"Hermione, wake up," Ron whispered, shaking my shoulder gently. I stretched my arms and turned to face him. He smiled at me and I leant forward and kissed his smile. Eventually I pulled away and tiredly stumbled to the bathroom. Since the war Harry and I had been living with the Weasleys. I had eventually tracked my parents down in Australia, with help from Ron and Harry and I had restored their memories. We visited them often and they were meeting us this morning at King's Cross to wave me off. I was going back to Hogwarts today to finish my seventh year and as terrified as I was, I was also excited to be back in my second home. It would be hard without Ron, Harry and Ginny, but I felt like it was something I had to do. Ginny was now aspiring to play quidditch professionally and Ron and Harry were hoping to become aurors.
I quickly showered and wrapped myself in my towel. When I went back into my room Ron was gone and I could hear him downstairs in the kitchen talking to Ginny. I walked over to my drawers and got out one of my last pairs of underwear (all the rest were packed ready for my return to Hogwarts) and I slipped them on. I searched through my wardrobe for my favourite pair of comfy deep-blue jeans. I pulled them onto my legs and searched for a shirt. I put on a white shirt, which I covered with a warm grey woollen jumper. I found a pair of socks and once I had put then on I wandered down the stairs to the kitchen. I could smell bacon and eggs, my favourite. I walked into the kitchen and Ginny and Ron were there. Ron was walking round in his underwear and Ginny was in her pyjamas and the red fluffy dressing gown I had bought her for her birthday. She was walking around, cooking a delicious looking breakfast. Molly walked in, she was also in her pyjamas.
"Excited for your first day back?" She asked me.
"Yeah," I answered, forcing a smile.
"Good. Ronald go and put some clothes on! I am not eating my breakfast with you sitting across the table half naked." Molly said sternly, as if she were talking to a child. The way Ron reacted was childish too. He sighed deliberately and huffed his way up the stairs. George and Arthur entered the kitchen, both in their pyjamas also. We all sat at the table and waited for Harry and Ron while everyone discussed my first day back. I occasionally nodded and forced a laugh, but in all honesty, I was getting more and more anxious by the minute. After ten minutes, Harry arrived, looking exhausted. He kissed Ginny on the cheek then took his place at the table, smiling at me. Minutes later Ron finally emerged in a pair of jeans and a deep blue shirt. Ginny served us all breakfast. Everyone scoffed it down, but I ate slowly and I was feeling a bit nauseous. After breakfast I excused myself, saying that I needed to do some extra packing, but it was a lie. I just needed a moment alone. I went to the room Ron and I had been sharing all summer and slowly sunk onto the bed. I heard footsteps outside and there was a knock.
"Come in," I called. Harry opened the door and looked over at me. He came and perched on the end of the bed and looked at me but did not speak. "What do you want?" I asked, quite bluntly.
"What's wrong?" He asked, an empathetic look on his face.
"Nothing," I lied. It was pointless. Harry knew me well enough to know when something was wrong. He gave me a stern look and I sighed. "I just...after everything that happened last year...going back there...so many people died Harry," I was biting my lip trying not to cry. Harry pulled me into a hug.
"You'll be fine Hermione," he whispered in my ear. He got up and left the room. I leant my head back onto my pillow and sighed. I heard the door click and I looked up to see Ron stumble in, bleary eyed.
"God, I'm gonna miss you Hermione," he said, flopping ungracefully onto the bed next to me. He rolled over to face me and I glanced at him. I got up and went into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth and brushed my hair, putting it up into a neat ponytail. I put on a bit of mascara and lip balm then walked back into the bedroom where Ron was still on the bed and was tidying the room with his wand. I checked my trunk one last time to make sure I had everything. "Stop worrying Hermione, you'll be fine," Ron said, which annoyed me. He didn't understand. He should have understood. He lost his brother in that school yet he didn't understand why I was anxious about returning. "We should probably leave soon, it's nearly half six." He told me. The trip from Ron's home to King's Cross was long, nearly four hours, and the thought of the journey was making me even more stressed. We all had to fit into that stupid car. Ron, Harry and Ginny had all insisted on coming, as had Molly so the five of us would be cramped into the tiny metal box for so long. On any other day I wouldn't mind, I loved the spending time with the Weasleys, but today the thought annoyed me. Ron and I left our room, he took my trunk and carried it down the stairs for me. When we got to the bottom Ginny, Harry and Molly were all waiting in their coats and scarves. I quickly grabbed my own coat and I said goodbye to Arthur and George. When I went out to the car Ron had already put my trunk in the boot and everyone was sitting in the cramped car waiting for me. I slid in next to Ron, who was also sitting next to Harry. Ginny sat in the front next to her mother and kept turning around to talk to us. Ron had his arm around my shoulders but after a while it made me feel claustrophobic and I shrugged it off. I barely spoke for the whole journey and I was glad when we finally arrived at King's Cross Station. We all got out of the car and I grabbed my trunk out of the boot. We all ran into the station. I only had four minutes to get onto the train. I saw my parents waiting for me. I ran to them and hugged them both quickly, they knew I was in a rush so they kept it short, simply wishing me luck and telling me to write whenever I could. Once I was finished I ran through the portal. We reached platform 9 and 3/4 with two minutes to go. I quickly hugged Harry, Ginny and Molly and when I came to Ron I kissed him. It was only brief though and I jumped onto the train, waving at the four of them. I found an empty compartment and sat there on my own. I sighed as I sat in the familiar looking train. I was finally feeling comforted. However, I had a feeling things wouldn't stay like this once I was at Hogwarts. I heard a noise and looked up and saw Luna entering the compartment. I stood up and hugged her.
"Luna! How are you?"
"I'm great thank you Hermione, how about you?" She asked, sitting opposite me.
"I'm good thanks Luna. How have you been this summer?"
"It's been okay. Difficult, but okay," she told me, smiling her usual slightly distant, slightly dreamy smile. I smiled back. We didn't have to say anything. I understood completely. Losing Fred had hit the Weasleys hard and the summer had been difficult. It had changed Ron, not necessarily for the better. I still loved him but sometimes it was hard. He was easily angered and being around him was like stepping on egg shells. His sarcasm had been greatly toned down and he was sleeping a lot less. I sometimes wondered whether Harry felt the same way about Ginny but she appeared unchanged. It had simply instilled a greater motivation for life in her, she was determined to make Fred proud.
"Have you spoken to Neville recently?" I asked, trying to distract myself from my thoughts.
"Yeah, I just saw him, he said he'd come and join us in a bit," Luna said, staring out the window. She looked sleepy and I could tell she wanted to sleep so I didn't try to carry on the conversation. A couple of minutes later Luna was just falling asleep when Neville loudly fell into the compartment, waking Luna abruptly.
"Sorry," he muttered, pulling himself together. "Hey Hermione, how was your summer?"
"It was okay," I lied. Neville looked like he was contemplating something as he sat down next to Luna, then he asked the question. "How's Ron?" I wasn't sure how to reply. I gulped and then answered.
"He's doing as well as could be expected." Neville nodded and changed the subject, he and Luna started talking about school but I just stared out the window, dreading the moment we pulled into Hogsmeade station. Slowly but surely the time ticked away and I was becoming increasingly worried. Luna noticed this and gave me a reassuring smile.
"We all have to stick together this year, okay?" She instructed. Neville and I agreed. Finally, we arrived at Hogsmeade. We pulled our robes over our heads, picked up our trunks and climbed onto a carriage. The journey was far too fast for my liking and before I knew it we were all standing outside the castle. Our trunks were taken to our dormitories and we went straight to the Great Hall to watch the first years get sorted. Neville and I sat at back end of the Gryffindor table. Lots of the younger students stared at us. They had all been evacuated during the war and couldn't have ever fully understood the devastation of that day. I looked over at Luna who was sat at the Ravenclaw table, happily chatting away with some others from her year. She could've been evacuated with them, before the war started, but she chose to stay and help fight, as did Ginny. It was because of this that they were told they would not be asked to return this year, but could still leave with full qualifications. While Ginny had chosen to leave, Luna wanted to come back. I didn't really understand why. For me, I had always been academic, I felt the need to come back and finish my studies. Neville had told me he came back because Hogwarts was like home to him and if he could put off leaving for another year then he would. I wonder if Luna had the same reasoning as him.
Neville and I sat in silence, waiting for the sorting to begin. We could see the small stool at the front of the hall with the sorting hat perched on top. It looked far more run down that it had done in previous years, and as the sorting started it was croaking at the house names, much unlike the usual dramatic presentation it would give. Professor McGonagall was sitting at the headmaster's seat and she too, looked completely exhausted. She had stepped in as headmistress after the war, something everyone was incredibly glad about. When the sorting was finished she stood up and spoke.
"Welcome back students and to the first years, welcome. Obviously last year was not a normal year at Hogwarts and we have chosen to make some changes in school to make Hogwarts hopefully more together than ever. For a start, you will no longer have to sit with just your house when you come for meals. There will no longer be an individual table for the four houses, instead you will be mixed. Classes will also be mixed between the houses." There were cheers and Luna and I smiled at each other. Some of the younger Slytherins looked greatly displeased, however, the older ones, whilst not exactly being happy about the situation, simply nodded their heads and kept their mouths shut. The war wouldn't change them fully, but it had humbled them ever so slightly. "Next, we have put up a boundary around the Forbidden Forest which will stop anyone under the age of 17 from entering." This meant Neville and I would be the only students in school who would be able to enter, until people in the year below started turning seventeen. "Finally, we have several new members of staff," she reeled off what seemed like hundreds of names and then finally took a breath. She finally finished her speech with, "now, you may eat." The food appeared on the tables and the first years looked mystified. Neville and I ate, speaking about the new professors.
"He looks boring," Neville remarked. I laughed and looked at the professor he was talking about. He was a short man with a goatee and receding hairline. Neville then pointed out another, who looked like she hadn't eaten in months. We laughed as she scoffed down her meal and discussed how on earth she was still so skinny. Once we had finished we escaped before the tsunami of first years could hit the common room. We said goodbye to Luna and agreed to meet for breakfast tomorrow and left for the common room.