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28 July 2010 @ 02:36 am
Fic: In Our Bedroom After the War - Hermione (/Ron) - T  
Title "In Our Bedroom After the War"
Fandom Harry Potter
Character(s) Hermione Granger (/Ron Weasley)
Rating T
Summary Hermione, before and after. (Written for the Awesome Ladies ficathon.)


Once, a war ended and Dedalus Diggle launched the stars over Kent. Once, a war ended and wizards whispered in the streets, rejoiced in their homes, threw caution to the wind for weeks. Once, a war ended and the world started to turn again.

Now, a war ends and it’s like holding your breath. There’s no great wave of relief, no sudden freedom. There’s joy, yes, but it comes tinged with sorrow and pain. How do you smile when you’ve yet to bury your neighbor/friend/brother? How do you celebrate so much death?

--

You’ve been holding his hand for hours. Days, maybe, you can’t be sure, but it feels like forever. It feels like you can’t let go, like someone’s done you up with a permanent sticking charm.

Mrs. Weasley makes up a cot for you in Ginny’s room, but you lie curled up against Ron’s side anyway, the two of you and Harry packed into that small room at the top of the house. With the blinds drawn it’s so dark you can’t see the orange walls, only a flicker of movement at the corner of your eye, every now and then, as the Cannons swoop by; Harry mutters in his sleep—such a familiar sound, now—and you wonder what he’s dreaming about. What darkness can touch him here?

You should sleep. The boys have long since drifted off, their breath evening, their eyes fluttering, but you can’t seem to quiet. Your stomach turns over and you try to swallow the lump in your throat. You think about vomiting. You think about crying. Neither seems like it would be of much help.

In the morning, you’ll bury Fred, and the next day you’ll bury Tonks and Remus. You held Teddy tonight, so small in your arms and with a tuft of hair as green as Harry’s eyes. You thought about your own parents, so far away, and wondered if you’re a daughter they’ll want back. Hermione Jean Granger: their smart little girl, part of a world they’ll never really understand.

Ron lets out a little groan, turns himself into you so his breath puffs warm across your cheek. His free arm falls against your side and tugs you closer.

You fall asleep.

--

You’re eleven years old, bright and proud and socially off-putting—so says the counselor at school, anyway, the woman who called your parents and said, “perhaps there’s a better fit for Hermione.” And, “we think she’s better suited for a school more matched for her particular gifts.”

And now there’s a woman at your door offering just that: a better fit, a school for “gifted” students.

That’s how she starts, anyway, with words like “gifted” and “special.” Your parents nod along, trying to comprehend how you’ve been accepted to a school you never applied to—one they’ve never even heard of.

“Was it Ms. Lippman that put Hermione up for this…Hogwarts, you called it?” your father asks, shooting you one of his concerned glances.

“Oh, no,” the woman, the professor, says. “Hermione’s particular talents brought themselves to our attention, actually.” She pauses here, gives you what you think must be a warm look, a sort of half-smile that breaks before it can fully assert itself across her face. “I’m sure you must have noticed, over the years, that Hermione is not like other girls.”

“Well, of course,” your mother says, smiling. “Hermione’s always been the top of her class. She’s incredibly bright.”

“She is, indeed, her school records certainly make that clear…” and now the professor pauses, as though she’s not quite sure how to get the next words out, “but that’s not the sort of difference I’m referring to. What I mean to say is,” and here she turns to you, says to you directly: “Ms. Granger, do funny things have a way of happening in your presence? Do things tend to explode? Or to float, or to disappear? Have you ever wished for something so hard that it came true?

“Have you ever willed something into existence?”

And of course you have, of course these little peculiarities have been happening for as long as you can remember: bullies tripping over nothing on their way to taunt you, books you’d thought lost reappearing on your desk, that one perfect hair day when you’d had your school pictures.

But didn’t these things happen to everyone?

“When she was a baby,” your mother starts, but thinks better of it.

“Yes?”

“Well when she laughed…” and your mother sighs out a little giggle. “The lights used to flicker.” She turns away as though her words are ridiculous. “I always took it for loose wiring.”

Your father is staring at you with the sort of focus he usually gives to the Sunday Post.

“When I say Hogwarts is a school for gifted students,” the woman finally says, “I mean that it is a school of magic. Hermione, it would seem, is a witch born to muggle—that is, non-magical—parents, a not entirely unusual occurrence.” She sits back in her chair a bit. “I believe it’s what you would call a…genetic anomaly.”

It’s difficult to recognize the strumming in your heart at first—your childhood has not been unhappy: you are well loved by your parents, something of a pet to your teachers, and if the girls at school have never been especially nice, well, they’ve rarely been especially cruel. But it’s as though hearing the words has woken something up within you, a knowledge coded into your soul. You are not odd, nor socially inept. You are special, you are gifted, you are magic.

--

The feeling of relief works its way into your system over time, starting somewhere in your lungs and expanding like a balloon until it fills you up completely.

It takes weeks, months, but eventually there’s a morning you wake up and you aren’t afraid anymore. You wake up and your eyes are dry and your throat is clear and when you look out the window there’s sunshine.

The castle is all life and energy and joy. Not right away, no—the first few weeks back are dark and sad, weighted with the castle’s physical scars. It’s hard to let go when you walk past rubble every day. But quiet and dark go against the very definition of a school, and a week comes sooner than you’d expected when the classrooms start to fill with laughter and gossip and breathing comes easier.

The classes are all confused—a quarter of the first years are muggle-born twelve-year-olds, and you’re not the only student returning after missing a year. Everyone ought to be behind in Defense Against the Dark Arts, but fear is a powerful motivator—most of your class seems to breeze through the lessons, and for once you allow yourself a break in a class. You have no doubt that your Defense NEWT is secure.

It’s surprising how easy it is to throw yourself back into school like this, and without the added distraction of threats on your life and the lives of your friends you find yourself learning to sleep in a way you never have at Hogwarts. It’s a bit like slipping into a hot bath: you submerge yourself in dreams until you’re ready to come out the other side, a bit of a prune, but far more relaxed.

Harry and Ron visit on Hogsmeade weekends, and whenever Professor McGonagall will allow it. Harry sent you off to school with the Marauder’s Map and a promise that you’ll get yourself into some trouble, for old time’s sake. Ron sent you off with a lingering kiss and a promise that you won’t be seduced by someone like Cormac McClaggen.

It should be strange, this change in your relationship with Ron, but nothing, not even learning, has ever come easier.

--

Diagon Alley is like stepping onto another planet—a planet that’s been hiding just off of Charing Cross Road your whole life.

Professor McGonagall doesn’t hold your hand or treat you like a child. She ushers your toward the towering bank, but allows you a bit of space to look about you, to take it all in. There’s money in your pocket for schoolbooks and robes, for a new wand and potion supplies and all the other things listed on the thick sheaf of parchment that’s still clutched in your hand.

There’s a part of you that isn’t sure you aren’t dreaming, but you’ve never had dreams so vivid as this. There, just there, is a bin filled with eye-of-newt (or so the sign says), and a woman a few yards ahead of you just pulled out her wand to repair a tear in her small son’s sweater.

“I know it can be a bit much to take in,” Professor McGonagall says beside you, “but we really must move a bit faster if we’re going to get everything you need today.”

At the bank a long fingered goblin exchanges your small roll of pound notes for a pile of coins that weighs heavy in your pocket. You follow the professor from store to store. You’re fitted for robes, weighed down with books, and offered a two-ounces-for-the-price-of-one deal on belladonna.

Mr. Ollivander measures you for a wand with the swiftness of someone well practiced in his field. The tape measure seems to skirt around your arm, lengthening and shortening, wrapping and winding until he snaps it up with an “aha!” and dashes off, only to return with fourteen identical boxes.

The first seven wands feel wrong in your hand, sweaty or spindly or off. The eighth wand, though—ten and three quarter inches, vine wood, core of dragon heartstring—seems to sing from inside you.

“You’re a quick one,” Mr. Ollivander says while you’re handing him the money. “Took me six and a half hours to fit one of your classmates last week.” And he gives you a smile that doesn’t quite work.

Back at home you unwrap each book to show your mother. She smiles and listens while you tell her about the things you saw and the people you met.

“Well, I have to say, Hermione,” she finally says, “it’s all a bit strange, and I think this will take awhile to process, but,” and she picks up the box that still holds your wand, “I’m happy so long as you are.” She sets the box down.

--

Spring arrives at Hogwarts without enemies or adventures or any sort of danger. You and Ginny sit NEWTS and when you lay your quill down you feel a sense of calm that you’ve never before associated with the end of exams.

Ron and Harry are waiting for you in the Great Hall.

“What will you do with yourself now you’re finished with school?” Ron asks, the familiar tease at the back of his throat. You shut him up with a proper kiss and ignore the whispers sweeping down the Gryffindor table.

A year ago, you think, you sat here in pain, soaked in loss. Today, a breeze slips over the lake and the sun shines. The castle is still standing, scarred but mighty, and all around you it breathes with lives that could so easily have ended in a battle you fought for a future you’ve found yourself living.

Next to you, Ron is stuffing his face with food from the Hogwarts kitchens, and Harry is smiling dreamily at Ginny. It’s a sight so familiar, and so lost in a childhood that feels far away, that you’re not sure if you ought to cry or laugh.

Instead, you smile, and you reach for Ron’s hand under the table. Tomorrow you will catch the Hogwarts Express back to London. Your parents will meet you at the station, the usual look of bewilderment etched across their faces. You’ll tell them all about your exams on the drive home and your mother will ask after the professors whose names she has heard you mention. Your father will congratulate you on completing school with such high marks.

At home, there never was a war—you certainly never fought on the front lines. At home, Hermione Granger is the bright and talented girl she always was, just finishing her seventh year, preparing to start her life in a world her parents barely know.

But here there is no sense in playing pretend. Here, you allow the war to wash over you, to drift behind you into memory. Here, Hermione Granger is a soldier, she is a friend, a lover, a leader. Hermione Granger is bright and proud and doing just fine.