Consequences

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2/1/08
It was Wednesday evening at home. That’s why sleeping had been impossible. Well, that and anxiety over what had to be done this morning. Hermione preferred the former explanation, though, because the other made her feel cowardly, which wasn’t a good feeling at all. Despite being scared, a part of her was really glad to be getting this over with. For a little more than a year, there had been nagging doubts and worries about removing the enchantment on her parents and facing up to what she’d done. When they had been hunting Horcruxes and living in danger, it had been easy to focus her attention elsewhere. If she died, after all, she wouldn’t have been in this position now.

Now, there weren’t any such distractions, and she knew that it was time, even if she was scared. For the last couple of weeks, she had practiced what she’d say to them. There were notes at home tucked into books with explanations or reasons as she tried to anticipate any possible reaction. Now that she was here and knew where they were, all those well-rehearsed speeches had left her mind. All she could think about was explaining how she’d lost their home, how their business had been rented to others, and how they’d lost over a year of their lives because she wanted to protect them.

Of course, after finding them so easily last night, she felt more convinced that she’d made the right choice. While they had no idea that they were in hiding, the fact that they’d been listed in the telephone directory seemed like an indication that they’d not have been able to stay in a secure location. They were too stubborn, it’s where she inherited it, and they had never seemed to understand the danger that wizards could present, even when she’d told them about various things involving Harry and the magical world. It wasn’t a justification of her actions, she knew, but she did believe she’d done the right thing, in the end.

She had left Harry and Ron back at the hotel, which, despite its name, hadn’t been exceptionally comfortable at all. It was going to be awkward enough to approach her parents as a stranger without having two men with her. Anyone when faced with three strangers wouldn’t be open to conversation, so she was going to do this on her own. Once her parents were released from the charm, she’d ring the hotel to let the boys know they were safe to join them. Right now, she wished they’d come with her because she was getting more nervous with every step she took.

When she reached the address listed for Wendell and Monica Wilkins, she was surprised to find herself at a trendy condo a short walk from the beach. It wasn’t at all like their home back in England, which had been older and intended for a family. This building wasn’t meant for families at all. There were no yards or trees, just potted greenery that was tossed around the place strategically. It was horrid, and she checked the slip of paper twice before resigning herself to the fact that this was where they lived.

It didn’t improve much when she entered the courtyard and looked around for the appropriate number. It was just after seven, as she hoped to catch them at home before they went into work, and the area was quiet. She would have expected more activity as people prepared to go to work, but maybe no one around here worked early. Regardless, it unsettled her as she walked around until she found their unit. Instead of going straight to the door, she lingered in the courtyard and just stared at the door.

Finally, before she lost her nerve or listened to the doubts in her mind, she walked over to the door and rang the bell. It didn’t take long before the door opened, and she found herself staring at her mum. She blinked, again feeling as if she’d somehow entered Wonderland, because her mum wasn’t tan and didn’t have light streaks of blonde in her hair as if she were twenty instead of in her forties.

“May I help you?”

The voice was her mother’s. Hermione felt a sense of relief as she heard it, resisting the urge to step forward and embrace her mum. Monica Wilkins didn’t know her from Eve, so she couldn’t hug her. She shifted and glanced past her mum, wanting to see a sign of her father but she just saw brightly colored walls and a painting of tropical fish.

“I think you must have the wrong flat,” her mum said curtly, obviously not pleased that Hermione hadn’t spoken yet.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly, focusing on her mum once again. Don’t you remember me? Can’t you see you in me? Where‘s Daddy?

“Good day.” Her mum started to shut the door.

“No, wait.” Hermione stepped forward and saw a flash of fear on her mother’s face, which caused her to draw back. “I’m not here to hurt you.”

“I think you should leave before I’m forced to ring the constable,” her mum said bluntly.

“It’s just---I knew you in England.” Hermione bit her lip as she thought quickly. “I was in the area on, uh, holiday with friends, and I thought I’d stop by to say hello. My name’s Hermione Granger.”

“I don’t know anyone with that name.” There wasn’t even a spark of recognition. The charm had obviously done as intended, but Hermione had hoped---it had been foolish, of course. “You must be mistaken.”

“I must be.” Hermione sighed and glanced down. It was time to remove the charm, though she would have preferred doing so inside instead of on the doorstep, but she didn’t really have much of a choice. She had to act fast or the door would be closed. She squared her shoulders and withdrew her wand from her pocket.

“Wendell, ring the police.“ Her mum stepped back and started to close the door as her father suddenly walked up behind her, drying his hair with a towel.

“What’s wrong, Monica? Who are you?” he demanded as he moved in front of her mum as if she were dangerous and intending to harm them.

“I‘m your daughter,” Hermione whispered, tightening her grip on her wand before she raised her arm. She closed her eyes and focused, murmuring the words necessary to release the charm. When she opened her eyes, she expected everything to be okay. They would remember her, and then she’d start explaining. Instead, she opened them and saw her father glaring at her and her mum looking scared.

“We don’t have a daughter,” her father said angrily. “Monica, get back inside. Girl, leave now or we’ll be forced to ring someone.”

“What?” Hermione looked from one to the other. “No, this isn’t right.” She waved her wand and said the words more forcefully, releasing the charm. It didn’t change anything. She tried again and again, but they looked more angry and scared, and it just wasn’t working. When the release words didn’t work, she finally tried Finite Incantatem, but it didn’t do anything either.

Before they could threaten her with ringing the police again, she stumbled back from their doorstep and stared at them in shock. It hadn’t worked. Why hadn’t it worked? She knew the release words and had practiced the wand work and pronunciation for hours. The charm should have ended. They should remember everything about themselves. They should remember her.

Something was wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Maybe she hadn’t said it correctly. Maybe her movements hadn’t been precise. There had to be an explanation. She’d go to the hotel and review her notes, then she’d figure out what had gone wrong so she could come back and fix this. She looked at her parents and blinked away tears as she put her wand into her pocket. “I’m sorry,” she whispered again before she turned and ran.

She ran as hard as she could, wanting to get away from them, needing to get to her notes. If she was more familiar with the area and hadn’t been so upset, she’d have Apparated, but she couldn’t risk splinching herself. Her emotions were all over the place, and she couldn’t get the vision of her mum’s terrified face out of her mind or stop hearing her father‘s voice as he said they didn‘t have a daughter.

When she finally reached the hotel, her legs hurt, her clothes were damp from sweat, and her eyes were red from crying, but she didn’t care. She went straight to their room, not even smiling politely at the desk clerk as she hurried past, and only stopped to collect herself when she was standing in front of their door. After a brief moment, she realized that it was pointless to try calming down, and opened the door. She had to find answers, had to figure out what she’d done wrong, had to go back and make it better.

*****************


Being a disappointment to a favorite professor was nearly as bad as being a failure.

As Hermione left Professor Flitwick's office, she felt the weight on her shoulders increase as she kept seeing his expression when she quietly explained what she'd done. It hadn't been the fact that she somehow made a mistake with the charm or the fact that she couldn't fix it. No, he'd looked at her that way when she told him that she'd used the charm on her parents. There had been such an intense look of disappointment that she couldn't forget it, even when he'd looked sad and understanding. If the visit had given her an answer, it would have been worth seeing that expression on the professor's face.

The fact that he wasn't familiar with the charm had just made her feel worse, though, and she kept coming back to the look as he'd listened to her. A part of her had hoped that he'd know it well and be able to instantly tell her what had gone wrong. 'Might recognize it' had been what he said when she first showed him the book, but it was obviously something he had never done or seen performed.

It had been incredibly disappointing, to say the least. The reason she had gone to see him was because her research since returning from Australia had got her nowhere. All of her notes were accurate, and she couldn't find a mistake in any of her translations or documentation. She had looked at every word so closely, just wishing she could find the answer, but it had been for nothing. She hadn't found anything except confirmation that her notes weren't wrong.

Finally this morning, she had accepted the fact that she had to get help. Professor Flitwick was the only person she knew with an extensive knowledge of charms, and she trusted him because she knew he was a good man. Still, it had been very difficult to go to one of her favorite professors and tell him what she'd done. It wasn't really that she was ashamed of it, because, despite all the difficulties she was now having, she did feel it had been the best choice at the time, but it wasn't something she wanted people to know she'd done.

It made her feel she did when she realized her charms for DA had permanently scarred Marietta Edgecombe or when she realized that she had crossed a line she never intended to cross by keeping Rita Skeeter in a jar. At the time, those had been the best choice for the situations, but, after, she'd felt this same sense of guilt and disgust with herself. The idea of people judging her without knowing everything or being able to understand was just something she wanted to avoid. She could judge herself harshly enough, after all.

Everything had a price. In the past, she had been too immature to really understand that or maybe it had been easy to accept it and move on because there had been so much happening. Now, though, there weren't distractions of Voldemort and possible death to keep her mind focused elsewhere. She had failed her parents, failed herself. There wasn't any way to avoid the truth, and it was more difficult than she'd have expected to accept it.

In the last forty-eight hours, she had often found herself wishing that she was able to lie and believe it, that she could blame it on the book or her new wand, that she'd wake up and find that this had just been a bad nightmare. That wasn't her, though, and there was no way she could just pretend that her choices had been good and just and that this current situation wasn't her responsibility. It was, and no amount of lies or blame changed that.

All she could do was try to deal with it as best she could while searching for a solution. She had swallowed her pride to enlist Flitwick's help, and he had agreed to look into the charm for her to see if he could find a flaw in her notes. For once, she would love to have made a silly mistake if it meant she could go to Australia and fix her parents.

Until he had time to research it, though, she was left with nothing to do to help, and that's the part that was most frustrating as she left the castle. How could she just sit by and wait when there was something this important that needed resolved? Not even her earlier excitement at receiving an owl regarding NEWTs was enough to get her mind off what had happened in Australia. It was impossible to think about working on H.E.R.O. or worrying about her future without NEWTs or finding a job when this wasn't resolved yet and her parents still thought she was a stranger intending to harm them.

Focusing on anything else seemed incredibly unlikely at the moment. Her emotions were heightened and her moods seemed to mostly be sadness or frustration since Thursday, but she was trying to focus and be strong. However, that was so difficult to do when she just wanted to sit and cry. It wasn't as if she hadn't cried since that morning. There had been tears, a lot of tears because she was just the type that had to let it out sometimes, but she hadn't allowed herself to stop working because self-pity didn't help anything anymore than guilt really did.

She couldn't help the guilt, so she just had to do her best to get through this without breaking. When it was all over, when Flitwick figured out what she could do to fix it and her parents finally remembered, then maybe she'd be able to appreciate the fact that she hadn't given up and had tried her best to stay strong.

*****************


The owl arrived during breakfast. Hermione hadn’t even finished a cup of coffee before she heard the pecking on the window. It had been brief and to the point, though no time had been specified as to when she should meet with Flitwick. He was a clever man, though, and obviously knew that she wouldn’t waste time in getting to Hogwarts.

The fact that it wasn’t even eight in the morning didn’t really matter. She had been up for a few hours, after all, and it seemed pointless to lurk around Grimmauld Place when she wanted to know what Flitwick had found. Fortunately, she knew he was awake because he’d sent the owl. Still, she was quiet as she made her way through the castle to his office. It was early, so there wasn’t a buzz of activity, and she didn’t particularly want to be seen to have to explain why she was meeting with a professor at such an early hour.

When she reached his office, she was relieved to see the door open and to find him at his desk. He didn’t seem surprised to see her, but there was an expression on his face that sent cold chills throughout her body. It wasn’t the face of someone who had discovered good news or solved a complex charm. Of course, she might be displacing her own worries by seeing things in his expression that weren’t there, she decided. That hope gave her the extra push she needed to walk into his office and close the door behind her.

“Good morning, Professor,” she said, taking the seat that he indicated.

“Good morning, Miss Granger.” Flitwick peered over the desk at her and adjusted his spectacles. “As I mentioned in my letter, I’ve finished my research into your situation.”

Oh good. He wasn’t going to waste time with idle chit chat and small talk. He was getting straight to the problem, which was what she wanted even if her tummy felt like it was tied up into knots. “Thank you, Professor. I appreciate you taking the time when you’re so busy.”

“I have never been one to resist a challenge, Miss. Granger. I just wish that I had found a better solution than I did.”

His words weren’t positive by any means, but she grasped onto the word solution and tried to ignore everything else. “There is a solution, though? Oh, thank God. I’ve been so worried.”

He looked at her then in a way that she couldn’t describe as anything but pitying. She shifted in the chair and bit her lip, curling her fingers around the arms of the chair as she waited to hear what he said. “Miss Granger, Hermione, the charm that you used---while it wasn’t dark, necessarily, it was distinctly gray. It was also too complex to have been used without further research and understanding.”

“It wasn’t dark,” she said firmly. “I don’t know about the gray, because it was in a standard book of charms, albeit rare and unusual ones, but I know it wasn’t dark.” She hesitated and lowered her gaze. “And I know that it was too difficult for me to use, obviously, since I can’t fix it.”

“Many of the rare charms are gray, child. If they weren’t, they would be used more often and classified as common,” he told her. “You had to be aware of that when you found it listed, yet you chose to perform it anyway without asking for guidance or doing more thorough research.” He held up a tiny hand before she could protest. “I am not here to judge your choices, Miss Granger nor am I here to scold you for doing something that, in hindsight, should not have been done. I have a rather good idea what your life must have been like at the time, and I cannot in clear conscience say that I would not also have made a bad decision if I were in similar circumstances.”

Bad decision. Should not have been done. Hermione flinched which each word and felt the pressure on her shoulders increase. This was worse than the disappointment and the sense of failure. He was being honest, treating her like an adult, and she should be relieved, but all she could think about was how her parents had looked at her last week. Nothing he said could be worse than seeing her mother’s fear and hearing her father dismiss any idea of him having a daughter. Besides, hadn’t she thought these things about herself many times since returning from Australia?

Logic didn’t work in this case, though. It didn’t matter what she occasionally thought about herself because it was different when it was verbalized by a professor that she respected and someone she had admired since her first day of class. Each word made her feel worse, and she hated herself when she felt her eyes stinging. She didn’t want to cry in front of a professor.

“What did you find, Professor?” she asked as calmly as she could. Her voice wavered but she was proud that she had been able to ask.

Flitwick was a good man, and he obviously hadn’t intended for his words to sound so harsh because he looked upset. She wanted to tell him that it was okay, that the truth hurt but she’d preferred that to mollycoddling and being treated like a na´ve child. Because he was right. She had known, even with the stress and worry at the time, that the charms she had been learning were complicated and there was a risk in performing them without proper instruction or research. At the time, there hadn’t been a better option, but she wondered during the past week if she just hadn’t tried hard enough to find one.

“You performed the charm correctly, Miss Granger. However, as it is with any charm that affects the memory, there is no simple removal. The text was misleading, regardless of your translation, and the fact that this charm is so rarely used because of the risk involved is not something you’d have known. It required me contacting other experts and researching in areas that you would have been unable to access to learn the true extent, after all.”

“But there is a removal?” She had to focus and not fall apart. This was too important. She reached up and wiped her eyes before she looked at Flitwick expectantly.

He sighed and shook his head slowly. “There is the possibility that an altered charm might work to release the enchantment. The one that you had originally used was incorrect, according to a colleague. It worked for a variation of the charm, true, but not for the exact wording that you used. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you know, this can happen, especially in older texts. I have little doubt that the proper release charm is in the book that you used; it just wasn’t placed in the appropriate place.”

“But that’s ridiculous,” she said. “I’ve heard of it, mostly in regards to Potions texts from the eighteenth century, but everything I translated fit with the enchantment that I used.”

“If someone intended to use that particular charm, it is not assumed that they would do so without very thorough research. In which case, they would have learned the mistake before performing it,” he said bluntly. “I am not discounting the work that you did, Miss Granger, but you are young and unlikely to know the extent to which you should have researched.”

She nodded slowly, biting her lip so hard that she could taste the bitter flavor of blood. For once, she couldn’t speak up about being called young because she had obviously made a mistake. “What can be done to fix them?”

He removed his spectacles and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Finally, he put them back on and looked across the desk at her. “The charm that I mentioned earlier could possibly work. However, the risk is great. The enchantment is a variation of a memory charm, and thus affects a delicate area of the brain. If the charm is performed and the enchantment is lifted, there is no guarantee that your parents will remember anything.”

“But no guarantee doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible,” she pointed out, grasping onto that hope as tight as she could.

“It has been over a year since you cast the enchantment, which also adds to the danger of removing it. It is not an enchantment that one casts with an intention to remove it, Miss Granger,” he continued. “If you attempt to do so, the chances of all of your parents’ memories coming back to them are very slight, and there is a risk of doing permanent damage to not only their memories, but also their brains.”

And just like that, her hope fled. Permanent damage. Brains. She had a vision of her parents lying in bed in hospital with tubes all over them as they stared blankly at the ceiling. What had she done? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It wasn’t supposed to be anything but a complicated enchantment with a relatively easy release.

“If you choose to let the enchantment remain, it will last until their death. They will never remember, but they will live out healthy, normal lives. There is no risk in regards to it not being removed.” His voice was gentle, which made it worse. She felt horrible, sick to her stomach and scared, and he should be yelling at her or calling her names or something more than trying to make it easier for her. This wasn’t easy at all.

“What if I cast it again but gave them the right memories? Wouldn’t that work?” She was trying to think of something to fix this. She couldn’t just sit here and accept that there was no hope. Not without exhausting any possibility. It was too important, they were too important.

“I would not advise such an attempt. It is unlikely that their brains could handle that much magic, and the walls would collapse. The damage would irreparable. There are only two options. You can risk permanent injury by attempting to remove the enchantment or you can give up and allow the enchantment to remain.”

“No,” she said softly, shaking her head. “Maybe there isn’t a charm, but there has to be something.” She wiped her eyes and looked at him. “We have so many fields of magic, Professor. Isn’t there something else? A potion or another charm or , uh, runes or something?”

“I know this is difficult, Hermione, but I‘m afraid that you need to accept it.”

Of course. He wouldn’t likely know if there was a potion or runes. It wasn’t his field of study. And he hadn’t been familiar with the charm she’d originally used, which meant there had to be other charms out there that he didn’t know. It wasn’t hopeless then. There might be a way to bring them back, to fix this, and she knew she had to try.

“Thank you, Professor.” She stood up and smoothed down her robe, cringing when she saw how her hand was shaking. “I appreciate your assistance with this matter.”

“Should I call for Madam Pomfrey?” He looked at her with concern. “This must be stressing, child. Perhaps she can prescribe something to calm your nerves.”

“There’s no need, Professor. I’m fine,” she assured him, even if that word wasn’t appropriate at all for how she felt right now. “I’ll go home now and rest.” In the library with the potions books. Maybe there was something in them that could be used to help make this better. “Good-bye, Professor. Thank you once again.”

Before he could say anything except good-bye, she hurried out of his classroom. She managed to make it through the castle and outside the walls without falling to her knees and sobbing, though she kept her head down so no one could see her crying if they noticed her. Instead of Apparating, she went to the Three Broomsticks to use the Floo. With the state she was in right now, she didn’t dare take the risk of splinching herself.

When she got home, she went up to her room and fell onto her bed. Permanent damage. No chance. Give up. Bad decision. Flitwick’s words echoed in her mind as she pulled her pillow against her and hugged it. Regardless of what he said, she couldn’t just accept this. It was her parents, and it was her fault that they were living in that awful flat in Australia with no memory of their lives or their daughter. Maybe the enchantment couldn’t be lifted, but there had to be a way around it. There just had to be.

She refused to give up without trying. Magic was supposed to make almost anything possible; what good was it being a witch if she couldn’t even make her parents okay again? No, she wouldn’t just let it go and stop looking for an answer. She’d do more research, exhaust every possibility, see if she could find anything that might help fix it.

*****************


The Ancient Runes books had been useless. As had the Potions books and the numerous Charms texts. There were even several volumes of Arithmancy and Herbology amongst the stacks now covering the table and floor around Hermione’s chair in the library. Nothing had given her any answers, not even a possible theory to research. She had been searching since Thursday, with an the occasional appearance at meals and a break on Friday for try outs, and had nothing to show for it.

Research took time, she knew. She had done enough of it to know that she normally couldn’t find an answer to something complex so easily. If she could, then it likely wouldn’t have been considered complex in the first place. But she had hardly left the library since arriving home from her meeting with Flitwick. Yesterday, she had only stopped researching long enough to use the toilet and answer a few owls. She had ended up napping here and there during the night without leaving her chair.

Now, it was Sunday morning and she had more books on the floor and table than were left on the shelves. It was a complete mess, and the part of her that wanted things to be neat and orderly was battling the part that was driving her to not stop until she found something. The latter was winning, so she barely glanced at the chaos around her as she stepped around the stacks to search the bookshelves again.

The coffee that Kreacher had quietly brought her a while ago had been finished, and she was starting to feel the exhaustion weigh down on her. She should take a dose of Pepper Up potion to give her the energy she needed to stay focused. She had slept enough, waking more than once with her book open on her lap and her neck aching from her position. The potion might help, but she wasn’t entirely certain it would really do much when part of her problem was frustration and stress over not being able to fix her parents. Nothing could help that, except a solution.

So, she had to find something. The Black library was extensive, and the idea that there wasn’t anything here to help was just impossible to accept. She had searched index after index, looking for any terms or possibilities, and found nothing, but she refused to accept that Professor Flitwick was right about there not being another way. But the only books left on the shelves were history and Astronomy, Transfiguration and Divination. When she started to reach for one of the latter, she stopped and shook her head. While she was desperate, she knew that there was nothing in any of these remaining books that could help.

“Bloody hell,” she cursed softly, leaning forward to rest her forehead against the shelf. She bit her lip and counted to ten as she thought about everything she had done and tried to figure out what to do next. She could go back through the books she’d already searched. Maybe she had missed something. Her current situation was proof that even the most thorough of research wasn’t always accurate, after all.

She straightened up and ran her hand through her hair before she turned to face the books. As she leaned down to pick up a large volume on Charms, she remembered the books in the little study upstairs. She put the book back down and hurried out of the library towards the stairs. The answer had to be up there. If there was a way to fix her parents, it had to be in a book in this house. The Blacks had too complete a collection to think otherwise. When she reached the study, she stepped inside and shut the door behind her.

It was dark so she conjured a couple of candles and lit them before she walked to the small bookcase. The volumes here were old and dark. She could practically feel the malevolence surrounding them. Curses and charms unlike any even in the Restricted Section. There was a moment of hesitation as she stood there staring at the spines, but she ignored the scolding voice in her head as she reached for a book on charms with a faded cover that bespoke its age.

When she opened it, her hand was shaking and she felt nauseous as she looked at the image on the page she’d opened randomly. It was horrid, worse than anything she’d seen during the war, and she turned away from it with a sob. What was she doing? This was what she had fought against, the use of this kind of magic against people like her, people like her parents.

She closed her eyes and saw her mum’s face, twisted in fear and ready to scream. Ring the police. We have no daughter. Go away, girl. She wrapped her arms around herself and leaned against the nearest wall as she started to cry.

We know you’re worried about that world, Hermione, but we can take care of ourselves. Besides, who would want to harm us? Pass the potatoes please. Her mum hadn’t understood. She’d tried, she’d tried so hard, but they wouldn’t listen. She’d had to do something. Had to protect them, had to protect Harry.

We’re worried about you, poppet. You haven’t left your room since we opened gifts. Come down and see your mum while I finish working? She hadn’t gone downstairs, though. She’d been upset over Ron, over Ron dating Lavender, and she hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone.

Maybe you shouldn’t go back to that school. You’re not learning anything useful. They don’t even teach you maths or literature. How will you go to university? They had argued for days but she was nearly seventeen and they couldn’t keep her from coming back. She didn’t want to go to university, but she’d wanted to go to the Burrow, to be back somewhere that felt comfortable and where she felt like she belonged. They had agreed after she told them bluntly that she would never go to university.

How did the boy die? And your friend Harry was there? Really, Hermione, you need to choose safer friends. We don’t like to hear that you’re running around that world with a boy who seems to attract danger so easily. They didn’t understand that it was her world, more than theirs was anymore. She had written to Ron and been invited to Grimmauld Place by Mrs. Weasley. It had been such an easy choice, to leave her parents for the summer and go somewhere that people understood.

Top marks! Well done, poppet. Your mum and I are very proud of you. You’re doing really well in your world there. The look of pride on their faces had made the stress of using the time turner worth it. Top marks in so many subjects. They had let her have chocolate that day and allowed her to go to their office with them. It had been a rare treat, to be invited there.

We always knew you were special, Hermione. Your father and I didn’t know it was like this, but we always knew there was something different about you. You get it from my side of my family, of course. Her father had grumbled and her mum had laughed, and she had felt special, felt as if she had finally been given a chance to fit somewhere. They had supported her decision to go, even though they hadn’t understood what magic meant, and she could still remember the feel of her mum hugging her, so tight, before she got onto the train at King’s Cross. Her father hadn’t been there because he had a golf match planned, but she’d found a box of chocolate from him hidden in her coat pocket after she boarded the train.

She was sitting on the floor now with her arms wrapped around her legs and her chin resting on her knees. The tears wouldn’t stop as she thought about them, as she remembered so many moments that they no longer knew. That they would never know now because of her. She had made a choice when she was eleven, and she hadn’t known then what would happen. She had foolishly been excited at the idea of this magical world where people would be like her and wouldn’t hate her for being clever or wanting to learn.

Instead, she’d found a world that hated her because of the blood flowing through her veins and students who still resented her for being clever and wanting to learn. That didn’t change. But she had changed. She had met Ron and Harry, and they’d become her best friends, and she’d grown up fast, having to if she wanted to stay alive and get the most out of school that she could. Somewhere along the way, though, she had lost her parents. Pushed them away, to protect them or because they couldn’t understand or because she’d become someone they couldn’t understand.

Now, it was too late. There would never be another hug, another piece of chocolate hidden in her school bag when she boarded the train, another proud smile or teasing poppet from her father. There was only fear and distrust as they looked at her as if she was a stranger. She had made herself a stranger. She could go back and use the charm Flitwick had mentioned, though. She could try to bring them back, to make them know her and remember.

It was so tempting to try. She wanted to get up and wipe her face and go. But she couldn’t. She knew that she would never go back because the risk was too great. She couldn’t do that to them, not after everything else she’d done, what she’d put them through. It hurt, it hurt so much that her chest ached and she felt sick, but she had spent so many years being selfish, thinking only of herself and this world. It had to stop.

It was time to let them go.

End