The summer Hermione received her Hogwarts letter, her parents had her aunt, uncle, and seven-year-old cousin over for dinner one evening. Her cousin finished eating quickly and wouldn't sit still while the adults talked about politics and Hermione stared at the wall.
"Go play in my room," said Hermione to the little boy, smiling. "Just don't break anything, and stay out of my wardrobe."
Of course, her cousin went rummaging through her wardrobe. Among the jeans, t-shirts, button-down white blouses and blue pleated skirts, he found several sets of plain black robes and a pointed hat.
While everyone was beginning on a large treacle tart, the boy appeared back in the dining room dressed as a wizard. Hermione's parents both went white – they didn't know what to say. Hermione, however, just smiled.
"I see you've been into my wardrobe," she remarked.
The boy's mother asked Hermione if she wasn't a bit old to play dress-up. Hermione's parents laughed, relieved that they didn't have to come up with an excuse of their own for their daughter's odd clothing. Hermione was just glad that she had hidden her wand better than her robes.
The next day, the Grangers went to the store and bought a large padlock for the wardrobe.
The summer Hermione was twelve, her best friend from her old school came over to her house.
"I missed you," the girl said. Hermione didn't answer. She hadn't thought about this girl at all since she became friends with Ron and Harry, but thought it would be rude to say so.
"What's the academy like?" Hermione asked. The girl launched into a long-winded description of everything about her new school, from the mad old lady who taught her history class, to the cute blonde boy that sat across from her in maths. It took her at least five minutes to notice that Hermione was absentmindedly pulling hairs out of her hairbrush, obviously not listening.
"Well, what's your school like then?" the girl snapped.
"I can't tell you," said Hermione, who continued to pull hairs out of her brush. She didn't look up. The girl glared at her, then stomped out of the house. Hermione thought she should have felt sad, but she felt nothing. She had nothing in common with the girl anymore. After that, Hermione no longer played with any of the neighborhood children. The girl had been her only Muggle friend.
When Hermione was thirteen, her parents decided to take her to France for the summer. Hermione didn't need to ask them why.
They spent several days in Paris. When they went to Notre Dame, Hermione attracted attention by conversing with what appeared to be thin air.
"It was a ghost," Hermione said brightly. "Only wizards can be ghosts." They didn't go to any more French churches after that.
They tried going to museums, but after Hermione disappeared for four hours into the "wizard section" of the Louvre, her parents weren't keen to bring her to another one. They just didn't understand.
"But there's so much history here," complained Hermione.
They visited the catacombs, and Mr. and Mrs. Granger were a little confused as to why their daughter, who wasn't easily frightened, jumped and cringed at every noise while they were there. Instead of chattering about the history of the place, as they had expected, she was silent. They didn't know the full story of Slytherin's monster. They didn't know about the Chamber of Secrets.
When Hermione was fourteen, her fourteen-year-old cousin asked her for help with his algebra homework. Hermione had never done Muggle algebra before. She stared at the paper for a long time before grudgingly admitting to the boy that she had no idea how to do the problems. He gave her a strange look and she got up and left the room, scowling.
"It's a shame," her uncle said later, upon hearing about the incident from his son. "I was certain that Hermione was the mathematician in the family. She could add and subtract before you could count."
When Ron asked Hermione to go to the Quidditch World Cup a week later, her parents couldn't help but be a little thankful for an excuse to get her away from the rest of the family. They were proud of her as always, but it was hard to act like it when everyone wanted to know why Hermione had turned out so odd.
The summer after Hermione's fourth year, she shut herself in her room as soon as she got home. She defied all of her parents' attempts to find out what was wrong, staring out her bedroom window for hours. She only came out for meals and to use the loo. At night, her mother thought she could hear her crying, but when she went to check, Hermione always seemed to be asleep.
When Hermione asked to stay with the Weasleys at Grimmauld Place, her parents didn't know what to do.
"We're worried about you, dear. What's wrong?" Mrs. Granger asked one day in Hermione's room. Hermione turned from the window to look at her mother. She looked worried, but not afraid. Hermione wanted it to stay that way.
"You wouldn't understand," she muttered. "I have to go back to the Wizarding world." Then Hermione turned away from her mother and stared out the window again.
Mrs. Granger didn't know what else to do but let her go.
The summer Hermione was sixteen, she told her parents about Voldemort. Her mother's eyes went very wide and her father raised his eyebrows.
"But... But he won't come after you, will he? You'll be safe at school, won't you?" her mother asked. Hermione just stared at the carpet.
"He has to protect a lot of people," Hermione whispered inaudibly to the carpet. "He has to protect Harry."
"Why didn't you tell us all this before?" her father asked, sounding hurt. Hermione thought he ought to have sounded more afraid.
"Because... Because this isn't your war."
"It doesn't have to be yours either, does it? You don't have to fight. You could stay here for a year, until the war is over."
"No!" Hermione said sharply. "It's my war too. I can't just let the others fight for me. I can't let Harry fight alone."
Mr. and Mrs. Granger looked at each other, shocked, as Hermione stormed up the stairs to her bedroom. They were saddened, although not surprised, to find a note on the dining room table the next morning, informing them in neat handwriting that their daughter had gone to the Burrow for the rest of the summer.
When Hermione arrived at King's Cross Station after her sixth year, she was still wearing her Hogwarts robes. Her parents eyed her nervously and shifted uneasily every time someone stopped to stare at Hermione. Hermione didn't even lift her gaze from the cement floor of the platform.
Hermione didn't tell her parents that Dumbledore was dead. They didn't ask why she was still wearing black robes three days into the summer holiday. They didn't notice that she always had one hand on her wand inside her robes.
While she was home, Hermione did nothing but read. At one point, her mother peeked into her room while she was in the loo. It was a mess of ink, quills, parchment, and stacks of books. Mrs. Granger shivered when she saw the books. They were strange – not like the others Hermione had – with dark covers and darker titles.
After a week had passed, Hermione told her parents that she had to leave. She didn't want to just leave a note. Not this time.
"Where are you going?" asked her mother.
"Ron's brother is getting married," was all Hermione would say. Her parents smiled. A wedding was something they understood, at least.
"I might not come back, you know," she whispered as her mum hugged her.
"Of course you will," her father said, only half comprehending what she said. "It's only a wedding."
Hermione's parents looked at each other, confused, after Hermione said goodbye between sobs and Disapparated.
The summer Hermione was eighteen, she came home and told her parents that the war was over. They smiled and asked her how her last year of school had gone. She told them she hadn't gone to school. She told them that Dumbledore had been killed the year before. She told them about Harry and the prophecy. She told them how close to dying she had been. She told them about the people she had seen die. They stared at her, horrorstruck, for a few moments.
"But it's over now, isn't it dear? He's dead," her mother said, a slight edge to her voice that made it sound like a plea.
Hermione didn't know what to say. She wanted to tell her parents that everything was all right now that Voldemort was dead. She wanted to tell them that, like in the story books, the heroes live happily ever after. She wanted to tell them that it was all just a bad dream that was over now, that she wouldn't relive the nightmares over and over again. Instead, she went up to her room and cried.
On Hermione's nineteenth birthday, Harry, Ron and Ginny turned up on her front step and sang "Happy Birthday" rather loudly – and badly. Hermione cracked a smile and let them in.
"We've got a cake and gifts waiting for you at the Burrow, if you can come…" muttered Ron.
"And you'd better," said Ginny.
"I…" said Hermione, looking at her parents watching the group of teenagers warily.
"Bring them along, of course," said Harry, grinning.
Later, sitting at a table that had managed to merge both of her worlds – Muggle and Wizarding alike – Hermione suddenly thought that maybe things would be all right after all. And maybe, just maybe, her parents could finally begin to understand, because for the first time in seven years, Hermione didn't have to hide.
A/N: The characters are all Jo's of course. I only took them out to play. Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading.
A heartfelt thank-you to my amazing beta – Mari – without whom this fic never would have made it to PhoenixSong.