AN: HI. I'M NOT J.K ROWLING. DON'T SUE ME.
Hermione Granger was nowhere close to home.
Back at her flat, somewhere far behind her, Crookshanks was probably wondering why she'd left without as much as a glance to her fresh cup of tea. Or why she for some reason had just stopped the frantic pacing that had been part of her routine for a whole week by now. Or what all those scribbled words forming sentences on the neatly folded paper she'd gotten delivered by one of those foul owls had meant. Or why she'd left one of the vinyl records she'd ransacked from her fathers bookcase still spinning around in a dance with no audience to listen to its light strokes.
The cat would be left wondering for longer than expected.
Hermione was out wandering.
Past a river, a bridge, abandoned parks and orange lit street corners. She kept going until she was lost. Midnight chimed somewhere, but she kept walking, too lost in the sensation. Almost as if floating as her feet moved gently over the pavement. Nothing held her down. She felt safe, which, still felt amazing considering what they'd all gone through to get to today.
The Forest of Dean never even offered as much a glimpse that this was what the future would look like. What shape life would form after Voldemort. The trees and the river and the muffled bird chirping hadn't given her imagination to see this. This odd scenario of herself walking without a single care in the world of what would happen next.
The past is in the past, and although it does make up the present, Hermione didn't dwell on it.
Not even the constant need of grasping her wand was present. She wasn't even touching it – the wand safely resting in her pocket as her fingers instead danced over roses blooming in a pot hanging out from a window. Pale pink, yellow and red embedded in green leaves.
Everything felt simple and easy. So clear. A beautiful escape.
It was oddly quiet, and lenient, and forgiving, and peaceful. Hermione usually never felt this calm – and in this light stroll down the pebbled streets bathing in city lights, she felt proud for achieving it. Memories of the Forest of Dean always seemed so cloudy and grey. Hopeless and robotic.
And even though Hermione was mastering the feeling day by day after Voldemort's defeat, it was a feeling she still wasn't used to. She usually never let it wrap itself around her this softly, a voice muttering constant vigilance at the back of her head. A worry stirred in at the bottom of her stomach, but her head was already swimming in a content cloud of safety to notice.
For some reason everything felt violet.
Perhaps it was how the sky was still playing with the colours the sun had left behind after descending over the horizon, or perhaps it was the purple neon lights shimmering above her. Maybe this was how the millennium would feel like, now only a few months away. The magic hour was slowly tuning into night, and Hermione was caught in the middle of it's long descending farewell.
Dusty violets settled among bergamot trees and peony dreams.
It wasn't until a car pulled up along side her that she was released out from her veil of violet, her light, gracious steps slowing down. It was the first sign of anyone else this time a day during this part of the city. Naturally, Hermione took notice of the company.
The car looked old, but well treated. Windows were rolled down, offering a welcome to the warm summer breeze still dancing through the night. There was laughter, glasses clinking and happiness bubbling from the car. Someone seemed to having a problem with their Lumos charm, seeing it as the light from inside flickered.
''Come on – get in!''
Hermione came to a halt. ''Huh?''
Turning around, she saw that the car had come to stop as well. A guy with hair like lemons was hanging his head out of the window, grinning at her. His fingers were red as he put pressure on them while leaning out, waiting for her to join him. But Hermione remained still, a distant frown playing on her features. She didn't recognise him from anywhere.
"Get over here."
Realising she clearly wasn't listening to his so far very simple instructions and that she was now glued to the spot the guy popped his head back inside the car, only to seconds later swing the door open, jumping to his feet.
He was dressed in rather formal attire – a periwinkle tuxedo with black buttons. The night must've started out with his hair firmly slicked back, only now halfway through half of his was lose control again, hanging recklessly to the side. It created a weird border that reminded Hermione of Two-Face from the comic books. Blue eyes matching his suit were staring at her with anticipation.
''Chivvy along! We're awfully late.''
He threw his arms out, because apparently this is undoubtedly obvious information. Hermione bit her lip. Late for what, exactly? She wouldn't be surprised that she had missed something important. Things easily slipped past her nowadays. She had been sleeping away most of her days lately, or well, at least trying to. It was either that or pacing.
''Laaatee,'' someone from inside the car echoes in a cheer, however not seeming that bothered about wasting time. Hermione tried to think back at what she could possible have missed.
Late for what?
"What do I have to do to get you to follow me? Alice followed the white rabbit without any complications," the guy with the everlasting grin continued, as if trying to sound irritated but failing miserably. He was too happy to play the part, just like Hermione was too batted and experienced to play the part of a dreaming child ready to enter Wonderland.
Hands clapped together and Hermione jumped at the sound.
''We haven't got all night, now do we? No! Time is ticking. Get in the car!''
''I think you got me mixed up with someone else,'' Hermione politely tried to reason, but the guy wasn't having any of it. He stalked closer to her with long strides, and hadn't Hermione been so stuck on the dimwit memory of her mum reading Lewis Carroll for bedtime, Hermione would probably had marked the quick approaching strides as intruding, if not threating.
It seemed like he was muttering something in Welsh. With her eyebrows now knitted together (silently yelling at herself for not understanding more than one word) she took a step back.
''I don't… I can't understand you, sorry. I'm a little- uh… I'm not-''
''That's nonsense," he chuckled. Hermione blinked and suddenly he'd closed the distance between them. "Hurry up! Give me your hand!'' And the moment he'd won over the space she'd tried to put between them, everything suddenly went very fast. She was no longer floating in a tranquil cloud of violet, but rather swept towards the car.
"About time," someone sighed once they made it.
It was only once they were inside the car that Lemonhead lived up to his manners and introduced himself. ''Oh pardon me. Meadows at your service, madam. Now please hurry up. Sit down. Please." Behind him, the door and Hermione's final escape was slammed shut behind them. Then, turning his head towards the front, Meadows howled out a "Hurry!''
If she'd thought being swept inside the car by the helping hand of Mister Meadows had been fast, imagine Hermione's shock when the car started moving.
Hermione somehow managed to take in her surroundings.
The car was filled with as much as five people packed into the cramped backseat, a green bottle being passed around like a trophy while two ladies juggled a miniature firework between their wands, giggles erupting from their scarlet lips every few seconds. From the silent peacefulness Hermione had let herself bathe in all night there was now chaos. It wasn't fair to her to make such a drastic jump between the two worlds. Her head was swimming in fireworks, strong perfume, smiles and laughter.
The Brightest Witch of Her Age turned her head, checking for the source of the question, but it looked like everyone was either in the middle of a laugh or a chug at the drinks passed around, neither of them owning the question.
Hermione felt like mush, both physically and mentally. Her shoulders squeezed together and all the commotion was making her feel anything but all right. She managed to focus her thoughts on a short debate with herself, discussing whether these people could cause danger to her in any way. When the question was left unanswered, Hermione decided to let it play out.
"I… I think so?" she frowned through her answered, her fingers absently tracing the outline of the wand resting in her pocket, just to make sure it was still there.
''It's not… I… Where are you going? We- going?''
''Relax, would ya? We'll be there in no time so no stress. Here, have some firewhiskey.''
As soon as this was said, three hands shot up on cue and offered Hermione glasses (actually, one hand was presenting a pink polka dot tea mug) already filled with the copper beverage. Still somewhat cautious, Hermione only took one small sip. The company in the car offered her lauding ovation, several toasts and cheers thrown left and right. Frowning she took another sip, feeling it burn. Her fingers started buzzing
''The night is young - drink up, drink up, drink up.''
Blinking a few times to clear her vision, Hermione looked around the backseat of the car, befuddled and tipsy. The alcohol was working rather fast, considering she had skipped both dinner and the cookies Molly had sent her this morning.
As if not already nestled up in the packed backseat, Meadows somehow managed to clear enough space to bump shoulders with her, raising his eyebrows in triumph as she turned to him.
"I'm glad we found you in time," he said and somewhere in-between Hermione found herself holding the glass he offered her "We'll be perfectly fashionably late," he continued while adjusting his bowtie.
The whole company were dressed in a mixture of elegant glitter and bohemian colours. Floating maxi dresses in patchwork prints and lace-up peasant blouses, psychedelic floras, round frame sunnies and super-size flares. Hermione, however, was boring and plain, only dressed in her black and grey outfit and her (actually Ron's) batted navy-blue bomber jacket falling loosely over her shoulders. And let's not forget her messy hair that was nowhere close to control. Despite this, one of the girls in the car seemed absolutely captured by the frizzy hair, squeaking as her fingers brushed it.
''Brill-'' Hermione could her whisper before letting out a hiccup, jumping from her seat. ''-iant!''
At one point the girl was close to breaking into tears and when Hermione's concerned eyes watched her she managed to choke out that ''s just... your hair... so pretty,'' to which Hermione swung back and confided the girl with the pink mug of alcohol, trying to dampen the tears away
''Blimey, Tracey, please don't cry,'' Meadows teased, patting her cheek in an awkward fashion. His aim wasn't that good. ''This is the one night you can't cry, 'memba? This night is for oz to live a little. Fugget abou' everythin.''
Tracey sniffed. ''No you're right, Theo. Let's go pawty.''
Slightly blurred scenes of jumping out of the car and entering a big villa, Hermione soon found herself in the middle of an ongoing party. The alcohol must've gotten to her, because she was so sure she saw George walking past her. It made her heart skip, because she knew for sure he was over in Romania to visit Charlie for the week.
Following the broad shoulders, Hermione's eyes stayed glued to the redhead who still had his back to her, now chatting happily with a short woman. ''Artie, love!'' the woman exclaimed, confirming that this was not George but someone else. Still, Hermione stayed locked on the couple, hoping he would turn around again so she could figure out why he'd looked so familiar. Unfortunately he never did, too busy cracking jokes at his company like it was his only mission to make the woman laugh.
Confused, Hermione spun around and looked at the other revellers trying to find someone she actually knew.
After a while her heart stopped punching against her chest and Hermione allowed herself to soak up the beauty. It was just like the scenery in the car, only now magnified, bigger and more golden, more life, less noise and more sophistication.
The car had been chaotic and it had also made her feel slightly sick from all the drastic turns and the bumps the driver had chosen to speed past. Now she could stay completely still and just study the scene.
With her scraped knees and bruised knuckles, Hermione felt like a stain on a beautiful painting.
In the corner of the room an enchanted ice sculpture of a peacock was watching, green and blue colour flashing in the frost as it moved his head every now and then. Everything was glowing in warm and bright lights. She felt like she was ruining the picture. She felt out of place in the sea of smiles and the swinging bodies to the lax and welcoming music coming from the room next-door. She wasn't exactly ladylike in her simple attire. And despite her lack of finesse, she wasn't shunned. People happily invited, smiles pulling her further into the mass of people.
''You look lost.''
Hermione turned, finding herself face to face with a girl who couldn't be much older than her.
The girl looked like a saint. Delicate bones. Glossy, dark hair. Prefect skin. Big teeth. All she needed was a halo. Her smile must've been contagious, because Hermione suddenly felt her cheeks hurting as she mimicked the girl.
''Lost?'' Hermione smiled hesitantly, a small voice at the back of her head scolding her for only communicating in questions for the past hour. Feeling the blush that had climbed up sometime during the car ride alight, a nervous tic started itching at the back of her neck. ''I- I was just… uh… Yeah.''
She glanced down at her clothes shamefully. A pair of black trousers and a grey t-shirt couldn't be compared to the sky blue summer dress the girl was wearing.
Hermione reminded herself that she wasn't a delicate looking saint.
She was a soldier of the second army.
Then again, the war was over – warriors weren't needed anymore.
''I'm Alice,'' the girl introduced herself, not waiting for Hermione to do the same before she turned away. ''Oh Fraank?'' Standing on her tiptoes she raised her hand to wave wildly over a group standing between her and this Frank guy. ''Frank! … damn it… FRANK!''
A mop of blonde hair, shorter than Alice (though probably due to her spiked heels) appeared from the crowd, smiling as he joined the two of them. Unlike 90% of the rest of the crowd attending the party, he wasn't dressed in a posh suit. Or a periwinkle tuxedo. In fact, he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
''Frank, we need to help this girl. She's not nearly drunk enough.''
Rolling his eyes at Alice, Frank reached over and offered his hand to Hermione. He was tipsy, but nevertheless, still seemed to hold his etiquette.
''Pleasure to assist... I'm Frank Longbottom. And you 're?'' he introduced himself, his eye waiting curiously as they shook hands.
''I'm Her-'' Hermione stopped herself, processing what she had just heard. Longbottom? ''Oh. What a coincidence that you… that you two have the same names as-''
''Oh, you got it wrong. My name is Alice Fortescue, not Longbottom.''
Grinning, Frank swung an arm around Alice as he pulled her closer to him. ''Frank an' Alice Longbottom dunt soun' that bad though, duz it, love?'' he smirked to her hair, and this time it was Alice's turn to roll her eyes. She added a small slap to his arm.
''I'll be keeping my name, thank you very much,'' she snorted, but couldn't help but smile as Frank gave her a silly grimace. ''You absolute tosspot,'' she added with a whisper, although she didn't seem to really mean it. Neither did Frank seem to take any offence to the minor insult. They seemed to have fallen into a deep trance, slowly closing in on each other. For a moment they seemed to completely forget about everyone else in the room.
"We'll see… We'll settle it over a game of poker."
Hermione clenched her fists, biting her lip so hard teeth almost pierced her skin. Thoughts were spinning, because last time she had found herself face to face with a Longbottom other than her dear friend Neville, she had been visiting St Mungo's forth floor of Spell Damage. It had to be a coincidence. They had to be from a long distant branch of Longbottom's, she told herself. Perhaps Neville had invited them to come now when the war was over? Then again, Neville had never mentioned long-distant relatives.
Judging from the way the couple were looking at each other, Hermione knew what would happen. She'd been around Harry and Ginny long enough to know. And with that knowledge, she was bidding to make her exit before she got to see the details. Clearing her throat, both Frank and Alice jumped away from each other's embrace.
''I think I should get going? You… I mean… It was wonderful meeting you and… Nice shirt..?''
''Oh, thanks! 's silly, but I wear Hawaiian shirts jus' cuz it's ten times mo'e harda to feel upset when you're in one,'' he said with a cheer, eyes bright, droopy and happy. Hermione found herself laughing because it sounded so simple. ''…and now yur lawwfing at meh because you kno em sayen stuped things.''
Hermione's laugh was cut short when Alice spoke again – all traces of happiness suddenly gone.
''A shirt can hardly make us forget that we're in the middle of a war,'' Alice mumbled.
Frank stopped beaming, suddenly sobering up like he had just gotten a slap to the face. With wrinkles covering his freckled forehead and nose, his arm around Alice contract and consolidate before he press his lips into a tight line. Simultaneously he squeezed his eyes shut for a second as if to reload.
Then he makes a decision. He doesn't take the fight. Doesn't share the argument.
He leans closer to Alice's ear, and he whispers, ''Em buyin' you one of these shirts. You'll see.''
Alice's stiff shoulders loosened instantly, and her parted lips gave out a tiny gasp, just about to answer that she could easily have just took one from the closet they were now sharing (not that she ever would because honestly Frank's Hawaiian shirts were the most horrendous pieces of clothing she had ever laid her eyes on) – but she didn't get the chance to. The kiss he left on her cheek distracted her long enough from forming a good insult.
''You're unbelievable,'' was all she got out.
From the looks of it, Frank read it as a compliment.
''You loike it.''
''Hate it, more like.''
Hermione felt the need to stop the bickering before it got too far, feeling her confusion growing into a slight despair. The war was over. How on earth could they possibly have missed it? ''War? With?''
Instead of answering, Hermione was met by the pair staring at her with investigating eyes, as if suddenly truing to solve a riddle. They looked just as perplexed at her behaviour as she did to theirs. Like she was the one acting strange.
''You have a glazed look in your eyes,'' Alice frowned, leaning in for closer inspection to solve the mystery. ''Stunned, stupefied, anaesthetised, lobotomised, monged… Oh dear… You're not confunded, are you?''
Hermione took a step back.
She struggles briefly with herself, loses, wipes her hands, straightens her posture and squeeze her eyes shut. Her hands shoot up and massage her temples, pushing up and down her face and forehead. A nervous laughter fell from her lips. She was acting weird, wasn't she? She ran through a list in her head of all possible symptoms of illnesses she had read up on over the summer, simultaneously trying to figure out any way how all of this could be happening.
She wasn't dreaming, was she?
It was possible, just very, very unexpected.
Frank offered her a small smile (he seemed to always smile), ''Okay, easia question, where are you frum?''
Rapid words answered him, words laced and bumping into each other. ''I - I - I - I'm - I'm from… here? Well actually, I'm on a… but I just got... uhm.. w-where exactly… where am I?'' Hermione finally settled on the most important question she found find enough courage to ask so far. It seemed to do wonders, because as soon as she asked, a breath of relief exited through Alice's lips and Frank instantly lounged forward to grab her by the shoulder.
''Oh, I'm sorry,'' he chuckled. ''Don't you know host? Meadows did bring in a whole army of guests. You must be one of them. Sum friends 'ave a little part-ey for Marlene McKinnon.''
Hermione would've swayed back if Frank's hand on her shoulder wouldn't have anchored her to stay still. Blinking a few times, Hermione opens her mouth, then closes it, then opens it again, then closes it. Marlene McKinnon, as in Order of the Phoenix member Marlene McKinnon? Are they having a party for the dead? Why am I dreaming about a dead persons party? That must be it.
I am dreaming.
It's the only reasonable explanation.
Turning back her focus to the dazed faces of Frank and Alice, Hermione's quirked her eyebrows at them in a rather accusing manner. She had to check one last time before she would let herself fall into this dream. She watched them carefully, waiting to calling their bluff.
''Are you kidding me? I mean come on.''
Alice bobbed her head up and down, her eyes narrowed. ''I know exactly what you're thinking, yeah!'' (If one thing was for sure, Alice Fortescue did not know what Hermione was thinking. As a matter of fact, it was the complete opposite.) ''You think this,'' she waved over the party, ''is dull. I agree. Who are we kidding? I'm ready move on - let's do Prewett's, Frank!''
''Prewett's?'' Frank echoed. "But I reckon they're here, right? I saw Mo-"
"No, no, nope. Gid and Fabio boycotted and it's only a matter of time before that turns into an after party, which, mind you, probably already has started."
"Yeah… but Marlene hasn't opened our present yet."
''She'll live. Me, on the other hand, might die. I'm bored, she's bored, we're all bored,'' Alice argued as her clumsy finger swayed over to point to Hermione who was standing with a shocked expression glued to her face. They couldn't possibly confuse her to be bored, could they? That was the last thing Hermione was. Bored didn't even exist on the map - even the same planet.
You're in a dream, a voice in the back of Hermione's head cooed. You're dreaming.
And with that settled, Hermione let down all her guards. Blinking a few times she forced herself to tear her stare away from the couple in front of her, admiring the beauty of the event one more time. A sigh escaped from her red-bitten lips as the party turned into a supernova in slow motion; a chaos no one really caused. It was just there. It was like billions of starts had exploded and ejected wide smiles all full of a tessellation Hermione could get lost in.
Hermione let herself embrace the dream, curiosity filling her buzzing head.
Looking extremely apologetic, Frank bit his lip before speaking. "We could go, but I have to talk to Molly first. Arthur told me she's been worried lately. She'd probably kill me if I didn't bring you with me… and…" Realising he never actually got the girls name, Frank turns back to the lost girl in their company, who was now just staring at them open mouthed. He waited a few seconds for her to repeat her name, but realising she wasn't going to answer him, he quickly cut the silence short.
Hermione didn't even realize it was Weasley née Prewett until it was too late.
"This was a bloody incredible idea!" Sirius roars over the thumping of the stereo, Led Zeppelin, the ground beneath him churning along to the beats of the music loudly enough to be mistaken for an earthquake. He has a crown made of toilet paper wrapped around his head and there's a mosh pit of karaoke happening in the other room while James sings along to a new version of Ramble On, and it's everything Sirius expects out of the two newly graduated Aurors and need to wash the numbing sensation of war and family from his tortured mind.
Peter had been the one to take the lead in celebrating their last week of the summer. It was a mission that included a lot of alcohol and sleeping. And eating. And genius (stupid) experiments to prepare for their final year at Hogwarts waiting around the corner.
"Told you it'd be good for you," Peter yells back over the noise.
He appears to have taped tequila bottles to his palms—not a bad DIY idea—and Sirius takes another generous gulp from the cup of unidentifiable liquor pushed into his hands at the start of the party. He thinks it might be a margarita gone wrong considering it makes his head spin every time he so much as takes a whiff, but it tastes like summer in a cup so he won't ask too many questions.
Sirius Black is incredibly drunk.
He hasn't been this drunk since he and James first thought it was a good idea to raid Euphemia Potter's liquor cabinet and get raving drunk in the garden behind the Potter house, and despite Sirius' history of spilling humiliating secrets and crossing lines of tact fully invisible to his inebriated mind, he very much wants to drink more. There's a whole pyramid of shots lined up in the hall Sirius has yet to sample, and he's fully relying on Remus to keep an eye on him and make sure nobody takes advantage of his drunken affinity of touching everybody everywhere. Sometimes he licks too, which people unfortunately often take the wrong way.
He wanted to dance really, really badly, so he did. He bangs his head and spins in circles until the entire room is one giant blender, colours blurring together and music pounding in from every side.
Man, he's the best drunk in the world.
It's a great turn out, actually, for such a tiny house. The Prewett's had done a great job. Judging from the mass of people anyone claustrophobic would probably hurl out the window. Sirius didn't have any problem with filtering through the guests, although many probably saw him as a problem as every step he took resulted in him bumping into things. A clumsy dancer or a beer keg or a girl wearing nothing but balloons, carefree and drunk. Massively drunk. Even Remus was letting loose, aggressively dancing with a lamp with a bottle of vodka in his free hand without a single care in the world. Sirius would be taking pictures if he could convince his mind to focus.
He can't though, so Remus was spared.
James' horrible singing (much sounding like someone spanking a cat because what the fuck is that noise) Ramble On is now smoothly transitioning into Whole Lotta Love, and something in the melody makes Sirius stop dancing, suddenly feeling too heavy to stand.
Not very far away, tequila bottles were being ripped away, some glue sticking to his fingers. It felt kind of funky, but in a funny, good way. (Whatever that meant.)
Once free from the bottles, Peter Pettigrew escaped out the backdoor to give himself a break from James' banshee singing, Sirius flinging Bertie Bott's at his head and Remus embarrassing himself in trying to duel a now fully-trained Fabian Prewett. Not very long ago had Lily Evans and Mary MacDonald barged in – Lily now sneaking up on people and offering them a fair share of her bowl of popcorn, and Mary… Don't even get started on Mary.
With a champagne glass (filled with orange juice) raised above her head Mary was trying to hold a toast, but the words she was trying to say didn't quite make it out through her sobs.
Emotional drunks were never Peter's expertise, so he escaped before Mary would get clingy.
No one seemed to notice (or care) when Peter slipped out back.
He was out of cigarettes, so for the moment he settled on glancing out over the city. Beyond the short fence was an image that he had only seen in postcards. A few lights dotted here and there, signalling other homes. There were trees stretching as if to touch the stars. The moon that Peter had grown to hate ever since he was eleven was skinny – the full moon still weeks away – yet it was strong enough to offer just enough light to see. A mountain of lined clouds descended over the buildings, brown billows separating the city from the black sky.
Moonlight sung with verses of danger above, but no one listened.
Honestly, no matter how good the summer had been, Peter wanted it to end. Time wasn't going the right pace. He wanted it to run off his shoulders like water and that he would be left standing free from school and homework and summer breaks to do anything and everything all at once. He wanted to grow up and choose his own books and his own spells and maybe…
Nearly jumping out of his skin, Peter nearly dropped his wand as he turned back towards the house and the backdoor that had now suddenly been slammed open. It was no one other than the tone-deaf solo-artist James Potter who was standing in the frame, voice already hoarse from all the ABBA sung. Still, he didn't let that get in the way.
"What are you even doing out here? No- never mind, just get back here and help."
Peter didn't question his best friend, quick to jog back to the party. As he got closer, he noticed how the curly hair was unnaturally wild. Like fingers had pushed through it one too many times. It was a mess.
No, correction: James was a mess.
"What happened?" Peter asked, fear creeping up his spine as he held his breath in the pause of waiting. It had to be bad, considering how pale James looked.
"It's Remus. I think he's transforming."
AN: Good / bad / stop ?