Hermione walked cautiously down the corridor towards Professor McGonagall’s office, keeping an eye out for any loose fireworks or dungbomb odors in the air. In the days since Fred and George Weasley made their grand exit from Hogwarts School, the castle had become something of an obstacle course. The students, united in their efforts to rebel against Umbridge’s stifling regime, caused chaos whenever there was opportunity and even Hermione, who generally would have found the disruptions to learning irritating, could not fault her classmates these small victories. She herself had been feeling rather hopeless and discouraged since the disbanding of the D.A. and Dumbledore’s sudden departure; her desire to continue taking critical action contrasted with her fear of grave consequences not just for herself but her friends and teachers. Hermione was particularly concerned for Professor McGonagall, who Umbridge despised because of her closeness to Dumbledore and, Hermione suspected, because of the respect McGonagall earned from students at the school.
Professor McGonagall’s office door was slightly ajar when Hermione arrived, but she knocked out of courtesy to announce her arrival. Hermione meant for the knock to be small, but its force was enough to push the door open rather quickly and she caught a glimpse of the melancholy gaze on Professor McGonagall’s face before breaking out of her silent meditation to meet Hermione’s eyes.
“Ah, Ms. Granger,” she said, motioning to the chair in front of her desk, “you’re fairly early.”
“I’m, uh, sorry Professor,” Hermione blushed, “I just thought, well, it wouldn’t hurt to have some extra time.”
“I quite understand,” McGonagall nodded. “These conversations can cause quite a bit of anxiety even in the most promising students.”
Hermione sighed in relief at McGonagall’s words. Hearing validation of the anxiety she was feeling somehow made it less crippling in the moment. It wasn’t until that moment that Hermione recognized the longing she’d felt for an opportunity to confide openly to her Head of House as she had done regularly in years past, back when the teachers were not operating under stupid decrees that banned them from relationship building with students. Professor McGonagall would not laugh at the concern that seemed to loom larger in Hermione’s mind with every career pamphlet she read — What if there was no place for her in the wizarding world beyond Hogwarts? What if she became too distracted by the Order’s fight against Voldemort, who was steadily gaining power unchallenged by the Ministry, to focus on her exams? What if Dolores Umbridge remained High Inquisitor for the next two years and found a way to expel Harry, Hermione, and Ron? What if, and Hermione felt the anguish of her shortsightedness, Marietta’s parents decided to push for more information into her condition; would Hermione be expelled or even imprisoned? Marietta did have Ministry connections.
Professor McGonagall’s next words interrupted Hermione’s thoughts, “Generally, this meeting time is used to help students determine which subjects they will continue at N.E.W.T. level based on their long term interests. As I suspect you will be continuing with all of your current subjects, our meeting can focus more on which of the many careers available to you best fit your character and aptitude.”
“I don’t know which ones those would be,” Hermione replied glumly. “Most jobs I don’t much fancy and even those I might be keen on, well, I don’t know how well I would do.”
“Nonsense, Ms. Granger,” McGonagall snapped, jolting Hermione a bit. “You’ve always had top marks in all your classes. I’m sure every teacher here expects great things from you as I do. Now, you’re a natural leader and level headed girl; have you considered joining the Ministry at all?”
Hermione had, of course, considered the Ministry of Magic but thought those jobs would have been more appealing to her in first year, before interacting with the likes of Fudge, Barty Crouch Sr., and Professor Umbridge.
McGonagall seemed to glean some of Hermione’s thought patterns. Leaning forward on the desk and dropping her voice a bit, McGonagall added, “They’re not all like Umbridge you know.” She sat back in her seat again adding, “Consider Arthur Weasley. There are plenty of good and moral people in the Ministry working hard to do what’s right and we always need more.”
Hermione’s hesitation remained in place though its root had changed. She felt her head drop just slightly so that she was no longer looking McGonagall in the eyes. Was she a good and moral person? There was so much Professor McGonagall didn’t know. Everyone now knew that Hermione had jinxed Marietta, but how would McGonagall respond if she found out Hermione had blackmailed Rita Skeeter for a year? Hermione came into Hogwarts excited to learn and ready to fully meet expectations by following all rules. Now, in her fifth year, it seemed not a week went by without her taking part in the breaking of school rules and Ministry laws. Hermione was anxious to change the subject. She stared at the desk between she and the Professor and said conversationally, “Last year Barty Crouch Jr., when we still thought he was Moody, said I would make a good Auror.”
“And so you would,” replied Professor McGonagall, matching Hermione’s cool tone. Then she added, “but I don’t know that I’ve seen anything from you to suggest interest in that career path.” Without waiting for Hermione to respond, McGonagall went on, “With your knowledge, practical skills, and organization, you could be a brilliant Professor. It’s hard to say if there will be any open positions here at Hogwarts when you graduate, but there is always the opportunity to teach internationally as well. Taking into account Professor Dumbledore’s connections with Beauxbatons and my own connections with Uagadou School I’m sure we can find you an apprenticeship at either until you feel confident enough to handle classes on your own. Uagadou has perhaps the best Arithmancy program out of all the top wizarding schools and Professor Vector tells me you have a true knack for the subject.”
Hermione considered this. The idea was intriguing. She loved to travel, as did her family, and the idea of studying Arithmancy in the region so full of magical history and significance would be incredible. What was more, for the first time ever she would be surrounded by witches and wizards who looked like her, instead of being one of a handful of Black students at Hogwarts. But then she thought of her friends, of Ron and Harry. Could she leave them after school was done? They would be joining the Order, continuing the fight against Lord Voldemort. How could she go before that fight was done?
“I do think I’d like to stay closer to home, Professor,” Hermione said sighing. “I think it’s for the best.” She raised her head to look at McGonagall, feeling that this meeting wasn’t going well at all and expecting to see a look of impatience on the professor’s face.
But McGonagall didn’t look impatient. She looked concerned, or perhaps disappointed. Hermione’s cheeks started to burn in shame and she quickly looked away. When McGonagall cleared her throat to speak again, Hermione expected to be told to leave and that they could finish the talk another time.
Instead, Professor McGonagall pulled a tin out of her desk drawer, opened it up, and said calmly, “Ms. Granger, have a biscuit.”
Hermione took a cookie out of the tin, now holding back tears that were inexplicably fighting to pour out of her. Professor McGonagall got up and closed the door to the corridor.
As she returned to her seat, she spoke, “I know it’s been a difficult time for all of us here at Hogwarts and especially for students who have become targets of Professor Umbridge. I know it can seem pointless to even consider the future with so much stress in the present, but you are a visionary Hermione. You have always been driven and excited by challenge. You have always been confident in who you are.” Professor McGonagall paused her speech and waited for Hermione to make eye contact again before adding softly, “I apologize if I have not picked up on any internal struggles you may be having.”
Hearing McGonagall use her first name calmed her. After a few deep breaths she was able to swallow the piece of cookie she had stuck in her throat and speak again. She rambled for five minutes straight. She told Professor McGonagall about S.P.E.W. and about how bothered she was by the way wizards treat other magical beings and creatures. She talked about wanting to make lasting change in society and her feeling that it could be done through community organizing faster than through the Ministry. She even talked a bit about how she had come up with the idea for the D.A. and wanting to make sure all members of the magical community had access to spells and charms that would help them feel safe and provided for. When Hermione finished talking she was out of breath and Professor McGonagall was beaming at her.
“Thank you for sharing with me, Ms. Granger. And for identifying the problem I should have seen before. You don’t need these pamphlets. You have full capability of creating a new career path or working in multiple to actualize your long term goals.” McGonagall chuckled, “You’re not too keen on the Ministry now, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you were Minister of Magic someday.”
Professor McGonagall stood to indicate the end of the meeting and Hermione rose from her seat as well. She rushed around the table and hugged Professor McGonagall who, though surprised, returned the gesture before stepping away.
“Thank You, Professor,” said Hermione, and she left the room feeling much lighter than when she had entered. She started her way to Gryffindor tower to grab some pencil, parchment, and her bathrobe. The pencil and parchment she would use to write down McGonagall’s words about her before they were forgotten. The bathrobe, she would take with her to the Prefects bathroom where she could swim and ponder a world where she wasn’t working under a frustrating and short-sighted Minister like Fudge, but was in fact Minister of Magic herself.