Metaphysicka by Caseyrochelle
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I make money from this writing. I'm just a fan.
June 13, 2002 London, England - Hermione's Flat
Hermione sighed as she set aside the book she'd been pouring over for the past few hours detailing types of chemical bonds. Her notes on how the properties of the chemical reactions would affect the properties of a potion, and how said potion relied on those bonds, was tucked neatly into the pages to mark her spot. She lay down her fountain pen, which she found she liked better than a quill most days, and stood, stretching tense muscles. She really had been sitting for most of the day, which wasn't unusual when she was as immersed in research as she had been lately. She'd been so absorbed, she'd completely forgotten to eat. She checked her watch, groaning at the discovery that it was nearly three in the morning.
She trudged to the little kitchen in her flat, leaving her books and notes strewn across the table in the living room. She filled the kettle and set it on the stove for her nightly cup of tea. Chamomile with a hint of lavender; it was the only thing that could calm her nerves and prepare her for sleep. Perhaps it was the nightly ritual and the familiarity it brought that left her relaxed more than the tea itself, but regardless, it helped.
Since the end of the war, her routine had been her way of regaining her sense of control. She'd spent the past two years relearning how to be normal and how to function in a society that wasn't torn apart by a war. The first few months had been rough, that was certain.
She and Ron had hit several roadblocks in their relationship that she felt she couldn't move past. His insistence that "bloody hell, it's just snogging, Hermione," didn't change the fact that nearly every time the two were alone, Ron was all over her. Most of the time he didn't ask for permission, and that just didn't sit right with her. She finally called it off when he started trying to undress her one night without so much as a "Hi, honey" in greeting.
She'd moved in with Harry at 12 Grimmauld Place for the first month after the breakup, needing her space and time to find a place of her own. She soon found a little flat in London for a reasonable price and jumped to be out on her own. She loved spending time with Harry, but she felt she needed time to adjust to life by herself, and she wanted to give him that opportunity as well. He was to start Auror training soon and, as Ginny was only around in brief spurts due to her training with the Holyhead Harpies, she wanted to give the young couple their space.
Hermione hadn't returned to her final year at Hogwarts, but instead had taken Headmistress McGonagall's offer to sit her exams with her fellow would-be seventh years that were affected by the war. She, of course, had passed with flying colors, earning "Exceeds Expectations" on every N.E.W.T. she attempted. She'd had job offers from every major department in the Ministry for Magic since the end of the war, but she was so tired of being in the public eye. When she received an offer that would allow her to research to her heart's content, she jumped at the opportunity.
Her official title was Experimental Potioneer with St. Mungo's Research and Development department. She was largely able to dictate her own course of study, with funding from the hospital, provided her research yielded conclusive results that she would present annually to a board of her superiors. Her most recent endeavors to study Muggle chemistry and apply it in her Potions work had yielded enough interest from the board that she'd been allowed to apply for research rights at the Ministry. To her surprise, her application was accepted and she was granted clearance to the Department of Mysteries. She'd found that a bit odd, but then she'd supposed it had something to do with the way the Ministry viewed chemistry as a derivative of Alchemy, a subject which had long since been stored in those halls.
Since her clearance had been granted, which had only been a few weeks, she hadn't gathered the courage required to venture to the ninth level of the Ministry. But she could no longer stall. She'd hit a wall with her current books; there was only so far chemical bonds could take her, and she kept running into the same odd symbols in the magical books she'd procured. All her notes and research were pointing her to the library in the Department of Mysteries as her next logical step to progress her research.
Hermione was shaken from her thoughts of what lie in wait at the Ministry by the kettle's screech. She quickly fixed her tea and allowed it to steep as padded into her room to change into her night clothes. Returning moments later in soft shorts and a tank top, she took her mug in both hands and breathed in the relaxing scent. She moved back to the living room, which was cozy, despite being under decorated, and sank back into the couch, curling her feet under her. Her eye caught the front page of the Daily Prophet on the coffee table. A blonde wizard that she'd grown accustomed seeing in the papers was smiling reservedly, grey eyes aglow, while shaking the hand of Kingsley Shacklebolt. She leaned forward to pick up the paper, and settled back to read it over her tea.
"Malfoy Heir Donates Family Research to Ministry, Claims to be Compiling Compendium." Hermione's brows furrowed at the headline. Draco Malfoy compiling a compendium of magical documents? And the Ministry willingly allowing it? Something didn't add up; a lot had changed in two years, but in that time, he'd still had Ministry officials breathing down his back at even his smallest outing. She wondered at what had changed, but finally decided to put it out of her mind as best she could. She had her own research to worry about, after all.
She finished her tea with a sleepy yawn, stretching on her way to place her mug in the sink. She willed herself to put her research aside and think about her friends, her upcoming social events, things that didn't involve work or the past. This was her nightly ritual. It was her hope that, if she thought enough happy, positive thoughts before bed, her nightmares would ease. Sometimes it worked. But other times, it was all she could do to keep from screaming out in her sleep. She'd learned how to mostly repress the screaming after a year. She kept a stock of dreamless sleep potion in her bedside table, but she only took it on extreme occasions.
She lay down in bed, idly wondering when Harry would get up the courage to propose to Ginny, and started to drift off to sleep. Her last thought before falling asleep was how different the piercing grey eyes she'd seen in the Prophet had been, and wondering what had changed them.