A/N: Finally adjusted to college. This has been a long time in coming. I pray it was worth the wait.
Anti-Ligitation Charm: I own nothing.
Hermione's gaze migrated across the red glass of the sea as the sun rose across the water, and then to the hippogriff gliding over its surface. It had taken just a few months, but Hogwarts had been fully restored and was open for the new term. What followed Voldemort's demise had exceeded anything Hermione had ever experienced: the entire nation was in celebration, and the Ministry's Muggle Obliviation Task Force had their work cut out for them trying to keep it contained. Once again, the outcome was the same as last, only much more final: Harry was a hero. No, not just a hero, but the hero, the Savior of the Wizarding World.
It was a heavy title for him to bear, and it was clear to Hermione that it weighed on him with all the other deeds to his name, but he bore it with good grace. The nation was breathing an enormous sigh of relief in the form of massive celebratory fireworks, and he understood that they needed someone to look to. Those who were close to him knew that all he wanted was to sit back and let out his own quiet sigh of relief, but the world wouldn't have that, and thus he was expected to be seen out carousing with his constituents. Additionally, Scrimgeour—who had made a full recovery from his encounter with the despot—insisted he be seen attending Ministry charity-raising functions. Since the money was for St. Mungos, Harry conceded, but Hermione could tell he was not happy. Voldemort was dead, and he was supposed to be free, and instead he was being entangled in a complicated weave of politics he had no desire to deal with.
Hermione understood it all too well, because she herself—along with her husband—were in a similar situation. Harry had made the mistake of letting slip a great deal of Hermione's part in the war, and everyone knew that Severus had ultimately landed the killing blow. It had been with the best of intentions, of course.
The road to hell was paved with such good intentions.
Scrimgeour now wanted Hermione to become Senior Undersecretary, insisting that she was perfect for the role. She was Muggle-born, a war-hero, and had a unique combination of talent and grit that made her an excellent second-in-command. He wanted her on his advisory payroll, and Hermione would have none of it. She was done. But Scrimgeour was persistent, and the news that she was being heavily courted for the position leaked to the press. Quite suddenly, everyone had an opinion on whether she should take the job, and she was under enormous public pressure to accept. Everyone wanted to see her taking a leadership role in heading the country, just like they wanted to see Harry join the Aurors. The public had a solid idea of where they felt people ought to be, regardless of whether those people wanted to be there or not.
So Hermione did what anyone else in her situation would do: pick up her Order of Merlin, First Class; graciously accept her nomination as the youngest member of the Wizengamot; and then hightail it out to a private and well-hidden cottage on the seaside with her family.
She had called on Dumbledore for counsel. He had been severely injured in his battle with Voldemort at the Ministry, but with timely and effective care at St. Mungo's, had lived to tell the tale. He had turned down the position of Minister four times, and Hermione thought he would at least be sympathetic to her situation.
"How did you deal with it?" she asked, as Kreacher tipped a plate of biscuits onto the table platter. "Everyone wanted you to take the job, but you said no."
"Oh, I received letters, quite a few of them," Dumbledore recalled cheerfully, helping himself to a lemon-flavored biscuit. "It was quite the conversation starter wherever I went. But all things pass, and when the new Minister was elected, people let it go—until the next election, of course."
Hermione chewed on her lower lip, thinking. "I don't want to help run a country," she said. "I want to go back to teaching." Being a teacher at Hogwarts was hardly normal by anyone's standards, not after what had happened, but it was at least something she loved. She wasn't just good at teaching, but somewhere deep down, Hogwarts had become her home. Now that the war was done, she could go back. "I'm not a politician. I'm just—"
She broke off. What was she, really? And then it came to her.
"I'm just someone who had to watch our world go topsy-turvey, and did what I could to right it," she said. That's what most of them had been, in the end. "That's all."
"I am quite relieved to hear that, given that you're one of the best teachers I have," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling. "I would hate to see you go, particularly if it's for less enjoyable pastures."
"Then I shouldn't take it," Hermione iterated carefully.
"Not unless you want the job, no."
At long last, a smile blossomed on her face. "Then expect me next fall, Professor."
Hogwarts saw Hermione and her husband return not just the autumn following the war, but many years after. They grew used to the infrequent laments that Hermione ought to have taken the job, especially when things were going poorly at the Ministry, but she stood her ground: her days of meddling with the government, unless something was particularly egregious, were done. She had a place on the Wizengamot, and for Madam Snape, that was more than enough. Hermione observed that Britain was having a rather difficult time settling down after the war—whole generations had been born into a country that knew little else other than violence and fear, and they were now thrust into a world that offered them the possibility of peace. It was heady, it was improbable; it was an offer that could easily disintegrate with a whisper of unrest; but the people grasped tightly to it, hoping that with the darkness gone, there could truly be a better tomorrow.
Hermione did the only thing she could do: she taught.
Fear of the name only increased fear of the thing itself. Blind, irrational phobia was the result. Taboo and veritable witch-hunts soon followed—this had happened time and again throughout history. Armed with this knowledge, Hermione did the only thing she could do: pass on what she knew to her students, an inheritance of information that would help them better shape the world. They would be the ones graduating in just a few years, moving out into the world, speaking their voice and holding jobs in government. They would ultimately be the ones who chose what direction the country would turn, this fresh blood that would wash away the stagnation within the Wizengamot and the heart of the Ministry itself.
It was a long, uphill battle. But when her son graduated from Hogwarts, five years later and at the bright age of seventeen, changes had already swept through the country. People knew how to protect themselves, how to recognize the signs of something dark and amiss, and this confidence gave them peace: never again, at least for as long as Hermione taught, would any student cower in fear in the face of an enemy. The British wizard would stand strong, armed with his wand and his education, and be able to protect what was important to him. His country, his home, his family. It was how rogue Death Eaters were caught by ordinary citizens, how Dark Creatures that still lingered on the edge of their society were fearlessly driven away, and how those who had previously been disenfranchised were tentatively welcomed back into the fold. Who feared a werewolf when they knew that if the worst came to worst, they could contain it with alacrity? Hermione made sure that all who came through her class came away with at least one message: Knowledge was power, and power afforded safety. Responsibility was implicit.
Hermione's husband drilled the very same lessons into his students, and together, alongside the other teachers of Hogwarts, helped shape the future from behind the scenes. Decades after the war, the wizards and witches would fondly remember their most influential professors, often attributing many of their life choices and successes to them.
Selenius was no different, with one exception: his choice came as a great surprise to his parents.
"I want to teach," he told her, the day before the train would carry him away for the last time. "But I'm not going to teach at Hogwarts."
"Aren't you a bit young to teach?" Hermione asked, giving him the knowing look only a mother could achieve. She couldn't imagine any school, even Durmstrang, hiring a professor so young. Her son was quite aware of this as well, which led her to one conclusion: he had something else in mind.
"I want to build a school," Selenius stated. "Another school. And Draco—"
Hermione's eyes immediately came alert. Malfoy. It was always going to be about Malfoy. Draco had graduated years ahead of Selenius, but the two remained in constant touch. Throughout the summers, they were joined at the hip, when Selenius was free from classes and Malfoy had no job to attend to.
Selenius quickly fell silent for a moment, reading his mother's reaction correctly, and then tried again. "We want to build a school," he said. "Another school, like Hogwarts. But it's going to be at the next level," he added, grinning. "Muggles have their universities, where you take classes to specialize in a subject."
His eyes were alight with fervor. "That's what we're going to do. They'll be classes that adults can take. Draco says that the system of apprenticeships are dying out—masters expect a level of skill that most students don't have coming out of school. Draco says that if you hadn't tutored him, he wouldn't have gotten to work under Master Faulkner. But if you take a few very dedicated students, give them the opportunity to learn, and then set them up with skilled Masters, he thinks it'll revive the concept."
Hermione closed her eyes.
"How long have you been planning this, exactly?"
She didn't have to see her son to know that he had a shifty look on his face. She knew. And she smiled, when he responded, "Since fifth-year, when Dad told me that he couldn't think of a single Potions Master that was interested in taking on an apprentice, and especially not one fresh out of school."
"My real question," Hermione said, slowly opening her eyes, "is how you plan to accomplish this."
Her son smirked. "Draco started consulting architects last year, it's already in construction. And this year, my job is going to be to find the best masters I can find and convince them to come and teach." He gave his mother a wicked grin. "I've also made Buckbeak our mascot and motto—Nolite ergo iniuriam hippogriff potentium, do not insult the mighty hippogriff. I think he'll take it as a compliment."
Hermione folded her arms and chewed on her lower lip. It was mad, to be sure, absolutely mad—and yet, she could see it working. She could see both boys—no, young men, she sternly reminded herself—actually managing to pull this scheme together through Malfoys' wealth, Selenius's keen eye, and their combined cunning and charm.
She pulled him into a hug. Crookshanks chose to jump off the desk at that moment, whereupon he padded over to them and rubbed against their legs with a rumbling purr, as though they needed his blessing on the matter.
"I'm so proud of you," she said into his ear, "but you're still going to have to be the one to tell your father. He was so sure you were going to apply for the Department of Mysteries."
"I did," Selenius said, and Hermione could hear the scowl in his voice. "They turned me down. Prats," he added with a low chuckle. "But it's probably for the best."
"Yes, I'd hate to think of how much trouble you'd have gotten into down there," Hermione said with a laugh. She pulled away, and he swooped down to scoop up the ginger half-kneazle. "Go on, then. Your father's still hiding out in his office, if you want to catch him before it's time to leave. Won't he be in for a surprise!"
"I can't believe he's all grown up," Hermione said, her voice trembling slightly as she watched the seventh-years climb into the boats. Those very same boats, which had borne them to Hogwarts for the first time, would now carry them way. From their vantage point on the Astronomy Tower, they seemed so very tiny, all over again. "The years flew by so fast. Trite, I know, but still…"
Her husband wrapped his arms around her waist. "Did he tell you about this mad scheme of his?"
"He told me first. I suppose he told you?"
Her husband chuckled, low and deep. "He has it all planned out. It will be interesting to see him carry it through."
"You're not disappointed he didn't make it into the Department of Mysteries?" Hermione asked lightly. Truth to be told, they had both expected their son to apply, and had fully expected him to get in. They were certain it was something he would enjoy, a job that would challenge and interest him. Hermione was personally quite alright that he had chosen something else, but her husband—well, Severus had seemed very set on it, as though he couldn't conceive that Selenius might choose a different path.
Her husband shook his head, and then kissed her cheek. "Not the slightest. He's always been a bit of surprise, and I rather feel as though I should stop being surprised by him at this point."
Hermione laughed. It was like music, at least to Severus's ears, and he held her tighter.
"Some days, I can't believe it's over," she said. There was a nostalgic quality to her words—not wistfulness, but remembrance mixed with relief. "I still go to sleep haunted by nightmares, but then I wake up and realize that the world is so bright. That it's wonderful again, all of it, and getting better all the time."
She turned to look at him. He raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, even when you terrify the first years just so that they won't ask you for an autograph."
He smirked at her. She kissed him.
"I wouldn't have you any other way."