Eight and Eighth

Chapter 1: First Summer after the Fall

By Marmalade Fever

Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim the Harry Potter series, belonging to J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made.

It was the honeysuckle that Hermione remembered the most from that glorious summer. Lying in the orchard, surrounded by blossoms, the sweet scent of their blooms teasing her nose, making her giddy. The way the breeze played with Ron's hair, ruffling the red, ultimately sending bright yellow pollen up his nose and making him sneeze.

Ron had a powerful sneeze. He was a big boy, thus with a big nose, thus with a big sneeze, like a train wreck. It made her laugh, watching his eyes turn red and watery as he grappled to regain his momentum. Ultimately, he'd had to quit the orchard in order to get his mother to find him an allergy potion—and a handkerchief. But Hermione had remained there, simply breathing in life—in a slightly less violent way than Ron—simply happy to be. Their great burden was finally over.

In a way, she wasn't sure if this meant that life had just begun or just ended. Voldemort had played such a crucial role in her life for the last seven years that the loss of something important to do left her almost confused. It just felt strange to be able to relax, no worries at all… well, except for the big question: what now?

She had bloody well missed her seventh year of school. And NEWTS! How was she supposed to function in life if she had never actually completed her schooling?

The answer came in the form of a letter, actually, three letters. Ginny got one as well, but hers was a little different.

Pig was thoroughly weighed down that morning. The four Gryffindors sat around the breakfast table, helping themselves to blackberry cobbler, the other Weasleys up and going about their morning already. Pig's miniscule wings fluttered hard just to be able to stay aloft.

The loss of Hedwig was still affecting Harry. Twice this summer, as they window-shopped in Diagon Alley, he'd very nearly gone into Eylops only to change his mind at the last minute and rush into Quality Quidditch Supplies instead, wasting his money on an entire set of balls and a new broom, the Skybeam Millenium.

Hermione took up the letter addressed to her, giddy when she saw the Hogwarts' emblem pressed into the wax seal. What really excited her, though, was the slight weight that shifted inside the envelope. Very carefully, with her finger she slid the letter open, and a piece of metal fell into her palm.

The badge was only about an inch in height, a dull metallic color, like steel. "Deputy Head Girl," it said, in large polished letters. She mused for a moment over the word deputy, her fingers already itching as she set the badge down to open the letter.

Across the table, Ginny squealed, holding up her own Head Girl badge. Hermione had to fight to keep her mouth from dropping open. Harry looked in equal shock. He too had a badge of some sort. It was Ron alone who had received just a letter. Hermione turned back to the text, determined to find out just what exactly was going on.

Dear Ms. Granger,

I am pleased to inform you that Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry would like to invite you back in order to complete your education. Because you are of age and have already been away from school for a year's time, it is completely up to you whether or not you wish to attend in the fall. All those "Eighth Years," as I have dubbed them, will be exempt from certain school rules. For example, if you do attend, you will be given free rein to visit Hogsmeade during your spare time.

We regret to inform you that, due to the unexpected influx of students, there are no beds available in any of the existing dormitories. However, accommodations have been made available in a previously uninhabited part of the castle for all those who wish to repeat their seventh year. A small common room as well as one girls' and one boys' dormitory will be available to you.

Furthermore, I am pleased to inform you that, should you make your return, you will be given the title of Deputy Head Girl. We, the staff, found it unfair that you, Ms. Granger, should be denied the right to the title that you have so long deserved. However, we also did not wish to deprive the "First Time Seventh Years" from the opportunity to have their own Head Boy and Girl. Therefore, you will strictly be Head Girl in title, while Ms. Ginevra Weasley will be performing the actual Head Girl duties. You will still be given the ability to deduct and award House Points and bestow detentions as you see fit.

Attached, please find a list of books and supplies. Please send a reply by owl, informing of your decision.


Professor Minerva McGonagall

Head Mistress, Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Hermione hadn't exactly been aware of the overwhelmingly large grin that just spread itself across her face. The previous summer, she hadn't once mentioned her immense disappointment that she'd be missing out on her final year of school. If she had mentioned the fact that she was missing her NEWTs preparation… well. And obviously she had wanted to be Head Girl more than anything ever since her first day at Hogwarts. Actually, it was more ever since she'd received her first letter.

"Well," said Ron, finally looking up. He, for one, looked a bit disappointed, which made complete and total sense, for him. "I can already tell that someone's made up her mind to go." He tipped his head in Hermione's direction. "And while, personally, I'd rather not go through all that homework, again, or… ugh… do NEWTs," he grimaced, "I guess it's probably a good idea."

Harry snorted. He had a cautious smile in place. "Yeah, s'pose so." He looked at Ginny and went a little pink, probably realizing that they would be able to actually have classes together. "I'm game if you lot are."

Hermione squealed, clapping her hands together. "Harry, did you get one too?" she asked. Before he could reply, she'd flitted around the table to pick up his discarded badge. "You did! Oh, Harry!" She hugged him. "And Ginny!" She hugged the other girl's head from behind, causing Ginny to erupt into laughter.

"Am I missing something?" This was from Ron, who sat in befuddlement, his lips twisted into a half grin, half scowl.

"Oh, sorry," Hermione apologized. She couldn't keep herself from smiling, though. She tried to be sober, the memory of when they had all received their letters before fifth year rising to the surface of her brain. "Ginny's been made Head Girl."

Ron grinned, though he looked a little put-out at the same time. "What is it with us Weasleys and being Heads?" he asked. "That's the third one in the family. But that doesn't explain the two of you," he added, looking pointedly at Harry first, then Hermione.

She took in a deep breath. "I've been named Deputy Head Girl." She paused. "I guess it's mostly just an honorary title."

Ron smiled. "Which I guess means Harry…"

Harry nodded. "Yeah. Deputy Head Boy. Whoop-de-doo." Despite the sarcasm, Harry did look a bit on the proud side.

Ron, apparently, decided to save Harry the trouble of trying to down-play his victory. "Well, then congratulations, mate!" He stopped to scratch his head, his hair flopping to the side. "But how? You were never a prefect."

Harry shrugged. "Neither was my dad," he pointed out.

There was a moment of silence before Hermione squealed again. "You have no idea how happy this makes me," she exclaimed. "Going back to Hogwarts again…" She was getting misty-eyed. "The grounds, the professors, the classes…"

"The books?" Ginny offered.

Hermione didn't bother to glare at her, sighing happily instead.

Ron shrugged, still looking warily at Hermione. He turned his attention to Harry. "I guess that means we'll get to play Quidditch."

Harry nodded. He'd started frowning a minute earlier, and the others only now noticed. He sighed. "But it'll be different, at school I mean." His comment didn't go unheard. The others exchanged a silent look. He was right. For one thing, only a handful from their class would be returning for school, the others having finished up in the spring. Besides this, some of their teachers would be gone as well.

There had been a time in which all four of them would have welcomed the loss of Severus Snape as a professor with arms wide open. Now? Now was just… different.

Out of curiosity, Hermione turned to her still unread list of school books. She skimmed, looking for something she couldn't quite let herself name at first. "Defense Against the Dark Arts isn't being taught," she caught herself, "or, at least it doesn't have a book." She looked up at them slowly. Ginny had taken Harry's hand in hers. Hermione cleared her throat, and another book on her list caught her eye. "Hmm…"

"What?" Ginny asked.

"There's a book listed called Grieving for the Soul."

Harry frowned. "What?"

Ron snorted. "What class is that for, I wonder? Sounds like something Umbridge would have ordered."

Hermione simply shrugged her shoulders. "It certainly doesn't sound like a normal textbook, now does it?" She flipped open Ginny's list of books and found the same one listed.

They were distracted as Mrs. Weasley entered the room, clutching The Daily Prophet in one hand. "You get your Hogwarts letter, Ginny?"

"Actually, we all did, Mum," Ginny replied. A smile crept onto her face. "And you'll never guess."

Molly was still frowning, confused. "What?" Ginny held up her Head Girl badge, beaming. Mrs. Weasley was in instant hysterics. "You… you! Oh, Ginny!" She hugged her daughter so fiercely that the younger girl squeaked.

"Can't… breathe…"

"Oh, oh, sorry…" Molly Weasley was smiling broadly, her eyes tearing up immediately. "I think this calls for a celebration!"

"And you haven't even heard the others' news yet," Ginny commented, now that she had her breath back.

"Oh?" Molly turned expectantly toward Hermione, Ron, and Harry.

"We've been invited back to finish our seventh year," Ron said, not looking incredibly ecstatic. "AND, Harry and Hermione have been offered Duputy Head positions.

"Oh! Well that's wonderful news, too! Congratulations to you all!" She set The Prophet on the table. "And I think I might just go bake a cake!" She left the room, humming a Celestina Warbeck song, a skip in her step.

Harry, for one, burst into laughter. "That went well."

Hermione laughed too, picking up the discarded Prophet and lazily scanning the front page. Her mouth fell open. "Shh! Listen to this!

"Lucius Malfoy to Receive Dementor's Kiss August Twenty-First. Lucius Malfoy, renowned Death Eater and known supporter of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, was sentenced to the Dementor's Kiss yesterday, August first. Malfoy has been held in custody at Azkaban for the last two months and was finally given his day in court. The Wizengamot wasted very little time in making their decision. Malfoy will receive his punishment in less than three weeks.

"Narcissa Malfoy's trial took place one week prior to her husband's. Her punishment is not so severe. Mrs. Malfoy is required to wear a special bracelet for the course of two years to prevent her from using magic.

"Their son, Draco, has also been to trial. He was granted some leniency due to his age. Young Mr. Malfoy has been ordered to attend his final year at Hogwarts: School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, while being disallowed to leave the school grounds for the duration of the school year. He too will be required to wear a special bracelet, though he will be permitted to do strictly school-related magic, in classes only.

"The Malfoy family, in this reporter's mind, has not and cannot be punished enough."

There was a silence in the room as everyone took in the news. Hermione swallowed. There really wasn't very much reason for her to pity Lucius Malfoy, especially not after she had been tortured in his own house just a few months prior. And yet a small chunk of ice settled at the very bottom of her stomach.

"Maybe I don't want to go back to school after all," Ron said, leaning his head into one of his hands, his elbow propped up on the table. "Not if Malfoy's going to be there." He paused. "You reckon this means we'd have to share a dormitory with him?" This question was directed toward Harry, who shivered.

"Probably." Harry had a thoughtful expression on his face, despite the disgust he was emitting.

"Though," Ron continued, as if going into an epiphany, "might be nice to be around him if he's only allowed to use magic in class." He waved his hand as if performing hex. "Bang! Take that, Ferret!" He sniggered.

"Ron," Hermione reprimanded. She shook her head, returning her attention to Harry, trying to decipher his expression. He was avoiding her gaze, though. Instead, he had gone back to his abandoned cobbler. Ginny was looking at him too.

A.N.: Hello all! I am alive! No, really. I am. Okay, so it's been awhile. I know what you might be thinking: this sounds suspiciously like a Ron/Hermione. But I've been thinking, and I thought I'd try getting Ron out of the picture the old-fashioned way. (No quick expedients, like having him eaten by a raging Chimaera.) Draco will be making an appearance in the next chapter. Don't worry. I haven't changed ships on you.

See a large, blaring canon mistake? Please tell me. Much appreciated. I haven't reread Deathly Hallows, and my memory has its boundaries.

Oh, and I must warn that my updates will not be nearly as frequent as they were in the past. Once a week currently sounds nigh impossible.