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Hermione wakes up to a cacophony of screeching alarms every morning. 

 

It’s important that that’s established. 

 

Every morning for eight years she’s been woken up by a disorienting medley of hooting, wind chimes, car horns, dogs barking, and whatever else the other eighth year girls in her dorm use to get themselves the fuck out of bed. 

 

Today, however, she wakes up exactly thirty-five seconds before the alarms, meaning that she just barely has had time to open her eyes and hope for a few more hours of sleep before the hollering, shrieking, drumming, and whatever else starts up.

 

That’s how she knows, right off the bat, that it’s going to be a bad day. 

 

She throws her hand out, hitting snooze, and, one by one, alarms shut off as the others do the same. 

 

It’s all so shared, so universal and common, Hermione can’t help but feel a rush of warmth. Or maybe that’s just the warmth from her bed, the relief that she gets to stay in it for nine more minutes.

 

Sprawled and half asleep, she begins to work through her day. It’s a Friday, so she only has Charms class in the morning, and then tutoring a second year in the afternoon. 

 

Hermione exhales.

 

Sweet girl, but terrible at Potions. It’s always a struggle. And, with a head of bright red hair, she reminds Hermione of Ron when they were that age. Merlin knows how often she was frustrated at him because of his inability to grasp basic concepts.

 

When Hermione was 12, she never hit snooze. She leapt out of bed, still exhilarated by the Wizarding World, by Hogwarts, by the promising future everyone said she’ll have. She annoyed the shit out of the other girls in her dorm, who were understandably desperate for a few minutes without her knocking around, muttering about astronomy. 

 

Now, well. Now it’s six years and a war later. That tends to make you want to press snooze. 

 

Priorities change.

 

It’s… Hermione counts in her head, three weeks exactly until graduation. Three weeks until she can pack her things, get on the train, and move into her new apartment in London. From there, she has two options-- take the apprenticeship Flitwick has been begging her to consider, or apply to Muggle medical school. Either way, she’s taking a gap year before.

 

This may sound outlandish, but Hermione Granger is done with school. Well, for now. Truth is, she regrets coming back to Hogwarts for eighth year. It’s alternated between being mind-numbingly boring and horrifically stressful, and although she has seen wonderful growth from the people around her, it isn’t for her anymore. 

 

She’s so ready to leave. So ready to move into her apartment, to decorate the way she’s always wanted. So ready to sleep in, or work at a coffee shop, or spend her days wandering around parks. Maybe she’ll travel, spend four months in New Zealand, or Spain, or even the fucking U.S. Why the fuck not.

 

Everything’s so possible now. Well, not now. In three weeks. In three weeks it’ll be possible.

 

Her eyes open.

 

Another reason she’s excited to leave-- the eighth year girls’ dorm is basically just an enlarged broom closet, and it shows. The ceiling above her is gouged and scraped, as if it was once much lower and full of tall, wooden poles. The floor is never not dusty. The windows don’t quite fit into the frame, so there’s always a strong draft, and any attempts at decorating on behalf of the girls just looks strung up and temporary. 

 

Back in December, before Christmas, Hermione stuck a packet of glowing stars to the ceiling. They still look out of place. Like once this is all over, once the windows are blown out and the room shrinks again, there won’t be a single sign Hermione spent nine months of her life here.

 

It’ll all be for nothing.

 

She sits up slowly, desperate to leave that thought behind, a yawn forcing its way up her throat. 

 

She checks her alarm, a battery powered Muggle one her parents sent her in fifth year, and sighs when she realizes there’s only fifty seconds left before the cacophony starts again.

 

Her eyes wander. 

 

Padma’s alarm, a small thing shaped like a cartoon owl, is blinking red with the date. May 4th. 

 

There’s a spider in the corner, hovering just over Millicent Bulstrode’s head. Spinning a web. 

 

Hermione lifts her wand and, well, zaps it, for lack of a better word. It disappears with a flash, and Millicent, who’s terrified of spiders, is none the wiser. A loud snore rips out of her, in fact.

 

Hermione lays back down. 

 

Exhales as the room explodes in sound.

///

“21 dayyyyssssss!” Seamus screams. 

 

Hermione winces as the noise bounces around the corridor, and then outright scowls as Dean and Anthony echo him with their yells and jeers, magnifying the sound.

 

“You don’t have to look so upset,” Ron tells her with a grin. “Come on. They’re excited.”

 

“They can be excited without destroying my eardrums, Ronald,” she says primly.

 

“Poor darling Granger, with her delicate little ears,” someone chimes in behind them.

 

Hermione and Ron turn, both trying their best to wrestle down a scowl when they see Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini, arms thrown over each other’s shoulders, wearing twin sneers.

 

“Good morning to you, too,” Hermione says tiredly, turning back around.

 

“We thought you two would know where Draco and Potter are today,” Blaise booms, and he really does boom , that’s the only word to describe it, because his voice is as loud and condescending as Snape’s was, except Blaise isn’t saying anything remotely useful. At least Hermione could take notes on what Snape was saying.

 

“They ate breakfast with us, then fucked off,” Ron grumbles. “They aren’t with us, and we’re just trying to get to Charms.”

 

“Oh excellent! We’ll go with you!” Pansy says, voice purposefully shrill.

 

Hermione inhales, exhales.

 

Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini are, possibly, the most annoying creatures on Earth. Though she’s sure they think the same of her and Ron. 

 

Although she’s completely happy for Harry and his wonderful relationship with Draco and all that shite, she can and will admit that there were a few… side effects of their getting together that she’d rather go without. 

 

Namely, Pansy Parkinson and Blaise Zabini.

 

“Granger!” Pansy crows. “Weasley!” 

 

Hermione ignores her, as does Ron.

 

“Hellooo!”

 

Ron turns halfway. “What?”

 

“Your hair is glowing so beautifully red this morning, Weasley,” Pansy croons. 

 

“You have something from breakfast stuck in your teeth, Parkinson.”

 

What ? Blaise!” Hermione watches from the corner of her eye as Pansy spins, baring her teeth to Blaise.

 

“Oh fucking Merlin-- Pansy, your fucking teeth, you slob-- Are you a child ?”

 

“Shut the fuck up, Blaise, or else I’ll--”

 

“What? Are you going to rip out my balls?”

 

“I--” Pansy lets out what sounds like a roar. “Do you know how to fucking zip, Blaise?”

 

“Wh-- oh mother fucker ,” Blaise spits. 

 

Hermione’s eyes dart down, a grin growing on her face when she sees his open fly.

 

“I’m seeing wayyy more than I want to, Zabini,” Ron mutters.

 

“Shut up ,” Blaise snarls in response.

 

Hermione exhales and breezes into the Charms classroom, Ron at her side.

 

“Miss Granger!” Flitwick squeaks from the front of the room, and Hermione’s good mood is promptly crushed.

 

“Professor,” she greets, parting from Ron as he goes to sit. She can hear Pansy and Blaise chattering as they rush by, too.

 

“I know you’re most assuredly tired of me badgering you,” he starts, and Hermione wants to interrupt him right there, say, yes! Yes, actually I am exhausted of you badgering me, but she doesn’t, she just smiles and forces a laugh.

 

“This apprenticeship is an amazing opportunity. It puts you at the forefront of today’s political landscape. With your mind, I think you would be so incredibly valuable there…”

 

She stops listening, only because she can recite what he’s about to say word for word, literally fucking verbatim. 

 

He calls it an ‘apprenticeship’, but it’s actually just an internship for a political campaign. Yes, it is for one of the most promising political minds of their generation, and yes, if she sticks with it long enough, she could end up being the most promising political mind of her generation and, yes, it is paid. Medical school doesn’t pay, in fact it costs , but still. Still, still, still. Does she want to be a fucking politician?

 

“... and I have a recommendation letter right there on my desk, ready to be Owled!” Flitwick is saying as she tunes back in.

 

She smiles, apologetic and grateful, and tells him what she tells him every time. I’m so sorry, Professor, but it’s a big decision and I do have other prospects. I’m going to take a bit more time to think. Thank you, though. 

 

He nods. “Of course, of course, Miss Granger! Take a seat!”

 

She does as he directs, sliding into the seat next to Ron.

 

“Just tell him you aren’t going to take it,” he murmurs. 

 

“I still might,” she replies, though the words sound weak, pathetic, false. Even as she’s saying them.

 

Ron opens his mouth to most likely either embody his mother and tell her she better decide soon, or embody his father and remind her that no matter what she does she’ll be great at it, when Harry bursts through the door, hair sticking straight up.

 

Snickers spread across the room, especially when Draco follows a conspicuous exact ten seconds later.

 

Draco sits next to Pansy and Blaise, and Harry crosses the room, squeezing in next to her and Ron.

 

“Hey guys,” he says breathlessly, fumbling for his Charms book.

 

“Don’t ‘hey guys’ us. We know you were with Malfoy in one of those broom closets,” Ron mutters, looking like he wants to throw himself out the nearest window. “Don’t try to hide it.”

 

Ah-- another reason Hermione hates the girls dorm. Some horny fucks must have had sex in it at some point.

 

“What!” Harry sputters. “I-- how dare you!”

 

“Don’t deny it,” Hermione says. “We know.”

 

“Can’t you wait to do that?” Rom mumbles. “Like, at night?”

 

“In our dorm?” Harry asks, smiling slightly.

 

No !” Ron, absolutely aghast, goes red. “In the bloody broom closet!”

 

“Don’t be so dramatic, Ronald,” Hermione tuts. “Sex is a very natural part of life--”

 

“I do not need to hear about this from you,” Ron interrupts, with such a stern tone Hermione can see Molly’s influence on him, clear as day.

 

Harry devolves into laughter, laughter that promptly stops when Hermione rounds on him, an eyebrow arched. “Are you and Draco using condoms?”

 

Harry’s jaw drops, but his response is lost to the air as Flitwick taps his wand against the wall, calling the class to attention.

 

“Okay everyone!” He announces. “Today we’ll be doing something different!”

 

And, see, this is what Hermione means when she says she’s bored. ‘Something different’ is something she learned three years ago.

 

Flitwick raises his wand, going through the motions of the spell slowly . “Now you!” He calls, and wands are raised half heartedly and the incantation is mumbled, stumbled through like they’re all unsure first years.

 

Flitwick sighs. “Just keep working on it!” And then he promptly sits, shuffles through some papers.

 

Hermione puts her head in her hands, resisting the urge to groan. 

 

Jesus, does she need to get the fuck out. 

 

“Hey.” Harry nudges her arm.

 

She doesn’t respond.

 

Hey ,” he repeats, flicking her elbow.

 

After a long moment, she lifts her head, raising an eyebrow in question. 

 

He opens his palm, revealing a plastic bottle cap. “Wanna play some mini football?” 

 

“I’m not in the mood.”

 

“Yes, you are.”

 

“No, I’m not.”

 

“You’re just scared of losing.”

 

She scowls slightly. “You-- okay, give me the cap. I get first go.”

 

As the class’s volume rises, everyone else preoccupied with practicing the spell, Harry and Hermione swat the cap around, with a put-out Ron as the score keeper.

 

“I want to go next round,” he says for the third time. 

 

“Yes, Ronald, one moment,” Hermione replies in a murmur, batting the cap past Harry’s hand and into his lap not even a second later. “ Ha !”

 

Harry scowls, tossing the cap to Ron. “You play her. I’m done.”

 

“So tired of losing,” she mutters.

 

“Shut up--!” Harry begins, but the rest of his sentence is drowned out by yells starting up behind them. 

 

Hermione twists, stumbling back as fast as she can as an elbow flies towards her face. With the added help of Harry and Ron yanking her back, she gets out of the way just in time, left conscious to watch as Seamus Finnigan and Anthony Goldstein start slinging spells at each other rapidly, faces contorted in anger.

 

Jesus--

 

A red blast narrowly misses Anthony, spiraling through the window and out into the courtyard. Glass litters the floor, Hermione hears someone scream. 

 

“Boys!” Flitwick tries, but to no avail. 

 

Hermione kicks off her stool, allowing Ron to shove her behind him. 

 

And it all happens so quickly after that.

 

Anthony fires off a hex, something about feet and teeth. Seamus ducks, and it hits Ron square in the chest. He goes down with a choked sputter, but neither boy notices. 

 

They continue.

 

Hermione kneels, fumbling for her wand as she yells the counter. Yell the counter, point her wand at Ron’s purpling face. 

 

A beat passes before Ron’s complexion returns to normal. 

 

“My fucking teeth--!”

 

And then Anthony screams something, Seamus screams something back, people are ducking and running. There’s a bang, and a ball of blue fire is flying right at Hermione’s face. 

 

And there’s a hand on her elbow and pain exploding up her throat, through her ears, out her eyes.

 

She hits the ground, tastes blood and floor wax. 

 

Fuck. 

 

Her vision starts tunneling, black eating at the edges. Someone’s yelling her name. 

 

The last thing she sees before she passes out is a body next to her.

 

Well. She knew it was going to be a bad day.

///

Hermione wakes to silence. Beautiful, all encompassing silence.

 

The Hospital Wing is quiet like that, though. No beeping machines, no rushing nurses, no traffic outside the window. The Hospital Wing is just so silent .

 

Hermione shifts, exhaling softly.

 

Sunlight leaks in through gauzy curtains, Madam Pomfrey’s magically washed sheets just slightly too rough against her skin. 

 

It’s all so wonderful, so entirely comforting--

 

CAW!

 

Hermione starts awake, eyes flying open as the room fills with hooting, chiming, screeching of alarms.

 

Okay. So she isn’t in the Hospital Wing. 

 

Why isn’t she in the Hospital Wing? Being treated to?

 

Her stomach turns as she thinks of the spell hitting her, the floor cool against her cheek. 

 

Okay.

 

Maybe the spell she was hit with was unimportant, maybe the shock of it was bad, but the actual injury wasn’t. Maybe beds were full, maybe they moved her up here and she just never woke up for it. Hadn’t woken up until now-- Saturday morning. A Saturday morning with alarms going off, strangely.

 

Maybe she was never hit. Just dreamed it. Hysterics, panic. Trauma.

 

Though the pain felt incredibly real at the time.

 

“Fucking Merlin, Hermione, turn your fucking alarm off!”

 

Hermione snaps out of her daze, waving her hand, and the wheezing of her alarm, the only sound left in the room, disappears. 8:59, 8:58, 8:57, 8:56, 8:55, 8:54 appears.

 

“Thank you. God.”

 

Hermione sits up slowly.

 

There is no pounding in her head, there are no bandages wrapped around her face, obscuring her vision. Her fingers drift over her forehead, nose, mouth, cheeks. No burns, no scars, no open wounds.

 

Like yesterday never happened.

 

She exhales. Okay. 

 

Saturday. Hogsmeade day, she thinks. She’ll go, she needs to get out of the castle, maybe guilt Seamus into buying her a candy bar or something--

 

Hermione pauses, every thought eddying out of her mind when she sees Padma’s clock. Cartoon owl, covered in dust. May 4th, blinking in red.

 

“Well, that’s not right,” she says aloud.

 

“Shut up!” Someone groans in response.

 

Hermione inhales, exhales. Eyes drift.

 

There’s a spider above Millicent’s bed again. Looks like the same one as yesterday. 

 

Hermione leaves it.

 

Her feet touch the floor, she rises unsteadily. Walks out of the dorm, into the common area, still in her nightgown. 

 

Some of her fellow classmates, the notorious early risers, are bustling about, all in their school robes, bags slung over their backs. Trading tea and coffee, looking absolutely exhausted. 

 

Hermione wants to ask them why they’re all up so early on a Saturday, in their uniforms and laden with books.

 

Are they doing a study session? She’s usually informed of those.

 

The boys’ dorm’s door flies open, a shirtless Seamus sliding into the room with a grin. “ 21 days , you guys!” He yells, whooping.

 

“20 days,” Hermione corrects. “Aren’t there 20?”

 

Seamus laughs, a big burst of laughter, and shakes his head. “21, ‘Mione!”

 

Hermione takes a step back. “It’s just, yesterday--”

 

Seeeaaammmuuss !”

 

Anthony bounds out of the dorm, throwing himself onto Seamus’ back. “21 days!” They yell as they start wrestling in the middle of the common room. 

 

Okay. 

 

Well.

 

There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. There had to be. 

 

Okay. They probably made up after the incident, while she was recovering. Recovering not in the Hospital Wing, but in her bed. Which is weird, but not unheard of. 

 

So, they made up. That’s good. Even if now they’re doubly annoying and still have the wrong date.

 

There was also a perfectly reasonable explanation for why they weren’t apologizing to her for hitting her with a fireball. Of course there was. 

 

Well, they have no manners. There you go.

 

Okay.

 

It’s May 5th , and there’s twenty days until graduation. And she has no injuries, which is a good thing, albeit odd. And everyone is shuffling off to class, for some reason. That’s completely normal, on a Saturday.

 

“Are you okay, Hermione?” Anthony asks, out of breath and face red, from where he’s pinned under Seamus’ knee.

 

“Perfect,” she responds.

 

She tells him this, replies with a cheery perfect, even as a very, very bad feeling starts to claw at her. 

 

Something is wrong. Something is so, so wrong.

 

She forces a smile. “Perfect,” she repeats.