The sorting ceremony was quick, the students hurrying to their house tables once their name had been called. Hermione used to love the opening feast and ceremony: this year, however, she found it tedious and tiresome. It was probably due to lack of sleep more so than lack of interest. She had stayed up late the previous night to do some last minute packing, just to be sure everything was ready to go to Harry's in a few weeks, and found herself rather exhausted by midafternoon. She had already begun yawning before the feast even began.
After the sorting she found her appetite rather small, and opted to push her food around the plate during the feast rather than eating it. Her mind wandered to the list of things she needed to do before Saturday. I'll need to store those boxes somewhere in my room until I can move them to Harry's… Perhaps add an undetectable extension charm to the wardrobe? Yes, that should work. Also need to drop off those extra clothes to a thrift shop, make sure the house listing gets posted by Thursday… Her head was already pounding as the tasks weighed on her mind. She'd asked Professor McGonagall to meet with her this evening to discuss a few things, namely being allowed to leave the castle when the house sale called for it and to check on her parents monthly. The older witch was known to be kind and understanding, but Hermione just wanted to be sure that the professor understood the situation and was alright with Hermione traveling now and then. She'd been a great mentor to Hermione, and so she trusted the professor above everyone else.
Her headache was growing, so Hermione decided to bid her friends farewell and head up to the dormitory. It was specifically for the Head Boy and Girl, and resided on the top floor near the astronomy tower, well away from the other house dorms. She stood from the table and waved at Harry, Ron, and Ginny as she made her way to the staircases.
Her footsteps sounded abnormally loud on the stone steps as she climbed. I'm probably the only student here who'd rather be alone in her dorm than at the great feast… She thought with a wry smile. Reaching the top floor, she turned and began the trek to the astronomy tower. The hall seemed endless as she padded along the corridor, but soon enough she was greeted with the sight of her door. The painting was of Sir Lancelot, from the story of King Arthur. He looked up with a smile as she approached.
"What, ho, my fair lady! Welcome to your humble abode!" His voice rang through the hall as he bowed to her within his frame. Hermione smiled back at him.
"Thank you, Sir Lancelot. Aequalitas." The door swung gently inwards, revealing a beautiful common room. Hermione was pleased to note that it contained neither Gryffindor nor Slytherin colors, but was decorated in tastefully deep shades of brown with light cream accents. There was kitchenette off to the right so that they could stay in the dorm for meals if they wished, and to the left was a comfortably large living room with fluffy couches and a roaring fireplace. It very much reminded Hermione of her own home. At least I'll be comfortable here, she thought. It's just one more year…
Stepping further inside, she noticed a large brown blob in the corner of her eye. She groaned as she realized it was all the boxes she had packed to store at Grimmauld Place. I thought they wouldn't be delivered until later tonight! Her shoulders slumping resignedly, she trudged over and picked one up, staggering under the weight. Might as well get them put away while I'm here… She awkwardly shuffled to her room, dropping the box with a loud thud inside her doorway. She repeated the process several times, so engrossed in her work that she hardly noticed the click as the portrait opened and closed. She has just picked up a rather heavy box when she heard Malfoy's voice behind her.
"What the heck are you doing, mudblood?"
She jumped, startled, and promptly dropped the box on her toes.
"OUCH!" She quickly grabbed her foot, trying to dull the throbbing ache, before looking up at him with a frown. "A little warning would've been nice, Malfoy."
He sneered at her. "Ah, but it's so much more fun to just sit back and watch you injure yourself. Plus I think I've made it clear that I'm not nice."
She sighed and reached down to pick up the box again. She'd already put away six, but there were still at least four more still sitting in the corner of the living room. Hoisting the current box back into her arms, she started to walk towards her room when Malfoy spoke again.
"Merlin, Granger, just how much junk did you bring with you this year?" He was eyeing the large stack of boxes already in her room. Dropping this box next to the others, she turned back to him with weary eyes.
"It'll only be here until Saturday. It'll all be in my room anyway, so it shouldn't bother you."
She pushed gently past him and picked up another box. This one was just as heavy if not more so than the last one, and she nearly buckled under the weight. Suddenly the box lifted out of her hands, and she looked up to see Draco wave his wand, depositing it inside her room. The last few boxes also flew into her room, settling on top of the existing stack.
"Thanks." She murmured. She felt stupid for having forgotten to use her wand, but she'd gotten so used to moving the muggle way over the summer that it hadn't even crossed her mind.
"Don't thank me, mudblood. I could practically smell the muggle stuff inside, and I don't want all of your junk cluttering up the common room." He huffed, walking to one of the couches and settling himself comfortably in a corner seat with a book.
Hermione slumped into a seat at the kitchen bar, her feet dangling from the tall stool. She crossed her arms on the counter and rested her forehead on them. It was so hard to be nice to Malfoy when he was being such a git, but Hermione was now so mentally and physically exhausted that she didn't care what he said.
She was just beginning to doze off when she heard a small owl screech next to her. She sat up groggily and untied the letter from its leg. Recognizing the handwriting as Professor McGonagall's, she quickly rubbed the sleepiness from her eyes and tore the letter open.
If you'd like, I have time to meet with you in about 15 minutes as you requested. Although I haven't the faintest inkling as to what this is about, I assure that anything you need, I'll be happy to help with. Meet me in my office.
Hermione quickly hopped off the stool, stretching her arms up above her head in an attempt to wake herself up. She hurried to her room to grab a page of notes she'd made for her talk with the professor. As she reentered the common room, Malfoy looked up from his book.
"Just where are you off to, Granger?"
She waved him off. "Personal business." She shut the portrait firmly behind her and quickly made her way down to the headmistress' office. Hopefully this would all go well, and she could sort out her private affairs without any trouble.
Hermione was about to knock on the door when it swung open, revealing Professor McGonagall sitting at her desk.
"Ah, Miss Granger, do come in." She motioned to the seat in front of her desk, and Hermione quickly sat down. "Now, what can I do for you? You mentioned this being more of a personal matter."
Hermione cleared her throat. "Yes, Professor."
McGonagall eyed her over the rim of her glasses. "Now dear, we've known each other for quite some time. I do believe you can call me Minerva now."
She smiled back, her nervousness easing a bit. "Of course, Minerva. Well, I guess I'd like to start out by saying that what I'm about to tell you happened just as the war was beginning, and I am in no way proud of my actions." At this, McGonagall looked a bit unsettled, so Hermione quickly clarified. "It's nothing bad, per se, it just changes my situation a bit."
McGonagall visibly relaxed, and she took this as her cue to continue. "I'm sure Dumbledore told you about the Horcrux hunt that Harry, Ron, and I went on?" McGonagall nodded. Hermione took a deep breath. The moment of truth… "Well, before we left, I Obliviated my parents and sent them to Australia…"
McGonagall's eyes widened. "My dear girl, why on earth would you do something like that?"
Hermione's face contorted with regret. "It was the only way I could think of to keep them safe. Voldemort knew I was one of Harry's closest friends, and that made them a target. With me helping Harry, I couldn't always be there to protect them, and so I did the only thing I thought would keep them out of harm's way." She looked down at the ground as she continued. "After the war, I went to find them. They've been living quite happily in Sydney, under different names. The shock came when I tried to restore their memories. The initial Obliviate I cast was far more powerful than I intended, and I can't undo it. I tried so many times…" At this, she had to blink back the tears that were forming. She looked back up at McGonagall as she continued. "I finally decided to just leave them be. They're happy where they are, in their new life, and as long as they're safe, I'll be okay."
McGonagall looked at her student with a newfound respect and care. "I can only imagine how hard of a decision that must have been for you, and I admire your courage for it. You're a very strong girl, Miss Granger." Hermione nodded her thanks.
McGonagall cleared her throat before continuing. "However, I don't see exactly where you need my help in this. I suspect there is more to tell?"
Hermione nodded. "After I decided to leave them be, it fell to me to take care of our home and money. My parents have the majority of their savings, but I kept a little to see me through until I begin work. This summer I decided that I'm going to sell the house. I've packed up all my belongings and sold what I'm not keeping. The only thing left to do now is put the house on the market and hope it sells quickly, but I'd need permission to leave the school to take care of that. Meeting with realtors and potential buyers, since I'm selling it the muggle way."
McGonagall nodded. "Of course you have my permission. You've shown great responsibility and leadership over the years, and I trust you."
Hermione smiled. "Thank you, Minerva. There is one other thing, though. Since I found my parents, I've been spending one day a month in Australia just to check on them and make sure they're alright. If it's not too much trouble, could I continue to do so? I have my own portkey, I just need your permission." She twisted her hands nervously in her lap as she spoke.
Her words were greeted with a gentle smile from McGonagall. "I see no reason why not. You can choose any day you wish each month, just be sure to keep up with your classes if you choose a school day."
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. Things would be okay now. McGonagall's next words seemed to voice her thoughts.
"The ties we have to family never truly disappear. Nor does the love of a parent or child." She smiled at Hermione once more. "You're a strong girl, Hermione. Don't let the past weigh you down; it's time to close that door and open the one to your future."
Hermione nodded. "I understand. Thank you, Minerva, this truly means the world to me."
"Think nothing of it. You may go back to your dormitory. I suspect that there is some much needed rest for you to catch up on." At this, Hermione rose and made her way to the door. Opening it, she paused and turned back.
"Thank you again, Minerva. Even though my mother doesn't know me anymore, it seems I've had another one here at Hogwarts all along."
Hermione just barely caught a glance of McGonagall's eyes misting over as she shut the door. It's time to close one door and open another… It's time to move on.