Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.
-Lilo and Stitch
Amy sat in the floor. Her father had long since hung up the phone; their conversation had consisted of what-ifs, crying, and trying to figure out what to do with Hermione. Her dad had reassured her over and over again that everything would be okay, but he had to go. They needed him there, so he hung up the phone, still trying to comfort her. That could have been five minutes or five hours ago; she wasn't sure. It was probably the sooner, because her mother still hadn't arrived yet.
Amy closed her eyes and leaned against the wall. Blissful numbness had taken over her mind. She knew intellectually that the Grangers were gone and never coming back, but it felt like they'd step through the door at any moment. She had talked to them less than three hours ago.
Hermione had said goodbye to them for the last time. The realization hit her like a tidal wave.
The first sob was the hardest, but they came quicker and the tears flowed easier as she collapsed into herself. She curled into a ball and let the grief wash over her. Amy was never close to the elder Grangers, but her parents were. She had been babysitting Hermione since the girl was two years old; the families attended the other's Christmas parties and had regular dinners together. They had known each other since before Hermione was born; when she was a shy four year old and her family had first moved into the neighborhood fifteen years ago, the newlywed Grangers had been the first to welcome them.
How could this have happened?
"Amy! Amy, let me in!" Her mother banging on the door broke the girl from her state. Still wiping tears, Amy slowly got up and crossed the room to let her in. As soon as the door was open, Amy launched herself into Eva MacDonald's waiting arms. The mother and daughter clutched onto each other tightly. Eva guided the teenager to the couch and had her lay down.
"Mum, how could this have happened?" She asked her mum the same question she had been asking herself since the call from her father. Her eyes were swollen and red.
"I'm so sorry, darling." Eva threaded her hands through her daughter's long black hair. She murmured words of comfort as the teen fell asleep.
Eva leaned against the couch and let a few of her own tears escape. Janet had been her best friend. How was she expected to tell her best friend's daughter that her family was all gone? Janet and David were Hermione's best friends, first and foremost. Hermione was so mature for her age, it was easy to forget that she was only nine years old. She hated her husband for putting her in this situation. While Andrew was good at his job, he had a tendency to let the more emotional side of his work fall to her.
She supposed it was a side effect of being abandoned by his birth mother and being tossed around from home to home for seventeen years of his life. She felt the familiar burning anger for that cold old woman resurface and swirl around with her grief before she pushed it back down. It would not do to dwell on the past, especially in these circumstances.
Minerva McGonagall was grading her first years' Transfiguration papers on how to transfigure a mouse into a teacup when a piece of parchment appeared on her desk. She frowned; it was from the Ministry. She had all of her mail forwarded to her rooms in the castle. The last time a Ministry letter was delivered directly to her person, James and Lily Potter had been killed by Tom Riddle and the madman had disappeared.
A familiar dread began unfolding in her stomach. She opened the letter warily and began reading.
To: Minerva McGonagall, Order of Merlin First Class, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, Professor of Transfiguration
Ms. McGonagall, we regret to inform you that your nephew, Dr. David Gerald Granger, and his wife, Dr. Janet Jean Granger, have passed away. They are survived by their only daughter, Hermione Jean Granger. Hermione Jean Granger has shown instances of underage magic (see the Department of Underage Magic at the Ministry for Magic for a detailed report). You are Miss Granger's only recorded living relative, and, as such, her magical guardian.
If you wish for her to go to a magical orphanage, please inform the Head of Magical Adoption at the Ministry as soon as possible.
If you choose to accept her as your magical responsibility, owl the Head of Magical Adoption and you will get a notification by owl in two-four days, asking you to come to the Ministry to legalize your guardianship of Miss Granger. Likewise, you will need to collect the child as soon as possible. See the attached document for her current location.
Have a pleasant day,
Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic
Minerva's heart clenched painfully. She closed her eyes. David and Janet were gone...and Hermione...Hermione was alone. She had never been especially close to her nephew; it was a side effect of herself being magical and her younger sister resenting being born a squib. Not long after her seventeenth birthday, the unmagical girl had eloped with a muggle. When Minerva went after her, they had a major disagreement in which every problem the two ever had came to the surface. Their relationship was still damaged when her sister died shortly after David's sixteenth birthday. When Minerva had written a letter of her condolences, David wrote back. He was angry and hurt that she had stayed away for so long and was just now writing, but they eventually resolved their differences.
Then the argument occured in which Minerva refused to visit, even when Hermione was born. She couldn't tell him that she was afraid. After what happened with her precious son and the split from her sister, Minerva was loathe to ruin things with what family she had left, so she had selfishly refused to let things progress any further than what they were.
As a result, their communications had fizzled out; they wrote the occasional letters (David continually complained good-naturedly that she lived in the stone ages because she refused to get a landline) and exchanged Christmas cards every year. Every card the Grangers sent had a photo of their ever-growing daughter. Minerva sent the girl birthday presents every year and signed them, "Aunt Minnie." But she had never had direct contact with the girl.
The irony of the situation was not lost on her. After being so sure about never meeting her great niece, she was now the child's guardian. Minerva could have laughed. As it was, she could barely keep from crying.
With shaking hands, Minerva grabbed a clean piece of parchment off of her desk and scribbled out a letter to the Head of Magical Adoption. She called her owl, Anastasia, and tied the letter to her leg. "Fly fast, Ana. This is urgent," she whispered. The barn owl gave her a disparging look before taking off.
What was she going to do? Now Hermione only had her, a great aunt she had never met before. The poor child just lost the only family she had ever known, and now she was going to be forced into an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people. How was she going to raise a nine year old? The last time she was the guardian of a young child... No. Minerva refused to think about Andrew. She had ruined her son's life due to one stupid mistake; she refused to do the same with her great niece.
The Transfiguration professor squared her shoulders. The best thing to do now is gather Hermione, she told herself resolutely. Then she can worry about the rest. Minerva left her office with a slightly faster than usual pace; she needed to find Albus and explain to the old Headmaster the situation.
She contemplated the circumstances. Hermione was magical; that much was fact. That would make her transition into life in the Wizarding World easier than if she was not. But she had lived her entire young life as a muggle. That was bound to cause some problems. She rubbed her temples as she walked. Finding out how Hermione would react to her new life could only be determined by introducing her to it.
Minerva gave a start as she noticed the gargoyle waiting patiently for her to recite the password. How was she at Albus' office already? Minerva shook her head slightly to clear it.
"Licorice wands." The stone behemoth moved out of the way and she climbed up the spiral staircase, eager to speak with the Headmaster.
Albus greeted her from his desk. "Minnie, what's wrong? You look like you've seen a grim," he said, sounding concerned. He was dressed as ridiculously as usual, in a purple robe with silver moons decorating it, but he looked older than he usually did, more tense, somehow. The always-present twinkle was gone.
"My nephew and his wife were involved in an accident and they...passed away. I am their daughter's only living relative and I must take her in. I would like permission to use your floo to get to the Ministry as quickly as possible," Minerva managed to speak with her voice cracking only slightly.
"Oh, Minnie. This truly is terrible." He nodded, stood up, and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. "If you need anything at all, I am here."
"Thank you, Albus," she said gratefully.
Harry woke slowly. His whole body ached dully, and the cupboard seemed lighter than usual. He opened his eyes with a groan. Harry started in surprise when he noticed he was no longer in his cupboard, but instead in a big, bright, white room. He was laying on a soft bed with a blanket covering him. There were a few other people here, and most of them were kids in beds similar to his. All of the kids were wearing dresses, even the boys, Harry noted with bemusement. The place almost resembled a hospital.
Why was he here? Hope swelled in his heart. Maybe his teacher had finally caught on? He had tried hinting again and again that things weren't okay at the Dursley's, but she had never noticed anything before. Maybe someone else did...but he should still keep his guard up, just in case. He had been in the hospital once before, when Dudley's gang had broken his arm in recess, and he thought he was finally safe with so many kind people around. But then his aunt and uncle took him home again and things just got worse from there.
He noticed a woman in a long dress looking after a kid in one bed. Harry could hear he muttering, "I have told him and told him...always playing Quidditch...even in the storm...honestly!" She kept muttering and paying him no attention, so Harry decided it was safe to relax, if only slightly. He wondered about Quidditch, but he didn't dare speak up. The first survival rule in the Dursley household: Don't ask questions.
It was then Harry decided to take stock of his injuries, like he always did after a beating. His mouth tasted bad, but that was nothing new. He still ached all over, but it hurt less than he usually did. The worst pain came from his chest. It hurt to breathe, but he managed.
Harry watched the woman curiously. She was now going around the other end of the room, looking at other kids. He shifted slightly to get more comfortable. The bed squeaked and he froze. The woman looked over at him, an expression on her face that looked like Aunt Petunia when Dudley was sick. He was confused; he'd never been looked at with such tenderness before. It made him uncomfortable.
"Mr. Potter? Mr. Potter, how are you feeling?" The woman asked authoritatively. She reached a hand out toward his forehead and he flinched back. The woman froze and slowly lowered her hand. Her expression was unreadable. "Harry, are you hurting?"
Harry blinked tentatively and whispered, "No, ma'am." He was, but admitting it was a sign of weakness. Harry wasn't weak, not in front of people who could hurt him.
She smiled. "Good."
Harry said nothing, still watching her. The woman had blonde hair like Aunt Petunia, but that was where the similarities ended. This woman had a plump, kind face and warm brown eyes, where Aunt Petunia had a thin face and cold blue eyes. She looked...soft. Aunt Petunia was all bone. The woman smiled at him again and leaned closer. Harry flinched; he couldn't help it. No one got that close and didn't hurt him. She frowned and he tensed, burrowing deeper into the blanket.
The woman finally gave him space and Harry relaxed slightly. "Harry, I will be right back. Someone would like to speak with you very much; I'm going to retrieve him right now. Is that okay?" She spoke slowly to him.
Harry nodded. Agreement was always the safest option.
Thank you all for reading, favoriting, following, and reviewing! It means the world to me. If you have questions, feel free to ask! I'll do my best to answer them (without giving any spoilers away, of course!).
bookworm661- First of all, happy birthday! I hope it was/will be magical. Dumbledore is already beginning to realize that placing Harry with the Dursleys wasn't the best idea. As you can tell from this chapter, Minerva and Hermione are indeed related, and Minerva finds out through a Ministry letter. I've always found that the Ministry letters were extremely unsensitive in the books, so I've tried to emulate that here. Thanks for reading!
FrogCatcher2000- Harry and Hermione will be very close throughout this story, but it may take a while for them to reach that closeness. Thanks for reading!