This was a challenge I issued myself. I was having writers block and so I forced myself out of my other fics and told myself that I had to sit and write non-stop, not looking up from the keyboard or going back to correct things for twenty minutes straight and the theme would be the next song that came on.
My player was set to country music and the next song that came on was Billy Currington's 'Walk a little Straighter'.
Twenty minutes later I was allowed to finish and edit and voila.
Writer's block officially… well, its still there but hey, there ya go. Can't win 'em all.
I often wondered at her brilliancy and drive.
What exactly was it about her life that forced her to try so hard? What was it that pushed her to be the best that she could be? What impossible standard was she aiming for?
Yes, she graduated with more N.E.W.T.s than anyone since Dumbledore.
Yes, she held the highest marks since mine.
But why did she do it? She knew that she would never be welcome in this world so why take the time and effort to try to prove to us all that she not only belonged but was, in some ways, better than us all?
Of course when Graduation day arrived, I saw.
We all saw.
Miss Granger stood on the central dais with her faithful friends, her face set in a polite smile of acceptance but her tense shoulders telling a different story.
There in the crowds of watching and waiting parents was her own decidedly Muggle parent.
They were both dentists that much I knew. But only her father was in attendance on this evening. Her mother was presumably busy.
Her father, a tall man with thinning hair and a definite proclivity towards the bottle stood at the back swaying slightly.
I wasn't the only one watching him, his loud arrival and humming had caught every one's eye.
The Slytherin's, for their part, had the grace and good manners to look the other way. Despite their ability to taunt Gryffindors for every particular there were some lines that even they would never walk across. Too many of them have been shamed or pained by their parent's choices in life and they know all too well that they have no room to throw stones.
The Gryffindors, despite their mantra of loyalty, have no compunctions and there are more than one or two giggles amidst the sea of maroon and gold.
She ignores them, and the odd titter from the other houses, as her father staggers against the portrait of Wendolyn the Weird and belches loudly.
Her shoulders are tense and her smile is that much more forced and yet she sits there, with her head held high, content in the knowledge of her own achievements.
I admire her more than I have ever admired anyone in that moment. She truly is all elegance and beneficence and though you know that she is mortified she will never say and will probably smile at her father when she goes to him after the roll is called.
Because that is the kind of woman that she is.
The kind that will go up to her mean old potions professor after the war and tell him that, not only was she wrong, but also that she respects, admires and thanks him sincerely. She is the only person that hugs the evil ex-Death Eater on the death of Voldemort and offers a smile for his services.
She is all grace and doesn't deserve this.
I turn and start to wave a discreet sobering charm at him, when he lurches out of the room, banging against the door and disturbing the ceremony again as he exits.
Her name hasn't even been called yet.
She closes her eyes briefly and then sits up even straighter, letting a serene expression cross her face.
When she eventually is called for her scroll you see nothing of her humiliation on her face as she thanks the Headmaster, walking away with her head held high.
After the celebrations have begun she disappears and I tell myself that it is mere curiosity that has me following her.
She heads out to the gardens and spots her father casting up his accounts into a rose bush.
"Daddy?" She sounds so young.
"Hey my-Mione," he laughs drunkenly at his joke. "Pretty ceremony. I think the picture was giving me the eye."
She sighs and her shoulders slump. "You okay?"
"Sick," he says needlessly as he points to the bush.
A quick cleansing charm had it taken care of and she smiled sadly.
"Atsha good girl," he turns to leave.
"Walk a little straighter, daddy, you're swaying side to side."
"I'm going st-straight!" he maintains. "Pity your mom was too busy to make it," he sneered.
She bites her lip. "You're here. That means a lot to me."
"Had to watch my clever little girl get," he waves his hand as if he has forgotten the word. "Whatever. Takes after me, you know," he tells the statue of Cedric Diggory. "My Mione is very smart. Takes after me! Follows and I lead, right?"
"That's right, daddy. I take after you and you're still leading me."
He points at her, not noticing the pain in her voice. "Atta girl. I lead and you follow in my footsteps. Now I want more punch."
She glances nervously back at the Great Hall. "Maybe we should go home."
She takes a deep breath and takes his arm, casting a sleeping charm and lowering him to the floor.
She stills, swallows and turns to the shadows where I am hiding.
"It's not his fault. He hasn't been the same since my mother left."
I step out of the darkness and look at her glistening eyes. "I cast no judgements, Miss Granger."
"Thank you." She nods and bends to pick him up.
"Let me," I find myself offering and levitate him from his prone position.
"Thank you," she says again and rubs her nose tiredly. "I can take it from here."
I sense that she has cleaned up after him too many times and I want to help. Part of me wants to take away that tired look in her eyes and make it all better.
I may be a greasy potions professor but I defy anyone to resist that helpless look on her face, that haunted look in her eye. Or the faint sparkle of defiance and pride that make her such a great match for me.
"Tell me where to apparate to," I tell her, shaking myself from my ruminations as she gives me her address.
The trust she displays as she tells me where she lives is humbling and I vow never to betray that trust.
I apparate to her home and am followed by her almost instantly.
She watches as I place her father on his bed, gently snoring away, unknowing of the damage he caused to her reputation tonight, or to her mental and emotional wellbeing.
"Thank you, sir," she says with a half-smile. "I can take it from here."
I know that she will never tell him of her pain and my admiration for her grows until I can stand it no more.
"Are you not attending your graduation party, Miss Granger? You are an adult officially now."
"I have no reason to go back there," she shrugs ruefully. "They'll only judge and point and mock. I'll get upset over something that I can't change and the night will be ruined anyway. At least this way I get more sleep and don't have to worry about being a wallflower all evening. Or what they are saying about me."
I watch her as she takes off the graduation robes to reveal the beautiful black dress that she had hidden underneath, letting me know that she, despite her words, had actually been looking forward to this night.
She looks beautiful with her chestnut curls and flared skirt, her high heeled sandal and careful make-up. Every inch the adult witch that she is and the delectable woman that she is becoming.
"Perhaps if you gave them something else to talk about, Miss… Hermione." I hold out my hand for hers and she glances up into my eyes, quite surprised.
I let her see my admiration for her and my lack of distain for her father's actions. "For one night, let me lead you."
She nods carefully at my words understanding that I am not berating her father but offering her someone else to lean on for a while. She places her hand into mine and smiles as I take us back.
There is a connection here, I think and as I take her hand and lead her to the dance floor I want more than the gaping Gryffindors and stunned Slytherins to see it.
I want the world to know of her fearlessness and fortitude, her sacrifice and strength.
I often wondered at her brilliancy and drive.
And now I marvel at it.