The car rolled over the moors, lumbering through the humid June morning. It was a respectable car, certainly nothing flashy, moving at a reasonable pace. Seated in the front seat was a couple that were similarly respectable, reasonable, and certainly nothing flashy. The driver was a middle-aged man with thinning red-brown hair and a slightly ruddy complexion; seated beside him, poring over maps printed from the internet, was his wife, whose brown hair was tied loosely back. Both wore spectacles and were the model of middle-class practicality.
Filtering from the Peugeot’s speakers was a CD by the Australian rock band Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, which the couple had bought on a year-long holiday down under a couple of years prior. That trip had been one of the few impulsive things either of them had ever done: Looking back, they were hard-pressed to explain what had driven them to suspend their dentistry practice and leave for Australia for an entire year.
“Lovely country, isn’t it?” the husband said to his wife. “Do you think they’re going to stay out here after the wedding?” She looked up from the maps that she was studiously examining and smiled.
“Well, they both work in London so I imagine they might end up at least a little closer to us. Oh, look,” she added, pointing to a signpost, “Ottery St. Catchpole, 1 mile. It should be coming up.” She buried her head back into the maps.
As the narrow road curved around a bulbous little hill, they spotted a narrow drive cutting through a bog marked by what appeared to be a freshly painted sign:
The husband was about to ask his wife if this was the driveway they were looking for, but realized he had no need: This was certainly it.
The evidence was a man standing some ways down from the sign, who began waving excitedly as soon as he saw the car slow down. He was middle-aged, with thinning hair that still retained much of its original bright red, wearing what could only be described as a wizard’s robe.
“The Grangers, at long last!” he exclaimed as the car pulled to a stop and Mr. Granger rolled down the window.
“Hello, Arthur! You didn’t have to meet us at the end of the drive,” said Mr. Granger by way of greeting, as Mrs. Granger leaned across her husband to wave her hello.
“Oh, it was no problem at all! I wasn’t sure if I did the number right — our home is usually unmarked. We don’t get your post, you know. Besides, I’m always fascinated by how unmodified muggle cars work.”
The Granger shared a bemused look, before Mrs. Granger spoke. “Would you like to drive it back to your house, then?” she asked.
“Oh, I couldn’t,” Arthur responded, though his excitement at this prospect was palpable. “I’ll just watch, if you don’t mind.” The Grangers invited him into the car and he clambered into the back seat, leaning forward and watching closely as Mr. Granger conducted the car along the drive. Arthur kept insisting the house wouldn’t be far — in between questions about the pedals, the steering column, and the various switches and buttons of the radio and climate control — but they were never able to catch sight of it.
Then, with a shudder, the Grangers felt as though a cool ocean wave crashing around them. After a momentary blindness during which Mrs. Granger placed a worried hand on her husband’s, the house was suddenly visible. Both Mr. and Mrs. Granger were surprised to find that the house they had seen listed as “The Burrow” on their daughter’s wedding invitation was not built into the ground but rather a thin, tottering tower that surely looked as though it would fall over on itself any minute. Around it, a few tall redheads were moving about the garden, periodically pointing small sticks at the ground.
As they exited the car, Mr. and Mrs. Granger looked up at the house in wonder, as well as at the people in the garden, all of whom were obviously relatives of Arthur’s, and several of whom they had met before. Arthur was explaining the “Muggle-repelling” charms that had hidden the house from the Grangers when they heard a shout coming from the house.
A woman was streaking across the lawn to the Grangers’ car, followed by a flowing mane of bushy brown hair. She was, unmistakably, their daughter.
“Hermione!” shouted Mrs. Granger as her daughter crashed into her for an earth-shattering hug. The various redheads stopped what they were doing to watch the new arrivals.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” said Hermione. “Did you find it okay?”
“It was a perfectly uneventful drive,” replied Mr. Granger. He took his turn, giving his daughter a full and hearty hug.
“I still think we should have given them the full wizard experience and brought them here by Side-Along Apparation.” They all turned to see a tall, muscular man around the same age as Hermione, with bright red hair. He came from the garden on the other side of the drive, with a small, wriggling object in each hand.
“Mum, Dad, you remember Ron,” said Hermione.
“Yes, of course,” said Mr. Granger, extending his hand to his daughter’s fiance. “Terrific to see you again.”
“I’d shake your hand,” replied Ron, “but I’ve been digging out garden gnomes all morning.” He raised the wriggling creatures to show them to the Grangers. They were very much like the garden gnomes the Grangers were used to, but they were both alive and very angry. Ron began to swing them around in a quick circle, then threw them as far as he could into the field beyond the house.
“Ron!” Hermione barked.
“What?” he asked, with a slight smirk.
“That’s not how you’re supposed to get rid of them anymore, you know that! Honestly, how are we going to get the wizarding community to treat other magical creatures better if you can’t even stop doing that to the gnomes?”
Ron shrugged. “It doesn’t hurt them, though, does it? Nasty little buggers they are, too.”
Though it was now over eight years since they had learned that their daughter, Hermione, was a witch — in the process learning that witches and wizards were real, and that they had their own school in Scotland called Hogwarts — Mr. and Mrs. Granger still lived their lives fully and completely in the non-magical world. Since Hermione had told them earlier in the year that she was marrying her school friend Ron Weasley, they had known that this weekend would be full of new and discomfiting experiences. In just a few short minutes, they had moved through Muggle-repelling charms and watched an argument over how to best rid a garden of gnomes. The shock was written plainly on their face, and Arthur Weasley, having met them a number of times before, recognized it immediately.
“Here, Ron,” he said, “the Grangers must be exhausted from their drive. Why don’t you take them to Fred and George’s room and let them rest for a minute and freshen up?”
Hermione gave each of her parents a kiss and told them she would be downstairs helping clean up if they needed anything. Meanwhile, Ron pulled their bags out from the back of the car, or, rather, used his wand to levitate them out of the car. Then, with the bags leading the way, he led them into the house.
In many ways the house could have been like any other in Britain, except for the broomsticks leaning in one corner, several different sorts of clocks that didn’t appear to function normally at all, and the pictures and photographs in which the subjects appeared to be moving. It was perhaps a bit shabby and the stairs leading to the various levels above appeared to be rickety at best (and downright dangerous, at worst), but the Grangers understood that the Weasleys had always had significantly more mouths to feed than they had. Hermione, after all, was their only child.
“Sorry about the gnomes,” Ron said as they began to climb the stairs. “Hermione has been doing some really great stuff with magical creatures in the Ministry. It started with house-elves, of course, she’s always been an advocate for their rights and I think she’s starting to change a lot of people’s minds. She’s having a bit more trouble with the centaurs and giants, but she’ll get there.” Ron paused, looking at the Grangers for a moment. “Er, don’t tell her I told you any of that. I still like to give her a hard time sometimes,” he grinned, “for old times’ sake.”
They came to a landing and Ron pushed open a door into a room that had bunk beds along one wall, a few boxes stamped with the name “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes” along another, and posters with people on broomsticks, their robes somehow flapping in the breeze. A few seemed to be smiling and waving out into the room, and in one poster, a wizard on a broomstick was throwing some sort of ball to a wizard in the neighboring one.
As they entered the room, Ron stacked the Grangers’ bags along one wall. “Well, there you go.” He then waved his wand at the bed and muttered something that sounded like Latin, and the bottom bunk began to widen enough for two people to sleep comfortable.
“Fred and George, are they your brothers?” Mrs. Granger asked as she watched, mystified. “Will they mind we’re in their room?”
Ron turned slightly pink. “George might. But he knows the deal by now.” Both Mr. and Mrs. Granger wanted to ask the natural follow-up — “And Fred?” — and Ron could read it on their faces. “Fred, uh, he died a few years back. Killed in the Battle of Hogwarts.”
Mrs. Granger looked stricken. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.
“The Battle of Hogwarts?” asked Mr. Granger asked after a moment. “The Battle… Hermione never mentioned a battle.”
“She didn’t?” Ron asked, surprised.
“When was this? Was this when you were in school there?”
Ron was nonplussed. “No, it was … well, in a way … you’re sure she never said anything?”
“Absolutely certain!” Mr. Granger replied, a bit too loudly. He was angry, but it was the sort of anger borne out of fear and worry. Mrs. Granger put a hand on his arm to calm him, to remind him that she was there and that she, too, was concerned. Ron, meanwhile, glanced nervously at the door, trying to figure a way out of a situation he had no idea how he had gotten himself into.
The awkward silence was broken by the sound of Ron’s mother’s voice calling to him from downstairs. “I’ll be going, then,” he said, backing out of the room with a look that was equal parts nervousness and embarrassment.
After he left, Mrs. Granger walked to the door and slowly shut it. As she walked cautiously back to her husband, she spoke softly, calmly. “I’m sure she was safe during it. Ron’s brothers are all older, we know that. The headmaster at that school always struck me as so reasonable and careful, I hardly think he would have let the students be in danger.”
“We just know so little about this world she’s in,” he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. His anger was subsiding, and a familiar sadness was replacing that. Mrs. Granger sat on the bed next to him.
It was a conversation they had had countless times before, so often, in fact, that now they could have the entire exchange without saying anything at all. The news, nine years prior, that Hermione had been accepted into a secret and exclusive school in the Scottish highlands had shocked the Grangers, but also filled them with some pride. They learned of it in a letter from the headmaster himself, Professor Dumbledore, which arrived on the leg of a barn owl. The owl wouldn’t leave until the Grangers had placed a response on its leg. As unbelievable as it seemed to the Grangers, they then carried out a correspondence over several days with the headmaster, with letters always carried by one or another owl.
The Grangers had never intended to send Hermione to a boarding school, in part because they considered it a lavish and unnecessary expense, and they were a thoroughly practical (and not terribly wealthy) family. But also, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Granger had many living relatives — Hermione’s last living grandparent, her mother’s mother, Jean, had died just the year before — and they were a small, close family. Professor Dumbledore eventually convinced them, and so the summer before her 12th birthday they sent her off to Hogwarts with a trunk full of supplies purchased on a harrowing trip to an alley in London they had never heard of.
Over the next several years, they saw Hermione less and less, and her stories about school — when she would talk about it at all — became more and more unbelievable. At times, Mr. and Mrs. Granger argued about whether they had made the right decision, about whether they should have ignored the strange letter and the many owls, about whether they should have simply sent her to a normal secondary school in London. They never asked her to prove to them that she was actually learning magic: This was another topic they had argued about, agreeing (and then disagreeing) that to do so would be a breach of trust.
She began spending holidays at school, or here at The Burrow with the Weasleys, and they missed her intensely. They weren’t able to talk about any of their concerns with their friends, who thought Hermione was attending an exclusive all-girls boarding school in Aberdeen. Their brief conversations with Arthur and Molly Weasley at King’s Cross Station, as they all picked up their children at the end of term, became invaluable moments of reassurance that assuaged the anxiety and worry of the preceding months.
On top of that, Hermione had been so lonely and so bookish in primary school, and seeing her say good-bye to Ron, Harry, and their other friends helped relieve some of their anxieties as well.
But now, to learn of a battle in which one of her future brothers-in-law was killed, that same worry and fear crept back into their minds. How many others had died? What else did they not know? Into what kind of danger did they put their daughter, their only child, when they sent her to that school?
They sat in silence for some time, thinking all this and more, until they heard a light knock on the door. It slid open with a slight whine to reveal Hermione. Both Mr. and Mrs. Granger leapt up, ran over to her, and embraced her, prompting Hermione to laugh in embarrassment over their effusive affection.
“We love you, dear, you know that, don’t you?” said Mrs. Granger.
“Of course, mum,” Hermione responded. She slid out of their hug. “They’re about to put up the tent outside, I thought you might like to watch.”
“Can we help?” asked Mr. Granger. “We’d love to be able to -”
Hermione cut him off, laughing. “I don’t think so.”
“Well, at the very least, we brought some wine for tonight, claret from our trip to France in the spring. Let’s take it down.”
“I’ll get it,” said Hermione, pulling out her wand as Mr. Granger moved towards a case of wine that Ron had levitated up to the room with their bags. Mr. and Mrs. Granger both froze as she pointed her wand at it and raised it from the floor. She looked at them, and asked, “What?”
“That’s…” Mr. Granger stammered.
Mrs. Granger finished his sentence, saying, “…the first time you’ve used magic in front of us.”
Hermione smiled, though her eyes belied an inner sadness. Her parents did not remember that she had used magic on them twice, adjusting their memories just before and immediately after their trip to Australia, in order to keep them safe during the Second Wizarding War just two years prior.
Hermione led them down the stairs. As they descended, they could hear sounds rising from the kitchen. By the sound of it, a team of cooks were hard at work preparing the night’s wedding feast They rounded the corner, however, and found only Molly Weasley, Ron’s mother, in the room. The sounds were coming from the several knives chopping vegetables on their own, as well as the several pots and pans boiling and sizzling and stirring themselves on the range. As they entered the room, Molly was using her wand to close the oven, in which something was roasting.
The smell was tantalizing; the sight, mesmerizing.
Molly turned to the Grangers and greeted them excitedly.
“We’ve brought some wine for tonight,” Mr. Granger said, indicating the case that Hermione had magicked into the kitchen. “Claret, from Bordeaux, some of our favorite.”
“Thank you! Muggle wine will be a real treat.”
“Can we help in any way?” asked Mrs. Granger.
“Oh, don’t be silly! Just a few finishing touches to make, really. This should be a much less eventful wedding than the last one we had here, anyway.”
Before either of the Grangers had a chance to ask what happened at the last wedding held at The Burrow, Molly and Hermione were ushering them outside. In the time that they had been inside, a tent had apparently been delivered. It lay on the ground, taking up most of the yard, with nearly a dozen wizards and witches around its perimeter.
Hermione took a place at one corner, in between Ron and a small man they recognized as their friend Harry. Molly stayed with the Grangers and looked on the scene happily.
“You must be very proud of Hermione,” she said.
“Oh, yes, very proud,” replied Mr. Granger. It was an honest answer, though there seemed to be something deeper in Molly’s comment that he was missing.
A ginger cat came from the side of the house. Mr. Granger recognized it as Hermione’s cat Crookshanks and stooped down, making a kissing sound to get its attention. Crookshanks trotted over and allowed himself to be petted by Mr. Granger.
Molly began to explaining to Mrs. Granger who was who. “I’m sure you can tell which of them are Weasleys. Next to Harry is Ginny, our youngest.” She indicated a lively-looking girl at least half a foot taller than Harry. “We expect their wedding to come next. Of course, they’re quite young, just like Ron and Hermione, but after all they’ve been through, it’s no surprise they’ve had to grow up so quickly.”
“Yes, of course,” replied Mrs. Granger, not knowing exactly what Molly meant but suspecting it had quite a bit to do with the battle in which Molly had lost one of her children.
From across the lawn, they heard Arthur call out, “All right, wands out! All together, now!” As everyone raised their wands carefully, the tent began to rise slowly. Mr. and Mrs. Granger watched in fascination, Mr. Granger forgetting about the cat and shaking his head slightly, hardly believing what he was witnessing.
Molly smiled at their reaction and continued, proudly telling the Grangers about each of the wizards and witches helping with the tent: her sons Bill, Charlie, Percy, and George; Bill’s wife, Fleur; and another young witch named Angelina Johnson, though it was unclear what her relationship to the family was.
“It’s so rare, you know,” she added, finally, “having us all back together like this. And of course we just love Hermione, she’s been like family for years.”
The rest of the day passed in a whirlwind, as the Grangers were introduced to countless witches and wizards, all of whom took it for granted that Hermione’s parents knew the details of what their daughter had done in the nine years since she had joined the wizarding world. Even now, they knew she had taken a role in the government working with “magical creatures” in the Ministry of Magic, but didn’t no the particulars. They assumed this role had something to do with dragons and griffons and other animals from childhood stories that both had stopped believing in many years before. They also knew that she had needed an extra year to finish her education for some reason — she should have finished her exams when they were in Australia — and that while neither Ron nor their friend Harry had finished their education, both had prestigious government jobs as well.
Hearing everyone talk, they often felt like they knew their daughter less than anyone.
An hour or two before the wedding began, Mr. and Mrs. Granger retired to Fred and George’s room to prepare for the wedding.
“You know,” said Mr. Granger, as he sat down on the edge of the bed and removed his sneakers, “as the only ‘Muggles’ here, we could probably get away with wearing whatever we want. They wouldn’t know any different.”
Mrs. Granger laughed. “Yes, but Hermione would, wouldn’t she?”
“I guess so.”
Mrs. Granger walked over to her husband and put her hands out. He took them in his and stood, closely, before her.
“I think we did the right thing,” Mrs. Granger said softly. “She’s very happy.”
“She is,” Mr. Granger responded, with less confidence. “But I can’t help thinking…”
“I know. Me neither.”
“She would have been an excellent dentist.”
“She’s going to be a great success, whatever she does. We may not understand this world, but she fits in here.”
Both remembered their great fear when their bookish, shy daughter was in primary school: that she would spend her entire life lonely and mocked for being different. Now, happily if not reluctantly, they saw that those same qualities that had made her different, the abilities that had scared her classmates when she was seven or eight, were the same qualities and abilities that made her, apparently, among the most talented witches around.
If only they could tell their friends, all fellow dentists and doctors…
The sun was settling towards the horizon, beginning to set over the hills to the west of the house, and the Grangers knew that the wedding was due to begin soon. They went downstairs and, passing by many of the same wizards and witches they’d spent the day with, took their post at one end of the tent to await the wedding party.
The guests trickled in, the wizards and witches wearing the Grangers correctly guessed to be “dress robes,” reserved for an occasion like this. The Grangers expected this, but they were not necessarily as prepared for the centaurs, the small creatures that must have been house-elves, or the giant, who sat on the grass outside the tent.
Many of the entering guests looked as quizzically at Mr. and Mrs. Granger — in a suit and a simple charcoal-grey dress, respectively — as the Grangers did at them.
Once everyone was seated, Harry and Ginny came out of the house, walking arm-in-arm, smiling at each other and then at the assembled guests. They passed the Grangers and nodded hello before passing to the far end of the tent. Ron followed, pausing to shake hands with Mr. Granger and give Mrs. Granger a small kiss
Once Ron was standing next to Harry, towering over him, it was Hermione’s turn to progress from the house to the tent. She exited the Burrow looking radiant, in flowing white robes that were offset perfectly by her dark brown hair and smiling eyes. As she approached her parents, each took one arm, and they began walking, three-across, to where Ron, Harry, and Ginny stood with an older, bespectacled witch whose tartan dress robes were adorned with a claret and amber brooch. She was, Hermione had told them earlier, a professor from their school, the head of their house, who was to perform the ceremony.
“I wanted to tell you,” Hermione whispered to her parents as they walked, catching smiles from both sides of the aisle. “I’ve decided I’m going to keep my name.”
Neither parent spoke, but Mrs. Granger squeezed Hermione’s arm lovingly while Mr. Granger smiled at her, the slightest of tears in his eyes.
Finally, they reached the head of the tent and the Grangers released her, each giving her a kiss on the cheek, and took their seats next to Arthur and Molly Weasley. As they sat there, watching their children get married, Molly took Mrs. Granger’s hand and gave it a light squeeze.
As the vows finished and Ron and Hermione kissed, Mr. Granger noticed George give a slight flick of his wrist, his wand in hand, and without any further warning a pair of fireworks zoomed through the tent, over the heads of the guests and out into the field beyond, exploding in the sky to form shockingly realistic images of Ron and Hermione’s faces.
Ron immediately looked to George and laughed, shouting, “Is that the best you could come up with? You’re getting corny, old man!”
“I decided to keep it tame, mate! Saving the best stuff for Ginny’s.”
The guests stood to watch, and in the commotion most didn’t notice that the chairs began to re-arrange themselves, some turning into tall cocktail tables, others settling alongside banquet tables that were moving themselves into the tent. Among those who did notice, of course, were the Grangers, who watched it all with wide eyes.
The reception itself was perhaps the most normal thing the Grangers had witnessed all day, except for the goblets of wine and champagne that filled themselves and the platters of food that, somehow, never seemed to run out. Molly Weasley had put out the Grangers’ claret, and Mr. Granger taught Arthur how to use a corkscrew to open them. Arthur, of course, was fascinated by the ingenious tool.
Throughout the reception, the Grangers were introduced to countless witches and wizards who were (they were surprised to learn) eager to meet them. They met several teachers from the school, including the officiant, Professor McGonnagall, who raved both about Hermione’s intelligence and aptitude in school as well as her bravery. They met the school’s gamekeeper, Hagrid, the tallest and hairiest man either had met. He sloshed a large pitcher of mead as he talked about how proud he was that Hermione was using her position in the Ministry to advocate for the rights of all creatures. “‘Specially,” he said, wiping mead from his beard, “those that You-Know-Who would have done away with. ‘Course, yeh’ll know all that, I’m sure.”
They did not, of course, know anything about that, nor did they know who “You-Know-Who” was. They looked at each other, then at the half-giant seated across from them, then past him, out to the party.
When they looked across the tent, they saw witches and wizards, members of a community they would never really know and could never truly be a part of, but who had nevertheless welcomed them completely. They saw the Weasleys, the sprawling clan headed by the amiable Arthur and the unsinkable Molly, who had welcomed their daughter into their family and now welcomed the Grangers, too, despite their lack of magical powers.
They saw the house-elves, the centaurs, the giant, and the creature Hagrid explained to them was a hippogriff, and understood that this wide array of magical beings was unusual even for the wizarding community.
And they saw their daughter, Hermione, dancing completely carefree with her husband, Ron, their best friend, Harry, and several other school friends. With them were her brothers-in-law, Charlie and George, her sister-in-law, Ginny, and the tiny, two-year-old boy called Teddy, Harry’s god son, whose hair seemed to change color every time they looked at him.
They saw all these people and beings, all so incredibly different, all brought together because of their singular, unifying love for their daughter. They may not have known exactly what Hagrid was talking about, but looking out, they knew what they needed to.
“Yes,” Mrs. Granger responded at last. “Yes, we know all about that.”