Warning: Rated T for language. This story is Canon Divergent. For further disclaimers and warnings, make sure to read my profile. [Updated Jan 2017.]
A/N: Probably the worst thing I've ever written and I'm still laughing. Someone joked about this a while ago, and I took it as a challenge.
Beta Love: Brightki, claireabellalou, SwishandFlick007, MadamBSnape, meenakaster
The Boy in the Bookshelf
August 2nd, 1998
"I'm not good with crowds."
The cup of tea in her hand had slowly gone cold as she ignored it in favour of glancing over the portraits of the former headmasters that lined Minerva's office. She refused to make eye contact with the one of Dumbledore no matter how much it twinkled in her direction. She'd been told that the one of Snape was in the dungeons somewhere since the Ministry had thrown a fit over Harry wanting it to be hung up with the others, something her best friend was still stewing over as he waited for the chance to make the case in front of the Wizengamot. Because Harry couldn't ever do anything by half measures unless it was his homework.
The war was over and had been for three months to the day. The Wizarding world was celebrating, Hogwarts had finished rebuilding, but the survivors were still healing. The Weasley children had buried their brother and then banded together in an effort to keep both Molly and Arthur afloat despite the grief that was trying to sink them. Harry had finally embraced his fame, something that the Ministry was sorely regretting now that he'd taken to championing every cause that they generally detested. It helped him to keep busy—to have a purpose.
Hermione, however, no longer felt she belonged. What little romance that she and Ron thought they could have had faded swiftly, leaving behind nothing but friendship which, she had to admit, they both preferred. Her parents, memories of her lost in the wind of magic, were happy in Australia, or so the Aurors had told her when she'd begged Kingsley to have someone look into it for her. She didn't think she could see them with her own eyes and not let the last strings of what was holding her together finally snap. She visited the Weasleys when she could—when their grief didn't overwhelm her with reminders of her own; she helped rebuild Hogwarts alongside Harry—until it was complete and then he'd gone straight to the Ministry to join the Aurors and start rebuilding the world, something that she wished she could do were it not for the crippling anxiety that made her think of Death Eaters in the DOM, Snatchers on the footpaths, and the feel of crumbling brick and glass brushing up against her skin as she took flight on the back of a blind dragon. Minerva's office had become a bit of a sanctuary, and tea with the new Headmistress of Hogwarts was like a weekly healing session for the young Muggle-born.
"I want to finish my N.E.W.T.s but . . . but maybe through correspondence, if you'd allow me."
Minerva frowned. "I'd allow you to return to Hogwarts."
Hermione looked away. "I'm not a student anymore. I'm already a year older than those in my own . . . I just wish I could bury myself inside a library and not come out until I was well again. Does that make me a coward?" She looked up a moment later when a hand touched her own.
"Miss Granger, you were well Sorted, and I'll not have you questioning the Sorting Hat, nor sullying the name of Godric Gryffindor by besmirching the name of one of the greatest witches to have ever been placed in his House." Minerva's lip pursed and she levelled Hermione with a gaze that said her words were not to be questioned. "Everyone needs to heal and no one can decide that one form or another is better for any one person. If you need a library to bury yourself in, perhaps I have a suggestion."
September 2nd, 1998
Hermione moved her things into a private suite on the fourth floor that was once used as a Head Girl room for Ravenclaws. Since the Head Boy and Girl for the approaching year were both Hufflepuff, the room would be empty and Minerva had thought that Hermione would find it suitably peaceful compared to the crowded dormitories of Gryffindor Tower. She was given leave to do her N.E.W.T.s through correspondence, yes, but she was also offered the chance to return to Hogwarts.
Instead of a student, Hermione would be an assistant to Madam Pince, who ended up nearly having a nervous breakdown when the repairs to Hogwarts had left the library mishandled. Shelves left behind unmended in favour of patching up the castle's foundation, whole walls carrying residual spell damage and smoke from a fire that broke out near the front doors, not to mention entire sections left unorganised due to those who were trying to help not paying much attention. The old librarian didn't have the patience to handle it all herself without ending up in St. Mungo's, and so Hermione would look after the library while Madam Pince dealt with the students using it.
It was peaceful.
She'd watched the Sorting from the back of the Great Hall, having preferred to take her meals in her room rather than deal with being surrounded by the students, most of which she knew would ask her about the last year and her time on the run with Harry and Ron. Most would look at her still thin frame and the scars on her body and either ask too many questions or worse, none at all as they tried to hide the pity in their eyes.
She smiled and quietly clapped for every student Sorted, even the ones who went to Slytherin, most looking apprehensive as though they were waiting for the other three Houses to attack them for something out of their hands. Though House rivalries would likely always exist, she knew that Minerva was putting an end to the bullying and prejudice, leaving the competition for Quidditch.
Her days were spent waking up before dawn and smiling as Winky brought her a small breakfast. She'd sit and visit with the little house-elf, asking after her wellbeing and health, and offering tips that she'd picked up in Muggle books on how to help her with her addiction to butterbeer. Then she'd study a bit, get dressed, and make her way to the library where Madam Pince would give her a list of things to attend to. Sometimes students would filter in, but this early in the term, most were still adjusting to being away from home and thought little about their homework. It helped that a lot of the professors had gone easy on them, feeling like they had to compensate for what the children had gone through under the Carrows reign of terror.
She was in the middle of cleaning up a small corner of books that had fallen in an avalanched pile near the charms section when she almost tripped over the form of a small boy, sitting on the floor with a large, opened picture book in his lap. "Oh!" she yelped. "I'm so sorry! Are you all right?"
He looked up, wide blue eyes blinking rapidly and looking guilty as though he'd been caught doing something wrong. "I'm sorry," he said in response. "I . . . am I . . . am I not allowed to be here?"
Hermione frowned. "No, you're fine," she said softly, kneeling down beside him. Had it been so long since she'd been that small? "First year?" she asked and he nodded. She smiled sweetly, reaching out to adjust the crooked collar of his Gryffindor robes. He blushed at her touch and gave her a small smile in return. "I used to come up here and hide when I first came to Hogwarts."
He looked slightly mollified by her words and sat up a little straighter. "Really?"
She nodded. "Are you a Muggle-born?" she asked curiously.
He shook his head. "Pureblood," he replied. "Though I think maybe half, really. Mum's quiet about it and I never met my grandad on her side. Maybe he could've been a Muggle."
She smiled. "Well, it shouldn't matter anymore. I was just curious. I'm a Muggle-born and so I know it can be hard sometimes to learn that you're a wizard or a witch. I imagine it's hard for all students, coming to Hogwarts for the first time. Making new friends."
The boy frowned and lowered his head; long strands of mousy-brown hair fell over his eyes. "I haven't got any."
Hermione sat on the floor frowning, scolding herself for not paying more attention to the Sorting since she was having trouble remembering the boy's name despite the fact that he'd been sorted into her own House. "What about your new roommates?"
He looked up. "They're brilliant," he said. "But we've not really spent time together. Other than sleeping in the same room, I guess. Two of them are already best friends. They like Quidditch." He lifted up the book in his hands, showing her the images of wizards flying around on brooms. "I'm trying to learn about it so I can talk to them."
She grinned. "My two best friends are boys. They love Quidditch. If you want, I could show you where there are more Quidditch books. But you must promise me that you'll not read it before you do your homework," she said.
The boy grinned crookedly at her, the baby fat of his cheeks rounding out his face more when he smiled. The sudden light in his eyes made her smile even brighter and she laughed as she stood up, extending a hand out to him. "Just around this way," she said and showed him where the books on sports were. She found a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages and handed it down to him. "This one helped me learn a lot about the game. Now, if you ever need anything else, you come and find me, all right? My name is Hermione."
"Thanks, Hermione!" he said excitedly.
"Friends are very important," she said with a nostalgic smile. "I don't know what my life would be like without the friends I made here at Hogwarts."
The boy excitedly ran off before she had a chance to ask his name, but she returned to work, sorting through damaged books and helping to clean up sections that were still a mess, promising herself that she would send Harry and Ron an owl to check up on them before bed.
November 2nd, 1998
"Are you sure you're doing okay?"
She smiled. "I'm actually doing really good, Harry. You know me. I'm at home surrounded by books."
He frowned, brow furrowed. "Yeah, I know. But considering the way I was practically attacked when I walked through the halls just now . . . I know how you get around crowds is all."
She put two books away on a nearby shelf before turning to hug her friend. "I love that you care enough to worry, but honestly, Harry, I'm fine. Better than fine. I haven't had a nightmare in two weeks, and the students don't really react to me the same way that they do you."
Harry grimaced and sarcastically muttered, "Chosen One," under his breath.
Hermione laughed. "Exactly. They're pretty much back to thinking of me as same old Hermione."
"You look like a librarian," he said, tugging on a curl that had escaped the tight braid she had pulled her hair back into. "Want to borrow my glasses?"
She rolled her eyes. "I can see perfectly fine, thank you very much."
Hermione and Harry turned at the exclamation and she smiled at the sight of the little Gryffindor boy. She'd not seen him in a few months but the robes he wore were now dirty and worn along the bottom hem, and grass stains covered his knees. She grinned at the sight. "I take it you've made friends?"
He smiled at her briefly before his eyes turned back toward Harry in awe. "Sure have! Thanks for the book on Quidditch! We're all planning a trip to see the Kestrels next summer! Jay's parents are going to take the whole bunch of us!"
Harry smiled and awkwardly shuffled his feet, sticking his hands in the pockets of his robes. Hermione took notice and then rolled her eyes. "Sorry, this is my friend—"
"Are you really an Auror?" the boy asked.
Harry's nervous smiled faded into something more genuine. "You mean you don't know . . ." He let out a happy laugh and grinned. "I'm technically an Auror in Training, but I'll be a full Auror in a few years."
"Wow. Two of my friends want to be Aurors," the boy said. "That is if they don't become Quidditch players. Or dragon tamers. Or rock stars."
Harry laughed. "Well, you tell them that the world definitely needs more good Aurors. And dragon tamers. Not sure about rock stars."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You don't need to finish school to be a rockstar." At the boy's interested expression, she panicked and added, "That's not a perk! An Auror or dragon tamer is a perfectly respectable career choice. What about you?"
He shrugged. "Another of my friends wants to work at the Ministry, but he doesn't think he'll get in," he said sadly. "His mum's real sick a lot, so he might have to stay home and take care of her."
Frowning, Harry knelt down, meeting the boy at his level. "Then it's a good thing he's good a loyal friend like you to look after him, yeah?"
Minutes later, after the boy had tripped over his own feet trying to turn the corner of a bookshelf and speed away, Hermione and Harry were still smiling. "Maybe the world really is getting better, Hermione. That kid didn't know who I was. Just an Auror. Just Auror Harry."
She leaned her head on his shoulder. "You're just Harry to me, you know."
He smiled and kissed the top of her head. "Please don't shut yourself up in this library forever. We miss you. You can be just Hermione with us. Or just Hermione the librarian, if you really want—ow! Hermione! There's no pinching in the library! Ow!"
December 22nd, 1998
Christmas saw the majority of the students leaving Hogwarts, and Hermione relished the idea of being alone in the castle. She'd been invited back to the Burrow for actual Christmas Day, of course, but she insisted on sticking around the castle the rest of the holidays to finish up a lot of the damage in the Restricted Section. Madam Pince had gone on holiday as well, saying that the war had taught her she needed to stop putting off the things she really wanted to do when she had a chance, and so she left Hermione in charge in her absence.
She looked up from over the top of her Advanced Transfiguration book to see the boy standing there. "Hello," she said with a smile and closed the large tome, setting it to the side. "I didn't know any Gryffindors were staying for the holiday."
Yeah. Just me and another girl. My mum's visiting her sister in Wales and the rest of my friends left. Plus, I'm behind on Potions and Mum says I should probably use the time to catch up." He shrugged his shoulders, sighed loudly, and then sat down across from her with a thump. "I didn't think you'd still be here."
She smiled awkwardly. "I'm always in the library."
He nodded. "I never see you anywhere else is all."
Frowning, Hermione thought for a moment, wondering if she really should start to venture out a bit more often. "Well, there's a lot of work still to be done in here. Plus, I'm studying for my N.E.W.T.s."
He raised a brow. "I thought you were a seventh year before," he said curiously.
She shook her head. "I was supposed to be but . . . well . . . everything got complicated," she said, not wanting to talk about the year that she had to spend away from Hogwarts, hiding in a tent with her friends, searching for Horcruxes and praying that they'd all survive the end of the war.
He frowned and she looked up, noticing that his hair was a bit longer and the baby fat in his cheeks had thinned out quite a bit. Having friends to run around with was clearly agreeing with the boy. "Do you need help with your Potions work? I could find some books for you."
He laughed. "No, I've got plenty. Plus, there's a girl in my House who said she'd tutor me when she gets back from hols. She's brilliant. Muggle-born too." Hermione couldn't help but grin. "Actually . . ." he began, looking anxious. "I was umm . . . I was wondering . . ." His gaze landed on her Advanced Transfiguration book.
"Yes? Do you need help with Transfiguration as well?"
He swallowed nervously. "I was just . . . curious. Do you know if there are books here on . . . on Animagi?"
She blinked. "Animagi?" The boy fidgeted under her gaze. "Do you know that it's illegal to be an unregistered Animagus?" she asked, thinking of Sirius Black. "And that it's actually quite dangerous to even train to become one."
He nodded, swallowing hard. "I . . . I know. I was just . . . curious is all."
He averted her gaze. "Because McGonagall is . . . well . . . she's a cat, and I just thought it would be an interesting read."
Hermione sighed. "The only book I know of outside of textbooks that you should already have is in the Restricted Section. But . . . and I'm sorry, I just don't feel comfortable giving it to a first year. You're not ready."
He frowned. "I understand." Standing up, he adjusted his robes, his stance a bit slouched in defeat. "I'm actually a second year," he said with a small laugh, which made Hermione's cheeks tint pink at the mistake, her brows furrowed in confusion. "I'll see you around, yeah?"
"What? Oh, sure," she said with a soft smile, reaching once more for her book. "Have a happy Christmas. Oh! I just realised . . . I've never asked your name."
He chuckled. "Pete," he said, smiling at her. "Peter Pettigrew."
The colour instantly drained from her face. "W-what?"
He turned the corner and walked away.
"Wait!" she yelled and jumped from her chair, rushing after the boy, but when she turned around the same corner of the bookshelf, there was no one there.