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Chapter 1 : My everything
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Looking out the ancient window pane to the dreary Scottish landscape, I could not help but sigh. As the heavy rain pelted the castle, I wanted nothing more than to be out there with the rain, feeling it, tasting it, breathing it. It was winter time that I missed my family the most. My old life, my old friends, my everything. It was almost four years ago that I swore I would never step foot in this castle again. Four years ago when I watched everything I loved disappear right before my eyes, with nothing I could do to stop it. Green light. That’s all it was. A bright green light that had the power to claim the lives of hundreds. When he struck on our graduation day, even with the presence of the Ministry’s most talented aurors, we were hopelessly over powered. The sheer thought of all the students, all of my friends, my peers, who died before their names could even be called out, still brings me to tears. I no longer read the Daily Prophet for fear that there will be something in it about the fallen. I watched my friends die in these halls. I watched Filch scrub the blood of my allies off these stone walls. And now I was back in the place that haunted my dreams and gave birth to my nightmares. Not a second goes by that I wonder how the Ministry got me here in the first place. I suppose it was the thought of Hogwarts going under and never teaching another student again. I could never let the school Albus loved so much go to the dogs. So I returned, much to my dismay, to attempt to fill the cloak Albus wore so well as Headmaster, but also as the charms professor. Most of the professors that passed their extensive knowledge down to me have since perished, leaving the remaining qualified witches and wizards to take their place as Hogwarts’ finest.
Four years ago, after days of nonstop fighting amongst the two sides, with casualties mounting horrendously on both sides, the battle finally ended, but it did not bring relief. No one knew who had won, since everything was so destructed. All we knew was that it was over, and that the even more painful process of searching for lost ones was about to begin. Molly wouldn’t let me help search, and according to her I was so angry that my wand was confiscated and I had to be locked up in Professor Trelawney’s old class room so I couldn’t go against her wishes. I don’t remember any of it, I blacked out after I was locked up, and I was so shell shocked when I came off the “battlefield” that I knew better as my school, that everything is just a blur. When I was enervated the next day, the Ministry had successfully located and brought back every body that was strewn out across all of Hogwarts. Only Susan Bones was the body still alive when she was found. The rest… well, you know.
I could not have ever respected Molly more for what she had to do next. I found out later that she had told Ministry officials that it was only right that I hear it from her, not from some stranger. I remember so distinctly the way her graying hair was tied back loosely, swollen red eyes contrasting horribly with the dark bags beneath them; clothes tattered from days of wear and tear. She came to my bedside (I had been moved to the Hospital Wing whilst I was out cold) took hold of my hand, and told me that she was there for me.
“How many?” I asked blankly, wanting only straight answers. And Molly, never one to sugar coat things (one of the things I liked about her) gave me the hard answer.
“Two thousand, thirteen.”
“How many of many of ours?”
“One thousand, four.” She replied grimly. I had tried to swallow, but the lump in my throat was too large.
“No, sweetie. He’s gone.” She said, pain reading loud and clear in her eyes.
“Charlie?” I asked. She shook her head, eyes shut tight.
“Bill?” Again, her head motioned no.
“Percy?” The hand holding mine gripped tighter, and Molly’s head bowed.
“F-fred and G-g-george?” My heart was beating faster. Please I remember thinking, Not the two who were so full of life.
Molly gave a choking sob and a low moan. That answered my question.
“R-” My voice wasn’t working properly. I was nearly panting and I thought my eyes were about to pop out of their sockets because they were so wide. “Ron” I whispered. Molly let out a loud wail, and began sobbing into my shoulder. She had held me so tight I thought I would break, but in a way I already had. I felt sick to my stomach, but I needed to ask.
“Harry? Please Molly; please tell me he made it.” I had begged her. She pulled back and looked at me. Cupping my cheek in her hand, she tried to smile, but I could tell it hurt too much.
“Oh Hermione, he saved us all. He was a real hero, honey.”
I bent over and threw up in my bedpan.
It hadn’t occurred to me as I was on my side, heaving up stomach bile, to ask how Ginny was. I found out later that she was just fine. Molly had put her away as well, not only for the collection of fallen Order members, but for the battle too, down in the charms room. I don’t know how in the name of Merlin Molly was still alive after losing the love of her life and all her boys, but I’m sure losing her only daughter as well would have surely killed her.
It was by some great miracle that my parents survived the war, hiding out with relatives in the United States, but the following year my mum developed breast cancer. She refused the magical treatment I offered, saying it was nature’s way, but I had half a mind to perform the spells myself as she slept. I’d be damned if I lost her too. However, my daddy said the least we could do is respect her wishes. So I did. I let my mother die, and it was a war all over again.
Hogwarts has been closed for these last four years of recuperation. It has taken a lot of time, but the wizarding world has finally managed to get back up on its feet again. Now that we are up, it’s time to learn how to walk. It was voted in a meeting with Ministry officials last month that Hogwarts should be reopened for new young ones and for the ones that were in the middle of school when the Voldemort attacked. For those whose graduation ceremony was impended upon, another ceremony was offered to be arranged, but was unanimously declined so the diplomas were owled out instead.
Well of course with no Dumbledore to run Hogwarts, there was a new Headmaster that needed appointing. Or in this case, Headmistress. I was working as an assistant to the head of the Experimental Charms Committee, Gibert Wimple, charms having always been a strong point of mine. A boring desk job was exactly what I wanted after the war. A day of shuffling papers, registering spells, and organizing committee meetings left me no time to lose myself in sorrow, and that was a good thing. One day I was entering a new batch of charms into the register when Rufus Scrimgeour, our new Minister, came up to my desk.
“We need a new Headmaster for Hogwarts, it’s reopening.” He had told me. I was a bit confused at first. Normally people talk to Becky Goldsbloom on the first floor when they want an add run in the Daily Prophet for jobs.
“Well Minister, I would suggest that you bring this up with someone from the newspaper…”
“Granger, you’re going to do it. You are the only one qualified, and you were also going to graduate as Valedictorian before… the event, were you not?”
“Erm, yes but-”
“You went to school there, and no doubt know the castle better than anyone on my staff. Besides, I’m sure the students would appreciate having someone young and beautiful as opposed to some old fart I could rummage up.”
“Yes but I’m only twenty-”
“Take the job Granger. You weren’t meant to be an assistant. Do some justice to that brain of yours, and to the people who died for you.”
And then the bloody wanker left. Just up and left. I assumed that there was no use trying to go to work the following week, as I was probably fired from that job. The idea of Hogwarts had scared me shitless, to be frank. I had no desire to return to that dead zone, and only Merlin knows what condition it was in after no use for four years. Yet what he said had opened up some old wounds. “Do some justice to the people who died for you.” Personally, I thought he was way out of line with that remark, but I suppose it had its wanted effect because here I was, one month later, staring out of my new office from one of the highest towers in Hogwarts, ready to assume my position as Headmistress and Charms professor in September.
I turned away from the frosty window and back to the mountainous pile of letters on my desk. They were the acceptance letters for next year. All the students whose education had been interrupted are to receive letters inviting them back, and then there were just over one hundred students to be hand picked by myself, with aid of the sorting hat, to become new first years. I sighed again. This was going to be a lot of work. It was only late January, but not every child was right for Hogwarts, and reading through every book of birth certificates and separating the children into groups according to age, gender, location, and blood (to make sure there was an equal mix of pureblood, half blood, and muggle born) was no walk in the park. Then the sorting hat would guess what house the potential student would be in, and then the students would have to separated into groups by assumed houses as well, so that one house is not full and another empty. It is a very lengthy process.
Fortunately, one thing the Ministry did do was hire Professors to teach the classes, so that is one less thing I have to do. All the house elves that worked at the school before Albus died are being brought back, but of course I am raising their salary. It does not matter if you are elf or gnome; you still deserve equal pay and treatment as humans! That’s all I was trying to say with S.P.E.W, but everyone took it entirely the wrong way. I just don’t understand how they can be so insensitive…
I should really get some rest now, tomorrow is going to be hell.
The clock on the far wall of my office flashed 11:47 PM, and I groaned. Tomorrow the rest of the professors will be joining me here at the castle for inspection of the four house dormitories to see what is still decent and what needs to be replaced. I would give my left leg if it meant I didn’t have to go into the Gryffindor common room. So many memories were made in that room. So many tears shed, so much laughter, so much sorrow, but also, so much hope. Harry, Ron and I concocted some of our biggest schemes by that fireplace, and I had my first kiss there as well.
Dear Merlin, not again, please.
I felt the familiar burning come to my eyes as they began to mist up. They always do this when I think of Harry or Ron. It has gotten better, of course. At first I felt I would never fully be able to live again, but at least now I can breathe, and I’m trying to move on, really I am.
Scooping up as many of the letters as I could carry, I began to climb up the spiral staircase at the back of my office that led to my bedchamber. Personally, I think when the Ministry refurbished it for me they went a little overboard. The deep purple velvet draperies are nice, and the genuine silk sheets are fine, as are the plush Persian rugs, but I prefer modesty over exuberant displays of wealth. I couldn’t turn it down though. Parvati Patil from the design team on the third floor had decorated it herself, and she was so proud of it when she showed it to me, I just thanked her graciously. It’s been so hard for her since her sister Padma died in the battle, the poor girl. I wasn’t very close to the Patil sisters during school, but they always seemed pleasant for the most part. I dropped the stack of letters onto the rich, hand carved mahogany bedside table, and started my pre-bed rituals.
Take down the hair, pull off the clothes, put on pajamas, wash off makeup, and slip on reading glasses. Turn down the covers, slide between the sheets, switch on the small lamp by the bed, and open a thick volume for light reading before slumber. Fall asleep with heavy book on chest. That is my routine. It hasn’t changed since my later Hogwarts years, but tonight I was signing letter after letter instead of indulging myself in magnificent works of literary fiction.
Sincerely, Hermione Granger, Headmistress and Charms Professor… Sincerely, Hermione Granger, Headmistress and Charms Professor… Sincerely, Hermione Granger, Headmistress and Charms Professor…
One, after another, after another… This was more boring than checking Harry and Ron’s potion essays for errors back in school. From my bed I could see through the window on the opposite wall. The rain was still pouring relentlessly down on Hogwarts, and I still wanted to go twirl around in it, despite my growing fatigue. Reminding myself that I was an adult now, one with very large tasks ahead of her, I turned back to my letters.
I believe I was about halfway through Ravenclaw when I fell asleep. During that short moment between consciousness and deep slumber, I vaguely recall the quill slipping from my fingers and falling to the floor beside the bed, and the neat stack of letters sliding into a messy heap beside me where I imagine my boyfriend (should I ever get one) would sleep. I was roused from slumber at a quarter to three in the morning by loud, booming claps of thunder that shook the castle. When you have lived through a war of any kind, but particularly the violent ones, you become highly sensitive to loud noises, so naturally, the thunder scared the crap out of me. I leaped out of bed, stepping on and breaking my favorite quill, then hopped about on one foot, clutching the other in pain as I fumbled for my wand.
“Lumos.” I managed to locate it on the bedside table, and light it. Soft light brightened up the room, scaring off the eerie shadows and chasing away the darkness. Relaxing, I sat back down on my bed, exhausted but wide awake. Bending to pick up the broken quill pieces, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Ahhhhh!” I screamed, nearly jumping out of my skin. I was supposed to be alone in the castle until noon tomorrow. Well, today technically, but whatever. My eyes darted back and forth, up and down, scanning the entire room quickly and with the precision I had picked up from the many years of training I had been given against the dark arts.
“Who’s there?” I called out.
From behind my bureau a small house elf nervously stepped forward. She was shaking visibly, even her large ears trembling in fear.
“Tis only Pinkey Miss. Pinkey was cleaning Miss’s office and heard you wake up. I thoughts I might bring Miss some tea to calm her nerves. Pinkey is sorry for startling you.”
“You were cleaning at three o’clock in the morning?”
“Pinkey is very sorry Miss! She did not know Miss would be upset. Pinkey just wanted to stay out of Miss’s way because she knew she has a busy day today.”
“No, no! I’m not upset at all. But you should be in bed getting some rest. Once the children get here none of us may get any rest, so we should enjoy it while we can. Thank you for the tea, and don’t worry, you are never in the way. I appreciate all the good work you do Pinkey. Now go get some rest.” I said gently to the small elf.
“Miss is too kind to Pinkey. Thanks you Miss Hermione, yous a good witch.”
“Good night Pinkey.” I bid the creature goodbye and accepted the tea that she held out to me.
She disappeared with a *Pop* and I shuffled back to bed cradling my tea. Once I was under the covers again, I realized that there was no way that I was going to be able to go back to sleep. Reaching over to the jumbled pile of letters, I re-separated them into signed and unsigned piles and then accio-ed a new quill from my desk. Sighing loudly, I turned back to the seemingly never ending task.
Sincerely, Hermione Granger, Headmistress and Charms Professor… Sincerely, Hermione Granger, Headmistress and Charms Professor… Sincerely, Hermione Granger, Headmistress and Charms Professor…
I had signed about a dozen letters when suddenly it hit me.
“Hermione Granger, Headmistress and Charms Professor.” I whispered to myself. Merlin’s feet, I’m titled! I AM something, I did something with my life, and I’m about to take accountability for seven hundred children, some of which are not much younger than me. Bloody hell!
An hour later, every last piece of parchment had been signed, and I was still awake thought I had only gotten three hours of sleep. Outside the storm and blown over, and now the sky was beginning to show signs of bright red and pink where the sun was threatening to rise.
I need to get out of this castle before I go as batty as Professor Trelawney.
I pulled on my winter coat and slid my feet into the nearest shoes I could find, which turned out to be my pink ballet flats, and went down my spiral staircase, out the office door, and into the dark, dank, cobweb filled corridor. The castle bared no resemblance to the castle I have in my memories. The one is there is light, dry, and despite its tremendous size, held a very home-like feeling. Now, the statues and gargoyles look evil and mysterious, the suits of armor seem abrasive, and the candle sconces are rusty. Back in my Hogwarts days, I knew every inch of this castle, even the forbidden parts, but this morning I keep having to stop and try to figure out where I am. An unsettling unfamiliarity of my surroundings has given me chills.
I made it up to the Astronomy Tower after some effort. The door that led to the roof was jammed shut. Grunting and pushing, I finally got it to open enough so that I could slip through. On the other side of the small, stubborn door, I saw that vines had grown over it, and that’s what had caused all my pushing and shoving. Looking around, I found a good sized stone brick that I could sit on and watch the sun rise. All around me on the walls were little etchings like “E.W + F.D forever” and “Kasey J. loves Brooke C.”. This place was always popular among the young lovers of Hogwarts. Back in fifth year, I would always lose sleep at night because Pavati and Lavender would stay up until ungodly hours talking about their all their romantic escapades to the Astronomy Tower. I never had any. The only time I would come up here would be for class, with the soul intent to examine the stars, and not a boy’s lips.
The sky was red, and purple now, with tinges of pink streaked through. It is cold up here, and my sensibility is asking me why I didn’t dress properly.
It’s mine. I thought greedily. All of this… it’s mine. This castle, those trees, this air, that cloud… this SPACE.
Sure, I knew that no one could actually own air, or clouds or even the castle land (it was left to the ministry.) but I controlled it. I was a queen and this was my kingdom. Standing up from my seat on the mossy brick, and walked up to the ledge, removed my shoes, and stepped up onto it. My toes curled around the edge of the stone brick. If I fell, no one would be there to save me, and only the house elves might hear me scream, but I don’t care. I knew that in my heart it was time to let go of the resentment I felt towards this castle, and it was time to start loving it and appreciating it again the way that Albus did. If I didn’t, then this job that I may have for Merlin knows how many years, would be a living hell. Spreading my arms out, I filled my lungs with as much crisp air as they could hold, and I screamed.
I screamed out all of my anger for not being able to help more, my anger at Molly for holding me back, my anger at Albus for dying when we needed him most, my anger at Voldemort may he rot in stinking hell, my anger at all his pathetic deatheaters that killed so many of the people I loved, my sadness for standing two hundred feet in the air above where Harry and Ron fell dead to the ground, my sadness for my mother being so bloody stubborn and refusing treatment, and my father for letting her, my sadness for not wanting this fucking job in the first place, but now not being able to see myself in any other position but this, my frustration with being merely twenty years old and knowing every kind of pain, but only one kind of love, my frustration with being in a gigantic castle all by myself with no one but a nervous house elf to talk to, my frustration with those bloody acceptance letters, my frustration with having to order a new pensive every other month because they overflow so darn quickly, and my desire to be loved by someone who will never leave me, and will sleep in that spot that is usually occupied by books or paper work.
I screamed, and I didn’t feel better, but then again, I didn’t feel worse either.
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