They all had a hard time getting back to normal after the war – it’s only natural. But Neville can’t help but feel like Hermione’s having a harder time than anyone else. At first he assumes that Harry and Ron will help her through things – after all the three of them had different experiences than everyone else. But when she seems to be getting worse instead of better, Neville can’t help but worry.
He decides to invite Hermione to lunch – somewhere in Muggle London where they won’t be recognized. If he’s tired of completely strangers coming up to him, he imagines it has to be even worse for her. As they’ve really been too busy to see much of each other recently, his excuse of wanting to catch up is actually true. He just also has the ulterior motive of finding out what’s been bothering her. If it’s something he can help with, he just hopes he’ll let her.
When that day comes, they enjoy a pleasant lunch at an out of the way Indian restaurant, which makes Neville want to continue these lunches, even if what’s going on with Hermione isn’t as bad as he’s built up in his head.
“Does is all seem different to you?” he asks. “The Muggle World – now that you know what’s out there?” he asks, genuinely interested in her response. It’s something he’d always wondered about, but had never asked her for some reason.
“Not everything, but some things do,” she replies. “I used to love taking the tube while I was little, but now it seems so inefficient when apparition and floo are so much faster.”
“The tube? That’s the underground train, right?” Neville asks, hoping he’s remembering correctly and didn’t just embarrass himself.
“It is,” she confirms, and then breaks into a grin. “You’ve probably never ridden it. We should change that.”
“Wait, now?” he asks.
“Sure, why not. It’s the middle of the day, so it won’t be that busy. And even though it’s not as efficient as what we’re used to, everyone needs to experience it at least once.”
Neville smiles at her, glad to see her so excited. “Let’s do it then,” he replies. “Where will it take us?” he asks her as they leave the restaurant and head to the nearest station.
“Each line has its own set of stops, but the system as a whole goes anywhere in London,” she explains to him, as they wait for the train on the platform. “Or at least anywhere in Muggle London.”
“It might take a long longer than apparition, but it’s still pretty brilliant,” he replies. A train arrives and they step on. “Aren’t you from London? You should show me where you grew up.”
Hermione pales and takes the nearest seat, thankful that the train is mostly empty. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she says weakly.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?” Neville asks, concerned, sitting down next to her. She’d seemed better today than the last time he’d seen her, but clearly she’s good at putting on a mask to hide what’s really going on.
“I just… I can’t go back to that part of London,” she replies but makes no effort to explain further.
“Did something happen to your parents?” Neville asks gently. “Was it during the war?”
Hermione nods. “Yes, but it’s not you think,” he says simply, again making no effort to explain.
“What happened, ‘Mione?” he asks, hoping he can get her to open up instead of shutting down completely.
“I… I can’t. If you knew, you’d never look at me the same way ever again.”
Neville frowns, unable to figure out what she thinks is that terrible. “You can tell me anything Hermione. Nothing would ever change what I think of you.”
Hermione shakes her head. “This would. Especially with what happened to your parents.”
When Hermione brings up his parents, Neville starts to really get worried. “Hermione, you’re scaring me. Please talk to me.”
“My parents – I knew they’d be targets. And they wouldn’t be able to protect themselves because they’re Muggles,” Hermione pauses as her voice breaks. “I altered their memories so they thought they were other people, so they didn’t even know they exist. They’re in Australia, but I don’t even now how to begin to look for them.”
Neville wraps an arm around her as she breaks down into tears. “You were trying to protect them, ‘Mione. I can’t blame you for that.”
“I just figured with what happened to your parents…” she begins and trails off.
“The Death Eaters tortured people for fun. My parents are in St. Mungo’s because what happened to them can’t be fixed,” Neville replies. “You were trying to protect your parents and they can be fixed. We just have to find them first.”
Hermione pulls away from him and gives him a confused look. “What do you mean, we?”
“Australia’s a big place, do you really think you’re going to find them all by yourself. You’re going to need some help.”
“You’d help me? Why? What if I can’t fix them?” Hermione rattles off all three questions in one breath.
“We’ve been a little too busy to spend much time together lately, but you’re still one of my best friends,” he replies. “Of course I’d help you. And really ‘Mione, you’re the smartest witch I know. You’ll be able to fix them.”
Hermione hugs them tightly. “Thanks Nev. You’re the only person that can even come close to understanding.”
“I know what it’s like to have parents that don’t know who you are. I know how awful it is,” Neville responds hugging her back. “And I don’t want to see you through that. I imagine you have better contacts, but I can help you go through the information.”
“That would be great, Nev. Maybe we should make a standing date for lunch to do it. This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time, even with my meltdown.”
“Just make sure Harry knows he doesn’t have anything to worry about,” Neville replies with a grin. “He’s scary when he’s jealous.”
Hermione laughs. “I would say he gets stupid, but I’m sure he’d like your version better. Besides he knows you’re not a threat.”
The two get off the train at the next tube station, which happens to be for King’s Cross, which they both think is fitting.