A/N: All characters and the books themselves are copyright the author of Harry Potter, though I took some liberties with Hermione's mother, who is not characterized very well at all in canon.  Be advised this book takes place after Order of the Phoenix and contains spoilers.  Thanks to Amber for beta-reading.  All commentscoments and constructive criticism are welcome and appreciated.  Enjoy.

                Lucy Granger couldn't sleep.  It was funny, in a bizarre, pathetic sort of way.  Over the past five years, she had barely seen her daughter, and now that she was home for the summer, the dentist found herself too unsettled to rest.  It was the price she paid for having a little girl who was a witch.  A long time ago, she thought wryly, so much as thinking that would have seemed strange.  But it had been a long time since Hermione was an eleven year old – a long time since that first owl had made it through their open kitchen window while they were having breakfast.

                She could recall the shock clearly.  Her daughter, a witch?  Perhaps more surprising: there were such things as witches and wizards and magic?  Looking back, part of her wished she and her husband had never strayed from their initial opinion – that the whole thing was some ridiculous, elaborate hoax.  But they weren't the type of people to dismiss a letter that had arrived by owl, addressed to "Hermione Granger, Twenty-Three Lyon Place, London, Second Floor, First Room on the Right."  It was just too weird, and no one would put that much into a prank unless they were seriously deranged.  So they had opened the letter.

                God, how many times she found herself wishing they'd never opened the letter.

                She still wasn't sure why they had accepted it so easily.  She and her husband were, after all, doctors – students of science.  To believe in magic was to forsake everything that held a scientist's world together: the absolutes of physics, unbreakable rules of nature, the belief that everything can be understood by logic alone.  It should have seemed totally ridiculous to both of them.  But it didn't.  Together with their daughter, they read the letter – and they believed.   Sure, it was outlandish.  Yes, it promised to shatter their entire world view.  But it explained so much … all the strange little things they had always been afraid to mention, that Hermione herself had been frightened and confused by.  The time she had knocked a door off its hinges when she was locked in a completely dark, empty bathroom at her parents' office by a cleaning crew ten years ago came to mind.  No, she thought, knocking really isn't the right word.  It was blown off.  Suddenly, those seemingly bizarre events made some sort of sense, magic was real, and Hermione was being offered the chance to go to what was apparently one of the most prestigious magical schools in Europe.

                So, in the interests of being open-minded and highly curious, they followed the directions on the included "Guide to Diagon Alley and King's Cross for Muggle-born Students" and took Hermione to buy her supplies about three weeks before the fall term was set to begin.  Any remaining doubts the two of them had disappeared when the proprietor of the Leaky Cauldron (which, not coincidentally, only Hermione could see) showed them how to get into Diagon Alley.  Lucy could remember the rest of that day quite easily.  It was all too unreal and amazing to easily forget.  Hermione, for her part, was beyond thrilled, and Lucy understood that.  Her daughter had always been incredibly bright, and unfortunately this had done a good deal to ostracize her from her peers.  Oh, she had friends – just not very many.  Now she had a chance to be around a group of people who shared a wonderful gift with her – a chance to find a place in her peers' society.  As much as Lucy hated to admit it, such things were very important to eleven year olds.  In the three weeks before it was time for her to go, she absorbed her school books and her early birthday present (Hogwarts, A History).  Then they put her on the train, which in and of itself was an amazing experience.

That was the beginning.

Now, almost six years later, things had changed, and not totally for the better.  Her daughter had proven herself to be the smartest, most powerful witch in her class.  She routinely scored more than one-hundred percent on nearly every major test she took.  Not that that should have been possible, but it was in line with the first major unwritten rule of living with a witch: forget logic.  It's not for you.  The only teacher who seemed the slightest bit concerned about her performance was a nice sounding woman named Madam Hooch, who sent them a letter politely asking if Hermione had a fear of heights.  She was apparently trying to resolve Hermione's problems with broom flying.  Though they probably shouldn't have, Scott and Lucy found this strangely amusing.  All things considered, though neither she nor her husband could understand everything that went on in Hermione's academic life, they were incredibly proud of her.

But none of that had anything to do with what was keeping her up at night.  None of that was what currently had her creeping through her own house in a white nightgown and slippers, her raven black hair tied back in a ponytail.  Her blue eyes were opened wide against the darkness of the second story hallway.  Her thoughts were occupied by one thing: her daughter and how she had looked a week ago stepping through the magical barrier into King's Cross station.

At the end of her fourth year, when Cedric Diggory was murdered, Hermione had come home anxious and worried, but not too horribly upset.  It was obvious that she was affected by the boy's death – she seemed sad and wearier than Lucy thought any teenager had a right to be, but she wasn't horribly grief stricken.   Lucy had been both surprised and pleased with her daughter's handling of such a horrible event.  The bizarreness of the circumstances aside, she knew it must have been horrible to see two people whisked away and then returned, a few minutes later – only with one of them significantly less alive.  Lucy was perfectly aware that the majority of worry and anxiety her daughter associated with that event had a lot more to do with Harry Potter than it did Cedric Diggory.  And, as horrible as the other boy's death had been, Lucy understood that.  After all, Harry had watched Cedric die, and then been forced to participate in some sort of Dark ritual used to bring Lord Voldemort back to life.  That summer, she found herself thinking more about the increasing danger to her daughter than anything, or anyone, else.

Now, one year later, things had somehow gotten worse.  A lot worse.  And Lucy had known, almost on instinct, the minute she laid eyes on her daughter.  Her husband had picked up on it to, but it didn't alarm him as much.  Mothers, it seemed, were just better at detecting these sorts of things.  Hermione hadn't looked right when she stepped through the barrier.  She looked pale and tired, but it was more than that.  It was her eyes that caught Lucy's attention – they weren't shining anymore.  Children's eyes were supposed to be bright and an innocent, and even though she knew her daughter was closer to being an adult than a child now, she had always been able to see a spark in those large brown orbs.  Even after her fourth year it was still there.  Maybe not as bright as before, but not extinguished.  Innocence, youth, eagerness for knowledge and all the amazing things the world had to offer – all that was still there, just twelve months ago.

As she made it to her daughter's bedroom door and seized the knob with her hand, she had to wonder – what exactly had happened to make that light vanish?  She knew Hermione had been injured this year – she heard one of her friends at the train station mentioning her pleasure that Pomfrey "didn't try to keep you over the summer."  Whenever asked about it, the youngest Granger simply said she'd fallen off of one of the moving staircases and broken a few bones.  Since the end of her third year, Hermione's letters home and her recounts of events at Hogwarts had become increasingly vaguer.  Lucy simply attributed it to the fact that teenagers by nature tended to become more private and didn't relish in relaying every single seemingly insignificant detail of their lives.  After all, she was still telling them about the big events, right?  Most of them, at any rate.  But the incident at the train station, that was the first time Lucy could recall actually being lied to by her daughter about something important.

And Hermione was bad liar too, at least when she didn't have any help.  Not bad in the sense that she made things out to be worse than they were, but bad as in the sense that politicians who had been caught on tape at drunken orgies seemed more credible and calm in their cover-ups.  Even her husband had picked up on it – and really, as kind, trusting, and obtuse as the man could be, that was saying something.  Lucy pushed the door open, somehow managing to keep the thing from creaking.

The room was dark.  The barest sliver of moonlight seeping in through the window provided the only illumination.  It was immaculate as usual – Hermione wouldn't have it any other way.  She took in the pale walls, each lined with at least one oversized, overstuffed bookcase.  She smirked in spite of herself – there used to be a time when the only thing she had to worry about with Hermione was making sure she didn't get lost in the library.  And then there was that brief phase when she wanted to live in the library … it seemed like a long, long time ago.  Her eyes fell on the bed in the corner, next to the widow, with its red bedspread and sheets.  It was currently unmade – and empty.  This would have alarmed her if she hadn't, in the next instant, looked at her daughter's desk and found her curled over it, with her head in her arms, wild brown hair shining spectacularly under the glow of moonbeams.  She was wearing loose-fitting red pajamas that made her look much smaller than she actually was.  Lucy was surprised.  It wasn't really that late – only 10:45, if the clock on the wall was set properly – but her daughter never usually fell asleep at her desk at that hour so soon after the end of term.   She ventured forward quietly, watching Hermione's shoulders rise and fall, and sat on the edge of the bed.  Hermione rustled, and the shadows around her face danced.  For the first time, Lucy noted the dry tear tracts running down her cheeks.

It was very difficult to resist the urge to shake the girl awake and demand to know what the hell was going on.  It was exactly this sort of behavior that kept Lucy up at night.  Since she had arrived home, Hermione had been remarkably anti-social.  Not rude in even the most general sense of the word, but simply not one for much company.  She kept to herself most of the day, excepting the excursions out of her room for food and or drink. 

It could have almost been normal.  Hermione, much to the distress of her parents, who worried she pushed herself too far sometimes, tended to devote the first week of her summer holiday pounding out her homework.  It wasn't uncommon to find her slumped over at her desk over some parchment, quill in a small, limp hand, somehow managing, even in slumber, to balance some ancient, giant text about things Lucy couldn't even pronounce properly on her knees.  But at the moment, there was no quill in her hands, her lap was free of hernia-inducing volumes, and there was no blank sheet of parchment on her desk.  And in any case, she thought darkly, tears don't have a damned thing to do with homework.  She reached forward and brushed a lock of Hermione's hair with her fingers, deep in thought.

Hermione didn't wake up – she was much too heavy a sleeper for that, her mother knew – but she did shift slightly in her chair.  Her body caught on the edge of her desk for a moment, before she shifted again, and she let out a small whimper of what was very obviously pain.  Lucy felt her heart knot up in her chest.  Hermione had never come home injured before, and she somehow knew that Madam Pomfrey would have been able to mend broken bones well enough that there would be no residual pain a full week later.  After all, the woman could straighten teeth – what should have taken three to four years of braces, apparently done in so many minutes.  And she and her husband had been upset about that.  Like their daughter's desire to skip years of wearing a painful, annoying metal contraption in her mouth was any real problem.  It didn't help Hermione's story that she hadn't reported any injuries to her chest or stomach when she pulled her alibi out of the air at the train station.

No, this was something far worse than a few breaks and bruises.  Her daughter went through great pains (discretely, of course) to avoid being seen unless she had her stomach and lower chest completely covered up by something.  When she hugged, she sometimes winced.  She had been so ecstatic to have her home that she hadn't noticed at first, but when Scott caught her in one of his infamous bear hugs she couldn't keep a slight yelp from escaping her lips.  She said she was "just surprised."

And it had gone on like that for a week.  Hermione was her normal, happy self unless you mentioned something she didn't want to talk about then the defensive shields went up.  And never before had she constantly cried herself to sleep.  Lucy found herself more edgy and unsettled now that her daughter was home than she had been when Hermione was … well, wherever Hogwarts was, exactly.  That should have been unnerving, but on the steadily growing list of things that weren't quite right, it rated relatively low – just above the fact that their neighbors sometimes complained to the authorities about the "owl infestation."

She was sitting perhaps a foot away from her sleeping daughter, and she had never felt like they were farther apart.  There were, quite simply, large chunks of her life neither Lucy nor Scott knew anything about.  The raven-haired woman wondered what had changed – why was their little girl so afraid to be completely honest with them?  She could think of two possible causes.  One, Hermione was afraid that they would balk at whatever she had been up to and pull her out of Hogwarts in a smashing display of overprotective stupidity.  Lucy and Scott had indeed discussed doing just that at the end of her fourth year, but had eventually decided against it.  Our daughter is a witch.  There was no getting around it.  She was then, she was now, and she would be, forever.  She would have to learn to survive in the magical world, and that meant finishing her education at Hogwarts.  No, they would never do something so stupid as to remove their daughter from the safest place she could possibly be, and they told her as much.  She shook her head.  That couldn't be it.  That left option two – and Lucy really, really didn't like option two.

There was always the possibility that Hermione felt she had to protect her parents from the reality of whatever was going on.  It certainly explained the reluctance to discuss certain things.  After all, it made perfect sense that Hermione would want to shield her parents from the reality of a war they couldn't do anything to prevent or protect their daughter from.  She knew, though she chose to rarely contemplate it.  If a Dark wizard or other agent of Voldemort ever came for her daughter, there wouldn't be a thing she or her husband could do to help her.  Hermione's recent behavior only made this all the more clear; all the more impossible to put out of her mind.  Whether their child was completely honest about it when the eleventh hour drew near, it wouldn't matter.  She would be on her own.  That was what kept Lucy Granger up at night.

Well, that and the other inevitable question: Why?  Why was her daughter's life suddenly so dangerous?  Fortunately or unfortunately – she wasn't quite sure yet – she had an answer for that one.  Two simple words.  Harry Potter.  The boy she had never really gotten a chance to meet (a few minutes greetings once or twice a year just didn't count) was, as far as she was concerned, a blessing and a curse.

Lucy had a box in her bedroom closet, filled with an organized stack of every piece of correspondence and graded schoolwork she had ever received.  Once Hermione went off to Hogwarts, she found herself being inundated with sheet after sheet of parchment – letters detailing her daughter's latest news.  For the first few weeks, it was nothing but details about how much she was enjoying her studies, and attempts to relay some of the wondrous things one could expect to see at Hogwarts Castle.  Though she was pleased that her daughter seemed happy, Lucy hadn't missed the fact that there was no discussion of the new friends she had made.  Indeed, there were veiled hints that particular venture wasn't going well at all.

That all changed when she and her husband received a letter in early November.  Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, who she'd only mentioned before as being "troublesome and annoying" were suddenly her new best friends.  Every letter she sent after that for the next five years contained at least a paragraph on each of them.  At first, the coverage was equal, and pretty much the same, and went by a general pattern.  "Harry did this, then that, nearly got thrown in detention.  He's insane.  Ron did this, then that, nearly got thrown in …"

Sometime at the end of her third year though, right at the end, something must have happened.  Lucy still wasn't sure what – again, Hermione seemed to be withholding information.  But after that, her weekly letters home changed somewhat.  There was still the excited (and oh so exciting) recital of her latest academic endeavors, and still discussions of Ron and Harry's latest antics.  Only now, the coverage was anything but balanced.  Harry was the main topic of conversation … and what a lengthy discussion it was.  Oh, Ron was still mentioned, and she still seemed to like him a lot (though she sometimes appeared frustrated with him), but Harry and her latest misadventures with him (The ones she feels she can tell us about, Lucy thought bitterly) never failed to take up at least a full page of its own.  Admittedly, some of that page was about Quiddich, but even that always seemed to center on the Gryffindor Seeker's performance.  It was quite cute, really.  She and her husband spent many hours snickering over the pieces of parchment, as Hermione's ever growing affinity for Harry became apparent.  The fact that she and the boy seemed to be totally oblivious to it only made it more entertaining to watch.  The only notable exception was Harry's brief fling with some girl named Cho Chang.  It was obvious from the way the manner in which she mentioned it that the whole ordeal upset Hermione greatly.  She seemed almost happy when she reported their breakup, though Lucy was sure that was a purely subconscious reaction on her part.  She hoped her daughter wasn't openly vindictive and manipulative.

The problem was, of course, that Harry Potter was a very famous boy.  Indeed, the most vile, dangerous wizard in recent memory was apparently hell-bent on his destruction.  At first, it wasn't very much of an issue.  Harry had somehow managed to vanquish the would-be despot, but not before his mother and father had been murdered.  Lucy didn't understand how this was possible, seeing as he was an infant at the time, but apparently no one else did either.

That, it turned out, was a lie.  Voldemort was not dead.  He wasn't healthy, but he was far from vanquished.  He did his best to kill Harry that first year, and somehow Hermione ended up embroiled in the encounter, but she, Ron, and the last Potter survived.  Every year for the next four years, Harry was forced to tempt death in some form or another.  And Hermione Granger was always at Harry's side, or as close as circumstances would allow her to be.  Because that was what she chose to be.  The realization had hit Lucy several nights ago, and she'd cried openly as her husband and daughter slept on.

Hermione was at war.  It was a fight being waged between two people – one pure evil; a murderous, soulless monster, the other a boy with glasses and messy hair who stood ready to fight if only because he was forced into it.  And her precious baby, her brown eyed angel, stood with Harry Potter, ready and waiting for whatever might come; no matter how afraid she was, because on some level she wasn't quite aware of yet, she loved him.

A mother knows these things by instinct.

Lucy raised her hand from her lap and ran it through Hermione's hair, careful to avoid the many knots in the bushy mass.  The last thing she wanted was to wake her daughter when she seemed to be sleeping so peacefully.  Well, she would have to rouse her eventually to get her into the bed, but tugging on knotted hair was not the way to do it.

Lucy stood up quietly and moved so that she was standing next to Hermione's sleeping form, suddenly unable to keep her curiosity at bay.  After all, if it wasn't schoolwork that was causing her daughter to fall asleep at her desk, it had to be something.

At first glance, the desk was devoid of anything terribly interesting.  There were no books with bizarre titles, no scrolls full of some complicated procedure or analysis related to doing something that completely went against every major law of physics, or anything else that was at first glance odd.  Indeed, there wasn't even a single quill in sight.  Her eyes fell on a catalogue of sorts.  Now she knew Hermione was tired.  The booklet was open, revealing several moving pictures of what looked like wingless fireflies.  Hermione never left her magically illustrated books out, just in case someone happened to come in her room when she wasn't around, or happened to be asleep.  Lucy picked up the magazine, and looked at it.  When she realized it was a Quidditch mail-order brochure, she utterly failed to muster any real surprise.  Harry Potter's birthday was growing ever nearer, if she wasn't very much mistaken.  It had become a bit of a major event in her household, even though the boy had never once visited them.  She was surprised, however, to find that there were a pair of brochures for mail-order wizard clothiers neatly stacked in a corner.  Ah, she thought wistfully, diversification in gifting, the mark of the truly smitten girl in denial.  That was all well and good, but none of it explained the tears.  Aware of the potential violation of privacy but too tired and stressed to care, she kept looking.

There was only one other item of any interest on the desk, but she didn't see it at first.  It was an off-white envelope, torn open carefully along the upper seam.  It was addressed simply to "Hermione," in very sloppy handwriting.  Must be from Ron or Harry, she thought, suddenly interested.  She hesitated for only a second as thoughts of her daughter's privacy and trust went through her mind, then did something she'd never done before and scooped up the letter with full intent to read it without Hermione's permission.  Whatever was said, there was the possibility it might shed some light on the current situation.  And Lucy Granger needed a little illumination if she ever expected to sleep again.

As silently as she could, Lucy crept back over to the bed and sat next to the night table.  She was close enough to the window that she could read very clearly.  She slid the letter out and laid the envelope to the side.  It was folded neatly in half.  She opened it carefully and was quite surprised when a small picture fell in her lap.  I'll look at that in a minute.  At the moment, the letter was the far more interesting part of the parcel.  Very quickly, for she was quite aware that her daughter could wake up at any moment, she began to read.

Dear Hermione,

                Hi.  It's Ron, but I'm sure you already knew that, seeing as Pig is, well, Pig.

                I hope you're feeling better.  Madam Pomfrey had us a bit worried, you know.  She never would say exactly what was wrong with you.  I should have been around to help you deal with that Death Eater. Harry was really beating himself up over what happened when you weren't in earshot.  I've worked on him as best I can, you know, but I don't think he's fully grasped the idea that he can't be everywhere at once.  As far as he's concerned, he should have been right with you, even though he was currently involved in trying not to get himself killed at the time.   My mother threatened to ground me for the next five years when she found out I'd let myself be Confunded in the presence of so many of You-Know-Who's thugs then nearly strangled by a brain-thing.  Part of me wants to say that I'll do better next time, but to be completely honest, I really hope there's not a next time.  That was the worst night of my life.  I still have trouble believing it actually happened, to tell you the truth.

                Oh, but I'm just a bucket of cheer, aren't I?  By the way, Mum says that we're free to talk about whatever we choose, now that the Ministry has stopped being a collective idiot and cottoned on to the idea that You-Know-Who is back and Harry is not insane.  Seeing the man locked in mortal combat with Dumbledore while Harry watched must have been a real eye-opener for Fudge.

                I wanted to write and tell you that you'll be able to come a few weeks before term, if you like.  We're still using Snuffles' place.  I know it sounds morbid.  Personally, I can't believe we're still staying there after … well, you know.  Dad says it's still a much safer place then our house right now.  I've managed to figure out that, according to Snuffles' will, Harry owns the place now, according to the will, but until he comes of age Professor Lupin has control over everything.  I heard from Dad that Dumbledore and Fudge had a blazing row over clearing Snuffles – apparently, the Minister agreed there was reason to do it, but didn't feel like right now was the best time, seeing as he's in a bad spot as it is.  Admitting that the Ministry wrongly jailed someone for more than a decade, as Mum puts it, "just isn't something he wants to do."  The fact that that someone is Harry Potter's godfather only makes things more of a political mess.  But he will, now that Dumbledore's through with him.  Keep an eye on the Daily Prophet.  Dad was looking strangely triumphant abut the whole thing.

                That's why I owled you, actually.  I hate to talk about Harry behind his back, I really do, but I need your help.  I've owled him a couple of times since we got back (Yes, I know we've only been gone a week … I was worried.), and to say he sounds depressed is a drastic understatement.  At least those dreadful relatives are off his back.  Mum said for me to tell him he's invited to come to the manor later this summer, but I'm not sure how to do it.  "Hi, Harry, this is Ron.  Mum wants me to let you know that you're welcome to come stay at your godfather's house later in the summer.  The Order is still using it as a headquarters, even though Snuffles is dead."  I would, of course, try to be a bit more sensitive than that, but you get my point.  I have no idea how I'm supposed to go about it.  I thought we saw him pushed to his limits last year – I figured that was why he was so moody.  Now, well, I just don't know what to expect.  That was before he watched Snuffles go.  I'm not trying to foist anything off on you, but do you have any ideas?

                Ack!  It appears we just found another boggart.  Tonks is raving about vampires.  We had the place checked for vampires again last week.  I'd better be going.  Now that we've finally gotten rid of that bastard elf, there's a lot more chores to be done around here.

                Oy, this letter turned into a bit of a downer, didn't it?  I'm sorry.  I just needed to talk to someone, I guess.  Thanks for reading!  See you later in the summer, hopefully!

                                                Ron

PS.: Mum's finally got the pictures from last Christmas developed.  We don't have copies of all of them yet, but we've got plenty of the snowball fight.  I sent one.

                Lucy blinked, looking at the letter in her hand as though it didn't really exist.  Oh.  Damn.  Things suddenly made simultaneously more and less sense than they had before.  In the span of seconds, assumptions were made, discarded, and reformulated.  Her daughter hadn't fallen, she'd been attacked by a murderer who had done something to her stomach and chest.  Whatever it was had been a something nasty, if the nurse wouldn't go into full detail about what it was.  There was likely some sort of scarring Hermione wasn't ready to reveal – that's why she didn't let anyone see her without a shirt.

                But why had that happened?  Why had she, Harry, and Ron gotten in a fight with what sounded like a horde of Death Eaters?  She couldn't answer that question, but she knew why Hermione was there, at least.  She wouldn't abandon Harry when the great evil arrived to attempt to kill him.  She was too stubborn.  Something else clicked suddenly, and she paled.  Hermione was there … in some place … with Voldemort himself.  Oh God.  At least Dumbledore was there to protect them.  She looked over at her daughter, once again noting the tearstained cheeks.  But Hermione was still hurt.  Someone died, a cold voice sounded in the back of her head.  Someone important.  Harry's godfather.  He was murdered.  Harry watched him die.  This is the world your daughter lives in.  This is what she hides from you.  Is she ever going to feel like she can tell you the truth?  Or is she going to be the next one to die?  It occurred to her that none of that would have ever happened if Dumbledore had been in complete control of the situation.  He would not have sent Harry, Ron, and Hermione to fight on purpose.  There must have been some sort of surprise attack, or something.

                Lucy abruptly slammed her eyes shut, trying to will her brain back into some sort of order.  So that was it, then.  Hermione had been nearly fatally wounded in a fight with Death Eaters.  Harry's godfather, known only as Snuffles – who now appeared to be some sort of wrongly convicted escaped fugitive – had died in the struggle.  All the sudden the tears and insomnia made sense, even though she was still missing too much of the story to know what was really going on.  She folded the letter just as carefully as she'd opened it and slid it back into the envelope, turning her attention to the photograph.  Like all products of magical cameras, it was full of movement.  There were four people in the picture, all dressed in heavy clothing – one of which she recognized instantly as Hermione.  They were all out in the snow, throwing globs (it really wasn't fair to call them balls) of the stuff at each other.  Harry, grinning more brightly than Lucy had ever seen in person, was busily trying to nail a very wet looking Ron, who was busy being pelted by Hermione.  The forth figure gave her pause.

                He was a tall man who seemed too skinny, with shoulder length raven hair.  His skin didn't look as healthy as it should have, and when he smiled her inner dentist winced at the sight of his yellowed teeth.  She had seen worse, but she had seen much, much better.  All in all, the man was scraggly.  Lucy wondered who he was, but then caught sight of the way he seemed to be grinning at picture-Harry.  It was an almost paternal look.  It clicked, and Lucy wanted to slap herself.  The man she was criticizing was very likely none other than Snuffles, Harry's godfather.  More importantly, he was dead.  She watched them all for several long minutes, noting how happy the older man seemed to be to simply be in the company of his godson.  Abruptly, everyone seemed to notice Lucy (she was still getting used to the idea that picture-people were slightly aware of what was going on outside the photograph), and they all turned to look at her.  Hermione and Harry were standing together, each armed with snow-globs, which they promptly dropped.  Ron was looking surprised, and Snuffles appeared slightly uncomfortable under her gaze, but in the end the whole lot of them grinned and waved amiably at her.  Harry cast a look at Hermione and grinned, as though he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  Or maybe her mind, particularly the part that wanted grandchildren someday, was just making that up.  Suddenly, her eyelids felt heavy with brimming tears.  I shouldn't be looking at this.  Just like that, the picture was back in the envelope, and the envelope was back on Hermione's desk, right where she'd found it.

                As absurd as it was, considering she was in her own house and last time she checked, she was the adult in the parent-child relationship, she wanted to be somewhere else.  Desperately.  She'd just given herself a rather potent, if not alarming, peek into the part of Hermione's life the girl actively tried to keep from her parents.  And truth be told, she understood why Hermione felt she was doing the right thing.  After all, she was trying to protect her parents from a truth they could do nothing to effect, and that was a kind, if not misguided and slightly juvenile intention.  Lucy and Scott were, after all, old enough to deal with the realities of life, however harsh they might be.  Perhaps the worst part of the whole evening was the knowledge that she would have to – and could quite easily – pretend she hadn't just read that letter.

                And then there was Harry.  Harry was a sweet boy.  A kind boy.  A modestly clever boy.  A boy quite likely to get my daughter killed or maimed.  Hermione was in danger because she wanted to be near him.  Her own, rather romantic speculations concerning why notwithstanding, that was simply the way things were.  She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, the smiling boy covered in snow with the scar on his forehead filling her mind's eye.  I hope you let us in one day, Hermione.  We won't take you away from him, or try to pretend you aren't a witch.  We can't change your life now … it's too late.  Just let us be a part of it, will you?

                Abruptly, her thoughts returned to Gryffindor's Seeker.  And you.  You had better realize what you are to Hermione.  She would do anything for you, even lie to her parents – as bad as she is at that.  Be careful, and please, please do everything you can to keep her alive.  We can't protect her anymore.  It's up to you.  She knew Harry couldn't read her mind, but it didn't stop her next thought.  Be careful with that smile of yours, Harry.  The most dangerous weapons are the ones that attack the heart.

                With that, she rose, schooled her expression into something neutral and went to wake up her daughter.  She couldn't just leave her in the chair all night, after all.