Mrs. Granger had noticed that her daughter was acting a bit oddly.

Hermione always had been the sort of girl who spent a great deal of time in her room, usually immersed in a book, but this summer she had scarcely emerged even for meals. She said she was working on a special project of some sort – something for school, apparently.

She'd also been spending hours and hours with the old family photo albums. And she'd collected all the "wizard" pictures, the ones that had people who moved, and packed them away in a box.

In fact, she'd been going round the house and gathering every magic item in the house, all her old school books and such, and had disposed of a lot of them somehow. Hermione said she'd taken them to Diagon Alley and sold them to a secondhand shop, because she didn't want them any more.

-----

One warm day in July, Hermione brought home an enormous map of Australia and tacked it up in the kitchen.

"What's the map for, dear?"

"Oh ... nothing much," said Hermione. "I've been thinking of going to Australia someday. Wouldn't that be fun, Mum?"

"I suppose so, dear," said Mrs. Granger, a little puzzled. "By the way, has the post come yet?"

"No, not yet," said Hermione, staring at the map with her arms crossed.

-----

Two days later, Mr. Granger flipped open the mail slot and peered through it. He stepped out the front door and examined the porch carefully, even lifting up the doormat. Nothing seemed amiss.

Crookshanks, his daughter's bad-tempered ginger cat, nearly tripped him up as he walked into the kitchen. Hermione sat at the table, munching toast with butter and marmalade and reading that wizard newspaper, the Daily Prophet.

"Hermione, have you seen the mail recently?"

She glanced up from the paper. "No, Dad, I haven't. Sorry."

"Nothing's arrived for days," said Mr. Granger, scratching his head. "I don't understand it."

Hermione mumbled something through her toast.

"What was that, Hermione?"

Hermione's cheeks turned pink. "I said, maybe the postman forgot where we live." She gave an odd little laugh, choked on toast crumbs, and hurriedly took a swallow from her glass of juice.

"Well, I guess I should visit the post office and see about clearing it up," said her father, sighing. "Unless you'd like to take care of it?"

"Erm, well, I'm awfully busy," said Hermione, "but I guess I can do it tomorrow. Can it wait till tomorrow?"

"I suppose," said Mr. Granger. "The office gets most of the important letters; I'm just worried there might be a bill or something we're missing."

"I'll take care of it," Hermione promised.

"Thank you, dear," said Mr. Granger. "I'm out to run some errands. See you at dinnertime."

"'Bye, Dad."

-----

Hermione came downstairs a while after supper. Her parents were watching a history program on television. Without saying a word, she sat down and curled up on the sofa between her parents. She hadn't done that since she was thirteen years old.

"Why, Hermione," said her mother. "Are you all right, dear?"

"Just fine, Mum."

But she wasn't. Mothers can tell these things about their children.

"Hermione, look at me."

Hermione looked. Her expression was troubled. She was good at hiding it, but no doubt about it: the girl was preoccupied. She looked tired, too: more so than someone who's on summer vacation ought to be. As if she hadn't been sleeping much at night.

"Darling, is something wrong? Are you worried? What's bothering you?"

Hermione bit her lip and looked away. "I'm ... I'm just thinking about school. This is going to be my last year. I'm ... a little sad about that."

"Oh, honey," said her mother, giving her a hug. "You'll have lots of fun at Hogwarts this year, just like you have before. And since your birthday last fall, you're allowed to use magic whenever you want! Isn't that nice? I'm so excited for you, you're going to graduate at the end of this year, and get a job doing something fun, and ..."

"Don't!" said Hermione. Her eyes were full of tears, and seemed about to spill over. Startled, her mother let go of her. Hermione jumped off the sofa and ran upstairs to her room.

Her parents exchanged astonished looks. "Honey, what's going on with her, do you think?"

"Haven't the foggiest idea," said Mr. Granger. "Maybe it's that boy Ron, maybe he wrote her a hurtful letter."

"But she's going to visit him next week, isn't she?"

He shrugged helplessly.

-----

Late that night, Hermione very quietly opened the door to her parents' room and stole inside without a sound.

Everything was packed and ready.

It had taken longer than she'd expected. Hermione was overall a very tidy person, and she usually kept things where they belonged, but she'd been a witch since the age of eleven and over the past seven years, a lot of magic stuff had found its way into every corner of her home. Hermione had found magical photos hanging everywhere, an old Herbology textbook in the broom closet, a Honeydukes chocolate wrapper in the garden, potion bottles in the washroom, and Knuts under the sofa cushions. For weeks she'd been searching out every trace of wizardry she could find, but that wasn't the half of it ...

By far the most difficult task was to eliminate from the house all evidence that she had ever lived there. She had taken all the pictures of herself from the photo albums, stolen her childish art projects from her mother's desk drawer, cleared her bedroom of all her belongings and taken all the posters down from her walls. With every trace of its former occupant wiped away, the room was now just a guest bedroom. And Hermione was less than a guest: she was about to become a stranger.

Now it was time for the final step. The most complex charm she'd ever cast, to veil her own existence from her parents' memories, and give them a new identity.

The memories would still be there, along with their real names, but they'd be buried underneath the effects of the spell. Her parents would forget that they were Grangers, and forget about Hermione. They would think they were called Wendell and Monica Wilkins and that their life's ambition was to move to Australia.

Hermione hoped that they would follow the urge and go overseas as soon as possible, because she knew that as soon as she joined Harry Potter on his quest to destroy Lord Voldemort, her parents would be in dreadful danger. The Death Eaters, Voldemort's terrible servants, would come looking for Hermione because she was Harry Potter's close friend ... and if they couldn't find her, they'd settle for interrogating and torturing her parents. Maybe they'd even kill them. The Death Eaters despised Muggles and tormented them for sport, and the Grangers would have no way to defend themselves.

Hermione shivered. She absolutely hated having to lie and sneak around and put spells on her own parents, but there was no other way to protect them. She had to be strong. There was nothing in the world she wanted more than to break down and tell her family the whole story, her parents had always trusted her and she them ... but this time, that just wasn't possible. The less they knew, the safer they'd be if the Death Eaters found them. She had to carry all the secrets alone.

And if she never came back, at least her parents would be all right. They wouldn't miss her, because they'd never remember she'd existed. They would feel no sadness, no loss. As if Hermione Jean Granger had never been born.

She couldn't help it; tears were slipping down her face, but she restrained herself from making a single sound. If they woke up now ... if they woke up and tried to comfort her, it'd be too much. She'd never be able to leave them. Better hurry up and get it over with.

She dried her face on her sleeve. She concentrated. This would be the most complicated spell she'd ever cast, and she had to get it exactly right.

"Goodbye, Mum. Goodbye, Dad. I love you," she whispered.

"Obliviate."

-----

The next morning, Monica Wilkins climbed out of bed and went downstairs to get breakfast as usual. She walked carefully, having a vague feeling that something might be about to trip her ... but there was nothing on the floor, of course. She yawned.

She entered the kitchen, took the milk out of the fridge, and saw the map of Australia on the wall. She stopped and stared at it for a long moment. She did that often, for she'd always wanted to go and live in Australia. For as long as she could remember ...

A small yellow note was stuck to the map. Written on the note in block letters was the message:

NOW IS THE TIME TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS.

She must have written herself that note in a moment of fancy and stuck it up there. Still ... indeed, why wait?

Finally, she set the milk down on the counter and went to talk to her husband.

-----

author's note: In "Deathly Hallows," Hermione modifies the memories of a couple Death Eaters after escaping from the wedding, but she says she's never done a Memory Charm before. This seems to contradict what she says a few chapters earlier about having changed her parents' memories so they think they're different people and don't remember Hermione at all.