The Sugar Quill
Author: Zsenya (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Writing History  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author’s Note: This story fits into the “After the End” universe. Credit to Arabella for Perscribus, Godric Gryffindor and the creation of the ceiling in the Great Hall and for Hermione’s diary, of course. All of the characters belong to JK Rowling.

This story is dedicated to all of the people who decided to write diaries, letters, and stories and to all of their ancestors who chose to save them. They make my job very enjoyable.

Thank you to Elanor Gamgee and Arabella for beta-reading.

~*~

"Should anyone do me the honor to read these pages, I will satisfy his or her curiousity…"
Susan Mathiot Gale, appending her diary in 1868, nine years after her last entry.

~*~

Hermione Granger had never felt more like she was in a dream than at this moment. The Hogwarts grounds were covered in a thick, purple-grey fog – the result of too much magic in one place at one time. She reflected that there was no way that Muggles in nearby villages would miss the glow in the nighttime sky and she made a note to try to find a Muggle newspaper in the morning, if she could.

Harry was sitting on the ground, propped up against a large fallen limb of the Whomping Willow. He was alive. He had defeated Voldemort. They’d all defeated Voldemort. Sirius was sitting with him – neither was speaking, and neither looked truly happy. She didn’t feel happy herself yet. Ron, sporting a few scrapes and a nasty gash on his shoulder, but no other injuries, had gone off with his father to help clear away bodies, capture Death Eaters who were in too much shock to Disapparate, and to round up the injured. Neville Longbottom was helping Professor Sprout dig through the wrecked greenhouses to try to salvage some medicinal plants. Hermione was supposed to be helping Ginny Weasley perform Healing Charms on those who the rescue teams returned to the patch of ground that they had turned into a makeshift infirmary.

But no one really seemed to need help. Everywhere she looked, as she walked across the grounds, people were already sleeping, wearing bandages, and being comforted by loved ones. Lavender Brown had her arms around a sobbing Seamus Finnigan. Padma Patil was cleaning a wound on her sister Parvati’s leg. Hermione stumbled a bit as she walked, as though she had put on Harry’s glasses and was seeing things out of focus.

“What was it like, Gran? When it ended, how did you feel?” Hermione began an inner monologue with herself. She felt, much as she had ever since she had entered Hogwarts, that she should be recording what was going on, that she was a part of history, that what she had been through meant something. She tried to distance herself – to pretend like all of this was fifty years in the past. The red-headed grandchild on her knee wanted an answer, and she challenged herself to tell the story correctly.

“DON’T TOUCH HIM!” The scream awoke Hermione from her imaginings and squinting into the distance, she saw Draco Malfoy’s familiar white-blond head. He was bent over a gray heap on the ground, and waving his arms to keep the team of wizards and witches that had approached him at bay. His father… Hermione felt a pang of sympathy for Draco; she knew what it was like to have your parents torn away from you. Then she remembered that Draco’s father was the one responsible for her own parents’ condition, although at least they were still alive. She watched, detached, as Draco stumbled to his feet. “I’ll take him home,” he hissed. Draco muttered a spell, and then hoisted Lucius Malfoy’s limp body over his shoulder, as if he weighed no more than a feather. She had no idea where Draco planned to go to get back home, but she supposed he was going to walk to Hogsmeade and look for a fireplace.

She watched Draco a moment longer, and then turned back to face Hogwarts. The castle itself was still standing. She found herself drawn to it, and imagined that she could hear it speaking to her. Slowly, she trudged towards it, turning her head every few steps to make sure she wasn’t being followed – she couldn’t shake the feeling that this was not yet over. When she drew closer, she saw that the building had not escaped damage. The lower levels were pockmarked with darkened holes where curses had missed people and bounced off the stone. Scorch marks formed a sloppy pattern that seemed to continue to the tops of the turrets. She climbed the main stairs towards the Entrance Hall, and held her breath as she stuck her head around the enormous open wooden doors to look inside.

It wasn’t as bad as she had imagined. It was – messy. Hogwarts, as she had known it, had always been kept impeccably clean by the house-elves. Now she was greeted by the site of several dozen house-elves quietly going about trying to re-hang tapestries on the walls and repair broken torches. Hermione marveled for a moment at the skill of the house-elf magic – most were still without wands, yet they managed to levitate and move items with little effort.

Walking towards the Great Hall, she felt as though she were a character in a story. The house-elves didn’t seem to notice her presence and she had the impression that she might be able to slide through one of the walls like a ghost if she really put her mind to it. As soon as the thought crossed her mind, Nearly Headless Nick floated through the doors to the Great Hall, a somber expression on his face. A cold breeze surround her when he halted, blocking her way.

“How bad is it?” she asked. No point in pretending that there would be anything good to see inside – the battle had started in there.

He shook his head slowly – it wobbled where it sat upon his neck. “Miss Granger, I have been at Hogwarts for over 450 years, and I have never, ever seen anything…”

Hermione held up her hand and said, “I want to see.”

“I really do not think …”

But Hermione stepped around him, and with a heave, pushed open one of the doors. What she saw made the first tears appear in her eyes.

The Great Hall was a mess as well. Two of the four long tables were overturned and two were broken entirely in half. Melted wax from the candles that usually floated above their heads coated everything in a thick, pasty film. There was food all over the floor. Peeves was bobbing up and down in a corner, emitting a nervous sort of laugh, most likely amazed, for once, that he was not the cause of the disaster. Hermione had left the Hall almost as soon as the battle had begun; she and Ron, along with Ginny, Remus and Sirius had formed a tight circle around Harry, and Harry had done his best to break away from them, despite all of their earlier talks and preparation. She shivered. It was breezy in the room. She looked up and saw the entire ceiling mimicking the purple mist from outside.

“Tell us about Hogwarts!” Her most vivid memory, her most magical memory, was of that ceiling. She’d often wondered how detailed the mirage in the ceiling was – if a bird flew above outside, would they see it depicted above their heads? She’d looked, and decided that the ceiling only copied the weather, and not anything else. And the mist wasn’t really weather – it was more like a bird, flying temporarily across the dark sky. Hermione squinted and stepped on top of one of the benches to get a closer look. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

Half of the ceiling was gone. The violet fog was slowly drifting down towards the floor. For the first time, Hermione could tell that the ceiling in the Great Hall was merely a mirage. The real sky was obvious and overpowering.

How would they fix it? She’d read, in Hogwarts: A History about the construction of the ceiling, about how Godric Gryffindor himself had painted it, and then the four founders had used their combined magic to bring it to life. Who existed in the present with so much power? There must be a way to repair everything – to make it work, to turn it into a place where her children and grandchildren would someday learn.

With new purpose, Hermione turned on her heel and rushed out of the Great Hall.

“Lumos.” She let the light from her wand guide her up the many familiar staircases, and as she climbed into the depths of the castle, the damage was minimal, and she could pretend that she was out late, running after Harry or Ron as they attempted to do something that would most likely get them all in trouble.

The Fat Lady was talking quietly with her friend Vi when Hermione approached the portrait hole.

“Is it true? Is You-Know-Who really defeated?” the Fat Lady asked.

Hermione nodded and the Fat Lady let out an exclamation of glee.

“As Head Girl, I’d like to change the password.”

The Fat Lady nodded. Hermione gave the old password, uttered the spell and then, “Bloody hell!” Vi giggled and the Fat Lady opened her eyes wide but Hermione ignored them and climbed through the portrait hole. She still couldn’t shake the feeling that someone might be following her. There was only one person whom she’d want to admit into Gryffindor Tower on this evening, and he’d figure out the password soon enough.

Being inside the common room felt like stepping back in time many years. Hermione could barely believe that just a week earlier, they’d been in there studying for exams. She couldn’t believe that on the morning of this same day she’d woken in her bed, come downstairs, looked out of the window and seen green and sunlight. There was no fire burning in the fireplace and the torches had not been lit. She was in too much of a hurry to light them, and she ran up the stairs to her dormitory by the soft glow of her wand.

Her room remained as she had left it, and she quickly conjured a small bluebell flame and circled the room to light the torches. She blinked at the brightness, even though the room was relatively dim, and then threw herself across her bed, reaching for her bedside table. There, underneath several quills and pieces of parchment, was what she needed. Hogwarts: A History.

She pulled the whole pile onto the bed with her and sat up, cradling the heavy book on her knees. Hermione opened the thick book from the already-loose rear cover, and flipped back a few pages. She read:

*

Chapter 387

The Death of Dumbledore

Entry by Minerva McGonagall (1917 - ), Gryffindor, Headmistress, Professor, Quidditch Captain, Registered Animagus

*

Professor McGonagall had submitted the last chapter almost immediately following Dumbledore’s dramatic disappearance on the banks of the Hogwarts lake. Hermione’s copy had been automatically magically updated at the end of the summer following her fifth year.

Who would write the next chapter? Professor McGonagall again? From the look of the devastation on the grounds, in the Entrance Hall, and in the Great Hall, Hermione figured that the Headmistress would have plenty of other tasks to keep her busy in the coming months. Besides, Professor McGonagall had not been present for everything. Even in this last chapter, there were bits and pieces that weren’t entirely accurate. Hermione stopped for a moment to consider the imperfections of history in general. This book in front of her had been her guide, her comfort, her security. And yet, over and over, the older she grew, she had found pieces of information that didn’t quite make sense, that didn’t fit. All history was biased and tainted. House-elves were evidence of that. But the future was pure and unblemished. And in order for her to think about that, she had to first document the thoughts fighting for time in her head.

Hermione scooted closer to her bedside table and opened a bottle of ink. Using Hogwarts: A History as a hard surface, she unrolled the end of a half-used roll of parchment. It should be enough, she thought, and then she could start her future with a new roll. And there was so much she had to do – this was her seventh year, and it was essentially over. She had to find a job, a place to live, and a cure for her parents… but first…

*

Chapter 388

The End of Voldemort

As soon as she wrote the name, she turned her head and quickly surveyed the room. It was deafeningly quiet. She’d never actually written the name, although she’d got herself in the habit of saying it, when necessary.

Entry by Hermione Granger, Gryffindor, Head Girl, Member: Order of the Phoenix

*

And she began to write.

~*~

Hermione didn’t know, or care, how much time had passed. Her fingers ached, her quill was dull, her writing sloppy. With every sentence, she felt her strength and her mind return to her. She was nearly at the end of the roll, and nearly done with her story. She didn’t hear Ron stumble through the portrait hole downstairs and eventually push open the door to her dormitory. She jumped when she heard a voice ask, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Ron was standing in the doorway, his face half covered by shadows. He looked so much older than he had when she’d last seen him on the grounds. She still hadn’t quite grown used to the fact that he was eighteen and not a child anymore. When she looked at him, she almost always saw the floppy red hair, sheepish smile, and mass of freckles that marked him as a Weasley. Do I really look like Grandpa? Now she saw a tall young man, hair short, but still bright, and clear blue eyes that were now looking at her with frustration.

All she could do was smile at him. Looking at him made her happy. “Just one minute,” she said softly. “I’m almost done.”

And with that, she dipped her quill in the inkbottle one last time, ignored Ron’s loud sigh, and finished her sentence.

“There,” she said, placing the parchment and quill back on her bedside table, “now we can talk. I see you figured out the password.”

“Wasn’t hard,” Ron said, his voice sounding strained. “I just wish I’d been there when you set it.”

Hermione smiled, and motioned to him to sit next to her on the bed. “I think it surprised the Fat Lady as well, but this is a time for new things to happen.”

Ron let out a short laugh. “So you’ve made a resolution to start swearing?” He sat on the edge of her bed, not quite next to her. Hermione looked at the rip in his robes, and noticed that the gash on his shoulder was no longer there.

“What happened?” she asked, scooting over to get a closer look. “Did Madam Pomfrey heal it that quickly?”

“No, it was Fawkes. He started following McGonagall around the grounds and helping.” Ron reached up to touch the exposed skin. “Feels like nothing ever happened.”

Hermione reached up to touch it as well. Ron caught her hand in his and held onto it tightly. He took a deep, visible breath, and said in a tone that was low, and almost threatening, “Now tell me, what the hell was so important that you had to run away like that? I came back with Dad and no one had seen you. Ginny didn’t know where you were. Harry didn’t know. There are still Death Eaters who got away, you know. I thought…”

He stopped. He was squeezing her hand so tightly that it was starting to hurt. Ron was looking at her as if she was a ghost and she realized why he was upset.

“Oh,” she said softly, drawing even closer to him and putting an arm around his waist, but not pulling her other hand away from his. “I – I just had to leave. It was all too much like a dream and I had to take myself to someplace that was untouched. I should have told someone, but I didn’t even th-” She stopped herself, but what she had been about to say was not lost on Ron. He snorted.

“You didn’t think? Is that what you were going to say? Wait.” He held up his wand, which he still clenched tightly in his other hand. “Perscribus,” he said solemnly and held his wand up to her mouth. “Now, say it again.”

“I won’t,” she said stubbornly, pushing the wand out of the way. “Turn it off.”

Ron laughed in earnest this time. She could feel his muscles relax. “Nice to see that making fun of me is calming you down,” she said, feigning anger. Ron released her hand and drew her into an embrace. She heard him mutter into her hair, “Hermione, you have to promise me that you won’t let anything happen to you. Don’t go running off. Don’t think you’re protected. We could have died tonight as well, but just because we made it doesn’t mean everything is over. I’ve seen more dead people tonight than I ever care to see again in my life.”

Hermione ran her hands up and down his back. “I know,” she answered. “Me too.”

Ron’s voice sounded very thick when he answered. “I kept thinking – I mean, what would I feel like if one of those bodies was you? I was almost sick. And then, when I didn’t see you anywhere…. What were you writing anyway? What was so important? Couldn’t your diary wait until morning?”

Hermione knew that Ron had always been a bit jealous of her diary. She pulled away from him, blushing slightly. “I wasn’t writing in my diary,” she answered. Sighing, she asked, “Do you promise not to laugh?”

“Yes,” answered Ron, shaking his head.

She reached for the roll of parchment and handed it to him. Ron read in silence for a few seconds, and she watched him purse his lips, trying to hold in his laughter. She tried to get annoyed with him and found she couldn’t do it. She laughed, and Ron let out a loud snort. Soon they were both laughing so hard that they fell back on the bed and it was several minutes before either could speak.

“I’ll always be competing with that damned book, won’t I?”

“Watch your language, Ron.”

“Oh, so it’s okay for you to swear…”

“It’s not okay, and I’ll never do it again,” she said primly.

Ron rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow. “Hermione,” he said, reaching for her hand again, “do you think that now… things will start to be… normal?”

This time it was Hermione who snorted. “Normal?” she asked. “What’s normal? I don’t think I even know.”

“This, for starters,” he answered and leaned forward to kiss her. All her remaining anxiety was replaced by a feeling that she was flying. She reached out to pull him closer to her, and they remained there for quite a while, enjoying the feeling of being young, alive, and in love.

Most importantly, they were, for the first time, without fear.

//
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