Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and fictional places do not belong to me; I am merely borrowing them for playtime before I (respectfully) put them back. Thank you JKR, for allowing such things to happen.
Thank You: To the amazing team that is inspiring/cleaning up after me in this project: BSC_AG, Allee, Tom Without, Lauren and Roo. Please remember to thank them if you are enjoying this story.
Story Summary: Hermione must deal with the aftermath of the war and with the other lost souls and broken hearts that have survived it. Life is every bit as hard as war, and growing up has a way of changing both friendships and minds. That's not always a bad thing... Rated M for later chapters. This story is primarily about Hermione, and does include a main pairing with Severus Snape. There is also several non-graphic side pairings, including a m/m slash.
Main Characters: Hermione Granger, Severus Snape, Harry Potter, George Weasley, Ron Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Ginevra Weasley, OC
THE LUCKY ONES
Chapter One: (in which Hermione deals with the direct aftermath of the Battle, and has a conversation with the Sorting Hat.)
She had done and said some horrible things in the war. They all had, often without thinking of the implications or regrets; it was how they had been able to survive. The horror and grief for not only the loss of her friends, but also of a piece of innocence inside herself, came later. It was sobering to know that not only would the world never be the same, she would never be the same either.
It was easy to see the war as just some sort of important adventure when it began. It was simply another part of the magical world she had been thrust into, no odder than anything else. After all, this was following the revelation that she had magic? It was harder, with death all around her, to avoid the dawning realisation that now she had to live in her magical world as the person she had made herself into. Not that she was necessarily a bad person to be, but she was, on the whole, rather lost.
Very well, she had lived. Like Harry Potter—only better—because of course he lived; she had never allowed herself to doubt the inevitability of that. Her survival meant both more and less because she was simply one of the lucky ones. She was free to grow up now. Free to marry her prince and live happily ever after, like in a story book now that the evil wizard was dead.
But how was she to pick up the pieces of her life when the beginning didn't exist anymore, and the future was as suspect as the supposedly divine dregs of yesterday's tea? Of course there are things to hold on to, things that she believed in, wanted.
There was Ron, dear Ron, and the oddly shy acknowledgment of what they had between them. And Harry, who of course, was the most free of all of them, who now actually might grow up and live happily ever after with Ginny and his...no their adopted family.
The thought twisted in her gut, and she found her eyes straying to find Harry. He had adopted the Weasleys and they him a long time ago. He had always been part of the family. Hermione was welcome to come and stay, and welcome in any Weasley endeavour, but she had always been, intrinsically at her core, a guest. She had a family who did care about her, even if they didn't always understand. She was, and always would be, just the best friend who was always over. It felt rather like she was the punch line in an awful sitcom.
She had made her decision, however, and was not able to look back at this point. The what-ifs and regrets would drive her mad if she did. Hermione glanced down the table at George Weasley, who sat, looking as lost and alone as she felt, surrounded by his—their—family.
And we're the lucky ones. It floated sarcastically through her mind, and horrified her. It was blasphemous, but true. In a day or two, it would all be funerals and trials and parties, and Hermione winced at the thought. George chose that moment to look up and catch her eyes, and she knew to her bones he didn't see it that way. George would have gladly died in his brother's place. The true test of Gryffindor courage for him was not the war itself, but in surviving its aftermath.
Hermione wrapped her arms around herself. God help her, but she understood. In the midst of the mournful, ecstatic mess of emotions around her, surrounded by those she loved and who loved her, she had never felt more alone or unprepared in her life. Her eyes suddenly locked with Draco Malfoy, and saw her own thoughts reflected back at her. He was haunted, too. Perhaps they all were. She tightened her hand on Ron's, next to her, then started as a muttered whisper came out of nowhere in her ear.
"It's me. Will you come with me?"* Ah, Harry. When had she ever not? She had been following him into unexpected hell since she was eleven years old. The question itself was ridiculous. She and Ron stood in tandem, hands unclasping as they followed Harry out of the Great Hall, guided by the subtle swishing of the Invisibility Cloak against their legs, the lightest brush of his hands against their arms. Once alone in an empty corridor, he removed the cloak from around himself, letting it hang eerily down his back. It was sight both familiar and disconcerting.
Peeves could be heard not too far away, perhaps just around the corner, exalting obnoxiously over the outcome of the battle less than an hour old, and Ron muttered something sarcastically. It felt good. It was like they weren't damaged at all...just...tired. As if tomorrow they would wake up and the nightmare would just be that, a vivid awful dream they could shudder over and laugh at their foolishness and forget. As if it were that easy.
The gargoyle looked horrific. Hermione wondered briefly who had been so desperate to get into the Headmaster's office that they had maimed it. She glanced sidelong at Harry; he had been the last one to go up that she knew of, but he was frowning in puzzlement at the clearly abused statue also. So, then. Not Harry.
"Can we go up?"* He asked the statue, subdued.
"Feel free."* The gargoyle sounded as bad as he looked.
They had barely entered the office when a loud applause broke out from the walls. Harry jumped, his hand automatically lifting with his wand, and flushed slightly. He let it go for a moment, soaking in the approval, and then lifted a palm. He spoke clearly, concisely of what he intended to do with the Hallows.
Hermione glanced at the Elder Wand. Respect. Fear. Desire. Awe. And why not? It was a wand worthy of conflicting emotion, certainly respect. It had been held through the centuries by some of the most powerful wizards in history, four of which were in just the last one alone. Grindelwald, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Potter. What she wouldn't give to study it. To take it apart and see why it was so powerful. If it could only talk, what a history lesson it could give! Later, of course. She was so tired right then.
A moment later she found it was not to be. Back into Dumbledore's grave then, and she supposed that was right. A little disappointing, but right. She said as much, and Ron audibly groaned, his whole body slumping a little.
So ambitious sometimes, her Ron. Always trying to prove he was good enough, and pureblood to boot. If only he had applied the cunning he displayed in chess towards life in general, he might have ended up in Slytherin. How odd to think of something like that. No doubt he would consider it blasphemy. She'd have to remember to ask the Sorting Hat sometime. Or possibly not, she remembered. The last time she had seen it, Neville was sweeping the burning bit of cloth off his head to the ground outdoors.
Well then. Perhaps she would go look for it. Harry clearly wanted to be alone, Ron clearly wanted to be back with his family, and the idea of going back into the Great Hall was like a rock in her stomach. She was so tired she could weep, and yet oddly wired to the point where she knew sleep would not be possible.
Besides, leaving the Sorting Hat—or what might be left of it—out in the cold darkening night felt wrong. If she had learned nothing in the last seven years (and she liked to think she had learned something), it was that magic had a very peculiar effect on things. No one could say the Sorting Hat wasn't magical. Mind made up, she squeezed Harry's shoulder gently, and Ron's hand, and disappeared back down the stairs towards the front entrance.
The air outside was sharp and cold, more than she would have thought for nearly June. It felt good, because it felt. She felt. That was a good sign, she supposed. She picked her way carefully across the rubble that had been the front courtyard and now was the front courtyard-lawn. The entire front wall and gates shielding the entryway of the castle had come down at some point during the night.
With a shiver she remembered staring out across the empty, seemingly wrong expanse at Voldemort and his followers. Worst of all had been Hagrid with Harry limp in his arms. ShS S Shee had never been more afraid or desolate or shocked in her life as when she had thought that Harry was dead. It had been every worst nightmare come to life.
Hermione's eyes swept the ruined grounds; looking for the spot Neville had decapitated Nagini. Her nose wrinkled despite herself. The air smelled of burning flesh and copper and dust and ashes. It was particularly pungent right over...
Ah. There it was. The monstrous body of the snake was still coiled up on the ground, oozing. Hermione tried to swallow back the bile that rose in her mouth and almost succeeded. The result was that she gagged, and dry-heaved for a moment. She found herself both grateful and sorry that she hadn't eaten all day. Her mouth tasted disgusting. Briefly she wondered if the castle had an extra toothbrush. Hers was in her beaded bag, and she wasn't quite certain where that had ended up. If it had not been looted by the Snatchers, than it was even possible that it was still in the Forrest where they had been caught. Grimacing, she trudged over to the snake in the dark, and cast her eyes about for any odd shadow that might be the Sorting Hat. Are you a witch, or aren't you? Ron's sarcastic words from their first year came unbidden, and with a roll of her eyes she lifted her wand, a silent Lumos igniting the tip with soft light. There it was, right where it had been left, not a single speck of ash to be seen. Of course. Why wouldn't it be? It interrupted her thoughts, its weathered old crease splitting into speech.
"And so this war is done, is it?
And the people now are freed
And the children who grew up in it
Are grown up now, indeed.
And it is odd, don't you think, that a Gryffindor ran
A Slytherin took his best moments to the grave
And a Ravenclaw painted loyalty
And Hufflepuff proved just as brave.
A bit of it in us all, yes?"
Hermione frowned at the Hat. "Just what I was thinking. Must you always rhyme, though?" She picked up the hat and plopped it on her head. "I hate you, you know." She informed the accessory.
"I might hate everything right now."
She rolled her eyes. As she turned back, reluctantly heading back to the castle where everyone seemed to be weeping from joy and pain in equal parts, and the prospect of all that emotion was as terrifying as anything else that day. She was so tired, and it just seemed like so much effort to be able to deal with everyone. Anyone. The thought of just locking herself up by herself for a while was enormously appealing. The hat chuckled and whispered in her mind.
"So he always was. He's not, you know. Not quite, yet."
"What are you talking about, now?"
"The Slytherin. Not quite yet a 'was.' Though close enough to his grave that it hardly matters. The intent always counts, of course."
Hermione stopped dead. "You...you mean Professor Snape?" She shook her head violently, almost dislodging the Hat. "I saw him die."
"As well as. He will be dead soon enough. Stubborn as any Gryffindor, that one, and loyal as any Hufflepuff. Clever too, no one can doubt that. The best and least of all the Houses. It's a pity, really."
She didn't feel herself start to move, hadn't even realised she was doing it when suddenly Hermione found herself running across the grounds, heedless of debris, towards the Shrieking Shack.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear what you think!
* This bit of dialogue was lifted directly from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling. I am using it for strictly non-profit entertainment purposes, and no infringement is intended.