September 15, 2009
Library, 12 Grimmauld Place
He looked at the party invitation again and sipped from his glass of Firewhiskey. Of course he would go, it was Hermione's birthday, but the thought of seeing all of his ex-girlfriends made him think twice. It couldn't be helped; his ex-girlfriends were everywhere it seemed. The circle of friends and acquaintances from Hogwarts were still the ones he had to this day at the age of 29. However, none of these friends and acquaintances over the years had yielded a serious relationship of the female kind.
He was an Auror; an honorable, respected profession and the Head Auror at that. He cringed at his celebrated "savior-of-their-world" status and seriously questioned the accuracy of the "one of the most powerful wizards since Albus Dumbledore" line he once saw in the newspaper. However, he was able to acknowledge to himself that he was basically an all-around good bloke.
Women threw themselves at him on a regular basis. While most young men would welcome this, Harry knew it was because of his status, but not necessarily him. Sure, the ones he went to Hogwarts with knew him, but they still saw him as "the boy-who-lived" and celebrity savior of their world. Molly, Ginny (his first ex-girlfriend, but still a close friend), Luna, Hannah Longbottom, Mrs. Granger, his secretary Hannah, and Hermione; they were the women in his life who knew him above all others and truly cared for him.
They knew the real Harry, orphaned as a baby and left with abusive relatives who weren't worth the air they breathed. They knew the Harry who hated his perpetually messy hair that seemed resistant to all efforts, magical and otherwise, to tame. They knew the Harry who gave hundreds of thousands of galleons and dollars (anonymously) to orphanages around the UK so that no child in an orphanage would ever do without. They knew the Harry that hated publicity and attention but was plagued by it. They knew the Harry that was prone to fits of anger and said mean things to those closest to him, yet they always forgave him. Yes, they knew and loved him and he was grateful for it. His thoughts drifted back to the party invitation in his hand. The worst part would be seeing Hermione with her wizard, Trace Harrington the Third.
What a wanky name! he thought.
When Hermione transferred to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement a year prior, she and Trace hit it off mere minutes after meeting each other. After just a few dates, they seemed joined at the hip, and Harry only felt more awkward, bumbling and all-around stupid around her. It wasn't her fault that she grew more beautiful, powerful, and confident over the years, while it seemed he stayed the same. In his eyes, she was clearly out of his league. He hoped that Trace-of-the-wanky-name realized what a treasure he had in Hermione and treated her as she deserved.
Same night, Hermione Granger's flat, London
Hermione sat on her bed and sipped from her glass of wine, sorely needed after another trying day of work.
"Gin, I'm not sure I even want to go," she complained.
Ginny Hopkins, née Weasley, rifled through Hermione's wardrobe, helping her find a nice dress for her birthday party. Of course Hermione knew every piece of clothing she owned, but Ginny was sure there was something special in the wardrobe that her friend perhaps forgot about.
"Hermione, the pub is rented, the invitations are sent, and it's your party, of course you have to go," Ginny said in a long-suffering voice. "Wayne went through a lot of trouble to rent out The Galloping Gryffin, on a Friday night no less. Stop whinging."
"I'll be sure to thank him," Hermione said and tossed back the remainder of her drink. "I'm getting a refill, want some?"
Ginny looked at her pointedly and pointed to her stomach, five months along in pregnancy with baby number three.
"Right, I keep forgetting," Hermione said and left the bedroom.
"You're not going off on another spinster rant, are you?" Ginny called out. "You're only going to be 30!"
In the kitchen, she yanked the cork from the wine bottle and poured another glass. She dearly loved her pregnant best friend, but she was cross-eyed with envy! Ginny, and practically every woman she knew, was married, married with children, pregnant, or trying to get pregnant. Ginny married Wayne Hopkins (of house Hufflepuff) three years after leaving Hogwarts and was now pregnant with baby number three. Hannah Longbottom was pregnant with Neville's and her first.
The clerk at the movie rental shop down the street was pregnant.
The bakery assistant at Tesco was pregnant.
She was even sure that the next-door neighbor's cat was carrying kittens.
Is there something in the water?
No, just a baby boom after a war, similar to what happens in the Muggle world after a war, her father offered in explanation.
Even my own mother!
A complete and utter surprise to the Grangers, and at great risk to her health at 51, Mrs. Granger gave birth to Hermione's sister, Evelyn, last year. Her parents celebrated their 30th anniversary a week after Evelyn's birth. Who next? Molly Weasley? She snorted at the thought. Arthur would hang himself.
She saw a pair of Trace's shoes under the sofa, swirled the wine in her glass and again lost herself in thought. After meeting Trace when she came to work with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, she was almost certain that he was 'The One.' Smart, driven and confident as she was, he asked her to dinner her second day at work. Since then, they were inseparable. The relationship was wonderful the first six months. She loved the companionship: someone to have lunch with, someone to hold hands with at the cinema who shared her love of all things Star Trek, someone who was there in the middle of the night when she had a nightmare. She had a great job, a great boyfriend, and great friends. Even her cat was great. Life was good.
September 18, 2009
Hermione arrived at the Ministry of Magic; somewhere she never thought she would work. She lost complete faith in the Ministry during her fifth year at Hogwarts and the repugnance lasted until Kingsley was elected Minister for Magic after the war. He instituted dramatic changes just days after the war that played a large part in re-establishing the people's trust in the Ministry. Harry's endorsement of Kingsley helped too.
She enjoyed her growing career as a Advocate in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The work was challenging and she felt she was making a real difference in the world. She worked mainly as a Prosecutor, and occasionally took cases for her prior employer, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. She saw Harry almost every day, because he had to present evidence and testimony from those arrested by Aurors; in return, she had to brief Harry about the legal proceedings of the inmates.
This morning, she deposited her briefcase on her desk and went to Trace's office. Upon arrival at his office, she was greeted with the curious sight of an empty office. She went to the Department supervisor's office and stood outside the open office door until he asked her inside.
"Come in and have a seat, I'll be through with this in a minute," he said and continued a letter.
She sat in the chair in front of his desk and glanced around the office, adorned with pictures of his wife, kids, and Kenmare Kestrels Quidditch team paraphernalia. He finished the letter and placed it in the outgoing box on his desk.
"Good morning. Tea?" he asked, gesturing at the small table in the corner.
"No thank you, I was wondering if Trace--" she asked and paused when he held up his hand.
"Mr. Harrington resigned his position late yesterday afternoon," he said.
Hermione was speechless. He continued.
"By owl, no less. I would have preferred a face-to-face resignation, but that's neither here nor there," he said. "I can see by the look on your face that this is an unexpected development."
She nodded wordlessly. He knew of their relationship and disliked that she had to be blindsided this way. A witch like her deserved better than this.
"I know that the two of you were working on the Archer case, so I've petitioned the Wizengamot to delay his hearing. There's no way I expect you to prepare for a case of this magnitude by yourself," he said kindly.
"Thank you sir," she replied softly.
"Are you alright? I know this is a shock, but if you need some time--"
She shook her head. "No sir, I really need to continue my work with the Archer case. I'll be fine."
"That's the spirit. And don't worry, I'll find someone to work the Archer case with you."
At lunchtime in the department canteen, Harry looked for Hermione. It was unusual for her not to make an appearance at lunchtime, even if just to grab an apple or a cup of her favorite Chai tea. His wand vibrated, signaling that he was being paged. He took his sandwich and Coke and left the canteen. At the Auror division, he saw Aurors hurriedly milling about, Kingsley talking to the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and two healers speaking to the Auror-on-watch in charge of the holding cells. He went to the head of the department.
"What happened, chief?" Harry asked.
"One of apprehensions committed suicide," was the answer.
"With someone on watch?" Harry asked and ran his hand through his hair. "Which one?"
Harry turned on his heel, swore, and kicked a rubbish can. The entire office froze when the soda can in his hand exploded.
"Bugger," he mumbled.
Hermione didn't think things could get any worse until she went home. She first noticed that the living room looked different. Things were missing, Trace's things. She went to every room and saw that every trace of Trace was gone from the flat.
Every trace of Trace? Not funny!
She went back to the dining room and saw a vase of flowers on the dining table with a note attached.
Hermione, I regret that things turned out this way. I thought that making a clean break of things would be easier on you. I will always think fondly of you and the time we shared. I wish you only the best in the future. Trace
I regret that things turned out this way. I thought that making a clean break of things would be easier on you. I will always think fondly of you and the time we shared. I wish you only the best in the future.
Wordlessly, she sank to a chair. Is this really happening to me? Stuff like this only happens in the cinema, right? It doesn't really happen!
And just like that, she was alone again and she had no idea why. She sat at the table in a daze, forgetting dinner or anything else. She heard the telephone ring but she had no will to stand and answer.