"I congratulate you, the first class to graduate since, The Fall. The witches and wizards who will bring about the future. The class of 2002. And, now, before you toss those hats and leave our grounds, for what many of you may be the last time, let's hear from your class valedictorian. The first student in over 250 years to graduate with a 4.75 GPA, the pride of the Education department, of American Wizarding University, of New York City, and indeed the wizarding world, Ms. Hermione Jane Granger."
Okay, here we go she thought to herself.
As the applause erupted around her, she stood and slowly made her way to the podium. Outwardly Hermione was calm, composed, serene even. But, on the inside she quaked and prayed to not fall apart. She quickly and nervously tossed her long auburn curls away from her face and allowed her light brown eyes to glance quickly over the crowd. Then she smiled at the University officials, shook hands with the President, and turned to search out the faces of the people who could always ease her fears.
She smiled. It wasn't hard to find them. On the side of the stadium they sat together, a small group, with many red heads reflecting the sun, all with faces shining with tears of pride and love, the people who held her heart. She didn't know how they had done it, many she knew couldn't possibly afford it, but here they were. For her. It humbled her. She addressed the crowd, but hoped they knew her words were for them, her family, her friends, her support.
"Esteemed witches, wizards, friends, family, teachers, fellow graduates and students. I have wracked my brain for the past few weeks and wondered what to say today. I know many of you may laugh to think the always talkative, opinionated me would not have something ready, but there you have it," she laughed at herself as a soft wave of laughter slid across the crowd.
"I have thought about this day and planned for this for what seems like my entire life. But, as the reality has slowly sunk in, and the future that I dreamed of for so long is now here, all I can think to say is thank you. Thank each and every one of you for every day of the past twenty two years. Five years ago I didn't think it would happen. As we fought for all we held dear, lost people we loved, and lived in such abject fear, I honestly didn't believe I would make it to stand in front of you today and say that. But, here we are. I know many valedictory speeches are about what the world should expect from us, and what we should expect from it, but I don't know what to tell you. I honestly don't know what to expect. If I have learned nothing else in the past twelve years, it is to expect the unexpected."
Again a ripple of laughter flowed over her and she felt warmed by the radiant smiles flashed up at her.
"So, here is what I have come up with to commemorate this most important day. Thank you to our families, be they muggle or magical, for loving and supporting us to get us to this day. Thank you to our many teachers, professors, and counselors for educating us and helping us to think and focus on more than just yesterday or today. For helping us ponder and plan for the future. Thank you to our comrades in arms. That is, those who struggled, fought, lived or…or," her voice hitched a bit with the unshed tears she bravely swallowed, "or died to get us here, alive and living without fear, to seek a bright new future."
She took a moment to breathe as she saw the many handkerchiefs dabbing at fallen tears throughout the crowd. She closed her eyes and allowed the names of those she had lost flit across her mind. Dumbledore, Snape, Sirius, Fred, Moody, Remus, Tonks, Bones, Dobby and so many more.
Raising her head she smiled and continued, "And, last, thank you to you, our friends. It is said that you can't choose your family, but you can, your friends. I sometimes wonder if that shouldn't be changed to you can choose your family of friends. Because for each of us here today, that is what you have been. Our family. Thank you for being there for us in the darkest and happiest of times. For being shoulders to lean on, study partners, roommates, and fellow miscreants, as needed. So, before I say my last congratulations to the class of 2002 please allow me one more personal set of thank yous. I know many of you would expect it, so it comes as no surprise that I take this time to thank a few people of my own. Mom and Dad, my cousin Shelley, the entire Weasley family, Ms. Georgina "Snoop" Handlecark, Minerva, and finally the three people without whom I wouldn't be here today, Mr. Ronald B. Weasley, Ms. Ginevra Weasley Potter, and Mr. Harry James Potter. For more than I could ever list here today, thank you. I love you all."
The crowd, upon hearing the names of the people who had led the charge in freeing them from over thirty years of fear, oppression and pain, erupted in loud cheers. It was several minutes before the quiet reigned again and most missed the kiss she blew softly in her friends' direction.
Standing to her full height of five feet five inches and smiling at the crowd, she said, "So, please stand class of 2002 and grab those tassels." She waited until all 172 students were on their feet, their brilliant smiles aimed at her.
"I charge you, my fellow graduates, to keep the last thirty years in mind as we forge the new history. Keep the pains, prejudices and horrors in the back of your minds, but in the past, as we all aim for a better tomorrow. Strive for peace, seek your own excellence and never believe in the impossible. Congratulations class of 2002. We did it!"
With that, she crossed the tassel of her own cap to her left side and beamed as her classmates followed suit.
The University President then stepped forward and placing his wand to his throat to amplify his voice, yelled over the growing thunder of cheering, "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the American Wizarding University class of 2002. Go forth and make us proud!"
Hermione finally allowed the tears of joy she had held back to fall, as she watched the caps flying in the air. She had done it. She had survived. She, and her friends, had beaten every odd and come through. With one last look and wave to her friends and family she allowed herself to be swept into the throng of celebratory hugs and congratulations.
"Well roomie, this is it, huh?" Georgina asked a bit sadly as she broke off the last of piece of tape from the box she had been filling.
Hermione glanced around the apartment full of boxes and tape and sighed, "Yeah I guess it is."
"What time do you have to leave for your graduation party?"
"I have another few minutes," Hermione said as she sat on the box closest to her. She looked across the room to her roommate and closest friend of the past four years and remembered.
"No freakin' way!"
Hermione jumped and fell over the box she had just put down upon hearing the feminine screech from behind her. Before she could right herself she saw a hand reach out to help her up and heard the voice continue.
"I can't believe it. I mean I saw the name on the school forms, but I honestly didn't believe it. The one and only, Hermione Granger, my roommate?! Seriously! This is so cool! I wrote so many articles on you and your friends. It's like I have known you forever. Things over here weren't near as bad as over there in the thick of things, so I had the time to write and research a lot. I mean, come on, you're like a living legend! And, now I get to room with you?! This is so un-freakin'-believable."
Hermione stepped back from the tiny, exuberant woman in front of her and smiled a little.
"I think legend is a bit much, but whatever. I guess I don't have to introduce myself, and uh, I guess you are Georgina?"
"Snoop," the dark haired girl smiled.
"Huh? I didn't look through any of your things, I promise!" Hermione quickly defended herself.
The bright blue eyes flashed with mirth as Georgina giggled, "No, no, no. That's my nickname. Snoop. I write articles for newspapers and magazines. And, I have had quite a few printed in other papers, even national ones. Nothing you would have read over there in England though. I'm hoping to write for AWUs, too."
"Oh," Hermione laughed with her. "Well, my friends call me…"
"Mione, I don't know where you expect to put all these darn books! This school of yours has to have less of them in their whole library!" an exasperated deep voice interrupted them from behind a high mound of books.
"Stop complaining and move, this chair is heavy, man!" another low voice said from outside the door.
The third more feminine voice reprimanded them both as the three people entered the tiny apartment, "Like Mione needs to hear you two prats complain all day. Sheesh! Give it a rest. She's nervous enough already with a new school, a new damn country and a roommate she doesn't even know. Now shut up and move!"
"Hi guys," Hermione laughed. "Ron just drop them there and I will get it all straight later. Harry that chair can go over by the window in my room. And, everyone, allow me to introduce my flatma..er roommate, Georgina "Snoop" Handlecark. Snoop, these are my friends, Harry, Ron and Ginny."
She watched as Harry smiled a quick, "Hi," as he continued on into Hermione's room to put down the huge papasan chair he held.
Ginny waved from behind Ron and gave a cheery hello.
Ron dropped the books he had been holding and straightened to smile down at Snoop. He smiled as he held out his hand to shake hers and opened his mouth to say hello.
But, he was interrupted by her squeak of, "Holy, Moses!"
"Uh, no, Ron," he blushed.
Thinking back Hermione laughed under her breath as she recalled that day over 4 years ago and how nervous Snoop had been to meet Ron. It had amazed all four of them a little, that she had had a crush on him and not Harry, the more famous and traditionally cute of the two men, but she had. And, now, remembering back on it all, Hermione smiled to herself as she recalled the pale face and round eyes of Snoop, as she finally touched hands with the man that would now, in only a week, be her husband.
"So," she asked bringing herself back to the present, "what's wrong?"
"I don't know, HG. I mean, nothing really, I guess. It's just so weird, you know. In under a month there's been so much change, you know? Just a while ago we were cramming, now we're graduates. Then, I marry Ron next week and have to live with a boy forever." She laughed a little as she continued, "And, you off to start your summer teaching internship, so far away!" A tear slid down her face as she began to crumble to the sofa.
Hermione rushed over to her, "Listen, change is good, right? I mean, yeah you have to live with Ron, how you will and why you would want to I will never figure out, but whatever," she laughed. "But, it's not like any of these changes are bad ones. And, what do you mean far away? My new place is like 3 blocks, ten minutes, from your new flat, er apartment, at most. And, we will be working near each other."
"I know, I'm being silly, it's just, you know, you've been here with me for what seems like forever. We've been through so much together. I don't know what I am going to do when I can't just call you from across the room. I'm going to miss the, what do I call it, normal, I guess."
"I know," Hermione breathed softly, "I will, too. But, it's not like we can't apparate as fast as we can call each other," she giggled. "And, once you get back from your honeymoon, we'll see just as much of each other."
"You're right, HG. I just hate change you know," Snoop laughed.
"Well, if things didn't continue to change, you would have nothing to write about," Hermione laughed as they hugged.
Both women finished their packing and gathered their things to floo to their respective family celebrations.
"I'll see you at my parents' house around seven, right?" Hermione asked as she prepared to step into the flames.
"Yep. My parents and brother just want a little time with me before we head over there. Phil is so excited. He keeps going on and on about getting to use his international wizardport for the first time."
"Okay, see you then. Have fun."
With that, Hermione tossed in the floo powder, followed by a pre-stamped page from her own, well used wizardport and shouted out, "International, London, Granger Home."
With a smile and a wave she was off.
The party had been a smashing success. People she had only corresponded with by post or owl for the past four years had shown up to congratulate her. And, she had gotten to spend some extra time with her two godchildren, Teddy, son of Tonks and Remus, but officially adopted and raised by Harry and Ginny, along with their own two children. And, Luna's daughter, her own partial namesake, Jane. It never ceased to amaze her how big her family had grown in such a short time.
After all the food was eaten, presents were opened and appreciated, and the older group of muggles and wizards had left for home, she disappeared to her old room and sat for a while. She heard the voices of those she loved a floor below and sent one last thanks up to the powers that be for allowing them all to make it to this day.
She then stood, looked into the mirror above her dresser and told herself, "Okay, Hermione, here we go. Onto the future. Time to grow up for real this time. No more studying, no more hiding. Time to live!"
With that she returned to her friends and the party. It was well past 4 am when she fell out of her new fireplace in her first New York City new apartment and stumbled over to her bed to pass out.
The following week passed quickly as she set up her new place and prepared for her friends' wedding. Before she knew it, Friday night had arrived and with it, the bachelorette party. She and Ginny had planned the night with great care. Ginny, being married young, a mother and commuting to school, hadn't had the luxury of a real college life. Georgina and Ron had gotten together so quickly and easily that they hadn't ventured out too often. With him working at the Ministry in England and her in school in the US, they had spent as much of their precious time together time away from others. And, Hermione, ever the studious one, hadn't really thought too much about the partying aspect of being at a large university. She had been more than content to spend her evenings and other free time reading, watching TV, or spending time with her friends. It had been a very rare thing for them to venture out to a bar or club. With that in mind, Ginny had suggested going out dancing and Hermione had agreed. A night clubbing with friends would be a perfect way to celebrate their new lives.
They picked out the top three clubs in the area and were going to spend a couple of hours in each. The plan was to see how many guys they could each get to dance with them. There were about twenty girls going and they planned to hit on every male they could reach. Ginny just kept reminding them with a laugh that Harry didn't need to know about it. They had gotten together a few weeks before and made little cards for the night that could be signed by each of the men they danced with. Then, at the end of the night, the planned to compare notes and the loser would have to pay for breakfast for everyone.
Not too wild or crazy by most people's standards, but fun for them. When the doorbell on her apartment rang, she called out, "Coming!" as she finished putting on the last of her lipstick.
She flung the door open to see Ginny and Snoop, along with a few other women, laughingly fall through.
"You ready?" Ginny asked.
"I guess so, what do you think?" Hermione did a quick turn to show off her new outfit and was rewarded with loud whistles and clapping.
"HG! Are you wearing a miniskirt?! My, goodness, you do have legs!"
Hermione laughed with them and did a small dance, "Yes, ma'am I do. No sweats tonight. And, I just got this top today at this little muggle secondhand shop. I can't believe someone didn't want it."
Their friend Beth, a muggle that Hermione and Snoop had worked with at Barnes and Noble, said, "Well, they knew it would look better on you. I mean, wow girl, 'the girls' look huge in that thing."
Blushing, Hermione looked down at her very exposed cleavage and asked a bit nervously, "It's not too much is it?"
"Oh come on, I wish I had 'em to show off," Beth laughed. "I mean, all you witches and not one of you can enhance a friend a little."
Hermione handed out glasses of champagne as her friends laughed and talked around her. She heard Ginny remind them all of the rules one last time.
"Okay, so only 3 rules ladies. One, no getting so drunk you spew! Two, no cheating and counting the same guy at a different bar twice. And, three," she directed at Hermione specifically, "no acting shy. No one says no to a dance. Be they muggle or wizard, no matter how stupid or trollish, unless they are so drunk they may puke on you, you say yes. Agreed?"
All of them agreed and raised their glasses as Hermione nodded and said, "To Georgina. May this night be a night you always remember fondly and may we all have the best time ever!"
Just before their glasses all clinked together she heard Beth laugh, "And, may Mione finally get some!"