Author's note: Yay! I finished. It was a long haul, but I did it. Thankyou to everyone who ever reviewed or even read it. It has been a great learning experience and I'm so pleased you all came along. Just a note on the previous chapter: What some of you perceived as errors, were not perfectly errors, but bad writing, for which I am still to blame. Unfortunately I don't have a beta and I have little time to check, so I'm sorry, but I just so wanted to get it out there. How selfish of me, I know. That being said, I'm sorry if that is the case with this chapter as well.
And now, for the last time... enjoy.
Everything, apart from minor additions here and there, belongs to they who must be deeply respected, JK Rowling and George Bernard Shaw. All thanks to them and my computer.
Chapter 16 – Measure, Time and Place
It had been hard to get back to normal life in the days proceeding. The visiting wizards went home, the house-elves set about cleaning up, the teachers removed all the traps and Hagrid took the beasts away. (Hermione had a sneaking suspicion he was going to keep some.) Everything seemed so bizarre. Like life was now in slow-motion. People could hardly look each other in the eye, and nobody knew why. It was such a foreign thing, nobody quite knew what to do with themselves. Slowly, slowly, people began to return to themselves, and surprisingly, it was Harry who seemed to have suffered the least. He attributed it to mental retardation.
"I'm sure there's something wrong with me, I mean, how many times can I be hit with Avada Kedavra and not be mildly injured. But it's not doing me any harm at the moment, is it."
Within two weeks, though, the stench of death had lifted, and slowly everyone had been raised through levels of happiness into sheer euphoria. The walls of Hogwarts now seemed stronger than ever, somehow expanded and warmed by the heat of battle. Exams had been cancelled, considering all students who had been present at the battle were receiving honorary passes in the lower years, and honorary OWL's and NEWT's in the higher levels. (Hermione had been disappointed, but couldn't be for long, with all the fun going on around her.) Classes had been replaced by music and comedy and all sorts of entertainment, making the school more resemble a circus and fair. And there wasn't a sad face to be seen. Even the children of death eaters were happy, shades of relief brushed over their faces.
However, in private quarters, there was one face who was not smiling. Deborah had decided to go to bed that night and hadn't woken up since. Though when Severus visited her, there was a faint smile on her unconscious face. It was Severus who couldn't find the heart to smile. He simply sat beside her, not sure whether to love or hate her, thank or blame her.
That morning Severus heard a knock on the door of Deb's chambers, followed by it opening and shutting, followed by the entrance of Hermione. She had had a big fat smile on her face and was holding a bunch of flowers and a tray of pancakes.
"Oh, hello Sir," She said, reverting to calling him sir now that all was said and done. "I just thought I'd check in. Deb said she was going to wake up today."
"I know," He replied.
"I brought her some pancakes."
"Yes, I see that. I seem to recall the maniac likes pancakes."
"Yes, she does. I'd be careful Sir, knowing her, she might be awake right now and listening to us."
"You're right, that would be so very like her. And don't call me sir," he murmured, "You'll have to get used to my name if you're going to live in my house."
Hermione carefully put the tray down on the bedside table and opened the window slightly.
"You're still… alright with that?" She said carefully.
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"I thought it might have been a heat of the moment thing, trying to get Deb off your back."
"It was. But…as much as I loathe to admit it, Deborah is right, we both have an obligation to you. It is clear that you need a home, so mine is open to you. I think I shall be able to tolerate you."
"Yes," Said Deborah, pushing herself to a sitting position in her bed, "But can you tolerate me?"
"That is another matter altogether," Severus crossed his arms, "We shall put you in a wing on the other side of the house, somewhere with lots of doors to confuse you and lots of thick walls so we can't hear you."
"Don't be ridiculous, Severus," Deborah replied, rolling a pancake into a tube and consuming half of it in a bite, "They can hear me in Peru. Tell me, why do I get out of bed? I enjoy bed so much, it is so good, there really is nothing better, and yet I get up every day to face the world. What's with that?"
"It's called reality, Deborah, some of us live in it."
"Yes but why? Bed is so much better. OOH! OOH! OOH!" Deb suddenly started wiggling in her bed and thumping the bed. The musical! It's in three days, isn't it? Let's go! We've got to rehearse!"
She threw the covers off her bed revealing her completely naked body, covered only by the tattoos.
"For gods' sake, Deborah!" Severus snapped, "There are people in the room!"
"So, we're all girls here." She grinned back at him as she found some clothes between the piles of books.
At dinner that evening, after a full day's rehearsing with Severus and three nights before the performance, Dumbledore tinkled his glass with his fork, and Deborah shot out of her seat to speak.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, tonight I am going to give you what you have all been waiting for. Tonight you are going to find out who is to play your lead roles."
There was a burst of applause that accompanied Hermione's flipping stomach.
"In my infinite wisdom I have kept this secret from you, but now, I shall reveal all. Get ready for this. Is everybody sitting down? Yes? Good. I'll ask my actors to come and join me here when I say their names. Now, ladies first, I think. Students, Teachers, behold Eliza Dolittle…Hermione Granger." Deborah signaled in her direction and all heads swiveled in unison to stare at her in absolute shock as she stood up and began to walk. For a moment there was dead silence, but Harry, Ron and Ginny led the Gryffindors in applause, in which everybody followed, eventually. Hermione walked up to Deborah, who was, once again, grinning like an idiot and put her arm around Hermione's shoulder.
"And Ladies and Gentlemen, my personal favourite, promising to be he jewel in the crown of he performance, Henry Higgins himself, Severus Snape!"
If ever there was a stunned silence. Severus stood and came to join them before the school. Dumbledore began to clap quietly, followed by confused but supportive Slytherins, and eventually everyone, who weren't clapping because they liked him, but because they felt obliged.
"No, no, NO!!!" Deborah stamped her foot angrily. "Nobody trusts me! What do you have to do around here to get some trust?! Nobody thinks they can do it! Well, you two, show them you can do it. Town hall scene, up to Pickering, go!"
"What, now?" Hermione asked.
"Yes, right now. Show them you can do this. I'll do all the sundry parts." Deborah leaned in to Hermione, who was terrified, "Don't worry, Hermione, you'll be fine. I'm the only one here worth worrying about."
Deborah leaned back against the staff table and left them to it. She began it.
"Oh sir, is there any sign of it stopping?" That was all it took for Hermione to get back into it. They played out the whole scene flawlessly (or so she thought) up to when Pickering enters, at which point Deborah stopped them.
"What did you think, folks?"
And the hall erupted into almost violent applause absolutely flabbergasted. Hermione looked to Severus, who seemed as discomfited by the attention as she was, and he looked to her. She smiled weakly and shrugged, and he smiled a small, almost undetectable smile. Yes, indeed, the world was a fine place.
Three days past in a flurry of rehearsals and building and music and dancing and lots of things that faded quickly in Hermione's memory, because it was all so rushed and nerve-racking. Ginny and Dean (who was somewhat peeved at not being told who the main characters were) were now modifying the costumes he'd pre-made to fit Hermione and Severus. Severus had hat marvelous tweed suit for the beginning, a brown suit for the rest of the time and a crisp, sharp suit outfit for the ball. Dean was tip-toeing around Severus, trying not to annoy the man, who was holding himself stiff, practically ingoring him. He'd told Dean that, "One hand out of place and you can kiss it goodbye." Which had set him a little on edge.
Hermione was trying on her grubby Violet-girl dress, a dress for the rest of the time, the dress for the races and the dress for the ball. Ginny tittered around her, pulling this and adjusting that, making everything look fantastic. She changed colours here and there, pu embroidery and played a bit with everything, Hermione rarely interjecting with her opinions, some of which were heeded.
By the time she was ready to try on the ball gown, Severus was sitting lazily in the mirrored room, and Deborah had come to have Dean fit her Queen-of-Transylvania gown and tiara and was now prancing around practicing her queen walk, trying to decide whether o not to keep the tattoos visible. (Dean had absolutely insisted they go away.) Meanwhile Ginny helped her into the ball gown and shoes. It was a beautiful dress. Identical to the one Audrey Hepburn had worn in the movie. But she didn't know if it looked haggard on her. It was a very particular dress and looked good on very particular people. But Ginny's response was heartening. She was about to come outside when Deborah stopped her.
"Wait a minute Hermione. Severus, piss off."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I said piss off. I don't want you to see her in the gown. I want it to be a complete surprise to you when you see her on stage."
Hermione heard him leave with a narky click of his tongue and Deborah gave her the all-clear. Ginny opened the curtain and she gingerly walked out, trying to avoid stepping on the dress, the edge of the heel or anything else that might cause her to destroy her dress and her dignity.
"absolutely stunning," admired Dean, smiling happily.
"Yes, it's fantastic," Ginny agreed, "I don't really need to do anything to it."
"Deb?" Hermione prompted. She smiled for a moment, but stopped.
"No." She said, turning away to her clothes.
"No?" Dean said indignantly, "No? what do you mean, no?"
"I mean it's no good." She said simply, now furrowing through her jacket.
"What's wrong with it?!" Ginny exclaimed.
"It's not finished."
"HOW IS IT NOT FINISHED?!" Dean simmered.
Deb ignored him, still furrowing. "I had it in here somewhere…I certainly didn't lose---ah!" She finally said, grabbing something, "Here it is." She withdrew a fairly large blue velvet case, about the size of a large novel. One wouldn't have thought it would fit in Deb's pocket, but Hermione knew better than that.
"What's that?" Dean asked.
"It is the finishing touch," Said Deborah, and she opened the box.
Inside sat a diamond necklace with diamonds forming curls and twists around a slightly larger ruby. It ran from about the middle of her neck to an inch and a half beneath her collar bone, and sparkled violently. In its simplicity lay its elegance, the power of restraint showing the jewelers true prowess.
"It's absolutely magnificent!" Ginny whispered in awe.
"And, Hermione," Deborah said, carefully removing it from it's resting place, "it's yours."
"Mine?" Hermione repeated in disbelief.
"Yes, yours. I was going to borrow it, but then I thought, what the hell. There is never too much beauty in life. Now what shall we do with her hair, Ginny?"
"I was thinking something along the lines of this." She pulled out a drawing, which Hermione couldn't see, but Dean and Deb both approved. Ginny pointed her wand at Hermione and said a spell Hermione didn't recognize (clearly she would have to go through those witch beauty books) and felt her hair rise off her shoulders and into some form on her head.
"Yes," Deborah nodded and approached with the necklace, "And now, the final piece." She carefully wrapped it around Hermione's neck, hooked it together, and stood back in satisfied awe, Ginny and Dean flanking her. They all stared at her, smiling blissfully. Hermione, having not seen herself, wandered over to the full-length mirror and was nearly floored by her own appearance. She looked like a completely different person. Like someone thoroughly acquainted with going to balls and entertaining lots of people. Her hair was neatly arranged in a carefully placed bun with some plaits running through it. It was almost impossible to describe to complexity. The dress did not look haggard on her. In fact she complimented herself enough to say it sat perfectly on her and flattered her figure. And the necklace truly was the finishing piece, it made everything else look as it should.
She turned back to Deborah, who was still smiling.
"What do you think?"
"What do I think?" Deborah held up her hands to frame Hermione in her vision, like a photograph. "I think…perfect."
Rehearsals rehearsals rehearsals. Because Severus and Hermione hadn't rehearsed before with the cast, it was a rush to get them into being with other people. To Hermione's great surprise, it was easier than she thought it would be. Everyone was so well-practised it fell together quite nicely. It was odd to see Neville looking sixty at dress rehearsals. (Deb forbade Hermione to wear the ball gown) Not to mention to see Severus respond to Professor McGonagall as her son, Ron and Harry done up in posh old suits and everyone in general turning their noses up. Quite bizarre.
And before she could say, "How kind of you to let me come," parents and friends were piling into the great hall (which had been rearranged into a stage and audience) Hermione could see from behind the curtain that all the resemblances of children to their parents, like Colin Creevey's weedy-looking parents talking to Angelina's tall, powerful-looking mother. It was, in a way, quite funny.
There was, however, one conspicuous absence in Hermione's eye. She couldn't stop her eyes watering when she remembered her parents weren't coming. But instead of actually crying, she smiled. She didn't quite know why, but she smiled, and thought of them smiling at her, being proud of her…
There was a tap on her shoulder. She turned around, and Severus was standing behind her, holding a bunch of violets.
"You dropped these."
She smiled and took them from him. He bet his head for a moment and looked her in the eye.
"It is when we are happiest that we feel the greatest longing, for we want to share the happiness. Do not dwell on it, for they live in you and your happiness."
She couldn't help but let the tears fall, not really out of sadness, but out of joy. He carefully took her in his arms and laughed softly.
"You can't cry now. Miss Weasley will destroy you if she finds out you've ruined your make-up."
Hermione laughed and drew back.
"I'll be alright."
"Good. Because you can't expect any support from me. I am Professor Higgins," he proclaimed, putting his hat on his head, "And I don't care for anybody."
"An' I am Eliza Dolittle, an' I doun' care tha' fo' ya' big talk!"
"Ready?" Asked Deb, jogging up to them.
"Yes," They said in unison.
"Good. Dean, drop the lights."
The lights immediately dimmed to darkness and the rabble outside ceased.
"Break a leg, Deborah," Hermione said as Deb walked out to introduce them.
There was a long bank of applause for her and she waved it away carelessly.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Deborah Daniels and I am the Defense against the Dark Arts teacher here at Hogwarts. This past year, has been possibly the hardest for everyone in our community, not to mention for adolescent students. And yet, we still managed to put on this production and if I do say so myself, It is brilliant. Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening's performance is My Fair Lady."
To Hermione's great shock, many people clapped excitedly. Apparently there were more wizards than she thought that went to the cinema…or at least used to.
"I will say no more. Let the show begin!"
Deborah jumped off stage and the curtain rose on Covent Garden.
It was hard after that to spare a moment to think. Her concentration was rarely broken. In fact it was only twice. Once when she first came on stage as Eliza and people whispered curiously, and once when one of her petticoats felt like it was coming loose. While she was on stage, her mind was rolling along with the dialogue, trying not to register the reaction of the audience when they laughed or whispered. (Her favourite moment, of course, was when Higgins got excited to see Pickering. She'd never seen Severus so happy to see Neville in her life.) The moment she was off stage, somebody telling her something or adjusting her costume or fixing her make-up. They flowed through the whole first act that way, and everyone was enormously surprised that they'd come to intermission without a hitch, and left the stage to deafening applause.
Deborah came backstage and everyone crowded around.
"Well done, everyone, you've made it to half-way."
Everyone applauded themselves at that.
"Don't get too excited, you've still got another half to go. But keep it up, because it's brilliant, you're all fantastic. Couldn't fault any one of you if I tried. Now get to it, costume changes. Lights go back down in ten minutes."
Hermione suddenly remembered she now had to put on the ball gown. Properly. With all the pieces and in front of everyone. Ginny quickly ushered her into one of the makeshift change-rooms and they dressed her, put on her shoes, charmed her hair into it's complex formation, fixed her make-up and…
"Where's the necklace?" Ginny whispered desperately.
"Deb's got it, go find her!"
Ginny ducked out quickly and returned a minute later with Deb in tow.
"I forgot I had it," Deb smiled cheerfully. She pulled the box to and quickly fastened the necklace around Hermione's neck. Once again, she and Ginny stood back admiringly, just watching her.
"What?" she asked suspiciously.
"Absolutely gorgeous!" Deborah said, "I am so smart."
"It's funny how this becomes about you, Deb." Hermione retorted.
"Ooooh…" Deb responded with a cheeky grin, "meow! Somebody's just got her claws out."
The stage bell rang and lights dimmed and they all ran into the wings, Severus and Neville taking there positions on the stage. The lights went up in the interior of 27A Wimpole street, where Professor Higgins was pacing.
"Higgins. Higgins!" Neville shouted at him in a way no one would expect of Neville. If there's any mishap at the Embassy tonight, if Miss Doolittle suffers any embarrassment whatever, it'll be on your head alone."
"Oh, Eliza can do anything." He replied calmly.
"Suppose she's discovered? Remember Ascot? Suppose she makes another ghastly mistake?"
"There'll be no horses at the ball, Pickering." That was Hermione's favourite line. And he did it so well.
They bantered on for some time, Pickering on the end of his nerves, Higgins pacing constantly. With a squeeze of the shoulder from Deb, Hermione climbed the stairs that led to the stairs on stage and waited for her cue.
"And what about the girl? You act as though she doesn't matter at all."
This was it. Higgins had his little exposition of self-defence, and then she would walk on.
"Oh, rubbish, Pickering. Of course she matters. What do you think I've been doing all these months? What could possibly matter more than to take a human being, and change her into a different human being by creating a new speech for her? It's filling up the deepest gap that separates class from class and soul from soul. Oh, she matters immensely."
And as he said those last words, the curtains were drawn away and she walked forward to the top of the stairs, her heart thumping, hoping she wouldn't do something horribly embarrassing like step on her gown. Amidst the whispers from the audience, she looked down to where Higgins, Pickering, Mrs Pearce and the Butler were waiting for her, and Severus, Neville, Madame Pomfrey and Harry's faces were upturned in fascinated awe. She slowly descended to them, maintaining her grace, restored by their looks of wonder. Mrs Pearce put her cloak on her, and Higgins began to walk to the door…but stopped himself. Severus turned back and offered her his arm.
The rest of the musical was thoroughly enjoyable, even having the temper tantrum with Higgins about what would become of her. It was particularly satisfying to come back to Wimpole street and hear, "Where the Devil are my slippers?" But the best part was hearing the thunderous applause as people came out to bow. She watched as everyone went on stage and was cheered and whistled at, even Severus drew an unbelievable response. And as she walked on stage, she was almost paralysed when the audience stood up and furiously applauded as she joined the front line of the cast, between Severus and Neville. It was so tremendously uplifting, like seeing heaven in the darkness she faced. They joined hands and bowed as the curtain dropped, and yet they kept clapping, so the curtain went up again. In fact after five curtain calls they still didn't stop, and at that point, Deb ran out on stage and curtseyed gracefully, which drew even more applause. Eventually, they stopped clapping, Hermione lost count of when.
As the audience filed into the entrance hall the cast began to pack up. Neville took the counter-age-potion and returned to himself. People took back the pieces of clothing, props, anything they had lent to the production. Dean took some of the things he'd made and Ginny took some of the costumes. Harry was so enamoured of his suit, he insisted he be allowed to keep it. Ron was not so inclined. (Hermione suspected Severus had put his embassy ball suit away somewhere for safe-keeping.) They all collected on stage, undisguised and their ordinary selves, ready to hear Deb's response.
"Well, I don't think you need me to tell you it was brilliant." Everybody sighed and laughed with relief. "It was a gigantic feat. Really colossal. Never doubt the potential of any person to do anything. Now say goodbye to the set…in ten seconds it's going to disappear forever…Ten…Nine…"
People looked about themselves fondly. Some caressed the curtains, others simply sighed nostalgically as they read the boards. Hermione looked to the blue velvet box she was holding. Thee was nothing else she needed to hold on to.
"Three…two…one.!" Deborah waved her wand and everything disappeared. They were suddenly surrounded again by the long house tables and benches and the staff table at behind them.
"Ladies and gentlemen, give yourselves a round of applause."
The cast clapped and cheered for themselves, hat last burst of energy being expelled in admiration of their achievement. Now everything was over.
That evening Dumbledore held a party, a real celebration of everything that had happened for hr good, and it had lasted well into the morning, with lots of music and other intoxicating things, though all were charmed to be no so for the younger ones. Hermione remembered doing something with professor Vector and sincerely hoped it was dancing. After some serious teasing from Deborah, she did find out it was only dancing, to her huge relief.
It seemed like the very next day students were packing their bags onto the Hogwarts Express, though in reality it was some weeks. Hermione said her goodbyes to everyone, promising to write and to see everyone, particularly Neville, whose grandmother was quite ill. She did the rounds and returned to watch as Ron and Harry packed their bags into their compartment and Harry very gallantly took Ginny's on for her.
"I'm going to miss this place so much," said Harry, looking at the castle shrouded in the Scottish Highland fog.
"You can come back and visit any time you want," Hermione reminded him, "Dumbledore wouldn't mind."
"I'd still feel pathetic," Harry laughed.
"And with good reason," Ron added. "You should never come back to school. It implies you haven't gone anywhere."
"Sure you won't come back with us?" Ron asked Hermione, "Mum won't mind."
"No," Hermione said firmly, "The last thing you need in your house is another body."
"You could come back to Grimmauld place," Harry suggested.
"What for?" Hermione smiled, "You're not going to live in it, so what would I do with it. No, my mind's made up. Besides, Snape Manor is so much closer to Mt Olympus."
"I can't BELIEVE you're going to LIVE in Snape manor. I mean, would you ever have thought?"
"It's a little bizarre…to say the least actually. But I'll definitely meet you in Marseilles for the World Quidditch Cup in eight weeks. My parents bought a house there, so I'll supply accommodation, Ron can supply tickets and Harry can supply food. Deal?"
"Deal." The boys chimed. "promise to write?" Harry asked.
"Promise." She answered. "But you must too," She looked at both of them. "Right?"
The train blew its whistle and students started to move. She gave Harry a quick hug so he could say goodbye to Hagrid, and was left alone with Ron, who stood opposite her awkwardly.
"Oh Ron," she sighed, and grabbed him into a hug. He patted her awkwardly, and she laughed a little. "Make sure Harry takes care of your sister."
"Yeah," he said, "And if Snape so much as looks at you—"
"I'll write you at once," She assured him. "Now get on that train!"
Ron clambered onto the train and Harry rushed in after him. Harry magicked the window away so he could fully stick himself out.
"Harry!" Hermione shouted.
"I can do it now!" Harry crowed, "I'm a wizard!"
As the train pulled out of the station, the pair grinned and waved at her, and she grinned and waved back.
"We love you Hermione!" Harry called.
"Love you too!"
Hermione walked out of Hogsmeade station, torn between bliss and miss. Everything was exactly as it should be, and yet she had the vague feelings of missing people. It was hard to contain. She passed under the archway and into the sun on the outside road, where a large, black open carriage drawn by a large black horse was waiting with one man in black sitting inside. She came to stand beside it.
"They're gone?" He asked.
"Gone." She sighed.
"I'm alright." She looked out along the road that lead into Hogsmeade and into the wide world.
"What about you?" Hermione asked.
"Dumbledore wasn't too happy, but he said it would be easier to replace a potions teacher than a Defence against the Dark Arts teacher."
"You sure you wanted to do that?"
"I've grown out of teaching."
"I'm sorry when did you grow into teaching? I don't remember that."
He smiled his smile derisive smile and looked away.
"Oh, she's coming. But she's decided not to take the same method of transport."
"I made a bet with her."
"I bet her that we would get to Snape Manor first if we took the carriage and she took her bucking broom. If she wins, I lose the house. If I win, a tattoo of her arse."
"You're right Hermione," Said Deb, striding up the path, broom on her shoulder, "I will."
"I'll see you in five days, when I'm sitting on your doorstep and your pulling that horse up the hill."
"Very well, devil woman, we shall see. Now mount that ridiculous thing and be off with you."
She laughed her manic laugh, unshouldered the broom and rolled onto it, at which point it immediately began trying to kill her as it rose in the air.
"See you later, losers!" Deb cried as she bounced and wobbled into the horizon, " YEEEEEHAAAH!!!!!"
"She's going to win," Hermione repeated.
"Not this time."
"We've only got a horse."
He snorted. "Only got a horse indeed! You don't think that is just a horse do you?"
Hermione looked to the quadruped. It did seem awfully like a horse.
Hermione climbed into the carriage and sat down beside him on the seat.
"You may want to put these on." He handed her a pair of black goggles, which she put on, though quite curiously.
"Now, do you really think she can beat this? Avanti!"
The horse reared at the command, suddenly sprouting crow-black wings the size of the carriage itself. It jumped into the air with a start and flapped to some height above the ground.
"We'll be at Snape manor in two days," Snape shouted, "Let's see what the maniac has to say then! GEE-UP!"
And as the horse wound itself into a gallop, the carriage sailed away from Hogwarts and into the wide world.
THE END…as you know it.