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Chapter 26 : Chapter 26: Goodbye Hogwarts
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Hermione awoke with a heavy heart as she looked around her dormitory and sighed to herself knowing that she was leaving in just a matter of hours. She had already lost one home. Now she was losing this one too. She sighed, looking at the neatly packed trunk at the foot of her bed. It was surreal.
She got up and dressed alongside Ginny and her other dorm mates who were all following the same depressed, solemn manner.
“We’ll pick up our trunks after breakfast, right?” Ginny asked.
“Yeah,” Hermione nodded and gave a deep sigh. Ginny offered her a smile and linked her arm with Hermione’s as the two proceeded down and out of the dormitory and into the Common room.
“Alright?” Harry greeted them as the rest of the group chimed ‘hi’s.
“Yeah,” Hermione nodded though she was feeling far from alright.
“Let’s head down to breakfast then,” Fred said and they followed him down to the Great Hall trying to talk and joke around and finally managing some laughs and smiles from the sad group.
“And on your left you will see the corridor leading to the girls bathroom where Hermione was attacked by a troll that Harry and Ron knocked out,” George said pointing it out with a tour guide impression.
“First year dramas,” Ron chuckled. “They just got more complicated.”
“No denying that,” Hermione smiled. “And I didn’t get ‘attacked’ per say.”
“You definitely did,” Harry grinned.
They sat at the Gryffindor table taking in their surroundings for the final time and smiling fondly as memories came flooding back to them. They ate and their moods gradually improved regretful to leave but glad to move on to, hopefully, better things.
“To all of our seventh years I kindly invite you to collect your trunks and return to the Great Hall rather than waiting for the carriages,” McGonagall’s voice echoed.
The group exchanged curious glances but shrugged and nodded. “Come on then,” George sighed. “Let’s get our stuff and say goodbye to the Common Room.”
Hermione retrieved her trunk and waited for the other girls’ to drag theirs down the stairs. She took a final, lasting look around the empty dorm room. She smiled as she swept a final glance inside before stepping out and pulling the door shut. She levitated her trunk and followed it down the stairs trailing her hand along the wall as she went.
“All set?” George asked as he threw an arm around her.
“Ready,” she confirmed and the group headed back to the Great Hall where the rest of their year was slowly assembling.
To their complete disdain Jane flounced over to them. “I just wanted to say goodbye,” she said, voice too sweet.
“Good riddance,” Hermione said cheerfully with a big smile disguising the hatred of her words.
“Now, now,” Jane smirked. “Do play nicely, Hermione.”
“Bye, Jane,” George said firmly.
“This is for you,” she smiled at George handing him a small piece of parchment. “It has my address and other details on it. You know, for when you come to your senses.”
“Today is a very important day to us all, Jane. So don’t make me have to remember it as the day I smashed a girl through the window of the Great Hall,” Ron said.
“Oh Ronnie,” Jane sighed. “Don’t be bitter. I know things didn’t work out with us. We can just blame Hermione for that though. She clearly just doesn’t ever want you to be happy.”
“Actually I do,” Hermione retorted. “Which is why I wouldn’t let him end up with the likes of you. Even if I hated him, no one should have to go through the absolute torture of having to endure your insufferable ego and stupidity.”
“And on that note...” Fred said.
“Goodbye!” George said sweetly crumpling the parchment she had given him and throwing it in her face. Jane scowled but turned on her heel and walked away.
“That’s one reason I’m glad we’re leaving,” Ginny said and they all nodded their agreement.
“Hello students,” McGonagall called out. “I want you to join me in celebrating the time you have spent here at Hogwarts, you have all faced many obstacles and dangers and encountered many threats but here you are: a brilliant success despite everything you have been subject to. This alone is a testimony of your strength, drive, intelligence and bravery. You should all be immensely proud.”
There was a small round of applause before she continued. “Many of you fought in the Great Battle and all of you were in some way impacted by the tragedy and devastation caused by the war. Some maybe more than others. Some maybe more involved. Despite it, I hope you have all enjoyed you time at Hogwarts and it is reluctantly that I tell you all that it has come to an end. I have become very fond of each and every one of you in the past years, from the troublemakers to the geniuses,” she said and her eyes hovered meaningfully on their group who all grinned and gave the Professor small waves. “Congratulations!”
More applause. Smiles. Cheering. Sighs. The atmosphere in the hall was completely overwhelming. “Just as I’m sure all of you have, I have many affectionate memories of times with a lot of you in here. I recall countless practical jokes played by two of the greatest mischief makers in Hogwarts history; the bravery of three first years who thought they could protect the Philosopher’s stone and then went on through their years to break countless rules and effectively save each life here today; I remember students that were labelled as hopeless but grew to show extreme courage and intelligence; I remember an unusual, eccentric girl that proved herself to be brave, smart and heroic; I remember competitive Quidditch teams that united for the good of our world; I remember enemy houses that supported each other in times of darkness; I remember selfless, brave wizards and witches that laid down their lives for us. Many of them would have graduated alongside you today and possessed a lot of potential. I’m sure we all remember them and always will and will always be indebted to them. Above all I remember the success and passion of each student in this hall today and I wish you all the luck in the world wherever your futures may take you.”
Louder applause. Bigger smiles. More energetic cheering. Deeper sighs. “Thank you all for attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I hope you have enjoyed your time here. Congratulations and good luck! If you would now follow me the Hogwarts Express will depart shortly.”
The groups examined their surroundings, took deep breaths and smiled sad smiles knowing that this was it. Reluctantly they followed McGonagall out of the Great Hall and then out of the castle glancing back inside to savour a final look before walking on. They were led to the Black Lake where a series of boats awaited them. They all grinned realising they would not be getting in the carriages but taking the boats. The boats that had brought them to the school for the first time were taking them away for the last time. It was beautiful and poetic and symbolic.
Hagrid stood beside the boats beaming at the group. They all rushed to greet him and hug him. They didn’t verbally decide who was going in which boat it just seemed to happen. Hermione sat in one with Harry and Ron whilst Fred and George sat in another next to them, Ginny and Luna on their other side and Dean, Seamus and Neville beside them.
The boats began to move and they looked back at the school with a mixture of misery and fondness. “Goodbye,” they all chorused as they looked back at the school.
Hermione looked across to George whose eyes were fixed sadly upon the castle and then fell upon her. He gave her a reassuring smile that she returned despite the distress filling her.
The journey across the lake was slow and as they continuously cast glances back at the school that had been their home over the years they sighed, blinked several times and swallowed hard trying to force down the lump that had formed in each of their throats. Hermione looked at the two boys that had grown to be her brothers sitting with her and reached out to place a hand on each of theirs’. They both turned to her and smiled warmly and before she knew it she was subject to a group hug.
She laughed and grinned alongside them knowing that even away from Hogwarts she would always have them. Reaching the edge of the lake the charmed boats stopped and George offered Hermione a hand to help her out and then pulled her in for a hug as they looked back across the lake at the grand castle that they would miss seeing every day.
“Let’s go,” Harry said and the group nodded walking the short distance to Hogsmeade station and boarding the train unwillingly.
“Last time on this train,” Fred pointed out as if the group didn’t know.
“Now if I had said that,” Ron said. “Somebody would have made a sarcastic comment by now.”
“Never, Ronnie!” George insisted but the group exchanged a series of knowing looks before bursting out laughing. The journey passed quickly with the group joking around and keeping themselves happily occupied, busy with chatter about irrelevant topics.
Arriving at Platform 9 and ¾ they hesitated as they left the train knowing they would never be getting back on it or returning to Hogwarts. “I hate this,” Hermione admitted.
“Me too,” Ginny agreed. “It’s too sad.”
They looked for Mrs. Weasley on the platform and Hermione bit back a sob knowing that her mother wouldn’t be there waiting for her. George must have sensed this because he wrapped an arm around her tightly and kissed the top of her head. She looked up at him and then back at the train.
A tear slipped from Hermione’s eye despite her attempts to stay strong and George brushed it away quickly and kissed the spot where it had been gently. He embraced her tightly and warmly, feeling how her whole body was wracked with each shaky breath that was on the verge of becoming sobs.
She broke free of his arms and gave a soft and forced smile, “Go say hi to your Mum. Just let me get myself together.”
He hesitated and actually tightened his grip on her, “I’m always here for you, Hermione. Don’t try and compose yourself if it’s not what you’re really feeling on the inside. You can’t bottle it up. Every big event is going to be hard for you, every day is too but...” George was interrupted by her quiet but firm voice.
“I know, George,” she said. “And I’d love to talk about it if I thought it would make it better but as comforting as you are, you can’t change anything. I want to be how I used to be: strong and brave and confident and prepared to take everything in my stride. Not tearful and weak and depressed and on the verge of breaking down every day. It’s not me, George. I want to be me again.”
“Don’t put up the front, Hermione. You are strong and I love that about you but don’t you start up an act. You’ve been through a lot; it’s natural to be...”
“Maybe it is natural but I can’t stand myself this way. You have to understand that,” she said and there was a pleading element to her voice.
“I do,” he sighed. “But be strong and at the same time remember that I love you and you can always tell me anything.”
“Of course,” she smiled up at him. “Now go see your mum. I’m fine.”
Reluctantly he released her and joined his siblings surrounding their mum.
Hermione sighed and took a deep breath as she glanced around the platform. She was taken by surprise as a warm hand grasped her own and to her other side a strong arm slid around her waist. Harry and Ron. Ron gave her hand a tentative squeeze and she smiled at them both.
“I love you both,” Hermione murmured on impulse.
“We’re going to be alright,” Harry said softly. “The three of us. We’re going to be okay.”
“Who would have thought it,” Ron said.
“Finished school and standing on this platform for the last time,” Hermione sighed.
“Not the last,” Fred said, standing behind them.
“When we all have kids we’ll be right back on this platform. It just won’t be us getting on the train,” Fred grinned.
“That’s true,” George said, joining his twin behind the group.
“Then it’ll be an all new sadness,” Ginny sighed also joining them, watching the smoke rising from the Hogwarts Express. “Not wanting to say goodbye.”
“I’m glad that leaving Hogwarts doesn’t mean leaving any of you,” Hermione smiled and they all grinned back at her.
“Never,” Harry told her.
“Would I let that happen, Granger?” Fred asked.
“Of course not, Weasley,” she retorted. “You adore me too much.”
Fred realised immediately that he had said the exact same thing to her only the day before and chuckled. “Something like that,” he nodded and she flashed him a triumphant smirk that melted into a true smile for the boy that had become a brother to her.
The voices on the platform grew steadily quieter as the group stood there and the crowds dispersed gradually. Those remaining were mostly people from their own year who didn’t want to leave. So attached to the train and the school it led to that just walking away seemed impossible and very near insane. How could it be over?
“Come on,” Molly said walking over to the group. “It’s time we go.”
‘I’m not ready,’ the words were on the tip of Hermione’s tongue but she refused to let them escape. Words that would shatter the second they left her mouth leaving their debris to rain down in a rush of sadness and weakness. No. She wanted to be strong again. And she was going to be, whether her mind was prepared or not.
“Okay,” she said quietly and she was surprised by the sound of her own voice. “Okay,” she repeated more clearly this time with more confidence.
“How are you, Hermione?” the elder witch asked warmly hugging her.
“I’m good,” she smiled partially unsure as to where the certainty of this fact had appeared from. “And you?”
“I’m fine thanks, dear,” Molly said.
“Let’s go then,” Fred said reluctantly and Hermione felt Harry’s grip on her tighten. She looked at him and smiled at him reassuringly though deep down she knew she was as afraid of ending this chapter of their lives as he was.
“Like you said,” she told him quietly. “We’re going to be alright.”
“I know,” he nodded and the group grabbed their trunks following Molly to the wall separating the Muggle world from the platform.
Ginny watched her mum go and turned back, looking at the train and sighed softly taking a final sweeping glance before walking straight at the wall.
“Ready?” Fred asked George who grinned at his twin in response.
“Ready,” he confirmed. The two walked side by side towards the wall, looking back at the Hogwarts Express for a final time with hesitant yet genuine smiles.
“Wait!” George yelled right before he and Fred were about to continue.
“What?” Fred asked urgently and Harry, Ron and Hermione soon shot the same question at him.
George turned back to where the Golden Trio were stood, gripped the collar of Hermione’s shirt, pulled her up and pressed his lips down onto hers passionately. He smirked ever so slightly against her lips as she responded to the kiss with equal intensity and their lips moved against each other fervently.
George pulled away and spoke breathlessly, “I never did that on this platform.” The group laughed and shook their heads at the antics that had somehow come to be expected from him.
“I’ve never kissed Hermione on the platform either,” Fred joked.
“Hilarious,” George said sarcastically. “I’ll be sure to mention that to your fiancé.”
“Just go on!” Harry said and shook his head at them whilst grinning.
“See you on the other side,” the twins chimed as they approached the wall again, turning and nodding at the group and train in the background before disappearing through it.
“We made it,” Ron said and they all smiled at each other walking side by side to the wall. Hermione slipped just in front of them and walked through first barely glancing back at the platform because she knew that she might just break if she did. Harry and Ron followed behind her both sighing to themselves as they cast a look back at the train and stepped through.
“I guess it’s over now,” Hermione said as they arrived at the Burrow.
“Hogwarts will always be home,” Harry told her and she nodded, despite secretly disagreeing because it would never be their home again, as she took her trunk up to Ginny’s room in the only home she had left.
“I’m worried about her,” George confided in his twin as he ran a hand through his hair pushing it up and out of his face.
“Are you worried about her or are you worried that she wants to go back to being the old Hermione and you fell in love with the new Hermione?” Fred asked him seriously.
George opened his mouth to shoot back words of utter indignation but hesitated, contemplating his twin’s words. Was it possible that it was true? “I...” George sighed annoyed by his own uncertainty. “I’m worried about her. It’s just that I can understand that she wants to be strong again because she never had moments of weakness. Not ones that anyone ever saw at least. But I didn’t fall in love with a different Hermione. Because as far as I’m concerned she never stopped being strong, she just became more open which in my opinion made her stronger not weaker. She stopped suffering alone- and yes it took something truly horrible to make her that way and I’d prefer she hadn’t lost her parents but she stopped hiding her emotions at least. And the fact that she could show her friends her so called ‘weaknesses’ is exactly what gives her the extra strength because she gets the support from us and it builds more trust that the people she needs will be there for her when we know she needs it,” George said.
Fred nodded slowly at his twin, “Did you tell her that?”
“Not in so many words. She doesn’t want to hear it. She just wants to be the way she was. But she doesn’t realise that the only thing that’s different was back then she hadn’t faced such a major tragedy so there was no reason for her to be on the verge of breaking down every day.”
“Then let her realise it herself,” Fred told him. “She’s a genius, Georgie she’ll figure it out.”
It was George’s turn to nod. “Okay.”
“You know this won’t change things between you, right?” Fred asked.
“I just don’t want her to shut me out. I don’t want to be on the other side of her front,” George admitted. “I don’t want to be another person that she tries to fool with that act.”
“Then don’t let her,” Fred said seriously.
“I won’t,” George replied certainly.
So? Please leave me a review and let me know what you thought! Thanks so much to you all for all the support and for sticking with the story it means the world to me.
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