Hermione's parents were filled with joy the first winter break Hermione had spent with them.
She had eagerly confided all the exciting adventures she had with her two new best friends, telling them about murderous teachers and mysterious packages, midnight adventures and three headed dogs, wizarding bank robberies and men named Nicholas Flamel. They had been terrified for their only daughter, of course, but they were thrilled that she was fitting into the wizarding world so well. By the time she returned to them for the summer, they began to wonder if she was fitting in a little too well, though. She had changed slightly in the short year they had spent apart. Hermione was more reserved, quieter, less inclined to chatter away unguardedly. As their daughter told them about the events surrounding Quirrel and the Sorcerer's Stone, they got the sense she wasn't lying to them, precisely—rather, she was choosing her words cautiously, carefully toning down the danger she had been in, avoiding admitting to bits of rule-breaking she had engaged in.
If her parents were hurt by this mild form of deception, this was nothing compared to how they felt when she refused to spend Christmas with her in her second year at Hogwarts. Her letters, which had become slightly vague and evasive on some points, offered only weak excuses as to why she had to stay at Hogwarts. Hermione had learned to keep secrets. The worst letter of all, though, did not come from Hermione, but from Deputy Headmistress McGonagalls, telling them that their daughter had been Petrified in a freak accident.
"Don't worry though," the letter continued, while Hermione's mother clutched her heart and sank into a nearby chair. "A remedy is being prepared, and your daughter will probably be returned to consciousness by the end of the school year."
They refused to deal with the terrifying implication of that one short word, instead insisting on making plans to go on a vacation in France the very day Hermione would return on the Hogwart's Express. "When Hermione gets of the train," they would always begin, as if there was no other possibility. As if their only daughter was not in the sort of danger no non-wizard could protect her from.
They were overjoyed when Hermione tumbled off the Hogwart's Express, pale, shaken, quiet, but very much non-petrified. Their vacation in France was wonderful, but tempered with sadness whenever Hermione visited a sight-seeing spot with only wizarding significance, the kind of place they could never come. They received a nasty shock at the end of the summer, though.
"You don't mind if I stay at the Leaky Cauldron by myself for a few days, do you? The Weasleys will be there, and I'll be perfectly safe," she had asked anxiously, and they had no choice but to allow her, and hope that this habit spending the last precious few days of summer vacation away wouldn't turn into a trend.
The next summer, she talked eagerly about seeing the 'Kwidditch' World Cup. After enduring several weeks of this, her mother timidly asked where they could buy tickets.
"But I'll be going with the Weasleys, of course!" she had said, innocently shocked. "Muggles can't go the Cup!"
It was the first time she had called them Muggles, instead of non-wizards, or "ordinary folk." It was with heavy hearts and a strong sense of loss that they entrusted her into the care of the cheerful redheaded family who spun from the fireplace later that summer. They didn't see her again for almost two years.
There was yet another surprise waiting for them during Hermione's fourth year. Even in her busiest hours of her third year, she had made a point to write individual, long letters to each of her parents every three weeks, filling them in on everything that was happening in her life. Now her letters were shorter, addressed to both of them, and filled with more excuses and words of caution than news.
"I'm so sorry I haven't written in a few months, but I've been so busy helping Harry prepare for the Tri-Wizard Tournament . . . please don't go out at night, Death Eaters are on the rise, there are signs of things changing, of Dark forces rising, of bad things stirring . . ."
But it wasn't until they got a letter from her at the very end of the year that they knew their daughter was truly changing.
Dear Mum and Dad
There is no easy way to say this: You-Know-Who has returned. When Harry touched the Tri-Wizard Cup, it transported him to a graveyard, where You-Know-Who used a few drops of his blood to help him return. You-Know-Who is now rallying his Dark forces, though the Ministry is totally oblivious, as usual (!).
Please, please, be careful. I'm enclosing pictures of all the known Death Eaters, common Dark creatures, and the Dark Mark. If you see any of these things, run! Don't go out at night, and don't expect many letters—an owl zooming in and out of a Muggle dwelling pegs the Muggles as a Mudblood's parents. Just knowing me puts you in danger—I'm so sorry.
I'm afraid I have more bad news. I'm not coming home this summer. Dumbledore approached me and asked if I wanted to spend the summer helping people who believe in You-Know-Who's return resist him. I wish I could tell you more, but Dumbledore made me promise not to tell anyone, anything. I can't even tell poor Harry! I know you hate it when I don't spend my holidays with you, and I hope you understand me when I say that only something truly, truly, important would make me cause you that sort of pain. I'm sorry that I'm not staying with you this summer—but I have to. I'm sorry I didn't ask your permission before I said yes—but there are some decisions I have to make myself. Most of all, I'm sorry that there are some things more important than being with your family. Please believe when I say that this is one of them. I'm sorry.
Again, please be careful.
Reading this letter, Hermione's parents realized what they had secretly known ever since their daughter had returned home after their first year apart quieter and more reserved than when she left: their daughter was slowly, inevitably slipping away into the world of magic for good. Not that they didn't fight it, of course. Oh, how they struggled to keep their brave, independent daughter close! Intending to encourage some family bonding, they arranged a ski trip over the Christmas break of Hermione's fifth year, and guilted her into agreeing to come. At first she resisted, caring more about keeping Harry company than her parents, but once she heard he was invited to the Burrow, she agreed.
Their suitcases already packed and in the car, they waited for her eagerly at Platform 9 and ¾,. And waited. And waited. After searching the entire platform for their errant daughter, they had to admit that she had not been on the train. Then, on the way to the car, an owl swooped down on them. Ignoring the stares of passerbyers, they hurriedly read the message it carried, hoping for a clue to their daughter's whereabouts. Was she ill? Hurt, perhaps by one of those evil Death Eaters she wrote about? Detained for some reason at Hogwarts?
Dear Mum and Dad
I'm really sorry, but I need to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas. I desperately need to catch up on academics, and the school library is absolutely essential. Exams are coming up in a few months, and everyone who is serious about schoolwork is staying. So sorry—
It couldn't have been more obvious that she was lying. The writing alone proved her guilt—it was rough and shaky, unlike her usual elegant, neat cursive. If it actually been sent from Hogwarts, it wouldn't look like she had written the note on a bouncy bus. The excuse about exams was also obviously fake. There was no reason she couldn't simply take the important books out of the library and take them with her on vacation. The worst part wasn't the obvious falsity of her excuse, though—it was the fact that the entire note felt like an afterthought. It was as if she had already made the decision about how to spend her break, and her parents were the last people she thought to inform, as a formality. They sent back a short note, trying not to sound bitter. It wasn't her fault that her parents were no longer the most important family she had.
She did come home that summer, but stayed not two weeks. Her visit felt like just that—a visit. A quick stop at her relatives before she returned home. Hermione appeared briefly, refused to tell them news of the wizarding world, and vanished again into the night, leaving only words of caution and apologies in her wake. All in all, her parents had every right to be stunned when she abruptly agreed to spend Christmas with them that year.
Though she agreed to stay with them over the break, it quickly became obvious that they were not the reason she had come. She spent most of her time in her room, writing long letters to Harry and her other friends, practicing dueling spells, doing schoolwork, and muttering about how Ron was such an unfaithful, traitorous prat. The time they did spend together was short, awkward, and stiff. Neither parents nor daughter seemed to have anything to say to one another, despite their extended absence from each other's company. The contrast of this Christmas to the last Christmas they had spent together, way back in her first year, could not have been sharper.
Hermione's parents were so scared by this new, withdrawn daughter, that they decided to put their foot down and insist their daughter stay with them the summer before seventh year. They received stiff resistance, until suddenly, Hermione agreed to meet them at Platform 9 and ¾. Like nothing had ever happened. Like she was still the exuberant little first year who couldn't imagine spending the holidays with anyone but her parents. Like she hadn't grown apart from her parents, like she hadn't chosen the wizarding world over them.
For a few, precious weeks, they allowed themselves hope. Maybe Hermione had realized how she had drifted away from her parents, and was trying to right the wrong. Maybe she regretted the letter she had sent them at the end of fourth year, telling them that fighting You-Know-Who was more important than staying with them. Maybe . . .
At first, thing seemed promising. Hermione definitely seemed to becoming to some sort of epiphany regarding her parents. She had always been a little high-strung, but now she was more emotional than ever before, prone to dissolving into tears at the slightest provocation, jumping at odd noises, and bursting out at the oddest times:
"I love you, Mum and Dad. You know that, right? I'll always love you, no matter what."
Once, her dad noticed her staring at him from across the room, though she hastily glanced down at the book in her lap when he caught her. Another time, her mother found her crying on her bed, surrounded by Muggle pictures of good times they had as a family before Hogwarts. For the first time, she did absolutely no summer schoolwork, instead spending as much time as possible with her parents. On rarely did she disappear into her room, bearing books like "The Art of Magical Forgery," "Memory Modification and its Ramifications," and "Keeping Muggles Oblivious; How to Control Muggles who Know." Hermione insisted on going back to all her favorite childhood haunts, getting a sundae from the ice-cream parlor she had frequented as a child, browsing the new releases at the library she had made endless trips to, even revisiting the old grade school where she had first discovered the joys of learning. Her parents were concerned over what was driving these strange urges, but they came along on all her little trips anyway, delighted their daughter was finally making an effort to spend time with them. Not understanding Hermione's intent to wipe their memory and run away, they attributed this new, strange behavior to the only explanation they had—their daughter no longer thought fighting You-Know-Who was more important than spending time with her parents, and was homesick for the old days. At night, while their daughter slept, her parents recalled the hopeful signs they had seen that day. Hermione had spontaneously hugged her parents and told them that she loved them. Hermione had talked reminiscently about childhood experiences. Hermione had gone an entire day without mentioning You-Know-Who, magic, or Hogwarts once. Surely, this meant that their daughter was going to choose them over the wizarding world. What other explanation was there for this new, emotional Hermione they were dealing with? Clearly, she was trying to reconnect with her family at long last.
The final of the outings she proposed was to a little lake where Hermione had often swam as a child. Unfortunately, trip was doomed from the start. Hermione searched boxes of her old clothes for a bathing suit that still fit. She couldn't find one, and her parents were both concerned and delighted to see that she burst into tears twice, upset by old clothes that held some precious childhood memory. Yes, they were sad that their daughter was sad—but they couldn't help but be secretly thrilled by the fact that she seemed to want her family back the way it had been, before Hogwarts. They had to take her to buy a new suit, though the only one available was a rather ugly two-piece. The car ride was quiet, with Hermione occasionally breaking the silence to say things like:
"Whatever happens, I'll never forget you. I promise." Or: "So much has changed since I entered Hogwarts. Maybe too much." Far from sounding like a homesick child longing for her family, these made Hermione sound like she was dealing with two terminally ill loved ones with just a few weeks left to live. For the first time, Hermione's sudden change in attitude towards her parents seemed ominous rather than promising.
Things continued downhill once they arrived at the lake. Once she had changed into her bikini, a burn scar was revealed across her chest. When asked what is was from, she told them shortly, "The Battle of the Ministry." A half-healed gash on her arm was attributed to "The Battle at Hogwarts."
Just how many battles had their little girl been in?
Once it came time to actually enter the lake, Hermione balked, going pale and muttering something about a story Harry had told her involving a green lake and "inferi"—whatever they were. "Inferi" seemed yet another new aspect of the magical world that Hermione wouldn't share with them. Whatever they were, they had clearly disturbed their daughter enough to keep her from wanting to go into the familiar old lake. When the clouds opened up over them, the Grangers declared the entire outing a failure, and piled, dripping, back into their car.
It was on the ride home that their daughter finally opened up to them. She told them about how she wasn't going back to Hogwarts, about how Harry had a mission that only she and Ron could help with, how her parents wold have to go into hiding for safety's sake. She explained how it was necessary, how she regretted saying good-bye to her parents, how she was so very sorry that they would be in danger because they were related to her. She mentioned her plan to change their names and move them to Australia, leaving out only the memory-wiping detail. Her reasons strange behavior the past few weeks suddenly became clear. This wasn't her way of trying to reconnect with her lost family.
This was her way of preparing to leave them forever.
They fought her, of course. They quarreled back and forth for the two hours home. She argued skillfully. No, she couldn't just go back to school, it was dangerous there too. No, she couldn't just stay at home, she was a known Mudblood, she wasn't safe. No, she couldn't go into hiding with them, Harry and Ron needed her. There were sobs, screaming, accusations, and apologies all contained in that little car, but by the time they pulled into the driveway, Hermione had convinced her parents. Somehow, over the course of those long crazy two hours, she had made them understand just how important the Wizarding world was to her. As they pulled into the driveway, Hermione's mother thought wryly, Well, this was on trip I'm never going to forget. She had no idea just how soon she was going to forget it.
They were just inside the door when Hermione told them the biggest news of all.
"There's just one more thing," she told them, fighting back tears again. "Fake names and forged documents aren't enough. It's impossible for you to actually pretend to everyone, 24/7, that you can't remember any daughter. Eventually, you'll slip up. When you do, your lives, and mine, and by extension, Harry and the entire Wizarding world will be at risk."
"Way to keep the pressure off, 'Mione," her father murmured.
"There's a . . . solution, though," she choked out, unwillingly. "I can make it so that you never slip up. I can make you forget you ever had a daughter."
"Hermione! It isn't worth it!"
"Don't you dare point that wand at us!"
"I'm sorry, Mom and Dad, but this is something I have to do."
"I'm sorry, too, 'Mione, but you can't-"
"I'm sorry, Mom and Dad."
"Good-bye, Mom and Dad."