AN: Yes I know, there's a student or two that is actually dead that I haven't killed off for this chapter. One example is Lavender, who they apparently chose to kill off in the film, though she was only 'struggling' in the book. Deal with it. It's inconsequential and for mostly humorous purposes only. This is the longest chapter I've ever written of anything ever, and took me the longest, too. Sorry for not updating here/anywhere else lately. I have limited internet access where I'm staying, and this has been my project.
"They'll let you bring the baby?"
"Mhmm. They said they'll let me in on details when they know more, but that it'll work out, in one way or another. They wrote me specifically – I'm the only person who knows they've been accepted so far."
"Yeah. Seamus, I just want to…" Ginny looked at Seamus, who hadn't taken his eyes off of her in the three hours they'd been sitting together on the couch in front of the fire. She suddenly felt nervous under his gaze, and truly appreciated. "I want to say thanks. I don't know what I'd do without you, here. If it were Dean's, I probably wouldn't be able to go to school at all, but you've been so supportive, and I can't thank you enough."
"Don't thank me then. Just accept it. You're the mother of my child, Gin. It's not just duty though, but you… I want to protect you. And be there for you."
She felt herself flush, and snuggled deeper under Seamus' shoulder. She'd never expected this in a million years, but sure as anything, Seamus' handprint was embedded on her stomach, over their child, and he was promising her the world. She'd been accepted into Merlin University, into the school of Liberal Arts and Practical Magic. They had mentioned him in the letter – as the news was somewhat 'out' that Seamus was the father – and hinted that he'd been accepted to. You and the father will be able to share a double dormitory, and can schedule alternating class schedules to adequately care for your child while both attending school. Additional childcare services will be locally available, if needed. She hadn't told him that yet – that he'd made it. She wanted it to be a surprise. Plus, him worrying about getting to be with her was sort of cute, in a way. His fingertips brushed her belly, and she felt her heart swell. This was working. It really was.
The next three hours would be the most painful of his life. He'd thought that waiting for Luna's graduation test results had been bad. Now, he had to wait three more excruciating hours to see if she made it into Merlin University. The results, either way, would force him to make a big decision. If she made it, Oliver would decide to move in with her, to be with her. They'd decide to give this a real, serious shot. He'd take the job at Merlin and begin his courses in Sports Management and Coaching, and they could live in a double dorm, all to themselves.
If she didn't make it, however, things could get difficult. She'd graduated, so he'd only be able to see her on weekends. Would she stay at her old house? Or move closer to town? Would he be able to visit her? How often? Or would his job make him too busy?
Two hours and fifty minutes to go.
Merlin University - Acceptance List
Practical Magic and Liberal Arts :
Luna Lovegood - Liberal Arts (Journalism/Photojournalism)
Oliver Wood - Liberal Arts (Sports Management/Coaching)
Hermione Granger - Liberal Arts (Education)(Ancient Runes)
Harry Potter - Practical Magic (Defensive Magic and Invention)
Ginerva Weasley - Practical Magic (Creative Spellwork)
Seamus Finnegan (Magical Effects and Expansion)
Magical Maths and Sciences :
Draco Malfoy - (Chemist Studies and Potionmaking)
Hermione Granger - (Arithmancy)
Neville Longbottom - (Herbology and Natural Sciences)
Pansy Parkinson - (Chemist Studies and Potionmaking)
Blaise Zabini - (Magical Maths, General)
Lavender Brown - (Astrology and Astronomy Relations)
Government and Regulatory :
Draco Malfoy - (Government)
Harry Potter - (Government)
Hermione Granger - (Regulatory)
Ron Weasley - (Government)(Regulatory)
He found her just one hallway over, sat up against a wall. She'd been crying, he could tell, though the tears seemed to have stopped recently. She sniffed and wiped her nose on a tissue, crumbling it up and tossing it aside. There were a number of these. Before he could make a slight humorous joke about it or even bother to magic them all away, she looked up at him.
"Why, Neville? I thought I could make it. I thought my problems were all solved. I graduated and everything. But I didn't get accepted into that stupid school with you, so I'm going to be sent back with my parents again and..."
A fresh round of tears started falling. Neville sat beside Heather on the wall, trying to calm her.
"It's not that bad, Heather, you could try and get a job around there - get a little flat or something - and..."
"Neville, you and I both know that isn't going to work. Nobody wants to hire someone who's barely old enough to have graduated Hogwarts. And no job that might hire me at all would be enough to pay for a flat. I'm going to have to go back with my parents. I guess.. it's not so bad. I do get to see the world. I mean... it's terrible, not really having a place to call home. But then, I get to see things most people don't. I think I took that for granted before." She smiled a weak smile and leaned into him. "Thank you for everything this year. You've been good to me."
"Heather, you can't... but I suppose you have to." He sighed, resting his head atop hers. "You've been good to me as well, then. I'm... I'm going to miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Neville. And I'll write." She stood, helped him hug, and then hugged him tightly, not letting go for a while. When she did, she walked away quickly to avoid him seeing her cry even more.
He was going to wing it. He had to. He had no other option. Commencement began in forty minutes. And while Hermione and Draco may have had perfectly penned notecards (he had no doubt that Hermione had written Draco's), Harry had nothing. He'd been up most of the night attempting to write his speech, but all that had come out was cliche, boring nonsense. That wasn't him - and that wasn't what people wanted to hear. He needed to give a speech from the heart - the true meaning of facing your fears, stepping forward. After all - the topic was literally written for him.
Hermione was giving a speech on shedding labels, growing up, and being the most brilliant witch of their age - and the social compromises she'd had to make for it. About being bullied, and still becoming one of the most revered young witches of their time.
Between these two, staff would get up and recognize their best students in each department. Special awards to the school would be given.
Then Harry would give his speech - absolutely made up on the spot - about conquering your fears, and conquering your goals, too. Moving on, leaving the war and the bad things behind them. Bringing only the good things with you, and reinventing the rest. It was brilliant, really - it was exactly what he personally wanted to do at University.
Then McGonagall would stand and name out the Commencement Superlative winners - there had been a table sitting outside the Great Hall all week, collecting votes and nominations, and the staff would choose the final winners.
Draco was last - his speech was on opposites. Dark and light, good and evil, and the grey areas between. About his defecting in the war, and why he made that decision, and the immense amount of change - good and bad - that had come from that life-changing decision.
Their speeches were excellent - he'd heard the both of them going over key points that morning over breakfast at their makeshift table. Draco's was honest and a bit interesting, to be honest - he'd had so much as a child, but it wasn't right. He'd had lavish gifts, and somewhat attentive parents, and a large, comfortable home. He'd been promised so many things. But he couldn't take them - because gifts from Voldemort weren't gifts at all. He didn't want to be a Death Eater. He wanted to fight for what was right. So he defected. Hermione's was heartbreaking - talking about struggling through her adolescent years, being made fun of for being smart - but what was so wrong about being smart? She'd briefly touched on hiding behind books and cleverness before wrapping up - and her speech had nearly moved Harry to tears at the breakfast table. He'd had no idea it was that bad, and he was her best friend. This last year had been tough on all of them, but had being Head Girl really been good for her? He vowed then and there to not neglect his friendships at Merlin U like he'd sort of done here over the last year.
But Harry had nothing. Fears. Goals. Moving on. There was so much to say, and yet anything he tried to take note of, it seemed wrong, in some way. He wanted to say everything that had been on his mind over the last year. Everything about starting new, about beginning again. His only problem was being able to come up with things fast enough. And, of course, not vomiting all over the podium from stage fright.
Commencement began in four hours, and yet he hadn't seen Luna. He'd expected, with the news coming from Merlin, that she'd have rushed straight to his office last night. A thought struck him suddenly - what if she hadn't checked it? That's what she'd done for the Graduation list - she'd been so afraid of not making it that she hadn't even gotten close enough to see. Oliver poked his head out of his office and called out to a first year scampering around the halls.
"Oi! You there!"
The boy stopped dead in his tracks, looking a little like a deer in headlights.
"I have a message to deliver. Can you do that for me?" The boy nodded and came closer. He could recognize him now - his name was Michael, he was a Ravenclaw. He rushed off a note requesting to Luna that she come to his office at once, and stuffed the note in the boy's hand.
"Perfect. Thanks. Ten points to Ravenclaw. Hurry on!" Michael was out of his office instantly, and in a matter of minutes, Luna had replaced him.
"Have you checked?"
He laughed then, a big laugh straight from his chest. "Luna, my love, you have to stop being so scared! You'd have to find out eventually anyway. What, how were you going to know?" He was grinning, she wasn't.
"I don't know. Perhaps just wait for a welcome letter - or not."
His shoulders fell. She hadn't looked. She was too afraid.
"What's scaring you so much, Luna? No matter what happens after this, we can be together. We may see each other less, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't fly or apparate or walk to wherever you are, every weekend if I had to."
"But you'll be busy, of course. No matter what job you stay with. So maybe it'll be every weekend at first, but that could slow down to once a month, and then not at all, and..."
Her wide blue eyes were wet, she was on the brink of tears. He crossed the distance between them quickly, wrapping her in his arms.
"You're joking, right? Luna, I love you! You know that! You've got to have enough faith in me." His accent got stronger as he got excited, and he let her go to nearly run back to his desk, snatching up a piece of paper. She eyed him curiously, but said nothing as he handed it to her, smiling. "And in yourself."
It was a dormitory rental agreement. A housing request. For Merlin University. She eyed the checked boxes - double apartment, Liberal Arts and Practical Magic building. Full year rental. Rent paid by faculty allowances. Under the "Occupants" heading, there were two names: Oliver Wood, and Luna Lovegood.
"Oliver, I..." He simply stepped in behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
"Luna, there was nothing to be afraid of all along. See?"
Before he could wait for a response, she'd tossed the paper onto the floor, spun around in his arms, and kissed him square on the mouth. Her hands were in his hair and there were fresh tears on her cheeks - though, he figured they were probably happy ones. This was it. They had more than a chance - they had everything they could have asked for. He'd be teaching and studying at Merlin University, where she would also be a student. They'd made it into the same schools, so they could live in the same hall - the same dormitory, at that. No weekend visits, no planning around busy schedules - they'd see each other every day for the next year. And possibly - if this feeling deep in their hearts was what they believed it to be - every day for the rest of their lives.
Twelve minutes to go. And he'd already vomited in a trashbin from nerves. Twice.
The rest of the students had been lined up alphabetically, as they'd been for sorting. Harry looked at the row of them, trying to remember what most of them had looked like eight years ago. Hannah Abbott had been first to sit on that stool, to be sorted. And now she'd be the first to be called across the stage, to graduate from Hogwarts. This was it - the culmination of eight years, of the war and the good times, of friendships and enemies, love and hate. Merlin, was it all really over? Was this is? They were done at Hogwarts? For good? How long would it be before he would see this place again? The only place he knew well enough - besides the Burrow, perhaps - to call home? And the changes that had happened this year - growing up, Pansy, new alliances, - had they really done enough? To set this group of people up for the rest of their lives?
He had to stop thinking so much. He still had to wing his speech - no amount of frazzled note taking was going to produce what he wanted - and if he didn't stop letting all of this get to him right now, he'd faint on the spot. There were only a dozen or so students not in line - himself and the other two speech givers, plus a number of those that were getting special awards from the school. They sat in groups in the Great Hall, waiting for the line to file outside, for their names to be called. While Flitwick gave a little speech about what they'd all gone through, McGonagall would come back and retrieve this group from the castle, and walk them all over to the scene. The students and staff were all dressed to the nines in dress robes or suits or gowns, and a graduation cap sat atop each student's head.
They'd set up rows and rows of white chairs - each with delicate gold bells hanging from both corners of the back of the seat. Hagrid, naturally, had an enlarged chair in the back, and had very clear instructions this time about where he was supposed to sit. There hadn't been enough chairs - family, friends, townspeople from Hogsmeade, admirers, war heroes - it seemed that everyone even remotely involved in their last eight years had shown up. People had been showing up since breakfast that morning, trying to get the best seats behind where the graduates sat. They'd needed to triple the expected seating, and anyone speaking had to use sonorous to be heard in the back. Harry had glanced out at it just after lunch. The ceremony would take place as the sun set over the lake behind the temporary stage set up by the water's edge. McGonagall had planned the entire thing herself, without help of any outside kind. She'd rented the tents and tables for their dinner party, she'd planned the menu to be prepared in their own kitchens, she'd done it all. The only people helping that weren't Hogwarts staff, were the crew of people that would be transforming the Great Hall into a suitable place for a grand Commencement Ball.
Seven minutes. The line filed out, and one by one Harry watches his classmates, friends, acquaintances, his other family at this magnificent home, as they disappeared out through the door, through the Entrance Hall, and out onto the greens.
The remaining bunch - Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Draco, Ginny, Luna, Dean, Seamus, the Patil twins, Pansy and Blaise - sat close together at the end of the Ravenclaw table, silent. Nobody could think of anything to say, nothing that would help ease the tension and sadness that sat beside them all like beloved friends at dinner. It was Hermione who finally stood, tears were already on her cheeks. With two minutes left, she spoke.
"It's... it's been great. Thank you. All of you." She broke into tears and Draco stood next, comforting her but not saying a word. His only other distinguishable action was an obvious nod to Harry, and the boys smiled at each other briefly before looking away. Things were changing, even there. Draco had become something of a friend, since Harry had seen how happy he made Hermione. Ron smiled, leaning slightly against Harry's arm. They'd been best mates since that fateful first day, entering the platform and boarding the Hogwarts Express. Ron had explained to him nearly everything he knew about the Wizarding World - he'd have been lost without him. He pulled Ron up, and, hugging his truest friend in the world, began to cry. Soon enough the Patil twins were openly sobbing, their cries sounding identical. Ginny was weeping, and Seamus had his arm around her, whispering comforting words into her ear, promises. If Harry could have chosen anyone to take care of Ginny, it probably wasn't accident prone Seamus, but it had been Seamus who had done the best job after all. He'd grown a lot in the last year - especially since he'd gotten the news that he was about to become a father. Dean tapped on his shoulder, and that set of best friends hugged as well. Even Pansy shook hands with Draco, Harry, and the rest of them. Blaise sat back and acted unaffected - though the single tear that dampened his dark cheeks gave him away instantly. He was just as torn up about leaving this place as the rest of them were.
"Abbott, Hannah!" The list began. As the list of students dwindled down, the little group in the hall became deathly quiet. Three of them were mentally preparing for speeches, ten of them were waiting to see what award had been bestowed upon them. Three of them were best friends, three of them former enemies, two of them were identical, seven were boys, six were girls. Eight were Gryffindor, Two were Ravenclaw, Three were Slytherin. All of them were terrified, all of them were hopeful, and all of them had extremely high hopes for their futures.
McGonagall entered, motioning for them all to follow her. Words had failed - she had cried her eyes out through the entire walk over. Not only had she just said goodbye to a year and a half's worth of students, but she was now retrieving a group she found to be most special. A group that had fought in a war, something that other children their age in the world couldn't even dream of. A group that had formed bonds and broken them, changed sides and defeated evil. A group that had changed her, personally, as an educator. Gods, she was going to despise next year's group. There was no other group of students like that assembled here.
As they rounded the corner and approached the stage, the last of the names were being read off by Professor Flitwick. He glanced in her direction and nodded, reading the last two and handing them their diplomas. For them, it was over - there was only a celebration. For the students behind her, it was not yet complete - and maybe it would never be over. The scars and memories they'd acquired over the years had been enough to alter them permanently, - and hopefully, for the better.
Professor Flitwick climbed up onto a stool set behind the podium for him. The thirteen students that had just arrived took their seats in the front row, the fourteenth seat taken by McGonagall herself.
"Family, Friends, and Esteemed Guests - welcome." The crowd let out a round of applause, and Flitwick smiled. "Welcome to the commencement ceremony for the nineteen ninety-nine class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You may notice an excessively large class - and students of two different years - have crossed the stage today, to your applause. This change, along with many others, was just one of the affects of the War - and one of the smallest, indeed. Students who should have graduated last year were asked to return for an unprecedented Eighth Year - a year to return and receive the education they missed in the absence of a proper teaching staff and curriculum last year. Hogwarts last year, was not our home - it was a prison. Students did not receive an education, but punishment and beatings - things no child should have to endure as they did. As such, every student in every year was asked to return and repeat what they were supposed to learn last year - a decision that did not immediately go over well, but has appeared to have made all the difference.
"The students in front of you today, sitting in rows of seats, dressed to the nines, are here for one reason - they've studied, they've made friends, they've worked hard over the last seven or eight years, gaining new information and tools that they will take from this place and use out in the world, in their chosen professions, for the rest of their lives. It sounds a little cliche - I'm aware. But if you asked me how many times since my commencement - and it's been decades - that I've had to brew a potion to revive someone who was unconscious? Or that I've used a charm to wash and dry my clothes when I had no time for laundry? Well, I do care for these students in front of you, and they are a handful - I've used both plenty. Your students have learned things that will be useful to them every day, every month, every year, until they're as old and grey as the rest of us.
"But it's what they learned outside the classroom that makes this group special. This group of students was faced with War - something terrifying, life changing, and potentiall y life ending. Friends, family, colleagues were lost - and with no chance of ever getting them back. These students took part in battles, organized rebellions, stunned Death Eaters, made alliances, and ultimately did whatever it took to fight for what they believed to be right. In the end, some opinions changed - the children of Death Eaters fought to defend us and Hogwarts, our home. Some fled, some fought, and everyone was changed - forever."
There was a brief pause for thunderous applause, and Flitwick was grinning wider than McGonagall had ever seen - and she'd known the man for quite some time. He would conclude his speech, and then the real tearjerkers began.
"I would like to formally present to you the Hogwarts School class of nineteen ninety-nine: a class unlike any other. It is through their contributions, their struggles, and the fight in their hearts, that this class of students learned more than any class before them. I've had a pleasure teaching each and every one of them throughout the years, and they deserve more than applause, and candy, and flowers - they deserve our utmost gratitude and thanks, and that, they shall receive." He nodded and thanked the audience, then the students, stepping down from his speech. The stunned looks on the students in her row - and the tears, out of many of them - told McGonagall that none of them had ever heard a speech from anyone quite like the one they'd just heard - and it was all about them. Harry was staring into his lap, tears falling freely. This must be especially hard on he, who had never had a real home before Hogwarts. McGonagall stood, taking to the stage again.
Harry could hardly breathe.
"I'd like to welcome our first speaker, graduate, and award recipient - Hermione Granger." Hermione stood and stepped onto the stage, looking absolutely breathtaking in a sweeping gown of pale gold that shimmered and swayed in the sun and the slight breeze. It was sunset it Scotland - it lasted what seemed like ages, and took hours to actually happen, perfect for the ceremony. She lit up the whole stage, the whole area - and the smile lighting up Draco's face, upon Harry's glance, told him that Draco appreciated it more than anything. Her hair was twisted up into some sort of complicated thing Harry couldn't begin to describe. She looked beautiful - the only time Harry had seen her looking more beautiful and more herself was perhaps on Christmas Eve night the year previous, after they'd nearly lost their lives and they'd returned to their tent, exhausted. There had been a moment, a few minutes later, after everything had quieted down. She was wearing just jeans and a sweater, nothing special, but her curly hair fell around her face just right, and her lips, rosy from the change into the warm tent, were muttering something to herself. He remembered it clear as day - she looked just as scared then as she did now, but both times, she was smiling.
"Hermione is receiving an award for Special Services to the School, for her efforts in the war and her contributions to her fellow students. She has served as Head Girl this year, as a prefect in years previous, and a helping hand in studies and otherwise to those who have simply asked for help when needed." McGonagall handed Hermione a small plaque, and then - after a moment of seemingly resisting - pulled the girl into a hug. Harry smiled, applauding with everyone else. Hermione took to the podium, cheeks flushed, a slight smile on her lips.
"Sonorous. Welcome, everyone, to this year's commencement ceremony. Headmistress McGonagall chose myself and two other students to deliver speeches on what we've learned, on obstacles we've faced, and on challenges we've overcome. She chose us, especially, because we have stories to tell. We have secrets to reveal. We have sides of ourselves that need to be seen. She suggested to me that I give my speech on intelligence - on using it properly, and for the right reasons. With notable changes, I accepted the prompt whole-heartedly - and any student in this audience can tell you that if there's a speech to be given about being a shy, modest, bookworm - I'm the one to give it."
There were laughs and a few shouts of approval - Hermione laughed gently, and cleared her throat. "But there's a downside to all of this - a side that many of you may not have noticed, or may have noticed but not said anything at all. Being the best at something - at anything - always comes with a price. Being the best at sports invites envy, competition, and exhaustion. Being the best at being 'cool' invites envy, competition, and exhaustion - do you see a theme?" The audience was silent. Hermione was doing what Harry had always known she was best at - getting people to see sides of things they hadn't taken the time to think of before.
"Being the brightest witch of my age, as I've been called, has invited the same negative things into my life and more. Other intelligent students disliked me for my advantages over them and my triumphs. Students below my grade average - and let's face it, a great number of people were - made snide comments and made assumptions about me based on things they'd only heard or guessed about me. Students groaned when I answered a question in History of Magic - not because I was answering, but because I was the only one neurotic enough to have memorized Hogwarts: A History." There was another smattering of laughter - everyone knew that was her favorite book, her copy was nearly frayed. "But despite bullying, despite a little unkindness from those who didn't know me or didn't understand that what I had was not an uncommon mind or a freakishly good memory, but a passion for learning - despite those who didn't know, there were those that did. And they made all the difference.
"I grew up differently than most of you - being a muggle-born in this era meant a lot of prejudice, if not always correctly warranted. I didn't know anything about this world until I was eleven years old, and Dumbledore himself - rest his soul - landed on my front doorstep and told my parents that all of those weird things I'd been able to do as a child, happened because I was a witch. I can still picture their faces - A what? - to this day, they're bewildered by everything that goes on in this world - it's entirely different from the muggle world. Switching from my muggle grade school to Hogwarts? Was like switching planets. I had no idea what to do or who to befriend, and even from the beginning, people taunted me. Some of those people made it up to me - saving my life from a full-grown mountain troll, one good example - and they learned that thing that makes me who I am - that my passion for learning, that my ability to hide behind large books - was alright. That was just how I dealt with things. Problem? Look it up in a book. A lesson to be learned? Probably found in a book. A particularly stressful week? A bad round of name-calling? Books, books, books.
"But it is this quality about myself that I wish to change most. We've all done more than a bit of growing up, and while we still have lots to learn, I think that I've learned all that I can from books. I'm putting the book down, leaving the library, so to speak. I'm leaving in the fall for Merlin University, both as a student and as the youngest professor on staff, and I fully intend to shed my bookworm title, and to really enjoy being young for once. We've all grown up, but perhaps I was a little too grown-up to begin with. Perhaps it's time to be a little childish, to celebrate the accomplishments we've already made and the ones we will continue to make for the rest of our lives. Class of ninety-nine, I want to thank you all, from the bottom of my heart - not for the name calling or the harsh words, but for making it up to me - the harmless teasing, the compliments, high-fives. For the friendship, for the fighting, for standing beside me and everyone else here, in this very place last year, and using our own smarts and memorized spells to conquer evil and to bring a new dawn of acceptance into our world. I am Hermione Granger - I am a girl, a bookworm, a muggle-born witch, and a graduate from Hogwarts School. Thank you."
Harry had never heard such applause - from the parents, the students, the staff. He hadn't heard this much adoration since he'd defeated Voldemort. Hermione broke into tears as she resumed her seat, dried her eyes, and flicked her wand at her face, drying her cheeks and repairing her ruined makeup. Draco held her hand and kissed her cheek, and Harry could vaguely hear Draco telling her how proud he was over the diminishing applause. McGonagall had risen from her seat on the side of the stage, wiping her own eyes, and stood behind the podium.
"Thank you, Miss Granger, for that... from the bottom of my own heart, I thank you. We could all use to learn a little from what we've just heard. And now, the staff will rise, and give recognition to the best male and female student in their subjects."
The minor subjects passed quickly - History of Magic, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures (from which Hagrid had to stumble from the back of the crowd, be careful to not step on and crush the stage, and call out loudly his two nominees), and Charms. As a student was called up for an award, if they were part of the thirteen who had come in the second group, they were handed their diploma. The next group of professors stood and began calling names. Dean, Pansy, and Blaise had been called in the last group. Oliver went up first.
"Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood - for always erring on the side of good, and never ever being selfish in the years I've known them. For excellent dueling and spellwork and, in Luna's case, a nasty Leg Locking jinx that had me stuck solid in my office for nearly an hour one night." He put medals over both of their necks, Luna in a pale blue gown and Harry in a crisp black suit. Oliver patted Harry's shoulder and kissed Luna on the cheek in front of everyone there, and they both blushed. They sat again, and Slughorn stood.
"Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy - for always brewing potions at perfect or better quality, in half the time." They got medals as well. Sprout was next.
"Neville Longbottom and Padma Patil - though Herbology was far from her chosen subject, she handled plants better than any female in many years, and Neville - who has such a passion for Herbology, and really excels at it." She smiled and hugged them both tightly before bestowing their medals.
"Transfiguration?" McGonagall beckoned to Hermione, who quickly took the stairs, laughing.
"I forgot I've been teaching all this time. Just one more thing to add to my resume, I guess. Let's see, I'm remembering who we'd chosen...ah, yes. I un-nominate myself, personal choice, and would like to award Parvati Patil and Seamus Finnegan - she's never taken more than three tries on anything, and when Seamus isn't blowing things up - which we all know is fairly often - he's actually really got an eye for detail."
Friends of Seamus and classmates laughed and called out to him as he bustled up next to Parvati and they got medals Hermione accio'd from offstage.
The Muggle Studies professor was last to step up, and meekly said into the microphone, "Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger - for knowing as much about telephones, televisions, and telemarketers as I did." She grinned and gave them both a medal - one Ron was surprised to have received - and then the class awards were done.
McGonagall stood again. "Before our next speaker, we have special awards to the school. I'd like to call on Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ginerva Weasley, Luna Lovegood, and Neville Longbottom first." The six ascended the stage. "This first award is for their efforts in the battle at the Department of Mysteries - six school age children took on a team of Death Eaters, and survived - not an easy feat. For this I award you each a Special Award from Hogwarts." She quieted herself momentarily and briefly explained that their awards would all be listed on one plaque, and would fill themselves in as they were announced. She sent them back to their seats and prepared the next.
"I'd like to next give awards to a large number of students - please stay in your seats for this one, as we won't all fit on stage." She smiled and called the names of nearly half of the graduating class. After applause, she spoke again.
"These students are being recognized for their fighting in the final battle in the war. Their bravery and dedication will go down in Hogwarts history - and likely, in Hogwarts: A History." The crowd chuckled and applauded. It was time for the next speech.
Harry was nearly frozen. Shit. He hadn't written one. And he'd intended on trying to think of one this whole time. And yet, he'd been so wrapped up in the ceremony that he hadn't done anything. He vaguely heard McGonagall calling him up to the stage, somewhat felt himself shuffling up onstage to thunderous applause and shouts - and screams, in a few instances. He found himself behind the podium, staring out at a sea of waiting faces, before he finally came into clarity.
"Hi. Um, McGonagall and I sort of worked out something for me to write my speech about, and it's a good prompt - but... I didn't write one. Kind of reflective of my time here - not writing my papers, having to ask - who else - Hermione... and yet, I think I'm fine. I'll wing it - but that's because everything I tried writing down sounded so cliche, so much like things we've all heard over and over again over the last year. We know - we're brave. Evil is bad, we are good. Fight on. Cherish those we lost. Etcetera. We know all that. We'll always know that. That's not special to us, as a class - as a unified body of students, of friends.
"The Dark Lord - Voldemort - he had it all wrong. His idea was to conquer that which he believed to be smaller than him - inferior. Less important. He believed that by annihilating everything that he found to be lesser than himself, that he would prevail. That he would succeed. I know - I was stuck inside his brain for a number of years, so to speak, and his thoughts always confused me. It wasn't until recently that I've made the ultimate realization - as a rising dictator, he did everything fine. He raised an army. Staged a rebellion. Murdered. Took over the government. Scared the life out of half of us. But what Voldemort didn't see was that this wasn't the way to win - something we saw all along. It's not that which is smaller than us that we must face - but that larger than us, larger than this whole group sitting here today. It's those things that are infinitely larger and seemingly impossible that we must fight. It is our goals, and our fears, that we should conquer.
"You can tear a hundred books in half, but you'll never destroy the purpose - to learn. You can murder a hundred people, but you'll never kill their dreams and their own purposes - to love, to care. He had it wrong the whole time! And it was that that killed him. His inability to see that he was wrong, that he had been after the wrong goals the whole time. That, and a well placed disarming spell and a bit of raw luck." Harry grinned, and the crowd laughed with him. This was not where he'd intended the speech to go at all, but it was real and it was honest - it was more than he'd hoped for.
"This is a lesson I wish I would have learned long ago - and one that I'll now hold close. It's not about tackling the essay due Thursday or being better than someone else at it - it's about learning the most from it, and giving it your best shot - and most of the time, your best shot is better than just 'good enough' - it's more than enough! It's all you need! If I'd have learned in my first year that a little dedication and elbow grease was all I needed to succeed, I'd be giving the bookworm speech myself! Instead, I got half as many NEWTs as I should have and for what? Who cares! I mean, not who cares, that sounds bad... younger students, please, get as many NEWTs as you can... but it's the effort! If you make the effort, even if you don't do as well as you'd wished, you'll feel so... so great about yourself. It's not about what you do, or what you defeat, but why, and how. I defeated Voldemort with a lot of heart, a little effort, and nearly a year scouring Europe for clues. I did it not because it was my Destiny, not because it was due next week or I'd fail the class, but because it was right, and because I believed in it. I think part of me always did.
"In our past seven or eight years at Hogwarts, we've made friends and enemies, good times and bad, and changed things about ourselves for the better or worse, for whatever reason. Our next move is this - to take the good, to take the lessons - to remember that standing up to our fears and goals is good - and take those with you. Pack them up in your trunk, in your heart, and bring them with you wherever you're going - to jobs, to Merlin U, to whatever part of the continent you reside in. Take the good and let go of the bad - you don't need it! You may be ticked off because your friend irritated you last week, and so what? You've probably irritated them too, but you're friends for a reason, right? So leave the bad behind, remember all the good times you've had. And apply that to everything in your life.
"I'm going to Merlin University in the Fall to study Government - it's generally known that I would have made a good Auror, but the position isn't nearly as epic as it was a year ago. I'm thinking bigger, now. I'm thinking maybe Minister for Magic. And in this move, I'm taking the good things - my friends, the lessons I've learned, the confidence I've attained in my success - and leaving the rest - the mourning, the anger, the betrayal, the worry - I'm leaving all of that behind. And I'm going to reinvent the rest. We've all been affected by the war, but it's time to start a new age - free from fear and doubt. Class of ninety-nine, I want to thank you - for the good and the bad. On either side, it's made us all grow as people and as students. Some of you I'll be seeing in a few months at University, the rest, I know we'll meet again some day. And we'll greet each other warmly as friends, having left the bad behind us. Thanks."
The shouts and cheering from the crowd let Harry know he'd done well. He began to tear up as soon as he sat down again, and held his head in his hands. Ron patted his back and Hermione left her seat to kneel beside him, telling him how wonderfully he'd done. This was all he cared about - all he needed. His friends, warm words, and a job well done. This was it.
Draco was a flurry of nerves. As far as he was concerned, most of the people in this crowd still hated him because of his last name. Perhaps he'd change it after the war. He didn't look that much like his father. McGonagall stood, crying after Harry's speech. He'd had to admit, for Potter not having written anything at all, he'd done decently well. His own speech was a half his writing, half Hermione's - half good and half bad. It was fitting, and would work in nicely with what Harry had just said. He just hoped people could be unbiased enough to listen for a little while. News of his family defecting after the war was widespread, but not everyone knew and not everyone believed. He had secretly thrown in a bit about himself and Hermione after she'd edited it - she wouldn't hear it until just now - and he hoped that would show them that he'd changed enough to win the heart of the Gryffindor Princess, a member of the Golden Trio. It was all he could hope for. McGonagall cleared her throat.
"Sonorous. Thank you, Mister Potter... 'winging it' was always a hobby of yours, even at the most important moments, and your courage and effort are what helped you deliver a wonderful speech. Thank you. Next I'd like to finish my portion of the ceremony with what is perhaps my favorite part - Commencement Superlatives. For the last seven days, a table has been set out outside of our Great Hall, and students have been able to nominate or vote for their classmates in a variety of categories - some very basic, and some quite specific. We've chosen the students that we feel fit best in each category, and included a few unusual submissions that we found entertaining or well-deserved. We'll start with the basics and move on. Students as you are called, please stand and wave, distinguishing yourself.
"For 'Most Intelligent', the students have elected - no surprise here - Miss Hermione Granger of Gryffindor."
"For 'Most Changed', Draco Malfoy of Slytherin." Hearing his own name called shocked him awake. Most Changed? Perhaps people really were seeing his differences.
"For 'Most Humorous', Ronald Weasley." Ron stood just a few seats from him, grinning like a madman. If there was one thing he'd come to enjoy about Ron, it was that he was indeed funny.
"For 'Biggest Gossip', no surprise here either, Lavender Brown."
"For 'Most Friendly', Luna Lovegood."
"For 'Most Eccentric' also, Luna Lovegood."
"For 'Most Accomplished', Harry Potter - well deserved, that is."
"For 'Most Athletic', Ron Weasley. Well played. Excellent Keeper..."
"And now we begin a few oddities. These were my favorites of any year before, and a few of them made me laugh so hard I... well, we'll get into that another day."
"For 'Most Hair Products', Draco Malfoy." He stood, begrudgingly this time, as a few people cheered. It wasn't that much gel.
"For 'Most Identical', Padma and Parvati Patil." The twins stood, laughing, and wore identical smiles behind identical waves.
"For 'Oddest Scar', Harry Potter."
"For 'Most Interesting', Luna Lovegood."
"For 'Most Grown Up', Neville Longbottom. He was also our runner-up for Most Changed."
"For 'Most Embarrassing Public Blunder, Hermione Granger - foSr the teeth-growing incident, and shrink afterwards." Hermione laughed and accepted it with grace - and Draco shook his head. Hadn't he been the cause of that one? Excellent..."
"For 'Most Ferret-y, Draco Malfoy." The wave of laughter that passed over was delicious. He remembered that day clearly, and exactly what it had been like as a ferret for a few moments - terrible.
"For 'Most Colorful Name, Lavender Brown."
"For 'Most Colorful Language, Ron Weasley." Ron went Scarlet and seemed to glance in Mrs. Weasley's direction nervously.
"And lastly, but certainly not least, for 'Most Likely To Blow Himself Up', Mister Seamus Finnegan." This elicited an uproar of laughter as Seamus, red in the face but smiling, stood and waved. "Seamus managed to light his hair or eyebrows on fire at least once per year since he arrived here, and has caused more explosions than every other student in his class combined. Well done. Consider going into Pyrotechnics."
Seamus sat and the crowd went still again. Draco knew this was his moment - he could change their minds about him, or he could deliver a meaningless speech they wouldn't pay attention to. He'd have to open well. She called his name, announced his status as Head Boy (causing many whispers, which Draco took as a good thing), and moved aside. He took her place..
"Friends, family, Press photographers - my Right side is my best side - and staff, strangers, and former enemies. Hello, and thank you for not booing me off the stage before I even hit the top step. Being chosen to deliver a speech today is probably one of the most frightening things I've witnessed in my life - and that's a lot, coming from the son of two former Death Eaters. I've seen things in my day that would scare the pants off the most fearless Auror, the most untouchable minds, and it was seen as commonplace among those... people. That used to be the only way of life I knew. I didn't understand other sides. I thought that the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord were 'right', and that was all there was to it. In the last year, I've learned something - that there is an opposite side to everything. I was stuck in the dark for so long, that I didn't know what it was like to be bathed in light.
"Since my family defected, my eyes have opened. I not only see the light, but feel it on my skin. Perhaps one day I'll get a little tan - it's unlikely." He smiled, and Hermione laughed loudly enough in the front row for everyone to take notice. She looked stunning, he had never seen anything so beautiful in his life as this pale gold creature in front of him. She'd know soon enough just what she meant to him.
"In the year since I've learned one good lesson that I'll take with me - and that is that of the two sides to everything, each is equal. Light and dark, good and evil, right and wrong. For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction - learned that in Potions - and as such for every dirty deed I've done before, I intend on rectifying it with good. There have been grey areas in between for all of us - for me, it was the heartbreaking decision to join my family and flee instead of stay and fight in this war, defending Hogwarts and a student body that would hate me no matter what I did. It's still there, in my selfish desire to succeed that sometimes gets in the way of letting me care about other people - except for one. And it is she that has made all the difference." He saw Hermione's jaw drop and face go white. This wasn't in the cards - he could practically hear her say it in her head. He grinned at her and shook his head.
"I made the decision to defect after the war because it seemed safe. I made the decision to come back to Hogwarts and face you as a student body - and the opinions of your family and friends, and the general public - because I knew it was what I had to do. My only fear was of rejection. And yet, our Headmistress wrote me before the school year began, before anyone else knew about this Eighth Year, and told me everything - and expressed her wish that I come back, not only as a student, but as Head Boy. In order to succeed. In order to prove myself. And I did just that. And it has made a world of difference, that has. I've made friends - friends outside of the Slytherin Dungeons. My grades are at an all-time high. I enjoy what I'm learning. I've enjoyed the House Tournament. I've enjoyed leading, learning, and loving with and from those around me. I lost a lifetime of a support system, but who wants support from Death Eaters? Lousy arseholes, if you ask me." The crowd gasped and he could see McGonagall shaking her head from the corner of his eye. Had he really just said that? He glanced at his notes and tucked them into his pocket. He knew enough of the rest.
"The decision to cross over into the light has changed my life - and has changed me as a person. It has opened up new ideas, new truths, and new possibilities. It has given me the courage, the opportunities, and the tools I needed to grow, and learn, and to take back what is mine - the feeling of doing what is right. But you know what? High grades, and book smarts, and public approval? Not high on my list of goals, really. I only wrote myself one goal this year, and it was simple - to find a friend. A real, true, good friend. And I've found more than that. Being Head Students has pushed us together, though we resisted - vehemently - at first. We despised each other going into this. But as the months passed and our proximity to each other didn't change, our feelings did. We morphed quickly from enemies, to casual acquaintances, to friends, to much more. Hermione Granger, you have changed me, for the better. More than switching sides. More than pep talks and a warm feeling inside. Your kindness, your encouragement, and your warm hand in mine has made all the difference in me." Hermione was standing now, though he doubted she'd done it consciously. Her jaw was relaxed, her lips slightly parted, eyes wide. She was stepping towards him slowly as he finished this unexpected part of his speech.
"Sometimes, ladies and gentlemen, staff and students, all it takes to change you is a little bit of love - something I've been feeling for a time now, and haven't had the guts to confess. This girl here, in the gold gown, staring up at me - I'm going to ask her to move in with me at Merlin University, come fall. I'm going to ask her to stay with me, despite what a number of you might think. Because you know what? Your old biases about me, about my feelings - they're irrelevant. I am not a Malfoy, I do not belong in that category. I'm just Draco, and she's just... she's Hermione, and she's everything."
The crowd filled with excited whispers - while the students were all in awe, some giggling or squealing as Draco professed these feelings, the parents were admiring every bit of him. Every change, every flaw, was taken in and accepted by the crowd - more than Draco had hoped for, and now less and less what he actually cared about.
"Hermione, I've been feeling this way for a very long time now - perhaps since before this year, even. I was just so afraid, and... you've given me courage. A lion's courage. I love you."
He'd never said the words to her before, despite a nagging sense that they'd been feeling it all along. Parents clapped, students cheered, and Hermione ran up the steps in her heels and gown, throwing her arms around his neck and holding him close. She pulled away after a moment and ran down the stairs, shouting back at him.
"I love you too, Draco! I do! And yes, yes I'll dorm with you! I'd spend every second with you!" The applause was deafening, perhaps the loudest of the night. The sun was just starting to cross over the forbidden forest, it was seven and there was still two hours of sun, and Draco had just one last thing to say.
"To the students, for accepting my changes and encouraging the new me. For the public out there, for whatever changed opinions you may have. For Harry Potter - light shines from his every orifice, it does - for saving all our lives. For the staff, for trusting in me. And lastly, to Minerva McGonagall - the woman who wrote that letter and made me take that first step into the light. It all started with that letter."
The cheering grew louder still, and then died away as he returned to his seat and McGonagall stood at the Podium once more, now openly sobbing.
"Th-thank you, to our wonderful speakers, and to... to you, students. My first year as Headmistress was a riot, and you had me laughing the whole way through. Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to present to you once more the Hogwarts School class of nineteen ninety-nine - the best class of students I've seen in all my years." The students flipped their tassels, tossed their caps, and cheered, and the guests - worn from the afternoon of voicing their approval - clapped loudly, calling out the names of their children or siblings or friends or whoever. Draco took one last look at the crowd before turning back to his girlfriend, to Hermione, and kissing her full on the mouth, in front of everyone. If being on the good side had felt this good, he'd been an idiot to wait so long to switch sides.
After a magical reception of dining on the finest foods and beverages, desserts and entrees, the graduating class said their farewell to their families, promising to see them when they got off the Hogwarts Express in a few days time. Girls fixed their dressed, changed into heels, re-did their makeup and hair. Boys straightened their jacket, buttoned buttons that had come undone, and brushed their hair through, in some (but not all) cases. The ball began thirty minutes after dinner commenced, just long enough for everyone to freshen up and for staff to make the proper adjustments before the students arrived.
Minerva was exhausted - not physically, but emotionally. She'd seen some of the strangest but most heartfelt speeches, given awards for things she'd never thought she'd award a student for. She'd cried more than she ever thought possible. Wasn't she supposed to be the strong one in times like these? The fearless leader? Fearless, however, was fitting - she did not doubt the abilities of a single student in this year's class. Even Finnegan and Weasley seemed to have smarted up enough to be accepted into University. Harry had made up his speech on the spot, and yet he'd put out the most honest display of fear and change she'd seen since Draco. Hermione had been eloquent at the very least, inspiring for sure. The admiration and adoration of the crowd towards the speeches was undeniable, and she was suddenly pleased with herself for picking the best mix - and for including Draco, who deserved it most of all.
The band tuned up, the streamers seemed to flutter from every direction, the Great Hall was dimmed down into the dark, and enchanted candles and colored lanterns adorned the walls. The ceiling reflected the clear, starry night sky outside. There was a table with punch - likely to be spiked within twenty minutes, though everyone being of age meant there was nothing to be done to stop it. Not that she really would have tried, anyway. Let them party. It was their last official school function. They'd have two days to pack up their things and say their goodbyes, and then they'd board the Hogwarts express for the last time, heading out into the world. A little firewhiskey in the punch wouldn't kill them.
She personally requested that the band play a few of the student's favorite songs, including a slow song or two towards the end - give the last of them the courage to dance with someone they'd always fancied. Head Girl and Head Boy would start the dancing off - and what a perfect pair to do so - and then the festivities would begin. There were students waiting outside the door already, chattering on about their summer plans, or their fall plans, or their plans for that night. The results of the Hogwarts Tournament would be revealed early to them, and then to the younger students at the End of Term Feast - though she doubted the news would stay a secret that long.
The minute hand on the clock reached twelve - it was now nine o'clock, and the ball would last until the students decided themselves to go up to bed. She walked to the doors, announced the beginning of the ball, and sat back in a chair she'd placed in a corner, welcoming the relief that swelled over her. She'd done her job pretty well, if she could say so herself.
The students were jumping, the band was thrashing around wildly, and rock music filled the hall. Draco held Hermione's hand in the back of the room, watching over everyone. She'd been especially quiet that night, even during dinner while everyone at their table was gabbing loudly and squealing about their summer plans. So-and-so was visiting Prague until July. This family and that family were going to Rome together. And though he'd spent nearly every waking moment with Hermione over the last few months, he had no idea where she was going. A panic overtook him - what if he didn't see her all summer? She'd just told him she loved him too, she'd just agreed to move in with him, but where would they be in the mean time?
"So, are you... going back with your parents? Or what?"
"I was thinking about that earlier. I don't think I will. The ministry gave the three of us a good sum of money after the war... I haven't spent a knut of it, it's all in a savings account. I think it's time for me to be out of my parents house. I love them and all I want is to protect them, but... I'd be leaving again soon anyway. I think I'll get a flat somewhere in London."
The tension in the last statement was nearly tangible - so she was going to get a flat in muggle London. But where would he...
"You're welcome to join me, if that's what you're so worried about." The coy smirk on her face drove him mad. Oh. That fixed things. And from the way she said it, he had a feeling she'd intended to do so all along.
"I will. I have money, I can... yes. A little flat in London, just for us."
"A lot of people are doing it, supposedly. Staying out on their own for a while. Harry's doing it, he and I thought about trying to rent in the same building... if you wouldn't mind."
"I don't think I would. Potter's not so bad after all."
"His speech was fantastic... I wanted to scold him for not writing one ahead of time, but he really said everything pretty well."
"Got a little glimpse into his mind. He's not so excessively terrible."
Hermione rolled her eyes, pulling Draco's hand as the band finished up with the last of their faster songs. They'd play a few slow ones, and then a few more, trickling out through the night as the students did. It was nearly two in the morning, most of them had been up since quiet early. The punch bowl had been spiked. Nobody had gotten too crazy, but it was a little strange to see all of their classmates in their fanciest apparel, swaying slightly as they walked or talking too loudly. It would be a set of interesting last memories. Hermione pulled Draco into nearly the center of the floor. They'd had to start the evening off with a slow dance, and they'd finish it that way, too. As the band struck up a slow, morose number about moving on and leaving home, every student stood - every member of every house, taking the hand of someone else, just to dance one of the last dances of the night. So many couples crowded the floor that it was making Hermione a tad claustrophobic, until Draco wrapped his arms tighter around her and let her head rest on his chest.
"I love you, Hermione. I really do."
"I love you too, Draco." As she raised her face to his, and he captured her lips, Hermione saw the events of the last year past through her mind - coping with the war, starting this year, freaking out over Draco being Head Boy, their walk in the snow and that awkward first hug, their first kiss on Valentine's Day, the months of dating and coming out into the public, Harry's approval, and that ending to Draco's speech - something she'd never in a million years expected - and falling madly, hopelessly in love with this tall, blonde Slytherin man that she'd never expected.
And after nearly twenty years of hiding behind books and cleverness, Hermione Granger finally made a decision, effective immediately. She was going to put down the books and quills, move to London with her amazing boyfriend, and really just... live, for the first time. As they separated and he smiled down at her, she couldn't help but feel the corners of her mouth turn up as well.
He was dancing with Lavender, and they were laughing and reliving their terrible relationship from sixth year - the nicknames, the displays of affection, all of it.
"I threw a fit because you'd said Hermione's name in your sleep. I'm not sure anyone ever told you."
"They didn't. You shot daggers at me with your eyes for months, and I had no clue. Funny how things work out."
"Exactly. I saw you made it into Merlin. I didn't even think you'd apply."
He grinned, reliving the thrill he'd gotten when he saw he'd been accepted into the University. It was unlike anything he'd ever felt before. His mother had wept and shouted when she saw him after graduation, talking about how proud she was and how happy she was that he was her son. It was a rare, beautiful moment - one he'd remember for quite some time.
"Yeah. I was really surprised. Did it on a whim, not thirty minutes before the deadline... everyone's been really pleased."
"Well, I'm proud of you. It'll be nice, I think. You can study harder at Merlin, really show them what you're made of. I know you're smart, somewhere deep in there. You just have to show it."
Ron felt himself blushing. Someone had just called him smart? Well, that was new... "Thanks. And you're going as well?"
"Mhmm. Studying the stars - I've always wanted to, and they have a program just for it. Astronomy and Astrology together. Divination included."
They chatted as the music wound down, dancing still. They'd all grown up a bit. It was nice.
The band packed up and left, and the students were all dispersing, heading to their various dormitories. Draco and Hermione, quiet and holding hands, walked ahead of the pack towards their quarters. A few Ravenclaw boys eagerly discussed their chosen courses at Merlin. The oldest Gryffindor students - including Harry and Ron - were clearly heard singing the Hogwarts school song at various tempos, at the top of their lungs. Arm in arm they wove through the hallways, up the staircases, forward.
AN: :( No. Ugh. Okay, some people may not like this. BUT. I'm going to do it anyway. I'm not going to include an epilogue. Instead, I'm going to post things directly below this that pertain to the sequel - everything I would have published in an epilogue anyway. And in good news... the sequel will be up in the next month, and I already have a chapter or two pre-written, so it's all waiting and lovely. For those of you who have followed this fic through, THANK YOU. It was my first attempt at a real, full-length fic, and it exceeded my expected word counts - and expectations. But it's time for an end of Part One. The sequel, which will be titled Merlin University: Freshman Year will continue starting on August in the timeline, as students at Merlin U and Hogwarts graduates that are choosing other paths move into new dormitories or begin new jobs, really moving into the circle of adulthood and enjoying it immensely. Expect a bit of the classic goodness - fluff, silly things, drama - and some new bits - the usual college experience, parties, harder classes, etc. It's been great. Thank you. All of you. Please review and look for the update - though I will post a chapter to alert you all when I post the first chapter there. Cheers!