When Dumbledore had offered to train her, Hermione had presumed it would be in some sort of official capacity, with maybe a new schedule on her time table to replace one of her free periods and that it would take place in a class room.
It was more secretive than she'd been expecting
Instead of during the day, her first session, would be on a cold Friday evening. Instead of appearing in her schedule, a House-elf had accosted her with a small bit of parchment with a time and place written on it and instead of a class room, it was in the room of requirement.
"You have to be quicker than that Ms Evans." Dumbledore advised. He was stood on the other side of the room, wearing a bright blue robe that was in stark contrast to his current temperament.
He held his wand up and wordlessly sent a nasty looking purple hex her way. Hermione's shield instantly went up, just in time for the hex to collide with it, it shook on impact but it held against Dumbledore's attack.
Without a word, Hermione wordlessly shot back an Incendio and quickly followed it up with a Confringo. For an old man, Dumbledore was nimble, he ducked and dodged and without warning, Hermione was facing down numerous spells.
She side stepped the first, put her shield up for the second and kept it in place for the third, the fourth and the fifth.
Dumbledore raised a brow, she thought he was mildly impressed.
They'd been at it for two hours at least and whilst Hermione was starting to tire, Dumbledore looked just as he had when they'd entered the room.
Her spells were less effective when done silently but speaking out loud felt like a defeat of some sort on her part.
"Ms Evans, on the battle field, you won't just have one opponent, you cannot rely so heavily on your shield" he cautioned.
"Break through it and then you can lecture me" she quipped back, she was exhausted, her hair had fallen out of it's tightly held bun and her body was covered in sweat but Dumbledore had failed to land a single spell on her.
Years on the run in her past life had made fortifying her magical defences her number one priority, she doubted that even the killing curse could break through it but she'd never been willing to risk it to find out.
"I think that's enough for today" Dumbledore spoke. Hermione kept her wand up until Dumbledore lowered his, her lessons always stuck with her and once upon a time, constant vigilance had been hammered into her.
A small desk appeared in the middle of the room and Dumbledore inclined his head, silently telling her to take a seat. She sat down, thankful that the onslaught was truly over, Dumbledore sat across from her, a curious look on his face.
"I've always wondered how a Muggle born learns to duel as well as you Ms Evans?" He asked, "from what I saw, no amount of self teaching would be enough, your moves, your decision making, they were…instinctual, I see the same in Aurors who've spent years on the field."
Hermione shrugged, Albus Dumbledore could spend the rest of his life wondering about her secrets because she was taking them with her to her grave. Her method, her ingenuity of ripping apart time and space and creating a place for herself was perhaps the most dangerous thing to ever be created, too dangerous to ever even acknowledge that it occurred.
"You're certainly good but you have your faults" Dumbledore continued, "you rely far too heavily on your shield, it eats up too much of your magic" he frowned, "and it may be effective against school children but Tom will rip it to shreds."
Although she disagreed with him about her shield and it's capabilities, Hermione nodded in acceptance, she was a good fighter but she needed to be the best. Which got her thinking about someone else that wanted the same thing.
"Professor Dumbledore, I was wondering if you'd ever thought of bringing back the duelling classes or giving more comprehensive classes on defence?" She asked him. Marlene had been badgering her non stop about teaching her but Hermione had finally gone back to work on her Horcrux tracker and she simply didn't have the time.
"I'm afraid not" Dumbledore replied, "the current curriculum is more than suitable."
"You mean the one were we never have the same defence teacher for more than a year, that curriculum?" She asked curtly.
"I said it was suitable, Ms Evans not perfect."
"But with a war out there don't you think that the students deserve better."
"I'm afraid it's not as easy as you seem to think it is Ms Evans." Dumbledore frowned, "Hogwarts has a school board that I must answer to and a Ministry that wants to pretend that everything is under control, even getting those temporary duelling classes was an uphill battle, I'm afraid after what happened there" he sent her a look, "it is simply unfeasible to do it again."
Hermione scowled, she remembered how hard Harry had found running Dumbledore's Army, how much time and energy it had consumed but those lessons had saved countless lives, including her own.
"I must say you're far more capable than I ever assumed, Ms Evans" Dumbledore complimented her.
"You always underestimate me Professor." Hermione frowned
"That's not a mistake that I shall be repeating." He promised. "We can conclude for the evening, I have some business to conduct outside of the school this week, but when I am ready, I shall send a House-elf with the timing of our next session."
"Yes, Professor" She agreed.
"And Ms Evan, I don't think I need to tell you but these sessions are a secret." He curtly said, his blue eyes zeroing in on her.
"I know Professor" She rolled her eyes, getting up from her seat and marching towards the door, no matter her previous relationship with Dumbledore, this younger version always put her on edge.
He Who Must Not Be Named Recruiting From Hogwarts!
You Know Who Outsmarts The Ministry.
Minister For Magic Eugenia Jenkins Must Go.
Is It Time To Unleash The Unforgivables On This Dark Lord And His Army?
Hermione sat in the room of requirement at her work desk, with the week's Daily Prophet Headlines scattered across the table.
It had only been a week since the attack on Hogsmeade but Voldemort had swiftly moved on to his next target, the Ministry were fighting back but they were terribly losing. Minister for Magic Jenkins had finally opened up talks about using the unforgivables but since the Hogsmeade attack her position had become untenable.
Harold Minchum was favourite to replace her and if history followed it's correct course then he would win and remain Minister for five years before being ousted. Minchum was tough as nails and he'd sent hundreds of people to Azkaban, it was under his tenure that trials for seemingly guilty people were done away with, in the end, his laws had condemned Sirius to twelve years in Azkaban.
Frustrated Hermione picked up the compass she'd been fiddling with for the past few months, it was the only device she could come up that could serve as a tracker but how she was going to use it, she had no idea.
Soul tracking was a very Dark Art, Morgana had tricked Arthur into willingly handing over a piece of his soul, why or how was lost to history but Morgana had used it to mark the rest of Arthur's soul and was able to track him and follow him to the ends of the earth.
Hermione already had a piece of Voldemort's soul right there at Hogwarts - Ravenclaw's diadem, but there were several pieces of Voldemort's soul all scattered across Britain. Hermione would first have to decipher how Morgana dd it and then she would have to tweak it too track souls that were no longer within the body or else it would be useless.
She tugged at her hair in frustration, why did everything have to be so hard? She wondered,
Hermione found herself oddly sat next to James in the common room, Lily and Peter were being let out of the hospital wing that evening and the Marauders had decided that the occasion demanded a party for the entire House.
The news had peaked the curiosity of the younger years and had bought a much needed lightness to the older lot, Marlene had opted out but Arlo was chatting away with Logan Cresna, the seventh year ring leader, in the corner.
Hermione had originally been talking to Sirius but he'd run off to the kitchens and demanded that James who'd been moping in the corner for some reason keep her company, and so Hermione found herself sitting in utter silence in front of the fire with a subdued James Potter.
He seemed oddly sad and if Hermione was a slightly more empathetic person, she may have asked what was wrong, but knowing him he would tell her and then she would be forced to figure out how to comfort him and she'd most likely screw it up, so for both their sakes, she kept quiet.
"Alright, you two?" Asked a voice and they both simultaneously looked up to see Tiffany Kim staring down at them.
"Not really" James sighed, a small frown on his face.
Tiffany sent Hermione a look and Hermione shrugged in response. She had no idea what was wrong with him.
"That's a shame" Tiffany frowned, "it's rare to you so down, Potter" she added with a small smile.
James heaved a sigh, brooding in his seat.
"Why don't I give you two the chance to talk?" Hermione suggested, jumping to her feet.
Tiffany shot her an incredulous look but Hermione ignored it in favour of dashing off. She made it halfway through the common room when Sirius suddenly stepped in front of her path, with a smug smirk on his face.
"How long have you been here?" She demanded, taken aback by his sudden appearance.
Sirius ran a hand through his hair, his smirk only growing, "a while" he shrugged, his grey eyes sparkling.
Hermione scowled at him, unamused. "You didn't think to come and save me?" She asked.
"James isn't that bad to deal with" Sirius grinned, "and seeing the calm Hermione flounder was priceless" he laughed.
Hermione gaped at him, her brown whisky eyes lighter than they had been all week, "I wasn't floundering" she flustered, "I was….giving him space."
Sirius' grin widened and he gently grabbed her hand and tugged her to a nearby seat, she didn't put up much of a fight, letting him drag her along, she sat down and Sirius took the seat next to her, draping his arm over her chair.
"James doesn't like space" Sirius informed her "he's a drama queen, he wants to be asked what's wrong so he can fill you in on whatever dagger pierced his heart."
"What is wrong with him?" Hermione asked, curious.
"Your sister sent him a Howler." Sirius laughed.
"What!" Hermione replied, "what did he do?"
"James got into some stupid incident with Snape and they ended up duelling in the hallway, both got a week's detention for it."
"She sent him a Howler over that?" Hermione wondered, Snape and Potter were always fighting.
"He may have also sent her a letter, explaining that the fight was in her name and for her honour."
"Honour" Hermione snorted, "what century is this?"
"James thought it was a clever idea, don't ask me why" Sirius shook his head, "Lily isn't even that hard to please, all he has to do is cut down on the pranks, stop hexing Snape every chance he gets and chuck a few sweet words at her that don't make her cringe and he's sorted."
Hermione raised a brow at him, "sorted?" She demanded, "Is that what you think of my sister?"
Sirius' eyes widened, he was clever enough to know that he was in dangerous territory.
"No" he rushed to say, "Lily's wonderful" he added, "I just meant that with her, he doesn't have to think outside the 'how girls usually react' box" he rambled.
"You're really not helping yourself" Hermione told him.
"I just mean that he doesn't have to work that hard to know what would make her happy or figure out what she's thinking." He shrugged.
"And you do?" Hermione frowned, picking up on the unspoken words.
"What did you think leaving you with James was all about" Sirius awkwardly admitted
"I thought it was about you going to the kitchens?" Hermione slowly replied.
"No, I sent Remus for that" Sirius answered, "you never tell me what you're thinking" he frowned, "so I'm trying to read your face to figure it out" he admitted.
Hermione's brows furrowed, "that's really strange." She told him.
Sirius sighed, his grey eyes darkening as their eyes connected "when you're annoyed, your eyes darken and your finger's twitch like you want to grab your wand but you know it would be too excessive" he told her "when you're angry, your jaw gets really tense and you grit your teeth" he continued, "those two looks I figured out pretty quickly because you get annoyed and angry a lot" he grinned. "The others are slightly harder, you smirk a lot when you're with me but I can't differentiate between your 'Sirius is such an idiot but he's really hot' smirk and your 'I like Sirius but I would die if I showed him it for even a single second' smirk."
"I don't have smirks like that" Hermione said, trying very hard to keep her lips pursed.
"You do" Sirius replied smugly, "but leaving you with James was to help me figure out your 'I want to be anywhere else but here' look"
"I wish you would put this much effort into your school work" Hermione said, trying to contain her grin.
"Schoolwork isn't as interesting as you" Sirius shrugged.
Hermione opened her mouth to retort but a large cheer suddenly came from the gathered Gryffindors and she turned in surprise to see Lily and Peter walking through the portrait door. She instantly rose up and made her way towards the pair, she'd been to see them both a handful of times during their stay in the hospital wing and whilst Lily had dealt with it well, Peter had been downright miserable.
"Finally free" she grinned as she hugged them both.
"I am never going back" Peter scowled, surprised at the amount of attention he was getting.
"Enjoy it whilst it lasts" Sirius grinned, as a number of the younger students shoved them out of the way to meet Peter.
Lily grabbed onto Hermione's hand and clung to her as they manoeuvred their way across the common room.
"How bad were Mum and Dad?" Hermione dared to ask. Although their parents had been informed of the attack and Lily's condition and they'd been at her bedside whilst she'd been in St Mungo's, they hadn't been allowed entry into Hogwarts until this morning.
"Mum was fine" Lily replied, "Dad was a blubbering mess" she smiled.
"I can imagine" Hermione grimaced, their Mum had always been tough as nails but their Dad tended to crumble rather quickly.
"They kept asking about you" Lily frowned, "they wanted to see you"
"I was busy" Hermione uncomfortably replied, "did Petunia show up?" She asked
"She was busy" Lily replied, using Hermione's own words against her.
"Lily!" Arlo came out of nowhere, throwing her arms around Lily's shoulders. Lily hugged her back just as tightly. "I've missed you so much" Arlo cried.
"I've missed you too" Lily replied, pulling back from the hug.
"This one" Arlo said accusingly at Hermione, "has been no help with Marlene" she grumbled, "she even refused to help her learn how to duel"
"What?" Lily frowned, confused at the sudden news.
"She's just walked out of the hospital wing, Arlo" Hermione frowned, "at least give it a few hours before you start complaining about me"
"I wasn't complaining" Arlo frowned, "I was merely making her aware of the shit situation I have found myself in."
"Alright" Lily cut in, "I know the past week has been hard for the two of you but can we all just try and get along, for Marlene's sake if not for mine."
"We do get on" Arlo and Hermione simultaneously replied.
"We're best friends" Arlo added, throwing her arm around Hermione's shoulder.
Lily sent Hermione a look and Hermione merely shrugged, Arlo and Lily could argue over the best friend title but it belonged to Benjy.
"Fill me in on everything I've missed" Lily demanded as the trio found an empty table by the windows.
"There really isn't much to tell" Arlo frowned, "Meadowes may not be coming back"
"I read about that in the Prophet" Lily said, her eyes straying to Hermione, "I suppose its not that surprising, the Ministry needs every available Auror working to catch that monster."
"Dumbledore is giving a speech tomorrow" Arlo continued.
"Why?" Lily frowned.
"Unity" Hermione informed her, "things haven't been easy for Slytherin House since the attack."
Lily frowned, "Severus didn't say anything"
"I can't believe that you're still friends with him" Arlo grumbled.
Lily faltered, surprised at the sudden attack. "What does Severus have to do with anything?" She demanded.
"You read the Daily Prophet" Arlo shot back, "You Know Who is recruiting from Hogwarts and there's only one House that would even think of joining him."
"Those are unsubstantiated rumours" Lily snapped, "not a single Slytherin has the Dark Mark"
"Oh yeah, because they'd all brand themselves whilst still at school" Arlo rolled her eyes, "they'll wait till they leave Hogwarts for that but a brand isn't needed to believe in his crap and they all do, including Snape."
Lily glared at her but had no reply to Arlo's accusation.
"Severus isn't a Death Eater" Hermione spoke up, "and it isn't fair of you to accuse him of being one"
"I'm not going to wait until I see him kill someone" Arlo growled, "like Levi or Diana" she added, "I'm staying away from all those snakes and if you were both clever, you would do the same" she snapped, rising up from her seat and storming off.
Lily sent Hermione a puzzled look, "how bad is everything?" She asked.
Hermione heaved a sigh unsure of how to answer, "Slytherin House is pretty much everyones favourite target now" she replied, "They walk in large groups everywhere because if they're found in pairs or on their own they're guaranteed a trip to the hospital wing, even Slughorn's on edge and Sirius escorts his brother to each one of his classes although he doesn't actually realise it"
"Sirius has a brother?" Lily asked with eyes wide.
"He's a third year Slytherin" Hermione answered.
"Wow" Lily breathed, "I had no idea"
"He doesn't talk much about his family" Hermione shrugged.
"Must be hard on him" Lily frowned, "I know how much he hates the Slytherins, he must have been disappointed over his brother's sorting"
"Maybe" Hermione shrugged, not wanting to get into a discussion about Sirius family, "so tell me about James and this howler" she demanded.
Lily's eyes grew wide in surprise and her face flushed red, "it's not as bad it sounds" she laughed, "and he deserved it"
"I never said he didn't" Hermione grinned, "tell me everything"
Fanfic wise this year has been really interesting. July 26, less than a week to mine and Harry's and JK's birthday, I convinced myself to just post a story and see how it goes.
The response I received exceeded my expectations, your reviews and your PMs and your Tumblr messages, have been just wonderful and now five months later we've reached 21 chapters and over 700 reviews.
To all of you, I wanted to say thank you. To everyone who has felt somewhat invested in this story, to everyone who has communicated with me in some way and to my beta who hasn't received a chapter to beta in weeks because the past few weeks have been so hectic that I post without sending it to her, which must get rather frustrating.
Thank you to all of you.
My New years resolution for 2017 was to post a fanfiction story, my 2018 New years resolution is to finish this bloody story.
Happy New Year Everyone.