Big thanks goes out to my wonderful beta, SSB!
Hermione continued to replay the kiss in her mind again and again, for lack of anything better to occupy her time. She had no responsibilities, no obligations of any sort to distract her from otherwise mulling over the last few moments she'd had with the Slytherin.
It had been a sudden, unanticipated move, but once it had happened, it had been absolutely delightful. However, she had no opportunity to pursue an explanation or—which was what she would like to do, should she get a chance to see him in person—experience it again. The memory alone had her tingling with pleasure. She had not even thought to compare it to her previous experiences which, in retrospect, simply did not measure up. Trying to quantify how he had tasted so that she could imprint each aspect of the moment in her mind, she nevertheless found herself obsessing over it with nothing to distract her from it.
It was a kiss. A simple kiss that changed everything. At one point, she felt angry that he had put it off for so long and only done it moments before he was about to leave. Another time, she wondered if she had been used, though she discarded the thought rather quickly. Again, she wondered what underlying implications it gave face to. Their relationship had been strictly platonic up until the point—that very point just before he left—and now she was working on uneven, uncharted ground.
Did she like him that way? Given the way that single kiss had made her feel, she had to answer with a resounding 'yes'.
It was aggravating beyond measure that she could not go and find him so that she could get the answers to her questions. If she could have that, then she could sort out what had happened and what would happen next. But she simply could not. For one, she had no idea where he was right now. At Malfoy Manor? Some obscure location on the British Isles? Was he even in the country? He probably wasn't even in any position to owl her, given that she had not yet received any kind of post. He always kept his promises, and he had promised to write. She would hold him to that.
Yet, despite the pleasure and confusion dancing around each other in tandem in her head, her mood quickly sobbered when she looked at cold hard facts.
He had kissed her. She had enjoyed it immensely. It was very high on the list of things she wanted to repeat.
She had been kissed by a man who would soon have the Dark Mark branded on his forearm.
That was not a happy thought, and to prevent herself from going stir-crazy from attempting to overanalyze it, she tried to push the experience aside altogether and to not dwell on it too much. With the students gone, there was too little and yet so much to do. She spent a great deal of time in the library, and arranged to resume practicing Occlumency once a week with the Headmaster to make ensure her barriers remained strong, though she had consistently practiced exercises at night throughout the year for such reasons. Occasionally, Moody or Shacklebolt would drop by to see Dumbledore, and would stop to give her a bit of dueling practice.
Since she was now of legal age to Apparate and perform magic outside of school, she paid a visit to Diagon Alley and got a summer job working at Flourish and Blotts, where the pay was ten galleons a day, and since she worked five days a week, it was a total of fifty galleons added to her pocket at the end of each working week. On her lunch breaks, she would stop by Florean Fortescue's and—on impulse—she decided to eat her ice cream up on the balcony where she and Severus had celebrated his birthday. Passer-bys would wave up at her from their shopping, and she became a regular fixture there. She was simply known as the nice girl who worked at the bookstore and had ice cream at twelve forty-five Monday through Friday on the boarded-up railing above the establishment.
A month passed, and though Hermione kept up correspondence with many of her friends, there was not a single letter from Severus. James and Lily owled her to give her the exact date of the wedding, and Lily made note to tell Hermione to "please wear something ivory or off-white." James had recently inherited Godric's Hollow, and Lily had moved in with him, where they were settling down in their new lives quite happily while also working for the Order.
Alice and Frank were planning on getting married as well, though they were having a quiet, private ceremony with the family. Frank's mother was not at all happy with this, Alice wrote, for she felt that her son deserved a much more noteworthy event for his nupitals, but both Aurors—for the two had taken a position in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and were half-way through training—had argued her down. It had been a miraculous feat to do so, Alice claimed, but they had somehow managed to succeed.
Hermione remembered the one time she had met Augusta Longbottom, that day in St. Mungo's, and could quite agree.
Sirius and Marlene jointly penned a letter informing her that they were going steady now, and that Hermione was welcome to visit them at any time, given they were staying at the McKinnons'. Sirius said that he was concerned about her, and that if she needed anything—whether it be money or some human companionship ("You have to get away from those books sometime," Sirius's portion of the letter told her teasingly)—he would be happy to drop by. Hermione was warmed, moved even, and wrote back that she had a summer job and was still staying at Hogwarts, but was very grateful to have his support at hand.
Hermione was legally an adult, but the Headmaster insisted that she not be kept abreast of the Order until after she graduated. He was very firm on this matter, and thus, Hermione was left to fume impotently in the dark, ignorant of the Order's plans and information, and quite frustrated with the lot of them for it. She argued that she was capable of Occlumency and discretion, but the Headmaster's word was final.
What she wanted more than anything was to see Severus face-to-face—and to receive an explanation. Without the latter, she had difficulty resisting the urge to try and overanalyze. Whenever she had a reprieve during work—a brief space of time when no one was bugging her about where they could find a book or waiting in line to pay—she found herself thinking of him.
And even beyond that, she missed him. She missed his companionship. He was always ever so amusing in a witty, pedantic, and often sarcastic sort of way, and she missed being able to simply talk to him or even work in companionable silence.
Hermione received a list of school supplies, as well as her exam scores—and was extremely pleased that she had passed every class with all 'Outstandings', even Defense Against the Dark Arts—at the end of July. Counting out her accumulated wages, she found she had more than enough—she had a surplus even if she did not pay for second-hand articles. She planned on converting some of it into Muggle pound notes so that she could get a new pair of jeans and a jumper to wear on the weekends, but beyond that, she carefully hid all of her earnings away.
September 1st arrived, without a single piece of correspondence from Severus. Hermione had no idea where he was, and as she sat outside on the stone steps of the courtyard waiting for the train to arrive, she had her suspicions. She was a logical, rational thinker, and she knew what Severus's post-graduation plans involved. She was left with two ideas of why there was a distinct lack of word from him, the first implying that he had lied and broken off all communication, the second suggesting that he was not a safe position to pen a letter to her.
It was the start of the new school year now. Summer had passed. And Severus, she was sure, had taken the Dark Mark.
With classes acting as a suitable distraction, Hermione found the work to be almost therapeutic as she fell back into the routine of homework, note-taking, essay-writing, practicing, and the vivacious, inherent need to learn. She missed her friends dearly. Mary had not returned to Hogwarts this year, though Hermione and her other friends had sent out inquiries, and she was growing concerned for the witch when nothing turned up. She missed being able to sit and talk animatedly with her tablemates; she hardly knew the people in her year on a personal level. As a result, Hermione retreated from the student body and instead turned her focus almost entirely on studying.
That was not to say she did not remain in contact with her graduated friends. James and Sirius sent her a box of sugar quills along with their regular letters. Remus was working with the Order while still struggling to find a job that would be accepting of his condition, but he too sent cheerful, optimistic, and sometimes even entertaining correspondence. Alice, who had become Mrs. Longbottom in mid-August, eagerly detailed her work in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, though her letters had become intrinsically more serious as she began to detail what she could of the deaths and other disturbing reports that had begun popping up with more and more regularity.
It had not yet been leaked to the Prophet, Alice admitted, but many of the long-time Aurors were being called out on multiple cases before lunchtime, and that by the end of her training, she was already being told to do work that only senior and experienced Aurors had ever been expected to do. She had more than fifteen different cases to handle personally in one week, back in mid-August, and the Order was now actively putting forth military effort to stop Death Eaters from laying waste to Muggle structures and dwellings.
Hermione's birthday arrived with bad news from Alice. As soon as the congratulations and happy wishes for her birthday had been gotten through with, her letter went somberly straight to the point.
We believe we found Mary MacDonald's body last night, Alice's letter explained mournfully. We are still waiting for her relatives to confirm her identity—they're Muggles, you see, so that's a whole different procedure to go through, which takes longer—but I believe we now have an explanation for why she has not returned to school. She is one of three Muggle-born students to not return to Hogwarts via the train, and we're still trying to locate the other two.
Hermione had read the note, and swallowed hard, trying not to cry. Looking down the table at the other students, she realized she was not the only one. The Daily Prophet had reported several new deaths and abductions this morning, and Hermione watched as the Heads of House gathered up a total of six students, all of whom were led out of the hall to be informed that a parent, a family friend, an aunt or an uncle, had either been found dead or gone missing. Those students were not in class that day.
A kind of weary gloom began to settle over Hogwarts, followed shortly by panic and fear. It had finally, at long last, registered to everyone that the situation outside the walls of Hogwarts was growing serious. Many had not yet been affected by the war, which had been primarily targeting Muggles, and they had only registered the news as a dim, distant occurrence. Now that their families, friends, and wizarding proprietors in London were starting to go missing, understanding followed by real impact on their lives finally reached them. There was whispering during class, the exchange of news that was not printed in the Prophet, and those who had missing or dead relatives pressed those who knew members of the law enforcement department at the ministry for information on certain cases.
"Have you asked your aunt about what happened to my brother? Has her investigation found him yet?"
"Any news on my mother?"
"My father—my father—did your friend get back to you about him?"
"My uncle went missing last week—"
It was disturbing to realize just how untouched these peoples' lives had been until very recently. The deaths of other families, the mass-murder of Muggles, had left very little impression on them. But now that they were personally impacted—whether by way of their own family or by a classmate's tragedy—the war was quite suddenly the center of their lives. Sides were taken. A good deal of the students wanted to leave the school to hide or to fight. Others wanted to go into the Ministry as law enforcement to help apprehend Death Eaters, thereby seeking justice for themselves or their friends, and there were an extraordinary number of prospective applicants for the Auror Office.
Many of the Slytherins espoused pureblood supremacy, and if they were affected at all, it was to find that their families were profiting from the war in various ways. Barty Crouch's father was the Head of the Auror Department, and he often bragged about his father's accomplishments in public, though Hermione had heart him muttering mutinously and bitterly about what his father was really like—and made his disagreements with his father on ideology quite well-known in Slytherin House.
Worse still was when the students did get news. By late October, many of the half-blood students had lost at least one relative or someone close to them. Muggleborns were afforded a kind of twisted protection: by being Muggle-born, they were targeted as individuals, but their parents were not specifically targeted. Muggles were killed indiscriminately. Thus, many lost relatives, but some of them managed to acquire correspondence with their families to tell them to get out of the country. They would not be tracked down out of Britain. Some even managed to appeal to their Heads of House for an excused and accompanied visit to their families to have them secretly transported to another part of Europe.
Hermione took it upon herself to comfort the younger students when and where she could. And as she had a friend in Magical Law Enforcement, she was able to make discrete inquires on the state of several investigations into disappearances.
Visits to Hogsmeade were canceled when the owners of several establishments closed up shop and went on vacation for what they described as an indeterminate amount of time. In the face of the bleakness of the war, Hogsmeade had been one of the only things students had to look forward to, and with that gone, life in Hogwarts was a mixture of misery and fear drowned in hopelessness.
Some of the Slytherin students took it upon themselves to enforce their ideology in the school by ambushing and attacking Muggle-borns and half-bloods, and it was only when many of the younger students began to travel in groups together with some of the older students that the attacks lessened. At one point, Hermione lost all vestiges of restraint after the same Hufflepuff boy she'd helped out of a snowdrift last year ended up being transferred to St. Mungo's after being hit with an Entrail-Expelling Curse, and she stormed down to the dungeons where she sought out the entrance to the Slytherin Common Room.
It was a foolish, dangerous endeavor, but when they came out to confront her, she promptly thrashed them. She left them where they fell, after making several alterations to their face and limbs, and many were not seen in class for several weeks while Madam Pomfrey tried to reverse the damage done to them.
Hermione was rather under the impression that the Matron was not trying all that hard to begin with, for once. She was well aware of who was attacking her other, more vulnerable charges and seemed quite content to give the other students respite from the merciless bullying and harassment. No one could ever prove that it was Hermione, since she had asked everyone in Gryffindor Tower to swear that she had been working in the Common Room all evening. Her housemates all loyally and dutifully complied.
When the Slytherins returned to class, ambushes did not cease entirely, but they stopped becoming a regular, expected part of the daily routine. This became especially apparent after Hermione had gotten together with the other NEWT students in their Defense Against the Dark Arts class and arranged to teach the younger students some self-defense, trying to mimic the way Harry had taught the DA. This worked out rather soundly, for though not every student became adequately capable, a good enough number did so that when they all stuck together, they were well protected. It was not as absurdly easy for them to be attacked as it had been before.
It did nothing to curb the slurs and insults that were jeered at them in the halls, but at least the instances of physical injury had been lessened.
Faulkner had left as he said he would, leaving a new teacher in his place. His replacement was a thickly-built man with short, cropped hair and a squashed nose that looked as though it had been broken one too many times. His attitude towards the subject was that of a strong offense being the best defense. He was loud and belligerent—he preferred to shout, even when students were less than a foot away from him. The students disliked him almost immediately, not because he was ineffective as a teacher, but because the man was a callous sod and he ground on their already wrought nerves. When he heard that a particular student had lost a parent or a sibling, his response was to shrug and then belt out a command for them to stop acting like "a bunch of poncy nanny-boys."
The man knew his stuff, but he beat it into them with demonstrations and demands for them to practice on each other. If a student got injured and they asked to go to the Hospital Wing, he yelled at them. He insisted that the best way to learn was to work under duress, and that going to get fixed up after every little scrape only made them weak. Points and detentions meant nothing to him—he touched nothing of them, which was a small relief, but he did far more damage to their self-confidence and mindset than point loss or other punishment could have done. More than one student left his class in tears.
If a student got something right, he would roar at them in approval, causing them to shrink back in fear at the loud, overbearingness of his tone. He would sometimes clap them on the back with his large, meaty hands, which would literally knock the student forward from the sheer force. He rarely assigned essays on his topics, but no student dared to come to his class unprepared. His wrath was terrible. He never physically harmed a student, but being shouted at as though one were at a Muggle boot camp was near-horrifying.
Professor Jonas Welk was the single least favorite teacher in the entire school, and also the most feared. Many students left his class emotionally traumatized, and those who had Professor Sprout, Flitwick, or Slughorn next were lucky; they took pity on the students and began carrying little comforts with them, such as chocolate or sips of Calming Draught. Professor McGonagall ingeniously borrowed several pots of Wafting Hydrangeas from Professor Sprout and kept them in the classroom, where they released a soothing aroma that, five minutes into the lesson, did a sufficient enough job at putting the students at ease without disrupting her class.
Hermione knew that the four Heads of House had confronted Professor Welk more than once about his behavior, but he did not change his tactics one whit, and though the students learned, they suffered for it under his hands.
Hermione also learned very early on that the Divination teacher last year had retired. She was therefore surprised to discover that Professor Dumbledore had not scrapped the subject altogether, but was searching for a new Divination professor. Hermione, who had had stormed out of divination in her third year, had not bothered to return after being thrown back twenty years in time. But whether time progressed as it should was of great interest to her, and so she waited.
Mid-November arrived, and Hermione had already garnered permission from Professor Dumbledore to attend the Potters' wedding. On the Saturday morning of the wedding, accompanied by her Head of House, Hermione Flooed to Godric's Hollow. She was wearing a set of simple ivory robes, and wore her hair in a chignon, which was how she kept it well-managed these days. They Apparated from there to a nearby park, with the other guests, where a tent had been set up over a cobblestone dais. There were less than thirty guests to be counted, and they all found nice seats up front. Hermione went to meet with Lily, and pulled her into a gentle hug to avoid messing up her dress, and when the music began to play, Hermione moved to her position.
The ceremony was short. Hermione stood by Lily's side, and when the sermon was over ("You may kiss the bride") Hermione was there with the rest of them clapping and smiling as the newly-wed couple jogged down the aisle, laughing with delight.
Pictures were taken. Hermione, Remus, and Sirius were moved like decorative objects around James and Lily, to give the photographer the best possible angles and appearances. It was a bit tiring to say the least, to stand up there trying to keep smiling even after her cheeks had begun to hurt, but she did it for the Potters. As soon as that was done, she kissed Lily on the cheek and congratulated her before doing to same to James, accompanied by a bear hug.
But it was still a relatively quiet affair. Tables were set up around the dais, and they all ate and talked while gentle but jaunty music played in the background. A few inquiries were made to fellow guests on their state of health, but most of the conversation was focused upon childhood memories and the remininiscing of old times, as well as marriage advice and high hopes and dreams for happy couple.
The cake was summarily cut and even more pictures were taken (James, for once, managed to look dignified as he stared into the camera, grinning and holding his new wife with frosting on her lips.) Everyone took a slice, and sooner rather than later, Sirius tapped his spoon against his goblet, calling attention to himself. He stood up, glass raised to toast to his best friends.
"I wish I could have something serious to say on this occasion," he said, wearing a playful smile, "but I've never been good with the somber and serious, as James would know." He gave his best friend a wink, garnering some laughter from the thirty-or-so other guests, and continued. "All I can say is that when Lily first met James, if she had known the spell for it, she probably would have tried to hex his nose off. When James first met Lily, he told me, while we were in the compartment on the Hogwarts Express, waiting to arrive—'That's the girl I'm going to marry.' And Merlin, I thought he was joking with me." Sirius let out a bark of laughter. "But either he wasn't joking, or our dear friend Lily has just married a Seer. I'm inclined to lean toward the former, but hey, you never know." More laughter. "Nevertheless, their relationship at Hogwarts was rather rocky for the first few years, to say the least. James finally shrunk his head just a bit and took some advice out of Twelve Fail-Safe Way To Charm Witches," he said, with a conspiratorial wink at the groom, "and after that, they just clicked together. You never saw James without Lily or Lily without James. And that," Sirius said, raising his glass higher, "is how I hope it will be for the new Mr. and Mrs. Potter and their married life. May you have a long and happy marriage!"
Glasses clinked and cheers were raised. Hermione toasted the newly-weds as well, and mindful of the fact that she rarely held her liquor well, she drank to them. Professor McGonagall was dabbing at tears in her eyes.
They had just finished eating when James and Lily stood up and, trying to follow tradition as best as the could, separated to find different dance partners so that they could allow themselves to be given away in the second dance. Hermione gracefully stood up and took James's hand, leading him out to the dance floor, while Remus gentlemanly offered his arm to Lily, who smiled brilliantly at him before allowing herself to be led out as well. Sirius and Marlene took one look at each other and stood up, walking hand in hand onto the dais, where they began to dance as well. The rest of the table started spliting up to do the same.
Hermione had a sudden note of alarm in her eyes when she realized Peter Pettigrew was not among the guests. How had she missed that earlier? She turned her attention back to James and, allowing him to lead, posed the question: "Where's Peter?"
James suddenly grimaced. "He couldn't come," he said sorrowfully. "He—Mary—Mary MacDonald—he's still grieving."
Hermione's mouth suddenly opened in a moment of surprise and understanding, followed by even more confusion, which she kept to herself. She closed her mouth, and murmured sadly, "I see."
James nodded. "It's my wedding," he offered with a slight smile. "I'd like it if… you know… I know Mary was your friend, but I don't want this to be remembered as a depressing occasion—"
Hermione smiled at him, and nodded. "Of course. I'm sorry. How about this—whose idea was it to get a cat?"
Hermione was, of course, referring to the grey tabby that she had seen sitting atop the kitchen counter, licking his paws when she and Professor McGonagall had arrived. She had received an unblinking stare when they entered the kitchen.
James suddenly grinned. "I bought Charlie for Lily as a gift—I got him for her the week after I proposed, and introduced them as soon as school was out. She fell in love with him almost instantly. If it weren't for the fact that he's a cat, I might have been jealous!"
Hermione laughed. "I'm sure he'll have enough on his paws when the rest of the family comes along."
"All we have to do is wait for Sirius and Marlene to tie the knot, find Remus a nice girl to settle down with—"
"And then you'll have your own Marauder toddlers," Hermione replied dryly. "What a frightening thought."
He gave her a grin which, at that moment, reminded her of Harry. "Don't worry. We won't teach them how to take over the world until they're twenty."
A painful feeling settled in her gut, but Hermione managed to keep her smile bright even as the topic turned to a future that she knew they did not have. "And what will they do once they've taken over the world?"
"Construct a Quidditch Pitch the size of Hogwarts Castle," James said seriously.
"James!" Hermione chided.
"Really, Hermione," James said, chuckling. "I don't care what my kid would want to do if he actually took over the world. I'd only hope he'd want to improve it—do some good, you know. We'll need it, once You-Know-Who bites the dust."
For the first time since they started dancing, Hermione gave him a genuinely warm smile. She took the lead, and began dancing in Lily and Remus's direction, as the first song came to a close. "If it means anything at all, James, I approve."
"Glad to hear it," James said, grinning at her as the song ended. He released her, and Hermione took Remus as her next partner while James and Lily finally danced together.
"Take good care of him, Lily," Hermione said.
Lily flashed Hermione a brilliant smile. "You know I will."
Hermione beamed. "Then he's all yours."
James took Lily in hand, and without further preamble, they began dancing the night away.
As attacks outside of Hogwarts increased, whereupon the Daily Prophet began to report a growing number of werewolf attacks and giant upheavals in addition to the mix of murders and abductions, Slughorn managed to make things just a bit brighter by informing the students that he would be holding a New Years Party.
There was once again a flurry of excitement as every student involved in Slughorn's club was besieged with requests and subtle (or not so subtle) attempts at bribes and manipulations in order to be among the lucky invited. Even those who were not attending the party would not be entirely left out; Professor Flitwick had done a wonderful job decorating the halls to reflect a more festive spirit, and Hagrid had dragged in an enormous tree to be decorated. It was a real treat to see the grand pine tree decorated with bright bits and baubles and festive fairy lights. The star on top was replaced this year by a single tall candle meant to pay respects to the family and friends of students and staff alike who had suffered and lost loved ones. Many students stopped by the tree at least once to hang up an ornament of their own making with someone's name on it and to see the candle and appreciate the small comfort it gave, standing so very high on top of the tree.
Hermione put a pale pink bauble some seven feet up the tree with Mary MacDonald's name on it. She had been Hermione's first friend, the first person to reach out to her when she was alone and lost in a new time. They had grown somewhat distant as Hermione spent more time between Severus and the Marauders, but Hermione still felt the loss keenly. Mary had not been a particularly strong witch—quite the opposite, actually— nor had she typically been a social mover and shaker. But she had been a friendly and kind girl, shy and mild in temperament, and she certainly didn't deserve what she had gotten for it.
Hermione made plans to attend the New Years Party. There was no going to Hogsmeade to pick out a new set of dress robes, and even though the occasion called for nice evening wear, she decided to go in Muggle clothes. She just did not feel like dressing up in anything particularly fancy that night. There was no one to laugh with while getting dressed, no one to help her do her hair or return the favor to, and no one to help her figure out what kind of makeup would match her best. She did not want to alter the ones Alice and Marlene had bought and made their finishing touches on, but she felt suitably comfortable in transfiguring her Muggle clothes, so she went in jeans and Transfigured herself a plain white Muggle blouse that fit comfortably and decided to simply go with that.
She was not going to the party to dress up. She was going there to get a tiny break from studying by using one night of the Yule hols to relax and talk to people, to meet some of Slughorn's old favorites and enjoy some good food, maybe even a butterbeer or two. Thoughts of Severus, along with concerns about her other friends, often flitted through her mind during the day, and she was hoping for a pleasant distraction. She was asked by many if she would take them, and ended up flatly refusing all offers.
The holidays arrived, and on the last day of class, Slughorn asked Hermione to remain for a few minutes longer.
"Am I in trouble, sir?"
"Oh, no," Slughorn said, waving the question away. "Not at all, m'dear, not at all. I've just been meaning to ask you if you're showing up for my little supper on New Years Eve, since you're often so busy with work that I never know when you're actually going to come."
"I'm coming," Hermione said, suddenly standing up straight.
Slughorn beamed at her. A few more moments of idle chit-chat, and she was free to go.
A little over half the student body rode home on the train for Christmas to see their families, while the other half were sent gifts and letters accompanied by stern orders to remain safe, assurances that the family was fine, and instructions to stay over during the break for safety.
Hermione woke up on Christmas morning, heading downstairs to the common room to find the rug in front of the fire to be taken over with gifts. The Hogwarts Elves had apparently made their deliveries. Many of the younger years had already begun unwrapping presents while the upperclassmen sat on the cozy armchairs with hot chocolate. One second-year girl had received a quilted blanket from her mother, and was running around the common room with it tucked about her shoulders like a cape.
"Careful!" One of the sixth-years said, tucking his hot chocolate to his chest to protect it as she passed him. "And watch out for the fireplace!"
Laughing, the girl set her blanket down like a picnic cloth and curled up on it to open the rest of her gifts, inviting her yearmates to join her. They did, and resembled nothing so much as a group of bright-eyed birds tearing up colorful wrapping paper to build their nest.
Hermione took a spot on the floor and collected the wrapped gifts that were addressed to her, reading the cards that came with them first before opening them. Alice had given her a set of lovely ribbons for her hair. Lily gave her a book titled Transient Transfiguration Tips to accompany James's delivery of a Honeydukes Christmas Package. Sirius had given her a generous allowance of Galleons ("Since I know you probably spend every knut you've got on books!" his letter chided) along with a santa hat that, when Hermione put it on, charmed her hair green. From Marlene, she got a pair of tiny rose-shaped earrings that slowly bloomed open for several moments before closing up and starting the process all over again.
From Remus, Hermione received a stuffed wolf that made noises when squeezed and a heartwarming letter. He had finally found a job, though it was a Muggle one, and he only had to convert his wages into Wizarding currency. It cut into his earnings, but his employer was willing to give him a week off every month, though Remus indicated that his boss assumed it was to visit family. This was some of the best news Hermione had heard in months, and a grin stretched itself across her face as she finished reading the letter.
Hermione had ordered gifts for her friends by owl, but as she still had no idea where Severus was, nor whether it was a good idea to send him a gift, she had not bought him anything. She received nothing from him either, and felt only slightly disappointed. She didn't care about getting a solid gift from him, but she had been hoping for some contact, even just a note to tell her that he was alright. The silence from him was deafening to her mind. They had spent so much time together, had grown so close, that the idea that he simply did not care for her was easily dismissed. Whatever it was, it seemed he was simply not in any position to contact her.
She wrote thank-you letters to her friends while munching on some of the Honeydukes chocolate that had come in James's package, and then decided to go downstairs for breakfast, musing that perhaps she could spend the rest of the day relaxing with a book in the library.