Character: Hermione, her parents
Summary: After the end of the war, Hermione goes to find her parents. They aren't where she expected them to be.
Word Count: 2700
Notes: Written for arsenicjade at purimgifts. Thank you to everyone who suggested this as a possible story idea.
189 Toorak Road of Melbourne, Australia wasn't so different from the place her parents had left behind, except that inside, it was clearly just a house, not a home. The white carpets and tile counters were clean, just like Hermione's mother always kept them, and there were pictures of her parents spread across the window sill above the kitchen sink. But the worn, comfortable furniture in the Granger home was missing, and so were her father's shelves of leather bound books and the colorful pillows her mother had once strewn across the sofa. It was as if the house had been decorated by someone with no warmth or personality, and Hermione wondered with a shiver what else she might have taken from her parents when she had stripped away their memories of her. Also, there was one other problem: the house was empty. It was clear that her parents had lived here once, probably quite recently, but now there was no trace of them inside. Their jackets stood neatly in the hall closet, and the car was in the garage, but the refrigerator and cupboards were nearly empty. There were no traces of footsteps on the neatly vacuumed carpets.
Wand in hand, Hermione crept through the corridors of the house, the plush carpet muffling the sound of her footsteps. The air conditioner came on with a sudden click, and she flattened herself against the wall, pressing a hand to her heart to calm its wild beating. One by one, she opened doors and peered into closets, not quite admitting that she was steeling herself for the sight of her parents lying stiff and glassy eyed on the floor, the victims of a Death Eater's curse. But the house really was empty. Hermione collapsed on a corner of her parents' bed and tried to think. The Death Eaters couldn't really have found them, could they?
She lay back on the bed and buried her face in the pillow. It did not smell of her mother's favorite perfume the way it should have, but Hermione's eyes began to flicker shut anyway. She had flown here by airplane, buying the ticket with a loan from Harry, and now she was exhausted. Somehow it had seemed more fitting to travel to her parents the Muggle way, as if she was stepping away from her world and back into theirs. Well, that or she had been terrified of facing them again and had wanted her journey to take as long as possible. She rolled over on her side and discovered her mother's MacBook wedged between the bed and the night table. The sleek white casing reminded her of her last summer before Hogwarts, when she had written a three-page letter explaining why a computer of her own would increase her scholastic productivity. Then her Hogwarts letter had arrived, and the computer had been forgotten. Her parents had given her one – the newest and best Mac – for her thirteenth birthday, and it had lain quietly in the bottom of her trunk, buried under piles of spell books, until she had used it to practice formatting hard drives. The spell that erased her presence from the house wouldn't apply to Muggle technology, so she had had to manually erase herself from her parents' computers. It was the only time she had allowed herself to cry.
Her mother's diary was open on the computer screen.
Leaving for Bangkok in an hour. Mum always said that a vacation never fixed anything, but I hope that she was wrong. All year, I've felt lost. No, worse than that, empty. Like I've lost something important – vital, even – but I don't know what it is. Wendell won't admit it, but I can tell he feels the same way. I thought moving to Australia would fix it, but it hasn't. I've got a nice husband, nice house, nice car, but it's not enough. And I keep thinking that maybe Melbourne just wasn't far enough. Or different enough. It's missing something. Back when we were young, Wendell and I always said we'd take off and see the world, and then something happened and we didn't. But for the life of me, I can't remember why not, and neither can he. It's insane, to be forty-one, move to Australia, and then leave for Bangkok on a one-way ticket. But I keep thinking, I've already come this far, why not go a little farther?
Bangkok. Her parents were in Bangkok. She leaned backward, letting her head hit the wall with an audible thump. They were alive. But who had she turned them into?
In the morning, Hermione contacted Harry via a two-way mirror like the one Sirius had given him so many years ago. George Weasley had made this one especially for her, in case the fireplaces of Australia weren't connected to the floo network. He had vanished into his workshop and returned a few hours later, his eyes looking alive and triumphant for the first time since the funeral.
“If you're lucky enough to be able to get back what you've lost, you've got to do it,” he'd said, pressing the mirror into her hand. “Let me know if you need a partner for the adventure.”
It was the first thing he'd ever said to her that wasn't a joke, and she had half-considered bringing him with her. This was the only big thing she'd done in her life without Harry and Ron, and the idea frightened her. But she'd had to do it alone. Or as alone as she could manage, anyhow.
Harry's face appeared in the mirror seconds after she tapped it with her wand.
“Are your parents alright?” he asked, looking half eager and half wary.
Hermione nodded slowly.
“I think so. They're just not here.”
“Oh. Well, you know where they are, right?”
Harry's simple, matter-of-fact faith in her made her feel more grounded than she had in days. Still, she couldn't keep the despair out of her voice when she told him they were in Bangkok.
“Do you know where they are in Bangkok?” Harry asked.
She couldn't see much more of him than his face, but she could tell he was leaning forward toward the mirror, and she could imagine the rest of the pose: his feet planted firmly on the floor, elbows resting on his knees, wand dangling casually between his fingers. It was how he looked when he was making a plan.
“I found their hotel booking online.”
It was a hostel, actually. A youth hostel. As if they were twenty-one instead of forty.
“Well, can you get there?”
Hermione drew in a breath. She could; she had already looked up the price of the ticket. But it was hard to ask for it, even though she knew that Harry wouldn't mind. It just wasn't how she'd been raised.</p>
“Hermione, do you need money?”
She nodded, feeling ashamed to look into Harry's eyes, but it would have been rude to look away. Her parents had shut their bank account in England when they moved here. Of course they had forgotten that their daughter depended on it for cash.
“There's one condition. No paying it back.”
The small parcel arrived on her mother's bedside table a few hours later, wrapped in brown paper. Inside was a box divided into three compartments. One contained galleons and the address of wizard-to-muggle money changer in Melbourne, another was filled with Euros, and the third contained Australian dollars. Of course, there was more of each than she would ever need.
The airport in Bangkok was cool and white. Conveyor belts in the corridors ferried passengers past an endless array of duty-free shops. Hermione shivered under the air conditioning and pulled a hoodie from her beaded bag, garnering strange looks from the people around her. At customs, she placed a confundus charm on the guard who wanted to search it.
The arrival hall was the opposite of the airport's calm coolness. The air outside felt like soup, and taxi drivers clustered around her, demanding her business in a mixture of Thai and broken English. She had not been able to understand the ordering system at the airport cantina, and suddenly she regretted her plan to reach her parents using the hard, Muggle way.
“Suk 11 Hostel!” she shouted finally, and allowed herself to be lead away by the first driver who tugged on her arm. She intended to sleep, or make contingency plans, in the taxi, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the road. Buses painted rainbow colors chugged down highways where corrugated tin shanties stood only blocks away from showrooms of designer furniture. Street stalls sold food whose delicious aromas temporarily overcame the odors of garbage and pollution. Being here was like her first day at Hogwarts – she longed to explore every corner of the spectacle before her, and at the same time, she wished harder than she ever had in her life to go back home.
Of course, her parents weren't at the hostel. She found their names in the guest register, but they had departed yesterday. In the next destination column, they had written ????
Hermione drew a shaky breath and set down on a bench beside the hostel's reception desk, ignoring the clerk's confused inquiries. There were spells, of course. They would take some time to work over a geographic area as large as this, but all she had to do was bring something of theirs to the room where they had stayed, and the magic would point her in the right direction. But she – and her parents – had had enough of her magic for the moment. She had one last trick to find them the Muggle way.
The Jean Granger she had left behind had not had a facebook page, but Monica Wilkins did. And she loved status updates. Turning her back toward her fellow travelers, she withdrew her mother's laptop from the beaded bag, hoping that it had not been damaged by its contact with magic. But A Practical Guide to Protecting Muggle Electronics from Magic had been accurate in its advice, and the computer whirred to life as soon as she opened the screen.
“In luv with Koh Yao Noi!!!” her mother had written. “14 hours from BKK to Phang Nga by coach, plus 2 hours by ferry. But totally worth it – staying here for at least a week!”
Hermione asked the clerk where she could buy coach tickets in the morning. Then she took a room at a nicer hotel down the street. As badly as she wanted to understand the people her parents had become, the hostel's cramped private rooms and shared lavatories reminded her too strongly of her months on the run from Voldemort. She fell asleep on clean white sheets that smelled of jasmine, and when she woke up, she went to find her parents.
The coach was so well air-conditioned that Hermione had to cast a warming charm over herself, and uniformed attendants delivered snacks and water. The ticket had cost 50 pounds, more than twice the local coaches most Thai people used, but Hermione considered the fee worth it. The station in Phang Nga, the ferry port, was quiet and dusty, and the town seemed tranquil but dull. But Hermione loved it. At the soup stand across from her hotel, she ordered by pointing at ingredients, some of which the smiling proprietress picked directly from her garden. She ate at a well-worn wooden table, where she seasoned her soup from a small tray of sauces and herbs.
“When I found out where my parents had gone, I was so afraid I'd never be able to understand who they'd become,” she wrote to Ron, “but now I understand that this is only another place to learn. Maybe even better than Hogwarts. We should come back here some day. When things with your family have settled down, I mean.”</p>
Absently, she rubbed the edges of the parchment with a sprig of Thai basil so that it could carry the smell of Thailand back to England. She had felt guilty, even horrified, when she had written a small ferry port in southern Thailand was better than Hogwarts, but the sensation soon faded to excitement. She always assumed she would return to finish her seventh year, but now she could admit she felt too old for that. The soft evening breeze and the distant roar of the waves beckoned her toward a greater adventure.
The only thing in her way was the only thing that frightened her more than Lord Voldemort: facing what she had done to her parents.
She found them on the beach in Koh Yao Noi, just where her mother said they would be. The sand was obscured by a carpet of tiny seashells, and long fishing boats were moored on stakes in the bay, thick red and gold ropes dangling from their hulls. Her parents sat at a picnic table beneath the shade of the palm trees. Tropical fruits were arrayed in front of them, but her mother was staring thoughtfully at the strip of her stomach exposed by her two-piece swimsuit.
Hermione summoned their conversation closer, using a spell she had learned from one of Tonks' old auror textbooks.
“Wendell,” her mother was saying, “aren't these stretch marks? The kind you get from being pregnant?”
“Monica.” Her father sounded exasperated. “We've been over this before. We don't have a child. Never did.” His face softened. “You lost the baby two months in, remember? And you said you never wanted to try again.”
“I remember, Wendell. But look, I found this in my jewelery box before we left.” Her mother retrieved something thin and silver from her beach bag. It glinted in the bright sunlight. “It's got an H on it, and the baby we lost never had a name. And look at these charms. A baby shoe, a rattle, a little bonnet. It's not the kind of thing you have for a baby that died before it was born.”
Now her father looked terribly sad. He took her mother's hand and started to say something, but she cut him off.
“Don't tell me I'm wrong, Wendell. A mother knows. We had a child, and something – someone -- made us forget. And that means she – or he – is in trouble, and we have to get back to them.”
Hermione had been determined to do everything right this time: to introduce herself to her parents slowly, to return to England and get them treatment at St. Mungo's, no matter what the consequences might be for her personally. But she could not bear her mother's anguish a second longer. She ran toward them, not realizing that her wand was in her hand.
Her father saw her first.
“Get back!” he shouted, throwing himself in front of his wife. "We've already said we don't want to buy anything, and I don't know what you mean by coming back here waving a piece of wood!"
Her mother stepped around him calmly.
“It's all right Wendell. She's not some souvenir seller. I know her. I'm sure of it.”
She stepped forward and stroked a lock of Hermione's hair, which had grown wild in the humidity.
“Look. She's got my hair.” Her voice broke. “And your nose. Your teeth too, only smaller.”
“And I've got your favorite book,” Hermione whispered, pulling the tattered copy of Robinson Crusoe from her evening bag.
Her father jerked back from her like a frightened dog, and Hermione felt her eyes well up with tears.
“It's alright," her mother said, and for the first time, her voice was the same as Hermione remembered from her childhood. "He just doesn't understand yet. I don't understand either, but I know you're ours." She looked a little desperate. “Please say you're ours. I've missed you so.”
Hermione fell into her mother's open arms.
“I am yours,” she whispered. “Always.”