Chapter 1- A Vacant Position
Charms Professor Hermione Granger looked up from the stack of papers she was organising as she had heard a swift knock at her door.
"Enter," she said briskly, expecting to see a student. It was with a mild surprise that she saw Minerva McGonagall enter her office.
"Minerva!" she said warmly as she rose from her desk. "What has brought you all the way over here?"
The older woman smiled at Hermione and sank into a soft armchair that Hermione had positioned close to her desk, gratefully accepting the cup of tea that was offered to her.
"Well, I have just come from the dungeons. I have had a talk with Professor Slughorn and it appears that he has had enough of his second career. He said that with the students leaving for the end of term tomorrow he intends to go back into retirement."
"You look disappointed," said Hermione between sips of tea. Her former teacher and the current Headmistress sighed.
"Oh, I cannot blame him. He is really quite old now and was never prepared to teach again long term. I daresay I am shocked that we got another ten years out of him. I just don't know what I am going to do. We have had a hard time filling positions ever since…" she let her voice trail away knowing that her thought did not need to be said aloud. Although Voldemort had finally been defeated, at great cost to the wizarding world, the reputation of Hogwarts had forever been tarnished by the untimely loss of the former Headmaster. Many of Britain's finest wizarding families were now sending their children to Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.
Hermione nodded in understanding. She studied the older woman for a moment. It seemed the Professor McGonagall had aged more than the nine years it had been since Hermione had last been a student at Hogwarts. Her hair was now all a steel grey beneath her pointed hat and her face was creased with lines from worry. It had only been because of her determination and stubbornness that Hogwarts had remained open at all after Dumbledore's death. She looked tired now and Hermione knew there were not many more years left before she also took the route of Horace Slughorn.
"Do you have any thoughts; anyone who would be particularly good in that position?"
"I cannot think of anyone," said Minerva shaking her head. "It has been well over fifty years since we have had anyone but Professors Slughorn and Snape."
Hermione thought for a moment before speaking, unsure if she should say the thought that was in her mind.
"I almost hate to ask, but have you considered…."
Minerva now shook her head violently and interrupted the younger woman before she could finish her sentence.
"No! No... he would never accept. As far as I know he is living as a recluse still on Spinners End. I have not seen him since the War Trials. Does Harry ever come across him on… business?"
Hermione smiled to herself thinking that was an odd way of referring to Harry's profession as an Auror. After the War, Harry had completed Auror training in record time- just under two years. It was no wonder considering he had already had more experience with dark wizards than most Aurors twice his age. It had been his task to hunt down the remaining Death Eaters. She knew that Severus Snape had been invaluable in that task, which was partially why his trial had been so short. But the last of the Death Eaters had been caught several years ago and as far as she knew that was the last of Harry's contact with the man.
"No, I don't believe he's seen him in several years. Snape made it clear that once the Death Eaters were captured he didn't want any more involvement."
"No, I don't suppose he would. I don't think he will ever recover and sadly I believe that much of the wizarding world still regards him as a traitor, regardless that he has long since been cleared," said Minerva drinking the last of the tea. She sat staring out the window behind Hermione for a moment before finally rising to her feet. "Well, I should get back to my office. There is much to do yet before the feast tonight. Do you have any plans for the summer?"
"Oh a little of this and that," said Hermione also rising to her feet to see Professor McGonagall to the door. "I plan to visit my parents and Harry and Ginny. They just had their first child, you know."
"I had heard," said Minerva. "A boy from what I understand. What did they name him?"
"Ronald James," said Hermione trying to keep her voice cheerful. When she looked up at Minerva she knew she had not achieved it. The woman was looking at her with a faint trace of pity, which Hermione was determined to ignore. "I've been told that he has Ginny's hair and Harry's eyes. I am looking forward to seeing him."
The older woman took her cue and said nothing about the name. No matter how many years would pass, some things were still unspeakable, and Ron Weasley's death at the hand of Bellatrix Lestrange was one of them.
"I am sure he is beautiful. You will have to tell me all about him when you return in the autumn.
"I will be sure to give them your regards," Hermione said warmly as she shut the door behind the retreating professor. She turned back to her desk and sat for a moment thinking. It was true that they had had a difficult time filling positions at Hogwarts. They had never found anyone to replace Professor McGonagall and she had been teaching Transfiguration as well as fulfilling her duties as Headmistress. Although, they had been lucky to finally find a steady Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher who had started three years previous; just a year before Hermione herself had taken her position upon Professor Flitwick's retirement.
Hermione had to have a small laugh to herself. Who would have ever thought Neville Longbottom of all people would have ended up teaching Defence? It had turned out that Neville was quite a brilliant wizard in his own right and had shown it during the Final Battle. No one, besides Harry, had had such an impact on its outcome, killing both Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy. If only he had killed her just a minute sooner…. Hermione stopped that train of thought. 'If only' was a phrase she had banished from her vocabulary just as she had attempted to banish thoughts of the Final Battle from her memory.
She turned to look out the window watching the children lounging on the grounds enjoying the warm weather. They appeared very young and carefree and it was hard for her to remember ever being so carefree. She smiled to herself.
'I suppose that's because I never was,' she thought to herself. It was true she never had the chance to truly enjoy the end of term as a student at Hogwarts. It seemed that the end of the year was always marked by some kind of trouble for her, Ron and Harry. Usually one or the other of them (if not all three) were in the hospital wing. Except seventh year when strangely enough Voldemort had decided to make trouble for them earlier in the year. Although the end of the year had not been any more enjoyable for those who were left to see it.
She turned away from the window and returned to her desk to finish the remaining tasks before she left for the majority of the summer. The afternoon passed quickly and soon it was time for the end of year feast. She gave a final look over her office, decided that everything was in order and walked down to the Great Hall. It never failed to seem empty at the High Table without Hagrid. He had died during the Final Battle trying to defend his brother Grawp from Aurors who had mistaken him as a giant under the direction of Voldemort. The loss of both Hagrid and Grawp was devastating to all of the Order. No matter how many years would pass Hermione didn't think it would ever look the same without his towering figure there.
As she took her place at the High Table she smiled at Neville who was already deep into conversation with Professor Sprout. Although he was the Defence teacher, he still had a great love (and time consuming hobby) with Herbology. Hermione often thought that he would probably take over for Professor Sprout when she retired.
"I was interested to see your article in Herbology Today regarding the various magical uses of the Mimbulus mimbletonia," she heard him saying. "I have often found it to be an underrated plant and thought your article was a refreshing change."
Their conversation was then forced to come to a quick end before Professor Sprout could respond, as Professor McGonagall had risen to her feet to address the students. She kept her speech brief, awarding the House Cup to Ravenclaw, and the food quickly appeared in front of them. As they began eating, Neville turned his attention to Hermione.
"So, I hear you are an Aunt now, Hermione," he said as he reached for the roasted potatoes.
"So I have been told! Little Ronald was born just two weeks ago. I can't wait to be able to hold him myself," said Hermione as she poured herself some pumpkin juice.
"Luna visited them last weekend. She felt the need to owl me straight away with every detail."
"How is Luna doing? I haven't seen her in quite a while. Last I knew she was doing a research paper on 'Muggle Mosters of Legend.'
Neville nodded while he swallowed a large mouthful of roast beef., "we are going on a muggle tour in search of the Loch Ness Monster this summer. I'm a little nervous. I've never spent much time around muggles before."
"Oh I'm sure you two will have a wonderful time!"
"Well, there are several rather rare magical plants that grow in the loch that I'm hoping to sneak around to examine. I've promised Pomona samples if I can manage it," Neville said, brightening at the thought.
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly for both students and teachers and as Hermione rose to leave she bade good-bye to Professor Slughorn.
"We are all going to miss you, Horace," she said embracing him. "You have done so much for Hogwarts. What would we have done without you?"
"Nonsense child," he said patting her arm. "You all would have been just fine. Now remember what I've said. If you ever tire of teaching I have some excellent contacts in the Ministry. Just imagine what you could do in the Department of Mysteries."
Hermione laughed shaking her head, "I will keep that in mind, but I have never felt at home anywhere but Hogwarts. If you recall, I gave the Ministry a try before I began teaching. Government is not for me."
"The Muggle Liaison Office was no place for your brilliant mind. All that bureaucracy! They didn't know what a good thing they had."
Hermione just smiled and thanked the professor again before departing back to her rooms. She had already mostly packed her trunk for the summer, just a few things left to be packed in the morning. She was planning on taking the Hogwarts Express back to London where Harry and Ginny would meet her to take her back to their flat for the next week or so. She was looking forward to seeing them as she hadn't seen them since Christmas when she had agreed to join them at the Burrow. Although it had been a more somber occasion than it used to be, with the loss of both Ron and Fred in the war, it had still been wonderful to see everyone.
The family had grown considerably in the past decade, with Bill and Fleur and their two children, who were visiting from their home in France, Charlie and his Romanian muggle wife Katya with their son and Percy (who had long since asked for, and received forgiveness from his family) with his wife Penelope. George had never married and seemed to bury his grief by playing the roll of the playboy. He always had a girlfriend at family occasions, but it was never the same one twice.
As was her habit, Hermione immediately forced her thoughts out of her mind. She had long since realised that life was much easier while ignoring the past. She quickly readied herself for bed taking her Sleeping Potion. Although she tried not to take it often (Madam Pomfrey had warned her it could be addictive when she first went to her for it in her seventh year) some nights the memories were too much. As she finally fell into her bed and her mind started to drift into unconsciousness, her last thoughts were of Ron, a flash of green light, and blank staring eyes.