Hermione returned to Britain from her four year stint as an apprentice curse breaker. Her time in Egypt left her tanned and confident. She smiled frequently and laughed loudly. Gringots was happy to forgive her debt and her part in the dragon theft, and she was happy to continue working with the goblins.
She settled in quickly, returning to life on her native shores with ease.
She whistled at work. It drove Bill Weasley spare as his office was next to hers. It made everyone else oddly happy.
Then, one day, it stopped.
Bill took a deep breath as he entered the room. Hermione was centered on the task before her. A string of opal cabochons sparkled on her embroidered bit of dragon hide. Removing the curses from family heirlooms was a full time job these days.
"You're not at it today, Songbird?" Bill leaned against one of her overstuffed bookcases.
"I'm trying to finish this." She took a deep breath and twisted her wand around in an odd runic array. "Stupid Pucey wants to give his fiancée the family opals for her birthday."
He watched her work and considered how to broach the subject of his suspicions with her. She was too damn smart for him to fool and too damn powerful for him to intimidate. He hoped he was wolf enough to pull off a blunt attack.
"What should I tell Mum when you don't present yourself for dinner tomorrow night?" Bill watched her closely. There had to be a tell.
"I've arranged an owl. She won't worry." Hermione took a deep cleansing breath and flicked her wand. The necklace glowed for a moment as the curse lifted. "Another gaudy necklace ready to blind casual passers by."
"I think I deserve more information than that." Bill glared at her and lifted his lip in a slight threat.
"You're so cute, Bill." Hermione chuckled and boxed the necklace. "Did you really think you would intimidate me?"
"I know what you've done, what you're doing. I apprenticed in Egypt as well." Bill crossed his arms over his chest. "You think I didn't consider doing the same damn thing?"
"If it works, I've stored enough virgin blood for George to try, but I'm not going after Fred." She took a deep breath and stood up. Her hands pressed flat to the top of her desk as she leaned forward. "I have a promise to keep."
"If he won't come back, you'll die. Your body will go on, but you'll be gone." Bill stepped forward and started to pace. "Harry would rather have you around than lose you on the chance that Sirius might come back."
"I'm not going after Sirius either." Hermione giggled. "I loved the man, but no."
"Then who?" Bill laced his fingers together behind his neck.
"Does it matter?" Hermione grabbed a bottle of fire whiskey from her desk drawer and poured him a generous glass. "Nothing you say can deter me. I have spent years preparing for this. I'm strong enough. If he chooses to remain where he is, I can accept it. I visited the island. I know what will be left of me if I fail."
"So, you're going to use all the power you've stored in the very cells of your being to bring back someone that's passed on?" He took a deep breath. "It sounds like necromancy to me. I could summon the aurors."
"It won't stop me. It will hurt my chances, but it wouldn't stop me." Hermione sighed. "I wish you hadn't figured it out."
"I wish I'd never recommended you for the apprenticeship." He tossed back the last of his drink and set it on her desk.
"I knew what I was going to do before I left. I took the apprenticeship to get where I needed to be." Hermione rolled her lips inwards in a mockery of a smile. "I'm glad I did. I like the work. Curse breaking is fascinating, but it was always a means to an end."
"This could be your end. Call me selfish, but I don't want to lose anyone else." Bill snarled. "My pack is diminished enough."
"I understand that the full moon is tomorrow. You're cranky." Hermione licked her lips and stared up at him. "I have to do this. Trust me."
"Tomorrow night?" Bill closed his eyes. "A blue moon. I can't be there."
"It will be tricky enough without your interference." Hermione smiled and stepped out from around her desk. "I've taken care of letters if the whole thing goes badly."
"If it goes badly, I'll get you to the island." Bill growled. "There's no way I can talk you round?"
"My course is set." Hermione turned and dropped her dragon hide robes from her shoulders.
He swallowed at the vibrant glow of the tattoo through her shirt. He could see it moving and sparking against the fabric. There was a great deal of power stored in her, but he'd never seen someone before the attempt. The pale bodies of those that failed, he'd seen those.
She grabbed her black leather jacket and slung it on before turning to face him. He fought the urge to grab her and hold her against her will. He was fairly certain he'd lose the ensuing fight.
"I'll see you soon." Hermione patted his cheek and left him standing in her office. He heard her whistle as she made her way up to the main floor. It was too much. He plopped down onto her floor and let the tears come.
Hermione stood at the edge of the lake and stared at the bright reds and oranges of the sunset. The last hurdle was fast approaching. She dropped her jacket onto the sheet beneath her. All the things she needed had to remain on the sheet until she was done.
"I brought the pictures and the blanket like you asked." Andromeda approached slowly. "I don't think this is what my daughter meant when she asked you to make sure her son grew up with a good man in his life."
"I don't need to worry about that. Harry's alive and well. I know you think I've gone round the bend, but I knew this was my fate when I first read the book describing the ritual. I was fifteen." Hermione patted the older witch on the hand.
"Then go after Sirius." Andromeda twisted her fingers together. "He'd come back."
"I love Sirius, but I'm not sure I could hold this all together for him." Hermione shrugged. "I'm not sure why, but I know that I can for him."
"I'll be back an hour or two after dawn." Andromeda blinked a few times.