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By: andharrywokeup
Beta read by: arithmancy_wiz and marauderin_around
Title: Game Over
Chapter Graphic: harrystrulove and Infairi
Rating/Warnings: 12+ (none)
For the Staff: Thanks to all the admin and helpers at WPSS for
organising such a great present for the staffers!

Oh and naturally a huge thank you to the HPFF staff themselves
for running such a fabulous site - I have never been so addicted
to internet in my life!

Thanks to arithmancy_wiz and marauderin_around for their amazing
advice as beta reasers and thanks to harrystrulove and Infairi
for together producing a stunning grapic!

*pulls out wand and conjures up cookies for all*

-----


This time she shivered as she saw the castle that she had last marvelled upon through seventeen year old eyes. Something was different. This time there was no warm feeling of contentment that she usually experienced when stepping upon these grounds. Surely that feeling of being home was meant to rise up stronger than ever now? Especially considering she hadn’t been back in over ten years. For six years this place had brought her more joy than during any other time in her life, but it wasn’t the same any more. The stone of the architecture was cold, not inviting. The sweep of wind that rushed through her hair was bitter, not refreshing. The grounds that used to be a place of buzzing excitement were now full of seemingly lifeless Wizards moving around in mundane routines. Without them, Hogwarts could never be home again.

She walked the oddly familiar path down to his hut, painful memories attacking her mind with every step. Memories of them. How many adventures had taken place on these grounds? How many conversations had fallen from their mouths with every step they had taken to the hut? She saw the Whomping Willow and remembered Sirius Black. He had been the first to go and they, along with the rest, had followed him on the next adventure. That adventure had been one she missed out on, the first adventure that wasn’t faced as a trio. And one day, she would be left to walk those last steps, just as alone as she was now.

She looked to the lake and found herself unable to block out the memories of her first kiss with one, and then the argument they’d had with the other afterwards. Even that personal moment had been shared between the three of them. She should have known it would have been difficult to return. However, the second she had heard the news, she had known that it was time to come back. For this time there was no escaping it, this time her last remaining friend needed her support.

She balled her fist and timidly knocked on the door. She had never once seen him since that final day. The day life and she knew it had ended. Would he remember her? Would he welcome her into the hut like he always had in her school days? He had been a rock for her during her third year. Would the same kindly man, with trusting beetle black eyes, still be there? She knocked again, this time louder.

***

He opened the door to see a young woman he had never met before. Yet, as he looked more intently, he noticed something familiar about her. He had seen those chestnut brown eyes somewhere before. He opened his mouth, but the women spoke first.

‘You don’t know who I am, do you?’

Her voice was pained and straggled and his spine pirckled as he heard it. It was a voice he had once known well. It was a voice that, years ago, he had thought he had heard for the last time. His skin paled with shock and though he felt his jaw freeze, deep inside he was glad that finally, over a decade later, there was a certainty about what had happened to her. His instinct had been proven right, she was alive and, at last, years of waiting had paid off. She had come home.

‘Yer wrong fer the firs’ time in yer life, Hermione.’

To her, his voice sounded cold and bitter. Had she made a mistake in coming back today? She should have known that she couldn’t just jump back into the community she had, perhaps cruelly, abandoned so many years ago. Had she really come for Hagrid today, or had she come for herself? Surely she should have known that people would have been stunned and shaken, seeing her again after all these years. She looked up into his disappointed eyes and all hope of recomposing herself was lost as tears began to leak from her eyes. Clearing her throat she spoke once again.

‘I have been wrong many times before, Hagrid. I think that maybe I was wrong to come back. May I come in?’

Hagrid looked at her incredulously before turning around and leading her inside and to a seat.

‘Course yeh weren’ wrong ter come back. I’ve bin waitin’ too long fer it ter be a mistake, Hermione! But why today?’

‘How did you know I would come back? The Prophet reported me ‘Missing Believed Dead’ after the battle.’

She looked at her giant friend, through watery eyes, as he began to clutter around the kitchen making a pot of tea. He hummed to himself slightly and she got the impression that he wasn’t going to answer her question. As Hermione watched him, all the times she had watched him potter around the kitchen came back to her, she smiled through her tears. It wasn’t until now that she realised that what her mother and Mrs Weasley always seemed to say might actually be true - a cup of real English tea had the capacity to make anyone feel better. As she thought back, she become conscious of the fact that Hagrid’s tea always seemed to work - but then perhaps it was only extra satisfying because it was always served with his less than adequate, tooth breaking rock cakes.

True to her expectations, Hagrid returned to the table with a plate of rock cakes that resembled small boulders. He poured the tea into mugs that Hermione thought really should have been used for beer. He looked up and finally caught her eye.

‘There was no body. Not like there was with the others. Yer don’ need ter explain yerself ter me, Hermione. I jus’ had a feeling. I can understand why yeh wan’ed to go, I was gonna run too. When we were told tha’ they had died it felt like the game was over an’ there was no point in hangin’ around after. It was so ruddy awful tha’ I jus’ wanted to disappear. ‘S why yeh don’ need to explain. I jus’ wan’ ter know why yeh came back now, so outta the blue!’

‘It was difficult to come back, Hagrid. I’m still not sure if it was a good idea, but I heard you were retiring - it was in The Prophet.’ She sipped her tea before continuing.

‘When I read it I was curious, I thought you might need someone to talk to. It seems a bit stupid now, I mean, how is someone who has come back from the dead meant to comfort a friend? I guess I wasn’t thinking straight and I realise now that maybe I was getting a bit lonely on my own in the Muggle world.’

‘I knew yeh were a smart one, Hermione. Yeh sorted out yer problem on yer own, and now yeh can help me pack!’

Hermione, for the first time, looked around the hut and realised it was in complete disarray. Clothes were packing themselves, dishes wrapping themselves in protective wrapping and the bed was turned on its side, revealing a colossal mess underneath. Hagrid’s great overcoat lay covering the majority of the floor, its many pockets sorting themselves out.

‘Why are you retiring, Hagrid? Surely you can only be in your seventies? You have at least thirty years of fitness left! How can you want to leave Hogwarts?’

‘Yeh must have noticed, Hermione. It’s different now. The young witches and wizards don’t have the excitement they used to have. None of them have any interest in visiting me. I wanted to run like yeh did, after tha’ last battle, but I knew Dumbledore would have wanted me ter help build up Hogwarts again. It’s taken time to build up, and though the building is still the place where spells are learnt and potions are brewed, there doesn’ seem ter be any magic left.

‘We were all fightin’ fer a better world. As Dumbledore said it was goin’ ter be a world were evil was kept at bay, but Hermione, now that the new era has come it’s nothing’ like we dreamed it ter be. Everyone I expected ter share it with has moved on and livin’ here at Hogwarts is like bein’ stuck in a hermitage, a cocoon of other people’s good luck. I’ve done my duty ter Dumbledore and I think it’s time fer me ter find some aspect of a life back. Tha’s why I’m gonna cross the seas and visit Olympe. Yer remember her don’t yeh? The headmistress at Beauxbatons? She’s bin feelin’ a bit lonely an’ all an’ we’re gonna keep each other company.’

Hermione looked up once again at her friend and noticed that he too was crying. The new life was difficult to grasp, she had known it would be; it was why she had run away. On her own she had come to terms with the fact that she would never see the two people she loved most. At least until she was ready for the next adventure. Like Hagrid, she had been living in her own cocoon of other people’s happiness. Was she ready to start living again? Surely there would never be anyone who could make her feel the way Ron did? Or anyone she could worry about like she did Harry? No, it would be silly trying to replace them. The old life was a dream, leaving her stuck in the nightmare of mere existence. She could never be as brave as Hagrid.

‘Hermione, don’ look at me like tha’. Surely yeh can understand why it’s time fer me ter leave? It seems like the game finished when they died, doesn’ it? But do yeh think Ron would ever have said no ter a new game of chess? No matter how hard things got, did he ever give up his post as Keeper in Quidditch?’

At this, Hermione found herself unable to hold back laughter. Until now, all the memories that Hogwarts had brought back only made her hurt more. There was something different about reminiscing with a friend. She had been alone for far too long.

‘It always seemed that there was nothing more important to Ron and Harry than Quidditch, you know? It confused me at the time, how could they care so much about something so trivial when there was so much worse in our lives? It seemed that all the way through sixth year when people were constantly getting murdered -’ she shuddered at the word before forcing herself to continue, ‘when people were getting murdered that all Harry and Ron cared about was how to win Quidditch! It was only after they went, and I couldn’t find refuge in the usual things, like my reading, that I realised that it was just something they could escape to.’

Hermione took another deep breath and met her giant friends eyes. This time she could see some more happiness in them, perhaps a joy that was reflected in her own eyes.

‘You’re right. Hagrid. We do need to find a new game, to play in our free time. But you can’t refer to your entire life as a game; it is much more than that. If you entire life was fun and games, without sadness, you wouldn’t appreciate it half as much. For years I wished that Ron and Harry hadn’t died, I still do, but I’ve finally realised that if they hadn’t fallen, than Voldemort would still be standing. It is with the loss of what or whom we love most that we can appreciate even more what we have left.’

Hagrid did not respond, but Hermione noticed another tear leak down the side of his face. She had known that returning was going to be difficult, but never had she imagined that she would come to the understanding that finally after all these years dawned upon her. She drew another breath and continued with words that were becoming increasingly difficult to voice.

‘You said yourself that you know that Professor Dumbledore would have wanted you to stay and help rebuild Hogwarts and we both know that the Hogwarts was more than just a magnificent castle. It was a place of excitement, mystery and mischief. It was where there greatest wizards were trained to accomplish the great things that they did. It was a place where binding friendships were made and where love was shared. Would it not be an insult to all the great Wizards who died if we don’t bring the glory back? Hogwarts was the most magical place for so many people - for Ron; for Harry; for Sirius and above all for Dumbledore, and yet the students I watched today all seemed to be bored - as if, Hogwarts is nothing more than a school to them. They don’t seem amazed by their surroundings or inspired by their heritage. Can we really leave it like this…so incomplete?’

Hermione became aware of Hagrid finally looking up at her. He brushed his cheeks as his face exploded into a smile.

‘Hermione, I’ve been waitin’ fer yeh ter say those words since you turned up today. Even though yeh were so scared, I knew yeh would stay and help. Crikey - if anyone can bring back the magnificence that was Hogwarts, s the cleverest witch of our age!’

‘Hagrid, you don’t understand do you? Hogwarts will never be as great without you. Without your help Hagrid, the game, the fun, will really be over.’

The great man rolled his honourable beetle black eyes and sighed. He picked up a pink umbrella and led his friend to the door, knowing that he would never be able to leave the best home he had whilst there was still hope of saving it. He realised now that it was only up to the player to decide when it was truly time for the old game to end.

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