The dim light passed faintly through the velvet curtains of her four posted bed, announcing the beginning of another day... no, not another day... THE Day...
I guess this is it... at last...
Soft giggles indicated that her roommates were already awake. She sighed and raised to face her most feared day... the last day at school.
"Good morning girls..." she stopped, awaking completely at the sight of the dormitory. The usually bare walls were covered with balloons and faeries, while a soft cheerful tune surrounded the air.
At the middle of the dormitory was a table with enough seats for all the girls.
The table had golden dishes and goblets, as well as a lovely decoration in Gryffindor colors. On top of each dish appeared a nice envelope with the name of each girl.
Trying to overcome her surprise, Hermione walked to the table and took the envelope at the center of the table, addressed to the seventh year girls.
To our newest graduate Gryffindor witches,
My most sincere congratulations on this step of your lives. This breakfast is a tradition kept over the centuries in Hogwarts.
Enjoy the end of your school life. Ahead of you lies the beginning of your lives.
Gryffindor Head of House
She sighed and took seat in the place where an envelope with her name lay. As a signal, all the girls sat. A magnificent breakfast appeared on the table immediately.
This is the beginning of the end
Taking the envelope into the pocket of her nightgown, Hermione tried to focus on the conversation and enjoy the brief peaceful moments before the first class.
"I was wondering..." this thoughtful words had the virtue to return her mind to reality. Ron was walking by her side, his face serious, but a kind and understanding expression in his eyes.
He was waiting for her to answer, showing a degree of patience unbelievable for anyone who didn't know him... but she did.
"I'm sorry Ron... my mind is a little..." She couldn't continue, unable to find the proper words.
"Lost... I know..." the redheaded finished the phrase for her. It was amazing the degree of understanding that he had achieved on the last few days. "It will be fine Hermione... just take one moment at a time and everything will be fine... by the way, I was wondering if you would like to come with me to the Hospital Wing..." he took an envelope from his pocket. The seal was still on it, and a brief glance to the name in it was enough explanation.
She nodded and stared at the floor, suddenly saddened. A single tear ran through her cheeks... a tear that had all her emotions mixed in it. A careful finger wiped the tear away, and a hand tenderly hold her chin to lift her face up.
Brown, tearful eyes met the blue concerned ones.
"It's been only one week... but it feels like a whole life... since... since..." Ron placed a finger on her lips, silencing her softly.
"I know. We must have faith Hermione... and we must hurry if we really want to go before our last Charms class."
A little smile crossed her lips. She really needed to smile.
The room was full of light, clean and cold... as always. Madam Pomfrey nodded simply when they entered, giving them a silver key without a word.
The three knew the routine by now...
At the end of the wing were some closed rooms for special cases. After opening the door, the key vanished to retun to the mediwitch'es pocket.
The door closed with a faint sound, and Ron took out the envelope to gather courage before taking the first step through the curtain, followed by Hermione.
"Hey mate... it's us... Ron and Hermione... it's the last day of school and you got some mail..."
Both took seat beside the bed, already used to have no reply. In the middle of such silence it almost seemed like a scandal the sound of the seal breaking and the parchment opening. When he spoke again, Ron's voice was soft and hushed, keeping an official business tone.
Dear Mr. Potter,
It's a pleasure to invite you to join the Auror's Academy to begin your auror training.
We have no doubts that your required NEWT grades will be satisfactory and after your great services to the Wizard community we can only congratulate you on achieving the great honor of deserving a place among us.
We have notice of your current delicate health, so we already made the necessary arrangements to begin your training whenever you can join us, so time won't be a problem...
Ron didn't finish the letter, his eyes sparkling with fury. However, when he spoke again, his voice was under control.
"Congratulations mate! You did it!... I'll leave the letter on your table so you can see it when you want..." He remained in silence for a few moments before continuing "Guess what? Neville will join the staff next year!... Professor Sprout needs an assistant... you know, loosing an arm on the battle..."
He fell into a deep silence now. Hermione, unable to speak, just kept holding her friend's hand, silent tears running freely at the sight of him.
He still wore his school uniform, clean and perfectly arranged by the house elves every day. His Head Boy badge as clean and polished as the day when he received it with astonished eyes... those green eyes that were now closed. His face was calm... after many months of little sleep, stress and constant fear... he was now relaxed... now that he had defeated Lord Voldemort and vanquished him forever...
But that last battle had a price... the peace that now everyone felt came at a price...
And for now, until a moment still unknown, Harry Potter would lie on this bed... in comma...
"We will come later mate... before the Feast... "
Ron folded the letter and placed it on the table by the bedside.
Both students left the wing before Ron began punching the wall in a fit of rage.
How long could a day become?
Her wrist watch marked ten minutes for the class to end... then lunch time, another class... free afternoon and the End of Term Feast... it surely didn't sound like too much... but the time seemed to slow on purpose...
Turning back to watch the face of her classmates, she felt many doubts come to haunt her again...
This is the end of a school life... nothing more... How hard can it be to enter the real life?... find a job, rent a place for living... maybe have a family of my own in a few years...
That sound great... yes... great... but she still couldn't see herself out of school. She had tried many times to imagine her future, but she could only see darkness... and that never meant anything to her... until now... until the moment when she needed to give the step, she couldn't figure where to go... what to do next...
And that surely scared her to death...
"Hermione?" This was becoming part of the routine too... Ron awaking her from her thoughts. " Let's go outside to have lunch... you need fresh air to clear your mind..."
He didn't await her answer this time. He took her hand and her schoolbag.
With a swift wand move, both schoolbags turned the size of a marble and he pocketed them. Without letting her hand go, he began walking hurriedly down the stairs.
The lake had returned to normal by now... a week ago the water was red... red with the blood of all those who died in the sudden attack of the Dark forces against Dumbledore... the battle where Harry faced his destiny and defeated the Dark Lord...
It was hard not to think of all those lives lost on that day after the last NEWT exam... even the examiners joined the battle...
And among those dark memories, they still sat enjoying a basket full of a wonderful lunch that Dobby had prepared for them.
"Dobby surely knows what we like to eat... Remind me to buy him a new set of clothes when I get my first payment."
Hermione watched him thoughtfully, finishing her sandwich before speaking.
"Do you have an offer?"
The red headed nodded proudly and took out an envelope with his name on it. He gave it to her to read before taking some pumpkin juice and another sandwich.
Hermione read the letter, feeling glad for him to have found a good spot to work. He surely deserved it.
"This is in Hogsmeade, right? " he simply nodded. "You will be near if Harry recovers... that's just... great... what will you do there? "
"I'll be a simple sales clerk on a book shop... that will help me to do some research in my spare time to help Madam Pomfrey, and will help me to remember you every second of my time. "
With those last words, he became serious once again. After pausing a second, he lowered his goblet and his sandwich to the ground. She noticed the meaning of his words, unable to believe what he had just said. With a soft sigh, Ron took something out of his pocket and got nearer her, holding both her hands in his. He stared at the floor for a few moments before focusing her face once more.
"I know I've been a fool for a long time, I have said many things that hurt you in the past, and made many stupid things to understand what I truly feel for you Hermione... But the battle made me understand that you are here... and I wish to be with you for the rest of my life... I will begin a new job, and have my family's blessing upon this... I wish to devote my life and soul to you..." he let her hands go, leaving a delicate golden ring with a multicolored, heart shaped diamond on it, on her palm. He closed her hand over the ring, finishing his sentence. "I would be the happiest man on Earth if you accept to be my wife Hermione... but I will let you think about it... don't answer me now... do it when you feel it's the moment..."
He let her hand go again, just to place a soft kiss on her forehead, before grabbing his sandwich again, in a friendly silence.
Hermione felt numb... she felt the weight of the ring on her closed hand, and the smell of him still near her. She continued eating with one hand, not opening the other hand for the rest of the lunch time. Her head was swirling with all her doubts like never before.
When the time came, Ron resized the schoolbags, and both departed to their last class... him of Divination, and she of Arithmancy.
How can such a simple thing can involve so many meanings?... How a simple phrase can change life so quickly?...
This class was surely a torture... Each single second of it draw closer the end of school for her... and while she had cursed time for being slow a few hours ago... this time it was too fast... She barely heard the words of Professor Vector, like if everything was unreal... like a dream...
Her hand was still closed, her mind swirling with thoughts faster and faster...
And the questions are still there... all of them... What should I do now?
The bell rang, marking the end of everything... She barely noticed her own steps to the tower... she didn't recall giving the Fat Lady the password, nor her entering to her dormitory to place her books for the last time in her trunk... She cleaned everything, making sure that nothing will remain behind when she left the next day...
She sat on her bed and closed her curtains to have some privacy. She lit her wand to finally think over the things that happened that day... just one single day...
At last, she opened her hand, revealing the ring Ron gave her... It was just marvelous... each side of the jewel sparkled with a different shade of light, the carving was simply perfect... and the ring seemed to be made to fit her hand... and only her hand...
She closed her eyes and tried to imagine a future with Ron... with little kids with bright red hair, and wonderful blue eyes... She could almost see them... but not quite...
She opened her eyes and placed the ring in front of her, before taking the envelope she had received in the morning... by now, she knew that most of the letters had job opportunities for most of the seventh years... while very few of them had study offers, or just a simple greeting card for finishing school.
It was time to open that letter, and find for herself if her future could have some answers...
The letter was surely long... and, strange, it had three parchments, instead of just one... A studies offer... a degree in advanced magic research... that would be interesting... to keep studying and delay her worries for some years more... A job offer at the Ministry of Magic... she somehow didn't like the idea at all... it didn't even mention in which department it would be... And a scientific research development facility... Science and magic... together?... that surely could bait her curiosity...
She laid back, playing with the ring again in her hand... her closed eyes were a great help to imagine herself with any of those chances of future... the four of them... and even mix them to find more possibilities...
Someone was calling for her downstairs... it was time to put the ring on her pocket and hide her letter under her pillow...
The second visit to the Hospital Wing was longer, but held a lot less conversation than the first one... and it was soon time to head for the Great Hall for the Feast.
They walked slowly, deliberately making it as long as possible, to enjoy the corridors for the last time, and saying goodbye to some ghosts that passed by.
"Guess who will be retiring this year? " Ron finally tried to make an attempt for casual conversation. He smiled at her inquiring eyes. "Professor Trelawney decided that the school is a bad place for her inner eye and will leave to where she may find her inner peace again... How far is the Tibet, by the way?"
Both laughed joyfully at this idea, reaching the Great Hall at last. The decorations were in black, as a silent tribute for all those who died in the battle... even the Hall was a lot less crowded than a week before... Dumbledore's words were stained with sadness and regret, but his words also held a message of hope... Even the words dedicated for Harry, who was still unconscious and fighting for his own life were placed in their right place.
And among all those words... Hermione finally saw a distant image in front of her... Her destiny wasn't written yet... she made her own future each moment that passed by, and each memory she held would help her to find her own path and unveil her future...
She suddenly could see herself dressed with a shiny white lab cloak, receiving some owl from Ron with some helpful information to cure Harry's problem... she almost heard a phone ringing nearby, and her mother's voice telling her that her child had just fallen asleep after a day full of games... She saw her future in her own hands, as bright as the most wonderful dream she ever had... and she didn't notice the tears running through her cheeks, while she placed the ring on her left hand.
No one noticed her tears, since most of the school had their own, but a hand on her left hand told her that the man sitting beside her had tears of happiness in his own eyes.
Who said it was the beginning of the end?... no... At the end, this is the beginning.