Following the Battle of the Seven Potters - as it was known, life for Hermione Granger went on normally. Or as normally as someone that considered herself close to Harry Potter -The Boy Who Lived - The Chosen One - the sane world's last spark of hope in the fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named - could consider normal.
Hermione got back to the Burrow with Kingsley, George had lost an ear, the news that Mad-Eye had died reached the Order, Bill and Fleur were still preparing to get married, and Harry, Ron and Hermione were planning on skipping out on their Seventh Year at Hogwarts to pursue the instructions given to them by Dumbledore of hunting for the remaining Horcruxes. Despite all their hours of planning for an exodus to begin their journey, the opportune moment never presented itself to the trio.
Dumbledore had made sure that all the final pieces to solving the Voldemort riddle were in the hands of Harry, Ron and Hermione before he died. He knew that when those three were ready, they would be able to find the Horcruxes in any way that they saw fit. That time didn't come immediately.
At Bill and Fleur's wedding, Hermione wore one of her favorite red dresses and paired it with red heels. She sported a gold necklace that hung against her white skin. She danced with Ron and reconnected with Viktor. She found herself alone in a corner with Harry where they discussed some of the logistics of the possibility of breaking away from the rest of the Order to start the search for the remaining Horcruxes, but it was nothing more than fantastical speculation.
Then, the Death Eaters arrived. Hermione's first instinct had been to find Harry and Ron. If she had found them in a timely fashion, she would've grabbed the boys and Apparated away from the danger. Harry was Undesirable Number One in those times and having him associated with the Weasley's wedding would only bode worse for everyone involved.
Hermione immediately spotted Harry in all of the chaos as Death Eater's flew in and out of the Weasleys' tents. Moments before, Kingsley's misty Patronus lynx landed in the center of the dance floor and announced that the Minister of Magic had just been assassinated and the Death Eaters were descending on the party. Hermione grabbed onto Harry's arm.
"Where's Ron?" Harry questioned immediately.
"I haven't seen him in a while," Hermione confessed. He may have been off with his siblings toasting and celebrating the nuptials of their oldest brother.
A table near them exploded. Glass shattered and wood splintered. Both of their reactions forced them to duck. As they stood up, both of them had withdrawn their wands. Hermione was certain that it was poor form to wield a wand at a wedding, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
The Skirmish of the Burrow, as it would be called later, lasted less than half an hour. It was an intimidation move by Voldemort's new regime. It was meant to be a message to encourage the Order of the Phoenix to disband. The opposite effect had been reached. Few members of the Order had been injured. Actually, Hermione couldn't think of a single higher member of the Light side that sustained a single scratch. The majority of casualties had been the pawns of Voldemort that had been captured. Even one witch and one dark wizard had been killed.
That was the fourth time that Hermione had been involved in a full-fledged battle. She had been involved in the events at the Ministry of Magic in her Fifth Year and that was the first time that she had been present for the death of someone. She hadn't seen Sirius die, but the weight of the catastrophe loomed with her for days after. During the night that Dumbledore died, Hermione had thought she cheated death by using Harry's lucky potion and again someone had died, but Hermione had not seen it firsthand. The Battle of the Seven Potters was the first time she had witnessed death in battle, at the hands of Moody, and during the Skirmish of the Burrow, Hermione was almost completely numb to how truly violent and mental the world around her was.
At seventeen, Hermione had been through more than most. If she had not had the fortitude of character that set her apart from most of her peers, she would've crumpled in the war long before then.
At the wedding, Hermione battled alongside Harry after they were back on their feet with their wands held out. The pair of them were scanning the room for where Ron was. They beat back several advancing Death Eaters, but the duo easily overpowered them with help from plenty of the other wedding guests. Most, the elderly and those that didn't want to associate with one side of the battle - fearing retribution for the dark wizards, disapparated; however, anyone involved in the Order or a proponent of the sacred sacrament of matrimony stayed to fight.
Ron was found in a corner flat on his back. He had been drinking heavily with his twin brothers, Fred and George. Ron had made to turn and fight. His intentions were valiant, but he did not have his wits about him. Ron hadn't sustained more than a stunning jinx that disabled him throughout the battle. Harry and Hermione made their way over to their third best friend and hovered around either side of him, while the battle continued. Effectively, they protected his body from coming into any harm.
After the last of the living Death Eaters had fled the scene, the members of the Order took a roll call. Once all the fighters from the Light side had been accounted for, the group dispersed to begin a cleanup. Fires needed to be put out. Glass needed to be magicked away and general tidying was required. Hermione and Harry tended to Ron when he came to, and tried to help sober him up with coffee and fresh air. The highest members of the Order, both Weasleys, Lupin, McGonagall, Flitwick and Kingsley - who had joined late, barricaded themselves in the house. No one was allowed to enter.
To pass the time, the survivors - which was everyone - gathered around a bonfire outside the house. Bill, Charlie, and Fleur used magic to bring some of the chairs from under the tent next to the fire. Hagrid helped by carrying five seats in each of his half-giant hands.
"You'll have to admit," Fred started. He was coming back with several tumblers and a half-empty bottle of firewhiskey, "This is a party no one will ever forget."
"Well, maybe with the help of some of this," George was waving what he held in his hands behind his twin brother. George was carrying several more tumblers and two more full bottles in his hands, "We may be able to forget it."
The Weasley siblings, Harry, Hermione, Hagrid, Fleur, Tonks and a few more guests spent the evening out under the stars until they were drowned out by the rising sun.
The door to the front of the house opened. The six adults stepped out and had to cover their eyes as they were greeted by the morning brightness.
"We have deliberated," Kingsley said to the group. After the death of Dumbledore, Moody had been appointed the head of the Order. Since the passing of Mad-Eye, Kingsley was the new leader.
Everyone around the campfire, that had now been reduced to just embers, stood. Something about the formality of the situation made it feel like it was imperative to everyone to be standing.
"This war has gone too far. The Order has remained in the dark long enough. It is time that the greater wizarding world picks sides. If the Dark forces want to take the spotlight, then so will we. We will no longer be silent. Our tactics must change," Kingsley's voice made the moment sound like a major turning point in history.
"Let's all come inside and we can discuss further," Mrs. Weasley said inviting the rest of the guests into the house.
Hermione sat next to Ron and Harry in the living room. She took one of their hands in each of hers as she heard how the world of tomorrow was going to unfold. The Order of the Phoenix would no longer operate in the shadows. There would always be those witches and wizards that would oppose the fight against Voldemort, and wouldn't chose to pick sides, but the Order was going to work to leverage every advantage they could from every citizen of Wizarding England.
"The dark forces have the Ministry. We need to look for resources of our own. Money. Influence. Power. Soldiers. Weapons. And a young generation," Kingsley's speech continued in the living room.
"Students will always be welcomed at Hogwarts," Minerva McGonagall said, "but there will be some changes."
Hermione looked around the room to try to catch the eye of someone - anyone - but everyone's eyes were fixed on McGonagall.
"We will continue to teach students from First Year to Sixth Year. It will be the same curriculum that we have upheld for generations, then there will be an optional fork in the road."
All eyes looked puzzled.
"There will be the same Seventh Year that we have all taken," McGonagall motioned toward the six members of the Order that had made these decisions behind closed doors, "Now, there will be another Four Year program called the Academy."
"What's that?" Hermione couldn't help but ask.
McGonagall smiled. She could never get tired of seeing Hermione's inquisitive spirit. "Well…"
"Bluntly put," it was Lupin speaking, "We will be training the newest ranks of the Order."
Hermione leaned up onto her knees as she listened. She had been on the edge of her seat. Hearing Lupin's words, Hermione pressed herself back against the couch that she was sitting in. Again, she reached into the boys' laps and took one of their hands in hers.
The gathering came to a close. The major takeaways from the meeting was that the Order was going to take to the airwaves and begin a campaign against the Death Eater's, harder recruiting for the Order's cause, and the establishment of the new Academy.
"We've all had a long night. I suggest that everyone head up to bed. Anyone staying here, feel free to head upstairs. Anyone that is too tired to travel back home, we can make accommodations," Mrs. Weasley was saying.
"Thank yer kindly, Molly," Hagrid said. He had deep bags under his eyes. He rose to meet Mrs. Weasley. She didn't know where she was going to put a half-giant in her modestly sized house, but she was never going to shy away from helping a friend.
Once the room was empty of the 'adults', Fred was the first to speak, "Georgie, maybe it's time for us to head back to school."
"I think we can add something to our academic acumen." George replied to his brother.
"Can you imagine? A school where all we do is Defense Against the Dark Arts," Ron said airily. He was wondering on the possibilities of the Academy, but was also exhausted.
"You'll be top of the whole school, Harry," Ginny pointed out. She was disappointed that she was going to be required to head back to Hogwarts for one more year, before she could be enrolled in the Academy.
"Yeah," Harry said dumbfounded, "What do you think, Hermione?"
"Meeting might with might is only going to push us all over the edge." It was the first non-positive comment anyone had made about the Academy.
Everyone else seemed to be vastly in favor of the new training site.
"Think about the advantage this will give us over You-Know-Who."
"Imagine all of the practical magic we will learn."
"It'll be much better than learning anything out of a stupid textbook."
Hermione didn't push the matter any further. She just silently nodded her head. She was tired from being awake for nearly twenty-four hours. She excused herself and went to retire in Ginny's room. The red-headed girl followed her, and shortly after, the rest of the bodies ascended the stairs that made up the spine of the Burrow to receive some much needed rest.
Hermione had never forgotten that she was present for the inception of the Academy. It was something that she was reminded of quite often during the first week or two of the Academy's opening. She could never forget that she was one of the first aware of the Academy's beginning and she could never forget about her close friendship to Harry Potter. Hermione knew that hers wasn't a household name, but being in such close proximity to the Chosen One made Hermione a desirable companion once the doors of the Academy were opened.
This, of course, changed. Hermione was never destined to be the 'coolest' person in school. And on the surface, the Academy was school.
The Academy was several floors directly below 12 Grimmauld Place. It had taken two months and a combination of all the magic that the heads of the Order could muster, but there was an addition of four floors underground and a few separate entrances aside from inside Grimmauld Place itself.
When Hermione originally showed up for the first day, she had expected the halls of the Academy to remind her of Hogwarts. She had spent the remainder of the summer after Bill and Fleur's wedding at the Order's headquarters, but she, Harry and the Weasley siblings were always forbidden from interrupting or snooping during the construction of the facilities. Those orders didn't stop Fred and George from attempting to find out what was going on in the lower floors of construction. When Mrs. Weasley caught them, Hermione saw that George was actually grateful that he was missing one ear to keep from the scolding he was receiving.
On the first day of the Academy opening its doors, Hermione, Harry and the Weasley children that were young enough to attend, but not so young that she had to go back to Hogwarts, descended the stairs off the kitchen and toward the cellar. Hermione had been in the cellar of the old Black mansion before. There had been some stores of food, wine and random accessories to a kitchen - large kettles, cooking instruments found in Muggle houses and others only in the drawers and cupboards of wizarding homes. This had all changed.
The cellar had been given a facelift. Somehow it was brighter, as if the sun was shining into the basement. The wares for the kitchen were gone and there was an archway with a new set of stairs that continued further down into the earth. The archway invited them to enter the Academy.
Silently, Harry, Hermione, Ron and the twins looked at each other. Harry nodded and took the first steps toward their new school. All five of them tightened their hold on the rucksacks they had packed and followed Harry under the archway and down another set of stairs.
Again, Hermione had been expecting something that looked like Hogwarts, but when she reached the first floor of the Academy, it reminded her much more of a church.
Hermione had been to church a few times when she was younger. She would mostly go for the Christmas holiday and Easter Sunday, but hardly more frequently than that. Once she had joined the wizarding community, the need to go to church fell by the wayside. Harry was the first to come down all the steps and onto the first level of their new temporary home. He was followed by Ron, then Hermione. As they looked around, there were already people sitting in the pew style seats in front of them.
All heads turned to look at them. There were two sets of reactions. Old classmates from Hogwarts smiled and waved. Hermione had shared classes with every face that she recognized from Hogwarts and for most of them she had been in the secret society of Dumbledore's Army. Then there were roughly as many faces that she didn't recognize. These strangers put their faces together and appeared to gawk and whisper with their neighbor about the presence of The Boy Who Lived.
"It's alright mate," George said clapping Harry on the back.
"They're all just impressed to see us." Fred said jokingly. He waved to the masses in an austere fashion.
"The joke shop is doing much better than you would've expected," George finished. The twins were keeping the mood light - like they always did. Everyone was obviously amazed to see Harry, but he seemed rooted in the ground.
"Well, don't stand there all day," it was McGonagall. "Take a seat, you lot."
Soon after, everyone was present for the inaugural meeting of the school. Professor McGonagall greeted everyone to the introductory year of the Academy. She was, effectively, the Headmistress. She would still be the Headmistress of Hogwarts and spend the majority of her time at the other school, but she also vowed to try to visit the Academy as often as her schedule would allow to make sure it was running smoothly.
Hermione noticed that the students were referred to as Cadets. Following words from the majority of the heads of the Order, the Cadets were told to unpack in the barracks. One floor below the general meeting hall that resembled a cathedral - all that was missing was an altar and a giant crucifix. Instead of a crucifix hanging from the wall, there was a portrait of Dumbledore's hanging and a fixture of a Phoenix dangling from the ceiling - the young men and women learning to become members of the Order were expected to deposit their things in their personal quarters.
In the barracks, like Hogwarts the sleeping arrangements were by age and gender. Pending on the start of term, which coincidentally was September 1 - just like Hogwarts, the Cadets were separated by age rather than year at the Academy. Hermione entered the seventeen year-old girls' barracks.
Hermione put away some of the clothes that she brought. A small set of books and a few of her favorite things that were small enough for dorm-style living. The last thing she put on her modest bedside table was a frame with a photograph of her parents that were unknowingly hiding out in Australia under different names. Hermione's eyes lingered on the image of her parents. She closed her eyes to try to fight back tears. She exhaled, promised herself she would see them soon, and exited to her first lessons of the Academy.
Hermione's first months at the Academy were different than what she had been expecting. Her ideas of the Academy filled her with the images of an old karate film. She and the rest of the members of the Academy would stand in long rows and execute attacks or spells in unison over and over in a giant courtyard. There were some moments like that, but mostly there was classroom learning.
It was like she was back at school but some of the older students that had graduated were back. Everyday there were two blocks of time set away in the third lowest floors of the Academy. There were improvised classrooms that could fit entire groups of one age set of Cadets. One of these blocks was always devoted to a subject that was most similar to a high intensive course on Defense Against the Dark Arts. This covered spells, jinxes, useful potions in the field, and any magic that would seem applicable for someone on the front lines. The other classroom sessions would be focused on things like Wizarding Military History, History of the Order, Death Eater Tendencies, and How to Deal with Muggles. If the seventeen-year old Cadets were in the DADA classroom, the Eighteens could be learning about some of Voldemort's most common Dark practices. Aside from the classroom sessions, there were times that could be spent in the field along some higher, older members of the Order. The last set of time could be spent in the lowest floor of the Academy. This was referred to as the Gym. This was the area where Cadets could lineup and practice what they'd learned in the classroom as a whole group. This was the least exciting thing about the Gym. The actual highlights were obstacle courses. Some were used for practicing agility and balance which would be useful in battle, but some were designed with a magical application. For example, one of the obstacle courses requires Cadets to levitate a feather down a track through sets of obstacles like fiery hoops and sporadic gusts of wind standing in their way of completing the circuit. There were also tools that would be found in a fitness gym of Muggles. There were free weights for lifting, other machines that would offer muscles resistance, a boxing ring, and a few cardio machines that had been "enhanced" by Mr. Weasley, but they, more or less, worked the same.
The most popular of attractions in the Gym were two Arenas. These were twenty square meters of space. Duels would be hosted in these spaces. The size could fit either one-on-one, two-on-two, or the occasional two-on-one sparring.
This is how Hermione Granger had first fallen under the spell of Cormac McLaggen.
A/N: The stage has been set. The background information is there for you, now the action begins! Read and review and I'll post the next chapter as soon as it is edited.