Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling; I'm only visiting her universe for nonprofit fun and edification. (No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended).
Author's notes: This story is dedicated to the first Harry Potter fans I ever met, Michael Black and Margaret Black (no, not that Black family. That I know of, at least.) It also owes innumerable debts--more than can be enumerated without the use of footnotes--to the fan-fiction writers Arsinoe de Blessenville (see my Favorites) and A.J. Hall (of 'Lust Over Pendle' fame), both of whose work is marked by an appreciation for the complexity of life, love, and politics, among wizards and muggles alike.
From the journal of Hermione Granger
Sunday 3 May 1998
Now that the war is over, I have things to do. Let's see…
To do this afternoon:
1. Sort out the contents of the blue beaded bag. I've lost track of what's in there.
2. Have a bath and a nice lie-in.
Mark the date:
Monday 11 May – Order of Merlin awards ceremony. (Find the periwinkle dress robes. My hair looks a fright. I think Bellatrix singed it when she was firing curses at me. Talk to Fleur… she might know something to do about it.)
To do next week (starting Monday 11 May 1998):
1. Talk to Headmistress McGonagall about setting a date for the NEWTs
2. Retrieve my parents from Australia
3. Reverse the Memory Charm on my parents
That should be straightforward. Once I'm done with that, I can get on with the rest of it.
To do this summer:
1. Get a job with the Ministry
2. Reform the Ministry (not sure about the timeline for this one; may not be finished by September)
At some point Ron and I will get married, I suppose, but that's not on the timeline yet. I have to get the other things sorted before I can think about that.
After the war, they all went out for a drink.
Hermione thinks this is the last moment when victory looked uncomplicated. They went out to celebrate after the Order of Merlin awards ceremony, all four of them in one of the private rooms at the Three Broomsticks, at their own table with multiple rounds of firewhiskey on the house. Acknowledged grown-ups for the first time, heroes. Harry pulled over an extra chair and made a fifth place and wrote out a place tag for Dumbledore. Ron wrote one each for everybody else.
Neville was still surprised by the award, to say the least. (Perhaps "thunderstruck" or "gobsmacked" might be more accurate.) He sat there holding his drink and shaking his head. It was just a snake, and Harry had told him to kill the snake. "Nothing complicated about that," he said.
So the three of them explained to him that he'd been part of the Horcrux Disposal Squad. She doesn't remember who came up with that name, but they all thought it was really funny, especially after the first round. Firewhiskey goes to your head fast. The remains of her analytic brain said, "That's not alcohol, or just alcohol; it's a mind-altering potion."
It seemed the height of wit to pretend that they've been on a prolonged scavenger hunt, and they laughed even harder when Ron unfolded his place card and started writing out a scorecard on the back. Who got what. With appropriate house points.
"Killing off a piece of Voldemort ought to be good for about a thousand points, don't you think?" he said. "Neville got the snake and Hermione got the cup and I got the locket and Dumbledore got the ring and Harry nailed the diary and the little piece of Ultimate Evil he had been carrying around."
He stopped for a moment. "Eccch! So I was rooming with Voldemort all that time!" By now, they were drunk enough to find that uproariously funny. Well, at least Ron and Harry thought it was funny. Hermione and Neville looked at each other without comment as the two boys slapped each other on the back and collapsed onto the table and then sat up wiping the tears from their cheeks.
Ron did the subtotal. "So that's five thousand points to Gryffindor, allowing as Dumbledore was Headmaster and shouldn't be included in house rivalries."
It only got ugly when they start talking about the diadem. Harry insisted that he only collected it and it fell apart in his hands once they got clear of the fire in the Room of Requirement. "The Fiendfyre got it," he said, turning to Hermione. "You said so at the time."
"Crabbe set the fire," she said.
Ron bridled at the idea that Crabbe should get credit for killing a Horcrux, because he didn't turn loose the Fiendfyre with that idea in mind.
Harry said that if you reasoned that way, then he shouldn't get credit for the diary, because he didn't know he was killing a Horcrux when he stabbed it with the basilisk fang.
Ron gave in, but not with good grace. He added another line to the Horcrux score card: "Diadem. Vincent Crabbe, Slytherin House. 500 points."
"'And let it be noted that Slytherin House played its part! Let our contribution not be forgotten!'" he said, in pitch-perfect imitation of Professor Slughorn's mellow tones. Hermione noted to herself, not for the first time, that Ron held grudges forever. He hadn't forgotten that Slughorn never considered him collectible enough for his little club.
Harry picked up the scorecard and squinted at it. He was drunk enough to be working very carefully on giving the impression of sobriety. "Why only 500 points?"
"Five hundred points deducted for trying to kill us all." Ron paused. "And for being nasty unforgivable little wankers, every last one of them." He downed the rest of his drink and waved for another round.
He raised his glass for a toast.
"To the post-war!"
Hermione accepted a refill, but didn't raise her glass. She sipped at it, feeling dizzy and more than a little sick, then looked across to Neville, who seemed to be having a similar reaction. After a little bit, she put her glass down, and said, "No more for me. I don't want to splinch myself Apparating home."
Ron took her glass and dumped the remains into his own.
From the journal of Hermione Granger
Wednesday 13 May 1998
I had that dream again last night. Maybe if I write it down, that will tame it.
How to write about it?
A brief essay on the Cruciatus Curse, turned in for Defense Against the Dark Arts two years too late.
Cruciatus is efficiency itself. The curse turns your whole nervous system into a vehicle for pain. It usurps the network to transmit agony. If prolonged, it overloads the circuits until the central processor burns, melts, flares blue and dims down never to transmit anything again.
I don't dream the pain so much as the sense of violation. When I hear Greyback's voice asking if he can have me "for afters," I don't know if he meant fangs or rape. Luckily, I never learned which. Maybe both.
In twilight between waking and sleep some little voice picks at the question like a raw scab: so how does that curse work? How did anyone ever discover it? Did they always use it for this purpose? There are no citations in the literature.
It's Dark because you're channeling not only power but intention, your desire for another's pain. Bellatrix is dead as dead can be. I saw her die. I saw them shovel her into the grave. Every night since the war I meet her in dreams, and on her own ground. I'm afraid to sleep because I never escape that room. The chandelier hangs over me like rain arrested. She grasps me and pain pours out of my open throat.
Worst of all, what I didn't notice at the time but my dreams remember: her body twitches under mine in sexual release. My pain was her pleasure. And the watchers: her pale sister a blurred ghost and the sharp features and avid colorless eyes of her nephew. Draco. I bet that little bastard got off on it too, just like his evil aunt.
(Shut up. I'm a combat veteran. I'm entitled.)
I know he was there but I can't have really seen him. I was hanging on to the lie I had to tell over and over. People under torture either break, or lie, or die. There are only three choices and they can overlap. I lied.
And now I think I may be broken. I will never get out of that room.
I wake with sun on my face and Crookshanks nuzzling me with his furry golden muzzle and I'm shaking with terror. I should be grateful to be alive. I wake into my lovely normal post-war life and the cozy chaos of the Burrow and I already dread the evening when I'll go back to that room again.
From the journal of Hermione Granger
Friday 15 May 1998
After the war is quite different from the way I thought it would be.
In particular, it is lonelier.
Last night, I dreamed about Tonks. She was meeting me in London, at that little café that my parents liked, the one where Dean and I had tea and biscuits last week and talked about breathing free for the first time. In the dream, of course, I didn't remember my last sight of her, lying dead in the Great Hall. They had placed her next to Remus, or she had fallen there. I like to think that they died fighting back to back.
Bellatrix killed her. Her own aunt. Pruning the family tree, that's the phrase I heard her use. Bellatrix is dead too (thank you, Molly Weasley nee Prewett), but not before killing her beautiful niece. I closed Tonks' eyes for the last time. I don't remember their color any more because they were reflecting the cloudless morning sky over the Great Hall.
In the dream, none of that had happened, and I was meeting her in London at my parents' favorite café, to celebrate the post-war. In the dream, I was happy because now I was an adult, a warrior, and I could meet Tonks on her own ground, not as a star-struck fifteen-year-old. She came into the café, black t-shirt and ripped jeans and pink hair flaming like a one-woman fireworks display, and I stood up to greet her. I put my arms around her and she disappeared into a column of light: pink fading into opal, flickering with jade and ultramarine and finally searing white. Gone.
Not that I would have greeted her like that in waking life. But the dream made me realize that I had been looking forward to meeting her after the war, and maybe getting to know the only adult woman I've met here whose life is anything I would want to live. She had such an ease about her, the way she'd laugh at her own clumsiness and at Moody's lectures on constant vigilance and at the threat of death. And I remembered my ferocious jealousy, the end of sixth year, when it came out that she had been in love with Remus and courting him… and it took me till now to understand whence that jealousy.
I remember my third-year crush on Remus. I told nobody. I knew better. Harry and Ron, but especially Ron, gave me enough trouble about my infatuation with Lockhart our second year. That one was a mistake but a mercy. It cured me of the taste for pretty men. Remus was unassuming and not particularly handsome, but he knew his stuff. The anti-Lockhart, I thought. But I wasn't jealous of Tonks for getting Remus. Rather the other way around. I wanted her attention, fiercely wanted it, and it's too late to tease out what of that was hero-worship or romantic infatuation or the desire for a grown-up woman friend. The fifteen-year-old who felt all that is as dead as Tonks herself.
Tonks was nearly the last of the Blacks--in the renegade line anyway. Sirius and his brother are dead. Without great regret, their cousin Bellatrix the pureblood fanatic is gone as well. Tonks' mother Andromeda survived, and then there's Teddy who won't even remember his parents. Two left standing—grandmother and grandson.
Oh yes, and in the respectable line there's Narcissa. But I scarcely count her. Funny that I count Bellatrix and Andromeda as the Black sisters but I never think of Narcissa that way. She's Andromeda's sister and Tonks' aunt but I really think of her as Narcissa Malfoy--Draco's mother and Lucius' wife.
Tonks and Draco were first cousins. Now that's a thought to wrap your head around. I can't even imagine them in the same family let alone the same room. All of his sneering and snarking and competitiveness would have rolled off her; she didn't take anything very seriously except for the important things, and she would have driven him to distraction because he would never have found purchase for any of his usual attacks. He has a sense of humor, but I've never seen him exercise it except at someone else's expense. Tonks laughed at everything, including herself; I've never met anyone more at ease in their own skin. Very disarming, perhaps intentionally so. She was colorful and changeable, with her kaleidoscope of faces; he is monochrome and fixed, frantically rigid in fact. She was the renegade daughter of a renegade daughter; he's the favored son of an aristocratic father. Funny that the renegade should have been so much more confident than the respectable heir.
She was bright and brave and clumsy and she had a beloved husband and a small child, and she died. In battle. Draco, the nasty little bully and coward, walked out of there unscathed—no little thanks to Harry and Ron and me. I wish I'd spent the effort on saving Tonks. Had Draco died I think only his mother and father would have cared, and I wonder if his father's regret would have been more for the Malfoy line than for his son in particular. Tonks is missed by everybody. Particularly me.
The very least I can do in her memory is to live out the things I admired in her: the courage, the joy, the pursuit of her calling.
Which isn't easy these days, with Ron and Molly ganging up to turn me into a Weasley daughter-in-law even before we get married. Molly gave me an end-of-the-war present: a compendium of housekeeping spells. It took all my effort to smile and thank her.
Then Ron wanted to know what meal I was going to cook him and would I tweak his dress robes into something more fashionable.
I told him he'd sat through the same charms and transfiguration classes I had, and he could look up the necessary in Molly's big book.
That got me sulks from Ron and a look from Molly. On the other hand, when I do act like his mother, he tells me I'm a nagging shrew.
Then he changed course yet again, talking about how cute Teddy is (though I notice he's conspicuously absent when nappies are to be changed) and how our children will look. It isn't helped by Harry and Ginny talking about their engagement and their marriage plans. They're already planning to have three or more children. Molly beams approval at them.
I am eighteen-going-on-nineteen, not a desperate thirty. I don't want to get married. Not yet. I'm not even finished with my education, and I've seen precious little of the world. I still have to bring my parents back, undo that memory charm and restore their lives so far as I can. And after that—relax and enjoy the post-war, for all its unexpected emptiness.
Girls just wanna have fun. My mother danced with me to that American pop song in our kitchen, years and years ago, when I couldn't have been more than seven. A surprisingly unbuttoned moment, which must be why I remember it. That's my anthem for the post-war: girls just wanna have fun, sung by Cyndi Lauper, and ghost-danced by Nymphadora Tonks and my mother.