Aug 11th edit: I've started posting updates of my progress on my profile page as I write my way through year 4. Hopefully I'll remember to do this every time I finish a new chapter

The morning was especially sunny when Hermione boarded the Hogwarts Express with her friends. The sky was clear, and the air was fresh and crisp with the afterscent of a recent rainstorm. Somehow, everyone looked happier than they had all year - perhaps because of the departure of dementors? - and Hermione was smiling right along with them.

With a compartment to themselves, the Nocturne Group had a great time playing cards and nitpicking over codes - their recent experience with chasing after a certain animagus had illustrated a need for alternative forms of communication. Daphne and Harry gossiped excitedly about the upcoming Quidditch World Cup and the fact that it would be hosted in Britain with whoever dropped by to visit. When Harry and Hermione eventually made their way to the Weasleys' compartment half-way into the trip, the Quidditch conversation only got wilder.

Neville came by and challenged Ron to a long game of chess that ended in a tie. Ginny left for a while to say bye to Colin Creevy and another one of her yearmates named Luna. Fred and George showed Hermione a few prototype products, including a hilarious fake wand and something they dubbed Ton-Tongue Toffee. Hermione in turn let them read an early copy of Journal of a Wandering Mage Vol. 2, which was due to come out in two weeks.

Like last year, her summer would be packed. There would be press conferences to attend, letters to write, information to fish for, and one or however many more pieces of her dearest heir's soul to start tracking… Now with access to more resources, she could also start a real advance for the rights of dark art users. Not to mention strengthen her influence among the old families. Add another level to the start of a magnificent tower.

But at the same time, she had to open that tower up… Now that was a really daunting task. She had to admit she was slightly terrified. How was she supposed to deliberately leave a vulnerability without someone exploiting it? How were 'relationships' meant to work? Heck, where would she even start? Did people just know that they're meant to be when they meet, or - But surely she would figure something out, eventually.

Harry caught up with Lupin getting off the train at King's Cross. They were greeted by an ecstatic and much more well-dressed Sirius Black. "Thanks for convincing me to turn Pettigrew in!" he exclaimed, "I'm free now! And I'm apparently the head of House Black now too. Merlin, I feel like a whole new person! Now come on Harry, we've got to explain to your aunt and uncle, and then you'll have to help me clean out another room in that madhouse left behind by my parents so that we can put your stuff inside. Oh, and I've got a surprise for you I know you'll love - and it definitely has nothing to do with Quidditch and top box tickets!"

Harry laughed. Hermione smiled.

A new life does feel pretty great. Especially if you don't waste it.

Waving her friends goodbye, Hermione took off happily toward muggle London, toward Mum and Dad, and toward the home of her second childhood.

AN and year 4 preview:

So that was year 3. I think we've gotten an in-depth look at Sal's biggest flaws. She does come out of it stronger, but now she's in unfamiliar territories. She has pretty much a blank slate romantically so she's actually quite emotionally naïve in some ways.

This is going to be my first try at writing romance (just like the last few chapters were my first time writing angst), so I'm going to be relying a lot on your feedback again. The pairing shortlist poll should be visible on my profile again, if you haven't seen it yet.

By the way, I hope I've made it obvious that Sal's emotional issues were already a big problem in her first life as Salazar Slytherin, to the point that Salazar was willing to drink a poison to possibly make things better. She did not get more emotionally vulnerable/emotionally needy because of being reincarnated as a girl or whatever.

I'm actually really excited for year 4,5,&6 now! It's going to be a while before I start to post again, though. I still have to assemble my ideas for year 4 into a coherent/logical plot, and I'm also going to try Mastermind17's advice and write up a chunk of the story before posting. Hopefully that'll produce a less erratic update schedule.

In the meantime, I'm going to spend some time on my Hamlet story on www. StarCatcher. org. Please come by and visit me! It's a very new site for interactive fiction that's just starting up, so they're still refining a lot of their features. But I know the admin personally and she assures me that they're going to build the site according to its earliest writers' input :) Anyways, I'm looking forward to seeing StarCatcher grow, and it'll be even lovelier if you can join me as well!


Next up, Year 4: Entering the Fray. The puppet master finally comes downstairs to greet the masses. Influencers of the world, old families, and other participants in the game of power scramble to adapt their plans as 'S' slowly emerges from the shadows. At the same time, at school, a different sort of "game" starts with the onset of puberty, and certain people's gradual realization that Sal is a pretty girl brings trouble of its own.

Meanwhile a certain noseless parselmouth makes his own attempt at resurrection...