Cordelia," she said, "after all of that, I'll understand if you don't want to go to Hogwarts…"

But Cordelia smiled. "It's fine. I'm not worried," she said. "You said it was over, didn't you? I trust you."

Hermione grinned: "Oh? Realising what a brilliant big sister you have already?"

"Brilliant? I don't know about that." the younger girl said teasingly.

"Oh? Why not?"

"Well, for one, Charlie's much better-looking than Ron."

"Cordelia!"