Author's Note: I hope you enjoy my story. All questions, comments, and constructive criticism are welcome if you'd like to leave a review.


Disclaimer: Harry Potter and the characters from the books in the series are copyright JK Rowling, and are not being used for profit, only for personal enjoyment.


Prologue ~ "Without a Single Goodbye"



The glorious early summer day was one of celebration on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A bittersweet moment for many who, after yesterday's commencement ceremonies, would be leaving the school for good and setting out to begin the next phase of life's journey the following morning. Sad to be leaving friends behind and departing the place that they called home for seven years, but anticipating the prospect of what the future may hold... a future that was so much brighter now that they did not live in the shadow of the greatest evil of their time. Yes, nearly six weeks earlier, Voldemort had finally been vanquished... this time, for good.

One young witch sat alone by the lake, for the first time in her life unsure about her future. Only weeks before, she was eager to take on the world. Now, she only wanted to find refuge from the world that had turned on her so cruelly, a world that she would be facing alone.

Sitting beneath the topaz sky, watching as the sun began to sink lower in the horizon, arms wrapped around the knees pulled tightly to her chest, and oblivious to the sounds of celebrating on the school grounds all around her as she tearfully sat in silent contemplation, she was unaware of the approach of the only two people who mattered until they knelt down, one on either side, and silently gathered her into a gentle hug. No words were spoken as the trio embraced, staying that way until the sun set. Only when the brilliant orb was no longer visible beyond the trees and the horizon blazed in brilliant shades of orange and purple, did she break the silence.

"Whatever will I do without you guys?" she sobbed.

The embrace tightened on both sides of her as they spoke the only words of comfort they knew that they could offer.

"We'll always be here for you", they assured her.

"I don't know how I'll get through the next year while we're apart."

For the following day, they would all board the Hogwarts Express one final time, and go their separate ways. Harry and Ron to The Burrow for a week with the Weasley family, before setting off for Auror training. Hermione, to an empty house in London.

"You're all I've got left in this world," she choked out through her tears.

After Voldemort's defeat, she had felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Over the past couple of years, the attacks on the families of Muggle born witches and wizards had become more frequent, and more deadly. The last year, especially, she had grown increasingly worried about the safety of her home and her parents. Now, with Voldemort dead and gone, she was anticipating returning home for the first carefree summer she would have had in recent years, and vacationing with her parents before beginning University next semester.

Until one evening last week, when the car in which her parents were travelling home from work was involved in a tragic accident, and her carefree holiday cut short by a drunk driver before it even began. Her father had been killed instantly. Her mother, critically injured. Days passed before word came that her mother would indeed live, but would have a long road to recovery ahead of her. Months of intense therapy ahead before, if ever, she would walk again.

Her professors had talked Hermione into staying until the end of term. Her parents wouldn't have wanted her to miss her exams and graduation, they had convinced her. Besides, there was nothing she could do for her mother while the woman was flittering in and out of consciousness.

"I'll miss you..." she sobbed again, before turning away from her friends and running back to the castle, seeking the solitude of the Head Girl's dorm, unable to face the two boys any longer and dreading the next day's final goodbyes.


"Miss Granger!" the voice of Professor McGonagall rang through the corridor as Hermione approached her dormitory.

"Yes, Professor?"

Her beloved head of house handed her a handkerchief as she approached. Reaching out and patting her favorite student soothingly on the back, she asked, "Would you please accompany me to the Headmaster's office? We have something we would like to discuss with you."

"Certainly, Professor", she answered, "and thank you..." as she dabbed the handkerchief at her tearstained face.

"Please, dear child, take your time if you feel the need to freshen up first."

"No thank you, Professor. I shall be fine."

"Very well," replied Professor McGonagall, as she gently placed her arm around Hermione's shoulder and led her away.


Upon entering the Headmaster's office, Hermione noted the presence of a few other professors. Professors Vector, Flitwick, and Snape were all seated around the desk, apparently anticipating her arrival.

"Miss Granger! Thank you for joining us. Please take a seat," Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he extended his hand and offered her a lemon drop.

"No thank you," Hermione resplied quietly as she nodded her head towards the proffered sweets, before sinking into the comfort of the nearest armchair and asking, "You wanted to speak with me, sir?"

"Yes, my dear. As you may be aware, not only have you graduated at the top of your class, you have earned more credits here than any student on record at this institution. And though I do not have the final N.E.W.T results, I do have contacts who report that your scores may very well be the highest in Hogwart's history."

The news, which only weeks ago would have sent her spirit soaring, only left her feeling numb. For, as hard as she strived for seven years to achieve this goal, what did grades matter now? They wouldn't bring her father back... they wouldn't heal her mother... they wouldn't...

She got lost in her thoughts as she stared blankly at the headmaster, only turning away from him when she heard Professor McGonagall speak up next.

"We are aware that you've plenty of options to consider regarding furthering your education, but those of us gathered in this room would also like to extend you the offer to return to Hogwart's, to take on an apprenticeship with one of us."

Shocked, Hermione looked around in turn from Dumbledore's twinkling eyes, to McGonagall's face which was gleaming with pride, Flitwick's ear to ear grin, Vector's nod of encouragement, and Snape's intense gaze. Jumping out of her seat, she stuttered, "I-I-I.... I c-can't. I'm sorry..." holding back her sobs as she ran out of the office, she ran directly to her dorm to pack her belongings.

She could not stay, and she would not return.

For earlier that night, sitting by the lake, she had come to a realization, and she could not bear for anyone to know her shame.

She left that night, without a single goodbye.