For some odd reason, that catches Hermione off-guard. She didn’t expect them to be happy, not laughing and having a pint with friends. As she watches them, she finds herself drifting into memories of the past months.
She knew they’d be safe, she’d taken every precaution and done everything she could to ensure that, but there had been a war and so many things happening that she hadn’t thought beyond ‘protect them’. Her plan had been risky, complicated, and more involved than just about anything else she’d ever tried to do, yet it had been the only way to make sure they lived. She couldn’t go off to help Harry, couldn’t do what she knew in her heart might lead to death, if she was worried about her parents ending up as another casualty in a war they didn’t even understand.
So she had researched painstakingly from the day they buried Dumbledore, making lists of everything they’d need to fulfill Harry’s, to fulfill their quest, and she’d made her parents her priority. It was only after she knew how to protect them that she could focus on protecting her boys, after all. By the time she left Hogwarts, she knew what had to be done, had analyzed and made lists until her head hurt, and knew it was the only surefire way to keep them alive.
When she arrived home, she was more aware of things than she had been in years. It was difficult to balance two lives, far more than people seemed to realize, and she knew she was guilty of putting more of herself into the wizarding world while leaving her life with her parents behind. It wasn’t until she knew that she was going to lose them that she had to accept the fact that she’d not really had them in years. At the time, she wondered if she was a terrible daughter, if she was a failure for not being able to properly balance being a witch and being a Muggleborn, if her choice of protection was more selfish than selfless.
There were no answers to those questions then, and there still aren’t now. She had made a difficult choice, feeling as if she were sacrificing so much of her life and past by making her parents forget they even had a daughter and sending them safely to Australia, and she’d gone off to fight a war, telling herself she’d seek them out if (when) they won.
But the war finally ended with victory, after months of hopelessness and frustration and finally success, and people had died, the Ministry had been infiltrated, Hogwarts had been partially destroyed. There was so much to do after it was over. Reconstruction and rebuilding, funerals and even weddings, and there were things to worry about, like not taking NEWTs and missing the last year of school, like employment and housing, like moving in with Harry and Ron at Grimmauld Place and making it a real home for the three of them.
Two months after the Battle at Hogwarts, she was talking to Ron and Harry while they were babysitting Teddy, and she heard herself quoting her mum. It was such a small thing, not even anything very important, but it had caused her to run from the room because she realized she hadn’t thought of her parents in months. Oh, there’d been a stray thought or two, maybe, but everything was happening so fast and she was so busy that she hadn’t really taken the time to think.
Andromeda had picked up Teddy, and then the boys were in her room, worried they’d done something, holding her as she cried and assuring her she wasn’t a horrible person. She didn’t believe them because she knew, she knew she shouldn’t have been able to just send her parents away that way, no matter how much she loved them, and she knew it had been to save them but also to save herself from worrying about them.
It took a week before the boys were able to make her listen to them. They finally listened to her, too, and there was bickering and glaring and threats before they finally just collapsed in a pile of limbs as they hugged and cried, and they finally understood her, maybe, and it scared her but made her feel more than she could ever put into words. She was ruthless, willing to go to any lengths to protect the four people she loved, but, in a way, she made a choice between the two worlds without realizing it or even accepting that she might have to choose sometime.
And now she’s in Australia watching her parents from a park across from their new house in their new life. She sees them laughing with their new friends and can’t remember the last time she heard them laugh. Not in years. They’re happy here, happy without her, and she no longer knows what to do. If she goes to them and fixes everything, they’ll remember her, they’ll remember everything, but do they want to? Is it better to just walk away and leave them here, happy and content with their new life, without her?
It isn’t until this moment, as she listens to them laughing, that she suddenly understands everything she did wrong. It was never a choice she should have made. If she’d talked to them, she’d know now what they’d want. She didn’t trust them, didn’t think they could ever really understand because they weren’t part of the wizarding world, weren’t part of her world, and now it’s too late. It’s far too late to do anything because she made her choice all those months ago after studying her stupid lists and analyzing the best options for everything. Lists don’t matter when it’s people.
They’re her parents, the people who raised her and supported her and tried to understand her, and she let them down. She took everything they gave and pulled away, distanced herself more and more as the war became worse and she realized she might not survive, and she thought it wouldn’t hurt them as much to lose her to death if they’d already lost her during life. And then she took that from them, making them forget they even had a daughter.
Now she doesn’t know what to do. She’s come to Australia to take them back, to give them what they lost and try to explain. But there’s no way to explain. She made choices for them that weren’t her business to make, and going to them now won’t do anything except make it all worse. It would be selfish if she lets her guilt act for her, especially when she knows that she belongs in the magical world.
Can she take away their happy life, a life that gives them laughter and contentment she’s never seen before, in exchange for easing her guilt and a visit every month or two? It hurts to think about losing them, to know they’re not there and don’t even remember her, but isn’t that a choice she already made?
She watches them for a little while longer, trying to memorize their faces and their voices, blinking away tears before she straightens her shoulders, turns, and slowly walks away.