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AN: Hi! This is a story I had an idea for a long time ago, and I jotted down some details, but didn't think about writing it until recently.  It's not a fluff piece like I usually write, but I'm totally in love with this idea of what the recovery process might be like for just a regular witch or wizard.  It also looks at the treatment of mental illness in the wizarding community and my interpretation of the life of a Hogwarts teacher.  I'm hoping to include some romance, but mostly, this story is about one witch's experience with the war, and putting her life back together in the aftermath of Voldemort's defeat.  I hope you like it!

Edit: I just have to point out the beautiful story banner by Sol @ TDA.  I couldn't fit it in the Summary so after an hour of trying, I decided to give proper credit here.  It is so perfect for this story so I'm very excited!

Did you know that Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration has five Principal Exceptions?

I do.

I’m sure you don’t really care though.  My sixth year transfiguration class couldn’t give two hoots.  They’re far too interested in things like who will win Saturday’s Quidditch match or when the next Hogsmeade weekend is.

Wait…a hand!  A student in the back row is raising his hand!  Maybe I haven’t lost them all just yet!

“Yes Mr. Hawthorn?”

“Professor, may I go to the loo?”

So much for that glimmer of hope.

“Yes Mr. Hawthorn.”  I sigh a little to myself as I turn back to the notes written on my blackboard and continue my monologue.  I turn my voice onto auto pilot, and let my mind wander.  The students will never notice anyway.

Was transfiguration always this boring?  I loved it when I was at school.  Granted I had professor McGonagall, and despite the fact that she was incredibly strict, she had been able to make the subject come alive.  She made transfiguration interesting.  Not that it needs all that much help, after all you’re learning how to turn something into something else.  It’s pretty exciting really.

So it’s not the subject then.

It must be me.

That sounds about right.  I must be the most boring professor Hogwarts has ever seen.  And yes, I am including Professor Binns in that assumption!  Oh Merlin, how depressing.  You know, because my life needs to be even more depressing.

Mercifully, the bell rings at that moment; I break from my stupor long enough to mutter something about homework and then dismiss the class.  It’s the last one for the day, and as the door closes behind the last student, I sink gratefully into my chair and lay my head on the smooth wooden desk top.  I don’t know how much longer I can do this for.  I think to myself. 

Two years.  I have been teaching at Hogwarts for nearly two years, and I am more than ready to quit.  I still can’t believe I came back this year, although it’s not like I had anywhere else to go really.  The sound of hundreds of student footsteps die away as they disperse to their common rooms or out onto the grounds to enjoy one of the last sunny afternoons before the summer completely fades.  I close my eyes and soak up the calming sound of silence.  It occurs to me how strange my appreciation for silence is these days.  It was only recently that I have grown to enjoy the peace and quiet.  Those who had known me in my younger days knew me as one who liked noise, crowds, loud music and laughter.  I gave a snort of bitter laughter at myself.  My younger days!  I’m only 25 years old! 

A light tapping at the door startles me and I sit bolt upright in my chair.

“Come in.”  I hear my voice call wearily.  The door swings open and Eric Hawthorn stands there, the boy who needed to go to the loo. 

“Sorry Professor, I just need to get my things.”  He points across to room to where his bag still lays next to the very back desk in the room.  I nod.

“Of course Mr. Hawthorn.  Go ahead,” I reply.  He hurries over, scoops up his things and is back out the door in 30 seconds.  I prop my right elbow on the desk and rest my chin in my hand.  I realise that Eric is less than ten years my junior.  It was less than a decade since I’d sat in this very room as a student, optimistic and so full of ideas for the future.  Yeah that worked out well.

I was eleven years old the first time I heard about Hogwarts.  My parents are muggles, and for those eleven years, we all assumed I was too (When I say we assume, it’s not like we actually knew any different, but you know what I mean).  Then the letter came; that wonderful letter that changed my life.  Mum and Dad were never completely sold on the idea of Hogwarts, in fact the headmaster even had to come to our house and meet with them before they were convinced.  But eventually they agreed, and I found myself amongst other magical youngsters, ready to learn how to harness these powers I had been blessed with.

The seven years I spent at Hogwarts were some of the happiest of my life.  I loved learning about magic, I even enjoyed potions as long as I kept my head down and avoided eye contact with Professor Snape.  My house (Hufflepuff) were like my family and I was so happy with my friends.  We would sit up in the common room chatting happily at night while we finished our homework.  We would giggle about boys and dream about our futures (I always joked that I would marry Timothy Briar who was a year above us and he would become minister for magic and we would have 15 children). We would passionately cheer on our team at the Quidditch matches, or whoever was playing against Slytherin.  Every few months we would have a glorious day down in the village of Hogsmeade, buying sweets and quills and butterbeer.  For those seven years, my life was almost perfect and I stupidly thought it would stay that way for ever.

I should have known things were going wrong when Cedric died.  Cedric Diggory was a good friend of mine.  He was Quidditch captain, a prefect, incredibly smart and rather handsome too.  We had gone on a few dates to Hogsmeade in fourth year, but really we were just mates.  Everyone liked him.  And then he was killed, by Voldemort.  I should have known then, that things were going to get bad.

One year after Cedric’s death, I finished my schooling at Hogwarts and headed out in to the big bad world.  Without the safety of the castle, the future didn’t look so bright anymore.  I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do with myself.  Mum and Dad wanted me to come and live with them again, enrol in a muggle university and try a nice ‘normal’ life as they called it.  It was never an option though.  How could I go back to being a muggle after living in a wonderful world of magic for seven years?  So I moved into a little flat in London and got myself a job at Flourish and Blotts.  I was there for only a year before my whole world collapsed before me.  One year after I left Hogwarts, Voldemort, the most evil of dark wizards, tried to take over the world.  When I say it that way it conjures to mind images of a silly villain from a muggle cartoon, but it really was horrible.  You see, Voldemort hated muggle born witches and wizards, and tried to ‘register’ us all.  I wasn’t about to fall for that nonsense, and I went into hiding, taking what little money I had saved with me. 

I was on the run for about a year, and to be perfectly honest I don’t know how I survived it sometimes.  I never stayed anywhere for too long, sometimes living out in the woods, sometimes hiding in an old abandoned barn or tool shed.  A couple of times I met up with others in the same situation, and we would live together for a few weeks but then the snatchers would find us and we would get separated in the rush to hide.  Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t be able to last another day, and I would hope that when I closed my eyes to sleep, they would stay closed forever.  But then, one day, when I was camping out with some other witches and wizards, we heard the news: there had been a battle at Hogwarts.  The school was badly damaged and many people were dead, but Voldemort had been defeated.  The reports said that he’d been killed by his own rebounding curse while fighting Harry Potter – a boy who had been a few years below me at school.  He’d been there the night Cedric died, and even run a secret Defence against the Dark Arts club in my seventh year when that troll of a woman, Umbridge, wouldn’t let us practise defensive spells for our N.E.W.T’s. Eventually, as all the reports were confirmed, we were able to come back out of hiding and try to re-assemble our lives. 

I had thought about going back to Diagon Alley to see if I could get my old job back, but then I heard about the ministry jobs.  They were calling them ‘Junior Associate traineeships,’ but it was sort of like cheap labour to help rebuild the Ministry of Magic after the destruction of the past year.  I was so dumbfounded when they offered me a job since I had very little experience, but I think they felt guilty about the fact I had been forced into hiding and wanted to show they were supporting muggle-borns or something.  Either way, I found myself being shunted around the Ministry of Magic for three years, working in one department for a few months until they decided I was needed somewhere else.  This wasn’t exactly my calling, but it wasn’t too bad.  I did enjoy the three months I spent working with a middle aged, red headed man named Arthur Weasley in the ‘Misuse of Muggle Artefacts’ office. He was a jolly fellow, although he had very sad eyes, even when he was smiling.  I had heard his family were involved in the battle, but I didn’t like to ask.

Then, one day in late spring, after getting home from a long stretch in the Department of Magical Transportation, I discovered a big grey owl sitting on my kitchen table.  The envelope was stamped with the insignia of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  It was from Professor McGonagall, my old Transfiguration professor.  She had been acting as the Headmaster of Hogwarts since the battle, I’d learnt as much from the Daily Prophet.  The letter was inviting me to meet with her at Hogwarts, but it didn’t say why. 

I had gone to the meeting of course; a woman like Minevra McGonagall, well you just didn’t refuse her.  It was a bit odd going back to the castle after what had seemed like an eternity.  The buildings themselves looked very much the same, the rebuilding effort had restored Hogwarts very well after the battle.  There were a few little changes here and there.  Mostly plaques of honour and the like.  I had met with McGonagall in the headmistresses office – it had belonged to Dumbledore when I was a student, although I never once set foot in it as a student so I didn’t know if it had changed much.  Portraits of past headmasters and headmistresses watched us carefully from inside their frames.  I tried not to look at them, they made me nervous, like I was on stage.  Mercifully, the Headmistress had moved right to her purpose of calling the meeting.

“Miss Morgan, I hear you are working for the ministry as one of their junior associate trainees.”  I had nodded silently.  “I hear you are doing quite well at this.  I seem to remember you having quite the aptitude for my old subject when you were a student here; top of the year in both your Transfiguration O.W.L and N.E.W.T if my memory serves me correctly.”  I continued to nod as McGonagall spoke, “My sources tell me your transfiguration skills have not waned, if anything they have improved significantly.”  She looked at me as though she wanted an answer this time, but when I opened my mouth, no sound came out.  McGonagall decided not to wait and kept talking.  “My request is simple Miss Morgan.  After I was made Headmistress, we took on a new Transfiguration teacher.  He is no longer able to serve this school community and therefore I am in need of a new teacher to fill his role.  I would like to offer this position to you.”  She stared expectantly at me, and I knew I was going to have to answer this time. 

“Me?”  I replied.  “As a teacher?  Really?” 

“Well you are younger than usual for a Hogwarts professor, I will grant you that,” McGonagall began.  “But you understand the subject matter better than most, you have experience in the practical application of high levels of Transfiguration due to your work at the ministry and the war,” She hesitated briefly, and her eyes clouded over, as though a thousand painful memories were rushing back to her.  “You will, of course need to undertake a short training course to qualify you as a teacher, but that can be easily arranged.” 

I opened my mouth but couldn’t think of anything to say so promptly closed it again.  I knew my eyes must be wide with surprise and I wondered if I was giving the impression that I was an oversized goldfish.

“You would not be required at Hogwarts until Mid-August,” McGonagall was continuing, “So you will have three months to get everything in order and organise the appropriate training.” 

“But I’m…” My voice faded out as quickly as I had found it.  I didn’t know how to finish that sentence; I’m… too young, too inexperienced, unqualified?  McGonagall had already tackled my arguments, before I’d even thought to make them!

She fixed her gaze on me and I noticed her features soften slightly.  “Emily,” She said, using my first name for the first time in many, many years.  “I would not have asked you here to discuss this if I did not think you were more than qualified for the job.  Whether you believe it or not, you are a talented young witch, and I want more for your life than being a Ministry lackey.  You were meant to do so much more.”

Of course her words had lured me in, and I’d faced my new future with a sense of purpose and excitement.  Even my parents seemed pleased about my new career change, and even they could understand how prestigious it was to be sought out by a woman like Minerva McGonagall.   For a few months my life was filled with a new sense of purpose and excitement as I gave in my notice at the ministry and for my flat, enrolled in the two week basic training course at the Ministry and packed myself up for a new life.  I’d loved Hogwarts when I was a student there, loved the fresh mountain air and the brisk Scottish mornings; hundreds of memories of trips to Hogsmeade and Quidditch matches filled my mind, developing an expectation that I should have known reality could never live up to.

I sigh again and push up from my chair, gathering my books and notes and heading down the hallway to my office.  It is getting late and I need to go over my lessons for the next day before dinner, although I can’t really bear the thought of going in to the Great Hall and facing all those people tonight.  I’ll just ask a house elf to bring something up to my study once I am done with my work, maybe a big slice of chocolate cake for dessert too.

I wonder exactly how pathetic it is that that slice of cake is going to be the highlight of my day.

AN:  So, what did you think?  I know this chapter is a bit information heavy, but I feel like it was the best way to set the context of the story.  I'm really nervous about this story because it's so different to my usual fanfics, but I'm really excited about it too.  I would really love to hear your opinions, so pretty please leave a review, they always mean so much to me.

There's more action and dialogue in the coming chapters so I'll update soon :)

P.S. I promise I won't put 2 author notes in every chapter!

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