A/N:

The beginning was very much inspired by "Numb" by tanithw. So much so that, as a work in progress, it was called "My Numb" for the longest time. There's even a (very short) quote in chapter 2. Since then it has evolved quite a bit (plus it has been quite some time since I have read the original story), so I am not sure how recognizable the connection is. Still, it's what started it.

Aside from that, consider yourself warned. I have been reading a lot of MM/HG fan fiction in the last few years and if you have as well you will recognize a lot of the more common ingredients. If you're looking for a completely fresh take, this is not your story.

For the purpose of this story I consider House McGonagall to be one of the "truly pure-blood" houses. My personal head canon mostly sees her this way anyway (no idea why), so it came quite naturally when writing the story. I do not believe it contradicts the books (I may, of course, be mistaken – if so, please let me know), but it is definitely not in line with Pottermore. I also messed with the timeline a bit (though there appears to be some debate on that anyway), having McGonagall finish school shortly before the fall of Grindelwald. And with other parts of her back story. And I'll stop listing stuff now. Just know that I mostly ignore Pottermore with a few rare exceptions.

I'm cross-posting this from AO3. As of now there are 15 chapters, but it's not yet finished.

Feedback, including constructive criticism, is very much welcome. Enjoy!

Pins and Needles

Chapter 1 (Prologue): Veracious Vellum

Hermione had discovered Veracious Vellum a little while after she had started working for the Ministry. Since then she had become a regular customer. The little shop in a tiny side street of Diagon Alley was far less busy than Flourish and Blotts, but it offered a very fine selection of a wide range of books with a strong focus on academic works. That alone would have made her love it ever since she had first learned to read, but beyond that it also happened to fill a very particular need the end of the war had left her with – she did not want to socialise while at the same time she hated being alone.

While she made regular purchases, mainly she enjoyed spending countless hours there, in one of the two armchairs in the cosy reading corner that most of the customers did not even notice, tucked away as it was behind the shelves. At first she had been afraid to overstay her welcome, but Mrs. Bloom, the shopkeeper, had repeatedly let her know that she was always happy to have her. She had even insisted Hermione stay beyond the official opening hours when there were still things to do that kept her busy in the shop anyway.

Harry had moved in with the Weasleys for now and, despite the circumstances, was thoroughly enjoying the chance to finally spend some time with Ginny. Hermione knew she would have been welcome at the Burrow as well – she still was – but while she loved the whole family, that would have been too much for her to handle. Cowardly as it might be, she was not ready to deal with their grieving.

Ron's pining was yet another thing she was not ready to deal with. She could not bring herself to regret the kiss they had shared during the battle. At that moment, it had felt right. It had been right. She did love him, and she knew that in some way she always would. But in the days afterwards it had become just as obvious to her that, as a couple, they would never work. Ron, of course, had been completely surprised by what she considered to be a blatantly straightforward conclusion. She had hated having to cause him that kind of pain and had done her best to explain, but in the end had come to realise that right now the best she could do – for both of them – was to keep her distance.

So, while she missed them both dearly, Hermione was on her own for now.

She had intended to go back to Hogwarts to make up for the year she had missed out on. Predictably, both Harry and Ron had been eager to start auror training as soon as possible and there was no way they would have gone back to school for another year, if they could avoid it. She would have been able to keep some distance. The classes would have been just the right amount of distraction. Ginny would have been there to keep her company.

It had been the perfect plan. Except for the very minor hitch of the Ministry deciding to not reopen the school.

That decision had thrown her off completely. It was not how it was supposed to be. The war was over. Things were supposed to go back to normal. It made no sense whatsoever. And she resented it with every fibre of her being.

Going to a different school had been out of the question. Her perfect plan had hinged on the fact that Hogwarts would provide familiarity. A home. A breather. As it was, Hermione had found herself forced to resort to Plan B – or rather, Plan Z, as she had dubbed it in her frustration. She had taken the first opportunity for any kind of mindless job that had presented itself and gotten herself a tiny flat in London. Now her life consisted of working as a paper pusher at the Ministry and spending her free time reading. And evading anyone she knew. Which, aside from not wanting to be alone in what was supposed to be her home any more than strictly necessary, was the second reason for spending so many hours at Veracious Vellum – it made it a lot harder for her friends to track her down. Owls she could handle. People she handled by keeping them away.