[Author’s note: This is a piece of fan fiction exploring what life might be like for Hermione, Harry, and Ron twenty years after the events in the novels. It should e noted J.K. Rowling had no part in the creation of this piece. Although, if she were to read it, she might enjoy it. I think?]

Hermione couldn’t remember the last time she saw the surface of her desk. The stacks of papers crowding her work space never seemed to dwindle no matter how many late nights or weekends she worked. At one point, she suspected someone had placed a never-rending hex on the papers, but that was just wishful thinking. If there were a hex, it’d be an easy fix. She knew how to counter every hex, charm, and curse in the book, even the exotic ones from far off lands. That’s why she was the senior supervisory consultant at Bumblebottom Magical Consultancy. No, the source of the never-ending piles of work was much more mundane and just happened to knock on her office door.

“Hate to bother you, Mrs. Weasley,” said Hermione’s assistant Kathy, a fresh stack of papers cradled between her hands and her chin. “Mr. Bumblebottom said to assign this new case to you. It’s got something to do with hobgoblins infesting Olivander’s wand shop. He said it’s urgent.”

“I’ve already got three consultants’ worth of work,” said Hermione. “Can’t you give this to Thompson or someone else?”

“Sorry, miss. Mr. Bumblebottom’s orders.” Kathy waddled into the office and gingerly deposited the stack of papers onto a chair. She gave Hermione an apologetic look and left the office. Hermione stood up and slammed her office door shut. The force of the wind caused the new stack of papers to topple over and cascade onto the floor. Hermione closed her eyes and took a deep breath before crouching down and gathering the papers. When they were once again neatly stacked on the chair, she cocked her head to the side and pursed her lips.

I don’t care how urgent this is, thought Hermione. I’m not working late on my birthday.

Hermione grabbed her coat and briefcase and left her office. “See you tomorrow, Kathy,” she said. Her assistant looked surprised to see her leave, but didn’t say anything. She only smiled.

Just before Hermione reached the elevator, she heard a voice behind her — “Weasley, just who I wanted to see.”

Hermione turned to see a portly man in an elegant robe trimmed in gold thread. “Mr. Bumblebottom,” she said. “I was just about to leave.”

“This won’t take more than a moment.” The man turned and walked away. Hermione could have easily just gone home, but she wasn’t one to disobey a superior. She followed her boss to his office, just as she’d done so many times before.

Mr. Bumblebottom’s office was filled with pictures of the man with powerful figures from all across the wizarding world. They turned and looked at Hermione as she entered the room. Maybe she was crazy, but she thought she saw them shaking their heads in pity. She took a seat across from her boss as he eased into his chair behind a massive desk.

“What’s this about, sir?”

“I don’t know how to say it so I’ll just cut to the chase. I’ve decided to promote Thompson to Vice President instead of you. It was a tough decision, I assure you.”

“Thompson?!”

“You sound surprised, Weasley.”

“No offense, sir, but I’m twice the wizard Thompson is. He couldn’t find his way around a Bolivian hex if it slapped him in the face.”

“No one is doubting your ability, Weasley. It’s just that Thompson comes from a long line of wizards. He has connections. Connections that bring in business. I suppose if we had more dentists in need of — ” Bumblebottom cut himself off and broke eye contact with Hermione. He looked down at his robes and straightened them out, taking particular interest in a piece of lint.

Hermione wasn’t surprised Thompson had got the promotion instead of her. The glass ceiling thumped her on the head once more. Muggle-born wizards could only make it so far in the wizarding world. At least in the private sector. Things might have been different had she stayed with the Ministry, but the pay wasn’t enough after Ron’s accident.

“In any case,” continued Bumblebottom, “I highly value your services here. Maybe next time. Keep working hard.”

Hermione stood up without saying a word. She left Bumblebottom’s office and walked briskly toward the elevator. She heard laughter from one of the offices. It was Thompson’s. Several coworkers had gathered in the new Vice President’s office and were sharing a celebratory drink. They grew silent when they saw Hermione at the door.

“Congratulations,” said Hermione.

“It should’ve been you,” said Thompson. “I don’t know what Bumblebottom was thinking.”

“Does anyone?” smiled Hermione.

“If it’s not too awkward,” said Thompson, “a few of us are going down to the pub to celebrate properly. You’re welcome to a join us.”

“I can’t,” said Hermione. “I, uh, you know.”

“Sure thing,” said Thompson.

“Congratulations again,” said Hermione before continuing on to the elevator. As the golden metal doors closed, she heard Thompson and the others burst into laughter and continue their celebration. She stared at her distorted reflection in the elevator doors. This wasn’t how life was supposed to go. Or maybe it was and she just didn’t know it back when she was still a fresh-faced wizard out of Hogwarts. Twenty years had passed since she helped defeat Voldemort, and the dark wizard hadn’t been heard from since. The wizarding world treated her as a hero at first, but the shine wore off quickly as wizards and witches slid back into their daily routine. Soon she was just another Muggle-born wizard. How quickly people forget, she thought.

The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open. Hermione looked into the empty lobby and decided not to apparate home. She wasn’t quite ready yet. She stepped out onto the busy London street and mixed in with the stream of Muggles finding their way home. My people, she thought as they jostled her on the sidewalk.

It wasn’t too far of a walk to Hermione’s flat. She had wanted a home in the country, but Ron insisted on something in town. Having grown up in the middle of nowhere, he wanted nothing to do with that lifestyle. She caved in quickly. It surprised her how little fight she had put up, but that was the rhythm of her marriage. Ron always seemed to get his way.

Hermione stepped into her building and checked the mail. The owls had brought nothing but the usual junk. The letters from classmates and friends had dwindled over the years. Not that she and Ron were very social these days. She took the lift to the top floor and stood in front of her flat. She held the key up to the lock and paused. Ron was inside. He probably hadn’t left all day, just like yesterday and the day before that. She sighed and turned the key.

The flat was dark. She used her wand to turn on the lights as she made her way toward the low din of a crowd’s roar. It grew louder and louder until she found Ron in his usual spot. He was glued to the couch in front of the holobox, a magical device that projected a 3D images into space. Quiddich players zipped around the living room and illuminated Ron’s face. Several bottles of hard butter beer lay empty on the floor next to him while a fresh one stood at attention on the coffee table, sweating from the heat. Ron was bent forward fiddling with something on the coffee table.

Hermione turned on the lights and said, “Ahem.”

Ron recoiled at the bright light. “Would you mind?”

“Hello to you, too.”

Hermione saw that the something Ron was fiddling with was a pistol. Ron had inherited his father’s curiosity for Muggle objects. He was particularly interested in Muggle weapons, especially after his accident.

“Do you have to play with that thing all the time?” asked Hermione. “Especially when you’ve been drinking?”

Ron glanced down at the pistol, which lay in pieces. “I’m cleaning it,” he said. “You know they need to be cleaned. It’s part of safety.”

Hermione looked into the darkened kitchen. Not a hint of activity. “I suppose you didn’t get dinner started?”

“Oh, you know I’m a shit cook. You’re loads better at it.”

“You mean you were too busy watching quidditch.”

“It’s the World Cup! This is an important match. If England win, they advance to the knockout round, and I win a cool. . .” He stopped himself.

Gambling again, fumed Hermione. She had to quit her job as an auror to support the two of them and their kids, Rose and Hugo. And here he was. . . At least the kids were at Hogwarts most of the year and didn’t have to see their father like this.

“It’s not what you think,” said Ron. “This isn’t like before. England is a sure thing. We can’t lose.”

“We?” fumed Hermione. She turned and stormed into the kitchen.

“Forget it,” said Ron. “You always twist my words.” He turned up the volume on the holobox.

Hermione cast some simple cooking charms. A pot lifted itself off its hook and filled itself with water. Pasta left the pantry and waited patiently to be boiled while a knife chopped up some vegetables that had marched out of the ice box and onto the cutting board. Hermione was debating whether to add a cake to the mix when she heard a knock at the front door. Ron sat motionless on the couch. She stomped through the flat and thrust the door open. “What!?” she said.

It was Harry. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“No!” said Hermione, a bit flustered. “Never!” She reached out, and the two embraced. “Come in.”

“Who was it?” asked Ron, his eyes still glued to the holobox.

“Hey, Ron,” said Harry.

“Oh, it’s you,” said Ron. “Hey, mate.”

Harry pointed to the disassembled gun on the coffee table. “Is that thing safe?”

“What would you know about it?” said Ron, an edge to his voice.

“I didn’t mean anything,” said Harry.

“You never do,” said Ron. “Anyway, what brings you here?”

“Well, I wanted to ask Hermione about a case that has me stumped.”

“The great auror Harry Potter has a question?” laughed Ron. “Unbelievable.”

“That and I wanted to wish Hermione a happy birthday.” He removed a small package from his cloak. Hermione opened it to find a chocolate cake decorated with raspberries and animated frosting.

“My favorite!” said Hermione. “You shouldn’t have!”

Ron smacked his face with his palm. “Right, your birthday. Listen, I was going to surprise you but. . .”

“It’s okay,” said Hermione. She turned to Harry. “Why don’t we talk in the kitchen?”

Ron’s face turned the same color as his hair.

Hermione and Harry walked past the stove where the pasta had just jumped into the pot of boiling water. The two sat silently at a small table, the only sounds the boiling of water and sizzling of sauteeing vegetables. They looked deeply into each other’s eyes. Hermione finally looked away and said, “So, um, what did you need help with?”

“It’s him again,” said Harry. Hermione knew who that meant — the Squib. He was always a sore subject around Ron after the accident. Hermione and Harry spoke in hushed voices. “It wasn’t so bad before,” continued Harry, “but he’s learned how to turn Muggles into magic users. Basic stuff, but dangerous. And of course, he’s getting better at creating magic bullets for his Muggle weapons.” It was one of those bullets that had crippled Ron. He almost died before Hermione dug up an old treatise on mixing magic with Muggle weapons. It saved her husband’s life. Barely.

“We thought we got him a month ago,” continued Harry, “but he’s using horcruxes.”

“Is that what you need help with?” asked Hermione.

Harry shook his head. “Actually — “

“DAMNIT!” boomed Ron’s voice from the other room. Hermione knew that could only mean one thing. England was down, and he (well, they) were about to lose a lot of galleons. She frowned.

“Everything okay with you?” asked Harry.

Hermione looked down at the table. She hadn’t spoken to Harry or anyone else about Ron. Not that it made any difference. Ron’s family ignored the change in his behavior. When she tried to say something, they cut her off saying they didn’t want to butt in on the marriage. Hermione’s friends were mostly the same way, pretending it wasn’t happening and that if it was, it would fix itself. Harry was her only friend without the tact to stay quiet (or perhaps the only one who really cared). He reached out and gently took her hand. “If there’s anything you need. . .”

Hermione locked eyes again with her oldest friend. Sometimes it felt like Harry was her only friend. He squeezed her hand. “I, um, well,” she said. “Everything’s fine.” But it wasn’t. She burst into tears, all the pent up emotion of the day (the months) gushing out.

Harry pulled Hermione towards him. The two embraced as she sobbed. He rubbed her back. “It’s okay.” he said. “It’s okay.”

Hermione inhaled her friend’s familiar scent and ran her hands through his scraggly hair. She felt comfortable. She felt at home. She gave Harry a peck on the cheek. Then another. Then a kiss on the lips, letting it linger. When she opened her eyes, she saw Ron in the doorway to the kitchen, pistol in his hand.

“So this is the ‘help’ you needed, mate?”

“It’s not what it looks like,” said Hermione.

“A picture’s worth a thousand words,” said Ron. “I can’t believe I’ve been so blind. It’s because I’m hurt, isn’t it? Some wife.”

“Ron, I can explain,” said Hermione.

Ron pointed the pistol at Harry, his arm swaying from the liquor. “Best auror at the Ministry, huh?” said Ron. “I only got hurt because I was protecting you from the Squib. Jumped in front of that bullet. And for what?”

Harry raised his arms. “Mate, put the gun down. Let’s not do anything you’ll regret.”

“I’m not a child!” said Ron. “Let’s see just how good of an auror you really are. You think you can stop these bullets?”

“Ron, no!” shouted Hermione.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

“Squishforma!” said Harry.

“Stupify!” said Hermione.

Three marshmallows pelted Harry’s chest and bounced harmlessly to the floor. Ron fell backwards with a thud, his arm still outstretched holding the gun. Tears streamed down his face. Hermione’s, too.

Ron was still stupified when the medics arrived to take him to the psychiatric ward at the St. Mungo’s. It wouldn’t be the first time, but Hermione hoped it would be the last. She stood silently as the medics wheeled Ron out of the flat on a floating stretcher. Harry stood next to her and held her hand. When the medics were gone, he said, “You know, Ginny’s out of town this week. You’re welcome to stop by and stay with me if you don’t want to be alone here.”

“Thanks,” said Hermione, squeezing Harry’s hand. “But, um, I should go to St. Mungo’s and make sure Ron’s okay.”

“I just wanted you to know,” said Harry. He gave Hermione a peck on the cheek and apparated away.

Hermione stood alone in her kitchen. Dinner had finished cooking itself ages ago and was patiently waiting to be eaten. She tossed the food into the ice box and took a deep breath. She thought about where she needed to go next; in which direction to take her life. She thought about love. She thought about duty. She thought about what was best for Ron. She thought about what was best for the Rose and Hugo. Then she allowed herself to think about what was best for her.

What would make her happy.

She took a deep breath and finally knew what she had to do.

Then she apparated away.

father. husband. writer.

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