xxx Five years after walking out on Draco, Hermione shows up at Hogwarts as the new Ancient Runes Professor. Draco can't forgive her for leaving without an explanation, but all isn't as it seems. Hermione is harbouring a whole slew of secrets that Draco knows nothing about. This is a story about the consequences of meddling parents and friends. But where meddling once destroyed their perfect love, it might be the very thing that brings them together this time. xxx
A/N: Hello everyone.
This story has been coming along for almost ten months now, just hanging around on my laptop and begging for attention. I started writing it before my Theomione stories even came to mind.
Beware that some parts of Hermione and Draco's story are a little toxic. They've both been through a lot, and I'm afraid that there may be moments when you will hate one or both characters. There WILL be explicit sexual content and language, the former of which will appear later. There will be flashbacks in all chapters (at least up until chapter 20) and chapters will alternate between HPOV and DPOV.
The first chapter is more of an introduction before we get to the real stuff. I will try and post the second chapter within the next day so that you can get an idea of the story from both characters.
Please note the trigger warnings/tags and just keep in mind that I didn't use a beta. I will not be posting warnings throughout the story, so if any of the triggers mentioned here are a no-no for you, please steer clear of this fic.
Enemies to lovers, Hogwarts eighth year, Post-Hogwarts, Flashbacks, Depression, Player Draco Malfoy, Big dick Draco Malfoy, Explicit sexual content, First-time blowjobs, Loss of virginity, Cunnilingus, Shoe kink, Sneaking around, Disapproving family, Drinking to cope, Drug use, Mentions of miscarriage, Public sex, Professor Draco Malfoy, Professor Hermione Granger, Auror Harry Potter, Unhealthy coping mechanisms, Character development, Trust issues, Made for each other, Quidditch championships, Mahoutokoro, Ilvermorny, Beauxbatons, Castelobruxo, Denial of feelings, Late night dates, Meddling parents, PTSD, Unplanned pregnancy, Explicit language, Implied/referenced rape/non-con.
Disclaimer: Please note that JK Rowling owns Harry Potter.
I will be adding songs to every chapter - ones that inspired me and resonated with parts of the story. The songs more often than not have to do with the words for me, though some just give off a vibe that sets the mood for the chapter.
For this chapter you can listen to the following if you like:
The All-American Rejects - It ends tonight
Rob Thomas - Her diamonds
The Script - Break even
Rihanna - What now
'It is the briefest yet wisest maxim which tells us to meddle not'
-Charles Caleb Colton-
"I need this, Harry," Hermione insisted, trying to make him understand without revealing too much of the reasoning behind her intentions. "I need to go. For me."
If Harry knew the truth, he would blame himself. He'd think he was a bad friend for not noticing how much she'd struggled over the last five years. That was the last thing she wanted since she'd purposefully kept him at arm's length when it came to Malfoy and what happened five years ago.
She'd given Harry the bare bones of it all, but there was so much she hadn't told him. Or even Ginny and Ron.
"Look, I know it's your choice. You know I'll always support you. But you've been doing so much better lately. And I know there's something you're not telling me. Something that really fucked you up."
"Harry..." She sighed, feeling so guilty for keeping secrets from him. They've always shared everything with each other in the past. She shouldn't have been surprised that he'd noticed how much she'd been struggling to fight her way back from the dark hole she'd been in for more than four years before she'd started seeing a therapist. She should have known the ever-astute Harry Potter would see right through the front she'd kept up.
"I'm relieved to have you back, Mione. I'm grateful to see you smile again, but I'm scared that going back to Hogwarts and seeing him will make you regress. And I don't want that for you. None of us does. We don't want to lose you again."
"This is important, Harry. It's not about Malfoy. It's not even about confronting him or my past. It's about finding home again. Finding peace. But maybe it is time I faced him. Perhaps I need to see him to know I'm stronger and that I can move on. I'm doing this for me."
His eyes flicked between hers, trying to figure out what she wasn't telling him. "What happened between Malfoy and you that broke you like this?"
She looked down at her hands and stroked a finger over the small snake tattoo on the outside of her hand, just below her thumb, "I'm not ready to tell you everything," she shook her head and looked up at him, praying he'd leave things be for now. "As much as you deserve to know, I can't talk about it yet. But I promise I'll tell you when the time is right."
"Fair enough," he nodded and shrugged a loose shoulder, trying to appear casual about it. But she could see what she was doing to him. He'd never been anything but honest with her and he deserved the truth.
But not about this.
Not yet, at least.
As pathetic as it was, Hermione couldn't stop shaking. Her heart was beating a hundred miles an hour in her chest, blood roaring deafeningly in her ears and her hands were trembling. Her legs felt as if they weighed a ton each, her palms were clammy, and for a moment she wasn't sure why she'd thought Hogwarts could heal her.
The school looked just as it had before the war. No sign that it had been subjected to battle and death. But she swore she could still smell the blood, the thick dust of crumbling walls and the smoke in the air. And she knew what she'd be facing when she walked in there.
Malfoy would hate her for coming here. For appearing in his life suddenly after five years of radio silence. And even if it was none of his business, even if it had nothing to do with the two of them and their past, she needed to be here. She had to try.
So, with all the adrenaline pumping through her system and her heart beating out a rapid rhythm of her two choices—fight or flight—she wiped her hands on her robes and took a hesitant step forward. She chose to fight, even though her muscles screamed for her to run.
Hermione took the path up to the school with more determination than she actually possessed at the moment, jaw clenched and eyes on her target, luggage floating behind her.
She could do this.
She was strong.
She would fight for herself.
This was home.
Hagrid met her at the large oak front doors as he was coming in for the staff meeting. "Hermione?" His greying bushy features twitched before a massive smile broke out on his face and his eyes crinkled at the corners. "What are yeh doin' 'ere?"
Before she had the chance to respond, he scooped her up in his giant arms and squeezed the breath out of her. Her legs flailed and her hands pushed against his shoulders, trying to get air into her lungs.
"Rubeus Hagrid!" McGonagall's shrill voice came to her rescue, "Put Miss Granger down right now before you suffocate her."
Hermione dropped to her feet when Hagrid released her, and he smiled sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Sorry, Hermione. I just didn' expect ter see yeh, tha's all."
She patted her hair and ran her hands over her robes, trying to iron out the wrinkles, but returned Hagrid's beaming smile. "It's okay. It's really good to see you."
"Yeh still haven' told me what yer doin' 'ere," he prompted.
"There's no time to explain now," McGonagall snapped impatiently and grabbed Hermione by the elbow. "Everyone's waiting for the meeting to start."
And so the Headmistress marched Hermione into the Great Hall as if she were an errant child, followed closely by Hagrid.
The trembling was suddenly back, and her stomach churned with nervousness. Her heart resumed its earlier rapid, adrenaline-fueled pounding behind her ribs while she took large strides across the Great Hall to keep up with the Headmistress.
She was pushed into a chair by McGonagall as they reached the staff table and lifted her head to find twelve pairs of eyes looking at her with curiosity, surprise and excitement.
All but Draco Malfoy...
And then her heart stopped when his grey eyes finally flicked up to look at her. When realization dawned, his casual disinterest faltered, slipped from his face to drop at his feet and he recoiled as if he'd been slapped.
Their gazes remained locked in a challenge for four beats of her heart while he flayed her with lethal grey eyes to expose raw nerve and bone, leaving her bleeding out before him. She struggled for breath, lungs burning for air while time slowed. She could hear nothing but the deafening beat of her heart in her ears. Could he hear it too, from where he sat? Could he see her shaking? Could he smell her fear? See the regret in her eyes?
And then the Headmistress cleared her throat and spoke, severing the tension between them.
Malfoy tore his eyes from hers to look at McGonagall, his jaw tight and his fingers curled into fists. But he didn't say a word.
And suddenly, she felt like she could breathe again.
Hermione tried to listen to McGonagall's introduction of her to the staff, most of them former students from her year in school, or a few below. Only a few professors from her schooldays had remained on staff. She kept her eyes trained studiously on McGonagall, trying to smile and appear composed while her heart thundered in her chest, but it was painful and awkward. She could see Malfoy glaring at her from her periphery. Could feel his eyes burn against her skin, but she did her best to ignore him.
She'd known he'd be livid when she showed up here, but he was a big boy. He would have to deal with her presence around the castle from now on because she was here to stay.
She nodded, smiled, and laughed during dinner with as much enthusiasm as she could muster when all she wanted was to crawl into her bed and cover her head. She felt exhausted when the last burst of adrenaline finally trickled from her system but she studiously forced herself to join in the conversations around her.
But every time she looked up, Malfoy was glaring murderously at her, leaning back in his chair with feigned casualness, a glass of firewhisky dangling from between two of his fingers. And, oh god, even while shooting her those looks, he was still so fucking handsome that it hurt, shirtsleeves rolled up and the top button of his shirt undone.
Her eyes trailed over those large hands, noting no wedding band, and then up to his strong forearms with the Dark Mark on the inside of his left arm and another peeking out from under the rolled-up sleeve on the right. She swallowed awkwardly and looked away, stomach clenching. Perhaps coming back was a bad idea after all...
"Are you sure you're fine with me staying here with you, Harry?" Hermione asked as they hauled their hefty trunks through the entrance hall of Grimmauld Place and toward the living room.
"Of course I'm sure," Harry assured her with a brisk nod and pushed his glasses up from where they had slipped down his nose, smiling at her. "This place is too big anyway. I don't know what I'd do without anyone to keep me company."
"There's Ron..." she suggested, and with a wink, she added, "Or Kreacher, if Ron's busy at the joke shop."
"Right," Harry nodded but grimaced. "Ron's still a bit weird after...you know...everything."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You know how Ron is. Traditional and a little narrow-minded sometimes. He'll come around eventually. I think he's just trying to wrap his head around all of it."
Harry flashed her a smile and nodded his agreement, but she could see the hurt and disappointment in his eyes. He and Ron had been inseparable since their first day on the Hogwarts express, and of all the people Harry had expected to back off and get weird after his confession, Ron had not been one of them. She could see he was having a hard time without Ron's support.
She still remembered when Harry had sat them down after the war and told them he and Ginny weren't getting back together. That he'd started noticing his attraction to men for the first time after Dumbledore's death. That he wasn't only into men, but that he found them more appealing and arousing than he did women. He'd told them about the brief fling he'd had with Theodore Nott a week after Dumbledore's funeral; shortly after his breakup with Ginny.
Ron had insisted that Harry was just confused after everything that had happened to him. Especially after experiencing so much grief in such a short period of time. The ensuing row between her two best friends had not been pretty, and when they came back to the Burrow for the summer after the end of the war, Ron had thrown himself into work.
Instead of becoming an Auror as he'd initially planned, he'd decided to help George with the joke shop.
Molly, bless her, had tried her best to shower everyone with love and attention in order to avoid dealing with her grief. She'd cooked and cleaned like a woman on a mission, keeping up the charade that she was coping. But as soon as everyone turned in for the night and the house was quiet, Hermione and Harry would hear the muffled sounds of Molly crying alone in the kitchen while they'd parked themselves outside in the garden with a bottle of firewhisky for company. Ron never joined them.
Harry and she had lasted two weeks at the Burrow before it had become too much. They'd stayed for Fred's funeral and watched the family try to deal with their loss in different ways, but the atmosphere at the Burrow had been suffocating.
And while Ron and she had tried to have a go at things, they hadn't clicked at all. It took them the week at Hogwarts after the battle, and the two weeks at the Burrow to realise that their attraction had been born from adrenaline and the uncertainty of their survival. And it had been clear that they wanted different things for their future.
Like she'd told Harry: Ron was traditional. He didn't want her to work, which he'd made clear when she'd mentioned going back to Hogwarts for her eighth year to complete her N.E.W.T.s. If she wanted to become a curse breaker, N.E.W.T.s were a requirement. Ron hadn't understood, nor had he approved of her choice to pursue a career. As far as he was concerned, wives were to stay at home with the children and take care of the house.
The mere idea was suffocating. She wanted more than he had envisioned for their life together.
At the end of their two-week stay at the Burrow, both feeling like outsiders intruding on a grieving family and as if they no longer had a place or a purpose with the Weasleys, Harry and she had decided to leave. He to Grimmauld place and she to her parents' house.
But what she'd found when she'd popped up in front of her childhood home had nearly broken her. If Harry hadn't insisted on coming along to make sure she got home safely, she would have lost her mind. The place where she'd grown up, a house chock-full of beautiful memories, had been razed to the ground, leaving nothing but a graveyard of ashes in its wake.
That was how she'd found herself moving in with Harry for the summer before school started. He would start his Auror training in January, and he intended to pull Grimmauld Place together before then so it could resemble a home again, instead of a safe house and constant reminder of what he'd lost because of the war.
"What do you say we go unpack and then whip up a nice dinner? I'm starving," Harry proposed, flashing her a crooked smile.
"Sounds good. I'll meet you down in the kitchen in an hour?"
It turned out Kreacher wasn't happy to find them cooking for themselves. The poor thing had been starved for company, grumbling his displeasure at being deemed unnecessary while he scowled at their dinner preparations.
Trying to keep the peace, Hermione had suggested Kreacher make the pudding, and he'd jumped at the offer, eager to finally have something to do again after so long on his own in this big house.
While Harry brazed the onions and beef for the stew they'd decided on, Hermione set the knife to chop the vegetables and filled a pot with water and rice.
Kreacher kept to his corner, fiddling with measuring cups and mixing bowls, the pudding a surprise.
Soon, the kitchen was filled with the most mouthwatering smells of the stew simmering on the stove and a treacle tart baking in the oven.
She was grateful that Harry could cook so well, despite the terrible circumstances surrounding his life with the Dursleys, and how it had forced him to fend for himself.
After dinner, Kreacher banished them from the kitchen to clean up, obstinately refusing any help. And instead of arguing, Harry grabbed a bottle of firewhisky from the kitchen and they headed up to the roof to enjoy the cool air outside.
"So, tell me about Nott," Hermione asked and accepted the bottle from Harry, taking a mouthful. She gasped as the alcohol burned its way to her stomach and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
Harry produced a joint from his trousers pocket and held it up to her in a silent question, brow raised.
"Oh, why not?" She shrugged a casual shoulder and watched him light it, pulling in a long drag before passing it to her.
He exhaled slowly and they watched the smoke as it drifted away and faded into the dark before he spoke. "What do you want to know?" He ruffled his black hair and looked up at her, smirking.
She dragged in a lungful of the cloying smoke, forced herself not to cough as she held her breath for a few beats, and then exhaled. "What's he like? How was the sex? Is he only interested in men, or does he have the same preferences as you?"
"To be honest," Harry said and plucked the joint from between her fingers, watching the smoke swirl from the burning tip, "We didn't do much talking," he took a hard drag, the tip of the joint casting an orange glow over his face. "I can't explain how it happened," he continued, smoke billowing from over his lips as he spoke. "On that night in question, I couldn't fall asleep, and so I'd decided to take a walk around the school grounds. Found him sitting against a tree near the lake with a cigarette and a bottle of Ogden's." He pointedly lifted the bottle and brought it to his lips to take a drink. "The conversation had been light. Trivial. We shared the whisky and a couple of cigarettes and flirted a little. It was effortless. And when he kissed me it felt so fucking good. So right. We ended up shagging right there, and moved things to his room when neither of us was ready to end our night." He passed her the joint, considering his words for a moment. "We hooked up a few more times after that, and when we got on the train at the end of our sixth year, neither of us had made plans to continue what we'd started."
"Would you want to do it again? Have a go at a relationship with him?" she asked, watching him carefully.
Harry scrunched his nose and pushed his glasses higher up onto the bridge. "Maybe," he shrugged indifferently. "I'm just not sure I'm looking for something serious at the moment. I've got a lot of issues I'm trying to work through, and it probably isn't fair to drag Theo into all of my shit."
"I get it, Harry," she nodded solemnly and took another hit, releasing the smoke on the heels of a sigh. "We're all struggling to figure out our next moves. Everyone is still getting used to the monotony of a life without a megalomaniacal sociopath waiting for us around every turn. And the resulting nightmares are terrible. I don't know about you, but I can't fucking sleep at night without waking up to Voldemort's laugh, or the smell of Bellatrix's breath on my face. And I feel lost and exhausted. Relationships aren't really at the top of my list right now, either."
"Exactly," he agreed. "How am I supposed to have someone sleep next to me while I wake up screaming almost every night? When I'm ready to curse anything in sight when I wake up at the slightest creak of the floors or the rustle of the curtains. I can't switch off, even when I know there's no one out there to get me anymore. When I wake up from a nightmare I'm usually not in the right state of mind to realize whoever's there isn't a threat. It's not healthy to be like this. And it's not fair to put anyone through that. Relationships should be effortless, not tainted by the horrors of war."
"Everyone's tainted now, Harry. No one came out unscathed after the battle."
"I know. But I'm struggling. And I'm not ready to commit yet. Casual sex is the best option for me right now."
A few days after her arrival at Grimmauld Place, Hermione was perched on a chair at the kitchen table, peeling off the wax seal on an envelope from the Ministry of Magic.
"Oh, look," she sniffed with disdain, "The Death Eater trials are starting tomorrow." She rolled her eyes and bunched up the parchment in her hand, tossing it into the dustbin in the corner of the kitchen. She looked up at Harry who was sitting at the opposite side of the table, sorting through his own pile of mail stacked in front of him.
"Hmm," he acknowledged distractedly, breaking open the red wax seal to a letter with the Ministry of Magic emblem on the front, identical to the one she'd just thrown away.
"They want me to testify in Malfoy's trial," she scoffed, watching Harry scan the letter in his hand.
"Same." He lifted the letter pointedly and placed it to the side to continue with the rest of his mail.
"They're fucking insane if they think I'm going to testify on his behalf," she lifted her coffee mug to her lips for a mouthful. "The little shit can clean up his own mess."
Harry's vivid green eyes flicked up to meet hers, a brow lifting in surprise. "Aren't you being a little harsh? After all, Malfoy did refuse to identify us that night at the manor," he pointed out. "And he hesitated when he had to pick a side on the day of the final battle."
"So, you're just willing to ignore the fact that he was an arsehole to us all through school?" She bristled. "That he treated us like shit?"
"I'm not ignoring anything, Mione," Harry said calmly, watching her intently. "But the fact is he did try in the end. His circumstances got in the way. If he'd chosen our side, Voldemort would have killed him and his parents without batting an eye. It couldn't have been an easy decision for him. That's all I'm trying to say."
"You're too forgiving, Harry," she softened. "He doesn't deserve it. Especially not from you."
"Look," he sighed and dragged a hand through his messy hair, "I'm not trying to excuse his actions, but we have no idea what he went through. How it must have felt having that monster living in his house. And if we don't try to forgive him and all the others who gave us a hard time, how will we ever banish the prejudices we've been fighting against?"
Harry's words stuck with her throughout the day. It rattled around inside her head and made her feel guilty for her earlier comments. And at just past one in the morning, she slipped out of bed, headed down the stairs, padding softly over to the kitchen to retrieve the crumpled-up parchment from the bin.
She ironed out the crinkles with a stroke of her wand and grabbed a quill to tick the box at the bottom of the letter, stating that she would be testifying on Draco Malfoy's behalf.
The notion felt ridiculous—something she'd never imagined she'd find herself doing, but maybe Harry was right. She'd never considered Malfoy's side of the story. Never spared a minute to think about what he'd had to deal with. It was so much easier to take things at face value where her enemies were concerned. Especially when she and her friends had been fighting for their survival. Ignorance had been the easiest way to deal with the people who'd been out for her blood.
With a tip of her head to the ceiling to beg the gods for guidance, she sighed her resignation loudly. "This had better not be a fucking mistake," she whispered to herself. And then she sent the letter off with Harry's new owl before heading back to bed, her dreams filled with terrified grey eyes and disjointed flashes of blond hair.
"How was it?" Harry asked when Hermione slipped out of the courtrooms after she'd given her testimony. He hooked his arm through hers so they could make their way to the row of fireplaces at the end of the passage, both ready to call it a day.
"Fine, I guess," she shrugged dismissively. "Malfoy didn't even spare me a glance or a tip of the chin. Just pretended I wasn't there—the ungrateful ferret. But it's done now. I never have to see his haughty face again."
"Did you honestly expect more from him?" Harry cocked his head to assess her, an amused grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Well, yes," she said defensively, gaping in surprise at him for a moment. "After you defended him last night, I thought that perhaps you'd seen some redeeming qualities in him. But apparently, he's still the same prick as always."
"Maybe his pride took a hit when he got locked in Azkaban?" Harry proposed. "Maybe he felt vulnerable, and indifference was his way of protecting himself?"
Hermione laughed darkly, "I don't think Draco Malfoy could even spell the word vulnerable, much less feel it."
"Okay, grumpy," he shook his head, exasperated. "Let's get you fed before you decide to go back in there and hex the poor sod."
Hermione perked up at the mention of food. She hadn't been able to eat this morning, too worked up about the impending trial and her testimony. But now she was starving, appetite rearing its head. "Can we go to that Indian place on Maddox Street in Muggle London?" she asked hopefully. "I'm in the mood for something spicy and aromatic."
"Sure," he agreed indulgently, his smirk hitching up at the corner of his mouth while he ushered her into the fireplace, arm still hooked through hers. He dropped a handful of floo powder at their feet and called out their destination.
"Sorry for being a prat," Ron apologized sheepishly one evening, about a week after the trials as he entered the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. He summoned a plate for himself, took a seat at the table and proceeded to help himself to some of the Beef Wellington Kreacher had prepared for dinner.
Hermione shared a knowing look with Harry while Ron focused his attention on his plate, shovelling food into his mouth as if he hadn't been fed in a month. She cocked her head to the side with a grin on her lips, a silent question hanging between them.
Harry's eyes twinkled with humour and he shrugged his shoulders in acceptance.
And just like that, all was forgiven.
"I'm leaving in a few days, Hermione announced after dinner, sipping her wine and watching Harry and Ron from her spot at the kitchen table.
Ron stilled from where he'd been rubbing his full belly, and looked up at her, mouth popping open in surprise.
Harry removed his glasses and proceeded to clean the lenses with the inside of his shirt while he pondered her words silently. He placed the glasses back on his nose and looked at her, his expression even. "Where are you going?"
"Perth," she stated, biting her cheek while she considered how to explain her bone-deep yearning to get her parents back.
"Oh!" Harry's eyes widened with understanding. "Wow, that's great. Have you finally tracked them down?"
She nodded, "Yeah. I hired an investigator to find them for me. And I've already arranged for a portkey with the Ministry."
"How long will you be gone for?" Ron asked, a frown puckering his brows.
He didn't seem to understand her desire to find her parents the way Harry did.
"I don't know. It all depends on how it goes. There's a specialist in the city that I've spoken with. He wasn't very optimistic that we'd be able to restore their memories. He thinks the memory modifying charm I used on my parents is much harder to reverse than if I'd simply obliviated them."
"But it's not an impossibility, is it?" Ron looked appropriately concerned now.
"No, but an obliviate is easier to reverse since it doesn't remove memories from a person's brain. Just obscures them."
"And the memory modification charm?" Harry asked.
"That's more difficult to reverse if too much time passes. The altered memories solidify over time, and the specialist is concerned that we left it too long. It's been a year already. But we're going to give it a shot. I'm going to use the money from my Order of Merlin to cover the costs of travel and the consultation fees with the specialist. He's going to assist with the process."
"I'll go with you," Harry declared with determination.
"No, Harry," she shook her head sadly. "I need to do this alone. Take some time away from everything to get my shit together. And you have plans to renovate this house. Once you start Auror training, you won't have much time for anything else."
"I don't give a fuck about this house. If you need me there, I'll come. I swear I don't mind. I just want to support you in this. Especially if there's a chance that your parents' memories can't be recovered."
"I'll be fine," she reassured him, "I promise."
Perth wasn't as large a city as London, but Hermione still felt alone and intimidated when she arrived. She should have accepted Harry's offer to come along.
As beautiful as the city was with its blue waters and gorgeous architecture, she was scared senseless about what she would find when she saw her parents again.
She spent her first night in a hotel, drowning her sorrows with tequila, but by morning, she'd downed a pepper-up and pulled herself together, determined to get her parents back.
She took a taxi to Cathedral Square, where her parents' dental practice was located on the sixth floor of a big, shiny building. She'd called in the previous day to schedule a routine check-up and a cleaning in the hopes of getting a few minutes with her parents alone. To see if they recognized her at all.
Her heart pounded against her ribs when she finally got off on the sixth floor and followed the arrows to office number 611, and then stopped completely when she found it.
Her breath huffed out in a gust like she'd been punched in the stomach when she spotted her mother through the glass doors, walking a patient to the reception desk and proceeding to explain something to the receptionist. Her heart stopped when her mother turned around to find Hermione standing like a statue in front of the doors. Her own eyes stared back at her from her mother's face, kind and warm. Pure honey. But there was no recognition at all.
Jean Granger, or rather Monica Wilkins, blinked twice as she looked on, before nodding politely and turning away to head back to her office.
When Hermione's vision turned black at the edges and her lungs started to burn in protest, she doubled over, bracing her hands on her thighs to suck in lungful after lungful of air while she tried her best not to succumb to a panic attack. She was toeing the line dangerously, ready to fall from the ledge.
Another breath in through her nose and out through her mouth.
She could do this.
Her chest expanded on another inhale.
There was still hope.
A long exhale.
There had to be.
The tingling in her fingers and the numbness in her legs retreated slowly as she pulled herself together. Maybe her father would recognize her? And even if he didn't, a year was nothing compared to the seventeen she'd spent with her parents. She could fix this. Her mother and father could still recover from this.
They had to.
There was no other option. She refused to consider the alternative.
When Hermione finally managed to pull herself together and walked into the office, the elderly receptionist greeted her with a strong accent and a wide smile. "G'day, miss." There was lipstick on the woman's teeth and the name tag on her left breast read Dorris in bold blue letters. "Do you have an appointment for today?"
Hermione nodded vigorously in response and involuntarily stroked her tongue over her front teeth at the sight of the pink stains smeared against Dorris' perfect, pearly white teeth.
"Name?" The receptionist asked, oblivious to the way Hermione's heart pounded painfully against her chest, blood roaring in her ears.
"Granger," she choked and cleared her throat. "Hermione Granger."
"I see you specified that you'd be paying cash?"
"Yes. That's right."
"Just fill in this form," Dorris said and handed her a clipboard and a pen, marking the required fields with an asterisk. "Bring it back to me once you're done. Doctor Wendell Wilkins will be with you in a moment."
Hermione took a seat in one of the squeaky, plastic-covered chairs in the waiting area and filled in her information as accurately and neatly as she could manage with her shaking hands, just in case her parents scanned through her details and something clicked for them.
Sadly, her father didn't recognize her either but was delighted to find that she was British too, sharing little anecdotes from a life in London that he hadn't really lived.
The memory alterations had already twisted their way into Wendell Wilkins' subconscious like a malignant tumour. This wasn't a good sign.
She tried to fish for details whenever she could manage it between her father's inspection and cleaning of her teeth, but there was nothing that even hinted at a past with a daughter.
In the end, she left their office feeling hollow and wary, ready to drown her hopelessness in more alcohol.
She needed to fix this.
She needed her mother and father back.
She could fix this.
The specialist would find a way.
Her parents had to remember something.
"I'm very sorry, Hermione," Bodhi Sutcliffe sighed his apology and rounded his Cocobolo desk to soothe her with a hand on her shoulder. He gave a firm squeeze and crouched down in front of her when she started crying in earnest.
"Are you sure?" she asked, voice muffled by her hands as she covered her blotchy face, embarrassed for crying like this in front of someone who was practically a stranger.
"It's been three weeks. We've tried everything. You know this. You were there for so many of the sessions. You saw that they didn't show any semblance of progress. Jean and Harold Granger no longer exist, even if they look like your parents."
"I get it, okay!" she snapped at Bodhi and shot out of her chair, irritated, angry and so fucking disappointed. Her stomach roiled, nauseated with anguish. "They're gone. They'll never be my parents again." She yanked open her beaded bag and pulled out a sack of galleons, plopping it down on the desk with a heavy thump. "Thanks for all your help."
She sniffled her snot back with as much dignity as she could muster, wiped her eyes and turned for the door, eyeing his impressive office with contempt. She'd thought someone as highly recommended as he would have been able to help her. His fees were astronomical, and she could see why. His desk alone had to have cost a pretty galleon. But even so, he'd done as much as he'd been able to do. Time simply hadn't been on her side, and for that, she couldn't blame him.
"Hermione..." Bodhi pleaded, grabbing her arm to stop her. His dark eyes were filled with remorse. "I truly am sorry." He handed the galleons back to her, but she pushed the sack away and shook her head.
"You warned me before we started that the chances of recovering their memories were slim. You worked really hard. Keep the money."
Numb feet carried her out of the building and down into the bustling streets of London, where she'd met with Bodhi for feedback on her parents' prognosis. In hindsight, she should have expected bad news when he'd asked her to meet him back in London, instead of giving her any feedback while they'd been in Australia. Maybe he knew she'd need to be closer to home where she had support on hand.
The moment she apparated onto the front steps of Grimmauld Place, she promptly vomited into the bushes next to the stairs, and tears started running with the knowledge that she was home. Without her parents.
She dragged herself through the foyer and up the stairs with numb fingers curling around the cool wood of the bannister, feet heavy and heart aching. She felt so exhausted and fucking disappointed that she practically had to force herself the last few steps up to Harry's bedroom. She rested her head against the door and lifted a heavy arm to knock twice. "Harry," she called his name with a tear-thickened voice and turned the knob, batting at her cheeks to get rid of the tears as she walked into his room.
A light brought the dark room into view when Harry muttered a sleepy "Lumos" and pushed himself up in bed. "Mione?" he mumbled, rubbed his eyes and slapped his hand around on the bedside table to locate his glasses. He pushed them onto his face. "What's wrong?"
Her lip trembled and she bit down hard to keep from crying.
The sheets rustled next to Harry, and only then did she notice he wasn't alone in bed. A large hand grabbed the pillow to Harry's left and tossed it aside to reveal a sleepy Theo Nott, squinting at the bright light.
"Oh, shit!" She blushed, slapped a hand to her eyes and turned around to give them some privacy.
They were both naked from head to hips, only covered by the sheets on the bed, and since they were in bed together, she assumed they were probably not wearing bottoms either.
"I didn't know you had company. I'll just go." She bumped into the side of the door frame on her way out, muttered a curse at her stupidity and dropped her hand from her eyes so she could see where she was going. The last thing she needed was to fall down the stairs too. Wouldn't that just round out her day perfectly?
Harry called out from the bed, "It's fine, Mione. Just give me a minute. I'll meet you in the living room."
When Harry and Theo descended the stairs, both mercifully dressed, they found her working her way through a tub of ice cream and a glass of wine, a joint in her left hand.
The two men were sharing a silent conversation when Hermione looked up at them, and proceeded to sob miserably into her glass of wine, spilling most of the contents over her lap.
"It didn't work..." Harry sighed heavily as realization dawned, his shoulders sagging. It wasn't a question. He looked devastated for her. "Jesus, Hermione. I'm so sorry."
"I'll just...head out," Theo said awkwardly and pointed a thumb over his shoulder. He gave Harry a brief kiss. "Owl me tomorrow?"
"Yeah," Harry nodded, eyes tender as he looked at Theo.
Hermione took a drag of her joint and hiccupped pathetically, still crying. She put the joint down in the ashtray on the side table and scooped a large spoon of ice cream into her mouth. "Sowwy abow wooning yow nigh," she apologised with her mouth full, trying to stave off brain freeze. She sniffled and wiped her nose with a sleeve.
"Hey..." he soothed gently and sank down on the couch next to her, pulling her into his arms. "Don't apologize, Mione. This was exactly why I offered to come along."
She swallowed her ice cream and said, "I realized you were right the moment I arrived in Perth."
"What happened?" he asked and rested his chin on top of her head. "Did you get that expert to help?"
She nodded. "Yeah." Her voice broke and more tears welled in her eyes. "It didn't work. We tried for three weeks, but in the end, it boiled down to the amount of time that had passed since the memory modifications were performed."
Harry clasped her tightly to him and shifted her sideways with him as he reached for the joint on the side table, relighting it with his wand. After a lengthy drag, he exhaled slowly and pulled back from her to wipe her tears away. "I know it's not the same as having your parents back, but you'll always have me. Okay?"
"It means more to me than you'll ever know, Harry. And I love you for it." She gave him a weak, teary smile.
"Love you too, Mione." He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "So very much," he said and dropped one last kiss on her crown before he pushed up from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen, reappearing moments later with three bottles of wine.
"What are you doing?" She gaped at him in shock.
"We're going to get inordinately drunk," he said and plopped the bottles down on the coffee table one by one, "Supremely high," he pulled two more joints from his trousers pocket, holding them up in explanation, "And pass out on the floor. Forget your trip to Australia ever happened."
"You're my fucking hero, Harry Potter." She grinned at him, grateful for a best friend who had her back.
When they settled in again, glasses filled and pulling on their respective joints, Hermione elbowed Harry, blowing out a thick stream of smoke. "So, Theo, hey? What happened to not wanting a relationship?"
A/N: Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the first chapter.
Leave a review if you like the story so far.
Updates are planned for every Saturday if I can manage it. See you soon for chapter 2.