Author's Notes: I always hate first chapters. They always seem so boring. But you have to start somewhere, right? Let me know what you think so far, any comments are greatly appreciated and always encourage me to update more often! :) Enjoy.
She was walking down the old castle's halls with a pile of books held tightly against her chest; they were a sort of makeshift shield to protect her from flying elbows. A class of Six-years was just streaming out of the room to her right and somehow they all seemed to bump and push her on their way down the corridor. She felt so small, so fragile, and her books were the only thing holding her all together. It was her first year at Hogwarts and she couldn't possibly have been any more nervous. If she could only reach the library, then she could find a quiet little corner to read in peace. Shoving her way through the packed crowd of squirrely students, she could see the entrance just a little further ahead. She let out a deep breath and smiled at the familiar sight.
As she took another step forward, an ear-piercing scream brought her to a halt. She stopped, startled, and looked around for who was screaming. She scanned over the corridor but couldn't find the source, until she spotted the terrified little girl huddled behind a stone pillar to her left. She moved towards her, aiming to calm the poor girl, but then she heard another scream behind her. As she spun around, a third cry off to her right joined in. Within a matter of seconds, everyone around her was screaming, yelling, and crying out as they each fell to the ground one by one. Dropping her books to plug her ears, she closed her eyes and tried to drown out their voices with her own, deep within her head. 'Calm down, Hermione. It's not real. This isn't true, none of it. Just open your eyes. You're dreaming. Open your eyes!' Her breathing started to slow and she willed herself to just trust and open her eyes.
With a big gulp, Hermione loosened her grip on the bed sheets crumbled in her fists and glanced around the room-her room. It wasn't her dormitory from back when she was in Hogwarts. No, she hadn't been anywhere near Hogwarts in two years, not after the war finally ended. She was back home, in the safety of her parents' house where no one from the wizarding world could reach her. The protective charms she encased the house in could ensured exactly that. No visits, no letters, no owls, and most certainly no death eaters at her doorstep. She had isolated herself completely from the magical world and it had worked well enough so far.
Hermione brushed a loose strand of unruly hair from her face and dragged herself out of bed. Her feet found the soft, cushy fabric of her purple slippers just as there was a knock on her door. "Sweetheart?" It was her mother.
"I'm fine, mum. Just another bad dream. Thanks." For a moment, Hermione could sense her mum still standing outside her door, but after another few seconds of silence, she heard the footsteps leading back down the hallway again. Her parents still didn't know everything that had happened. How could she tell them? The dangers she had been in. All the pain and struggle she had gone through. And for what? What had this triumphant war given her except nightly terrors and a growing case of paranoia? She only left the house when it was absolutely necessary and never let her wand out of her sight.
Hermione stared at the door a moment longer before getting up. She stretched and felt her back crack, along with her knees. She was only twenty but her body refused to believe her. Whether it was her inactivity and isolation, or the old battle scars that left her joints stiff, she didn't know, but she knew the daily doses of anxiety and depression weren't helping either. Dragging her slippered feet over the carpeted floor, Hermione made her way to the vanity mirror above her dresser and examined the bags under her eyes. It had been so long since she slept more than a few hours at a time and her youthful face was beginning to wear the consequences. As she bit her lower lip and prodded her hair away from her face with a coarse brush, she heard the doorknob jiggle behind her. "I told you mum, I'm fine. Really. I-," She watched the door creak open through the mirror and expected to see her mother walk through with a cup of tea to help ease her into the day, but her words caught in her throat as the black cloak was revealed in the doorframe. He seemed to float into the room and before she could grab her wand off the nightstand beside her bed, she felt the tip of his own wand pressed firmly against her back. She closed her eyes tightly. 'He's not real, Hermione! He's not! Open your eyes! Wake up! Now!'
"Yesss, mudblood. Look at me. I want to sssee the lightsss leave your eyesss." His voice chilled her to the bone as she heard him slither closer behind her. She could feel his hot breath on her neck and it made her skin crawl and her gut retch inside her. She tried to overpower his hissing voice with her own but it was too much and she let him in during a moment of weakness. "I said Look At ME." It wasn't any louder than before but his tone had shifted. The demand for obedience suddenly deepened and she knew if she didn't listen, she wouldn't be alive to hear him again. With all her strength and her knees shaking under the weight of her trembling frame, she opened her eyes just a sliver. It all happened so quickly, a matter of seconds really, but she had never felt such fear before in her entire life. His face was directly in front of her and she could see the unnatural texture of his pale grey skin. The slits of his flattened nose flared slightly as he let out a horrifying hiss and lunged for her face. Just as his head was about to collide violently with her own, her real eyes opened and she snapped back to reality. She was sitting upright in her bed with a sheen of fresh sweat covering her body and her heart pounding in her chest.
Her hand grabbed at the wand sitting on the table beside her bed as her eyes darted around the room. It was empty-dark, but empty. She was squinting at a suspicious shadow in the corner next to her bookshelf when a sound at the door startled her. Her wand immediately trained on the door as she heard the knock, and then her mother's concerned voice. "Sweetheart? You were screaming again…"
Hermione lowered her wand and let out a sigh of relief before calling out, "I'm fine, mum. Just another little dream."
"Are you sure? Do you want me to put the kettle on for you?" Hermione smiled down at her wand and chuckled softly as she remembered how eerily similar this conversation was to the one in her nightmare. It was pathetic but all she could do was laugh quietly to herself with her wand resting loosely in her sweaty palm.
"Yeah, that'd be great, mum. Thanks."
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