There had been so much hope, in the beginning. The idea that it was possible to protect her parents, to save them, had haunted her. Hermione loved her parents. Nightmares about what might happen to them once Voldemort was in power had woken her screaming so many times that her Mum and Dad had begun to watch her with worried frowns. There had been more than one subtle comment about the possibility of therapy.
Unfortunately, her Mum and Dad just hadn't understood. Admittedly, Hermione hadn't exactly been as forthcoming as she could have been. She couldn't risk them yanking her out of Hogwarts. She couldn't abandon Harry. She had sworn to stand by him, come what may. As the parents of the notorious Mudblood Granger they would have been prominent targets. Everyone talked about how Voldemort was a famous Legilimens, and so were several of his Death Eaters.
Hermione's theory had been simple. If a Legilimens happened to come across Monica and Wendell Wilkins, they would only have seen what Hermione intended them to see: just a nice Australian couple who loved gardening and were avid fans of the Reds. It wasn't as though anyone from the Wizarding world knew her family. She was willing to bet that even Harry or Ron would struggle to pick them out of a crowd.
It had taken some delicate maneuvering—Hermione refused to actually lie to her parents, but she was willing to admit to herself that her lies of omission loomed over her, threatening to bury her under them most days. She managed to convince her parents that if they allowed her to do this, it would protect her. Dad had flat-out refused at first. He had insisted that if Hermione were in danger, then he needed to be by her side to protect her.
Reluctantly, her parents agreed to let Hermione cast on them. Hermione had chosen carefully—so very, very carefully. After the war, she would confess everything. All of it. She would tell her parents every single detail of her Hogwarts' escapades and then beg for their forgiveness.
Once the war was over, travelling to Australia to restore her parents' memories had been her first priority. She was braced for the biggest fight she'd ever had with her parents. She had prepared herself for recriminations, anger, and tears. She had not prepared herself for this.
Elaine Granger had blinked up at her with eyes the color of rich loam and a small furrow had appeared between her slender brows.
"Who are you?"
The question had been curious and slightly confused. Hermione stared at her mother in growing horror, and then turned to Ewan Campbell, the tall, red-headed Mind Healer who had insisted that she call him Blue.
"Did it not work?" She asked in a small, shaky voice.
"It worked," Mind Healer Campbell countered. He cast a diagnostic spell and pointed to several glowing runes. "You can see that the memory charm is no longer in place."
"But…" Hermione paused and turned to stare at her mother who was watching them with that same slightly-confused curiosity.
"Are you a volunteer?" Elaine Granger asked with a hesitant smile that made Hermione's chest tighten painfully. "I volunteered at our local hospital when I was younger. It's so important to give back, don't you think?"
"Excuse me, please," Hermione muttered before she turned and fled the room before she burst into tears.
The permanent spell damage ward at Adelaide's magical hospital was lovely. If Hermione had been in a better frame of mind, she would have admired the bright, open space, and the charmed garden for the residents. Instead, she stared blankly at cheerful murals.
"Miss Granger?" Mind Healer Campbell prompted her in a gentle, soothing tone that set Hermione's teeth on edge. She was in no mood to be soothed.
"I don't understand," Hermione admitted finally. She turned to face the Mind Healer with a frown. "You've removed the memory charm, but they still don't know who I am. How can that be?"
"There are several options," Mind Healer Campbell explained with a sigh. He shook his head. "None of them are pleasant."
"What does that mean?" Hermione asked.
"Why don't we go to one of the private consultation rooms," he suggested.
"What about my parents?" Hermione protested. "We can't just leave them alone."
"I have another Healer with them right now," Mind Healer Campbell replied. "Come along, Miss Granger. Let's have a chat."
The small consultation room was decorated in calming blues and greens that only served to irritate Hermione even further. She sat stiffly in one of the ugly plastic chairs that seemed to populate institutions no matter where one was. Ewan Campbell sat across from her quietly for several moments. Finally, he sighed and leaned back in his chair.
"As a Muggleborn in wizarding Britain, any outbursts of accidental magic are dealt with by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," the Mind Healer began. He glanced at Hermione's impatient face and nodded slightly. "Which you already know. It is possible that this is the result of a botched Obliviate."
"But you don't think so," Hermione guessed.
A reluctant smile tilted up the corners of his mouth.
"You aren't considering a Healing Mastery, are you?" Mind Healer Campbell asked hopefully. Then he shook his head. "No, I don't. As irresponsible as Britain's Ministry of Magic might be, the Obliviation Squad is responsible for keeping the Statute of Secrecy. They are held to ICW standards, and are required to pass ICW testing on a regular basis."
"What are the other options," Hermione asked.
"Most of them involve bleed over and cross-contamination from other spells," Mind Healer Campbell explained in a carefully neutral voice. He paused and made eye contact with Hermione. His gaze was solemn and probing. "There are several that interact badly with the spells you chose to use on your parents. All of them involve planting false memories."
Hermione frowned at that. "I don't understand."
"The memory charm removes recent memories, and leaves the castee in a suggestive state. The caster can then encourage them to remember something more mundane than whatever actually occurred. When the Obliviation Squad casts the memory charm, they aren't actually planting false memories," Healer Campbell explained carefully.
"I read articles about the memory charm in several journals before I…," Hermione paused and flushed. Healer Campbell nodded.
"Exactly. You understand how it works. The human mind shies away from the uncomfortable and the unsettling. Given the option, our brains will fill in information with something more familiar, more comforting." Healer Campbell waved a hand in the air.
"Who would plant memories in the minds of a couple of Muggle dentists?" Hermione asked plaintively. It didn't make any sense. None of this made any sense at all.
"Someone looking to hide a magical child among Muggles," Healer Campbell suggested quietly.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Hermione winced at the shrillness of her voice.
"You know what it means," Healer Campbell countered. "There had to be a reason to plant memories in your parent's minds. The removal of those memories removes all trace of their only child. The only conclusion is that you are not the daughter of Elaine and Robert Granger."
"Don't be ridiculous," Hermione sputtered helplessly. "I'm Hermione Granger."
"Are you?" Healer Campbell asked her in a gentle voice.
"Of course I am," Hermione snapped. Then she paused and stared at Healer Campbell with wide eyes. "Who else could I be?" She asked in a small voice.
"There are several heritage spells that are available," Healer Campbell suggested. "That's usually considered a private matter, but if you would like us to conduct an official test, we can." He cleared his throat and averted his eyes. "You should know that the results of an official test are lodged with the Ministry of Magic to prove or disprove inheritance rights."
"You mean the press would have access," Hermione guessed bitterly.
"They would," Healer Campbell agreed. He shrugged helplessly. "It's completely up to you."
"Let's do the official test."
Quickly, Hermione glanced about, wondering who had spoken. She blinked, realizing that she was the one that had said that aloud. Healer Campbell looked equally startled.
"Are you certain?" He asked.
Was she certain? Hermione couldn't say. Within the span of a few short hours her entire existence had been turned upside down. Her parents – well, the people who had loved her and raised her – had been permanently spell-damaged and she was now bereft of kith and kin. Sort of. Apparently there were people out there that were family, and not her stiffly formal grand-mère in Gironde. The sudden nebulousness of who she was unsettled her.
"What do I have to do?" She countered with a small frown.
The process was a blur. Hermione couldn't have told you what she did, afterwards. All she would be able to remember, years later, was sitting in an upholstered chair in Healer Campbell's office staring at him blankly.
"I beg your pardon?"
"The results state that your parents are–," Healer Campbell began cautiously only to have Hermione stand up, face flushed, hands fisted at her sides.
"It's not possible!" She snapped. She raised a hand in the air and then let it fall to her side. "It's just… it's not possible."
"The official tests are stringently performed," Healer Campbell reminded her. "They have a 99.997% accuracy rating."
"So there's a .003% chance that they're wrong." Hermione had decided to cling to that .003% stubbornly.
"The only time we've ever had documented errors, there were identical twins involved," Healer Campbell explained with a sigh.
"But this can't be right." Hermione's voice rose to a near wail and she winced, letting her shoulders slump.
"I understand how distressing this must be for you," Healer Campbell tried to soothe her.
"Somehow I doubt that," Hermione huffed.
Slowly, Hermione crossed her arms over her chest in a protective gesture and pressed her lips together. She should have expected this, really. Every single time things went pear-shaped… well. She should have expected it.
"It's not because of the… well… it's not because of that," Ron stammered helplessly.
"Then why, Ronald?" Hermione bit out between clenched teeth.
"I just… I think we want different things," he managed to get out.
Hermione blinked. "I want to work in the Ministry and you want a wife who isn't Death Eater scum?" She guessed aloud in a brittle voice that made Ron wince.
"You aren't Death Eater scum," he protested.
"No," she agreed. Then she smiled tightly. "I'm just related to them."
"It isn't… damn it, Hermione, why do you always have to be so difficult," he snapped.
She could feel her cheeks flush and she glared at Ron.
"Do you know what I find fascinating," Hermione hissed at him furiously. "The Daily Prophet doesn't even know yet. If they did, that disgusting little beetle would be following me everywhere."
"Percy was just trying to–," Ron began.
"Don't." Hermione's eyes burned and she blinked rapidly. She was not going to cry over Ronald Weasley. Not this time. Not ever again.
When Ron began to move towards her, she thought for a moment—for a second—that he was going to apologize. That he would take it all back and everything would be as it had been.
She should have known better.
Automatically, her spine stiffened and she lifted her chin defiantly. Out of the corner of her eye, Hermione caught a picture of glimpse of herself in the mirror. The witch looking back out at her was watching her with a haughty, arrogant tilt to her head. Ice filled her veins and her heart constricted in her chest.
For one moment… just one… she had glimpsed her aunt staring out at her from her face. Not Aunt Vivienne who had an unhealthy obsession with shoes and read murder mysteries. No… her biological aunt. The batshit crazy one. The one who had…
When Harry stumbled through her Floo about an hour later, he found her sprawled on her living room floor sobbing into the carpet. He threw himself down next her and pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently. He stroked her hair gently and patted her back.
"It's going to be alright," Harry crooned at her. "I promise. He's not worth all this, Hermione."
With a hiccup, Hermione sat up in Harry's lap and glared at him indignantly.
"This isn't because of Ronald Weasley," Hermione managed to get out through her tears.
Harry blinked at her. "Well then, why are you–,"
"Harry James Potter!" Hermione shrieked. "If you think that the only reason a witch could possibly have to cry is over some ill-mannered, immature, petty man, I will punch you!"
"Harder than you punched–," Harry began with a smirk, but paused when Hermione's lower lip began to wobble. "Hermione, what… oh. Oh, Hermione."
That was all Harry said for the rest of the night. He just sat there and held her as she sobbed against him until she fell asleep. She woke briefly as he lifted her in his arms and carried her to her bedroom. She mumbled sleepily at him, words garbled in her mouth and then silenced by fatigue. She sighed as he pulled a duvet over her and patted her ankle.