"Well, I for one am glad you quit that awful Ministry job. You were working so hard there towards the end. It's a wonder you found any time for yourself at all," Molly said, setting a fresh mug of tea before Hermione. Its citrus smell was oddly comforting for the one-time academic.

With a weak smile, Hermione nodded to her mother-in-law. The year since Harry's and Ginny's passing had been difficult, the only consolations being that Arthur had survived his fall and that Ron, despite her actions and the lingering scars from the Tears of the Damned that marred her beauty, had stayed by her side. A secret, internal hearing at the Ministry declared her innocent by virtue of magical possession, but she could never erase the stain on her soul. She resigned her position on the spot--even if her husband and the Ministry didn't blame her, she knew she would never forgive herself.

Tears, like guilt, came easily to the witch these days.

Molly hummed as she worked a tart dough and Hermione glanced out the window at the trees swaying in the breeze. A sapling a year old stood beside Fred's. With trembling hands, she brought the steaming mug to her mouth.

"Oh, that reminds me..."

"Mmph." Hermione flinched, spilling hot tea onto her mouth and lap.

"Sorry dear." She handed Hermione a tea towel. "I have something of yours, I think." Molly went to a bureau and pulled out a small, leather tome.

Hermione's eyes widened. She had left the book when the had left the Ministry and she hadn't seen it since.

"I don't know how, but it just showed up here." She handed it to Hermione, whose shaking hands opened it automatically to the Tale of the Three Brothers.

"What a nice story," Molly said, reading over her shoulder. "It's too bad the Hallows are just a fairy tale. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they were real and could bring back my Fred?"

Hermione nodded, not trusting her voice.

"Now be a dear and go fetch me a tin of peaches. Ginny always likes cobbler on her birthday."


A/N: Thanks to Alpha Fight Club for all their help in hammering this piece into shape. Special thanks go to BajaB, Scaryisntit, BennyS, Voice of the Nephilim, Nukular Winter, and japanese jew for their insightful comments and suggestions. I apologize for a non-canon element of the story: BennyS informed me that JKR did mention in an interview that the Elder Wand's core was Thestral hair. I felt a feather from the Angel of Death suited this story better, if making it slightly AU.