I don't own the characters; they are all the property of J.K. Rowling, and I don't make a penny from this either.
Since posting this fic, I have unfortunately discovered that there is another SS/HG fic with the same title on FFN, by the talented Mundungus42. The title is from a poem by Robert Herrick, and I have not set out to copy her in any way; my apologies if this has caused any confusion!
Hermione woke up.
She was in her own bed, she registered with a slight feeling of surprise. Her room looked the same as always, morning sun filtering through the venetian blinds bathing the room in a golden light. Her posters of the solar system and the periodic table looked down from the walls, gently nodding to the science books on the bookshelf.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed and stretched her hand out at the dressing table, fumbling for something out of habit.
It wasn't there.
She felt a hot little stab of fear in her stomach. She couldn't remember what it was, but she suddenly knew it was important. A watch? A gun? No, neither of these, she decided – why would she have a gun on her decidedly prosaic bed stand anyway? Firmly ruling out any flights of fantasy she scrambled around for some clothes, and ran down the stairs to see what was going on. Now that the shot of adrenaline through her veins had chased away the sleepiness she had a feeling of urgency; something was going on and she needed to be there.
The house was quiet.
"Mum? Dad?" Her voice rang out and she almost thought she could hear it echo back to her. The mantelpiece in the sitting room was covered in dust, and the plants that normally filled the bay window were missing from their pots. Looking around, she saw that there was a layer of dust everywhere. In the kitchen, the fridge was empty and the Aga was cleaner than she had ever seen it, mocking her with its shine. The Volvo was in the garage; it too covered in a thin layer of residue that smelt vaguely different to the drier dust insides. There was no sign of her parents anywhere.
A thorough inventory of the house revealed that Mr and Mrs Granger appeared to have gone on a lengthy holiday. Somewhere warm. During the coldest spring on record. Without their passports.
"Australia…" she remembered suddenly. Yes, they were definitely in Australia, the knowledge clicking into place in her brain like a brick sliding into the right place like when she played Tetris as a little girl. She knew she didn't need to be worried about them, that they were safe. The certainty bloomed inside her for a moment until her litany of questions resumed.
Why wouldn't they be safe here?
Thoroughly spooked now, she grabbed some of her father's golf clubs and placed them strategically around the house, checking doors and windows as she went. Suspiciously peering out of the windows, taking care to hide herself behind the curtains, she noticed nothing more threatening than Mr Hodges mulling about in his garden, and the postman passing over the Granger letterbox on his round.
Having checked that the burglar alarm was set she decided that she wasn't going to be ambushed right this minute, in the bright weekday morning light, so she might as well sit down and try to evaluate the situation. Unless Mr Hodges was in on it, in which case she was toast. He never liked her, at least not since he caught her cat catching a bird by the pond in his garden in third year. Like a flash of orange lightning she remembered… Crookshanks!
"Crooks! Come here, kitty, kitty, come… " Why wasn't Crookshanks here? She ran to the kitchen to look for his bowls by the back door, only to find the familiar space empty. She could even see scratches from his claws on the skirting boards, from when he hadn't been in the mood to wait for his food (just like someone else she knew, a fleeting thought chimed in but was overruled) – but her earlier search had unearthed no cat paraphernalia at all. Not even any hairs, and now that she could picture Crookshanks in all his ginger glory in her head she remembered that they ended up everywhere, exasperated her mother no end when she was home for the school holidays…
She could remember nothing about school. Nothing about what she did when she wasn't home, why she was left behind when her parents had gone to Australia.
Looking over the house again, she could see curious gaps – the bookshelf in her room looked nothing like its ordinary, overflowing self (she knew in her very hearts of hearts that her bookshelf would always be jammed full, the paralysing uncertainty could get no quarter there), the mantelpiece in her room was almost empty where picture frames should have been, some magnets on the fridge should have held photos but were hanging empty… and there were no schoolbooks in her room. No A-level course books, nothing.
Forcing herself to stop, to breathe, not to give in to the panic– she doesn't know why, but she knows she is stronger than this, that she has faced worse, that Hermione Granger will not give in. She makes a list of what she knows to be true.
She is eighteen. She goes to boarding school. There has been danger in her life recently, danger enough to drive her parents to the southern hemisphere. Her cat is missing. Something else, which should be with her always, is missing and it's not a silly watch. She may be in danger. And she should be somewhere else, she is needed somewhere beyond this empty house, a mausoleum to dust which would drive her father to distraction would he see the state of it.
And she knows she shouldn't tell people about her predicament. Not ordinary people, like Mr Hodges (not that he would help her anyway. Send her to the mental hospital, more like it).