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Chapter 2: Something Happy
A Little Thank You Note: To everyone who has reviewed/favourited so far, THANK YOU SO MUCH! A million apologies for taking months to answer all your wonderful, amazing and very flattering comments - I've been quite sick :( anyway, on with the (long over-due and a bit of a filler) chapter!
Chapter Image: a muffin@The Dark Arts.
September 19th 1998
Hermione easily slid back into life at Hogwarts. Even though almost everything was back to normal, she took nothing for granted. The view was as beautiful as ever, the food delicious and she even had a new-found soft spot for Peeves, Hogwart's infamous poltergeist. The little blue man with bat-like ears was determined that not a day would go by without some sort of class disruption, be it either him confusing the staircases, leaving students trapped in corridors, or stuffing gum in the key-holes before classes, which many of the first years thought was brilliant.
As another loud bang was heard from the floor above, which almost seemed normal since they were heard so often during both night and day, Hermione decided it best leave the library early for a change and head to the Eighth Year common room. Tucking three large books on self transfiguration into her school bag, Hermione quickly weaved her way out through the many desks of the deserted room and out to the landing. Hearing muffled yells, followed by more bangs, Hermione bit her lip, hoping that the roof restoration was going to plan. Like Dark wounds on humans, Dark damage was also not as easily fixed as one would hope. Professor McGonagall, who had explained this to all the Prefects and Heads, had also added that due to the large scale of damage in the castle, all repairs would take longer to complete than what was originally planned.
Trying not to worry too much, Hermione walked through the silent corridors to her common room, grateful that most students were all in their beds. It was well past normal curfew, but Eighth Years had no set rules. Hermione was pleased at the trust the teachers had in them.
Although she rarely wandered around at night, Hermione had started to appreciate the silence that came with it, even though it was disrupted by construction works occasionally. McGonagall had employed repair witches and wizards around the clock to get the damage fixed as soon as possible. Nevertheless, she continued on to her common room, knowing full well that if Peeves saw her out of bed, he would never let her live it down. After muttering the password and clambering through the portrait hole, she sunk into one of the comfy arm-chairs and resumed reading A Guide to Healing Potions in the flickering light of the fire, absent-mindedly scratching Crookshanks, her large ginger cat, behind his ears.
Realising that it was most likely well into the early morning hours, Hermione sighed, placing the book on the table beside her and leaned back into the chair, exhausted, but feeling far too tense to sleep. With Crookshanks walking over her lap, trying to find a comfortable spot to sleep on, she was on the verge of wishing for the very first time that Hogwarts had a television - anything to do in the early hours of the morning would be welcome, she thought. “You have a good life at three thirty in the morning, don't you, Crookshanks?” she murmured with a smile, his purrs calm and repetitive. “Come on, we'll go upstairs. At least pretend that I can sleep.” She rolled her eyes, growing annoyed at how tired she was.
After reaching for her bag and throwing it over her thin shoulders, she picked up her heavy cat, who glared and stalked off in front of her, and made her way quietly up the stairs. After slipping in her room, she left her bag by the door and collapsed onto her bed, not even bothering to take her uniform off.
Reaching over for her diary of homework, she read over the past two weeks since she'd been back at school, wondering if there were any more extra credit assignments she could busy herself with instead of lying in the dark silence wide awake. Despite her having asked her teachers, she knew that they couldn't give her any more work. “There's only so much extra credit one can do, Miss Granger,” was what Professor Vector had said several days earlier at her plea for another assignment.
With the flickering candlelight for company, Hermione mulled over in her head about what classes she had in the next two days and how she was going to stay awake for them. Remembering several books on meditation her mother owned - used to own - Hermione tried to remember what they said exactly.
Step one: Clear your mind in a nice, quiet setting.
“I can do half of that,” she breathed, looking around her quite room. “Clearing the mind, however...” She was tempted to not even try; she knew it would be absolutely impossible. “Oh, for Merlin's sake, Hermione, just do it,” she scolded herself, forcing her eyes to close. Taking a measured breath, she focused entirely on clearing her mind, noticing nothing but the silence of night time. Clear, clear, she thought, picturing the word to at least let her mind focus on something.
Clear, clear, clear, clear your mind...
She frowned slightly, desperately picturing the letters, but couldn't. The noise in her head was deafening, full of cries, the knife, falling through the air, everything burning to cinders before her eyes.
She snapped her brown eyes open, sweat lining her brow, her breathing haggard. “Merlin,” she said weakly, clutching at her cheat to slow her racing pulse.
Shaking her curls from around her throat, she got up, rubbing at her temples, and headed into her bathroom, throwing ice water over her face. “That's why you don't go to sleep,” she muttered to her reflection. Never one for vanity, she barely took any notice of how pale her face was, but she stopped to have a closer look. She hardly recognised the thin, pasty skinned girl staring back at her with wide, bloodshot eyes with limp brown hair giving a frame. She sniffed, wrinkling her nose as she dried her hands with a soft towel, before heading over to open the curtains of her room.
Shielding her eyes as the early morning sun shone in through the arched window, creeping slowly over the tidy desk and the four-poster bed, Hermione slowly grew accustomed to the light as she tied her bushy hair into a bun.
Looking through the window, she gazed over the view, trying to push her nightmares (or were they merely thoughts? She realised that she hadn't a clue if she had fallen asleep or not) from her mind. Focusing on the horizon of the great calm lake, with the rich yellow and orange streaked sky mirrored beautifully on its waters, she could see several tentacles from the Giant Squid waving lazily in the morning air.
She smiled. This was the Hogwarts she knew and loved. The random creatures that popped up out of no where were the small things that made her school special. Cherishing the fact that a simple view could almost calm her completely, she leaned against the stone wall, grinning as Crookshanks leapt onto the sill, scratching at two birds taunting him through the glass.
“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, hoggy warty Hogwarts...” she hummed quietly, contemplating what she would do for the next two hours until breakfast would be served. Lost in her thoughts, she didn't see the three owls flying at her window until she barely had any time to open it and duck. She gasped as they flew over her, all holding packages of varying sizes, while Chrookshanks gave a strangled yelp and left the room in a huff. “Woah,” Hermione breathed as the birds landed on her bed, waiting expectantly for her to untie the parcels.
Immediately, she recognised the middle one as Errol, the Weasley family's elderly owl, who was missing a significant amount of his brown feathers. Hoping he would be able to manage the journey back, she quickly untied the box and letter he was carrying, smiling at Mrs. Weasley's hurried scrawl across the envelope.
After untying the burdens from the other two younger owls, who had all feathers intact, Hermione set the three parcels on her bed, opening Mrs. Weasley's letter first;
Birthday... Hermione hadn't even thought of that at all. Her mind was always busy with homework and Prefect duties. “I'm eighteen,” she murmured, reaching for the present from the Weasley's. Buy the weight and size of it, she guessed it would be a book. Sliding her fingers under the brown paper with a grin, she gasped. In her hands was a very ancient first edition of Hogwarts: A History.
“Wow,” she breathed. First editions of the book were incredibly difficult to come by, and even more difficult to buy since people never wanted to part with them. She couldn't even begin to wonder how the Weasley's had found one.
Mesmerised, she ran her hands along the tattered cover, tracing over the golden letters. She couldn't help but beam as she flicked through the musty pages, noting all the dog-eared corners, small burns and stains over the aged parchment. Madam Pince, the school librarian, would have a fit if she saw the amount dust on the book.
After carefully placing the book on her desk, she reached for the letter with Ron's messy writing on, and the small package that came with it. She missed him, missed his hand in hers, missed his silly jokes he'd gotten from Muggle books. She hoped she would be free this Saturday - a dinner with the Weasley's for her birthday would be very welcome indeed.
Ignoring the pang of homesickness from The Burrow growing in her stomach, she opened his letter.
Happy Birthday, beautiful! I saw these in Diagon Alley and thought they'd look good on you. Did Mum invite you over for your birthday tea this weekend? I hope you can come. Any chance of a drink tonight at the Three Broomsticks, just us two?
Curious as to what he'd gotten her, she ripped the golden paper off what was a small red velvet box eagerly. She snapped it open, looking down at a beautiful pair of small gold earrings with a single garnet on each one. They're so Gryffindor, she thought, grinning. Immediately, she pulled out her simple gold studs and put her new ones on, growing more home-sick by the second. She felt so lonely without her two best friends by her side. Hogwarts seemed so empty without a Weasley there, getting told off for talking in class (or getting told off for giving someone a bat bogey hex, in Ginny's case).
Changing train of thought, she reached for the third package and letter. Harry's spiky writing was barely intelligible, as always, but she managed to decipher the letter nonetheless.
Have a great birthday, Hermione! Let's hope you don't get too much homework, you need a night off. Hope to see you soon.
Smiling, Hermione put the letters on her desk, before reaching for the long, thin rectangular package Harry had sent. She grinned, throwing the paper on the floor and holding a fine peacock feather quill in her hand. “Wow,” she murmured, running her hand along the feather. It was so soft, and far too pretty to use. Maybe just for special occasions, she decided, placing it carefully on her desk by her new book. Despite feeling as close to happy she had been for what felt like a long while, she wished her friends were here, chatting, watching her open presents. Instead, she was alone in her room in the semi-darkness, with three owls being glared at by a ginger cat for company.
After setting up an invisible barrier between Crookshanks and the birds, she quickly, wrote a reply to the Weasley's, telling them that she would be there on Saturday afternoon for dinner. After attaching that to Errol's leg, she scrawled another reply for Ron, agreeing to meet him at The Three Broomsticks later that evening.
She reached for another bit of parchment, jotting down a reply to Harry, before setting the owls off on their way, Errol supported by the other two. The poor thing, Hermione thought, as she went to have a hot shower.
With the lovely scent of new parchment hanging in the air, Hermione breathed in deeply as she took notes in her Charms NEWT class, always feeling much more relaxed when she had work to do. Lessons were what she enjoyed, no matter how many times Ron and Harry had tried to tell her otherwise. The corners of her mouth twitched upwards at the thought of them both.
Engrossed in reading her textbook and copying down what Flitwick had asked, she stiffened slightly when a knock on the classroom door broke the silence of the note-taking students. Ignoring the nervous voice talking to the tiny Professor, she continued on writing down the information on Humani Levitation from the chalk-board.
Of all the many charms she had learned over her hears at Hogwarts, Humani Levitation was one that she was looking forward to very much. To be able to defy gravity without an aid would be incredible, and probably much more comfortable than brooms. Even when she was a little girl, she had always wanted to fly by herself, and she might get a chance to soon. She tried to hide her smile as she finished the next to last sentence.
“Could I have your attention for a moment, please,” Professor Flitwick said as he walk to the front of the class, holding a piece of parchment in his hands. He hobbled up the ladder by his desk to see the students properly, shining his spectacles. “The Headmistress would like to see Miss Granger, Mr. Longbottom, Mr. Zabini and Mr. Malfoy at her classroom now, if you please,” he finished, looking at the older students at the back of the class, who all nodded in understanding.
Quickly, Hermione scrawled the last note from her book, before hastily packing up her things and following the three others from the room silently.
Hermione exhaled, glancing out of the windows and following the view of the green houses to the lake in the light rain. Even though she had been back at school for three weeks, she hadn't yet made time to go outside and look at the view she had adored for the past seven years.
“Ah, here you four are. Come in, we've been waiting.”
Hermione broke away from the entrancing scenery to see Professor McGonagall holding open the door to her Transfiguration classroom, giving the four students a smile and ushering them in. While the Headmistress rifled through the folders of parchment she was holding, Hermione followed Neville to a double desk at the front of the class, glancing from behind her hair to see who else had been summoned from classes; a dozen students from all years and houses, most of which Hermione had spoken to at least once.
After closing the door, McGonagall cleared her throat as she walked to the front of the room, handing out pamphlets with the official Ministry of Magic seal as she did so. Hermione glanced over the cover of hers, eyes growing wide at the blurb written in gold.
Mind Menders - helping the recovery for families so our world gets back on track as healthily as possible.
“Mind Menders,” Professor McGonagall started, pushing her spectacles higher up her nose, “are the Healers of the human mind, who deal with cases of stress, depression, offering counselling and advice, especially for mental health issues; basically, a Wizarding world equivalent of Muggle psychiatrists. The Ministry has trained a team of over 100 young healers in this somewhat forgotten-about art, ten of which are going to be positioned here at Hogwarts. Now, all of our students are going to be offered this confidential service - Merlin knows some need it as soon as possible, specially if they've fought or lost family and friends, which is why I have made a note to summon a few of the people sitting before me. However, I really do think this group especially would benefit from this, which is why I urge you to make an appointment to see one as soon as they arrive here.” She sighed, smoothing over her tight bun and surveying them all with a hint of concern crossing her features. “We have a lot of work to do to get our world on the road to recovery. And to do that, we need to make sure that the new generation of graduating magic folk can look the past in the eye without fear, for it's shaped the way our world is today.”
Hermione looked down at her shoes, pushing the pamphlet aside. Whatever she thought Professor McGonagall had wanted, it certainly wasn't this.
“I just wanted to let you know first. I figured that...considering what all of you did last...well, in May, and, for some, for the two or so years before that, you should be told first. At Sunday's dinner, I will make an announcement for the rest of the students to let them know of the service. Mr. Longbottom, Miss Bones, if you two would stay behind? I'd appreciate it if the Head Boy and Girl welcomed the Healers when they arrive,” McGonagall added as she sat behind her desk. She exhaled, rubbing at her temples, before taking off her glasses and looking at the nervous looking students. “I know that you may think you're fine and don't need any help,” she began, her voice cracking slightly, “but even if you do think that, I urge you to book a consultation. Please, read through that pamphlet, I hope you find it insightful.”
Taking the hint at the finality of her tone, most of the students stood up, muttering a 'thank you, Professor', as they shuffled from the room. Hermione stashed the brochure in her pocket, remembering that she needed to get permission to go to Hogsmead that evening.
“Erm, Professor?” she asked, running her fingers through her curly hair awkwardly. “I was wondering if it would be okay if I went into Hogsmeade this evening?” She bit her lip nervously as the Headmistress took off her glasses. Please, please, please, she thought.
Professor McGonagall nodded. “That will be fine, I'll let Filch know. You just have to be back in the castle by eleven.”
Hermione smiled. “Will do. Thank you, Professor,” she said.
Shrugging her coat off as she entered the cosy pub, Hermione beamed when she saw Ron sitting at the table by the window. He looked up at the creak of the door and smiled at her, standing up and embracing her tightly. “It's so good to see you,” she smiled.
“Happy birthday, love,” Ron whispered before kissing her softly.
Hermione blinked away the moisture in her eyes as they sat down, feeling the tension that had been plaguing her shoulders for the past few weeks vanish as she finally relaxed. She was having a drink with her boyfriend in her favourite pub; she loved the normality of it.
“Butterbeer? Or are you going to break the school rules and get a firewhiskey,” he asked, grinning and flicking his red fringe away from his eyes.
“Butterbeer,” Hermione laughed softly. As he went to the counter to order, she sighed happily, looking out at the cobbled street. It looked so pretty in the glow from the street lamps. The last time she was here, the place was swarming with Dementors and Death Eaters. She shuddered, but pushed the thought from her mind as Ron came bouncing back, already telling a joke he had heard from work.
“So, Wendilen the Weird walks into a bar...”
Hermione smiled widened, taking a sip of her drink as she watched the spark in Ron's eyes grow brighter than it had in months. She had missed him so much since she had returned to school, letters could never begin to express how much so. Reaching for his hand resting by his mug of butterbeer, she squeezed it softly, hoping he knew how much he meant to her.