It had been a long year; a very long year. He sat in the darkness, the comfort of the worn sofa causing him to sink further into his depression. The sun was shining outside, but with the curtains drawn, anyone would have thought it was late evening in the house. Most days, he didn’t feel so sad. Most days, he was able to go about his business, and even go to work. Today was not to be one of those days. The birds of spring could be heard chirping outside, but despite their cheeriness, he could not forget – he would never forget – that one year ago today, his brother had died.
He could hear his mother calling him from the kitchen. Her footsteps soon followed, finding their way into the living room. George looked up with tear-filled eyes. But no words could come to his lips. Molly bustled her way around the room, drawing the curtains, allowing the sunlight to flood in. Then she sat next to her son, wrapping her arms around him. She didn’t say anything. She knew who he was thinking about. And, while she knew how she felt to lose a son, she knew she would never be able to understand the severed connection between her twin sons. So Molly just held George, allowing him to cry silently.
* * *
The manor had changed. There were no more peacocks strutting outside by the high wrought-iron gate. The hedges and grounds were still well tended, but the heavy drapes that had previously covered the windows were gone. The inhabitants sat in the parlor, allowing the sunlight to flood the room.
It had been one year since the Dark Lord had fallen; inexorably removed from existence. The elder Malfoys had been subdued by fear, and the younger, Draco, had settled into a semi-indifferent existence. Some days, the relief that Voldemort’s absence provided almost made him skip with happiness, but Draco was not one to skip. Most days, he watched his parents. He observed them, taking what he knew of them, and learning from that.
One year ago, Harry Potter had saved his life. And on that same night, his mother had saved Harry’s life. The year had been difficult. After the Battle of Hogwarts, he and his parents had sat in the Great Hall wondering if they should even be there. Lucius had been a key player in Voldemort’s ranks, until his failure to recover the prophecy during Draco’s fifth year. From that moment on, Lucius became a bootlicker; a beggar for the attention and approval of the Dark Lord. By the time Draco himself was branded, Lucius held more fear for his family than pride for his position. He simply acceded to the requests and demands of the Dark Lord in the hopes that when the Dark Lord triumphed over Harry Potter he would again rise to a respected position in the Dark Lord’s organization; and keep his family alive in the process. Sitting in the Great Hall after the fall of the Dark Lord had made Lucius feel very vulnerable; something he hadn’t felt in quite some time, and Draco had sensed the fear. Narcissa, on the other hand, was simply grateful for the life of her son. The fact that Harry Potter had let her know Draco was still alive was enough for her to spare Potter his life. But Draco had noted that she, too, was feeling the strain of fear of all the enemies of the Dark Lord.
Now, back at their manor, a year later, his parents were subdued. They seemed to be almost controlled, although no one was controlling them. Draco watched them go about their day in relative silence. They all took their meals together; in silence. Occasionally, Narcissa could be found walking the grounds, a pensive look in her eye, as if she were thinking of ways to landscape the garden, to make it fresh and new. Lucius was usually found in his library. But what Draco found most interesting was that he was reading Muggle literature. He didn’t seem to be enjoying it, necessarily, but he was reading it. The current object of his attention was a book titled Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Draco had no idea what it was about, but the occasional sneer crossed his father’s lips.
Draco wondered, for himself, what he would do with the rest of his own life. The last year was spent in solitude. He finished his studies by correspondence. He didn’t see any friends; and honestly, he didn’t know if he had any friends anymore. The Dark Mark was almost completely faded from his forearm. And soon, he might feel brave enough to venture out to Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley. He’d heard that many of the shops that had closed up in the previous few years had reopened. It might be nice to purchase a new broom, or browse the book shop.
* * *
The past year had been quite the roller coaster. At least, that’s what Harry said. But Ginny didn’t even know what a roller coaster was. If the truth be told, Harry admitted that he’d never ridden one either, and at mention of riding a roller coaster, Ginny really thought that Harry was losing it. But he promised her a ride on a roller coaster one day.
When the war ended, Harry and Ginny had to go through a period of rediscovery. To be honest, Ginny felt that they were still in that stage. She was not completely secure in their relationship, although Harry had made it quite clear that there was no one else for him. They’d spent the last year trying to heal from their losses, along with the rest of the Weasleys. Bill and Fleur had settled back to Shell Cottage, leaving an open invitation for anyone to visit. Charlie went back to Romania – his love of dragons too overwhelming to ignore. Ginny also suspected that by getting away from The Burrow, he wouldn’t think so much about the vacancy that Fred left behind. Ron and Hermione had spent the year with Harry and Ginny, but it was difficult to determine if they truly loved each other. It seemed as if they did, but their relationship was so volatile, so different from what she had with Harry. Ginny shook her head thinking about it.
The envelope in her hand had been delivered only moments ago, and Ginny had been waiting for Harry to come back with Ron before opening it. The return seal indicated that it was from the Holyhead Harpies. Harry didn’t even know that she had tried out for the team. No one did. But she wasn’t about to get the rejection while she was alone.
No. She would wait for Harry to get back so she could tell him, and they would find out together.
* * *
Hermione sat on her bed. She looked around the dormitory and sighed. This would be the last night she would sleep in the four-poster bed, but she was happy. After the Battle of Hogwarts, Hermione helped rebuild the school, and, as Head Girl, she returned in September to finish her education. Having lost a year on the search for Horcruxes, she was with the class behind hers, but Ginny had accepted the Honorary Hogwarts Diploma Based on Being Involved in the Downfall of He-Who-Could-Now-Be-Named, Lord Voldemort. So, Hermione was finishing at Hogwarts today. Most of her class had either lost their lives in the Battle, or chosen not to return to school. But a few had joined her at Hogwarts: Seamus Finnigan, Susan Bones, Neville Longbottom, the Patil sisters. It hadn’t been easy to return to school without their friends, but they wanted to finish their studies.
Her trunk was packed, and she was wearing her robes for the end-of-year feast. All the students would be wearing their house colors: Hermione, and her fellow Gryffindors wore red robes, with gold trim and their caps were also red with gold trim. Hermione, however, also wore a hood, with the colors of all four houses, indicating that she was Head Girl. And never one to do things by half, Hermione also wore a golden tassel that hung from the point of her cap, indicating that she was dux of the school.
She descended the stairs from the girls’ dormitories to the Gryffindor common room and looked around one last time. This room held a number of memories for her, and leaving was, well, bittersweet. She turned and passed through the portrait hole, smiling at the Fat Lady and thanking her for the last eight years.
The students were gathered at their House tables in the Great Hall. Hermione chuckled at the thought of her parents, ooohing and aaaahing over all things magical in the Great Hall and wished they could have been there. Hermione had known, in her heart of hearts, that her parents would have been thrilled to see this part of her life.
As she looked around, Hermione could imagine Ron and Harry sitting beside her, beaming at her, waiting for the end-of-term feast to begin. It all seemed so surreal to her, sitting there without them, or even without Ginny. And then Professor McGonagall stood to address the students.
“The winner of this year’s House Cup needs to be announced. But before it is, there are a few last minute points that need awarding.
“To Hermione Granger, I award 50 points, for topping seventh year and becoming dux of the school.
“This year the staff are agreed that one group of students has shown outstanding hard work, and loyalty. As Hogwarts contributed to the rebuilding of Hogsmeade, these students worked harder, longer and with more dedication than any other group. So it is with great pride that I award 200 points to the students of Hufflepuff house. The students of this house, past and present, have left a deep impression on this school. And now, if you know your sums, you will realize that the winner of this year’s House Cup is … Hufflepuff!”
The applause was thunderous as the students of Hufflepuff House looked dumbstruck. Professor McGonagall continued.
“As we look back on the year here at Hogwarts, let us not dwell on the sadness or the losses. Let us remember what we have gained by knowing those we’ve lost. Let us remember what we have learned by interacting with our loved ones. Our friends, both alive and deceased, will be with us always, and will constantly be supporting us to strive to greater heights.
“The dreams you have now, will be the reality you experience tomorrow. It is our hope as teachers that we have instilled in you a passion for learning, a love of life, and a thirst for knowledge. We have provided you with the means and the know-how to be successful in whatever field you choose to pursue. Think not about what you leave behind. But go on to your future, thinking about what you take with you. Hogwarts will always be in your hearts.”
Hermione smiled at all of her classmates. She was not normally a very sentimental girl. And while short, Professor McGonagall’s speech reminded her and her classmates that the last year had been difficult due to loss and grieving. But now, though there were some tears, there were mostly smiles at what the future held.
A/N: It feels good to be writing again! Thanks, as always, to Ladybug! With great ideas, and wonderful suggestions, not to mention cultural nudges in the right direction, this story will come together. Thanks for reading. Please review.