Tired. The only thing Hermione Granger felt now was tired as she hurried through the barrier onto Platform 9 3/4. The gleaming, burgundy red Hogwarts Express appeared through the heavy cloud of steam that surrounded the platform. Hermione walked alone through the endless crowd of happy families sending their children off to school. It was time for another year at Hogwarts. A happy thought considering the horror that had occurred the year before. The wizarding world was doing wonderfully despite being in the aftermath of war. The death of Voldemort seemed to lift the spirits of people everywhere, so much so that the war was almost forgotten.
Hermione, however, was not doing as well. When the war had ended, only three months ago, Hermione had thought things in her life would improve. After a year on the run with Harry and Ron, camping out with the only thought on their minds being to destroy Horcruxes, she thought things could only get better. She had been wrong. Harry was suffering in the aftermath, to such an extreme that not even Ginny provided comfort anymore. He had taken all the losses from the war personally and had put himself into a depression. She and Ron had tried to work out a relationship while also dealing with the horrible memories that plagued them. Through it all, Hermione and Ron had not been able to work things out. She still loved Ron, but the struggles of the war had changed her love into more of a brotherly affection. Besides, Ron needed to come to terms with all his personal demons that still haunted him before he could really love anyone else. This was a big part in Hermione’s decision to return to Hogwarts. She needed time away from Harry and Ron to really get her mind together. Besides, she doubted she could go through the rest of her life knowing that she had not completed her education.
Hermione sighed as she stared up at the Hogwarts Express. A feeling of longing and nostalgia crept over her as she remembered her times at Hogwarts, before the war. Though the threat of Voldemort had been looming over them, she and her friends had still managed to make their times at Hogwarts memorable. Hermione shook the happy memories off and quickly boarded the train for fear if she didn’t get on now she never would. Come on Hermione, you can do this she told herself as she took the final step onto the train. With her trunk in tow, she began to look for a compartment. Never had she felt so alone before. Not even in her first year. In her first year, her nervousness had been accompanied by feelings of excitement and anticipation. Now all she felt was nervousness and loneliness. She decided against looking for Ginny, though she knew Ginny would also be coming back this year. Ever since her breakup with Ron, things with Ginny had become a little tense. And with Harry barely talking to anyone, Hermione had no one. Hermione reached the end of the hallway and found an empty compartment. She stowed away her trunk and promptly took her seat. She let out a nervous breath and folded her hands in her lap. She heard a loud and high pitched train whistle echoing throughout the platform accompanied by a slight jolt. She turned and looked out her window as the train began to move. She saw the platform erupt into cheering crowd as parents waved and yelled goodbyes to their children, who waved back with the same enthusiasm. Hermione turned away and stared at the floor willing herself not to cry. She desperately wished she could be one of the other children who were ignorant to the hell that had occurred at Hogwarts during the battle. She realized that they did have to struggle through the year of Snape as headmaster and the Carrows as disciplinarians but those lucky children were not forced to watch their friends die around them with the threat of her own death lurking around every corner. She could hardly believe she was returning there herself. Come one Hermione, you can do this she reminded herself again. In an attempt at a distraction she began to wonder who from their seventh year would return to Hogwarts. The option to return had been given to all Hogwarts seventh years to make up for the lack on decent education and perilous circumstances that had inundated the year before. However, Hermione doubted that many people would return. Most were probably glad to be through with school and move on with their lives. Suddenly there was a quiet knock on the glass door. Hermione turned to see a familiar girl with long wavy blonde hair and radish earrings peering from behind the glass. She slid the door open.
“May I come in?” Luna Lovegood asked in her characteristically dreamy voice.
“Sure, Luna” Hermione replied, motioning for Luna to take the seat across from her.
Luna walked in, gently closing the door behind her, and sat down opposite Hermione. She smiled as she adjusted her skirt. “How have you been, Hermione?” she asked with genuine interest.
Hermione attempted to return Luna’s smile, but failed miserably. “I’ve been…..okay” she sighed. She turned to face the window as tears welled up in her eyes. She was not okay, she was awful.
Luna looked at her sympathetically. “I know this must be hard for you,” she began, putting her hand on top of Hermione’s “I don’t know exactly what you went through when you were alone with Harry and Ron last year, but I know some of it. I was there at the Malfoy Manor and I can guess that those memories are still haunting you. I just want you to know, Hermione that I’m here if you want someone to talk to. You’re not alone, even if you think you are. I’m really glad you came back to Hogwarts,” she smiled again; “I hope we can spend a lot of time together this year.” She squeezed Hermione’s hand trying to reassure her that it was all going to be okay.
Hermione wiped the tears from her eyes and gave a weak smile, “Thank you, Luna. You really are a true friend.” Hermione had always known this but only recently had she realized the importance of finding and keeping true friends; “I’m sure we’ll spend a lot of time together this year.”
This made Luna smile grew even bigger, “That is quite excellent! Perhaps you can help me in my study of Whimsipods!” she said excitedly.
Hermione couldn’t help but give a small laugh, “What on earth is a Whimsipod?” she questioned, still laughing.
“Oh! They are very interesting creatures that live in your shoes and posses you to dance spontaneously!”Luna cried practically bouncing off her seat. Same old Luna, Hermione though smiling to herself, at least some things hadn’t changed.
“I’ve never heard of them, but if you find some I would be delighted to hear about it!” Hermione told Luna.
“Oh, I will,” Luna said nodding with her statement “But I’m afraid I have to go now, I’ve been made Prefect you see so I must go to their compartment.” Luna pulled out her shiny prefect badge and showed it to Hermione.
“Oh right, I forgot they made all new prefects after last year” Hermione suddenly remembered. “That’s great Luna, congratulations! I’m so happy for you!” Hermione’s smile was genuine as she saw the excitement in Luna’s eyes. This was perfect for her.
“Thanks Hermione! I am terribly excited. This will be such a wonderful way to make new friends!” Luna said hopefully, as she stood up and headed towards the door. “See you later, Hermione!” Luna waved goodbye and sauntered out the door.
“Bye Luna” Hermione said out loud, though she was alone.
Hermione laid her head back against the seat. She really was tired. Tired of feeling sad. Tired of being alone. Tired of seeing the world build itself up, while she was crumbling down. Hermione felt the tears rolling down her cheeks as she stared at the now empty seat across from her. She couldn’t help it. The tears kept streaming down her face, picking up speed as every minute passed.
Hermione soon began to feel an odd sensation, as if someone was watching her. Hastily she sat and looked at the transparent door and gasped. Looking right at her was a tall, pale, blonde boy dressed from head to toe in black. He was starring at her with cold, grey eyes which were filled with hatred and another emotion Hermione couldn’t identify. Hermione desperately tried to hide her tears, but to no avail. He had seen how weak she was and that couldn’t help but fill her with seething anger. As soon as she had caught him starring he had hurriedly walked away but that was not enough to deny the horrific truth that now sat heavily on Hermione’s chest.
Draco Malfoy had also returned to Hogwarts.
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