The next day before heading down to breakfast, Hermione decided to take it upon herself to reach out to Ron. Grabbing a quill and parchment, she sat at her desk and neatly scratched her feelings onto the page.

"...and I would really appreciate you writing me back soon. I can't wait to hear more about your preparation to become an Auror. I know you'll do wonderful, Ronald. Say hi to Harry for me! All my love, Hermione"

Feeling more settled than she had in a while, she rolled the parchment up, grabbed her wand and books for the day's classes, and set off for the Great Hall, planning to send the letter after breakfast.

Ginny was already seated at a table, delicately munching on a liberally-marmaladed piece of toast and reading the morning edition of The Quibbler. Spotting Hermione, Ginny cast her a sunny close-lipped smile and mumbled, "Morning, 'Mione!" through her bite of toast.

Ginny had become somewhat of a close confidante of Hermione's upon their mutual return to Hogwarts. Between Ginny grieving the loss of Fred and Hermione grieving the loss of her parents (or rather the loss of her relationship with them, as they were both still currently down in Australia living as Wendell and Monica Wilkins with no knowledge of their only daughter), there had already been many nights that the two had taken solace in each other and used the other as a shoulder to cry on. Aside from their shared tears, Hermione had found that she quite liked Ginny's dry wit and fierce loyalty, and seeing her and Harry's relationship rekindle over the summer had affirmed Ginny's permanent place in her life.

"Good morning, Ginny. Ah, I see Dean's done the cover drawing once again?" Hermione said amiably as she settled down onto the bench, pulling a large bowl of fruit towards her.

"He is quite talented, isn't he? When we were in the Malfoy's dungeons together, he told me about all of the things that he wanted to draw when we got out," Luna's dreamy voice floated over them as she too slipped down to sit at the table. McGonagall had been sure to encourage intermingling between Houses at the start of the school year.

Ginny's eyes widened, and she paused to clear her throat before speaking. "Is... is that so? But yes, I agree, he certainly is very skilled. But then," she grinned wickedly, "he was always very skilled with his hands."

Hermione barely kept herself from dropping the spoon which she had been using to transfer pineapple onto her plate. "Ginny!"

Ginny smirked at her, wisely deciding not to say more on the topic. "So, Luna, are you still writing Rolf?"

Adjusting her extremely large, dangling butterfly earrings to make sure they didn't drag in the syrup on her waffles, Luna smiled happily and sighed. "Oh yes, we've been in communication since we met this summer. It's been fascinating to learn about the Scamander family history and their love of magical creatures." Luna looked thoughtful for a bit, staring at the ceiling, "Did you know, Rolf said no one in his family has ever come up with a solution to keep Nargles at bay? He said my method is by far the most effective." She then began to cut into her waffle.

Hermione smiled genuinely at her, "That's wonderful, Luna."

Luna had not escaped the war unscathed either. It was known to her close friends that she occasionally disassociated and stared into space without speaking for minutes at a time. However, it seemed that meeting and communicating with one Rolf Scamander had had a positive effect on her. While she still thought Luna was a bit out there, Hermione genuinely hoped her and Rolf's relationship continued to blossom. The sweet but strange girl had grown on her over the last several months.

The three chatted for a while longer over breakfast.

"I need to drop something off at the Owlery before Defense. I'll see you in class?" Hermione finished the last of her tea and picked up her things.

Ginny glanced up at her, "Use Fortis instead one of the Hogwarts owls. I've been so knackered from studying the last few days that I haven't written Harry, and I know Fortis would love the chance to get out a bit." Ginny's recently acquired barn owl, Fortis, was her pride and joy. She had purchased him with her own hard-earned galleons from working at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes over the summer with a still-recovering George.

"Thanks, Gin! Crookshanks is the best familiar I could ask for, but sometimes I do regret that he doesn't have wings." Hermione's beloved half-Kneazle had shown up a mere two days after the Final Battle. He had apparently strolled out of the Forbidden Forest (without a scratch on him, mind) and into Hogwarts, heading straight toward Professor McGonagall, who immediately recognized him.

"Don't give up hope, Hermione, you never know. Crookshanks may fly yet," Luna commented with an absent smile, gazing down at her empty teacup.

Hermione flushed, not sure how to respond. "Err, perhaps Luna. Okay, see you both in a bit." She left the Great Hall and headed toward the Owlery.

Climbing the numerous steps up the West Tower toward the Owlery, which was located at the very top (of course), she was panting down at her feet so hard that she didn't look up to see the flash of blond hair until a hard body rammed into her (again).

"AH! Her-Granger, that's twice in less than twenty-four that you've tried to kill me," Malfoy gasped as he rubbed one hand over his sternum and quickly reached his other hand out to grasp her shoulder, steadying Hermione to prevent her from tumbling backwards down the stairs to a likely bloody and anticlimactic death (After all she had been through? Death by stairs? No thank you).

Hermione, red-faced and more sweaty than she would've liked to admit, attempted to run a hand through her wild curls, which had frizzed out even more due to her exertion. Her hand got snagged in her hair and it took her several seconds to tug it free. Malfoy watched the entire thing take place with a smirk.

"You know, a Smoothing Charm wouldn't go amiss every once in a while, Granger. Combine that with a hair-softening potion and you may one day be able to go through life without looking like a walking tumbleweed."

Hermione gaped at him. "Tumbleweed? How in Godric's name do you know what a tumbleweed is?"

It was then Malfoy's turn to be embarrassed, a light blush making itself known on his cheeks as he stared hard at the stairs below them. "Was part of the mandatory Muggle Education remediation training I did this summer," he muttered. "We watched some Muggle moo-vees and one of them was an old American Western." He glanced back up at Hermione, not missing that her face still looked surprised but also a bit impressed.

She stammered, "Well that's... That's actually quite good that you watched those. Um. John Wayne? Was he in it?"

Malfoy gave her a small smile, "Yes, he was in the moo-vee."

Hermione laughed freely and Malfoy appeared shocked.

"It's pronounced MOO-vie, not MOO-VEE," she grinned at him, still chuckling.

He blinked several time, as if trying to clear his vision. "Movie... right..."

Shifting her weight, she tilted her head to the side as she regarded Malfoy. "What are you doing up here, anyway? I thought I'd be the only one sending a letter this early."

A blank mask immediately fell over his previously open face. "That is none of your business, Granger."

Giving him a slight frown, Hermione stepped around him and adjusted the books in her arms "Alright. Goodness, Malfoy, it was just a question."

"Well... I'll see you in class," Malfoy said succinctly. Giving her one more long, inscrutable look, Malfoy walked past her and continued his descent down the tower stairs.

Hermione stared after him for a bit, puzzling, before continuing to traverse up the gods-forsaken steps toward the Owlery.

"Fortis!" she called out once she reached the round, drafty stone room and set her books down. A soft fluttering of wings later and the beautiful barn owl landed on her outstretched (and cloak-covered, because owl talons on bare skin? Ouch) forearm. His pale, heart-shaped face regarded her steadily as she walked to a nearby window, where she attached her letter to Ron to his leg.

"This is for Ronald Weasley. He'll likely be at the Ministry of Magic, Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He's in the Auror Academy," Hermione prattled on, softly stroking his feathers. "Please wait for him to write a response, if that's okay. Be safe! Thank you!"

Fortis took off into the morning mist.

Hermione sighed. She had been doing that a lot recently. Hugging herself tightly, she allowed herself one more big exhale as she looked out over the lush Hogwarts grounds before picking up her things and heading out of the Owlery.