The old woman laid on the hospital bed, her breathing shallow, her eyes closed as she dozed. The drugs to help the pain made her sleepy, even though it had been years since she could sleep for long. A middle aged woman sat beside her bed, holding her hand and caressing the old woman’s hair. Tears filled the younger woman’s eyes. She knew this was coming, that it had been coming for a long time, but she wasn’t ready. She would never be ready.
The old woman started, her eyes flying open with panic, unable to catch her breath. She looked around, eyes wild before they landed on the younger woman. Recognition filled the brown eyes and the woman began to calm.
“Mom, are you okay?” the younger woman asked, concerned.
The old woman stared before nodding slowly. “Nightmare,” she rasped.
The daughter frowned. “What do you mean?” she inquired.
The old woman chuckled harshly, her expression filled with grief. “A life that was over years ago.”
“Mom, you’re scaring me.”
The bedridden woman looked at her daughter and her expression softened. “Oh Maddy,” she whispered, “there is so much that you don’t know, so much I never told you. I couldn’t,” she stated. “I just couldn’t.”
The old woman opened her mouth to explain, but a nurse walked in, and the woman’s mouth shut, her expression closing off. The nurse walked over to the old woman and smiled at her. “How are you feeling today, Mrs. Padilla?” she asked, her tone extra sweet and insincere. The old woman glared at her.
“That is Doctor Janine Padilla to you. How do you think I feel?” Dr. Padilla snapped. “I’m dying, not an idiot. Don’t talk to me like I am one.”
The smile fell off the nurse’s face and she looked angry.
“Mom,” Maddy said, exasperated, her expression amused. Her mother had just reached her 89th birthday three months ago and she was even more cantankerous than ever. Her mother had never been a particularly warm person, but Maddy knew that she was loved. Maddy knew for certain that if her mother loved anyone, it was definitely her. Sadly, she also knew that her mother never loved her father, a landscaper who died ten years ago, though she knew that her mother had at least cared for him. She never knew what happened to her mother to make her the standoffish, distant woman that she grew up with, but her father always alluded to a past that was very painful for her, but never told Maddy what happened.
The nurse finished checking the machines and wrote down the information on Janine’s chart. She gave another insincere smile and walked out of the room. The old woman rolled her eyes and huffed, irritated. “One doesn’t lose their faculties once one gets cancer you know.”
Maddy laughed sadly. “I know, mother.”
“Well I wish the idiot nurses understood that and would stop treating me like I was a child,” Janine muttered.
Maddy squeezed her mother’s hand, but said nothing. There was nothing she could say. If there was one thing her mother could not stand it was to be treated as if she was unintelligent, which was the farthest thing from the truth. Her mother was brilliant. Not just anyone could get a PhD in Molecular Biology and become one of the top professors at Harvard.
She looked at her mother and noticed that she was staring out of the window intently, her eyes glimmering with tears. Concerned she looked over to whatever her mother was staring at and could see nothing but trees. A movement in the trees caught her attention and she sighed. An owl. For years, whenever her mother saw an owl, she would either go pale or tears would fill her eyes. She could never understand why and no one would ever explain. Her father would just pull her mother away, or give her a tissue to wipe the tears, a tender look on his face.
“Mom, do you want me to close the blinds?” she asked.
Her mother took a shuddery breath and shook her head. “You know, even after all these years, seeing an owl, any owl still fills me up with pain and regret,” she whispered. “I thought I was right, and I blamed him and by the time I got my head on straight, he was gone and I never found him again. No one did. He had just disappeared, and was never seen again.”
Maddy sat up, alert. This was the first time that her mother ever mentioned anything about her past. She was so closed mouthed about her teenage years and the years before Janine married Frank, her father. She had tried asking once, when she was a teenager and the pain filled expression on her face caused Maddy to never ask again. She never wanted to see that look on her mother’s face again. The anguish had been so overwhelming.
“My husband was dead, most of his family, so many friends, gone. The world was falling down around us and instead of leaning on him, I blamed him. I blamed him for the death of my husband and our family. It was never his fault, but I was so angry, so filled with grief. I just lashed out. I forgot, I forgot what he was like. I forgot how he would shoulder the blame himself and my words would just be like knives to his soul. I forgot that he lost his best friend, and what he considered his family. I forgot that he lost his fiancé as well,” Janine rambled, the drugs loosening her tongue, finally releasing emotions and words that had been pent up for years. She turned towards her daughter, her expression pained. “How could I have done that, Maddy? How?” she asked.
“Who, mom? Who are you talking about?” Maddy inquired softly.
“Harry, my Harry,” she muttered and began to cry softly.
Maddy could do nothing but hold her mother’s hand as she cried. Who was Harry? Her husband or the friend? When had her mother been married before? Had her father known? So many questions filled her mind and she wondered if her mother would actually answer them or would she close up like she had done so many times.
Many minutes later the crying finally stopped and red rimmed eyes stared at Maddy. “Oh sweetheart, there is so much I never told you. I always thought I was protecting you, but I was a fool. I was protecting myself. I never told you because I didn’t want you to know what I coward I was, what a bitch I had been. I never wanted you to hate me.”
“Mom, I could never hate you!” Maddy exclaimed. “I loved you and dad from the day that you brought me home from the orphanage. I knew as soon as I saw you two that you were meant for me. Nothing you say would ever change that.”
Janine patted her daughter’s hand, a smile on her face. “I knew as well, child. I walked into that orphanage and when I saw you, I knew you were mine. You had to be. You looked so much like them; I knew you were made for me.”
Maddy was surprised. She never knew her mother had felt this way, she just thought it was her. “Who do I look like, Mom? Who do I remind you of?” she asked softly.
“My Ron and my Harry,” she whispered, raising a shaky hand to gently touch her daughter’s red hair. “Your hair, your skin tone, even the freckles remind me of my Ron, but your eyes…oh Maddy your eyes were his eyes. I always wondered if maybe you were his child. His eyes were so distinctive, so green.”
“Who were Ron and Harry, Mom?’ Maddy asked, curiosity filling her.
Janine lowered her hands and laughed softly. “For ten years, there were my world; my best friends, my family, my loves. I met them when I was eleven, on my way to school. I didn’t know when I met them how they would affect my life. We didn’t even get along for the first few months of school.” She chuckled ruefully. “That was my fault actually. I was such a little know it all. All I knew were books, I couldn’t even relate to people and it showed. I didn’t have friends growing up. I didn’t realize that it was my attitude towards others that pushed them away. However, meeting Ron and Harry changed all that. They saved me and that was a start of a beautiful friendship,” she said, smiling. The smile faded away and pain filled her face. “Until Ron died and I destroyed my friendship with Harry. I ran him off and he disappeared. I don’t even know if he is still alive, or if he had a good life as I did.”
“Ron was your first husband?” Maddy asked.
Irene looked at her, hesitant before determination filled her face. “I vowed you would never hear these words come from my mouth. I was never going to tell you about a world that took so much from me, but you have the right to know. It will affect your future. It will affect Galen’s future.”
“Galen? Mom, what are you talking about?” she demanded, wondering what could possibly affect her one year old grandson. She was beginning to get worried that maybe the cancer was beginning to affect her mother. She was acting rather strange.
“Yes, Galen. I thought I was imagining things after he was born. I hadn’t been around it for so long that I thought it was just memories, but then I saw him. I saw him float the bottle because he couldn’t reach it and I knew. He had just done accidental magic and he would need to learn to control his magic. I thought about binding it. I never wanted him to go to the Wizarding World. He would only know torment, prejudice, and heartbreak,” Irene rambled, her eyes distant.
“Magic?” Maddy exploded, disbelief filling her face. “Mother, there is no such thing as magic. You know that, you tell me that all the time. I think the drugs are affecting you, I am going to call the nurse,” she stated, beginning to rise only for her mother to grab her arm, holding on tightly.
“No! Sit down and let me tell you,” Irene said firmly.
“Mom,” Maddy began.
“I said sit down,” Irene demanded, her gaze fierce, her hold abnormally strong. Brown eyes glared at her and Maddy felt intimidated by her mother look. She swallowed hard and sat back in the chair. A few minutes later, her mother intent gaze moved from her daughter and glanced out the window, looking at the brown owl that sat in the tree. Maddy followed her gaze and wondered what was so interesting about the owl. She frowned thoughtfully, weren’t owls nocturnal? Her mother’s voice distracted her from her thoughts.
“I was born Hermione Jane Granger. I changed my name after I left the Wizarding World, after Ron’s death and Harry’s disappearance. I wanted nothing to remind me of my time there. My parents died due to the war that erupted in the Wizarding World when I was fifteen. They had tried to get me to leave, but I was adamant that I would be there for Harry and Ron. I couldn’t leave them; I couldn’t let them got through it alone.”
Hermione chuckled as she looked her confused daughter. “I guess I should start before then. I won’t go into all of it, but I will give you a quick rundown of my time there. I received a letter when I was eleven letting me know that I was invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At first I was sure it was a joke, but I realized that it could explain the strange things that happened around me, things that could not be explained. Once I realized it wasn’t a joke, well after speaking with the teacher that came to speak with me about the school, I was hooked. It opened up a whole new world, new information, new ideas and at eleven, I was all about the knowledge.”
“I took the train to Hogwarts at the beginning of the school year and there was where I met Harry and Ron. I was such a snot nosed little brat,” Hermione said, chuckling. “I didn’t realize that my know it all attitude made me rather unlikable and Ron found me rather irritating, while Harry just found me too arrogant. They were both rather put off by me. It took almost two months and an attack by a toll before we actually became friends. They saved my life. They didn’t have too, but they attacked a troll that had been let into the castle and saved my life.”
“That was the beginning of the best and worst part of my life. Harry was famous in the Wizarding World, famous for defeating an evil wizard, Lord Voldemort, when he was just over one year old. He was also on the top of the list of being the most hated by those that followed Voldemort as well, so he was given to his Aunt and Uncle to be raised as his parents had died, trying to save his life from the Dark Lord’s attack. You see, there had been a prophecy made that a child would be born that would defeat the Dark Lord, but there had been two children born around the same time. So Voldemort chose Harry as the prophecy child. He attacked Harry’s home and killed his parents. Voldemort was defeated temporarily by Harry. This made Harry famous as he also was the only person ever to live after being struck by the Killing Curse. No one before had ever survived it, but Harry did.”
Maddy opened her mouth, a frown on her face and Hermione shook her head. “Quiet, child. Let me get through this and then you can ask all the questions you want.”
Maddy’s mouth snapped shut and she glared at her mother, face filled with skepticism. Hermione chuckled.
“Because of the prophecy, Harry was the only one that would be able to defeat Voldemort. Sadly, Voldemort rose again by a dark ritual when Harry was fourteen. This was the beginning of the end. The years after were hard. Voldemort hid from the world for almost a year and no one would believe that he was alive. The Wizarding World turned on Harry and Headmaster Dumbledore for even stating that Voldemort was alive. However, later in Harry’s fifteenth year, there was a battle at the Ministry of Magic and Voldemort was thrust into the limelight, letting everyone know that he was indeed alive. There was no denying it now. Unfortunately, Harry lost his godfather in the same battle, one of many who would die.”
“The war raged on for years. Voldemort didn’t waste any time, he immediately began his reign of terror. For the last few years at Hogwarts, the curriculum changed. We began to learn defensive spells, battle spells, war magic. Magic that hadn’t been taught for years suddenly were mandatory. The Wizarding World was slowly being destroyed and friends and family were dying. I lost my parents in a raid that destroyed the mall they were in. Ron lost his parents and oldest brother after Voldemort and his Death Eaters attacked his family home. Harry lost his last thread to his parents when Remus was killed. He was the last friend of Harry’s parents that had been alive, but he died defending Harry after an ambush. We all lost friends that we went to school with; Lavender, Dean, Seamus, Dennis and even some rivals that had turned their backs on their parents and Voldemort; Pansy, Blaise, and Greg. No one was immune to loss.”
Maddy stared at her mother’s devastated expression. Tears flowed from her brown eyes and she could see horror filling those eyes. She may not believe what her mother was telling her, but her mother did and that scared her. How far gone was her mother? How did she never notice this before?
“Ron and I thought about waiting to get married, but realized that we didn’t know if we would even make it through the war. We were on the top of the list, sought after by Voldemort simply because we were Harry’s friends. We decided that we wouldn’t wait and we married just after I turned nineteen. Harry was Ron’s best man and Ginny was mine. For a day, we celebrated life but too soon we were thrust once more into battle. For two more years, the war raged on. We lost Ginny, Ron’s sister, a year after we married. George and Fred went mad with grief and we lost them soon after in a suicidal attempt to destroy Voldemort, even though they knew that only Harry would be the one to kill him. However, they did take out a good portion of the Dark Lord’s Death Eaters, so it was a win on our part, but it didn’t make any of us feel any better. Poor Ron, most of his family was gone. His brother, Charlie, was still alive, but had been injured in a battle to protect the dragons that he so loved. He was never quite the same after he lost his hand and his sight. Percy, oddly enough, thrived during the war. He changed; before he was an arrogant little sod, believing that the Ministry was right. Unfortunately, the loss of his parents and brother, Bill changed him. He was determined to fight Voldemort and he came to apologize to Harry and joined the war effort.”
“Another piece of joy came from the war. Harry and Luna fell in love. I had to admit, I never saw that coming. I always believed that Harry and Ginny would get together and maybe if the war didn’t happen they may have. But Luna and Harry fit, Luna supported Harry in a way that I don’t think Ginny could have. Harry finally broke down and proposed to Luna and Ron and I was thrilled. Harry had become too bitter, so cold, so hard. He took all the deaths personally and struggled with shouldering the blame. He knew that he was the only one to kill Voldemort, but when the war first started, he didn’t have the training. Once the war started, Harry got the training he needed, and he trained throughout the war. He never stopped training, never stopped learning. Eventually, through it all, he finally found a way that would kill Voldemort and finally end the war. Years of research had led him to the Deathly Hallows, which supposedly gave him power over Death. His wand, the Elder wand, was the most powerful wand around and with it, he was going to destroy Voldemort. But then…” Hermione trailed off, her lips trembling, fresh tears flowing from her eyes, “then Voldemort destroyed mine and Harry’s world,” she whispered.
“Mom,” Maddy said, “are you okay?” she asked. Maddy grabbed her mother’s hand and held tightly.
Hermione took a steadying breath and nodded. “Even after all these years, it still hurts. You can never know the pain of your soul mate’s death until you go through it yourself. It destroys a part of you that you can never get back. Ron was my love, my soul mate, my other half. As much as I cared for your father, if anyone had given me a way to bring back Ron, I would have jumped at the chance. Luckily, your father knew that. He had gone through his own loss of his soulmate. We were two wounded people, relying on each other to keep either of us going.”
“Dad had a soul mate?” Maddy asked and then cursed herself. Why was she even asking this? This story was too farfetched to be true. While she believed that her mother lost her first husband and friend, she couldn’t believe that it happened the way that she was stating it did. Soul mates were a myth.
“Oh yes, your father left the Wizarding World with me. He wanted nothing to do with the world that destroyed his life as well. He grew up there and after the war, he wanted to get away. Once he knew that I was leaving, well Neville decided that he would come with me. He changed his name as well, taking the name of his father and together we left the Wizarding World. He never got over the death of Susan, but together, we coped. A couple of years after we left, we finally decided to marry for convenience sake. I cared for your father, I even loved him to a certain extent, and him with me as well. But it was never what we wanted; it was just what we were dealt with. Plus, we knew what each other had gone through, so that added another benefit that some stranger could never have hoped to deal with. We decided to adopt as I was no longer able to bear children, thanks to the war. You helped a lot when we adopted you. You made us a family, and Merlin, we needed that.”
Maddy swallowed hard. Frank had changed his name as well? She had always known that her parent’s marriage wasn’t a marriage made in heaven. They lacked the passion of a couple that was truly in love. They never fought, always got a long, and even when her father had that affair several years ago, her mother never made a big deal of it. But if what her mother said was true, then they weren’t in love and never had been. They had just been together for the comfort. It explained a lot.
Her mother, Irene…no Hermione if she was to believe her mother, was staring at the owl again. This time another owl, a grey owl, was sitting next to the brown owl. She looked at the odd spectacle and wondered what was so special about them. She started at the sound of her mother’s voice and looked back down at her. It hadn’t struck her until now; her mother was old…old and dying, and apparently losing her mind in her sickness. Maddy bit back a sob. She was not ready for this!
“Voldemort timed it well, the ending of my world. He waited until Harry was gone, clear across the other side of the country, on another mission. We never knew that one of our members had been replaced and our headquarters had been revealed. Once again, our secret keeper had been compromised. The Death Eaters came to us in the dark of night, while we were sleeping. Ron was beside me and Luna was in the room down the hall. The other rooms were filled with members of the Order and we slept, never knowing that our end was about to come. The night erupted with a loud explosion and the house shook as the wards fell. From then on, it was chaos. Spells were flying, explosions were going off, screams and the smell of blood and other fluids filled the air. I watched as Luna fought bravely, dancing around, maiming and killing the Death Eaters that filled our home. I also watched as Draco Malfoy shot a spell towards Luna’s head and it exploded, blood and matter flying through the air, splattering the walls. I couldn’t even scream, so great was my surprise and horror. Next to Harry, Luna was our best fighter. Harry made sure of this; he trained her hard, as she was the second on Voldemort’s list, because she was a Seer and Harry’s fiancée.”
“I stood there, frozen and that one moment cost me. I never saw the curse flying towards me, but Ron did. He jumped in front of me, protecting me as he always promised he would and took the curse right in the chest. It flipped him around and I had one look at him as he mouthed ‘I love you’ before he died right before my eyes. I lost it. I felt the bond snap and I lost it. I don’t remember much about that night, just the screams and flashing of the curses, but I was told that in my rage, I destroyed the remaining ten death eaters. There was no mercy in what I did to them.”
“Harry arrived after it was all over, too late to do anything. He stared at Luna’s and Ron’s body and something snapped in him. He disappeared in a glow of white power, as bright as I had ever seen. From what I learned later, the death of Ron and Luna was the last straw and it broke through whatever had been holding him back. He now had access to power that he never knew before.”
“I don’t know exactly what happened or how it went down, but what I do know is that a couple of hours after he left, he came back, covered in blood. He had also brought the head of Voldemort with him. Finally, the war was over, but it left so much devastation in the wake. I didn’t care though. I was lost, my Ron was gone and I was hurting so very, very much. My rage had built and built while Harry was gone and when he came back, I didn’t care what he had just accomplished, I didn’t care what he had just lost as well… I exploded. All my pent up rage, hurt and pain needed a place to go and sadly, Harry was the person who received it all. For an hour I ranted, yelled, screamed and blamed Harry for every death that had ever happened in the war. I blamed him for not ending it sooner as only he could.”
“I blamed him for Ron’s death, for Luna’s death and then delivered the death stroke by informing him that he should have died the first time Voldemort tried to kill him when he was a baby; that if he had, none of this would have happened. That was when the light in his eyes died and he was gone, never to be seen from again. It took me days before I realized what I had done, what I had lost on top of everything else. I had no one to blame but myself and I have always regretted it. I never got to tell Harry how sorry I was, I never got to tell him how much I loved him and how much I needed him in my life. He as the last of my family, and I had pushed him away. I miss him so much,” Hermione said with a soft cry and began to sob.
Maddy dropped her mother’s hand quickly and propped herself on the bed. She leaned down and gathered her frail mother, holding her as she sobbed. Tears pricked Maddy’s eyes. She never realized how much pain her mother had been in and how many years she had been filled with regret she could never get rid of. However it really happened, the loss of her first husband and best friend changed her mother and she wondered if her mother wouldn’t be relieved when she finally passed. Maybe then she would finally have her chance to be with Ron.
And hour passed and her mother finally fell into an exhausted sleep. Maddy stood up from the bed and made her way towards the nurses’ station. She needed to speak with the doctor. She was upset that no one told her that her mother was having delusions, whether it was the cancer or the drugs, but there was just no way that what her mother told her could be true. Magic? Not hardly. Her mother was well known for being practical and would throw a fit if the word magic was even spoken in her house. Her mother was quite adamant that such things did not exist.
As she spoke with the nurse, in the back of her mind, Maddy wondered if there was a reason that her mother had been almost obsessive about the way magic was never brought up in the house. She would never let Maddy watch the movies that had anything to do with magic or fantasy. Could it be because of what she had gone through? Maddy shook her head, scoffing at the idea. However, there was a small lingering doubt. Her mother was so adamant about her story though. There was no hesitation when she was speaking of it. She laughed at herself. There was just no way.
An hour later, she made her way back towards her mother’s room, discontent. The talk with the doctor didn’t go well. According to him, there were no signs of dementia or senility and the drugs she was taking didn’t cause hallucinations, though they could make her confused. That had to be the reason for her mother’s story. She walked into her mother’s room and sighed. Her mother was awake and she turned to look at her daughter, a small smile on her face.
“I know you don’t believe me, sweetheart. I worked too hard to make you a practical person. I understand that. I don’t expect you to believe me; I would be surprised if you did. Just, when Galen turns eleven and an owl flies to his home delivering a letter, don’t be surprised. Just remember what I told you.”
Maddy frowned. “An owl?” she asked, her eyes flickering over to the window where she could still see the two owls sitting there.
Hermione chuckled. “Yes, owls were used to deliver mail in the Wizarding World. It is how every witch and wizard receives their letters to Hogwarts. Harry had a beautiful owl, Hedwig. It was a snowy white owl and fiercely intelligent. I believe she was more his familiar than his post owl. They had a special bond and she was one of the few friends of Harry that actually made it through the war.”
Maddy shook her head. “Mom, I talked to the doctor. I had to check because you know as well as I do that the story is preposterous. There is no such thing as magic and there is no Wizarding World that is separate from us. The doctor told me that the pain medication can make you confused. I’m sorry, Mom, but you weren’t there. There was no war, there was no magical world. I don’t know what happened to you when you were younger, or what really happened to Ron or Harry, but it wasn’t that.”
Hermione smiled and shook her head, raising her hand for Maddy to grab. “I know you don’t believe it, honey and that’s alright. I lied to you for years, about whom I was and where I came from. I don’t expect you to believe me. I already told you that. I just wanted you to know the story. Maybe, someday you will realize that it’s all true, probably around the time Galen gets his letter to Hogwarts, but not even then. I just wanted to tell you once, before I pass away. I just want to be able to say that I finally told you,” she said, patting her daughter’s hand.
“Mom,” Maddy sighed.
Hermione laughed. “Put it down to an old woman’s fanciful tale if you need to. I’m dying, I have the right to be addlebrained.”
Maddy chuckled. “You are the least addle brained old woman that I know.”
Hermione smiled, looked over towards the window again and her eyes widened. Her face paled and she couldn’t seem to catch her breath. Frantic, Maddy shook her mother. “Mom! What is it? What’s going on?” she demanded.
“Hedwig?” Hermione whispered, tentatively, hope filling her voice.
Maddy whirled around and looked at what her mother gazing at. Sitting on the ledge of the hospital window was a large, white snowy owl, who was staring at her mother. Her mother raised her arm and the owl flew through the closed window, towards her mother’s bed. Maddy gasped and stepped back. There was no way that happened. No bird can fly through a closed window.
The owl landed on her mother gently, and sidled up her chest, cooing. “Hedwig! It is you!” her mother cried joyfully as she raised her hand to scratch the owl, delighting in the chirps of contentment. “But how…even a magical owl can’t live that long.”
“Mother! That owl flew through a closed window…A CLOSED WINDOW,” Maddy exclaimed hysterically.
Hermione blinked, looked at the window and back at the smug owl. “Huh, well that’s different.”
“Well Hedwig was always an owl unto herself. She never did do anything the normal way,” a male voice said from beside Maddy
Hermione’s head whipped up, her eyes wide and Hedwig flew towards the voice. Maddy backed away quickly, never hearing anyone come in. In fact, no one could have come in as she was standing by the door. How in the hell did anyone get into the room. Maddy looked over the man in the room and couldn’t help but stare as well. The man looked to be in his early twenties. He was of medium height, maybe five eight or five nine. He had black hair that looked like it hadn’t been brushed, but what startled her were the green eyes. The clear green eyes that looked so similar to hers. And the owl was sitting on his shoulder. He reached up to pet and then whispered to her and the owl flew out the closed window…again.
“Harry?” Hermione asked, her voice trembling.
“Hello, Hermione,” the man said, a crooked grin on his face.
Hermione burst into tears, her arms outstretched and Harry hurried over to hear, grabbed her and held her tightly, whispering softly to her as she sobbed harshly. Maddy was frozen, not sure what she should do. The man was holding her mother, a man who her mother called Harry and if he was supposed to be the same Harry in her story, then why did he look so young?
“Shhh…I’m here, Mione. I’m sorry, so sorry that I didn’t come to you before. Shhh…my sweet Mione. Oh how you suffered, but it’s alright. I’m here now. I’ve got you,” Harry whispered in the white bushy hair.
Minutes passed before Hermione’s sobs began to slow. She rested against Harry, taking shuddering breaths before moving back. She stared at Harry, her gaze solemn then suddenly she raised her hand and slapped him.
“Ow! Mione, what the hell!” Harry sputtered.
“Where the hell have you been?” she demanded. “I looked for you for years and what the hell is with you looking so damn young, huh? If you don’t answer me right now, Harry James Potter, I will make you regret it. Just because I am eighty nine and dying doesn’t mean I can’t hurt you!” she yelled.
Harry stared at her a moment before laughing, taking her in his arms again and hugging her. “That’s my Mione, not even the possibility of death can stop her.”
Hermione sagged, her whispered “Oh Harry” muffled as she pressed her face into Harry’s chest. She pulled back, but kept a tight grasp on his hand. “What happened?” she asked.
Harry looked sheepish. “Well you know that ultimate power that I found to use against Voldemort?” he asked.
“You mean the Hallows? What about them?” Hermione questioned.
“Er…remember that myth that they had the power over Death?”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “Really?” she squeaked.
Harry nodded. “Yeah, well apparently when I went after Voldemort, I tapped into the power of the Hallows and when I did that, well it was like I accepted the burden of the Hallows and became Death’s master and boy, was he irritated. Luckily, we became pretty good friends so it’s all good.”
Hermione blinked rapidly. “You met Death?” she demanded.
Harry shrugged. “Well yeah, kinda goes along with you know, being Death’s master, though we decided that it sounds better if we change that to friend. Sounds way less, you know, freaky and perverted,” he quipped, chuckling.
“Wow! And the part where you look young?” Hermione questioned.
“Yeah, I kind stopped aging too and well, you know I’m immortal, doing Death’s work and all that.”
Hermione froze and stared at him hard before gasping. “Oh,” she said faintly. “I see.”
Harry gaze was solemn as he looked at her. “I knew you would get it. You weren’t the brightest witch in school for no reason.”
“But,” she began before breaking off, and looked towards her daughter, who was watching them intently.
“What?!” Maddy demanded. “What is going on? Who are you? How did you get in here?”
“Maddy, hush,” Hermione admonished her gaze still on Harry. “This is Harry, I told you about him.”
“Mother,” Maddy said, exasperated. “You know none of that is real!”
Hermione looked at her daughter, her eyebrow arched. “Oh really? And owls just randomly fly through the window and mysterious men just appear in the middle of the room? I told you before Maddy, it was real. Just because you don’t believe it, doesn’t make it any less so.”
Harry laughed. “Your daughter is so like you. You wouldn’t believe a lot of stuff either without proof, ‘Mione. You believed every book you read for years.”
Hermione glared. “I did not.”
“Can we say Lockheart?” Harry teased.
Maddy watched in disbelief as her mother blushed. She had never seen her mother blush, ever. Her mother was always so composed, so calm. She was startled out of her thoughts by the green eyed gaze that was looking at her thoughtfully. She blinked, uneasy, as the eyes seemed to glow when they stared at her.
“I’m glad to see you had a good life, Maddy,” Harry said, a gentle smile on his face. “I thought when I brought you two together that it would be a good match, but you surpassed all my expectations. You’re a doctor of physics, the youngest Dean in a decade, breakthroughs that will change the future. Yes, it was definitely a good thing,” Harry murmured, his gaze distant.
“Harry? Is she yours? I always thought that maybe she might be yours. Her eyes are so distinctive,” Hermione said.
Maddy trembled, shocked at what she had heard. This man was responsible for her mother adopting her? For finding her? How?
Harry shook his head. “No, she isn’t my daughter. One of the side effects of the Hallows is that I am sterile. I will never have a biological child. No, she is not mine, but she is from my family. Let’s just say Dudley couldn’t keep it in his pants and the young girl who bore her died while doing so. I found out about her three years after she was born. I couldn’t take care of her where I was at, so I made sure that someone that I cared about could take care of her. She has my mother’s eyes, which make sense since Dudley is my cousin. There was no way I was going to let Dudley have anything to do with her and her future at the orphanage wasn’t pleasant. I saved her from an early death, an irresponsible father and gave her to a family that I knew would love her. You and Neville raised a wonderful daughter, and I am proud of that.”
“You’re my cousin?” Maddy asked, trembling. She always wondered about her biological family. But no one ever knew where she came from, who her father was or even her mother. She had been found on the steps of the orphanage, lying in a box, a light yellow blanket surrounding her with a note saying that they couldn’t take care of her.
Harry nodded. “I wanted to take care of you myself, but sadly, I was in a place that would not have been good for you. I mean literally in a place that would not be good for you. I couldn’t raise you, but I didn’t want to leave you either. I knew Hermione would take care of you though, along with Neville. They would have been the best parents for you and I was right.”
“My father? I mean my biological father, is he still alive?” Maddy asked softly.
Harry shook his head. “No, Dudley wasn’t the best person to be around. He died four years after Hermione adopted you. He was trying to rob a convenience store and was shot by the police after trying to escape after shot a young girl in the store. Luckily the girl lived, but he didn’t. There was also no way that I was going to let you live with my bigoted, hateful Aunt and Uncle. I would never leave another child with them, period,” Harry said harshly.
Maddy nodded absently, her gaze thoughtful. “Why couldn’t you take care of me? I know you said that you were in place that I wouldn’t be safe at, but what about later? Why have you never visited me? How come I am only getting to know about you now?” she demanded.
Harry glanced at Hermione, his gaze troubled. Hermione looked at Harry and nodded. He sighed and looked back at Maddy. “I know your mother told you some of the story about her past and even some of my story as well. Obviously she didn’t tell you everything, because not even she knew it. The Hallows, the items that I gathered to get the power I needed to defeat Voldemort, were rumored to have power over Death. We thought it meant that it would allow us to use the power to finally kill Voldemort, which it did. Unfortunately, it also meant so much more. When I finally tapped into the power of the Hallows, I accepted ownership of them. I had been the first human who had all three items and didn’t want to use it to take over the world. I used it only to destroy a Dark Lord, a wizard who had used dark, black magic to avoid dying and let’s just say Death was a little pissed about that.”
“Basically, what happened when I used the Hallows is that I became Death’s master. I stopped aging, and I am immortal. I am also Death’s Reaper as well. I spent hundreds years under Death’s tutelage to learn how to become a Reaper. Time flows different in Death’s realm. I take souls meant to die to their final resting place. I am basically Death. I no longer live on Earth, I only come when I need to take a soul,” Harry explained gently.
Maddy could hardly breathe as her gaze went towards her mother. She met the calm, accepting gaze and began to shake her head. No! No…no…no...no! She was not ready for this. It couldn’t happen. She knew that her mother was dying, that she was in the final stage and that only the drugs that she was on kept her pain down, but it was her mother….her mother. She whimpered.
Harry got up from the bed and pulled the distraught woman into his arms. “Hush now Maddy. You knew this was going to happen. I understand that you don’t want her to leave you, I do. But take comfort in the fact that where she is going is a better place. She will be with her family, her loved ones, her Ron,” he said softly.
Maddy stiffened and looked into the gaze of Death. Her mother would be with Ron again, her soul mate, the one who she had longed for. She finally believed. With so much information matching up with what her mother told her, the appearance of Harry and Hedwig and to know that there is no way that this would be some elaborate joke on her mother’s part, she finally believed. “It’s all true? Magic? The Wizarding World? Dark Lords?” she breathed.
Harry nodded. “It is.”
“And you are here to take my mother,” Maddy asked softly.
Harry hugged her tighter. “I am. I had to fight with Death to make sure that I could. I left her all on her own, never knowing that I wouldn’t be able to come back. The power that I used wouldn’t let me. I can only appear at the time of Death. Normally you wouldn’t have even seen me, but I wanted to meet you. I wanted you to understand that though you may grieve; your mother really is in a better place. And when it’s your time to pass as well, you will see her and you will meet her friends, and your grandparents, and even your real mother. She will be surrounded by love and she will finally be able to be with Ron,” he said, his expression envious.
“Mom said that you lost someone as well, Luna I think was her name. Can you be with her?”
Harry shook his head. “No, Luna, though I loved her dearly, was not my soul mate. My soul mate died before I was five years old. Maybe in a few hundred years, once they are reborn, maybe I can finally meet them, but for now, I visit my friends and family, but I can’t live there. It is only for the dead and though I am a reaper, I am still alive. But I can visit,” he said softly, his eyes filled with pain and longing.
Maddy hugged him. How could she not after seeing his expression.
Harry pulled back, grabbed her arms gently and smiled. “Now Maddy, you still have time. I am not here to take her immediately. I wanted some time with her and you before I did. So use this time, visit with her, love her, hug her and just be with her. I am giving you a gift that most don’t have. Use it.”
“Are you staying as well?” she asked.
Harry nodded. “Yes, who else is going to let you know when she tries to spread those horrible lies about me.”
“Hey!” Hermione exclaimed from her bed. “It’s not lies if it’s true mister!”
Harry laughed and dragged Maddy to the bed, gently pushing her to sit down. He walked around the other side of the bed, sat down and grabbed a hand to hold. “Oh ‘Mione, I have missed you,” he said with a great laugh.
Hermione squeezed his hand and smiled. “And I you, Harry.”
“So what dastardly lies have you been spreading about me?” Harry demanded and Hermione sputtered indignantly.
Maddy watched as they bickered and teased each other. For the first time ever, she could see the care free woman her mother must have been years ago. Her eyes glowed and her cheeks were red from laughter. Her mother hardly ever laughed when she was growing up and to see it now, well it would be a memory that she would cherish once she passed away. She was thankful to Harry for this and though she wasn’t ready to have her mother leave her, she felt better knowing that she would be in a better place.
The night had come and the room was quiet except for the beeping of the heart monitor. The old woman lay on the bed, sleeping, exhausted by the pain and the entertaining afternoon she had. Her daughter sat next to her, holding her hand, watching her face, memorizing as much as she could.
She heard a noise behind her and turned to glance at the man that had been leaning against the wall. He was staring in the middle of the room intently and her eyes widened when she saw a light appear and grow bigger. From the light, she could see what looked like a shape of a man. The light grew ever brighter and she had to look away a moment. Once she turned back, the portal had grown and a man waited in the doorway. Maddy could see that he was a tall man, broad in the shoulders. His hair was red and was smiling joyfully as he stared at the figure on the bed.
“’Mione,” he whispered. This had to be Ron, her mother’s soul mate. His gaze looked over at her briefly and he smiled and nodded before his gaze went back to her sleeping mother.
“It’s time,” Harry said softly from behind her.
Maddy took a trembling breath and nodded. She knew it was coming, she had been warned by Harry hours ago, but it was still hard. Harry walked to her mother and shook her slightly. Her eyes fluttered opened and she smiled as she saw Harry leaning over her. “It wasn’t a dream,” she whispered.
Harry shook his head. “No, ‘Mione. It wasn’t. Are you ready?” he asked.
Harry smiled and nodded then looked back towards the portal. Her mother’s gaze followed him and her eyes widened as she saw Ron standing in the portal. Her eyes filled with tears and Maddy could hear the joy in her voice as she whispered. “Ron!”
“Hello, my love,” Ron said happily. “I’m here to show you the way home. Are you ready?”
“Ron, Ron…my Ron,” she whispered urgently, trying to move her fragile body toward her husband, getting frustrated when nothing happened.
Harry touched her and she reluctantly pulled her attention away from her deceased husband to look at her best friend. “You have to let go, ‘Mione. You have to let go of all your worldly desires. Only then can you cross over.”
Hermione’s eyes found her daughter, her reluctance to leave her in the large, wet brown eyes. Maddy nodded, tears flowing down her face. “Go, Mom. I’ll be fine, we all will. Remember, we will be with you again.”
Hermione smiled and then frowned. “Make sure that it’s a good long while,” she commanded.
Maddy laughed. “I will try.”
Hermione nodded and looked at Harry. “I’m ready,” she said and Harry touched her. There was a flash and the old frail body of her mother fell back in the bed, the alarms on the heart monitor going off. However, standing in front of the bed was her mother, but her mother as she had never seen before. She looked like she was in her early twenties, her hair brown and slightly bushy. Her body was lithe and firm, and the expression on her face was joyous. She always thought her mother was pretty, but here, she looked beautiful.
Hermione looked over at her daughter one more time, smiled and then turned towards portal. She walked up to it and stared at the man standing in the doorway. “Ron, my love,” she sighed.
He held out a hand, waiting for her. “Come along, ‘Mione. Your parents are waiting; Neville is waiting along with Susan.”
Smiling widely, she grabbed his hand and walked into the portal. She stared up at him for a moment before throwing herself into his arms and kissed him with all the passion that had been lacking in the marriage with Neville.
She pulled away, looked back at her crying daughter and smiled. “I’m home,” she said softly. “I’m finally home.” She looked at Harry and said, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, ‘Mione,” he said, smiling.
The couple walked away, hand in hand and the portal flickered before disappearing. Harry turned to look at Maddy, who was still crying silently. He walked over, touched her arm gently and kissed her on the forehead. “I won’t be seeing you again for a good long while, but I will be here when it’s your time as I will with the rest of your family. I figure there should be someone there who cares for you when you pass.”
Maddy nodded and hugged him tightly. “Thank you, Harry. It’s the happiest I have ever seen my mother.”
Harry hugged her back. “You’re welcome, my dear.” He took a step back, smiled and the disappeared before her eyes.
Maddy took a step towards her mother’s bed and stopped, ignoring the yelling nurses and doctors that rushed into the room. Her mother was in a better place, and thanks to Harry, she really knew this. While she would miss her mother, she knew that eventually, she would see her again and that gave her the greatest comfort.
“Bye Mom, I love you, and I will see you again,” she whispered before turning and leaving the room. She had things to do, a funeral to plan, but she did so with a lightened heart.