Disclaimer: The characters from the Harry Potter universe in this story remain the property of JKR.
Happy 18th Birthday!
We just want to tell you how proud we are that our little girl turned out to be such an intelligent, sensible, and beautiful young lady!
You are now on the threshold of adulthood, and as always, we trust that you will always know the right paths to take. You have never disappointed us, and we doubt that you'll start doing so. Although we are a little sad that we can't be with you in person, know that you are constantly in our thoughts.
Your dad and I know that you are expecting another book voucher this year, but we felt that every young woman should begin another collection, apart from books. We've got you a diamond solitaire as a first piece in your inevitable jewellery collection. You are now a young lady – no more of those cheap trinkets and poor glass imitations. You are worth each precious stone that pass into your hands.
You do know how diamonds are created, don't you? The Earth's heat and pressure turns common coals into the hardest substance known to man. Well, known to muggles, anyway. The diamond is then polished with another diamond, in such intricate cuts that allows light to refract in such precise manner that the diamond seems on fire.
Child, we want you to know that in times of trials, you are like that piece of coal going through a refining process. The pressures from the past years in that school of yours have refined you such that you are like a diamond in the rough – your innate character is set. We anticipate that you will now go through a new phase of polishing to release that shine that is in you. The people that you meet with, the relationship that you form – these are the other diamonds that will polish you, mould you and let you shine forth.
We want you to know, Hermione, that we love you, and will support you in whatever you undertake.
Mum and Dad
Hermione took out the small jewellery box and opened it with trembling hands. She gave a gasp. Staring back into her eyes was a diamond solitaire sitting on a velvet navy blue interior. She picked up the delicate gold chain on which the pendant rested and held it up to the light.
"Beautiful!" she whispered.
She quickly put the chain around her neck and felt the cool stone resting between her collarbones with her fingers.
This was certainly the most extravagant birthday present she'd ever received from her parents. She knew Mum's penchant for quality jewellery and therefore, she knew that the diamond she got from them was no cheap stone. Truth be told, she was expecting another book voucher to add to her already sizeable collection of books, but Mum and Dad's explanation of the gift caused her to feel awe-struck at the symbolism.
She turned to the other package that arrived together with the birthday greetings. The package felt as if it held a fabric of some sort. She found a note attached to it and gave her attention to it.
You are not a child anymore. As your mother and an older woman, I'm giving you this gift for you to begin another collection.
"Another collection?" she lifted her eyebrows in interest.
Unlike your other gift, which we expect you to wear in public, this gift is for you to wear in private. Obviously, Daddy doesn't know about this, or it'll give him a heart attack to know that his little girl has truly grown up.
Suffice it to say, my dear, that as an 18-year-old young woman, you should begin a collection of these to celebrate your burgeoning womanhood and femininity. Some words of advice from this older woman: Never be afraid of who you are and what you can be. I know you know how to take this advice in the right context – you are, after all, my daughter and you know my mind about these things.
I'll only add, dear, to take the right precautions and to trust both your heart and your head in whatever situations you find yourself in.
Curiosity getting the better of her, Hermione took up the other package and carefully tore open the brown paper wrapping.
A red satiny material flowed out of the wrapping and pooled in her lap.
"Oh my," she blushed deeply.
More shocking than the diamond she received from her parents, this gift from her mother was a rich warm scarlet negligee. Gryffindor red, she mused to herself. She was mortified, and didn't know whether to quickly stuff that incriminating nightgown deep into her dresser before Lavender or Parvati saw it, or to lay it out on her bed and take in its details. After a deep breath, she decided on the latter.
As intimates go, the negligee was rather modest, unlike some of her mother's more risqué ones. "Gryffindor red, indeed," she grinned. The red satin was opaque – At least it's not diaphanous like most of mum's are – and for that she was relieved. The cut of the nightgown, however, was not so moderate. Two spaghetti straps held up the bodice of the gown, and it criss-crossed the deep plunging back. The only detailing providing a contrasting texture on the gown itself was fine red lace, of the same colour as the A-line gown, covering the bust line. There was an accompanying robe that matched the gown, and Hermione could not help but stroke the sensuous material thoughtfully.
She was tempted to try on the gown, but felt a little discomfited if her roommates were to walk in on her. Although she knew that at Hogwarts, the blankets were magically kept warm and toasty though even the coldest weather, she felt a little shy about wearing such an exquisite garment in her shared dormitory. So with great care, Hermione folded the gown and robe and placed it lovingly in her dresser.
And not a moment too soon, for Lavender and Parvati could be heard just outside her dormitory.
"Hey Hermione! Ready to head on down to dinner?" Lavender asked.
"Wait a minute," Parvati's eagle eyes gleamed at the stone hanging around Hermione's neck. "Wow. Who's that from? Some secret admirer?"
Lavender's eyes alighted on the diamond and she added with a knowing look, "Is it from someone we know?"
By now, the excited girls have started postulating who the gift was from and Hermione decided to end their chattering before she developed a tension headache from their surround sound speakers.
"Well, if you must know," she rolled her eyes, exasperated, "it's a birthday gift from my mum and dad. They decided to forgo the usual book voucher for jewellery this year."
"Oh you're sooo lucky!" chimed Lavender.
"I wish my parents would be as thoughtful as that, but with Padma and I sharing a birthday, mum and dad are not likely to spurge, if you know what I mean," griped Parvati.
"So it's your birthday today?" Lavender asked, guilelessly.
Hermione held in her sigh. They've spent the past six years sharing a dormitory and the other two Gryffindors still didn't know that it was her birthday today. Then again, apart from the owl post from her parents this morning with her birthday gifts, no one deigned to even wish her a happy birthday. Not even Harry and Ron, and they were her best friends. So much for best friends, she thought miserably.
She nodded her head to answer Lavender's question.
"Well, happy birthday then," said Lavender with a smile, extending her hand to shake Hermione's hand.
"Yes. Happy birthday, Hermione," smiled Parvati, as she took her turn to shake Hermione's hand.
"Well then," continued Lavender, "shall we go on down for dinner?"
Early that morning, Hermione had woken up feeling excited. It wasn't everyday that a girl turned 18, and she was anxious to know what her friends would do to celebrate her special day.
She'd gone down to the Common Room to meet Harry and Ron before going to the Great Hall for breakfast, but it seemed that they have already left without her. At the Great Hall, she expected either Ron or Harry to greet her with a birthday wish. She didn't quite expect to see Ron intense in a Quidditch match play-by-play account with the other Gryffindor boys and totally ignoring her. She looked up at the High Table and saw Harry and Blaise Zabini, their Head Boy and Girl this year deep in conversation. No doubt they were discussing prefect duties for the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw Quidditch match tomorrow.
She was about 3 weeks into her seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and things had begun to settle into a routine again. Against all expectations of her, she didn't make Head Girl this year, despite having been made prefect since her fifth year. She had consulted Professor McGonagall last year and decided against taking up the Head Girl position if the school decided to offer it to her. Instead, she told Professor McGonagall that she wanted to make her NEWTs her priority for the year.
In actual truth, Hermione didn't want the position of Head Girl because she was not very comfortable with the counselling aspects that the Head Girl's duties warranted. With the prestige of Head Girl, she would be required to spend an inordinate amount of time with anyone needing her ears for the usual teenage angst of unrequited love, loneliness and low self-esteem. In her duties as prefect, she had already suffered her fair share of girls who approached her with similar problems, and she did not have the patience to spend her time suffering their foolish tirade. Couldn't they see that these are petty problems in the light of bigger things – like the war against Voldemort? Couldn't they understand that they are only teenagers and what they call unrequited love was merely infatuation? And that these infatuation and crushes were juvenile? Can't they see that they'd be better off spending their time studying? Learning and discovering new and exciting things to contribute to the fight for freedom? Why couldn't they understand what she had understood all along?
She knew her parents were supportive of her decision – they always were. When she'd explain to them her reasons for giving up the position, her Mum had given her a hug and told her that she had made a very tough and mature choice, especially since she was able to overcome the great pressure to conform to everyone's expectations in refusing the Headship. Hermione knew her Dad would be a little disappointed and there were moments during that summer holidays when she caught her father sighing as if she had allowed a great opportunity to slip through her fingers. However, her Dad did not contradict her decision, as he trusted Hermione's choice. He told her that whatever she had decided, she would have to learn to live with the consequences of her actions.
Hermione was grateful that she had such understanding parents. Most of her peers at Hogwarts had good relationship with their parents, but Hermione knew that her relationship with her parents was unique. For one thing, her parents had her very late in life, and being older parents, their parenting style was characterised by treating their daughter not as a child, but as a young adult. Moreover, her playmates at home – her cousins and the children of her parents' friends – were at least 10 years her senior; so she was more comfortable in the company of older people than with her age peers. Harry and Ron were the only people her age she hung out with consistently, but there were many times that she felt that she was a mother to the two boys, always tempering their enthusiasm for adventure with her sensibility.
She took another cleansing breath to clear her head of her contemplation. It was her birthday today, and if no one remembered it, she'll just deal with it.
She reached out for toast and marmalade to add to her plate, when the owls started swooping into the Great Hall. She looked up expectantly because her parents have never yet forgotten her birthday, and sure enough, a large tawny owl landed neatly beside her cup of pumpkin juice to deliver a large parcel to her. She recognised her mother's handwriting with a smile. After thanking the owl with an affection tickle under the beak and a slice of bacon from her plate, she promptly shrunk the package so that it will fit into the pockets of her school robe. She knew that her housemates were casting her curious looks surreptitiously, but she had learnt her lesson early in her second year at school not to open her mother's packages at the breakfast table. She could never guess what her mother would send her, and that year, she was totally embarrassed when she had opened her parcel eagerly, only to reveal a large box of sanitary napkins. Harry and Ron had turned a bright shade of cherry red and were not able to look her in the eye for one whole week!
Although very excited to know what was in the package, she decided to wait until her lessons were over for the day, so that she could open it in her dormitory. She'll let the anticipation increase – after all, it seemed likely that this was the only present she'll receive for her 18th birthday, so at least she'll have something to look forward to at the end of today.
Finishing her breakfast with a swipe of her napkin, she hefted her satchel and joined her classmates heading towards the greenhouses for her first class.
It was going to be a long day.
A/N: Before I get a veritable BBQ of flames thrown at me for making 7th Year Hermione an 18-year-old, let me explain – I've taken Hermione's birthday in September in her first year to be her 12th birthday, thus allowing her to celebrate her 18th birthday in her 7th Year. I've read arguments for and against her birthday to be either 1979 or 1980, and for this story, 1979 works better for me. My British friends are quite adamant that British schools' cut off date of 1st September is very strict and children born after that date will have to start school a whole year later.
Frankly, I just find this extremely confusing and vexing. In my country, the school year starts on 1 January, so the cut off is date is 31 December of that same year. This simplifies so many things – you'll know how old a child is, simply by knowing which year he or she is in school. Anyway, by this same token, GCE 'A' Levels (the equivalent of wizarding NEWTs) is taken in my home country when one turns 18.
A/N 2 – The title of this story is inspired by that lazy, sensual, jazzy rhythm and images evoked by Johnny Mercer's haunting song, "Dream", recorded by Dinah Washington with Hal Mooney's orchestra in 1954. You might remember that haunting melody from the soundtrack of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil".