A/N: This chapter was inspired by imadra_blue's Facing Forward. I've borrowed some elements from this story and played on others. She's simply a wonderful writer.
Life had dealt its fair share of rotten lemons
to Hermione Granger. Being an only child hadn't been perfect, even with
loving parents, because people love to inflict pain on the ones they're
jealous of. Being abnormally intelligent (aside from allowing her
unparalleled success in school) had cost her many friends, even after
coming to Hogwarts. Living two lives, however, is what hurt her the
most. One life with her parents and extended family as a Muggle and one
in the magical world, where she felt increasingly more at home than in
the one she grew up in. The two halves were growing apart and the
required schizophrenia was unbearable. Her precious few Muggle friends
could never seem to find the time to fit themselves into her schedule
and her wizarding ones were all involved in the biggest war in a
century. Now, she was, too.
It wasn't the fetid lemonade
that she'd been forced to make time and time again that bothered her,
though. Nor was it the lack of available sugar when she'd wanted to
sweeten it just a little. It was the bitterness at realising that her
best friend had been drinking unsweetened, rotting lemonade since he
was a year old – and he didn't ever seem to mind.
become accustomed to it. Maybe the hard knocks of life that seemed to
keep slamming into him had deadened his sense of taste. Whatever the
reason, Hermione, in her very isolated, private way, was only now
beginning to understand what it was to be like Harry Potter. In
understanding Harry Potter, Hermione had been given new resolve. Fresh
from the bitter experience of misplaced doubt over the last school year
and then having it result in Dumbledore's death, she vowed to never
second-guess Harry again, no matter how illogical his hunches or how
dangerous following them seemed to be. Harry was going to save them
all, and Hermione was going to be by his side until the very end.
threw items from her trunk into an open suitcase on the floor, things
that wouldn't be needed any more. Going with Harry wherever he went and
however long it would take to defeat Voldemort narrowed her needs to a
select few items. Books, cauldrons, school robes, and gloves were all
piled into the suitcase that should contain two weeks of clothes and
essentials for her summer trip. Instead, she was going to leave them
and her Muggle life behind forever.
Her eyes found themselves
lingering on her bed and the single worn, stuffed bear that she'd had
for as long as she could remember. Scooping it up, she hugged it to her
seventeen-year-old body, burying her nose into its frayed head. How
many times had she sought comfort in Pricilla? How many thunderstorms?
How many imagined monsters under her bed? The stitches holding one of
the legs was coming loose and an eye had popped off the year she went
to Hogwarts, never to be seen again. Pushing the well of melancholy
memories aside, she placed Pricilla back on her bed and prayed she'd be
able to come back to her again, when the war was finally over. She had
new sources of comfort in her life now and where she was going,
Pricilla (and her parents for that matter) could not follow.
from her bed, Hermione surveyed the essentials still in her trunk: the
clothes, potions ingredients, and food that she'd nicked from her
pantry the night before. With a swish of her wand, it all floated to a
large blue duffle bag; with another wave, the now-filled bag shrunk to
the size of a pack of Exploding Snap cards. She placed this in the
pocket of her loose jeans and walked downstairs, mentally preparing
herself for the fight ahead.
Her parents were sitting on the
sofa, their bags packed in the entryway for their annual holiday trip;
this year they were to go to Spain.
"Where're your things,
Hermione?" her mother asked, noticing her empty hands. "The taxi will
be here in a few minutes and we're pressed for time as it is."
walked carefully across the rug covering the Grangers' expensive stone
floor and stood in front of her parents. She held her breath, dreading
what she was about to say. Then, after some hesitation, she gathered
her courage and said, "I'm not going with you."
chuckled dismissively, as she knew he would – he never took her
seriously when she needed him to. "What's this about? Of course you're
going. You've had a whopper of a year at school and things are funny in
England now. It'll do us all some good to get away for a bit."
casual brush-off hadn't lulled her mother into believing that Hermione
wasn't serious. She knew Hermione too well for that and could probably
see the stern look in her daughter's eyes. "I'm going to help a friend
kill an evil wizard and I probably won't be back for a long time." She
squeezed the sweaty slip of vine wood in her hand and took a half-step
back. "Take care of each other."
Her father stood, a haunted look on his face. Her mother's eyes were glistening but Hermione could also see acceptance in them.
"I love you," she said, and turned on the spot, disappearing with a small pop.
re-appeared in a small cubicle inside a woman's clothing shop in the
heart of Little Whinging. It was dark inside the shop, as it had not
yet opened. She peeked out of the stall and looked among the racks of
clothing, at the till, and around the dressing rooms to make sure she
was indeed alone. Satisfied, she walked swiftly to the door, charmed it
open, and after locking it again, marched determinedly towards Magnolia
She had never been to Harry's relatives' house and
now that Hermione was standing outside of number four, she reflected
that she probably wasn't missing much – just the companionship of her
best friend. Given the way Harry compulsively downplayed his hardships,
the indications of abuse she did know about were probably only
the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It was going to be good for everyone
to have him finally leave this miserable place forever.
happy day wasn't going to be for another two weeks, however, but she
and their other friend, Ron, had promised to spend however long he'd
needed with him. Bill and Fleur's wedding was going to be on the
twenty-eighth of July, and so that was when they were going to leave
for the Burrow.
Hermione waited outside of number four for
half an hour, turning over in her mind her parents' likely course of
action after her hasty departure, before she gave up on Ron going in
with her. Her dad would be on the phone with the local constable, while
her mother made tea. Then, they'd likely contact Hogwarts, looking for
Dumbledore, not knowing he was gone...
She snapped her mind
shut and looked around the neighbourhood. Several neighbours had
noticed her loitering, and if Harry's last letter had been accurate, it
would be best if she didn't infuriate his aunt by attracting too much
attention. She still didn't even know if Harry's relatives knew she was
Two muffled notes from behind the door confirmed that
the bell worked properly and Hermione nervously waited a discrete
distance from the dark green door. There was a scrambling sound and
then the metallic clunk of a deadbolt being thrown back. The door
opened and she was pleased to see Harry's face poking out behind it.
stepped forward, but caught herself when he pointed his wand at her.
"Where's Ron?" he asked quietly, holding his wand low so as not to be
seen by the neighbours.
"He wasn't here when I walked up,"
Hermione explained, noticing out of the corner of her eye the shade
being pulled back from a window in number six. "Can I come in?"
Harry scrutinized her for a second before speaking. "What's your middle name?"
she said immediately, cottoning on to his suspicious behaviour. "Which
bottle let you through Snape's potions room before you got the
She could tell he'd had to think about that one, but he eventually responded. "The smallest and you took the round bottle."
Hermione smiled. "Right. Can I come in now?"
threw back the door and she strode into what she instantly decided was
the most sterile house she'd ever been in. She crinkled her nose. "Not
very welcoming, is it?" she asked.
"No, I reckon they'd rather
scare most people away. 'Specially if they're normal like us." He
seemed saddened by this line of thought so Hermione prodded the
conversation in another direction.
"Are they here?"
shook his head and started walking toward the stairs, motioning for her
to follow. "No, they're off shopping or something. They'll be back
before noon, though – Dudley's favourite show is on the telly then."
a smirk, Hermione followed Harry to his room and was grateful to see
the perfectly normal piles of dirty clothes, messy stacks of books and
papers and the moving, waving pictures of she, Harry, and Ron on the
wall next to Harry's bed. There was also a pleasant moment of surprise
when she saw that Ginny's photograph had made it into his collection.
The younger girl had confided in her before they left the Hogwarts
Express just a few short days ago, and told her that he'd broken up
with her. Hermione was concerned that Harry may have had the mistaken
impression that Ginny would simply go away and that, instead of keeping
her safe, Harry's actions might do just the opposite. If Harry wasn't
distracted by missing Ginny, then Ginny would almost certainly insist
on going with them. Either way, Harry's noble idea was doomed to
"I hadn't thought about sleeping arrangements,"
Harry admitted as he pushed a large pile of dirty jeans, shirts, and
boxers into his miniscule wardrobe. The single bed was almost too small
for Harry's nearly six foot tall frame, let alone all three of them.
Not that they would consider sharing a bed together, but the problem of
adequate sleeping space wouldn't resolve itself.
wand from the back pocket of her jeans, Hermione motioned for Harry to
stand back. "I've got just the thing," she said, waved her wand around
the room and watched as the once postage stamp-sized space slowly
expanded until it was four times its original size. Then, flicking her
wand at two spots in the newly open area, she conjured two beds the
same size as Harry's, complete with pillows and bedding. Hermione's was
pink with a lace bed ruffle and Ron's was a garish orange that she was
sure he'd appreciate. Then, considering that both of her friends had
noticed she was a girl more than two years ago, she levitated her bed
into the corner of the room and conjured a dividing wall for privacy.
When she was satisfied, she turned to see Harry's mouth hanging open. "That's bloody brilliant!" he said.
Harry," she scolded slightly, but her lips twitched in very pleased
sort of way. "You didn't expect we'd be sleeping standing up, did you?"
"W – Well, no... I suppose not." He sat heavily on his bed, his face blank as he seemed to sink back into himself.
a frown of her own, she took her tea box-sized bag from her front
pocket, set it on the floor, and tapped it once with her wand. It
immediately sprung back to its original size and she replaced her wand
in her back pocket. She bent to unzip the bag, intent on grabbing a
bite of breakfast now that she was settled in.
and she turned her head in his direction. "Don't let Moody catch you
with your wand there," he said with a small smirk. "He'd lecture you
about blasting your buttocks off."
Taking advantage of the
opening he'd left her, she raised her brow in a shocked manner and
said, "Been looking at my buttocks, have you?"
shot to hers and he coughed into his hand, unsuccessfully hiding his
grin. "Guilty as charged," he said and then glanced at Ginny's smiling
photograph. "But I'm sure Ron'll do more of that when he gets here.
He's got a keen eye for that sort of thing."
thinking about how long it had been since she'd caught Ron looking at
any part of her besides her face. "Maybe. We haven't spoken much since
With his own incredulous look, Harry turned back to face Hermione. "You two looked pretty cosy on the platform at King's Cross."
hug was nice," she confirmed, sitting on the floor as she continued to
dig through her bag and gritted her teeth at the memory. "But I was
expecting a little more from the red-haired git."
"No declarations of love?" Harry asked with mock seriousness.
"No, and I've been waiting for four bloody years to hear it!"
There was a brief silence in which Hermione pulled out a sugar-free piece of liquorice and took a bite.
"Has it really been four?" he asked, still staring at Ginny's photograph.
swallowed her sweet and nodded. "Ever since he went into the forest,
after I was Petrified." Harry's brows furrowed as he apparently tried
to catch the significance. "Anyone as deathly afraid of spiders as Ron,
who'd willingly go into a great big nest of oversized ones for me,
well...." she trailed off. Something started to squeeze on her heart as
she thought about all that Ron had done for her.
glistened as Ginny's picture beamed back at him. The pressure on her
heart increased. Her hunger suddenly left her and she put her
half-eaten liquorice back into her bag. She folded her arms tightly
around her chest and distractedly wondered where Ron was.
showed up just before noon, having Apparated to Mrs. Figg's, scaring
her cats with his impromptu appearance, and received several long
scratches as a result. After answering questions about their time in
the Shrieking Shack in their third year, they let him enter. Hermione
was already tutting and shaking her head at the scratches.
wasn't my bloody fault she lets those things run wild," Ron said
bitterly after explaining his story on number four's front porch. Harry
hastily ushered him inside.
"My relatives will be here any minute," Harry complained. "Get in before they see you bleeding all over the carpet."
observed this all from the staircase, noting with satisfaction that Ron
was at least a little cowed by his experience with the cats. "Maybe
that will teach you to announce yourself before you Apparate into
someone's house, then?" she said with a continued tutting sound.
Ron's offended look returned immediately as Hermione healed his cuts with her wand. "You're glad I got mauled by a dozen rabid cats?"
if you'd thought for a second that it was okay to barge into someone's
house, then you deserved what you got," she replied waspishly, taking
care to overheat the sensitive skin behind his knee.
"Oi!" Ron exclaimed, pulling back his leg and rubbing it fiercely.
was fidgeting by the now-closed door, a look of bemused anxiety on his
face. "Can we take this argument upstairs, please? I'd like to at least
try to act like I didn't just let a fully-qualified witch and wizard into my aunt's house."
his mouth shut, Ron glared at Hermione, and took the steps two at a
time, while Harry waited for Hermione to follow. "If he'd only act
like an adult, it'd be all right," she whispered to him over her
shoulder as she, too ascended the stairs. "But he just doesn't think."
"I'm not going to argue with you, but this is
Ron we're talking about, here. Thinking before acting hasn't ever been
his strong suit." There was a pause as they reached the landing. "Nor
mine," he finished.
Hermione smirked and walked into Harry's
room. Ron was standing inside, his jaw hanging open as Harry's had done
that very morning.
"Blimey," he said, scratching his head. "I
must have been half asleep the last time I was here. You always told us
your room was tiny, Harry."
"Don't be stupid," Hermione said,
moving past him to sit on her bed, her arms folded across her chest. "I
expanded the room when I got here. You'd have seen the original
configuration, had you been here on time."
Ron walked to his
bed and tentatively touched the orange duvet. "Yeah," he said, suddenly
serious. "I was late because Dad needed me to help him with something."
This got Hermione's attention so she tucked her knees close to her chest and rested her chin on them.
Order is leaving Grimmauld Place." He hesitated, casting Harry a
careful glance. "Since.... Since Dumbledore died," he said, forging on
despite the fact that Harry cringed at the name. "Well, they didn't
think it'd be safe for them, with the Secret Keeper dead and all."
cringed as well, thinking that the Order would be hard pressed to find
as capable a leader in the war against Voldemort as Dumbledore. Finding
a new headquarters was almost moot.
"I reckon that's a good
thing then," Harry said suddenly with a forced smile. "We're going to
need a place to stay apart from the adults while we're out there.
Grimmauld Place would be the last place they'd look for us." He made a
vague gesture towards his window and the determined look returned to
"But, Harry," Hermione said, suddenly confused. "With the Fidelius Charm broken, we won't be safe there either."
the first time since Dumbledore's death, Harry smiled. Well, it wasn't
a true smile, as his lips merely stopped curling downward, but Hermione
wasn't going to be picky. He selected a book from his trunk and tossed
it to her. "I want you to put the Fidelius Charm on Grimmauld Place
again. You're going to be the Secret Keeper, too. The sooner you can
perform the charm, the better."
Turning the book over in her hands, she read the title, Advanced Concealment Charms, and looked back to Harry. "Where did you get this?"
"From the library, just before we left on the train," explained Harry.
Hermione gaped at him. "But that's stealing!" she said, outraged.
Harry levelled his gaze at her and without blinking, said, "It won't be the worst thing we'll do before it's all said and done."
was a deep, booming laugh from downstairs and the sound of the front
door being closed loudly. The Dursleys were home. Harry let his eyes
linger on Hermione for a moment as she fidgeted with the checkout card
in the front cover of the book. He gave them a strained grimace and
said, "I'd better go act like I care they're home."
performed the charm that evening, after Harry had nicked some roast
lamb from the Dursleys' table to provide them a meagre dinner. The
Fidelius Charm turned out to be not as difficult as Hermione had led
herself to believe. One simply had to think about the address, or other
permanent feature of the location being hidden, and then say the
incantation. As soon as Grimmauld Place was hidden by a new Secret
Keeper, Hermione was amused to note that neither Harry or Ron were able
to think of the name of the street, or even to describe the inside of
the house, though they could recall events that had happened there.
scribbled the address on a piece of parchment and showed it to both of
them before setting the paper on fire. It was as if a flood of memories
had spilled into their minds.
"Whoa," Ron said as he shook his head. "That was the strangest thing I've ever felt."
seemed to agree, as he was nodding slowly. "It's like I knew I'd been
there, and I could even see Moody handing me the address the first
time, but I couldn't even read what was on the parchment in my memory."
Hermione felt pleased. "It worked, then," she said. "So what are we going to do after we get to Godric's...?"
said Harry forcefully. "You're a great friend and a wonderful witch,
but I'm not ready to talk about that just yet. I'm really tired; we'll
talk tomorrow, okay?" He flipped the switch on the wall, extinguishing
the lights in the room. She heard a rustle of clothes in the period
where her eyes weren't adjusted to the darkness and by the time she
could see anything, Harry was in bed, under his covers, turned on his
side, facing away from her.
Ron said nothing, but moved to his
own bed, throwing back his duvet. He began to unbutton his trousers
when he froze and stared pointedly at her.
"Uh, sorry?" she
murmured, and slowly backed around the divider separating her bed from
the rest of the room, her cheeks warm as she tried to ignore the sounds
of clothes hitting the floor around Ron's bed. It was a long time
before she fell asleep. Try as she might, she couldn't control her
racing thoughts. Staying at Privet Drive was going to be more
complicated than she'd thought.