It's strange being home again, after all this time. It almost makes me feel as though it was all some horrible nightmare. Everything seems so ordinary here, as if the war never touched it. I suppose it didn't. It's so odd, this feeling. It's odd not having my hand tightly gripping my wand. It's odd sitting here without worrying. I can't help but be a little sad that relaxing on my own couch is something so… foreign to me now. It's hard not to think about what I could have had if I hadn't been fighting a war. I shouldn't complain though. I have a fresh start. Not everyone was so lucky.
"The war is over."
How do you come home after all this time and explain to your Muggle parents why you left? How am I supposed to tell them? I love them, of course I do, but they haven't truly understood me since I was eleven. I shouldn't expect them to understand. I've been keeping it from them for so long and now I don't know how I can explain. How do you explain a war to people who've never seen it? I guess part of me just wants to be six years old again, listening to a fairy tale on Mum's lap, when magic was the stuff of dreams. The reality is different. The heroes don't always come home.
I'm not saying that I didn't love it. Merlin, even knowing what was coming, what it would mean, I still would have gone to Hogwarts. Sometimes I just wish that Mum and Dad could have come with me. Ever since I left for school there's been this wall between us that I can't scale. It happens with everyone, I suppose; kids grow up. But eleven is so very young…
"Well that's all right then, isn't it? Hermione?"
All I want is for things to go back to normal. But there is no normal, not for me. Not for Harry, or Ron, or Ginny, or anyone who had to fight this war. The war was our normal. Now it's over. What are we supposed to do now? It's been life or death since I was eleven. I don't remember how to live any other way. How can my parents possibly understand that?
"It's… It's not easy."
Harry's at Grimmauld Place. He's been hiding there since after the battle. I can't say I blame him. We've got no right to blame him, anyway. Ginny says he needs some time… to adjust. Don't we all? We never had time to grieve, during the war. There was always something else to be done, more lives to save than lives to mourn. Now we have all the time in the world, and the grief hits. We can't run forever. Harry… Harry's too tired to run anymore. He just needs some time to grieve.
"Was it that bad, dear? Are you all right?"
You know, it's odd, but I almost miss it. Is that wrong? I was used to it, you know? And I had my friends. Ron, Harry, Ginny, Neville, Luna - we were all so young and… happy. Yes, I think we were happy. Harry had the most trouble; he had the most right to be bitter, and even Harry had his happy moments. It was a war, yes, but we were still just kids; there was no changing that. And we were so determined. So utterly foolish. To think of a band of teenagers going after the most feared wizard in a century! That idealism, that fire, I miss that. I think I've lost it. It's not good to have time to sit and think about the war.
"It was bad. Did I tell you, last summer, that Dumbledore died?"
I always used to wonder how Dumbledore could stand it. He fought a war before ours. Grindelwald, Dumbledore defeated him before anyone had even heard of Voldemort. I used to wonder how he could just keep fighting, when it seemed like every time you won, there was a new battle to be fought. I don't wonder anymore. It's easier to fight than to sit and think about the ones who didn't make it. It's easier to keep fighting than to think about who could have been saved if you had done it differently!
"Snape killed him. Harry saw it happen."
Is this what it's like to be Harry? Is this what he lives with? In between battles… the sitting, the waiting, the wondering… Does he blame himself for everyone who didn't make it? Does he still see their faces in his nightmares? I can't sleep anymore. There's no reason to sleep anymore. I don't have to keep my strength up anymore. I can let myself go.
"But then… the school… Who ran the school?"
I thought it would have been so hard, to give up that head girl badge. I thought that that was the thing I wanted most in the world. But when I held it in my hands that day, I didn't even really see it. Nothing more than a piece of metal. I knew what was important, and it wasn't that.
"I didn't go to school last year."
McGonagall's offered the three of us a place at Hogwarts this year. She says that she won't let the famous trio turn into a bunch of dropouts. I don't know if I want to go. It won't be the same, will it? It'll never be the same. It's not just Hogwarts that has changed.
"There were more important things I had to do."
Dumbledore said that everyone has to choose between what is right and what is easy. He made it seem like the choice was a hard one. It wasn't. Not for us, anyway. We never had time to think about it, until now. At least, I didn't. I think Harry did, and that's what upset him so. He understood what the war would mean for us before we ever realized… I might have memorized what Dumbledore said that night when it all started, but Harry… Harry took it to heart. After Dumbledore died, he thought about it a lot, I think. It wasn't an easy choice for him, I think. He wanted to save everyone, and I think in his heart he knew that was impossible. The rest of us were too busy being terrified for our own lives.
"But it's over now. I've… I've come home for a little while."
I guess I'll stay home and rest now. I don't know what else to do. I feel so odd here, with Mum looking at me as though I'm eight years old again and I've woken up after a nightmare. But she can't make these ghosts go away. I'm not sure I would even want her to. Which life is the nightmare, really? Could I ever go back to this? I feel like I've wandered back into my former self. I could almost be a Muggle again. That would be normal, wouldn't it? That's what I want, things to be normal. But they were never normal… They were never normal.
"I'm safe now."
It's funny how awful I was at Defense Against the Dark Arts when we were in class. Oh, I know, I know, an "E" is hardly awful. I don't want to hear it. I had wanted an "O," and as far as I was concerned then, I had failed. I know better now. It's so very different when you're fighting for your life. Harry used to say that all the time. He said we didn't understand. He was right. He looks so sad now, when he sees the understanding in my eyes. He didn't want us to understand. It was good though, the DA I mean. He taught us as much as we could learn without… without seeing it. He was right; when we were fighting Death Eaters, it wasn't like class. In class, I had time to think, to worry. That's not good for me.
"Did you know what was happening, all this time?"
I wonder if they knew how close they were to being killed. I wonder if they didn't shiver every time another "hurricane" was reported. When I left last summer, all I said was that there was a war and that I had to stay somewhere safer. I didn't give them time to ask questions. But they're not thick. I used to hate myself for leaving them like that, to worry about me, to wonder whether I was alive or dead. But I think it was still a fairy tale to them, really. How could it not be? Voldemort was just a story to them… a villain to haunt their dreams, but nothing more. I'm the one who stepped over the line from their normal universe into the magical one. I don't know what to think or how I should feel anymore. It was horrible and cruel, this war. But it has been my life for years and I can't just wake up and go back to normal life as if it never happened! I can't forget and I can't move on and I can't help but miss how sure everything was then. We knew what we wanted and what we were living for. Harry, Ron and I, everyone who fought, we gave up everything to win the war. What's left for us now?
A/N: Harry Potter isn't mine. I just borrowed him and his friends for a bit. Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think. (That means review ;) ) And, of course, a very big thank you to my lovely beta Mari!