Trying to Understand
A/N: The idea for this story was originally conceived in August
2005 after I had finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how to end it, so the story sat until the answer
came to me after reading chapter six of Deathly Hallows. I hope you enjoy this
sequel to my story Vigil, which is also posted here at The Sugar Quill. This
story can certainly be read without necessarily reading Vigil, but if you'd
like an understanding of Mrs Granger's thoughts please read that story before
reading this one.
To my pre-beta GhostWriter, thank you so much for all the
encouragement and transition and grammar help you so willingly gave. Your
patience with my first person vs. second person point of view conflicts in the
original manuscript is greatly appreciated as are your comments.
Last, but not least, thank you, Lady Narcissa, for your comments
that made me think about what I'd written. I appreciate the time you took from
your busy schedule to help me refine the story for publication. You're the
came home from Hogwarts several weeks early this year.
letter asking us to meet her train at King’s Cross station came as a complete surprise,
considering school administration hadn’t previously contacted us about this. Her
father and I had just sent Hermione’s school owl on its way with our reply to
her letter when another owl flew through the kitchen window and deposited a message
on the table. He timorously handed the bird the last rasher of bacon from the
breakfast tray and raised a questioning eyebrow: two owls in the space of a
quarter hour was a record for us.
from Professor McGonagall,” he said, slitting the envelope open and pulling out
the letter. He glanced at the signature before reading the rest of the
message. “That’s funny. Isn’t she the deputy headmistress and head of
Gryffindor House? She signs it only ‘Headmistress’ here.”
the letter say?” I asked. “Maybe that will solve your little mystery.”
jovial expression changed dramatically as he read the letter. It finally
settled to uneasiness as he looked up and said, “Professor McGonagall is
headmistress now. Professor Dumbledore mysteriously died the night before last
and she’s closing the school and sending the students home after the funeral. That’s
in three days’ time.”
it say anything about end-of-term exams? What about the future of the school?”
I demanded, equally uneasy at this turn of events.
future of the school has been placed in the hands of the school Governors.
More information concerning the reopening of Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will be forthcoming after they meet,’” my husband read aloud.
now we know why Hermione wanted to come home early,” I said, shaking my head
and sipping my tea. A horrible idea occurred to me as I set the cup down.
With a very real sense of growing alarm I began voicing the myriad thoughts
that suddenly bombarded my brain. “If Hogwarts closes, what do you suppose the
implications will be for her education? Do you think we need to consider
pulling her out of Hogwarts and trying to enrol her in that French school,
Beauxbatons? What about trying to get her into a normal secondary school? Do
you think anything she’s learned in the past six years could even transfer to
some place like St Helen’s School in Hillington or Croham Hurst School in Croydon? Or maybe we should just try to get her admitted to university early or
apply for a year’s education in a foreign school? What about—”
down, dear,” he implored, cutting me off mid-panic. “Let’s wait until Hermione
gets home and we know more from the school before making such monumental
decisions. Hermione will have her own opinion on the matter.”
heaved a heavy sigh. Why does everything have to be so complicated? I
asked myself. “You’re right, dearest: we should wait. She is nearly of age.
I keep forgetting that.”
know. I forget sometimes too.” My husband reached across the table and covered
my hand with his.
smiled ruefully and gazed into his eyes. “I’m just so concerned about her
future. It wasn’t so long ago that we were wondering whether Hogwarts was the
best place to send our eleven-year-old. Has it really been six years? I
always thought we had seven...” I trailed off, sitting lost in thought until it
was time to get ready to go to our surgery.
sat across from her father and me at the kitchen table. She had been home for
three days, three days during which the owls flew to and from her window in a
never-ending parade of wings.
recognized two of them by sight now. Ronald Weasley’s owl was small and very
annoying. It zoomed around the room once it delivered its post as if it was
pleased with itself. Only when it was extremely tired did it settle down on a
chair back or some other convenient perch and shut its beak! The other owl was
much more elegant and stately, as if it knew the proper way for post-owls to
act. This snowy owl carried post from Harry Potter and I preferred this owl
over Ron’s. Unfortunately for my peace of mind, the annoying owl showed up
first and came back far more frequently than the snowy.
blanketed the table. Hermione had just told us that she expected she would not
be going back to Hogwarts or any other school in the near future. She and Ron
and Harry were embroiled in the heart of the Wizarding world’s war against the
Dark wizard who killed Harry’s parents.
didn’t you tell us about this sooner, Hermione? How... how did you get so
involved?” my husband sputtered at last. He was as dumbfounded as I, and we
both struggled to understand what this meant for our family.
didn’t want to worry you, Dad. I love Hogwarts with everything I am and I
didn’t want to be forced to leave before my seven years were up. All this
trouble between Harry and Voldemort would have made you and Mum question
whether or not the school was safe, and whether I should attend a Muggle school
rather than Hogwarts.” She fixed her father with a piercing stare as she
concluded, “I’m right, am I not?”
stared back as if ready to challenge her for the right to stay at Hogwarts.
“Yes, you are, Hermione. But can you honestly tell me that for all intents and
purposes that you are safer at Hogwarts than at another secondary school?”
I can,” she said coolly. “The spells and enchantments around Hogwarts are over
a thousand years old and are updated regularly as part of the headmaster’s
duties. In addition, Harry tells me that whenever Professor Dumbledore was
going to be absent, he set additional protective spells on the boundaries,
gates and walls surrounding the school to ensure that no Death Eaters could get
you just said a few minutes ago that some Death Eaters breached the security,”
I interrupted in exasperation.
sighed and covered her face with her hands. “No one knew about the portal
between the Room of Requirement and Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley before
last week except for Draco Malfoy. The professors were patrolling the
corridors that night, under Professor Dumbledore’s orders, to make certain all
the secret passageways leading out of the castle were guarded,” she mumbled
through her fingers. “It should have been safe...”
husband reached over and patted our daughter’s shoulder. “Even the tightest
electronic security measures can be breached if the perpetrators are persistent
enough,” he said soothingly. “And from what you’re saying, nothing seems to
have been overlooked.”
for understanding, Dad,” Hermione replied, smiling bleakly at her father.
now what?” I asked.
daughter poured more tea into her cup before answering. “Harry Potter’s my
best friend, and… well, I’m something to Ron Weasley, Harry’s other best friend.
It’s as simple as that.”
to fight hard to hide a smile at those words. Yes, it had been obvious for
quite some time that she cared deeply for that tall, red-headed boy and that he
fancied her in return. Maybe the two of them were finally waking up and doing
something about their feelings. Funny how something like war could spur people
on, make them discover things in a hurry they might have taken years to find
can’t go back. Not while there’s a war going on,” Hermione continued, staring
into the depths of her cup as if trying to conjure some wisdom from the dregs
in the bottom. “Harry is depending on me to help him with the task Professor
Dumbledore gave him before he died.”
husband opened his mouth to protest. I put a hand on his arm to silence him.
We needed to hear Hermione out before we exploded. It took a fair amount of
self-control to keep my own mouth shut.
owes Harry a life debt,” she continued quietly. “But even if he didn’t, the
two of us would have made the choice to follow Harry anyway.”
a life debt is?” I prompted.
sighed as if our ignorance has reversed the roles in this house: we were now
the children and she our parent. “Ron was poisoned on his birthday in March
and Harry’s quick thinking saved his life. In our world, when one wizard saves
another wizard’s life, the first wizard is magically bound to the second until
the debt can be paid,” she explained with long-suffering patience. “Sometimes
it may take years for something to happen to require that kind of sacrifice.”
she spoke those words, I was struck by how very much my daughter resembled me.
Not just in looks, but in temperament and attitude. I saw clearly, in that
moment, that I had passed on to her an air of intellectual superiority that can
set teeth on edge. It made me wonder if Hermione had chosen a man exactly like
this pertain to wartime as well as peacetime?” my husband asked.
Dad. In war even more so because of the increased peril. With Voldemort’s
Death Eaters roaming around no one knows from day to day whether or not they
will see their next meal.
stay behind. I can’t stay behind,” she said emphatically. “As Ron
feels the obligation to stick by Harry no matter what, I feel myself being
pulled to Ron in much the same way. Please, try to understand; I’m not going
with Ron and Harry as a lark. I’m deadly serious about our mission: it would
kill me to have to stay behind. It’s killing Ginny ever so slowly because
Harry won’t let her come with us, and we haven’t even left yet.
one other thing,” she said sadly. “I promised Ron’s sister that wherever he
goes, I go, within reason, among other things.”
there’s nothing we can do to persuade you to stay home and complete your
education?” I asked wearily. When she nodded I continued. “Have you even
considered the implications to your future such a vow is making?”
my future is with Harry and Ron and only stretches about six months at the most
right now. Until we help Harry finish what he has to do, no one—not even in
the Muggle world—is safe from the possibility of being murdered just for the
sake of pure terrorism.” When I failed to exhibit understanding she said,
“Remember when I was eleven and the United States went to war against Iraq and I didn’t understand why Uncle Reginald had to go, too? You were worried that he
was going into combat and tried to explain that Great Britain had joined the
Americans to help make the world a safer place for people to live.”
remember that conversation,” I replied. “How does this have anything to do with
what you’re preparing to do?”
think I understand, honey,” my husband said quietly, reaching for my hand. “My
brother had pledged to serve his country by flying in the RAF. In 1991 his
unit was ordered to Iraq and he went because it was his duty. He would have been
considered a deserter if he refused to go, thus breaking the promise he made
when he joined up. Hermione’s promise to Ginny Weasley is similar to the oath
Reggie took. She has to fulfil her commitment or suffer the consequences.” He
looked at our daughter hopefully. “Have I got the analogy right, Hermione?”
smiled for the first time since our discussion began. “You do understand, Dad.
And I think Mum does now, too.”
I did. But I found it hard to accept that my daughter was possibly going into
combat, that she had pledged to serve the Wizarding world, the UK and the Weasley family with all that grave promises entail. I also knew that it would take me a
while to come to terms with the situation. However, what was done is done and
I resigned myself to it. “Just promise me one thing,” I said, looking into my
daughter’s eyes. “That you’ll do all you can to stay safe and come home to us
and your education and maybe even Ron to possibly start a family.”
blushed prettily at this last request. “I promise, Mum. Thanks for
is that you?” I called from the kitchen as I prepared dinner. My daughter had
not been about the house very much in the last week. She left early each
morning and returned in time to help me with dinner each evening and I assumed
she had taken a job somewhere. She acquired several witches’ robes and always
looked so business-like when she came home. This morning, though, she asked to
borrow one of my suits. I couldn’t imagine why she’d want to wear such an
outfit, but I let her choose one without asking any questions.
Mum. Would you like some help?” she asked, coming in from the living room and
depositing her small bag at her place at the table. Hermione gave me a tired
smile and came over to the sink to wash her hands.
would be nice, thank you. Could you please set the table?” I said, reaching
overhead for my copper risotto pot. I added butter, shallots, and rice to it
and began stirring the grain, careful not to scorch it. Hermione kicked off
her shoes, then gathered our plates and cutlery and took them over to the
ladled the first measure of broth into my pot, I said, “Hermione, your father
and I have been thinking of taking an extended holiday.”
back was to me and she stiffened with my news. “That’s great, Mum. When were
you considering going?” she asked, visibly relaxing.
end of the month, actually. We thought we’d go to Australia. I saw an
advertisement for discount plane fares and thought we’d take advantage of
them,” I told her as she straightened up and came over to get our glassware.
sounds wonderful! Do you need any help getting organized for the trip? What
about your passports? Are they up to date?” she asked, making me wonder why
she was so interested in the little books.
were the last time I checked a month ago,” I said, ladling more broth onto my
rice and stirring vigorously. “Why the sudden interest?”
it takes quite a long time to get them renewed if they’ve gone out of date and
from what you’re saying, your trip is coming up in two weeks’ time,” she said
quietly. “Besides, the stamps are always so interesting to study.”
checked the pork chops. “You’re sweet to be so concerned, Hermione. If you
really want us to check, I’ll have your father take them out of our vault to
you? That would be wonderful. Should I make the salad?” Hermione asked. I
nodded and she gathered ingredients from the refrigerator. “I’d like to see
your passports. I know you’ve been travelling and I’d love to see the stamps
you’ve added since I’ve been at school. Now tell me... where were you thinking
of visiting in Australia?”
or Sydney. Maybe Perth. Definitely something on the coast. We’d like to do a
little diving on the coral reefs, see an operatic performance or two, that sort
sounds lovely,” she exclaimed as she put the salad on the table. “Shall I call
I said, giving the risotto one last stir and taking the chops from the oven.
Hermione sat down and soon the three of us were recounting our days and
listening to some of the fascinating stories Hermione had from her year at
school. Under all the banter, though, I sensed sadness in my daughter that I
had no explanation for. I fervently hoped that whatever was bothering her,
she’d eventually want to confide in me.
feeling rather out of sorts: the house we’d been visiting felt somewhat
familiar, as if I’d been here before, but it really shouldn’t since we were
staying in a very modern bed and breakfast. I think it was the lack of
portraits… all the pictures were landscapes, even the ones on the bureaus in
the bedrooms. Very odd, that. One would think that the proprietors would at
least have a picture of themselves somewhere.
other thing that bothered me was that the proprietors were absent. We hadn’t
seen them since we arrived. I’d been assured by the pretty young woman,
Melinda Higgenbottom, who ran the establishment in their absence that the
owners would be returning after we leave today. They tendered their regrets
that they could not be with us at any point in our stay and I wished we could
have met them. They ran such a lovely establishment.
dear, are you ready to leave? Miss Higgenbottom reminded me we must be at
Heathrow three hours before our flight,” my husband called up the stairs.
Wendell.” I snapped the locks on my overnight bag and picked up my other
luggage. Wendell met me at the top of the stairs and took the biggest bag.
Higgenbottom volunteered to take our rental car back for us as part of the
inn’s services,” he said conversationally. “I thought that was very nice of
it is,” I replied vaguely, opening the door and striding down the front path to
the vehicle where Miss Higgenbottom waited behind the wheel. It was very
strange that she should be driving since the rental car was in our name, but
nothing about the last two days had been quite right. I think I’d just become
rather tired of travelling and was eager to get back home to Sydney. The
neighbour across the street waved at us as we climb in the back seat.
the airport, Miss Higgenbottom opened the boot and took our luggage out for
us. She seemed overly solicitous as she made sure we had our passports and
boarding passes ready and stayed with us as far as the head of the line for
have a three hour layover in Cairo, Egypt before your flight to Australia. I’ve arranged for a valet service to take you to your home once you land in Sydney,” she said, extending her had to Wendell and then to me. “It was a pleasure to have
you stay with us. Have a good flight.”
left abruptly. My last glimpse of Miss Higgenbottom was the back of her blond
head weaving its way towards the entrance to the terminal. Her head was bowed
and she seemed to be crying. I wondered why...
-- -- --
young woman with long blond hair stood at the window of the airport restaurant
watching a plane taxi down the tarmac. Only she could see the mysterious glow
emanating from one of the windows of the big jet. She knew the glow would fade
as soon as the wheels left the ground; two fat tears slid unheeded down her
raised her hand and waved at the plane. “Good bye, Mum and Dad. I hope you
have a nice life in Australia,” she whispered, her breath fogging up the glass
in front of her. “I hope we can be a family again some day.”
plane turned onto the runway and Hermione Jean Granger sadly walked away from
the window, never looking back.