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Chapter 2: Chapter 1: Return to Hogwarts
PART 1: HOGWARTS
Steam shot out from under the rails and the whistle blew as Ginny hugged Mrs Weasley and her brother George in an effort to get them to say goodbye on the platform. As Ginny went to pull away from her brother, he pulled her back.
"Don't worry, Gin. Life won't change, and you'll feel better knowing you're being honest," George explained with a wink as he let her free. Ever since the passing of Fred Weasley a few months before, everyone had noticed a change in George, the twin who remained. He seemed more reserved and intuitive, but still held on to the playful personality known only to possess the Weasley twins.
Ginny smiled back at George, letting him know she appreciated his words of wisdom and comfort. After quickly hugging her mother once again and saying her third round of farewells, Ginny turned on her heel and went running for the train. From her position, Ginny glanced up at the Hogwarts Express in front of her, scanning car after car as she sprinted to the entrance for boarding. Ginny almost tripped on her feet as her eyes moved over a window in the first car. Ginny thought she saw a shadow of someone up ahead, watching her. However, she knew she didn't have time to focus on the strange encounter, as she witnessed the train beginning to inch forward. She pushed faster towards the gate and made a final leap, landing on the steps of the train. The conductor raised his eyebrow at the disheveled girl as she walked up to him and handed him her ticket.
"Good thing my watch is 3 minutes ahead, right?" Ginny asked the conductor with a smirk. He didn't respond, only punching Ginny's ticket with enthused vigor and letting her aboard. He heaved a sigh and uttered a "tsk-tsk" as Ginny walked past him and into the main compartment. Ginny couldn't help but smile to herself. She moved down the hall of the train, looking for an empty compartment or at least one with people she knew and could catch up with about the summer. It was then that Ginny heard a voice calling her name.
"Ginerva Weasley, you can never be on time, can you?"
Ginny knew that voice, she'd know that voice in death, and was shocked that she was hearing it in the car of the train. She spun around and glanced at a beautful girl with bushy brown hair and a smile as wide as they come.
"Hermione Jean Granger? What the bloody hell are you doing here?" Ginny shrieked in alarm. At that point Hermione laughed, entertained by Ginny's outburst but obvious excitement about her being on the train. Ginny was the only person who called Hermione by her full name when she was surprised or even angry at the brunette. Hermione adored it.
Without hesitation, Hermione ran over to the door of the compartment where the redhead was standing and threw her arms around the tall Quidditch player, wrapping her tightly in a warm embrace. For a few seconds, Ginny's arms lay listless at her sides, but once her wits returned to her, she grabbed Hermione tightly and held on to her. Eventually they broke apart. Hermione looked straight into Ginny's eyes, her smile never wavering.
"I'm heading back to Hogwarts. With Harry and Ron away at training and my parents deciding to stay in Australia, this felt like the best option," Hermione responded. Then she looked at Ginny as if she thought this was a joke. "I'm surprised Ron didn't tell you," Hermione responded quizzically.
"No…no he didn't," was all Ginny replied. She was still looking at Hermione with pure shock on her face, but slowly that beautiful Weasley smile came to her lips. Hermione could see that Ginny was obviously shocked to see her, and was truly surprised that she didn't know of the brunette's intended return to school. Hermione would have said something herself, but had unfortunately not seen the witch since the start of the summer. With all that was left to be done with getting Hermione's parents situated in Australia, and the excitement revolving around Harry and Ron becoming Aurors, the news of Hermione's return evidently had been swept away from the spotlight.
"Well, sit down, please. I have this whole compartment to myself, and it feels a bit lonely," Hermione said with a playful pout. Ginny nodded, agreeing to join her in the compartment. Hermione turned around and sat back in her seat, with Ginny following close behind, passing through the door of the compartment. She stored her belongings in the nets above, and slid into a seat on the bench opposite Hermione. It only took Hermione seconds to become frustrated with the distance between her and Ginny, resulting in jumping to her feet and sitting next to Ginny on the bench. Grasping her best friend's hands in her own, Hermione was truly overcome with excitement to see the woman she hadn't laid eyes on in months.
"Wait a moment...how is it you came to your own compartment?" Ginny asked. "The rest of the train is packed to the brim!"
"I'm Head Girl this year. Did Ron not tell you that either?" Hermione asked shocked.
"Well I think if he forgot to tell me you were going to Hogwarts in the first place, the subject of you being Head Girl probably got lost in that brain of his as well," Ginny replied with a laugh.
"That man, honestly," Hermione said. She and Ginny shared a laugh over the brilliance that was Ronald Weasley. A man of true heart, but not entirely up to the intelligence that came with the likes of the others. Ron and Hermione were beginning to date when he had decided to train as an Auror. With much thought and deliberation, he and Hermione had decided that their relationship would always be better as friends. Hermione loved Ron, there was no question, but she loved him as a most trusted brother, and didn't feel that their relationship would ever stem further than that. In the end, Ron agreed, and they walked away from their short-lived romance closer than ever.
Hermione brought herself out of her thoughts, and looked up at Ginny. "So Ginny, why DID you almost miss the train?" she asked with a grin.
Ginny sighed and looked Hermione in the eyes, knowing the brunette was only asking the question to playfully engage her. Hermione knew the Weasley family as well as if she were a part of it herself, and Ginny knew the brunette was aware of exactly why Ginny was late for the train. It was the reason all the Weasley children were ever late for the train. "Mum," she said. " It's always Mum," Ginny laughed. "Well, and in this case, George too."
"George? Why was George holding you back?" Hermione asked with confusion. Staring at the redhead, Hermione noticed that it seemed she was trying to find the words to explain.
"Well, Mum is having a tougher time letting me go back to Hogwarts this year. She wouldn't let me loose. And George has become more protective of me since the war, so he was acting just as bad as Mum," Ginny said with a grin as she looked out the window at the passing countryside. Hermione could understand why George was keeping a closer watch on his siblings, and with Ginny being the last Weasley to go to Hogwarts and this being her final year, the entire Weasley clan was on their toes to make sure she would be alright.
"Yes, well, that's understandable, given the circumstances," Hermione replied solemnly. "However, she also knows that the Hogwarts Express doesn't stand for tardiness. I think she wanted you to miss this train," Hermione said playfully.
"You know, you may have a point there," Ginny responded with the trademark Weasley smirk. Hermione detected it immediately, looking almost identical to Ron's signature grin, but with its own spark and energy.
Hermione smiled at her best friend, glad to be back with her after a long summer away. She was glad to be returning to Hogwarts, to be finishing her wizard education, to be returning to a normal life after the horrific events of the past. But more than anything, Hermione was looking forward to spending the term with Ginny. She had missed the woman, and all the times they spent talking, especially getting lost in their conversations where hours would go by undetected until one of them looked up and noticed the sky outside had turned black with passing time. She had envisioned her final year with Ginny at Hogwarts the entire summer, wanting to spend as much time making new and happy memories with the person she trusted most in the world.