Well, there's a first time for everything! This is the story that comes after ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is', and even thought I haven't finished that one yet, I got bitten by a particularly savage plot bunny.
As ever, most of this is JKR's, and it's fun to be revisiting her world from a very different perspective…
Rewritten post- OotP.
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"Hope!" her mother's voice wafted up the stairs again, sounding slightly more exasperated this time.
Hope dropped her Quidditch book onto the floor beside her bed and rolled lazily onto her back, stretching out luxuriously just like Aunt Hermione's cat. She couldn't be bothered with all this. All she wanted was a bit of peace and quiet, a last night to be alone in her room and do whatever she felt like.
It wasn't that she wasn't excited about going to Hogwarts, she'd heard enough stories from all of her family to be looking forward to it very much, it was just that there were certain things that she was going to miss very much, like climbing the old oak tree in the back garden and swinging from its branches. Dad had said laughingly last time that he'd caught her up there that he wouldn't advise her to try that at school, or the Whomping Willow would have something to say about it and she'd be sent home in a tiny box, whomped into thousands of pieces.
She'd laughed at that. Her whole world was one full of stories, including what her dad and Uncle Ron had got up to when they were in Gryffindor. She wondered idly if Grandpa's car was still running around in the Forbidden Forest. She hadn't seen it when her friend Robert had dared her to go into the wood, but it had been so dark and eerie in there she was glad that she'd stuck to the very fringes. She shivered. She wasn't too fond of spiders herself.
It had been a good summer and Hope had made the most of it, getting into trouble at regular intervals. Mum had been less than impressed when she'd arrived home completely filthy after she and Robert had sneaked into the Shrieking Shack and found an underground passageway to explore. The village children still talked of the place being haunted, but Hope knew better. It had just been the sounds of Remus hurting that had frightened everyone, and she could never be scared of him.
Heavy footsteps began to climb the stairs, and that galvanised Hope into action. Mum was having a bit of a hard time of it lately with the baby growing inside her and she didn't really mean to be rotten to her.
"Coming!" she yelled back.
With a wistful glance at her broom, which she was doomed to leave behind, she slid off her bed and galloped out of her door onto the landing.
Her mum was only a few stairs up, but was standing with a hand on her hip and shaking her head with exasperation at her only daughter.
"Granny and Grandpa are here to see you," she said, raising her eyebrows meaningfully.
Hope grinned. Scurrying back into her bedroom she pulled a brush through her tangle of hair, yanking at the knots and sending her long red tresses flying in all directions, sparkling in the soft golden evening sunlight. She really had got the worst of the deal, she thought ruefully as she tried to flatten it back down again. The red wasn't so bad most of the time, but her hair definitely had a mind of its own, just like her dad's. It settled into wayward waves and with a quick smoothing of her dress, she bounded off and down the twisting stairs, her stomach full of excited butterflies.
"Here she is," she heard her grandfather's amused voice as she pushed the kitchen door open. "What have you been up to this time, Hope? Enchanting those fish to swim backwards again?"
"I was reading," she laughed, running over to the kitchen table and throwing her arms around him. He hugged her tightly and ruffled her freshly brushed hair.
"Arthur!" her grandmother said crossly, but Hope didn't care. She adored the pair of them and sometimes wondered if her dad's Mum and Dad would have been the same if they'd still been alive. She slipped quickly into the seat beside him.
"How's the packing going?" her mum chuckled, passing her a cup of tea and a biscuit. "It seemed awfully quiet up there for a change."
"Er…" Hope dropped her gaze and scuffed her toe against the kitchen floor.
"Hope Potter, don't you even think about telling me you haven't started yet," her mother exclaimed.
"We-ll, my trunk's not completely empty," Hope said honestly. "I did put my socks in before you ran off with them."
Her mother's stern expression cracked and her brown eyes danced mischievously.
"That doesn't mean they're safe," she laughed, wriggling her fingers as if tempted to go and steal the socks.
"They'd better be," Hope said in her sternest voice. Her mum winked at her.
"How are you feeling about tomorrow, dear," Granny asked, patting her hand affectionately. "You're not too nervous are you?"
"No," Hope shook her head, sending her coppery hair flying. "I'm dying to see it all. Everyone's been telling me so much about it, like Nearly Headless Nick and the trick steps and Uncle George even told me how to…"
"I don't think I want to know," Granny interrupted quickly with a smile. "Don't you be getting into the same trouble that they did: the owls I got home about those two were worst than the rest of them put together, your father and Uncle Ron included. I wonder if you'll get put in my old dormitory."
"Or mine," her mum said. "Two turns of the spiral up on the left hand side was where I was for six years. It was quite a nice room really, but your dad's was a bit better because it got the sun first thing in the morning."
"Ginny!" Granny exclaimed in horrified tones.
"Scandalous, isn't it?" Mum chuckled wickedly. "I think we'd been married for a few months by then as well and Hope was on the way."
"I'm very glad to hear it," the mellow voice of Arthur Weasley sounded across the table. "Anyway, the reason for the visit is that we've brought a little something for a certain granddaughter of mine." He pushed a little squashy parcel across the table and smiled as she began to tear apart the wrapping, wondering what it could be.
"It used to be mine," he said quietly. "I thought you'd like to have it."
She looked up from the gift, a huge beam spreading across her face as she realised what she'd been given. Slightly faded striped of red and gold were shaken out of the parcel and held with trembling fingers. Grandpa's Gryffindor scarf. She couldn't think of anything she'd like more.
"You're not going to King's Cross are you, Ginny?" her grandmother asked anxiously, while Hope smiled her thanks at her grandfather. Warm brown eyes met glistening green ones in perfect understanding and mutual appreciation.
"No need," her mum lowered herself carefully into a chair. "It seems a bit silly to go all the way to London just to come back again, not that I can Apparate at the moment anyway. Hope can wait at the station with the other children from Hogsmeade and go up to Hogwarts with the rest of them. You never know," she added, with a chuckle, "she might even have her trunk packed by then."
"Have you got everything you need, dear?"
"Yes," Hope nodded. "Aunt Hermione took me to Diagon Alley last week and got me my books. I never realised I needed so many."
"You probably don't," she chuckled. "I'm willing to bet there's a copy of ‘Hogwarts: A History' in there for some light bedtime reading."
"Robes, parchment, quills, cauldron, wand," Hope counted them off on her fingers. "I'm all set."
"Oh! Show them your wand, Hope!" her mum exclaimed.
Hope obligingly took her parcel, scurried off out of the kitchen and clattered her way up the stairs. She put her new possession safely into her trunk, smiling at it with pride for a moment. Then she collected her wand from the dressing table and hurried back downstairs to show them the badge of becoming a witch.
Stepping back into the kitchen, her eyes alighted on a familiar figure she'd recognise anywhere, with dishevelled black hair and green eyes just like her own. He was wrestling to contain a tiny red-headed boy somewhere around his knees, as he ducked in and out beneath the hem his robes.
Hope rolled her eyes. She could only hope that the new addition to the family was going to be another girl. Sam was cute sometimes, but he picked his nose, played with the slugs in the garden and did other vile and disgusting things she'd rather not dwell on. The thought of brothers in the plural was a little too much for anyone to bear.
"Hi Dad," she smiled, passing her wand across to her grandmother for inspection. "It's willow, 12 inches with a core of unicorn hair," she explained importantly.
There were general murmurs of approval as the wand was duly examined and passed back. Her father, meanwhile, had finally extricated himself from Sam and was smiling at her in such a way that she knew that he was up to something. His hands were firmly clasped behind his back. She tried to crane her neck to see what he was hiding, but he smiled enigmatically and turned away to prevent her from seeing.
"Dad?" she asked.
"Yes dear?" he replied, grinning mischievously at her.
"Oh nothing," she said airily, pretending to turn her attention back to the conversation going on at the table.
"Good," he said lightly. The two of them locked gazes for a moment, each daring the other to give in. The tension between them was rising until he suddenly pulled a face at her and they both broke out into fits of laughter.
"A little something to make sure you stay in touch," her dad said, hoisting a velvet covered dome onto the table. "I saw this one and I just couldn't resist."
Hope gasped. It couldn't be, could it? It was what she wanted more than anything, but she'd never dared mention it: after all, school wasn't exactly very far from home and she could always use Hedwig for return messages or one of the school barn owls. She lifted the heavy fabric of the cage, anticipation churning in her stomach. It was. It really was. Her very own owl. A negative image of a smaller Hedwig stared back at her through watchful amber eyes. He hooted softly, ruffling his shadowy feathers and shuffling on his perch.
"Wow!" she whispered, bending even closer to memorise everything about him. She'd never seen an owl quite like this before.
"Eeylops said they don't get these in very often," her father explained. "It's a sooty owl, and they're not a native breed at all. I believe they're found in some parts of Australia, so I'm not exactly sure how this little one got here, but I thought you'd want to give him a home. Am I right?"
She looked up at her dad, fiercely blinking back hot tears before they had a chance to fall.
"He's perfect," she whispered.
She couldn't sleep. Mum had insisted on an early night before her big day tomorrow, but it just wasn't working. The grown-ups had chattered on for an eternity downstairs, she could hear the mumbles and muffled laughter through the floor of her bedroom but strain as she might, she couldn't work out what they were saying. It quietened after a while and then there was the familiar sound of her dad bringing her mum upstairs to rest. Hope tossed and turned, and finally gave up on the idea of sleep altogether and lay on her stomach gazing up at the stars shining brightly in the inky sky far beyond her window.
This was her home. It was everything that she was and everything that she had always known, and suddenly, somehow, it was hard to leave. She'd been looking forward to starting at Hogwarts for almost as long as she could remember. Her magical ability had shown itself early, and there had been little doubt that a letter would arrive from Hogwarts in due course so that she could follow in the footsteps of all her relatives. Yet here in the darkness, she felt an uneasy quiver of nerves tremor inside her. What if she let everyone down?
There was a gentle knock at her door and she rolled over.
"It's only me, Hope. Can I come in?"
The door creaked open and his silhouette appeared at the foot of her bed by her half-packed trunk.
"Are you awake?" he whispered.
"No, I'm talking in my sleep," she teased.
"Lumos," he muttered and the candles in the room flickered to life, dancing in the draft as he closed the door behind him. She sat up in bed and hugged her knees towards her, letting her dad sit down by her feet.
"I couldn't sleep," Hope said quickly. "I think I'm excited about tomorrow or something."
"Or nervous," her dad smiled, seeing right through her excuses. "Your mum and I are very proud of you, you do know that, don't you? And even though you'll just be up the road we're going to miss you an awful lot."
"Me too," she whispered, holding her arms out for a hug the way she used to do when she was a little girl and had fallen over and grazed her knee. He'd always taken away the pain then even before he'd used his wand to heal her injuries. The strong arms wrapped around her once more, still loving and reassuring her.
"Hogwarts is wonderful," he said thoughtfully, kissing the top of her head. "You'll learn so much and make new friends and maybe even sneak a game or two of Quidditch if McGonagall's nice and waives the no first-year rule. Imagine playing proper Quidditch," his voice was warming with enthusiasm on the topic of the game they both loved.
"You really liked it there, didn't you?" Hope asked through the quiet of the night.
Her father paused for a moment, his face half hidden in shadows.
"I did," he said slowly, "but it wasn't always good. To start with it was like a miracle: you know my aunt and uncle who looked after me kept me locked away as a disgrace and an abnormality?" Hope nodded. "Well, Hogwarts was the first chance I had ever had to be me, to escape from them and my cousin's bullying and to live in my world, where I belonged. I met your Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione and suddenly I had friends too. It was better than anything I could have ever dreamed."
"And Mum came along later, didn't she?" Hope asked, knowing the story by heart but wanting to hear it again anyway.
"She did," her dad smiled fondly to the memories. "And you were born there too." There was quiet for a while, and she waited for him to continue. "Hope, you do need to be aware of something," he added at length.
"Not all of my life at Hogwarts was good. Your first few days probably aren't going to be that easy," he admitted, raking a hand through his hair and making it stick out at even odder angles. "You know what happened when you were only a few days old," he went on and she nodded again. Dumbledore had harnessed her magical abilities to force the Avada Kedavra back onto Voldemort, using her own particular brand of Truitinae Bonitas as a force to kill the Dark Lord once and for all. "Quidditch aside, we've lived here fairly quietly since then," her dad said softly, "but like me, people know your name. You know how they treat you when they realise who you are, but imagine that a thousand fold. All that respect and glory for something you don't remember is very difficult to deal with.
"If you forget everything else, remember this: just be yourself. There will always be gossip there in the background, but those sort of people aren't worth bothering with. You will find that there are some people out there who will act out of jealousy and set out to prove that the ‘great and good Hope Potter' is not so wonderful after all. Just ignore them. Robert's a good friend and you will make more, but choose them wisely."
"I will," she promised. "And thank you so much for my owl."
"He's a beauty," her dad smiled. "Have you named him yet?"
"I thought Balthasar," she said, tipping her head to one side and glancing over his shoulder at the owl. "I looked it up in Mum's book and it means ‘bearer of good news', so I reckon that's a pretty good name for an owl who brings my post."
"Sounds right to me," her dad said, getting to his feet and ruffling her hair. "Do you think you can sleep, or would you like some hot milk?"
She pulled a face at the thought.
"I'll be fine," she said firmly, wriggling down beneath the covers.
"I thought you would be," her dad chuckled, tucking the sheets in around her like he had when she was a tiny girl. "We do love you, never forget that." With a final kiss on her forehead he was gone, the lights extinguishing behind him.
Hope sighed into the coolness of the night and stared up again at the tiny stars glimmering in the blueness of the night. The future was out there and the knot of nervous excitement in her stomach refused to go away. She was on the verge of going to Hogwarts. She'd walk down the same corridors that the rest of her family had, play Gobstones in the common room, work in the library and maybe even play Quidditch on the pitch.
Eventually her eyes drifted shut and she slid into happy dreams of feasts and Quidditch matches and Gryffindor scarlet and gold.