AN: Deal with me for the first half of this chapter - usually I'm decent at starting fics, but for some reason, no matter how much editing I do, I seem to have too much information. But it all ends up being relevant later on! Ugh. Okay, it's a little choppy. But as usual, I promise a quality fic after this prologue/chapter one type bit. A little back story - Hermione and Harry had both established fulfilling careers less than a year after the final battle. Hermione fights for the rights of non-human magical beings, and Harry was immediately accepted into the Auror program and is in his first year of training. Ron, however, hasn't, and is feeling a bit bitter about it. Determined to make something of himself, he leaves behind everyone he loves to make a name for himself - other than being in the Golden Trio. Meanwhile, the wills of Nymphadora Tonks and Remus Lupin are read when Andromeda begins to get sick - and it's everyone's surprise to find that they've chosen Harry and Hermione to care for Teddy. With the changes going on around them to adapt to caring for a child at the young age of 18, Harry and Hermione are in for a world of interesting events. And when something threatens the safety of them - and young Teddy - Hermione and Harry will be drawn closer together than ever before. Enjoy!
Hermione was pleased. Really, she was. Yes, she'd been doing endless amounts of paperwork, instead of fighting on the front lines, demanding rights for those who had none. But in a way, she'd been doing what was right. She was putting her brain to good use, she was researching and writing and outlining important case points. She'd began working for an organization specializing in non-human rights just a few months after the final battle. While she'd been doing her six month training, Ron had always referred to it as "S.P.E.W., multiplied", a term which Hermione didn't particularly appreciate, but was actually somewhat accurate. She was pleased with how she'd ended up after the war - while it had seriously scarred those around her, she thanked Merlin and anything she could every day that she'd only lost those that she had, and that she hadn't lost Harry or Ron. Whenever the thought crossed her mind, it went blank - she couldn't imagine what life could have possibly been like if she'd lost one of them.
Despite her protests, she was also pleased with the fact that she and Ron hadn't gotten too serious too fast. They'd been together nearly the entire summer except for the month Hermione spent in Australia trying to find her parents, and it had gone... well. Not great, not terrible. They had never really moved past a kiss or two here or there, and Hermione liked keeping things away from getting too serious. She had a career. And she was only eighteen, after all. She was especially pleased of this fact when Ron, angry with himself for not getting appropriate N.E.W.T.s when they'd been allowed to take them shortly after the war, realized that he wasn't doing anything with his life. He was living off a moderate sum that the ministry had given each of them after the final batter, he wasn't working, and though the reward had been a lot - he was running out. Ron had made a big speech at a Weasley Sunday dinner - he was going to work on a job. He was going to do something about it. And then, in typical Ron fashion - he left. He packed his things, and he was gone. Hermione hadn't gotten to see him in the time between the speech and his departure - he'd left her only a letter. And in the six months since he'd left, Hermione hadn't opened it. She couldn't push herself to read it. The speech had been in October of 1998.
Hermione insisted she was fine. She was mostly fine. Mostly. But Harry could see through what she was saying. Ron had left months ago, leaving nothing but a few letters and his things in his room. Harry was still in shock, but at least he was attempting to deal with it. Hermione... she wouldn't look at him. Her smile was shy - nervous. And where she'd normally spout nonsense about her job, about finishing her training, Harry found that his end of the conversation was the only one that actually existed.
"Hermione. Are you listening to me at all?"
"See? You're barely paying attention. And that's definitely unlike the Hermione I know." He ordered them two butterbeers and stared at her. She didn't flinch.
"See, that's how I know you're not paying attention. I've been making strange faces at you and you don't even notice. You won't even look at me."
"What do you want me to do, Harry?" For the first time all night, she looked him in the eye. Harry nearly had a heart attack. Yes, she'd turned to him in haste, and to prove a point. She'd pushed him. But he hadn't felt anything - and he didn't see anything behind the brown eyes in front of him.
"I just want you to... talk, or something. To not keep staring at your plate as if it's the only thing in the world. I'm here too, you know."
She looked at him again - it broke his heart, to see her looking at him like that. Utterly defeated.
"Hermione... I know Ron..."
"I don't want to hear about Ron, not right now."
"Then let's talk about something else. Anything else."
"Harry, I've got a huge case at work coming up - my first solo case. I'm working on freeing a house elf that used to belong to the Malfoy's - one that essentially took Dobby's place. Because of wizarding law, he's their property, but that's what I'm working on changing in the next few years - months, if I work fast enough. I barely have time to talk, let alone to sit here with you and attempt to find a subject besides Ronald Weasley!"
He saw her eyes go glassy and moist with fresh tears and he reminded himself to hit himself later. Hermione had been a disaster since Ron left and all he was doing, despite his efforts, was making matters worse.
"Then let's leave," He saw her face change, grow angry, "No, 'Mione, I'm not saying that because I'm angry. You don't have the time, it's difficult for us to spend any time together without wondering where Ron is, and it's just simpler if we don't try for now. We're just going to wear ourselves out." He stood, finished his butterbeer, and jerked his head towards the door. "Come on. I'll apparate home with you."
Harry and Hermione did not get the rest that they intended, by returning home that night. In fact, the only thing they got was a shock at seeing their faces on the front cover of the Daily Prophet carried by the old owl in Hermione's front window.
Details Revealed - The Real Story of the Golden Trio
"This can't be good." Harry took the paper and Hermione groaned, entering her small house, her smaller bedroom, to put down her things and mentally prepare herself for what was probably a new disaster.
"'Mione, you have to see this... it's everything. The horcruxes. Ron leaving, the snatchers, all of it."
"How could they know all that? We've only told family!"
"I'm not sure. It's a Skeeter article, of course, but for once... it's not all made up. Hermione, the rest of the world shouldn't know about horcruxes and things. That could get out of hand..."
Hermione stood behind Harry, reading the article over his shoulder and squeezing said shoulder every time she read something that annoyed her. Harry began to realize it was too often - his shoulder hurt.
"This is a disaster. Harry, what are we going to do? Did you read the part about when Ron left? That's rubbish! That's not even true!"
Hermione was referring, of course, to a section of the four-page article that chronicled their time in the Forest of Dean. According to Rita Skeeter and her source, Ron had gotten feelings that Harry and Hermione were talking about him behind his back, and left, and when he returned, they were awkward around him and unwilling to let him rejoin them at first.
"It isn't. And Ron knows that. But who else would have gone to the Prophet? Who else would have known enough?"
"Any of the Weasleys. Any of our close school friends, and McGonagall. That's it."
The silence that stretched between them was palpable, Harry and Hermione sat in worry as they each realized that a journey that should have remained secret was made public, secrets about each of them in turn were made public information, and there was nothing they could do about it.
"McGonagall wouldn't have. Luna, Neville... neither of them would have. It had to be a Weasley."
"Right, but Harry, how do we figure out who? And why?"
"I take that back. I know exactly which Weasley it was. Look here - I told Ginny this information personally. And privately. She was the only other one that knows that we were in Bellatrix's vault inside Gringotts... unless you told someone?"
"I didn't have anyone to tell. Harry, do you really think Ginny had a hand in this?"
He ran a hand through his dark hair, sending it in every wild direction. "I hate to admit it, but I know she did. She's the only one who knew. I was trying to keep it secret - her family could have found out and come after us. They might, now."
Silence sat between them again, an embarrassing and horrible addition to the pair standing in Hermione's sitting room, staring at the paper. Hermione couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, but everything she was thinking was said by Harry.
"There's nothing we can do. It's out. Our story is out."
Little did the pair know, their worlds were about to be turned upside down by more that just a newspaper article, published in November of 1999.
Andromeda had been inconsolable. Ted had gone to the market and for three days,he hadn't returned. They'd been married since they were young - she'd abandoned her family, her inheritance was cut off, but she'd done all of it to be with him. She'd thought that since the war had ended, they were safe. Apparently, they had never been - Ted had likely been kidnapped and/or killed by a Death Eater in hiding, or an extremeist with something to prove. He'd been a loving husband, father, and grandfather - one who would never get to see his family again.
She was teetering on the edge of bad health - at this age any Muggle would, but even a witch fell to bad health when her husband disappeared. It was a slow sickness that began spreading through her, deeming her too weak to properly raise her grandson, and the last remaining member of her small branch of the family. He would lie awake for hours, crying, but Andromeda could do nothing but soothe his typical baby frustration a few times a day by feeding him, occasionally telling him stories of his mother. It was clear from his birth that he'd inherited one thing from her - Teddy Lupin was able to change his appearance at will, a trait that usually proved humorous on the face and hair of a child.
She woke one morning with the realization that she would not last long. Nymphadora and Remus had been killed, and Ted had likely suffered the same fate. Andromeda was slowly dying, and rendered herself unable to care for young Teddy. With a heavy heart, she rose from her bed to unlock the heavily protected bottom drawer of her desk and pulled out a manila envelope. She extracted the wills of her daughter and Remus.
"What about Harry?"
"He'd be a fit father... strong, smart, and brave. And he's always been good at helping younger students, I suppose. I'd like to name him Godfather at the very least. He needs... family."
"He's the only one I'd consider naming the Godfather of my child. But as a father? Really, Lupin..."
"That's true. He never really knew... parents. I just don't know. I think that this feels right - I think that by the time your mother gets older, by the time she can't care for him, Harry will be ready."
"Then perhaps he'd be good to him. But he should get some help..."
"Our child would need a mother figure, I know. What about the Weasley girl? Ginny?"
"She'd be at school, if we're killed during the war. She's a year younger. And I'm just not sure - what if things don't work out between them? It could be a mess." Tonks shook her head, running her finger over the parchment. She couldn't believe she was writing her will at such a young age, that she was deciding who would care for her yet-unborn child if she were to be killed.
"We need someone Harry's age. Female, preferrable. Intelligent. With common sense. And instincts. And not romantically linked to him, for safety."
"What about Hermione? She's always been smart - sometimes too smart. Her and Harry have always worked well together..."
"Don't you think that could cause a problem with her and Ron?"
"You're as oblivious as they are, Tonks. They've had feelings for each other as long as anyone can remember."
"I see. Well, then it would cause a problem, I expect. But it wouldn't be easy on him..."
"I don't think Ron would want to raise a child. And he'll deal with it, if he's a man."
"Alright then. 'In case of our untimely death, we wish for the care of our son to be directed towards, ultimately, Harry James Potter. His name will be used as Teddy's guardian. In addition, Guardianship is to be bestowed upon Hermione... what is it again?"
"I think it's Jean."
"Right. '...Hermione Jean Granger.' It's done."
The couple stared at the wills on the table before them. They'd written them, originally, as a simple measure of precaution. Neither of them had wanted to. But neither of them had expected to die.
Andromeda read the wills, put them carefully back into the folder, and owled the ministry. She'd have to stay at St. Mungo's. And young Teddy, the baby, would be raised by his Godfather and his Godfather's best friend. Now, it was time to owl the both of them.
"Ginny, what the hell were you thinking? This shouldn't be out in the public! None of it should!"
"The rest of the world knew the essentials of what happened, Harry, and they deserved to know the rest!"
They'd been at each other's throats for the entire three hours that afternoon that Harry had flooed to the Burrow. Ginny was defensive, cruel even, in her mission to defend selling the information to Rita Skeeter.
"But why would you do that? It would have come out in time anyway, this is too soon!"
"It's been a year. Ron's been gone nearly six months. He doesn't care, and Hermione isn't here yelling at me, so I'm guessing she doesn't either."
"Hermione, actually, is extremely bothered by it as well. She's not here because she was a disaster before the article! Now I don't know what state she's in, I haven't talked to her yet today."
"Well then why don't you jump on over to your beloved Hermione and ask her how she feels now? You spend more time with her than with me anyway!"
"Gin, that's ridiculous! You're at school, and I can't fly over to Hogwarts to see you every day, you know!"
"It's just not easy, being gone. And Rita showed up asking questions... Harry, do you know what it is that I want to do after school?"
He realized with a start that he didn't. And if he didn't know that about Ginny, what else was he missing? "I don't."
"I want to write. I've been thinking about a position at Witch Weekly - Rita promised to help me find a job when I got out of school in exchange for the information. It's not like she really paid me."
"Getting you a job is still bribing you for information that shouldn't have been released."
The air was still between them for a moment as an owl flew to the window. A letter was attached, with an unfamiliar handwriting, bearing his name. "It's a letter for you."
He took it to the table, curious. How would someone have known to send his mail to the Burrow? He'd only been staying here for the last two days while Ginny was on break. The letter inside was not long, and was accompanied by a copy of another.
We've received this letter from Andromeda Tonks. She has fallen ill, and in the event that Ted Tonks does not return by the time that she is admitted to St. Mungos, you'll need to attend a small, private hearing this Friday at noon, regarding the Guardianship of her grandson, Teddy Lupin. Nymphadora and Remus Lupin left direct instructions as to the distribution of their belongings, their home, and the care of their son. The other person concerned in these matters will be joining us.
Assistant to the Director of Wills and Last Wishes
Behind this letter was another even shorter letter that had been owled to the Ministry from Andromeda herself. Upon reading, Harry found himself suddenly out of breath - things were about to change in his life, drastically.
"You know what, Ginny? I don't have time for this. The information is out and there's nothing I can do about it now. You may have given a dark wizard exactly what they need to take over the world, you may have twisted information and opinions to make Hermione and I look like fools and like selfish traitors to your brother, but the three of us - those who are actually concerned in the matter - know the real story. I have business to attend to, and I'm going to see Hermione. I'll be going back to my flat in the morning. I don't see any reason to remain at the Burrow, or with you, after any of this." He tucked the letters in his pocket and left Ginny with a shocked face, mouth open wide enough to fit a bludger through.