Chapter One: Back to Hogwarts
Back to spells and enchantments, potions and friends
To Gryffindor! Hufflepuff! Ravenclaw! Slytherin!
Back to the place where our story begins
At Hogwarts, Hogwarts.
-Back to Hogwarts, by AVPM
Hermione shivered and held Crookshanks closer as she looked at the brick wall between platforms nine and ten. Around her she watched Muggle and magic folk alike bustle around to get to their respective destinations. Everyone seemed happily oblivious to the massive turning point Hermione was about to embark on in her life.
"You really don't have to go back," Harry Potter broke into her thoughts.
Hermione looked at him and sighed . "You know I do," she said softly. "Finishing my education is the most important thing I can give myself now."
After the final battle had commenced and the joy abated, the wizarding world was left with one last task: bury their dead. Tiny Teddy Lupin was sent to live with his Grandmother Andromeda, visited regularly by his Godfather Harry. Fred's death left a gaping hole in the Weasley family, and words failed them all for days. George's silence was the loudest of all. The only sound that came from his room were the whispered and failed attempts at casting the Patronus charm. Soon after the burial Harry left with Hermione to Australia to see to her parents. The two friends needed to give their broken second family the privacy to mourn without intruders. Hermione would forever be indebted to Harry for providing her with the strength to get through the weeks after she lifted the memory charm on her parents.
Hermione was still devastated at the reaction her mother and father bestowed upon her. She knew they would be livid, as would she if it were her memory that was tampered with, but what hurt her the most was the fear that had settled into their eyes whenever they looked at their only daughter. It was as though Hermione was a foreign and terrifying creature to them that they could not wait to be away from. Short of telling her to not come back home, her parents made it clear that they needed time and space to sort out what exactly their daughter had become while away at that school.
When they returned to England Hermione cried for days in her room at Grimmuald Place, where Harry had decided to live full-time. Harry diligently stayed by her side nearly day and night, forcing her to eat and drink when appropriate, and finally procuring a bottle of Odgen's Finest Firewhiskey when the tears simply wouldn't stop. They each drank a toast that night to all the loved ones they lost along the way, and finally to new beginnings. By the time they reached the bottom of that bottle Hermione knew she needed to go back to where her story began. She wouldn't be able to move forward without finishing that chapter in her life once and for all.
Harry understood, while Ron shuffled his feet uncomfortably. Hermione grimaced inwardly as she recounted their last fight, the one that snuffed the light out of their already precarious relationship. He had lost his temper, again, when Hermione told her friends that she was going back to Hogwarts to finish her seventh year with Ginny. Careless words were said, and Hermione realized that if Ron could not understand the very thing that made Hermione who she was...well then how could they truly belong together? Maybe they both still had a lot of growing up to do, regardless of all they had faced together.
"I don't like it, but I'll try to understand it," Ron told her. His cheeks were still red with embarrassment and he was eager to put their falling out behind him.
She hugged them both again, holding the boys close to her while she memorized their scents. Hogwarts wasn't going to be the same, wouldn't be right without them, but before she could move on with her life she needed to finish at the very place that made her who she was. How could she explain to Ron that before Hogwarts her life as a witch was non-existent? How could he, growing up with floating toy broomsticks and chasing gnomes in the garden, truly comprehend that Hermione was not yet done growing into the witch she wanted to be? Harry understood, but Hermione knew that Harry's time at Hogwarts was over. The ancient school and all its wonderful secrets had taught him all he needed to know and more to become the strong man standing before her. He and Ron would begin their training as professional Aurors and Hermione needed to give herself some time to discover exactly what her place in the world was. And so she said goodbye to her best friends, sent them both off with a kiss on the cheek, and took Ginny's hand to the barrier of Platform nine and three-quarters.