Coming Into Her Own
Chapter 1

Disclaimer: It's called fanfictionfor a reason.

Author's Note: This story begins right at the end of OotP.

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Hermione Granger watched closely as one of her best friends, Harry Potter, ambled out of King's Cross in pursuit of his horrible relatives, who were looking very tense and wrong-footed after the warning Mad-Eye Moody had just given them. Her sympathy seemed to grow with each step Harry took; she knew he was facing a torturous summer where he would have too much time to reflect over Sirius' death. It just didn't seem fair. Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, her best friend…everything wrong happened to him.

Ron must have seen her watching Harry, because he said quickly, "Don't worry, Hermione. He'll be just fine. Er…should I help you with your trunk?"

"Thanks, Ron," she replied with a small smile. They each took a handle on Hermione's trunk and began walking slowly away. "I'm going to put my things in the car, Mum," Hermione called. "Be right back."

Hermione's mum nodded and engaged in conversation with the Order members while Fred and George sniggered at their younger brother and his friend. Ginny slapped Fred on the arm and tried to turn their attention away from Ron and Hermione by asking about the twins' new jackets. Hermione silently thanked Ginny for keeping the twins from embarrassing her.

"You seem really worried," Ron muttered concernedly as he held up his end of the trunk.

Hermione sighed. "You know Harry is going to have an awful time at Privet Drive this summer. He's going to blame himself for what happened to Sirius."

"Yeah, I know," Ron said quietly, continuing to shuffle forward. They turned out of the station and began to search for Hermione's car in the parking lot. "Maybe he'll be allowed to come to the Burrow this summer. He could definitely use it."

"Yes, we could all do with some cheering up." Hermione winced for a second, putting a hand to her ribs.

"Are you okay?" Ron asked.

"It just hurts sometimes," Hermione replied. "I'm really lucky Dolohov couldn't speak properly; it would probably ache ten times more."

"Yeah, probably," said Ron, staring where her hand was placed gingerly upon her ribs. Then, realizing where he was staring, he quickly looked away while the tips of his ears turned bright red.

Hermione smiled to herself. She loved when Ron did things like that; she was well aware that her feelings toward him had been deepening since the Yule Ball incident last year. "Oh, there's my car. Come on," she commanded, pulling the trunk to the left. Ron obliged and followed her. They managed to get all her things into the trunk of the car, panting slightly, before Hermione slammed the lid down.

"So," Ron said eagerly, "do Muggles really travel in these things?"

Hermione laughed. "How else would they get around?"

"Well it just seems a shame that they can't use Floo Power. It'd be so much quicker. I mean, I drove that enchanted car my dad has, and even though he bewitched it, it was still slow!"

"Yes, well…" Hermione broke off, gesturing at the car.

"Can you drive it?"

"What?"

"Can you drive it?" Ron repeated.

"Well, yes, but…"

"Want to go for a ride?" Ron asked excitedly.

For one insane moment, Hermione actually considered saying yes, but then rapidly changed her mind. "We can't Ron! That's breaking the law, and it's dangerous!"

Ron's grin faltered. "Oh, well, I guess we should go back in the station then." He turned around and stalked back to the station. Hermione followed him, wondering why she was suddenly feeling downcast.

"Ah, there you two are," Mr. Weasley said brightly. "Well, we best be going. It's been nice seeing you again," he said politely to Hermione's parents. They began shaking hands and Hermione used their distraction to say good-bye to Ron.

"Umm…I guess I'll be seeing you soon," she said hastily.

"Yeah, er, soon," Ron said quietly.

Hermione pulled him into a quick hug and was about to give him a kiss on the cheek when she remembered that her parents, and Ron's parents, were both standing right there. She quickly let go and turned toward Ginny, catching a glimpse of Ron's disappointed face.

"Bye Gin," she said, hugging her best girl friend tightly.

"Hope to see you soon, Herm," Ginny returned, squeezing her.

Hermione said goodbye to the twins, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Lupin, Tonks, and Mad-Eye before rejoining her parents. She cast one last look at Ron, who grinned feebly at her, and followed her parents out of the station, not at all eager for the summer to begin.

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Hermione lay in her bed that night, savoring the comfort of her home and the fact that the hard school year was over. For some reason, she could not fall asleep. Her thoughts dwelled upon her best friends, and the coming war, and the death of Sirius. It all seemed so real to her, even though she was lying here warm in her bed. She rolled over and clutched one of her stuffed animals; her bed was littered with them. This stuffed animal happened to be a red lion, which she had named Ron. She insisted to herself that it was only because the color reminded her of Ron's hair, but she knew subconsciously that there were other reasons why she had given the lion that namesake. After all, her black teddy-bear wasn't named Harry.

As she stared at the stuffed lion, Hermione remember the conversation with Ron outside the station. She had really wanted to drive the car with him in it. There would have been something so fun about it. But when had Hermione ever given into fun? She knew she was uptight and tense, but that was just her nature.

Still though, she was beginning to question her behavior. Before she had always felt that she was right to be overbearing and bossy to everyone, because she was just trying to follow the rules and help them. But was that really what mattered? She couldn't help but feel that with the war coming on, she had enough to be worrying about without fussing over homework. Maybe she should start listening to her emotions instead of her quick-witted mind.

Hermione vividly recalled the time during first-year when Ron had insulted her about being a bossy know-it-all who had no friends. Even though she now knew that Ron cared about her very much, whenever she remembered those words they stung very badly. Maybe she really was too bossy….

Once again her alert mind returned to thoughts about Voldemort. Being in the Department of Mysteries had been so frightening; she could remember how her heart beat wildly in her chest and she thought she may die at any second. If she had been killed, would she regret all those times she didn't allow herself to have fun? What about third year, when she had stressed herself out to the point of a breakdown over her studies? What was she trying to prove? And had it been worth it?

Hermione half-heartedly felt that she shouldn't be thinking these thoughts. After all, she had built up a reputation of herself that she was incredibly smart and hardworking. But for some reason she continued to allow herself to dwell upon the possibility of backing off a little bit. She thought of Harry and Ron and their procrastinating natures; they would instantly put off work to have some more fun playing Quidditch. They were so different from herself. She smiled as she thought of them.

Of course, she wasn't so high-strung that she didn't have fun. She had had some great times with Harry and Ron, but she still always felt a level of stress to keep herself in check. Well….except for that time she had slapped Draco Malfoy. But he had deserved it. Hermione smirked as she remembered his face.

She actually felt somewhat like she had to keep up this on-going façade that she was a know-it-all. When she was younger, she had never felt like she fit in very well and had coped with it by reading avidly and building up a reputation as a genius. She could mask all her fears and discomfort behind that wall. And now that she had started, she felt like she couldn't stop that image. Even if she wanted to, people would question it, and maybe talk about her. Maybe they would think she was eager for some attention like her best friend Harry.

Even so, there was a lot more to Hermione. She had done a lot of crazy things when she felt like she was free from that bookworm image. Ginny and she had done several crazy things, none of which the boys knew about. Sometimes Hermione felt like Ginny was the only person who truly understood her, even though she was a bit closer to Ron and Harry. Would it be so bad if she allowed herself to act that way in front of everyone else? After all, she couldn't help but feel that with Voldemort back, her life could end anytime soon. Carpe diem…seize the day…

As she finally drifted off to sleep clutching Ron (the lion, mind you), Hermione decided to use this summer as a bit of an experiment. She was away from all her friends, after all. Maybe she could use the time to expand her personality and discover some more things about herself. Well isn't that clich, she thought. I sound like I'm in a damn Disney movie.

Her eyes flew open quickly. She had never sworn before…okay, well, she hadn't exactly said the word damn but she at least thought it. That was a start. What would Ron think? Smiling slightly, Hermione closed her eyes again and fell into a deep sleep.

Operation Rebel…wait, scratch that…Operation Bad Ass would commence in the morning.

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