Thank you so much to Imagen99, my fantastic beta. Hope I've done as you suggested to a decent standard!
Hermione knew that being Head Girl was going to be a stressful job, and she knew that fitting back into the Hogwarts environment in time to take the biggest exams of her life, even after her year of 'camping', was going to be tough as well. So far, though, the perks definitely outweighed the worries she had for the coming year.
Smirking at the thoughts of what her best friends Harry and Ron would have said, if they weren't training for a Quidditch team and inventing new spells respectively, Hermione glanced in wonder around her circular room. She was almost at the top of Gryffindor tower, figuratively and literally; the only position higher now was the Head of Gryffindor House, and her room and bathroom were tucked under the tower's very eaves. Her room was her own – her very own space. It was huge –twelve paces from one side to the other – and the four-poster bed was exactly the same as the ones she was used to, except it was a grand, proud double-bed; the hangings were less faded, unless she was imagining it, and currently were whispering and rustling in the breeze from the open windows. There were bookshelves, a small sofa, a chest of drawers and an ornate wardrobe, and so much open space that Hermione felt quite small and insignificant.
After doing a full turn, surveying the room while humming a cheerful, contented tune, a wide smile graced her face. She knew that the second door led to a bathroom – her very own bathroom, with a bath like the one in the prefects'! This year was going to be brilliant, she decided, even without the boys. She sobered briefly at that thought, but she still had Ginny.
"Are there any special requests for your room, Miss Granger? A specific password, a particular item…?" The Scottish lilt made Hermione jump. She'd forgotten that her Head of House was still here. She turned to face the older witch with a blinding smile, one hand trailing along a bookshelf; it was smooth beneath her fingertips, and the smooth sound of skin on wood was pleasant. "A secret shortcut to the library?" Minerva joked, smiling at the excited expression she was presented with – which fell when Hermione realised she was being teased. "Sorry – couldn't resist."
Hermione didn't mind. "It's fine, Professor, I got teased enough about the library through school. I'm used to it." Seeing her Professor looking a little guilty, Hermione hurried on. "Anyway, I'm just glad to see you looking so happy. I don't think I've ever seen you smile so much!"
Minerva raised an eyebrow as the girl blushed, and shook her head, smiling tightly. It was true, she appreciated, she rarely smiled this much…but the war was now over, Hogwarts was fixed, and the students were back. In particular, this student.
A low cough interrupted the ebony-haired witch's musings, and she and her student glanced around. Above the fireplace – 'I have a fireplace!' Hermione thought happily as she heard it crackle and pop – was a portrait which had been empty. Now, it was filled with the kindly-smiling face of –
"Gryffindor? Godric Gryffindor?" Hermione asked, astounded.
"Yes indeed." He answered, eyes crinkling into a smile. "I've come to ask what password you'd like me to hear before allowing anyone into your rooms."
"I can set my own password?" Hermione asked, surprised. "Oh. Well…" she glanced at her Head of House, brushing her bushy hair away from her face. The older witch stuck her fingers in her ears with a smile, but Hermione tugged them down. "That's not what I meant, Professor, I trust you – I was actually looking for inspiration." She told her earnestly. Minerva was surprised and quite touched, and she tried to only nod understandingly; alas the wide smile that graced her features was hard to push down. She came back down to earth in time to see the head girl watching her, head on one side…"Smiling suits you." She declared, and turned back to Godric. This was a blessing; it meant she didn't see Minerva's blush – a blush that only intensified when she heard the girl's chosen password.
"Ébène et émeraude." She announced, with a very impressive French accent. Godric bowed his head, eyes sparkling, and walked sideways out of his frame.
"You speak French?" Minerva asked interestedly, trying to ignore the password's translation. Hermione blushed.
"Some." She confirmed. "My family and I ski there a lot…at least, we did." Sadness graced her elegant features as she remembered her parents, unaware of her existence and living well in Australia, and she sat heavily on the bed, twisting her hands.
"Is there anything else you'd like, Hermione?" Minerva asked kindly. Hermione looked up, surprised at the spontaneous use of her first name, and opened her mouth – but she closed it again almost immediately. That was too much to ask, and the words died on her tongue.
"Go on." The Scottish lilt was gentle, kind. "The worst I can do is say no."
Hermione smiled faintly. "Do you know why I didn't mind the teasing about the library?" She asked quietly, sitting down on her new bed. Minerva sat next to her, reaching for her hand, and shook her head.
"Because I'd rather people teased me for that than they found out the truth." She told her mentor in a rush. She'd never told anyone this before. She took a deep, steadying breath. "I didn't know what the Room of Requirement did until we used it for the DA, but I'd used it since first year…you see, it always appeared to me as a music room. Okay, I did use the library more than most of the other students, but…a lot of the times I 'went to the library' I actually went to the seventh floor."
She chanced a glance at Minerva, whose expression hadn't changed.
"The Room was destroyed by Crabbe's fiendfyre last year, so I can no longer use it. Is there…can I…does Hogwarts have a piano of any kind in it that I can use?"
Minerva smiled widely. "I didn't know you played." She replied. "I'll see what I can do." A warm hand landed on Hermione's shoulder and she covered it with her own, smiling as well.
"Thank you." Minerva was surprised at how relieved the girl looked, and concluded inwardly that it was not just a hobby but an escape for Hermione. This was confirmed in her next sentence. "Last year was hell without one."
The Head of Gryffindor House nodded understandingly. "I never knew you were musical, Hermione." She told her.
"Well-kept secret." The girl muttered, avoiding the emerald gaze.
Catching her chin, Minerva gazed at her. "Why? Why not tell people you were going to the music room? Why such a secret?"
Hermione blushed, but leaned in to her mentor's hand. "I don't like to perform." She said quietly. "If the boys or Ginny knew, they'd want to hear. And not to sound big-headed, but I'm not a bad player…they'd want to listen all the time, and I play for myself. I know, selfish and arrogant, but…"
Minerva felt a little guilty at the girl's words; it was true, she wanted to hear her star student play now. But she nodded her understanding. "I understand, Hermione. And no, you're not selfish – everyone has their secrets. As for arrogant – I've never met anyone less arrogant than you. If you admit that you're good at playing piano, you must be incredible, because you consistently underestimate your talents. Now, if you'll excuse me…I will see what I can do, I promise. But the feast has made me sleepy, and you should settle in." She stood, and Hermione instantly missed the warmth of the hand on her shoulder. Her Professor surprised her by dropping a kiss to the top of her head. "I'm so glad you're here and safe... And I'm so proud of you." The words were so quiet Hermione couldn't be sure she heard them, but she smiled anyway. The portrait of Godric swung closed before she could formulate a reply.
After readying herself for bed, the new Head Girl cast one final glance at the large space across from the portrait hole – directly underneath the window – which was perfect for a piano. Wistfully, Hermione sighed and tucked herself under the duvet, melting into the silky sheets.
Hermione woke with her alarm, which she stopped magically, and shuffled to the staircase and up the stairs to her bathroom. Her eyes didn't truly open until after she'd showered – singing loudly, revelling in the fact that no-one was there to hear her. She shuffled down the stairs again, braiding her hair over her shoulder, and snapped the bobble into place in time to push the door and step back into her room.
A huge, black wood grand piano filled the exact space she'd stared so longingly at the night before. It was right in front of her eyes, with the weak September sunlight filtering through the window and reflecting off its polished wooden surface. Hermione walked around it, mouth hanging open, hand trailing over it, to find a comfortable-looking black leather stool with a piece of parchment on it.
Play to your heart's content – it is yours. M
Hermione tucked the parchment into the liftable lid of the strings, so it just stuck out, not quite processing the words. She sat and lifted the smaller lid, and let her hands rest over the familiar and yet alien keys. Smiling so widely her cheeks ached, she began to play.
Please leave me a review; I have plans for two more chapters to this, but...if no-one's interested, I'll just leave it as is. Please let me know how I did!