I love you guys! Someone on even partially guessed where I was taking the story and summed up my tale of quiet dignified DEFIANCE very eloquently…thank you very much Right or Ryn, you made me so very happy I almost cried.

I was amused that, when I was originally planning this story, it was only supposed to be three chapters. It seems I have been just as swept away by the developments as all of you, so I'm sad to say this is the end. At least it can be my seven (chapters at least, because I was too caught up in this to answer the brilliant challenge) before seven contribution. Thank you very much for sticking with me, and I hope you enjoy the final chapter of the story!

(OMG I SAW THE FIFTH MOVIE AND LOOOOOVED IT!! Everyone was so awesome!)


Harry glowered and roughly allowed his fingers to tense on the handle of his trolley, unaccountably angered that he'd spent the summer isolated and alone because Dumbledore had thought it best. And no one had thought about what Harry thought of it all.

As usual.

But then Harry winced and retracted the thought.

The Weasley children were regretful and had even stumbled out some kind of apology…and his other friends had written.

"Harry, we're sorry." Ron looked distinctly uncomfortable and Ginny shifted with a sour expression. "The few times we wrote we got scolded, and then it just…" Ron shrugged helplessly, and Harry's cold eyes closed in defeat before he shook his head, dark hair skittering across his furrowed brow, before he sighed out a great breath that heaved his shoulders.

"Yah, 'kay."

Harry sobered as he realized that his other friends wrote…and it was probably because no one thought that he'd be their friend, as people tended to write off the triad as something unimportant and therefore insignificant. Harry blew out a heavy breath against his bangs, twisting his neck to relieve some stiffness as he ignored the gangly Ron at his side and the walk-tripping Ginny on his other. He didn't find it relaxing to be in their presence; angry and hurt that they'd blindly took Dumbledore's advice over his loneliness.

Hadn't even written about the attack or to ask if he was okay, instead waiting until he saw them and had been festering in his malcontent…in his doubts.

And then it was only the odd friends he'd recently made, the three that had been overlooked and shunned and taunted, that pulled him from his headaches and the tight ache in his chest.

He would much more welcome their peculiar company than the stifling uncertainty that had become of his time with the Weasleys.

Ron cleared his throat at his unenthusiastic response, his brown eyes narrowed in thought and discomfort as he shuffled, "I'll just go get a compartment then, yeah."

Ginny cleared her throat and looked between the both of them, her brown eyes wide and unsure before she drew in a breath and straightened.

Harry felt the mirthless smile on his face, because the Weasleys were again uncomfortable with his brooding seriousness.

But he did have reason for it, and he thought sadly that Ron and Ginny didn't know him well enough for them to take him out of a funk- even Ginevra's feminine intuition seemed to fail her in regards to Harry's emotional rollercoasters.

He blew out a frustrated sigh and tended to ignoring Ginny and her painfully reticent fidgeting.

Harry sighed again and ran a hand through his hair, letting the brief cooling sensation calm him down as he glanced around anxiously. He was looking forward to seeing Hermione and Neville…and Luna to some odd extent.

Harry smiled slightly.

His introduction to all three of them, while not necessarily usual, had endeared them to the qualities he found in them all the more. Quiet yet protective Neville and his earnest desire to be kind to everyone, Luna and her blunt acceptance of anything and everything, and Hermione…

Hermione was strong and yet vulnerable, shy and yet proud, and defiant and accepting all at once. She'd declined an invitation to the Yule while encouraging the asking of Luna (who would have been left out otherwise…Harry softened further in remembrance of the laughing conversation about accents and lip reading and misunderstandings). She'd accepted her friends and stood up for them even as she took all the teasing and taunts, couldn't hear their fond voices in greeting or the idle sounds of companionship.

He had many things to ask Hermione, face to face, now that he'd had the summer to contemplate and learn. He was certain he could hold some conversation in sign language now- it was only once in a while he stumbled on the simple signs; he just needed to expand his vocabulary. And really, the grammatical structure was simple, and even if you messed it up the gist of what you were trying to say would come across.

But he wanted to ask her if she'd had to teach herself and her parents: if they'd struggled with interpreting simple diagrams explaining three dimensional movements (as Harry knew he had when he'd tried and struggled with the few ratty books on sign language in the library); struggled with the stigma associated with being deaf; struggled with the introduction of a magical world on top of all that.

Being friends with Hermione had taught him a lot of things- he couldn't wait to see how the year went now that he knew how to observe and learn. The study sessions their little mismatched group gathered for had made him realize how much she practiced her pronunciation for spells (even as she was able to do them silently and even wandlessly- Harry wondered at how her desire to blend in as part of wizarding society and not draw attention to herself had stilted others' perception of her. He knew it had for him). Harry just knew that, in the coming year, Hermione's presence would mean that he understood as much as he observed, would be able to seek help that wouldn't distract him, would be able to study and ask questions without worrying about any communication gap (which was rather funny, considering Hermione was reclusive due to a communication gap not many would understand).

Harry would be able to learn without any expectations or judgments, simply a kind friend who wanted him to learn for the sake of learning and understanding and doing better for himself.

Already he'd felt his magic, became more in tune with it and the direction he'd wanted it to go in. There was a stronger awareness of what magic could do, what magic could become…

The mismatched trio he'd become friends with had opened up his core- he knew exactly what he wanted his magic to do and therefore more efficiently cast his spells.

Harry couldn't wait to see what the long summer of studying had done to his focus (which in truth he'd gotten done, and he'd even attempted the Transfiguration wand work (though he had failed miserably in confusion)). He grinned and scanned the crowd for his friends, unaccountably ecstatic that summer was over because it meant that he'd get to see Hermione and them again.

He silently took his trunk to store in a compartment, his stuff there like some primal claim to the area. Ginny had broken off some time during the walk of the train's hall, and he lifted and rolled a stiff shoulder as he glanced about before deciding to head to the platform- it would be easier to find his friends there.

He stepped off the train to look around, tilting his head lazily and finally settling down as he realized he would have to wait a little longer.

It shouldn't be that bad really, what was a few more minutes compared to a whole summer?

But, unaccountably, it was. Harry felt like his skin was stretching and pulling in anxiousness, his heart beating hard against its protective cage like it wanted to be free, his magic lighting up and surging along his blood.

He wanted to see Hermione as soon as possible.

So Harry gave up any pretense of aloofness, peacefulness, and stood to weave his way through the growing platform crowd. He finally stood himself quite near the entrance, off to one side so he could watch everyone who entered and be seen by anyone looking for him.

He practically couldn't control the grin of anticipation breaking out on his face, but he managed. He startled instead when someone was suddenly with him in his little world, and he was brought back to the bustle of the train station for the magical school of Hogwarts as her choppy movements drew his attention.

Ginny shuffled as she stood beside him, and he wondered what she had to say that couldn't have been said in summer letters (the few that he'd actually gotten from her- around Dumbledore's orders anyway). Then she visibly gathered herself and straightened, her chin coming up to display her shy smile as she tucked some red hair behind her ear. When she looked up at him, tentatively, he shifted and regarded her. "Harry," she started only to shift again, losing all her collected courage and looking away.

"Ginny, do you need something?" He finally turned fully to her, and he watched her odd display of mannerisms as she flushed and then smiled and drew up.

"You know, last year everyone thought you had some secret relationship going on, all the girls were saying that was why you were avoiding me- us." She smiled shyly, her eyes closing and her freckles prominent. "But everything's okay now, we can hang out together and you can stop worrying. It's not like Neville and the others will bother us."

He furrowed his brow.

She emitted a light girlish laugh, and Harry felt his entire spine stiffen with the need to suddenly get away from her. "Those rumors were pretty stupid, now that I think about it."

Unable to still his curiosity, he relaxed slightly and regarded her. "How so?"

She smiled and tossed her head while she snorted her amusement. "Please, Luna's not your type. I know- she used to hang out with me, and she's more the ditsy Ron type."

Harry felt his blood smoldering, his whole form tensing as suddenly his nails were digging into the palms of his hands from his fists. But he managed to settle himself, and he breathed out heavily between his clenched teeth. (My type…?)"What about Hermione?"

Ginny's face blanched, as if the idea hadn't even occurred to her- and then she emitted a fake little laugh. Her hand waved in the air, "Please, we know why Hermione's not girlfriend material." Harry gaped as he suddenly understood why Ginny had changed from being so hostile to indulgently accepting of Hermione.

Harry sharply turned his head to the side, biting back the angry comment rising in his heart. He stared at the young girl he called friend as she tossed her crimson hair and smiled just so.

"No, I don't know."

She choked on her laugh, her brown eyes wide as she stared at him.

She suddenly jostled forward as Luna knocked shoulders with her on her way to Harry, her face ever dreamy and unaware though Harry's eyebrows rose when he spotted her wand in her hand instead of behind her ear. Ginny righted herself clumsily and glared, and then gaped, at the absentminded blonde.

Luna ignored her. "I'm hungry, I do hope there's pudding at the feast."

Harry gaped as well, a happy stunned uprising in his heart as he realized he wasn't the only one who could see how precious and beautiful Hermione was. He swallowed almost painfully as he took in Neville's disgusted glower from behind the fourth year, his usually affable face contorted grossly as he stiffly made his way around the Weasley daughter.

Ginny sputtered and faltered under their combined stoniness, her eyes darting between the powerful trio with a sudden understanding of all they could do- all they knew about magic and how to use it because they were the shunned, and had learned and discovered to ease their aches.

She quietly took her leave.

The trio stood in silent, blessed, comfort for but a few more minutes before Harry's green eyes lit up- Hermione had just walked through the barrier. She was as small and unassuming as ever, but it seemed that Harry's eyes were drawn to her now as they had never been until just the previous year.

There was a light to her that seemed to call him- despite the fact that her messy curls were in a hasty bun secured by her wand, her eyes distracted into glancing at Crookshanks as he paced in his carryon, and her form stumbling under the weight of her book bag and the awkwardness of her trolley…

Hermione was beautiful.

Harry grinned as he greeted Hermione with a large gesture, watched her catch his eye and then blush before she was smiling and making her way over to him. He pulled her into a quick hug as greeting, feeling unaccountably happy when she squeezed him in return and then looked up to his face with a giggle. One that she didn't bother covering up and it seemed like her hands made no move to.

He hesitated before he brought up his hands and signed the phrase- I had a great summer. I learned a lot. Though he was still having trouble with his subject comment switch around, he liked the way her eyes lit up and her smile prominently displayed her white teeth before he was suddenly engulfed in a Hermione Bear Hug.

He laughed as Neville came up to give her a large, tight hug and twirl her around- her shoulder bag dropping to the walkway where he picked it up to watch the dizzy brunette be pulled into a far gentler hug by the absent minded Luna. When Hermione was finally left alone she blinked at them and smiled shyly, her hands grasping the carry-on case for Crookshanks before Neville took it and set off for their claimed train compartment.

Luna giggled randomly, reaching up to pat down Hermione's wayward hair as the girl laughed in response. Bulbous eyes turned to him happily, "See, the poor thing has no other outlet for her magic."

A startled laugh was pulled out of him as he finally understood.

Hermione flushed and shrugged one shoulder lightly, Neville finally returning from behind her to startle her with another, gentler hug before they all settled down.

Harry watched Hermione twitch her nose before he smiled and caught her attention. "Has it come along any?"

Hermione narrowed her eyes at his lips, whispering to herself before her face cleared and she shook her head. The blush she presented this time was shamed, and her eyes fell to look at her mary janes. "I don't think it ever will. But now I know that the buzzing is really strong magic- I accidentally ran into this old lady with a rather large beauty charm." She smiled ruefully up at him.

Harry leveled heavy eyes on her, regrets pulling at him before he firmed and smiled. Hermione was fine this way, as she'd been since he'd known her. Even if she could never again hear the birds call in the morning or the splash of waves on sand, the purr of Crookshanks or the hoot of content Hedwig.

He pulled her into another hug, and felt her tense form relax and a sigh escape against his shirt. Neville and Luna gave him an inquiring look, and Harry closed his eyes- they were all friends. "Madame Pomfrey tried to give her back her hearing through a magical procedure this summer; it didn't work quite as they'd wanted it to."

Hermione shifted slightly with a giggle, her dewy eyes looking up to him from under her leonine hair. "Can you talk again?"

Harry startled, laughed with surprise. "What? Why?"

She bit her lip and smiled shyly. "I like feeling the vibrations." Her eyes flicked to one side as she blushed.

And Harry smiled gently, carefully pulling her head back to rest at the base of his throat as he returned to their two friends.

This was the closest she'd ever come to hearing his voice.

"They've been running tests on Hermione since she wasn't born deaf- they thought they might be able to encourage the healing."

Luna's soft glow seemed subdued, her smile gentle and eyes loving as she regarded her friend. "Well, Hermione's too special to just conform. I don't think the jackalopes meant this anyway."

Neville smiled off kilter and his twinkling eyes fondly regarded Harry and the girl resting contently in his arms. "Hermione is just fine though, isn't she?" His face clouded with worry before he shook his head and cleared it. "What am I saying? Hermione won't let anything get her down- she'd laugh at death for any odd reason she could think of."

Harry grinned and laughed, liking the way Hermione gasped and then pressed her ear against his clavicle to get closer to the sound.

She reluctantly pulled away, a small smile on her face and her eyes sparkling. "You laughed."

Harry grinned and Neville chuckled, "Yeah, he did. And you lit up."

Hermione grinned outright and blew a strand of hair from her face. "It feels funny."

Luna tilted her head, her wide eyes calculating before she looked at Neville and quickly poked him in the side while pressing her ear to his collarbone. Neville startled out a laugh before blushing and settling himself down.

Harry and Hermione exchanged grins and laughs of their own.

Their little quad slowly settled into regular student topics, pondering who would be their DADA professor, wondering about the feast, debating over who would be prefects this year…

Harry grinned and looked up only to startle and stare.

The Diggory's had just entered the magical platform. Watching the proud family was at once awe inspiring and humbling, the stiff limp of Cedric's injured leg lent a stern reprimand for their ignorance of war and Voldemort, a macabre reminder that they were too sheltered and needed to grow up and take a stand.

He watched with wide eyes as Cedric spotted them and slowly but determinedly approached, his face set as he limped proudly beside his exuberant father.

The strapping youth had targeted him with steely eyes, and Harry could only stand beside a confused Hermione as the crowd parted and whispered and the Hufflepuff champion continued to approach.

He finally stopped in front of the mismatched group, and he drew up to his full height even though he was slightly trembling from strain and there was a pained tenseness in his lips.

Harry shuffled nervously.

"Harry, it's good to see you again." Cedric offered a small glance to the gathering crowd before straightening further, proud and defiant. "I can't thank you enough for what you've done; I wanted you to know that I'm happy you're on our side. I'll be at your back for the war."

Harry swallowed and smiled: something insignificant and quiet from when he was a small underfed boy who got thrown into dark cupboards. "I'm just glad you're okay, it will be good to see you in the halls again."

Cedric smiled before finally glancing at Hermione, taking in her wide eyes and curly hair before his face softened and he shuffled. "Ah, I wanted to thank you too." He mumbled, his head tilted to the ground, and Harry watched Hermione narrow her eyes and lean forward now that his lips were suddenly harder to read. He pursed his lips and turned back to the older boy as he continued, "My Pa heard some of the aurors talking about you, and some stuff from the medical wing." He offered his lopsided smile as he looked up, "Though I have to say you're the quietest Gryffindor I've ever met."

Hermione drew back with her confusion, and Harry shook his head before tapping her shoulder. His stewing anger at Ginny and the Weasleys made him defiant of any reaction he'd get from Cedric or the milling students, all he cared about right now was the girl at his side and how uncomfortable she looked now that Cedric was waiting for her response- a response that she didn't know how to give because she hadn't understood him.

She looked up to him with wide eyes, and he softened his own when he caught her threatening tears and the tremble in her lips. She knew that a sizeable crowd was staring. (He hated how different this was from the kind witch who had listened to his laugh with her ear against his chest, her smile bright as she explained her knowledge and had every intention of sharing her joy in it.) So Harry smiled and spoke softly, knowing that she could tell he was from the way his muscles would tense in his face (he appreciated her keen observational skills all the more when she took in his visual cues and relaxed visibly, which in turn set him more at ease). "Cedric was just saying thank you, I don't think he meant to put you on the spot like that."

She smiled bravely and turned back to the confused hufflepuff and his patriarch. "I don't need any thanks; I did what anyone else would have in my place. But thank you for it nonetheless."

Cedric glanced furtively at Harry, and the dark haired boy narrowed his eyes at the scrutinizing grey of the Diggory stare. He wondered, briefly, what he would do- but then Cedric proved he belonged in the ever accepting Hufflepuff House when he shrugged his shoulders and smiled- his face clearly in view. "Forgive me- I had no idea you were…ah." He fumbled with that cautious and painful awkwardness that only made it more awkward, and Harry grimaced before straightening.

Amos blinked at them, wondering what is was all about before his face cleared and he gaped at Hermione and then Cedric. He was a rather unobservant fellow, but not to the point where he failed to catch on- "You mean she's a dummy?"

Hermione bristled beside Harry, and he glared as Cedric gave his father a sharp glance. Harry stepped forward firmly, trying to ignore the whispers of the students and the guilty look Cedric was giving him. "Hermione holds the best grades in our school year, she's not stupid." He spat out, protective and wondering if Hermione dealt with this all the time.

Cedric cleared his throat. "My father didn't really mean that Harry; and Hermione, I'm sorry he said it like that."

"But she can't hear me." Amos protested.

"I can carry on conversation just fine sir, but I wonder if you can observe proper courtesy and do the same." Rang out her sharp voice, and Harry settled with a vindictive pride as Amos startled and flushed.

He felt the hard working of his throat as he forced himself to swallow all the retorts rising on his tongue; strangely, they tasted acidic and bitter as they went back down. Hermione is smart, Hermione is kind, Hermione can do wandless magic, Hermione can do silent magic, Hermione is shy, Hermione is brave, Hermione is beautiful, Hermione is gentle, Hermione helps me, Hermione cares, Hermione loves, Hermione cries, Hermione laughs…Hermione can do everything she sets her mind to….

Even as Harry knew all these things he heard the rising murmurs of the crowd, saw the shifty looks and the darted glances as Hermione stiffened and thrust her chin out in the very same defiant look she had given Malfoy last school term.

Harry felt his chest tighten as he saw that look again, wondering about the vulnerability he could see in it even as Amos backed up a step from her glare.

Luna huffed and absently flicked her wrist to release some of her tension- her wand was back behind her ear so no one flinched, but Harry saw a few people titter a laugh at 'Loony Luna Lovegood.'

Neville glowered darkly and shifted, his bulk suddenly more ominous and maliciously prominent- but people gave him curious looks and then dismissed him as they had learned to do for the kind bumbling idiot he was known to be.

Harry's eyes flashed in a glare.

These were his friends.

Luna had the knowledge to hex anyone rude enough to stare and laugh and dismiss them in the same breath. Neville was brave enough to stand in the defense of his friends and seriously harm anyone who so much cracked a grin. And Hermione… Hermione was strong around her handicap, she'd overcome it and welcomed the differences it brought upon her- she was victorious and strong and would fight and stand up just as well as anyone of them could if they had half the courage she possessed.

And Harry found he was accepted among them - the mismatched and shunned – because he understood and was understood.

So Harry glowered darkly, listened to the murmurs and taunts and laughs- then he nodded his head firmly. He ignored Ginny and Ron shifting uneasily, just at the edge of the crowd- their confusion and slight shame very visible as they gave him sorry glances.

He ignored Cedric and his father as they shifted, tense and worried and Amos almost pained in his regret.

He ignored the way Luna absently tilted her head, blonde messy waves falling across her shoulders as her wide eyes stared at him and smiled.

He ignored Neville, the large boy red and angry as he glared out at those people whispering and pointing.

He did face Hermione, because this was for her.

Harry was going to stand up.

And it was about bloody time that someone did.

"Hermione is a wonderful person who doesn't mind helping people when they ask, or offering that help if it's needed." Hermione tilted her head, her eyes incredulous and wide as a slow smile spread her lips.

Neville straightened and stared at him.

"I don't think any one of you, even you adults"- he quickly gave the gathered parents – Amos- a dark look –"understand that she's worked very hard to understand us. And we've done nothing in return."

Luna settled into her usual calmness, her large eyes blinking as she smiled.

"So Hermione, thanks for teaching me how to better control my magic, for listening to me and putting up with me when I'm broody and annoying. Thank you for writing to me this summer and worrying about me, for caring and communicating."

Hermione laughed lightly, her eyes sparkling with tears and her cheeks rosy with a large smile.

Harry finally smiled, proud and defiant. "So, I was wondering- would you go to Hogsmeade with me?"

Hermione laughed even as the crowd hushed, her head thrown back and her curls swinging as she stepped closer to him. Her eyes crinkled with her bright smile, sparkling and so happy he felt exuberantly dizzy just watching her.

"Yes, I think I'd like that."

Harry smiled, "Perfect."

Harry, after all, did a very good job of standing up. The smiling young witch in front of him was more than perfect incentive for it. Their quartet settled into a calm acceptance- the crowd didn't matter; their petty perceptions were pointless, their fingers and whispers plain ignorance, their understanding and ideas shallow.

The friends, and couple to be so much more, walked quietly to their claimed compartment, backs strong and their chins up as they broke through the crowd and smiled.

This year, they would stand up to whatever came their way.

And everyone else would know.

It was time to grow up and look around.

It was time to stand up.


Hermione couldn't stop grinning as her parents conversed with the professors she might be taught under during her stay at the new school- a school for magical people with abilities she'd never dreamed of. She would be able to do this, there would be other people with her strange perceptions and she could make some friends.

She tightened her hold on the letter still in her hands (she hadn't put it down since they'd received the owl bearing it, and that had been weeks ago). Her mom pursed her lips and looked at her, and Hermione lost her smile as the strangers became confused and also looked at her, her parents stiff before they stood and moved over to her.

Her father's fingers smoothed through her hair as the stranger - a stern looking witch with a tartan robe – made a motion to her partner and he left the house. The lady remained in her calm position, and her mother started signing to her to explain the situation.

Hermione blushed as she realized she had been so caught up in watching these people she had forgotten to watch them-she hadn't looked to figure out what they were talking about.

She started panicking as she realized that the stern woman (Ms. McGonagall) and the school were unaware of her condition, they didn't know if she could actually attend.

Hermione started crying.

She was frantically tugging at her father's sleeve, his eyes wide and glossy as he stared at her, bewildered, and didn't understand a thing she was trying to say around her tears. She could feel her mother's hands in her hair, trying to grasp her shoulders, to stop her hands from clenching in the fabric of her father's shirt.

There was a sudden shift.

Hermione stilled as something around her – inside her – changed.

Her parents turned their wide eyes to the door, and Hermione followed their gazes to meet the prettiest twinkling eyes she had ever seen. Her face cleared and a slow shy smile came over her, she barely had the notion to glance at the woman that had come in beside him.

"My name is Albus Dumbledore, and I wanted to speak to this young child before making any important decisions." Hermione jumped as a voice resounded in her head, and her wide eyes stared at lips that had been moving- she could hear him?

Mr. Dumbledore seated himself slowly, carefully like he was afraid of startling her. Then he smiled- his pretty eyes crinkling – as he leaned forward to introduce the woman he entered with: "This is Madame Pomfrey, I would like her to do a check up on you and then I would like to perform a skills appraisal before I make any decisions. "

Hermione nodded frantically, enthralled by the gentle voice echoing in her head. She watched docilely as the nurse gently prodded her temples and made some complicated movements with her wand – that had to be a wand didn't it? – Over her head and neck before tutting and writing something down on a paper that floated in midair.

Hermione's eyes were wide and her lips were pursed into a curious form as she leaned as far forward as she could to watch the green of healing magic swirling around the paper.

A chuckle inside her mind startled her into looking at Mr. Dumbledore. He tilted his head forward and smiled from behind his ample whiskers, and Hermione lit up as the blue and gold around him became baby soft to match the twinkle in his eye.

That was a nice color- it was benign and encouraging and …perfect for such a grandfatherly figure. She tilted her head and leaned forward to speak, because she had never met another person that had bothered to learn sign language.

"Mister, I can hear your voice. Is that because you shine blue and gold?"

She heard his laugh in her head, and her eyes felt wet at the weathered, well-used sound. She wanted to hear it again.

"No darling, that's because you're special." He shifted slightly in his chair, and Hermione watched him with all the attentiveness she'd learned to cultivate because of her handicap and people's natural inhibitions around her.

She bit her lip and smiled, unable to focus anywhere but to the nice man as he stroked his beard (pulling it out from under his belt in the process). "Does that mean I can go learn magic?" She leaned forward more, and she saw her parents startle violently and the two lady strangers jerk while the stoic, dark man merely tilted his head.

Her mother gave her a sad look and spoke while she signed. "Honey, we're not even sure if this is a good idea. You'll be so far away- what if something goes wrong?"

The older lady in tartan robes shifted slightly, her large eyes narrowing before she settled and whispered something to the lady that had checked her with the wand.

The gloomy man stepped forward, his expression dark and brooding as he regarded her- but she firmed under his glare: her lips pursed and her eyes bright as she observed the silver intelligence to him and the dark guilt he carried around his heart. "You must understand she'd be doubly prosecuted- not only is she handicapped but she comes from a muggle family. It might be in her best interest to lock her magic away."

She started at the sound in her head, but then realized exactly what he had said and gaped up at him with dismay.

This set up a furious conversation with the adults, and Hermione rushed to glance around and figure out what was going on. She only caught a few words correctly, and those were enough to send her into panic. Her parents were too worried, the strangers too unsure, and the kind Mr. Dumbledore was watching passively and not doing anything.

So she had to do something.

"No!" She stood up; her eyes wide and latently aware that she'd startled everyone. She calmed herself and took a deep breath, her eyes stinging before she twisted her face to control herself. "I want to learn, please. I"- she paused, unsure of how to say it. Instead she closed her eyes and clasped her hands together, searching inside herself for the piece that felt so right. "I don't think I could live without magic- now that I know that's what I'm missing it seems as if I've never not known it. You must understand." She looked at them imploringly, and she was only met by startled wide eyes- Snape regarded her with some satisfaction (she wondered why that should be so, but then she realized the gentle brown had combined with his sharp silver- he thirsted for knowledge, he might just understand how connected she was to magic and the way she wanted to understand it).

Dumbledore laughed, and she closed her eyes with some contentment as it rung in her head and settled her nerves. "I do believe Miss Granger will be a fine addition to our school. Poppy-?" He turned to the nurse-witch.

And Hermione turned entreating eyes to her to make sure she knew without a doubt that she was serious- despite her ignorance and the troubles that would come.

The lady faltered under her steady stare, but Hermione didn't care. She continued as the woman regained herself and drew her shoulders back. Hermione narrowed her eyes, for the woman looked like she was gearing up to deliver bad news. She felt a sting in her eyes that hadn't been there for a long time, and a burning in her throat that meant she didn't dare attempt any speech for fear of confusing people more with garbled words.

"The young lady is very astute; it seems that her ability to understand us is not hindered by her lack of hearing." The woman bit her lip and shifted a quick glance Hermione's way, locking eyes before they softened and she turned to fully address the adults.

Hermione scrambled and moved, standing by her mother to watch Madame Pomfrey's lips. The adults shifted uncomfortably as her handicap was thrust into the limelight, but she ignored them and stared, focusing, feeling that electrifying rise tingling up her spine as her whole being seemed to focus and ignite from within.

She recognized what it was because she always seemed to, but now she knew exactly what to call it- magic.

Her magic.

Pomfrey swallowed and continued, trying to blink away the wetness in her eyes as Hermione observed a soft red engulf her heart and a healing green tug at her hands. "From the diagnosis spells, she wasn't born like this." She shifted, hesitation, and then she smiled quietly- a gentle brown care lighting her whole magical core up in view of Hermione's senses. "I dare hope that we might be able to heal her, at least partially, if I have time to give her some more intricate tests and work with her. As long as she's at the school she won't be trouble though, we'll just have to be cautious with how we talk to our classes," she gave Hermione a warm tilt of the head, "and ensure that Miss Granger can read the whole lesson."

Hermione lit up with a grin, feeling the pull at her cheeks that she hadn't felt in a very long time that indicated the full revealing of her large front teeth- but she didn't care.

The tartan lady smoothed her hands down the side of her robes, her pursed expression calculating as she stepped forward to regard her. Hermione faltered, but then narrowed her eyes and felt her magic, her magic, light up and help her read the body language of the stern looking woman.

She was cautious, but it had nothing to do with Hermione and the trouble she might represent- the smoky grey around her heart spoke of a hesitation due to her actual abilities and not her disabilities. Hermione narrowed her eyes and tilted her chin up, standing strong to reaffirm her conviction with the body language she had read and learned and practiced.

No one was giving her a refusal.

Not this time.

The laugh rang in her head, and she faltered with wide eyes before turning an amazed smile to Mr. Dumbledore, watching him closely even as she felt her mother startle beside her. She didn't look her way though, even when the heavy reassuring hand of her father came down to rest upon her shoulder. "Miss Granger, dear, I'm sure everything will work out. I will introduce you to our Charms professor though; you'll need a spell for your quills to aid in taking notes." He made a grand gesture to the corner, where the quiet male had come in.

Hermione scrunched up her nose, arching back as her senses lit and she blinked to clear her eyes and then leaned forward to stare. Her mother was suddenly at her side, fretting and near tears before Hermione tried to calm her down- distracted glances being thrown at the man as the others milled about confusedly.

When Mrs. Granger had finally settled, Hermione swallowed and took a step forward, unable to resist the call for understanding as she watched him.

Mr. Dumbledore spoke quietly, reverently, and Hermione wondered why he asked them to watch before he turned to address her. "Mr. Flitwick is renowned in the wizarding world, I'm certain the two of you could work something out." He smiled and steepled his fingers, watching her before he tilted his head with a good natured, interested and sly, grin. "Now, what is it?"

She gaped at him briefly, unsure as to what exactly she was feeling before she felt a sour expression take over her face and she took a firm step forward. "Deception." Mr. Flitwick jumped, but then his face shifted into a feral grin and his form shifted, the dark solid grey that had surrounded him leaving as she watched the tall, unremarkable man from before suddenly become a short stubby man with features closely resembling the trolls in children's stories.

He performed a courtly bow, and Hermione's eyes were wide and her smile gaping as she breathed out a laugh. She took another step to him, marveling at the way the earthy brown now engulfed his heart as he gave her a playful, secretive wink. "I'm very good at charms as they say; that was one that made my form what everyone expects to see- a perfectly unexceptional stranger." He grinned again, revealing slightly pointed teeth as his eyes twinkled and Hermione spun to look at Dumbledore.

He was smiling behind his whiskers, and he nodded his head before turning to address the adults. "Miss Granger is quite special, as you saw. She will need training so that her magic doesn't simply react and try to read everything in more magical surroundings. She'll learn to control her core and ignore her urges to read people's magic when she doesn't need to. I dare say that she has enough knowledge of body language to need not rely on her innate magical talents." And he smiled and Hermione could only smile back, unused to such support coming from anyone other than her parents.

But this man wanted her in his school, and she felt a rising in her soul that had nothing to do with her magic and everything to do with the joyful tears coming to her eyes.

He politely ignored this, and turned to her parents and his four staff as she closed her eyes to listen to his voice ringing through her head. She smiled contently and stood stolidly, and she ignored the tug of her magic yearning to examine everyone else.

"Because I have a certain skill in Legilimens and Occlumency, your daughter is very capable of hearing me speak. Professor Snape here has these skills as well, and is quite able to teach Miss Granger some core training skills that will aid her- we'll have to set up some times before the term starts and then she can continue during her evenings while attending."

She was startled and her eyes snapped open as a different voice rang in her head, and her wide brown eyes met the calculating gaze of Mr. Snape- "We might even be able to teach her basic Legilimens, so that she has less difficulty reading lips and filling in any communication gaps." His lips curled into a very slight smile as his dark eyes continued to hold her locked in place.

But a slow smile overtook her lips as well, and she let it grow as Mr. Snape visibly startled at her acceptance. She liked his voice too; it had this rich quality of hidden depths and waiting talents- ones she couldn't wait to discover.

He collected himself and gave her a conceding nod.

"So then, Hermione's going to be okay?" Hermione watched her mom hesitate and flutter her hands about, unsure and unused to people fighting to have more contact with her daughter.

Hermione smiled and turned it down to the floor, waiting to hear the voice. She didn't want to even read the lips as Dumbledore answered, she wanted to hear and ignore, for a while, that she was deaf.

Maybe that could be fixed.

"She'll be a marvelous student- we'll gladly have her in our halls."

Hermione bit her lip to refrain from smiling too broadly and jumping at the elderly man to give him a hug.

"Thank you." She finally watched her dad say, his eyes narrowed (but she knew that was because he didn't like crying, and not because he distrusted the strangers- otherwise his stance wouldn't be so welcoming and his coloring wouldn't be so vibrantly brown).

Hermione jumped up and ran to her parents for a hug, bursting into tears that had to fight to get out around her laughter. She couldn't remember laughing in such a long time, and she grinned and turned in her father's arms. So her eyes sparkled and her magic soared and she felt entirely enlightened.

"Hermione," the gentle voice soothed her from her elated heights, and she let herself sober quietly as she looked at Mr. Dumbledore. "I know life's been hard for you, but we'll try everything to help you. You just have to remember to stand up, to be happy and find things that make you happy so you never have to cry." He smiled kindly, reminding her of the old St. Nicholas in her childhood picture book. "Yes, stand up against everything that gets you down and laugh. I believe it's the most beautiful sound in the world."

She could only laugh as she watched them, eagerly taking in the swirls of their cores as they retreated from her home.

Yes, she would stand up- she would laugh and live and…

She ran out of the house door after them, smiling and catching their attention as she burst out the front entrance to catch them at the end of her front walk. She gave them the most blinding grin she could muster, her joy bubbling up inside her as she watched their shock and skittishness move to curiosity and amusement.

"Thank you!" She tilted her chin up, her stance wide and open and welcoming. Unaccountably pleased that people who hardly knew her had agreed to help her and teach her despite her handicap- to help her overcome it more than she'd ever thought possible. "I'm going to make you proud, you'll never regret this."

Smiles, Madame Sprout laughing so that her whole jolly body shook and her eyes watered.

"No, I don't think we ever will."

The rest of the staff gave solemn nods, agreeing with their headmaster, their eyes twinkling as she stood there in her bare feet and watched them.

Mr. Flitwick turned to bow again, covered in his illusion charm and grinning. "I'll see you soon, youngling. We need to work out the spells for your school equipment."

Hermione nodded; proud and grateful and humbled all at once.

"We expect great things from you, Miss Granger."

Hermione grinned, hardly taking the time to startle as they were suddenly gone before taking a deep breath and staring at the space they'd just left.

Her eyes closed and her head tilted back, and then she smelt the garden's flowers, could feel the spiky coolness of trimmed grass under her feet, and she could swear she heard the wind blowing through her hair as the shadow of cloud passed over her skin.

The joy bubbled up within her, the excitement roiling under her skin and inciting the energy to coil her muscles and her imagination to conjure fanciful pictures of mythical animals and majestic castles and beautiful princesses.

She laughed and didn't stop.

The End, for us readers carried along- the characters have much more life to live after all.





!$)(&!#$)(&!$)&!#PO($&) Ahahaha I tried to post this last night and screwed it up, so here you guys go.,

I go to get my seventh book tonight!!! WOOT!!! The adult cover looks so darn hot! Aheh. Anyway, it's too darn late for me to edit, as I have work tomorrow…whistles innocently I hope everyone enjoyed the super long last post! And I can't wait to read all your responses to, what I must admit, is a chapter I can't believe I actually wrote (Really, I feel super good about writing this one).

So Chau and best wishes,
Crazy Mishka