Hey everyone! I want to apologize for being utterly absent. Senior year means college applications, which means downsizing all the areas of my life that could be classified as "fun."
I've never tried DMHG, but I supposed I'd slip on the hat and see where it took me (nervous!). This is my Happy Holidays hurrah to ffnet (in other words, Christmas present, but I felt like a douchebag saying that), so it'll be short-ish. I'll post a chapter every three days until the 23rd. If the muse whacks me over the head with more, posting will continue the 26th, 29th, etc.
A bit of background: According to the ever-faithful Harry Potter wikia, Hermione returned to Hogwarts following the conclusion of the 2nd Wizarding War to finish her education (presumably, her N.E.W.T.s). Harry and Ron, on the other hand, joined the Aurors at the request of Kingsley Shacklebolt to track down Death Eaters who had escaped. (Which, dang, could become a story all its own. I haven't tried an action fanfic yet, and hoo boy do I love writing action.)
It isn't stated what happened to Draco, other than that he eventually married Astoria Greengrass and then had that child with the name I refuse to acknowledge.
Everything will be canon-compliant.
Thanks for stopping by,
Oh, P.S.! Someone suggested I get a Twitter, which I thought was a fun idea. So I did. I'll be talking about book recommendations and things, so you should drop by and tweet me or stuff - I'd love to hear from you. My handle is (at sign)LeSpeechwriter.
Hermione stopped. She pressed the crisp quill tip once more to the parchment, leaving a bead of jet-black ink, but she only found herself putting down the tawny feather again.
She was dry of words. What was there to write? She couldn't put the feeling down on parchment, not in a way that her parents could understand.
It was just strange being back after all that had happened, that was all.
For the first months of her seventh year, Hermione had sometimes thought she saw bloodstains on the floors of Hogwarts. But she always shook away the inclination before it could ruffle her, and she buried herself back in her books. The imaginary crimson splotches faded, after a while. And along with them, the ache in her chest eased slightly, her tongue loosened, and her stride grew more confident.
Writing the letters had been easier before that fade, when everything had been fresh and raw. Mum, she'd write, with tears ripping their way down her cheeks. Mum, I'm angry all the time, about nothing at all. Mum, I'm scared for Ron, for Harry, out trying to track down the Death Eaters. I want to be with them, but part of me is glad I'm here and safe instead, and I feel selfish for feeling that way.
Mum, I'm lonely. And still afraid.
But there was none of that now. Now she was the cool and sensible Hermione Granger, known to throw only the occasional stress-induced fit or make the perhaps-more-than-occasional snide remark. Now she was expected to be herself, and it took so much effort she almost couldn't bear it.
Hogwarts's current seventh year was a conglomerate of her own year and the year below hers. She still felt strange sitting in classes with Ginny, but stranger was the number of students missing from Hogwarts altogether. Many families considered the ex-battlefield unsafe; as a result, the enrollment numbers at Hogwarts had plummeted. Those at Beauxbatons and Durmstrang had skyrocketed.
Hermione thought that was absurd. Though Karkaroff had gone, anyone who refused to admit Durmstrang's lasting inclination toward the Dark Arts was either delusional or highly creative with the information they chose to absorb. Then again, mostly Slytherins had gone to the Scandinavian school. Hermione couldn't say she was surprised.
But she felt the result of the transfers in the empty halls and the clear grounds, the lonely smattering of students in the Great Hall at mealtime. Worse, Hogsmeade had been declared off-limits for students while crews of wizards rebuilt its damaged buildings. In fact, parts of Hogwarts itself were still undergoing reparation, though the New Year rapidly approached.
And with it, midterm exams marched forward. Hermione worried loudly, outwardly, and frequently, bringing stacks of books to the dinner table. But she could hardly focus with all the empty space around her, because it reflected what she couldn't admit to herself.
She didn't care anymore.
She wanted to. Oh, how she wanted to.
She would have killed to be the girl who wasn't stuck in the rut.
Over the summer, Hermione had pulled Ginny Weasley out of that rut. And in doing so, she had buried herself.
She had needed so much force to help Ginny face her losses. But it wasn't loss that consumed Hermione; it was something less concrete. She didn't even know, really, what it was. What if the thing she had to overcome had changed her too much for her to return to who she had been?
In short, what if the rut was too deep?
What if she was inextricable?
Hermione sank in the seat at her desk, her sharp brown eyes staring at the wall before her. Her nerveless hands smoothed her uniform; her lips pursed and frowned without her full consent.
She realized what she wanted to write. But she couldn't ask it of her parents, who were still so disoriented, who were still adjusting to the truth.
Mum … what do I do now?
"That exam was awful," Ginny said. Her voice rang off the Owlery's icy windowpanes. "I bet you made full marks on everything, though."
Hermione folded her arms. "I wouldn't make that assumption so quickly."
"Oh, honestly," said Hermione, a bit half-heartedly. She's probably right, said the voice in the back of her head. Not that it matters.
A pint-sized owl hooted at the window. Ginny lunged for the latch and snatched Pig out of the air. As he wriggled, the oversized letter flopping around on his leg, Ginny let out an exasperated sigh. "Hold still, Pig – let go, it's our damn letter – I swear, once Hedwig gets back –"
With an indignant squawk, Pig flopped onto the windowsill and held out his leg. Ginny wrestled the cumbersome load of parchment from his talons and ripped the string off, scanning Ron's endless scrawl.
"Macnair!" she said. "They've got Macnair, that bastard." A pause. "And someone named Thorfinn Rowle. Never heard of him."
Hermione frowned. "I think he was one of the ones who attacked Ron, Harry, and me at Tottenham Court Road."
"Oh, well." Ginny shrugged. "He's in Azkaban now. Looks like the hunt's going well." She peeled Harry's letter off the back of Ron's and tucked it into her pocket. "Here, for you," she said, shoving Ron's letter at Hermione. "I'm off to read in peace. Don't send Pig off without telling me – I'll have a reply for Harry sometime tomorrow."
As Ginny clambered down the stairs, Hermione perched herself on the windowsill, which was somewhat clearer of droppings than the floor. She unfolded the parchment.
Harry, the others, and I are in some town in Germany. I'm not going to bother trying to write the name, it's ridiculous and you'll probably tell me I'm spelling it wrong.
A few days ago we were in Berlin and we heard of a few Death Eaters hiding in this town. So we went in, looked around, and I thought to ask the bartender if he'd seen anyone dodgy, because when the Dark Lord's defeated and you're on the run, why not have a few drinks, right? In any case, we caught two out of three. Macnair, for one. The git was screaming and crying for mercy when we found him. The other was that bloke Thorfinn Rowle. He had his wand to his head – about to knock himself off, probably – but we disarmed him first.
Wish you were here, Mione. We could use you – I swear you'd be more help in a pinch than some of these Aurors. Some of them are still in a state about Tonks, and it reminds me of Fred.
Dunno, it's hard for me to talk about Fred, still. Even write about him, really.
Harry won't shut up about Ginny, of course. It's not that I'm not all right with him being with her, but I just wouldn't mind if he were a little more … I don't know, thoughtful, especially when we're tramping around these damn woods all day and that's all I've got to listen to. The other Aurors don't talk much. Figures, doesn't it?
I wish I could hear your voice. It'd be a right sight better than these Wailing Polyglot Blackbirds they've got around here. Can't do anything without hearing the damn things yelling curse words in Arabic and Vietnamese and Russian. It's not even fun, because I don't speak any of the languages they do.
And I thought we'd be done with forests after last year. So much for that.
I don't know, though, things might still get interesting. I've heard there's a vampire around here. Hopefully we'll go check up on him, make sure he's not eating any Muggles, before trying to find the Death Eater who got away.
I'm sick of Death Eaters – I only realized the other day it's been seven bloody months. Can't believe it's taken this long, with the entire Wizarding World looking out for them and all. Come to think of it, we haven't caught Yaxley, and we haven't heard word from anyone else where he could be, so it might be him that escaped. I'll keep you posted.
I hope your exams went well. Give my love to Ginny and Luna and the others.
All my love,
Hermione folded the letter back up, feeling a flash of an urge to Apparate to Berlin and find him. Get out of these stifling walls.
But the instinct faded almost immediately. She slipped the parchment into her pocket and hurried down the stairs, emerging into a deserted stone hallway. As she turned the corner, she smacked right into Professor Flitwick.
Her hip collided with his face, which cracked unpleasantly upon impact. He squeaked and fixed his nose with a flick of his wand, turning his eyes up to her. "Ms. Granger!" he said, straightening his robes with a wince. "I'm so very sorry; I should have been watching my step, I suppose –"
"No, no. I'm sorry, Professor," Hermione said. But as he headed up to the Owlery, Hermione realized she wasn't sorry at all, or even surprised, really. When they'd collided, she'd felt as blank as if she'd been expecting it, and she felt as blank now as if it hadn't happened at all. As if she hadn't just broken her teacher's nose.
It unsettled her, the automatic lie, the automatic cover-up. Of course she'd lied before, but never so instinctively. And the nature of it was so foreign. She'd lied to conceal her feelings before - but this was the opposite. Pretending to care was something Hermione had never even had to conceive.
She tried to rationalize it away for a heartbeat. She tried to tell herself that this was inconsequential. But it had been a pattern for a while now, and Hermione knew it, and if she was going to lie to others, then she supposed she might as well be truthful to herself.
She had turned into one of those people who said "I'm fine" when anyone asked if they were all right. But she wasn't fine at all, was she?
She turned the paper in her pocket over. Why didn't she miss Ron more? She wanted to miss Ron. She wanted to feel the constriction around her heart when she saw his handwriting; she wanted to long for his hands and his lips and his touch. But she didn't long for anything except a respite.
Respite from what?
Biting her lip, frowning slightly, she swept down the hall.
"Hermione!" called a voice from the top of the Grand Staircase.
She caught Seamus Finnegan's eye and approached him. "Seamus. How are –"
"Did you hear?"
"Who's come back to Hogwarts," he said darkly.
Hermione sighed. "Oh, Merlin. Who?"
She slumped over the edge of the staircase. "You've got to be joking."
"No. I heard his father knows some of the N.E.W.T. administrators, so apparently he thought he'd just show back up here for the spring term so he could take the finals. Don't know why we have friends of Death Eaters administering our exams, but there you are."
"Pity," Hermione said, raising one eyebrow. "I was rather enjoying the idea of the ferret freezing slowly in an icy wasteland."
Seamus chuckled. "Well, you know, I can't say I'm too happy to see him come back either. He's made a lot of –" His eyes fell to the bottom of the staircase, where the doors were opening, and Hermione's gaze followed.
When she saw him walk inside, she couldn't help it.
The feeling built up between her ribs, racking and coiling inside her chest. A sweeping feeling that tingled from nose-tip to the soles of her feet; a feeling she hadn't experienced for a long time. She stared, trying to hold it back, but in the end, it proved too strong.
She exploded into laughter. "What is he wearing?" Her mouth hung open, and she wheezed helplessly. "Oh, my God! What is that? What is that?"
The object on his head was roughly the size, color, and texture of a dead raccoon, and draped over his Hogwarts robes was a white fur coat that made him look like a shrunken, half-starved polar bear. His tie hung lamely over its front, the green and silver sticking out from the snowy fluff like he'd painted it on.
Malfoy must have noticed the strange looks people were giving him, because he hurriedly removed the raccoon hat and shuffled out of his polar bear coat, draping them over the back of his trunk.
As he returned to his natural state, Hermione managed to rope in her laughter. "Oh, oh goodness, oh, Merlin. I wish Harry and Ron could see that. Brilliant."
"It is pretty awful, isn't it?" Seamus stared, fascinated, at the pile of fur. "I wonder if that's normal for Durmstrang."
Hermione straightened up. "Furs are, but that isn't. Victor always used to –"
"Victor?" said Seamus, and then blinked. "Oh, right. You and Krum."
"Yes. Victor told me that –"
A choking noise came from behind Hermione. She turned.
"Malfoy's here?" Ginny spluttered, frozen a few steps away. "Why? What on earth?"
Luna, standing next to Ginny, peered down at Malfoy. Interest glowed in her protuberant grey eyes. "Oh, look, he's got a hat made out of Num-Num hair."
"What's a Num –" Seamus started, but Hermione hastily interrupted:
"He's come back for this term, Ginny."
As Malfoy started tugging his trunk up the stairs, Ginny scowled. "Damn. Here I was thinking we were well shot of that whole … lot."
Hermione sighed. "I know. The break was nice, at least."
With a jolt, she realized what she was feeling: childish dislike.
There was a certain connotation to the emotion, a young feeling, a feeling remembered from the first-year midnight duel incident and the second-year slug incident and the third-year Buckbeak incident. For a moment, Hermione was lost in a whirlwind of her own recollections, and the disdain she felt for all that was Malfoy was perfect and pristine, and for those scant seconds she was a girl who hadn't seen battle, and she was once again hopeful and impassioned, pure and unadulterated.
But then Malfoy passed her, and his grey eyes flickered up and took her in.
And without even a falter in his calm stride, his eyes turned back to the stone floor, and he kept moving without a word. Without a spiteful comment. Without anything.
And as she watched him go, the feeling faded.
Everything had changed.
In case anyone was wondering: Every time I try to open up Have a Nice Day!, I just feel like I can't do it justice. I never wanted to leave a story unfinished, obviously, but now I understand why people do. Picking it back up after this much time would be like pulling the proverbial tooth with a pair of rusty pliers. I'm really very sorry about this and I can't promise to fix it any time soon. I don't want to make false promises.
Until the 14th, I remain,