Hermione Granger rushed through the crowds of King's Cross towards the barrier between platforms nine and ten. She was running later than she would have preferred, yet still hopeful that she would beat most of the others. With barely a glance spared at the passing Muggles, Hermione didn't slow her pace as she stepped right through the barrier that led the way to Platform nine and ¾ and the Hogwarts Express. Finally, she let out a sigh of relief as she looked around the empty platform.
The train stood there ready to cart the witches and wizards off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This time however, it would be scores of adults being transported off to the castle having been invited weeks ago to a memorial ball to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. The invitees had all been given the option to either ride the train or apparate to Hogsmeade, the wizarding village adjacent to Hogwarts. Hermione had opted for the train, and planned on using the extra time to gear up for seeing her former classmates.
Hermione spent a moment gazing around the empty platform. She'd been here countless times over the years, but now it harkened her back to the very first time almost thirty-one years ago. She'd arrived early then as well, anxious about the new world that awaited her and eager to change into her stiff new robes and try out her brand new wand. Back then she'd been just another faceless first year in a sea of students. Now she was a member of the famed "golden trio", known to witches and wizards all over the world as a hero of sorts. She sure didn't feel like a hero anymore.
Hermione jumped as she heard voices coming through the steam from over by the barrier. Quickly, she pulled herself up onto the train and began her march towards the front carriages, pausing when she reached the prefects compartment. Her plan was to hide in the prefects carriage on the journey to Hogwarts, and avoid the others. She just hoped that no one else had the same idea. She assumed everyone else would be so excited to see their old classmates that no one would bother seeking out the exclusive and secluded carriage. Hermione slipped inside and began placing locking charms on the door. Satisfied, she collapsed on one of the sofas inside the carriage and debated a nap while she waited the rest of the hour till the train departed. Her mind was too restless though. She sat back up and surveyed her surroundings.
It looked just the same as it had the first time. Plush velvet sofas, worn down from teenaged behinds, in all the various colors of the Hogwarts houses. Hermione could almost feel the weight of her shiny prefect badge on her shirt. Something moving caught her eye on the sofa opposite her and she reached out. It was an issue of the wizarding newspaper, The Daily Prophet. A student must have left it behind on their journey to school back in September since the paper was dated in August. Maybe it had even been her own daughter Rose, her pride and joy, who was completing her seventh and last year at Hogwarts and had been chosen as Head Girl. Curious, Hermione opened the crinkly pages to see what all they held, immediately wishing she hadn't bothered. There it was. The picture. Smack dab in the middle of the page she saw her own face and knew in an instant the article that accompanied it, having had it tattooed on her brain since it debuted.
The picture had been taken on the London Underground one evening as Hermione had been on her way home from the Ministry after a long day at work. It had been the same day, in fact, that over the course of her lunch break she had signed her name as a Weasley for the last time and her divorce had been finalized. Never in her life would she have imagined that a Daily Prophet photographer would be traveling on the Underground at the same time and forever immortalizing her in such a sad state. Even in black and white, the grey strands stood out liberally in her hair, the dark circles under her eyes seemed more pronounced. To add to her embarrassment she had been caught swiping tzatziki sauce from her shirt with her finger then licking it off for all eternity.
The first time she'd seen the photo and read the article that spilled all of the secrets of her divorce and Ron's new love interest, she'd hidden herself away in her flat with several bottles of wine and demolished her stash of chocolate frogs. She'd barely managed enough strength to see her children off on September first, and had hidden in the back of the crowd the entire time. As soon as she'd hugged her kids and they'd boarded the train, Hermione had apparated back to her flat without another glance at her ex-husband and his girlfriend. Ugh. Girlfriend. It seemed such an odd word once you passed the age of forty. Hermione tossed the newspaper back to the other sofa and lay back down. The voices outside on the platform and in the corridor were getting louder and more plentiful. Feeling safe in her locking charms effectiveness, she allowed the din of the voices to lull her off to sleep.
She found herself standing at the top of the staircase leading down to the entrance hall of Hogwarts. There below her congregated a sea of familiar faces all looking up as she began to make her grand entrance. This is what she'd been preparing for since she first received the invitation for the Memorial Ball. This was her redemption, her coming out after that ghastly picture in the Prophet. Her hair had been colored a beautiful rich chestnut and her sleek curls hung down her back. She had been practicing contouring spells and her makeup was now flawless, banishing any wrinkles and hopefully making her look ten years younger. The Gryffindor red dress had been custom ordered from Twillfit and Tattings to ensure she'd be the only one wearing the design. She conceded that it was much more daring than she would normally ever step out in public in, but it hugged her curves, slimmed her wobbly bits, and showed off her entire back. Hermione Granger was looking to make a splash in what would be her first real public outing since the divorce.
It was like the Yule Ball all over again. She could hear the whispers asking if it could really be Hermione descending the staircase. She caught sight of Ron and his girlfriend standing right at the bottom of the stairs, and planted a beatific smile on her face. Her old friend Harry Potter, the defeater of Voldemort and savior of the wizarding world, was on the other side of Ron with his mouth agape as his wife Ginny whispered in his ear. Hermione could even see their old nemesis Draco Malfoy smirking up at her from the middle of the crowd. These stairs seemed to go on forever, and she found herself pausing as the whispers grew louder.
"What is she wearing?"
"Wow, I can't believe she's here."
Pathetic? And wait, what was wrong with her dress? It was perfectly modest from the front! She glanced down self-consciously to ensure the tight dress hadn't ripped. Instead of red silk however, she was adorned in a full skirt of white lace. Hermione glanced at her arms and saw the long flowing sleeves of white as well. This was her wedding dress. Why was she in her wedding dress? There was a mirror to the left of the stairs and when she saw her reflection, she nearly screamed in fright. There she stood, her hair fully grey, and her face so covered in wrinkles and crags she would not have recognized herself, dressed in her wedding robes. The white lace was yellowing before her very eyes. She was the Mrs. Havisham of Hogwarts. She stumbled, and began tumbling down the endless staircase as the crowd jeered.
Hermione came to on the floor of the prefects carriage. Her fall had been caused by the train beginning it's journey to Hogwarts. She stood and began dusting off her robes.