Chapter One: Concerned Parents
It was a normal morning at the Granger's residence. Robert and Diana were working in their newly opened clinic. Their only daughter Hermione Granger sat in her bedroom reading a book on Potions. She wasn't sure if Hogwarts would open this year but wanted to keep up with her work all the same. The last days had passed off without any major incident. She had kept up with the news of the wizarding world through the Daily Prophet. Voldemort and his supporters had been relatively quiet after the death of Albus Dumbledore, whom they used to consider a major threat. Just as she put her book down her mother came into the room.
"Hi Hermione, I wondered if you are ready to have a serious chat with your dad and me this evening," she asked.
"Sure mum," replied Hermione, as her mother walked out. Hermione grew curious. It seemed from her mother's tone that something was bothering her parents. She hoped that all her friends were alright. She got back to her book but couldn't concentrate very well. It wasn't until seven in the evening that she sat down with her parents in the living room.
"So Hermione," started Robert, "Diana and me were wondering if you could tell us something about your school life and friends since we know so little".
Hermione hadn't expected this. Her parents, though very caring, had stayed out of her life as a witch. They had given her complete freedom to decide what she wanted to do and had complete faith in the decisions she took. Of course they knew that Harry and Ron were her best friends but nothing more than that. She had always wanted to share her experiences of Hogwarts with them but hadn't done so. She always thought that like most muggles her parents didn't want to believe in the existence of magic. Diana saw the confused expression on Hermione's face and put her hands on her shoulder.
"Hermione, I know we haven't been the best parents as far as your involvement in magic is concerned but we realize that there may be things you want to share with us. So Robert and I have decided to have an open mind about magic. You can tell us whatever you want to. You've been going to Hogwarts for six years now. We don't know anything about what all you have been through. So please tell us everything you want to, right from your first year," she said.
Hermione couldn't believe it. Her parents meant a great deal to her. Now she would be able to tell them the most important parts of her life. She started with the troll incident, chasing the philosopher's stone, brewing polyjuice potion, getting petrified, riding a hippogriff with Harry to save Sirius, helping Harry with the tasks of the triwizard tournament, the date with Victor, the incidents at the ministry of magic and finally the events leading up to Dumbledore's death. She was careful not to miss out on anything. She was so engrossed in speaking that she didn't notice the stunned expressions on her parent's faces.
Robert and Diana did not say anything for a while. Hermione had expected such a reaction as her years at Hogwarts were not like a normal teenager girl's life, even by magical standards. Robert excused himself and gestured to Diana to follow him. Hermione heard her parents speak in low voices in the next room. She waited patiently for them to return.
"Hermione, Diana and I thought that perhaps… you should not got go back to Hogwarts this year," said Robert, walking into the living room. Hermione was shocked. Didn't her parents always let her decide on her connections with the magical world?
"I can't do that Dad. You know I can't. I've to complete my studies. Also Harry and Ron will go after the horcruxes. I'd promised Harry that I'd go with him. The magical world needs me at a time like this," Hermione replied quickly.
"Sweetheart, you know that we have your best interests in mind. You are way too young to get involved in something as dangerous as this. The other wizards… what did you call them… aurors I think, they can look after this. Your safety is our prime concern and we feel that home will be the safest place for you," Diana said.
"But Mum, you don't understand! The world will never be safe until Voldemort is around. He will…," started Hermione but was cut off by Diana.
"I know this is tough for you Hermione, so maybe you should think over it for sometime. Clear your thoughts during the night and we'll continue this discussion tomorrow morning. Just remember Robert and I would not be able to forgive ourselves if something happened to you. You are our only child," Diana said in a slightly choked voice. Hermione couldn't say anything to this. She quietly nodded before getting up to leave for her room.
Hermione's mind was flooded. She didn't know what to do. Hogwarts was her life. It was where she belonged. Her best friends were there. Not going back to Hogwarts was unimaginable just a few minutes ago. But after hearing her parents and their concerns she was confused. She remembered how her dad taught her to ride a bike. Her mum was an awesome cook who always made her favourite dishes. Both of them being dentists always advised her to stay away from sweats, something which she didn't obey while she was at Hogwarts. Her eyes fell on a picture of the three of them. This was taken the year before she joined Hogwarts, in Paris. They had gone on a holiday to celebrate Robert's new job. A few tears leaked out of her eyes. She felt guilty for not being with her parents much over the past six years. She thought about Harry who had no parents. If her parents didn't care for her she would have spent her whole life like his time with the Dursleys. The choked voice of her mother rang in her head. That did it. With a heavy heart she decided that she would not go back to Hogwarts this year.
Next morning Robert and Diana had expectant look on their faces. As Hermione sat down for breakfast tears started flowing again. She nodded towards her parents who understood at once. Robert hugged her daughter and patted her back. Hermione calmed down within a few minutes. As she looked up Robert spoke.
"It's not the end of the world Hermione. This is only temporary. Once the danger recedes you can go back to the magical world. But the problem at the moment is that since you are Harry Potter's friend and Voldemort is after him, you are already in danger. So we have to decide what to do about that," he said. Hermione didn't say anything. She wanted to defend Harry but didn't.
"Robert as you said last night, what about us leaving this place and going off to some other country for sometime. Let's say… for a year. After that we can see how the situation is and decide if we want to extend or return. Since we have our private clinic we needn't worry about our jobs. We have enough savings to last us for years. The three of us haven't had a vacation alone for many years. We can treat this as an extended vacation," Diana added.
"That's not a bad idea Diana. I have a cousin living in Rome. We can go there. That is if Hermione agrees with this plan," Robert replied. Hermione thought about it. She wouldn't be meeting Harry, Ron or any of the others anyway. Maybe going out with her parents would help her to keep her mind away from magic. Owls were no longer a safe mode to communicate. So she wouldn't be able to write to them either.
"That's fine dad," Hermione replied.
"Great. I'll make plans. We'd probably be ready to leave tonight or tomorrow morning. You and your mum can start packing. You've been a very mature girl Hermione. I'm proud of you," Robert said with a smile on his face.
As Hermione was back in her room she thought about the whole thing. Though she was very sad about leaving her friends and her world behind she thought that all this was happening for the better. She needed to let someone know. Ron and the Weasleys would be busy with Bill's wedding coming up. So she started a letter to Harry. It would be the last letter she wrote for a very long time.
I have some news about myself which I suspect you will not like. This year my parents finally wanted to know about my life at Hogwarts. I told them everything. They got really scared on hearing about all our adventures. In fact they were so worried, now that Voldemort is around; they advised me not to go back to Hogwarts this year. I obviously wanted to go back but seeing their concern I just couldn't say no. They really care for me and wouldn't do anything to hurt me deliberately. So I've decided not to go back.
That's not the end of it though. Being muggle born I am in danger anyway. So we are going off to another country for sometime. I won't say where, incase the letter is intercepted. Dad said we'll be away for a year but from his expression I could make out that it would be more. I don't think we'll be back till the time this place is safe (i.e. Voldemort is around). We will leave tonight or tomorrow morning. Please do not send me owls 'there' as they may be followed but I would love your reply before I leave. I know I'm being overcautious but I want that my parents' purpose of keeping me safe to be fulfilled. So this is the last letter you'll get from me before I leave.
Harry I know, I promised to follow you to the final battle but circumstances have changed. My parents have done so much for me that I just had to respect their wishes. I'm terribly sorry for this. It tore my heart to make this decision. I feel like I'm acting like a scared mouse that is hiding away while the others face war. I hope you you'll understand. If it weren't for my parents I would have fought with everybody till victory was achieved or death conquered me. Please don't think badly of me. I won't be able to bear it. I've not informed anyone else so please pass the information to Ron, the Weasleys and McGonagall.
Finally I'd like to wish you all the best for the battle ahead. You've got it in you to survive this. You can and you will kill him. Everyone is on your side. Remember that you have 'the power he knows not'. Hopefully we'll meet again and I'll be proud of you for saving the world. Please give my regards to everyone else. I apologize once again.
Harry had just entered his room after his evening walk when he saw a letter on the desk. The neat handwriting told him that it was from Hermione. He tore it open and read it in amazement. He reread it just to make sure he was not dreaming. He put it down and his mind traveled back to the previous year. He and Hermione certainly had grown apart. During his sixth year at Hogwarts he had hardly spent anytime with her. But before that she was almost like a part of him. He couldn't do without her suggestions and inputs. Despite last year they were still very good friends. From the letter he knew that it was a really tough choice for her. Suddenly his memories gave way to slight anger. Why was she doing this? He banged his table and sat down. She was a grown up person and could make her own decisions. He was nobody to interfere with her life. He was so frustrated by this that he didn't even bother to reply. Perhaps it wouldn't be too difficult to forget her. So the sixth year did have its share of benefits. But as he lay down on his bed his mind traveled back to his fourth year at Hogwarts.
Harry got up from his bed and wondered what was wrong. Then it came back to him. The previous day his name had popped out of the goblet of fire. The whole school including Ron, his best friend, thought that he was a cheat. The dangers of the tournament didn't even come into his mind. The only person he hadn't spoken to was Hermione. If she didn't believe him he would be isolated. As he walked down to the great hall he saw her coming out with some toast for him. She wanted to talk to him away from everyone else. A sense of relief swept through his body .It was amazing. He wanted to hug her but continued to walk with her. When he told her that he didn't put his name into the goblet, she believed him at once.
In a few days time he found out that the first task would be dragons. Mad Eye Moody had hinted him to use his broom. But he needed to learn the summoning charm to get it. For that he once again needed Hermione. She taught him with tremendous patience. She stayed awake late to help him. She encouraged him when he got frustrated. Without her support he would have been nowhere.
Finally after the first task it was she who seemed the happiest. She had tried to get him and Ron together all the time. When it finally happened she couldn't control her emotions. Though Ron was his friend again, she continued to take the lead in finding out about how to stay under water for an hour and how to get past the creatures in the maze.
There was one thing which touched him the most. Before the second task she had told him, 'I'm scared for you'. It made feel like somebody actually cared for him. He had no parents of course. He knew he had plenty of well wishers in the wizarding world but this was the first time somebody had said it aloud.
Harry wiped his forehead. He couldn't let something like this happen and not do anything about it. The Dursleys were out for dinner with the Masons. He crept downstairs and looked up the directory of doctors which was near the phone. He hoped that he could find Hermione's phone number. Luckily he found it. He dialed the number and waited for the response.
"Hello, Diana Granger on the line," a voice spoke.
"Good evening, may I speak to Hermione," Harry asked politely.
"Actually she's gone out with her father to buy a few things. May I know who is on the line," Diana asked.
"This is Harry. Harry Potter," replied Harry.
"Oh we've heard so much about you Harry. Hermione can't stop speaking about you. You must have called up about our move away," Diana said.
"Yes I just read her letter. It took me completely by surprise," said Harry.
"It would be hard on you. Hermione certainly had a very tough time. I'm sorry for this but her safety is our prime concern. I hope you'll understand," Diana said in a sad voice.
"Yes I do. I just wanted to speak to her. Maybe I'll call after a while," said Harry.
"Yes that would be okay. No wait…… I think I can hear her coming in…… Hermione! Harry's on the phone," Diana said, giving the phone to her daughter.
"Hi Harry. I was so disappointed not to get a reply from you. You aren't angry with me are you?" she asked.
"No Hermione, I'm not angry with you. But are you sure about what you are doing?" Harry said, hoping he didn't sound rude.
"Harry I have to do this for my parents. They love me. This is the least I could do. Please don't be mad. It was difficult but I've made up my mind," she said firmly.
"If you're so certain I won't stop you. So I guess its goodbye then. Take care of yourself. Hope we meet again sometime," Harry said, finding it difficult to keep his voice normal.
"Thanks Harry. Your approval means a lot to me. We will definitely meet again. Good luck for the battle. I'll miss you very much," Hermione sobbed.
"I'll miss you too. Goodbye," said Harry, keeping the phone down. His eyes were watery. He went back to his room. Another memory of Hermione, during their fifth year flashed through his mind.
Harry and Hermione had just escaped the centaurs and Dolores Umbridge. They were soon joined by Ron, Neville, Ginny and Luna. All of them had to decide which was the best way to save Sirius. Hermione seemed convinced that it was a trap laid by Voldemort and Sirius was perfectly fine. Considering her level of intelligence she was probably right. But Harry's mind was not functioning properly. All he wanted to do was to go to the department of mysteries to make sure Sirius was safe. He made his intentions very clear. Ron immediately agreed to go with him. Hermione stopped them insisting that it was a trap. In his desperation he shouted at Hermione. He expected her to walk away in a huff but she did the most surprising thing. She decided to go with them. If she knew that it was a trap why was she going? Why did she want to endanger her life? Harry didn't have time to ponder over all this. He had to reach Sirius. Ginny, Neville and Luna also insisted on coming.
On arriving at the ministry they found out that Hermione had been right all along. Harry cursed himself for getting his friends into such danger. If only he had listened to Hermione. Now they were facing a battle with the deatheaters and were outnumbered two to one. His friends fought heroically. But there was one moment Harry's mind went blank. The deatheater named Dohlov had hit Hermione, who crumpled to the floor. Harry couldn't think what to do. When Neville told him that he could feel her pulse an amazing sense of relief came over him. They were still in a very difficult situation but hearing those words from Neville was fantastic. Harry thought he could conquer anything in the world.
The night ended in tragedy with Sirius' death. Sirius along with other members of the order had come to help the students. Harry held himself responsible for this. But he was thankful that he hadn't lost any of his friends. He had almost lost Hermione. He couldn't imagine what it would be like if she was killed.
It was quite late at night. Harry imagined that the Dursleys would have returned by now. Over the past few days he hadn't slept very well due to Dumbledore's death. Today however there was absolutely no sign of sleep. He kept thinking about Hermione and the time they had spent together. He just couldn't get her out of his head. He drank some water before shutting his eyes. Slowly he drifted into an uneasy sleep.
"I hope everything is in order. Master will be furious if anything goes wrong," a man spoke.
"Of course everything is fine. What could possibly go wrong now? The most difficult part is over" a woman replied.
"Yes it is. The girl turned out easier to handle than what I imagined. I thought she'd scream, shout and maybe even run away," the man said.
"You know good people are easy to fool. She got totally taken in by us. I must say we did very well. Master will be pleased. He's sure to reward us," the woman said, with a smile on her face.
"When does the portkey activate? I don't want to be here much longer. Why couldn't you set it up for an earlier time?" the man asked.
"You'll always remain a coward. Stop being nervous. I have everything under control. The portkey will activate in an hour. I just wish master would let us kill the girl and get over with it. That would have been really satisfying," the woman replied.
"You know master enjoys killing. And she is very special. He would never let anyone else kill her. In fact he'll punish us severely if we killed her," the man said.
Harry was sweating. It was after a long time he had such a dream. Who were these people and who was the girl they were planning to kill? Of course they were supporters of Voldemort but who? Could this be another trap? He tried to think carefully. This dream seemed more like the one he had had about Mr. Weasley than the one about Sirius. So it was probably true. But what was he to do about it? How could he save this girl? He recollected the dream and realized something which made his body grow numb. He knew the voice of the woman.
He rushed downstairs to the telephone and pressed the redial button hoping that the Dursleys hadn't made any late night phone calls. He waited with baited breath as the phone rang.
"Hello, Hermione Granger on the line," said Hermione in a tired voice. She had not gone to sleep as they were about to leave.
"Hermione, this is Harry. Don't ask any questions. Just tell me your home address. Be quick," Harry said quickly, as his heartbeat increased.
"Harry what is the meaning of all this? If you…," she started, but was cut off by Harry.
"Hermione, I WANT YOUR ADDRESS! There's danger," Harry shouted.
"It's 24-A Haverford Road, Chatham. But what is…," she started again, but was cut off again.
"Which room are you in at the moment?" asked Harry, hurriedly.
"I'm in……Ouch!...Aaaah….Ohhhhhh….." was all that Harry could hear before the line disconnected.