The war was over, many had been killed and the wizarding world seemed to have recovered. It had been made over by those committed to a new future. The black inky stain that was Voldemort had been blotted out and the world appeared new and pure. But the darkness still seeped in the minds of the old and young, they tried not to look backwards and refused to admit the truth, that this type of trauma would never leave them. There were wounds far deeper, which could not be charmed away.
Harry had moved to the other side of the world with Ginny, she was pregnant, perhaps their baby would be one of the first not to be chased by the past. It would be a great historical story to them, they would only see the darkness when their parents flinched as they asked questions at bed time.
There were students that had fought and survived, as well as those that had been in hiding, that actually wanted to finish school. Perhaps this was a desperate attempt to regain a sense of normalcy, or as a distraction from plans for the future they had never made. In any case, Hermione was one of these people, her reasons no different from the rest. She couldn't say she cared about graduating, but she wanted to take herself back to the last time she made sense, and that was here, with her books, they would be her new home. With Ron and Harry gone she hoped she wouldn't have to speak about the events of the last few years, she would be a new her, an academic, the person she should have been all along.
And so a year after the war ended Hogwarts was reopening, and she would finally start her 7th year. Yes there would be ghosts from the past here, but this would be different, better, it had to be. As she entered the great hall she felt better seeing a few people she knew by face alone. As she walked the length of the central aisle to reach the top of the Gryffindor table, heads turned and stared open mouthed before the whispering started. There were a lot of friendly smiles too though, and one girl she didn't know put her hand to her chest and looked as though she was about to cry. As she sat down she looked up to the teachers table, so many of the people there now unfamiliar. Professor McGonagall, well now Headmistress McGonagall spotted her, gave her a smile and nod and that was that.
Once everyone had filed in and found their seats McGonagall stood and a hush broke out in the vast room.
"Welcome students, this is an unprecedented year for our school, we are much fewer than we were but I believe we have gained the strength of those we have lost. What they have done for us all will never be forgotten" She paused and looked down at the podium,
"But we have survived and we live with that every day. We must try to be better, to live our best lives for us and our loved ones. We are here and that is the first step. You will study hard, build new friendships, gain new ambitions and find who you are. You are not alone in this, the faculty, myself included are on the same uncertain path. I wish you all a great year here at Hogwarts, I'm sure you will all grow in ways you cannot yet fathom."
"Before the feast let us start with tradition, one that our school has never missed. The sorting! First years gather around."
There was sounds of nervous excitement from the shuffling first years as they moved to the front of the room. The rest of the year groups looked on, most jealous of their new and happy beginning being untarnished by torturous memories. McGonagall moved next to a stool and picked up the moulding but wise old hat.
"When I call your name, you are to step forward, seat yourself and I will place the sorting hat upon your head. It will then review your mind and place you in one of the four houses. You are then to join your new peers at your new house table. Let's begin."
The girl quickly perched herself on the stool and smiled as the sorting hat nearly swapped her whole head.
After the sorting was finished the atmosphere in the room was buzzing. With older classmates welcoming the newcomers to the house. Everyone was ready for the feast to begin and looked up to McGonagall as she stood to announce it.
"I know you all must be quite famished and the feast will begin shortly. However first I have a new tradition to introduce to Hogwarts"
She pulled a golden metal bird from beneath her cloak as the audience of students looked on confused.
"This bird has been transfigured from the ashes of Dumbledore's phoenix after it died for the last time after the war. It maintains its wisdom, loyalty and healing nature. I can think of nothing more qualified to pick this years Head Girl and Head Boy, whom will lead their peers in this year of firsts"
She stroked the phoenix's head and it animated, it looked around the room before shaking out its wings and taking flight. It circled the room assessing the students below. The circles became smaller and smaller before finally it seemed to be focusing on the top of the Gryffindor table. Then smaller the circle became still. He swooped down and settled in front of Hermione then nuzzled itself under her still hand. Hermione stoked the bird with one finger marvelling at the golden creature. It was then she realised what this meant and looked up to McGonagall in shock.
"It appears the Phoenix has chosen Miss Granger as our Head Girl. A very worthy Head Girl she is too if I may say so. Congratulations Hermione I am sure you will make us all proud and once again use your heart and intellect to inspire those around you".
An affectionate nip from the bird brought Hermione back to reality as she assessed what this meant. She smiled an unsure smile back at McGonagall and waited for the spotlight to leave her. She did not have to wait long however as the bird once again took to the air beginning with its wide circles. It soon became clear that it was going for someone at the Slytherin table. Hermione internally groaned but tried to quell her past prejudice towards the house. Snape was from Slytherin, and yes he had been intolerable, but he had turned out to be a good person if not one of the best men she had ever known. The bird began to lower before finally walking timidly towards a boy sitting in the shadows at the corner of the table. She could not see his face for the other tall Slytherins blocking her view. Gauging from everyone else's reactions though this was not an expected nor pleasing choice. Even McGonagall's jaw was hanging. She seemed to collect herself but couldn't stop the shock from showing in her voice.
"Draco Malfoy, our new Head Boy".
After the feast Hermione stood to leave and find her new dormitories, but McGonagall caught up to her.
"A word Miss Granger, with Mr Malfoy".
Feeling a sense of foreboding Hermione followed after her old professor until they reached the end of the Slytherin table where Malfoy was looking both sulky and irritated.
McGonagall looked between the two of them,
"Now, I know you two don't have the best history together but you must have been chosen for a reason. Lord know what it is, perhaps it's Albus's last interference but I trust in him and his Phoenix's choice. You've both survived the war. Albeit some have made some mistakes" she looked pointedly at Malfoy who furrowed his brows in response.
"But this is a chance to show strength and unity, to prove we are moving forward to a world where old enemies can respect and work together. To show old prejudices are dying. Now do either of you have a problem with that?"
They both stayed silent, which McGonagall took to be a good sign.
"Now as Head Boy and Girl you will have privileges that go along with your responsibilities. You will share quarters near the Hufflepuff dormitories, its down next to the kitchens, I'll show you there now".
As McGonagall made to move, Draco intervened,
"Hang on a minute, what do you mean sharing quarters? You do realise we will probably kill each other"
Hermione added on, "I hate to agree with Draco but this will be disastrous, if you wanted to show us off as a good example this is not the way to do it. I can work with him, maybe, but staying the same vicinity… I can't promise I won't jinx his foul mouth shut by the end of the week".
McGonagall sighed, "I know, but this is how it is going to be, and I expect you Hermione to be your best self in this case, show patience. And Malfoy, do not leach any hateful language, you wanted another chance here and you said you wanted to better yourself. So prove it".
With that they walked on to what would be their new 'home' for the year. McGonagall left them at the entrance. The quarters were very beautiful, more like an apartment than rooms in a castle. As Hermione found her room she smiled at the massive four poster bed filled with luscious red cushions with gold trim. Then she remembered who had a room right across the hall and went searching for the bathroom. Maybe she'd end up being sick at the thought of him encroaching on the year that was meant to be hers. Opening the bathroom door her eyes met another equally startled pair of grey ones. For a moment they just stared at one another until Malfoy furrowed his brows and spit out,
"I can already tell you're gonna be a pain in the ass. Mind kindly fucking off while I brush my teeth".
Hermione sighed in response, "I didn't even know you were in here I was just looking around. Can't you at least try to be civil if not for anyone else for yourself? You know you're not going to get anywhere after school without help".
Malfoy stepped closer to her forcing her to step back out of the bathroom door,
"Listen to me now Granger, I do not want help, especially from you. You stay out of my shit and maybe I'll leave you be. Now go before I jinx your goodie goodie muggle-born self and ruin this for both of us".
He slammed the door in Hermione's face leaving her seething. She took out her wand, ready to react, but then she took a breath and walked into the vast lounge area. That's when she realised he'd said muggle-born not mudblood. Sure he'd still meant it to be derogatory and hurtful but it was still weird in itself. And that's when she made a deal with herself. She would not react with magic, nor hurt any tiny part of him unless he used that awful word. He was an asshat yes, but she would deal with that until he showed his true colours, when he proved he was still what he used to be. God this has been such a day, she thought, as she closed her bedroom door and collapsed face down on her bed.
The next day went by in a blur of new classes, new faces and new information. Upon McGonagall's suggestion Hermione had taken up Divination this year. She was reluctant to enrol in it as she thought it was nonsense, but more than that because it was the only class where she'd never been able to understand anything. It didn't follow logic, and it didn't matter how much she studied and that was a major issue that her brain couldn't compute. She arrived early for class as she always did, but Professor Trelawney was nowhere to be seen. Instead placing out crystals on desks was a girl that must not have been much older than Hermione herself. She was tan skinned with piercing good looks and her hair tied up in a modern style turban.
"Hi I'm Hermione, this is Trelawney's class right, am I in the wrong room?"
"You are looking at Trelawney honey, Saba Trelawney, I think you are thinking of my Aunt. I'm sorry if you were expecting her but she's taken early retirement. To be honest I think she just couldn't face it after the war, and after her name being dragged through the mud because of the prophecies. So I'm here to fill in for now. Anyways you're Hermione Granger right, pleased to meet the woman who continually shut down my Aunt, heard you threw a crystal ball at her once".
She said this not as an accusation but in complete jest, her face was soft and teasing. When Hermione realised this she instantly warmed to the girl, her demeanour was infectious.
"I didn't throw it at her, I pushed it off the table and stormed out. Gossips exaggerate" she laughed it away, "Want a hand passing these out?"
"Sure thing, that'd be great, you'd think by now we'd just charm everything lighter but my Aunts rules, don't mess with the crystal!"
They passed everything out and then Hermione took her seat as other students arrived.
Saba then introduced herself,
"Hi guys, I'm Saba Trelawney, please just call me Saba. I believe you all would've known my Aunt who taught this class before me. She is a very talented Seer and I only dream of being as connected to the spirit world as she is. However I think you'll find I have a very different teaching method. My Aunt believes people either have the gift or they don't, I actually think we all possess this within ourselves, but as individuals we all have different levels of suppression and access to this. It takes some longer to find it, and actually when those who struggle finally do get there they can have the most interesting abilities."
Hermione fiddled with the end of her quill processing what was being said. Her old teacher had told her pretty much straight away that she did not possess the ability and that she never could. But now she was told she could learn, that was something she could work with.
"I'm gonna break you up into partners and then I want you to follow the instructions on the worksheet. So Henry you are gonna be with Asher, Kate with Bill, Olive with Duncan and that leaves Hermione with Draco."
Hermione turned around and scanned the room, and sure enough there he was at the back of the class looking as irritated as always. It didn't look like he was going to join her at her table so she reluctantly gathered her belonging and went the join him at the back.
"Malfoy", she tried to mimic his cold composure.
"Granger. Let's say we just get this over with yeh?"
Hermione began reading the first instruction, Place each of your hands in your partners holding the Umra crystals between your joining palms.
"MISS, you've got to be kidding, look at Bill's hands, they look more unsanitary than the buttcrack of a builder!" The outburst came from a girl that would've much better fit in at Beauxbatons Academy.
"That's enough Katie, I'm young but I'm still a Professor and I will take points from Hufflepuff if there's any more grumbling. You can wash your hands afterwards if you've got a problem".
Katie turn back to Bill and placed her hands over Bill's who was grinning at her being put in her place.
"Have I got to be worried about hygiene issues?" Hermione asked Malfoy with a hint of a smile.
Draco looked thoughtful for a moment,
"If I was my old self I would've refused to do this because I would've thought your dirty blood would infect me"
"And now? You don't honestly still believe the ridiculous things you used to right?"
"No, I don't"
Even so Hermione could tell he was very hesitant when she placed her hand over his with only the crystals in between.
They both looked to the next instruction.
Take turns viewing an image in your mind, imagine it passing along a string from your brain, through your body, hand and into your partners, envision it moving through your partner and materialising behind their eyes.
Malfoy requested that Hermione go first, so she closed her eyes and imagined a daisy. She thought of it passing through her body and into Draco, she willed the image to flow from her eyes to his.
"Anything?" she said hopefully.
She tried again this time continually focusing on the scene around the flower, she tried connecting to the sounds and smells around it. Suddenly the image zoomed out and it was her sitting with Ron in a meadow after the war. He was crying, leaning his head on her shoulder. It was the day after his brother's funeral. She rubbed soothing circles on his back her tears joining his.
It was Malfoy who eventually snatched his hands away, he had a look of pure grief on his face before clearing his throat and regaining his composure. Hermione took a few seconds more to collect herself.
"Did you see?"
Draco nodded in response.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to show you that, I was only trying to send the daisy, I didn't even realise it was from a memory".
Saba walked up to them having apparently witnessed there exchange.
"That's remarkable, I've never seen any pair be able to achieve that so quickly. Are you good friends? Maybe that strengthened the connection".
Saba looked beyond excited, Hermione and Draco wore twin perplexed expressions.
"Ehh no. Actually we don't even like each other" Hermione answered.
"Try we were mortal enemies and wanted each other dead. She punched me in the face once".
"That was justified!"
"Didn't say it wasn't did I! Although try it now and I'll make green hair grow from your nose"
"You are ridiculous, you know full well I would beat you ass at anything magical".
"Do I? Try me".
They locked eyes in silent challenge, neither looking away until Saba cleared her throat.
"Well anyway good job guys, Hermione try again just to make sure you've got the process down. Then you try Draco".
Once Saba had walked away, Draco picked up the crystals and held his hands out to Hermione with a hard look in his eyes. She placed her hands over his meeting his gaze before finally closing her eyes and picking an image. It worked instantly this time the memory transferring between them in a flash.
The memory was from Hermione's view point, she could see Draco and his cronies lazing next to a great stone on a hillside near Hagrid's hut. He was making some sort of cruel remark about Hagrid, calling him a 'half-wit'. She ran to him and pointed her wand to his neck as he instantly cowered. He looked pathetic, he deserved to hurt the way he hurt her and others he thought were worthless. Those he taunted and broke with his wicked tongue. She should prove right now once and for all that she a 'Mudblood' was more powerful, that he was nothing more than a pretentious, self-righteous coward when it came down to it. But then there was Ron behind her telling her she was better than this, that he wasn't worth it. She lowered her wand and reluctantly began walking away. And that's when she heard him laugh, he whispered Mudblood under his breath so that only she could hear. He was mocking the strength she's shown in walking away, learning nothing from the exchange. And that's when she punched him. It made a satisfying crack, he whimpered and ran away in fear, not laughing now.
Pulling out of the memory Draco promptly stood and walked out of the classroom. Hermione covered her mouth with her hands instantly regretful but still feeling the aftermath of memory Hermione's hurt and anger.
The rest of the class and the day finished in a blur of guilt. She was glad it was over and yet dreaded returning to her shared quarters. She quickly and quietly moved through the hallway and into her room. Closing the door she breathed out a sigh of relief and lay on her bed. It was at this point that her door burst open showing a very annoyed Draco.
"Malfoy listen, I didn't mean for that to happen. Well I did but only for a second, it was stupid and I have no idea why I did it".
She stood and moved over to him to show her sincerity.
"I know why you did it Granger, we aren't that different."
He began crowding her space but didn't touch her.
"But let me make something very clear, I am not that boy any more so stop trying to push that onto who I am now. I mean are you really the same person you were? No, actually maybe the war has changed you for the worse."
"I don't know why I did it, I wouldn't have if it was anyone else. Look I'm sorry ok. I'm not like that."
"Seems like you are"
"How would you know? This is the longest conversation we've ever had, largely due to the fact you've always saw me as inferior, not worth your noble self's time".
"Do you really think they were my own opinions? I was brought up very different to you Granger, your little puritan brain couldn't even understand the half of it.". He paused for a moment, both of them suddenly at a loss for what to say and noticing their proximity to each other.
"Christ I need a drink" Draco left the apartment. Hermione had no idea where he could've been going, he couldn't even get off the school grounds at this time.
She sat in silence for a good hour before getting a grip of herself and started running a bath. Pouring in a lavender bubble bath she whispered, "come on lavender, do your muggle magic and chill me out".
After her bath and sorting out her unruly hair she heard a faint knocking at the door of the quarters. She made to open the door apprehensively thinking it might have been a drunk Draco. But there was Saba, with a grin on her face and a bottle of fire whiskey in her hand.
"Hey! I thought you might want some cheering up and some company". She raised the bottle "this might help too".
Hermione laughed and let her in, "Isn't this breaking some sort of rule?"
"Rulebook Shmolbook, we are the same age, and I have the feeling McGonagall wouldn't object to us being friends, she's really chilled out a bit about this stuff since the war".
"Yeh, I think the war has put things in perspective for all of us actually".
As they poured and drank and poured and drank some more, Hermione told Saba what happened during class and what happened once she got home.
"Hermione don't take this the wrong way but I think there might me some sort of love hate thing going down between you guys. I think you should go for the love, but I guess the hate part could fuel the fire so to speak".
"Would you stop please, that's the opposite of what I'm thinking about. I'm just going to try and get through this year without killing him".
Not listening to her Saba continued on, "Also are you blind, he's certainly not unattractive, he's got the whole pale steely smoulder thing going on. When he was looking at you in class, yeh it was with dislike, but also a little bit like he wants you".
"SABA! God that's enough, how many of these have you had?!"
"Only one more than you, and honestly tell me you've never looked at him like that"
"No I haven't, well obviously I can see he's really attractive as you said…."
"Yeh pale and intense"
"Ok, but I've never really looked at him that way, his rotten personality far outshined it"
"Outshin-d as in past tense, so what do you think now".
"I don't know, I think he's changed as much as the rest of us, but we can't undo years of hate. I think he'd rather suck Merlin's big toe than be friends with me. So would I probably."
"Firstly, that is obscenely gross, and second that's complete crap".
Saba looked at her watch and whistled loudly, "Oops, past my bed time and yours too probably. Gotta go, don't stay up too late thinking about sucking Malfoy's big toe".
Hermione laughed, "Why would you put that image in my head?"
"Save it and show it to him in class next week".
Shaking her head Hermione walked Saba to the door and hugged her goodnight.
Later on she lay in bed, but it wasn't Malfoy's big toe in her head, it was his gun metal eyes, and how they'd looked after she shared that memory.