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Hermione came to slowly. Under her face rested something hard as stone, but also sort of soft, like grass in a meadow. It wasn’t exactly cold, yet it wasn’t warm either. It was like it had adjusted itself to the temperature of her body. Or, had she still possessed a body? Where was this place, exactly?

Gently, she placed her hands on the ground and began to push herself into a standing position. The space she found herself in was softly lit, almost reminding her of one of the empty classrooms in the castle. Perhaps it had all been a nightmare, she wondered to herself. But deep down knew that it had not been. The pain she was in, shortly before she’d ended up in the room she currently occupied, had been too vivid to not have been real.

She looked down at herself and noticed she was no longer wearing her Hogwarts robes. White fabric flowed down from her shoulders to her ankles, ruffling softly in a breeze that she hadn’t been able to feel. Her bare feet were exposed beneath the dress, feeling as if they were standing on warm velvet.

To her left she heard what sounded like low whispers. The kind of soft hum you hear when you’re in a church before the sermon begins, and everyone is speaking in hushed voices. She looked and saw it was coming from an ancient stone archway. One that was painfully familiar to her. Hanging from the stone, almost like it was blowing in the wind, yet also gently rippling, like the water on top of the Black Lake on a sunny day, was a dark veil. And that was when she’d known for sure that she had not survived.

A terrible anguish washed over her, as her knees hit the floor beneath her feet. The faces of all of those she had left behind flashed before her eyes. Her parents, Harry, Ron, Ginny, and even Crookshanks, who she had just reunited with… all gone.

Hermione shook her head, which was cradled in the palms of her hands. A slow steady heat of anger began flowing through her.

She couldn’t have been dead. She hadn’t been ready! It wasn’t her time. Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of her age, had had so much potential. She was meant to have gone on to do great things; she wanted to change the world! And now she would have never had the chance.

She wept on the ground for hours, or perhaps it had been merely seconds. It was difficult to tell. Time seemed to have not passed the same as it had in the living world. Her friends were gone, her family had been gone, her life was gone.

She felt painfully alone.

Finally Hermione begun to pull herself together and rose from the ground on shaky legs. She looked around her, and her eyes once again fixed themselves onto the veil. A thought crossed her mind as she stared at the iridescent waves of it. Sirius managed to fall into it while he had been alive. Perhaps it would have been possible to have fallen out of it when you were deceased.

Slowly she walked towards it; the whispers grew louder. If she’d still had a beating heart, she had been sure it would have been pounding. She stretched her arm out towards it, feeling the silky fabric, which also bordered on a water-like consistency. The only thing she’d ever felt that was remotely close had been Harry’s invisibility cloak.

When she went to take a step through it, she found herself suddenly blocked by an invisible barrier, then yelped as an electric current shocked through her, and tossed her away, where she landed on her backside.

“That’s not going to work, sadly,” a woman’s voice said softly from behind her.

Hermione whipped her body around. If she still had needed oxygen to have survived, and required to breathe, she would have been positive that her ability to have done so would have been impossible at that moment.

She hadn’t known the woman personally, but she certainly knew her.

She stood up slowly, and took one step towards the red headed woman, who only looked roughly two or three years older than Hermione had been when she died. The woman’s much too familiar green eyes, however, looked ancient and wise, as they crinkled when she smiled at her.

“Mrs. Potter…?” Hermione said in a voice barely above a whisper.

Lily threw her head back as a tinkling laugh came from her lips.

“Merlin, Hermione. I don’t think anyone has ever called me that,” she said through her laughter. “Except perhaps Sirius, after a few Firewhiskies. When he would make it a point to remind me that he was the original Mrs. Potter.”

Even though the thought of that had been actually quite funny, Hermione was far to stunned to have laughed. Instead, she settled on a twitch of her lips, which was meant to have been a smile.

“Why are you here?” Hermione asked, feeling far too confused for politeness. She noticed the small frown on Lily’s face. “Not that I’m not happy to finally meet you,” she added quickly. “It’s just that… well I’d expected.” She faltered. “I - I’m not quite sure what I expected actually.”

Lily nodded in understanding.

“You expected family?” she prompted.

Hermione nodded. She always assumed that when she would have died, admittedly not quite as soon as she did, that she would have been greeted by her parents — if they had passed on, or grandparents, or even a distant cousin perhaps.

A hint of sadness touched Lily’s eyes.

“So did I,” she said quietly

Hermione waited for her to have explained more, but Lily appeared to be lost in through. Possibly remembering when she’d first crossed over, after being murdered.

Finally, Lily spoke. “This is a magical resting place, my dear. I’m -“ her voice hitched, “I’m sorry. I still don’t understand it, and I may also never come to terms with it, but it seems as if the Muggles are separated from us in death.”

The room suddenly felt as if it had become much smaller. The walls entirely too close. The Muggles are separated from us in death, repeated over and over in her mind. The realization that she would never see her family again, ever, crashed down on her. Her mother, her father, her grandparents, none of them for all of eternity.

Hermione had been surprised that she’d been able to cry as much as she had in the afterlife. She’d always heard that your soul would have been at peace after you died. Never had she anticipated that she would have been able to have still felt such agonizing sadness.

Without hesitation, Lily approached Hermione and enveloped her in a hug, while she stroked her hair, promising her that it would have been alright.

“I know it isn’t entirely the same, but you won’t be alone, Hermione. You have family. You’ll have myself, and I know James cannot wait to meet you. Sirius is here, and Remus, Tonks, and Fred. We may not be blood, but we are your family.” She paused for a moment. “I know you thought of Harry as a brother, and for that, I shall think of you as a daughter,” she whispered into Hermione’s hair as she held her.

As much as Hermione appreciated the sentiment, it wouldn’t have been the same. No one could have compared to your own mother and father.

“I’m g-going to miss them s-so much,” Hermione hiccoughed, clinging to Lily as if she were a life preserver.

Lily squeezed her, before stepping back. She left her hands on Hermione’s shoulders as she tried to give her a comforting smile.

“I know, Hermione. Truly I do. That’s why I was the one who asked to come collect you. I thought it would have been easier to hear from someone who could relate,” she explained.

For a second Hermione was puzzled. She’d only died a few moments ago, or so she thought. How could Lily have already known and wanted to come retrieve her. And another thing that had just hit her, was how Lily mentioned that James had been anxious to meet her. She narrowed her eyes.

“Lily? How long have I been here?” she asked.

Lily fully released Hermione from her hold, and took a small step back. She watched Hermione carefully before she answered.

“I believe it’s been about a fortnight, in the living world,” she paused, looking as if she were giving Hermione a moment to process the information.

Hermione stood in stunned silence. It had only felt as if she’d been in that room for a few hours, not weeks.

“We were waiting for you to come to, before I came here to bring you back,” she further explained.

So she had been...unconscious? Would that have even been the correct word to have described it?

If it had been two full weeks, how come she hadn’t come across any others who have passed over? People died daily -- hourly even. How was it possible that she’d been alone the entire time.

“But… I haven’t seen another soul,” Hermione said.

“When we die, we seem to find ourselves in a very unique place. One that resembles somewhere that had been special to us while we were alive. A place where we wait, alone, for someone to come and help us fully cross over into the Afterlife,” said Lily.

Hermione glanced around her again. It had looked like one of the classrooms at Hogwarts. Which, when she thought about it, made sense. Hogwarts was the place where she’d finally felt as if she belonged. It was where she shined as a brilliant student. Where she made her friends that had eventually become her family. It was where she gained knowledge, that before she was eleven years old, she never would have dreamed of learning. For the place to have resembled that, it seemed fitting.

“Were you...were you afraid when you arrived here?” the question fell from her lips, as if she were a small child.

Hermione had always been fearless, or at least she’d always tried to have been. But truthfully, the thought of venturing into something so foreign, and so unknown frightened her.

The corner of Lily’s mouth turned up into a half smile.

“I was,” she responded.

Hearing that reassured Hermione. Knowing that someone who was widely known throughout the Wizarding World for their bravery, also has been fearful of what awaited them in the afterlife seemed to have calmed her. She squared her shoulders and smiled at Lily.

“I’m ready,” she said.

Lily gestured for Hermione to come along side her, and began walking towards a dark wooden door, which Hermione hadn’t noticed until that moment, at the back of the room. She glanced over her shoulder at the veil one last time, before Lily pulled the doorknob and walked through with Hermione trailing behind.

When the women stepped through, Hermione hadn’t known what to have anticipated, but what she saw certainly hadn’t even come close.

It was as if she’d stepped into the countryside on a warm summer’s day. Grassy hills stretched on for what looked like miles, and tall mountains could be seen in the distance. There was a stone fountain to the right of her, with water gently trickling into it from the mouth of a statue, very much resembling a Cherub. Behind her was the door they had come out of. Just the door, nothing else, suspended in the air.

The sky was mostly clear, with puffs of white clouds floating sporadically. It was strange, she could plainly see what looked like the sun, yet also was able to make out the stars that would have normally only been visible after dark. The shade of it was a mixture of the soft pink and orange of twilight, mixed with a navy blue, reminiscent of the nighttime sky. There was something almost ethereal about it.

A gentle breeze blew around them, throwing off scents of honeysuckle and some sort of spice she couldn’t quite put her finger on. It almost reminded her of ginger with maybe a hint of cinnamon, but not quite. It was something she most definitely had never experienced before while she was alive.

As Hermione stood taking it all in, she hadn’t noticed that Lily was watching her.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked.

Looking at the blue and purple wildflowers scattered throughout the grass around them, Hermione smiled and nodded in agreement.

Lily pointed to a cobblestone walkway that weaved itself through the hills.

“This way will lead us to the others,” she said, leading Hermione on.

As they walked down the path, Hermione began feeling a little excited at the thought of seeing those who had died during the war again. She had missed Fred quite a bit. Not to mention Sirius, Remus and Tonks. There were others, too, that she wanted to see once more. Professor Dumbledore, who she had many questions for. Perhaps even Dobby again, to thank him for what he’d done for at Malory Manor.

There was also another person for whom she wished to thank, if she could have found him. She felt she needed to thank Severus Snape, for all that he’d done to insure the Order had won the war. And most importantly, for insuring Harry would have gone on to live a happy life.

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