Hermione Granger's life is not horribly complicated. That isn't to say that it's not horribly dangerous and life-threatening at times -it is truly both of those things - but it never quite manages to cross into the territory that her mother described as 'tricky.'

(A word her mother only reserved for the most difficult of emotional entanglements.)

She's absolutely resolute that nothing was going to change.

Everything would go on as it normally had.

(Except, it wouldn't. This was going to make everything damn tricky)

She hadn't noticed it at first.

(And even now she could still pretend that it was a trick of the light when she looked into the mirror.)

The Goblins noticed it though.

(Of course they did. of course)

Everything was changing about her; her first blood had come during the summer and the softness had started around her hips. Everything as it should be.

(Until suddenly it's not quite.)

Her mother is pragmatic as always and somewhat overly helpful. But neither she nor the books - or at least the muggle books - has one thought or mention of the eyes.

(Well, just eye. Only the one. The left -her left, everyone else's right.)

(Her mother agrees that the change is just plain odd.)

It's easy to ignore when she wants to. Especially when she buries her head in the required reading for September, rather than wasting any of her time on trivialities, like her eyes.

(Sometimes, though, she is forced to think on the odd change. When she stares too long at the words on the pages in front of her and she can't quite shake the new blur to the letters or the tension headache building behind her eyes.)

(It's nothing.)

(Except it is something.)

The Goblins at Gringotts are discrete, thankfully.

They don't pull her to one side and make a scene - instead they act like nothing is amiss.

(Nothing is amiss, as far as she's concerned. It's not until later, much, much, later that she knows.)

She is still a little flustered when the goblin steering the cart deep into the vaults congratulates her on her entry into womanhood.

She finds herself spluttering and choking at his words, deeply embarrassed.

(Who wouldn't be?)

She tries to sit quietly and not make eye contact for the rest of the journey.

She really tries.

(But she finds that it's an impossible task when the goblin pulls her face down and stares for a long time - too long - into her eyes.)

"You must take more care to cover it up Miss Granger, it is simply not the done thing to advertise it before you come of age." The goblin all but growls.

"Excuse me?!"

(She splutters even more. Goblins, it would seem, have no sense of decorum.)

"Your eyes Miss Granger - It is quite clear what is happening. It will be quite obvious very soon. The colour - already identifiable to those who know. Perhaps, yes - The apothecary opposite might be able to help."

(And then he says no more.)

She takes her money and leaves. Drifting in a daze into the apothecary across the cobbles.

It is relatively quiet in the shop and she doesn't hesitate when she asks the man at the counter for something for her eye.

The man makes a great wheezing sound and turns the brightest red, before ambling into the back of the shop. He disappears for a long time and she turns her attention to the jars lining the shelf on her left to pass the time. He returns, eventually, with a smiling woman in tow and then he shuffles away and muttering about polite society, thank you very much.

His wife, the rotund, kindly woman clucks and coos at Hermione and before leading her out of the main part of the shop. The back room they end up in is homey: piles of bottles with no labels and scraps of fabric with needles and thread poking out are scattered around the room. The scent of patchouli is cloying and she almost chokes.

(She worries momentarily - if there's anything she's learnt in the Wizarding world it's not to be going into strange places with strange people. Nothing was ever as it seems.)

(Except in this case, she amends in her mind when the woman sits her down and hands her a childish looking book, maybe this is exactly as it seems.)

The woman sits down next to her and fusses for a moment, offering a cup of tea and answers to any of her questions.

(She politely declines both offers and tries to edge away.)

She's almost out of the door when the woman stops her, thrusting a bottle into her hands.

("You'll need this, sweetie. Just a few drops every morning should do it. Best of luck! I hope all works out.")

(Hermione all but runs out of the door.)

The book is patronising and mainly consists of information she has found elsewhere -much of it is less detailed than the other bits and pieces she has taken from muggle books and her mother.

('When a witch grows up she will find many changes about her.' it reads. 'One of them will be her feelings')

(It takes more than a little restraint not to discard the book immediately.)

She perseveres against her better judgement.

('There are many differences between the changes that happen to a growing witch and those that happen to a growing wizard. A Witch will start to come into her own much earlier than a wizard, long before coming of age her feelings will grow stronger and markers will appear of her Other-Half, often just shortened to "Other."')

(Other half - What rubbish.)

('When her 'Other' feels strong things, so shall she. Most commonly knowledge of the Other-Half will manifest itself physically - this could happen in various ways, some more obvious than others - parts of the hair or eyes, (or less commonly even a finger print or parts of skin- associated with the sense of touch) could change. It is deemed impolite and often socially inappropriate to display these changes before coming of age, good apothecaries stock the necessary items to mask such-)

She slams the book shut and throws it.

It thumps on the wall and then downwards and lands with a smack in her open trunk.

Ignoring the book completely she goes to the bathroom to examine her change.

She looks and looks and looks, but nothing happens. Nothing changes. Nothing makes sense suddenly.


She closes her right eye and keeps it closed.

Looking just through her left eye the world judders and then rights itself.

(But it's not quite right, not as it was, it has gone a little blurry around the edges.)

She tries to pretend that it's just tiredness.

(It isn't.)

The bottle from the apothecary is brown glass and heavy. The liquid inside is thick and viscous in the delicate pipette.

(She doesn't even hesitate before she tilts her head back and scrunches her nose up and drips.)

Blinking the wetness away she looks into the mirror.

Both her eyes match again, the same brown that they'd always been.

(Not a flash of green in sight.)

She feels off-balance through the rest of the holidays.

(Lethargic with sudden, instant spurts of unwarranted adrenaline that always dissipate relatively quickly.)

She tries not to think about what it means.

(She fails.)

Harry finds them - Hermione nodding thoughtfully to Ron's commentary on the Chudley Cannon's current season - eating ice cream in Diagon Alley.

He sits down next to her and, finding a spoon from somewhere, spends the next ten minutes alternately stealing spoonfuls of her or Ron's ice-cream. He grins widely around a mouthful of raspberry sorbet as he starts to tell the tale of Aunt Marge.

And although she feels obligated to scold Harry for his reckless actions, Hermione finds that she can't.

She's mesmerised.

(By his hands, moving too enthusiastically and his smile, that lights up the grey day.)

(By his eyes; so green.)

(Hermione hadn't thought that his eyes were that green. The holidays had dimmed her memory of him - She hadn't seen his eyes in so long.)

(Except she had - every morning, in the bathroom mirror.)

(And his eyes had always been that green.)

(And this was all going to be damn tricky.)

(Leaving the bottle in the dormitory bathroom in clear view of all occupants is a mistake.)

She realises this very quickly - as the screech-squeal-clank echoes from the shared bathroom. She rushes the door to find Lavender on the floor with a huge grin on her face, eyes bright. And then the girl all but shrieks-

"Who got their Other-Mark!?"

Their excitement is over the top and borderline terrifying.

Hermione manages to shrug and return to her text on eastern-European fey folk, effectively shutting off questioning from the giggling girls.

She doesn't leave the bottle in the bathroom again after that.

(Within a few weeks she's found a spell to transfigure it into something more conspicuous.)

The time-turner is both a life-saver and a life-ruiner.

On some days it feels as if it is the only thing that keeps her straddling the line between sanity and total madness.

It gives her thumping headaches and allows her to take all the classes Hogwarts has to offer.

It means she has extra time to study and extra time to worry.

It means that she can - does - go back - only an hour or two - and just watch and appreciate her two boys.

(Even if it does mean she has to sit through Trelawney's class again - the entire subject is nothing but targeted guessing and wasted tea - it is worth it for her two best-friends.)

(Except, it's only the messy dark hair and green eyes that she is ever watching.)

(Harry has enough to deal with, what with a notorious mass-murdered after him and all, that he doesn't need her to complicate matters with awkward feelings and new Wizarding customs and 'Others'.)

(This is a matter for after, for the summer even, she reasons with herself.)

(So she says nothing.)

It's fine.

(It's not.)

She is a little disappointed as they walk away from Professor Lupin's class.

Ron and Harry are enjoying a blow-by-blow analysis of each form the boggart took and its amusing counterpart from the class, but she remains tight-lipped.

(It is a funny feeling not knowing if she wants to know something.)

It's something she has never experienced before - her normal approach in life is to embrace all knowledge.

Now though, she is confused.

(Later she goes back. Because she needs to know just what she'd face.)

(Perhaps it was a mistake, she thinks, as she looks at an old, frail, sick-looking version of herself with a deep sadness in her two brown eyes.)

Professor Snape's attempts at bringing the class' attention to Professor Lupin's condition are nothing short of heavy handed, she thinks. And perhaps even a little offensive.

But useful information is useful information at the end of the day, she thinks, no matter how it is acquired.

(Apparently Dumbledore's screening process for new teachers really isn't up to par.)

She is reading about the Soviet Selkie Trials of the 14th century when she reaches up to rub at her eye.

It's late and she's stuck in the library when she could be in bed by now.

(But the boys still aren't finished with their essay and she had promised to help.)

She looks up briefly at the two sat opposite her and sees Harry gently rubbing at his own eye. His actions mirror hers exactly.

(Maybe she had been able to fool herself up till now.)

(Telling herself that nothing is different.)

(But not any longer.)

She counts to ten, breathes and closes her eyes.

(Which is a big mistake.)

(Behind her eyelids isn't darkness - instead it is a blurry, half-finished potions essay on a table before her. )

Her eyes snap back open. She refocuses on the book in front of her and tries to ignore the tension headache sitting behind the bridge of her nose.

(She doesn't look Harry Potter in the eye for a week.)

(At least not in person: the bathroom mirror - her own reflection when she wakes up in a morning - is somewhat unavoidable.)

She hadn't thought it'd be like this.

(That was a lie; she had)

(Or rather, she had tried not to think about it at all.)

She had known, earlier, exactly what Harry was up to. Every time she blinked she could see the Twins brandishing the Marauders map, and then the dark tunnel, and then Honeydukes' cellar.

(Slowly, she is getting used to this 'New Sight'.)

Which means that she is also under that blasted table, with those blasted people and the blasted truth with Harry when he learns that Sirius Black had betrayed his parents.

The hurt and betrayal washes over her.

(She isn't prepared for the emotions)

She feels the bile rise in her own gut. The need to vomit surges up through her. Which is why she pushes desperately through the people, towards the door, into the snow.

(Or in pursuit of Harry.)

(Whichever is easier to admit.)

Sirius Black is innocent.

It's certainly not something she had expected.

(But then being chased by a feral-werewolf-come-Defence-Against-the-Dark-Arts-Professor and riding a fugitive Hippogriff to safety - their safety and Buckbeak's - is not something she had expected to come from the night either.)

(Taking Harry back in time and watching through new eyes - fresh eyes - the way their past selves moved, interacted, reacted to each other was not something she expected.)

(Harry's warm, dry hand on her own hand as they run through the Forbidden Forest, then on the spot between neck and shoulder when she turns in fright from the Hippogriff and Werewolf fighting.)

Nothing is as expected and everything is life-threatening. But being Harry Potter's best-friend had always been an unpredictable and dangerous role.

She didn't expect it to change anytime soon.

(She refused to think about what being his Other would be like.)

(Even as she holds - vice clamp - onto his waist, the downy feather-fur of Buckbeak beneath them.)

Despite her own reservations about flying and heights she can't help the noises that escape her. Laughter and shrieks echo in the darkness as her own fear mixes and mingles as the joy from Harry's soul pours into her own.

(The moon is starting to dip towards the horizon and it reflects bright and clear across the lake, illuminating darker movement beneath the already inky surface. The still water creates a mirror-plain beneath them and their reflection there is-)

(It's like nothing she has ever seen before. It's serene and wild at the same time. It's all colourful despite the way the night leeches the colour out of their surroundings. It glows.)

She can't look for long - her own fear starts to win. So, instead - adrenaline pounding - she screws her eyes shut, presses her smile into Harry's jumper and watches the glorious night sky through his eyes instead.

(This. This was what being his Other would be like.)

Hermione realises over the holidays how easy and routine it is to hide her anomaly.

(How easy it is to hide.)

She spends most of the summer at the Burrow. She thinks that sharing a room with Ginny might be problematic - that the younger girl might notice early in the mornings - but Ginny proves to be a heavy sleeper , no threat to Hermione's well ingrained early riser tendencies.

What she didn't (couldn't) foresee was coming back to their shared room from the bathroom to find Ginny sitting quietly and morosely on her bed.

She looks up when Hermione closes the door quietly, sniffles and then tucks a strand of hair - about an inch wide - behind her ear.

A bright platinum blond piece of hair.

Hermione doesn't ask.

Instead she sits on the bed next Ginny and takes out her bag of toiletries.

The bottle is a new one, so it's almost full.

She takes the hair brush from Ginny's limp hand and squeezes some droplets on the bristles. With gentle hands she takes the piece of hair. She combs it carefully for a moment with her fingers, making sure she's got every single blond hair separated from the fiery colour underneath.

She's about to start brushing when the colour stutters and starts again.

It flickers from blonde to purple suddenly. It's a garish purple but it doesn't stay that way for long - Hermione isn't sure how long she watches the hair - not blinking in case she misses something - but by the time she starts to brush it is a loud turquoise colour.

Eventually the hairs return to their original bright ginger to blend in with the rest of hair on her head.

"I can hear things." Ginny says. "just murmurs. 'Constant vigilance' once or twice. It- It reminded me of the diary for a minute. I didn't want to hear things - I thought maybe I'd be one of the lucky ones and see."

(Hermione didn't realise she is one of the lucky ones.)

(She doesn't feel lucky.)

It's nice, she thinks, to watch Quidditch and not have to worry about Harry's safety.

(But then she does have to worry about his safety, because of course everything couldn't go well for once. And of course there are Death Eaters in the camp.)

Hermione's head thumps painfully all the way to Hogwarts.

She tries not to think about this headache, even as Harry rubs at his scar.

(Except it's impossible to think about anything else.)

His name comes out of the Goblet of Fire on the same night that Lavender Brown comes to her ecstatic and squealing and with a long piece of straight ginger hair tucked behind her ear.

She wants to have the patience to deal with Lavender properly, but her head hurts so.

(Instead she just ends up handing the bottle over and asking she uses it sparingly until Lavender gets her own.)

They walk to dinner together and Lavender can barely restrain herself from bouncing. Especially when she sees Ron.

(Hermione briefly wonders if Lavender realises how many Weasleys there actually are.)

(She dismisses the thought because even Lavender can't be that dim.)

And then she has bigger things to deal with because Harry - oh, Harry - has to compete in the Triwzard tournament.

(She has read the books -she knows that people have died.)

The people in the hall start to shout things, nasty things at Harry. They doubt him, they think he put his own name in the Goblet.

Harry didn't put his name in. He can't have. There's not a doubt in her mind.

(Least of all because her mind is his mind.)

(Their mind is one and the same.)

(She would to talk to him this year, she told herself, she would.)

But a Triwizard tournament makes that impossible.

And so passes another year, she thinks with resignation.

She has her first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson with the new teacher and her heart almost stops when he shouts 'Constant Vigilance!' across the room.

She blinks, shocked and writes herself a note, something to give Ginny later. An Auror, she thinks, an Auror under Moody's training.

(Her note lies forgotten when he casts the Unforgivables in front of the class.)

She blinks long and hard and ends up watching the creature die in flash of green light twice for her troubles.

(Through Harry's eyes she sees the creature and then the flash of green, and then - so briefly she's not sure that it's real - the ruins of a room and the storm raging outside.)

(Then she's back in the room and she's wiping away tears, surreptitiously.)

Ron and Harry's fall out tests her patience to the limit.

She feels her own emotions about the situation.

And then she gets Harry's own resentment.

So she snaps.

(She regrets it instantly.)

The first task is barbaric.

A Dragon.

(A Dragon.)

Hermione takes a moment - quite a few moments - to reflect on it. She wonders if it's legal to have underage children battling vicious, fire-breathing creatures.

Harry steps out of the tent and he looks fearless and confident.

(What Harry can see and feel is something completely different, she finds.)

(Her eyes are screwed tight shut for most of the event -but instead of blocking the horror she just experiences it firsthand.)

Despite this, she can't quite bring herself to open her eyes to her actual surroundings and instead spends the majority of the task gasping for breath and clutching in a vice-grip a broom she did not actually have.

At the end she lets out a deep shaky breath and looks around at the cheering crowd and wonders.

(Is it worth it? She muses, for a golden egg and eternal glory? Is it worth it?)

After, in the common room she wants to kick and scream as her fellow Gryffindor celebrate. She wants to cry and shout and make people understand that this is dangerous.

(But then she doesn't have to because the golden egg screams for her and it's a horrible sound. but it helps.)

(It helps.)

It is the second most excited she has ever seen Lavender. The girl is bouncing. Bouncing. And Parvati is not helping - in fact she's actively encouraging the other girl.

Ginny is sitting on the edge of Hermione's bed chatting animatedly with her two housemates. When Hermione enters the dorm Ginny throws an apologetic smile over her shoulder before returning to the discussion.

Hermione has a horrible feeling she knew what this is about.

(A horrible, horrible feeling.)

But it isn't as bad as she anticipated.

Lavender, having mellowed slightly since her Other Mark had developed, is enthusiastic but gentle - none of the harsh screeching of previous years.

So she finds it easy - easier, anyway - to let go for a bit and talk about dresses and dates and the Yule Ball. Hermione lets herself be included in their quick chatter. There is none of the discomfort of Lavender and Parvati's usual brashness and invasion of privacy.

Nobody brings up the subject of Others or Other Marks when they talk of dates. Which in itself makes Hermione ever so slightly uncomfortable.

(The elephant in the room, her mother would've called it.)

(And Hermione doesn't know why she does what she does next.)

She brings the subject up.

The three girls fall silent almost instantly.

(And Hermione quickly senses she may have crossed a line.)

But eventually Parvati smiles meekly and starts to talk.

"The mark is permanent and, well, by most it's considered to be pretty much set in stone. The Other is the be all and end all, you know? But it is considered -in most magical cultures, that is- as the domain of adults. The mark comes to witches at a young age, but it's perfectly acceptable, normal even, for girls to have a bit of fun-" She giggles as if she's said something rude and secret "-before they find their Other and settle down."

Hermione nods. The guilt at thinking about dates for the ball shifts slightly.

She smiles at the three girls in front of her.

She feel a small stab of guilt when Viktor Krum asks her to the ball.

(But then she blinks long and hard and sees the courtyard outside and a small gaggle of Beauxbatons girls that Harry is approaching with some trepidation.)

(She feels the twist of nervousness deep within.)

(She's not sure if it is in her gut or Harry's)

So she shakes the nerves away like cobwebs. She looks up - all bright and smiles - to Viktor and accepts his invitation.

(At the very least it would make good story to tell later on - how she went to the ball with one of the most celebrated Quidditch players of the age.)

(Perhaps her and Harry's future children would enjoy hearing about it.)

The ball is magical.

She wishes there was a less cliché way of describing it.

(But she is reduced to clichés.)

She feels untouchable in blue silk and sparkling jewellery and on the arm of Viktor Krum.

As she twirls and dances she looks around the room -she looks at the young women all of them happy and smiling and beautiful.

She wonders how many of them are in the arms of their Other.

She wishes she was in the arms of hers.

(But she's not.)

(Harry's green robes are bold and beautiful and even if he doesn't dance for the whole night after that first waltz with Parvati, he is still graceful as he stalks around avoiding everyone.)

It's still a wonderful night.

She despairs when she finds out that Harry is still clueless about the golden egg and the second task.

She despairs when he figures it out and they are stuck in the library desperately searching for a solution to his problem.

(Then there is darkness.)

(And then water and cheering and Viktor.)

(And Harry.)

The third task is both more and less than what she expected.

The Quidditch pitch replaced by a dark, cold, dense maze.

This, she knows, is something darker, more sinister, than Dragons or the Black Lake.

She can feel it as surely as she feels the pounding in her head.

(But Harry has said nothing to his two best friends of the pain his scar is causing, so she says nothing for fear of revealing everything.)

Once he enters the maze it becomes just an endless game of waiting for the spectators.

The pain is unbearable.

Hermione has to excuse herself, her head throbs so.

She closes her eyes and she's in a graveyard with him and him.

(He's back.)

Hermione helps Harry hold on as long as she can. As does Harry's mother, his father and Cedric Diggory.

She almost weeps when he lands, not wholly safe, but for now safely whole in front of the Triwizard spectators.

(She does weep when she sees him clutch Cedric's body and feels his grief )

Then there is no time for grief: Not-Moody has Harry.

(She doesn't think, she just runs.)

She says Harry is in trouble. She screams it at Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall, anyone, as they crowd around the body of Cedric.

They pay her no heed until she screams more and louder. Ron is trying to clutch her hand and pull her back, away from the teachers gathered around Cedric's body. But she thumps and pounds and screams.

(Maybe she screams the word 'Other' at some point - Maybe that's what makes them listen. But eventually they do listen.)

(And it's not too late.)

(Thank Merlin, it's not too late.)

Over the summer she feels what she will know in the future to be the nightmares, the grief.

Then the Dementors.

The anger.

The lonliness.

(So alone)

The Order is something wonderful. She wants so desperately to share it with Harry. But apparently she can't.

(She recognises the seething anger that boils underneath at this as not-her-own.)

Oh, the Order is wonderful. Living at Grimmauld Place with the Weasleys and Sirius and Lupin is something lovely and different to do with her summer. But it is a reminder of the war coming.

Hermione feels at a loss. She needs Harry and she needs him to know everything.

(But it is not that easy.)

(It's never that easy.)

She passes the time in various ways.

She listens to the wireless, reads her books for the coming year, helps clean the house from top to bottom.

But mainly she watches.

She watches the interaction between Sirius Black and Remus Lupin and wonders, idly, if there is a male equivalent of the Other Mark.

(She notices, eventually, a matching Birthmark on their wrists.)

She also watches Ginny Weasley. And Nymphadora Tonks.

(And the ginger streak that sometimes makes itself briefly between Tonks' morphs between hair colours.)

She sees them sometimes, when they don't want to be seen, sitting in a corner together, talking. Always just talking. They sit closer than others, just friends, might.

They smile a little wider at each other than at everyone else.

Sometime, getting more often now, Tonks decides to embrace the hair colour.

And so it seems as if there's another Weasley sat in the Kitchen at dinner times.

(And Ginny was wrong, so very wrong.)

(She is a lucky one.)

Professor Dumbledore calls her in to Grimmauld Place library one day in early August for a 'chat'.

He looks tired.

He starts to talk to her - at her - about the 'weight of one's decisions' and the 'importance of one's duty' and other equally as vague and infuriating concepts. Hermione wants to snap.

(Harry wants to snap, she has to remind herself.)

"What is it you actually wish to tell me headmaster? And be done with all the vagueness."

She waves her hand carelessly. Brushing aside his clouded words.

(Her hand or Harry's hand, she wonders.)

"Miss Granger you're a bright Witch. You're also highly pragmatic. I dare say I need not beat around the bush too much. Harry Potter has a dark and perilous path ahead of him. He does not require….distractions."

(How dare he?)

(How dare he?)

"I can understand any resentment you might feel at the suggestions I'm putting forward. But understand this now: if you do not heed my suggestions the consequences will be dire."

('Suggestions' he calls them.)

(They are no more 'suggestions' than a howler was a cordial invite.)

She doesn't talk to Dumbledore again during the summer.

(She manages in the end to avoid him for the whole year.)

The woman, Umbridge, is insufferable.

Hermione hopes that's all she is.

Maybe they could go a year without a DADA Professor putting Harry's life in danger.

(She doesn't hold out much hope.)

(She is right not to.)

The pain sears across her hand with no preamble.

She closes her eyes against the pain and sees the office (pink) and the words (red.)

For once Harry's anger does not overwhelm her. She is aware of its presence but she manages to push back, consumed as she is with her own sadness for this boy trapped in a world out to get him.

(Despite the sadness-anger she smiles when the incident gives her an excuse to touch; to hold his hand in the dish of dittany.)

(For a moment she can breathe again.)

They start Dumbledore's Army.

It is a good idea, she tries to convince herself.

It takes some effort before she believes it.

(It takes Harry's easy grin before she believes it.)

They're all loitering. It's Christmas and the Room of Requirement has dressed itself for the occasion.

Ron is play-fighting with the twins in one corner - they are still shooting some of the less violent hexes at each other. No one has been hit. Yet.

Harry is talking to Cho Chang in another corner.

They're looking at the mirror-come-notice-board. Together.

She can see their reflection. She wants to be seething with jealousy.

But -but- they look glorious together.

And Harry is talking softly and smiling.

(It's been so long since she saw him like this.)

(He's happy.)

(So instead she tries to feel nothing.)

Neville is the person that she's loitering with.

"Neville?" She asks, carefully.


"You grew up with your Grandmother, right? In the Wizarding world?"

"Yup. Is there something you want to know?" His voice is quiet and gentle.

(Yes. Yes there is.)

"No." She sighs.

(Yes: Does Harry know? Will he ever know?)

"No, nothing. Don't worry, Neville."

She doesn't sleep in fifth year.

She tells herself it's because of stress: OWLS, Umbridge, keeping Harry alive.

(It's not.)

(It's because when she closes her eyes she's trapped.)

(She's the only one who understands when Harry wakes, pale and drawn, claiming murder at the ministry.)

(For once though, she doesn't want to understand.)

("Harry you know it wasn't your fault!")

("Shove off, Hermione. You don't understand.")

(She does understand.)

(She does.)

When she does sleep it is a restless, light slumber and she feels worse in the morning than she would have if she had actually remained awake the entire night.

When she sees her friends in the mornings Ron is chirpy and looking well-rested, but Harry - Harry looks worse than she does.

His Occulumency lessons are not helping.

(She would know.)

She had been sleeping fitfully the night before, the dream she was trapped in seemed to be mundane but odd. Like the memories of someone else.

(Later she will realise these were Harry's memories, ones she had never seen before.)

(And then Snape is there.)

(He's looking right at her.)

("Well this is a turn up for the books isn't it Miss Granger? It would seem the Potter men share the same taste for clever muggleborns. How very…. quaint." He sneers.)

She pushes and pulls her own mind from that dark place and wakes up gasping.

(She doesn't sleep again for a long time.)

She feels the moment that Harry falls asleep in the exam.

(She is almost irritated that Harry is wasting his education.)

(But then she's trapped in the Ministry with Harry, Sirius and Voldemort.)

(And the prophecy.)

The forest is darker than Hermione remembers. She is not really sure what she's doing or where she's going but she keeps moving forward nonetheless.

In the dark her fingers clench, curl up and then uncurl rhythmically.

When Grawp bellows in the distance she can't help her hand as it shoots out and reaches for Harry in the dark.

She wants to let go.

(Except, she doesn't.)

The prophecy glows a low light in the long, dark hall.

He shouldn't pick it up.

(He does anyway.)

When the curses start flying Hermione ducks and runs in the same direction as she thinks Harry has gone.

She lets out a low stream of language that her mother would have reprimanded her for when she sees the masks and cloaks that should strike terror into her.

(There's no terror - just a kind of tired resignation.)

She can hear him amongst the darkness.

Just a pinprick of the briefest light.

"Don't let her be dead, don't let her be dead. It's my fault if she's dead."

She spends a horrible, manic second worrying about this poor girl that Harry was so hurt over.

(She wants to help.)

(But the darkness snatches her away again.)

Luna and Ginny are sitting by her bed when she wakes up.

They tell her that Sirius Black has been killed by Bellatrix Lestrange.

(They didn't need to tell her - she already knows.)

(She can already feel.)

When she tries to sit up they push her back down gently and tell her to take it easy.

Dolohov's curse had been unmerciful. The scar it left couldn't be healed with magic. Only time.

Hermione wanted to cry when she peeks to see the thick white bandages around her torso. There's blood already soaking through.

Instead she focuses elsewhere.

"Ginny. Your- Are you all alright?"

Ginny looks confused for a moment and then she realises what Hermione is really asking. She leans forward and gives her friend the gentlest hug she can manage.

"Tonks- She will be well. Eventually. She's alive and that's what matters."

Luna nods thoughtfully and unobtrusively at Ginny's words.

The youngest Weasley ensures that Hermione is comfortable before saying her goodbyes and moving away from Hermione's bed, drawing the curtains closed back around her as she drifts to the other side of the hospital wing.

"Others are odd things. Precious things." Luna starts as she watches her friend leave. "They feel like the most uncertain things - but nothing could be further from the truth. Others are more certain than anything else in this world. There is nothing we can depend on more."

(There's nothing Hermione can do but smile weakly at Luna.)

Quick, vicious pain-grief-guilt wash over and she's struck winded for a moment.

The hospital wing drops away and there's nothing in front of her but shimmering, broken instruments.

(Except there is Luna, right there, smiling and leaning on her bed. Holding her hands close and telling her to just breathe. Release the pain.)

Through tears running thick and fast she asks Luna then what she's been burning to ask all year. What she nearly asked Neville all those months ago. Desperation and grief loosen her tongue.

"Will he ever know?"

(Could he go on forever without her? Without knowing what she feels?)

She worries that Luna won't understand.

(But she does.)

(Of course she does.)

"Of course he will."

That doesn't help and Hermione tells her as much.

"Wizards are different." Luna admits -there's no embarrassment or shame in this for Luna, she doubts the girl knows what inappropriate even means. Hermione is glad for this, because some Wizarding customs just seem beyond outdated - She continues "Their magic matures differently: They come into theirs when they come of age. Later"

The doors bang and some members of the Order enter the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey rushes up to them and starts ushering them in, quietly. Luna stands up and drifts away from Hermione's bed and towards the group of bedraggled soldiers.

The blond pauses briefly in her drifting and turns back to Hermione's bed.

"He will know." She says with a small smile ."It's slower in coming certainly, but then, all the best things are."

(Even with Luna's words ringing in her head she can't stop the tears that flow.)

(She realises deep into the night, as the birds begin to sing in anticipation of the dawn, that these tears were never hers.)

(And then her tears start afresh as she weeps for Harry's grief.)

Her summer is slow and painful. Harry's grief colours everything she sees, feels, does. It's thick and heavy and rests just above her heart.

But this grief sometimes pales in her own sorrow.

She hadn't noticed at first - thought maybe that the eye drops were a stronger concentration that lasted for longer. That the man at the apothecary hadn't told her.

(But no.)

Her eye, once so green, has started to turn. Revert to its original colour.

She tries to blink away the dash of brown that interrupts the pure green.

(It doesn't work.)

(Nothing does.)

(She doesn't want to know what this means.)


(She's relieved to find that the childish book she had disregarded so long ago had nothing on the subject.)

Summer at the Burrow is a welcome distraction from such thoughts. She spends a blissful few months reading in the garden and helping with the de-gnoming.

Ginny is a bright and soothing presence amongst the chaos of the Weasley boys. She's calm and easy-going and, most importantly, content. Tonks' presence around the Burrow is almost unnoticeable in its naturalness.

The presence of Remus Lupin however tells a very different story.

Hermione tries not to stare.

(Especially at his wrist where there is no longer a birthmark.)

The way that Slughorn operates is vile, she thinks. His favouritism and careful cultivation of any perceived talent makes Hermione want to scream.

(Especially when she finds herself struggling to gain his attention.)

(Especially when she feels a reluctant burst of pride as she and Harry make it into the Slug Club.)

Harry seems as disgusted as she is by the whole practice but goes along with it anyway.

(But at least he's got Dumbledore's instructions as an excuse.)

Harry is taking private lessons with Dumbledore.

She doesn't like it. Not one bit.

But it's got nothing to do with the Headmaster's warnings of not distracting Harry.

(Nothing at all.)

(It has everything to do with the lurching, plunging darkness and images of a young Tom Riddle she sees when she closes her eyes.)

Harry, she knows, has enough darkness in his own future without plunging into someone else's past.

The potions book that Harry holds onto dearly makes her uncomfortable. He treasures it the in same way that she has always treasured books. She's never seen this kind of reverence in him before.

(Except she has. It was before Christmas last year and he was looking at Cho Chang.)

But that's not what makes her uncomfortable.

(Not completely.)

No. It's the way he cradles the book to his chest. - she's seen the stance once before, every detail of it identical right down to the curl of his fingers.

(In the photos of her younger self that sit on her parents' mantle piece.)

He is convinced that Malfoy is fostering dark plans.

(He's obsessed with it.)

(So is she. But she tries not to let it show.)

She only thinks about it because he does. In Harry's mind everything makes perfect logical sense.

It's a mundane Tuesday in the run up to Christmas when she looks at her eyes again properly. One brown, the other only half green now.

The small streak of brown has eaten away half of her and harry.

She doesn't let it upset her.

(Later that day she asks Cormac McLaggen to Slughorn's Christmas Soiree.)

(He agrees.)

Katie Bell does not deserve to be caught in the crossfire.

(No one does.)

(But this is a war.)

Harry takes Luna to Slughorn's Christmas Party.

It makes her smile more than she can say - even if she is trapped on the arm of McLaggen. She watches from afar as Harry smiles and talks to his date, agreeing to everything Luna says even as his face twists with confusion.

(She tried not to think how cute he looks.)

(She fails.)

Dumbledore's lessons are getting darker and darker still.

She sees the younger Slughorn trying to collect Tom Riddle.

(Nothing ever changes.)

It is the dinners that she doesn't really enjoy.

Slughorn bumbles and chatters "Yes, really it's quite amazing what the Quidditch cup has become in the past few decades, you will all be much too young to remember of course - but back in my day there was none of the money that goes into now, of course! And the British league! Well - my, my! What can I say, it's been wonderful to watch so many talented young people find their feet - and wings, haha! - in the league. And I was just saying the other day to Madame Hooch, that I-"

(And so he continues. And he never stops)

The evenings become, more often than not, an always-unwinnable game of one-upmanship.

And the cards were stacked against them all when Harry destroyed Voldemort as an infant.

(And although Hermione fosters no resentment at all it is clear that much of the rest of the table does.)

(It fills her with sorrow to think of this boy with all this unwanted attention and dark future.)

There are times when they all sit digging into whatever extravagant dessert Slughorn has ordered when she can feel Harry glancing over at her. She tries to convince herself that he's looking at something behind her. Beyond her.

(But it's hard to believe that lie when she closes her eyes and all she can see is brown curly hair and her own profile.)

The cheering in the common room is too loud and Ron and Lavender are both attempting to eat each other's faces before the other manages the job.

Hermione has seen enough.

(She can't help but think of Lavenders ginger strands of hair.)

So she turns away and goes to bed early.


She hadn't heard Harry creep up on her.

(That was a lie. She's been aware of his every move since he returned to the common room after his private lesson with Dumbledore.)

(He's been sitting with her for 10 minutes in silence now.)

"Yes, Harry?"

Her tone is impatient. But she's not. She never could be with him.

"I was just- Well I was reading my potions book-"

"-Really Harry, I do think something is just not right about that book-"

"-yes. I know. But could we put that on hold for a second. I've just got a question. Please?"

She purses her lips, but relents anyway, nodding tightly. He smiles.

(He is beautiful when he smiles.)

"Great. I just wanted to know- Well I was wondering of you knew what an 'Other' was."

(Her heart stops.)

(She looks back at her own book.)

"Why'd you want to know Harry?"

"Just something the Prince writes in a few of his notes. The importance of his Other in some of the processes he uses. Do you know?"

She nods again.

(She doesn't trust herself to speak.)

(Not yet.)

She waves a hand at him - 'wait here' the gesture says.

She jogs swiftly to her dorm, digging in her trunk for only a moment before coming upon the book she received so long ago.

(But she takes her time to calm her breathing before she returns to Harry.)

When she sits down next to him with the book in her hands he's frowning into the flames. she says nothing and slips the book to him.

"From what I can tell it's not something that is discussed that openly in the Wizarding world - more like something that happens privately. And only for adults. People consider it bad form to talk about it openly and publicly."

Harry still says nothing.

"The book. I got it long ago. It's not overly useful. Or I didn't find it very useful anyway. You can have it."

He takes it from her and their fingers touch. He thanks her and smiles gently.

(She's glad to finally get rid of the silly book.)

He comes to her a few days later to ask questions.

"So, Ginny and Tonks?" He says. Hermione can't help the soft smile when she thinks of them. Harry catches it and smiles in thought too. "And Ron and Lavender too?"

She shakes the clouds away with the thought of the young couple snogging, and returns to putting the books from the pile in front of her away. "I couldn't say Harry, sorry."

Harry wrinkles his nose. "Well, I s'pose we'll find out soon enough - Ron's never been shy and he turns 17 soon."

"What do you mean?" She snaps too quickly.

(What does he mean?)

He smiles. Smug like he's caught her out. "Why Hermione didn't you finish the book?"

"I told you Harry, the thing infuriated me. Now tell me what it said."

"Nope. I don't think I will." he taunts.

"Harry James Potter you will tell me and you will tell me now" she demands.

They're in the library so she's hissing. And pinching his arm.

(He feels so warm.)

" . Mione! Fine!"

"It just said that we - wizards that is -get their marks when they come of age. The magic manifests differently - we get like - they used a long word I can't remember - echoes of our Others physical marks: scars, birthmarks, freckles and the like."


(It's all she can think to say.)

(She rubs at the top of the long scar on her chest.)


When he drinks the Felix Felicis she worries momentarily that something might happen that will reveal their bond.

(She doesn't worry. Not really.)

(She hopes.)

(Instead of hope, Harry brings back darkness and the foulest evil. A soul split seven ways.)


(It's a slimy word. Echoing evil right into her soul.)

(She can't find a single word on the subject in the library.)

(Not one.)

It's been a glorious day. They've all been sitting by the lake enjoying the last rays of the setting sun. Ron and Lavender are intently focused on each other and have been all day. Ginny has been reading and replying to Tonks' letters

(Harry is nowhere to be seen.)

She puts her book down and peels off her shoes and socks. The pebbles are rough under her feet as she picks down to the lake edge. The lake water is cool as it laps around her ankles. Under the deeper swells she can make out flashes of the giant squid's tentacles.

Some dark green weeds get caught between her toes and she leans down to pick them up. The plant is odd - something she hasn't seen before. When she picks it up and out of the water the dark green buds bloom and flower.

Exposure to the air brings forth bright orange and violet blooms. She can't help but smile at the flower, at the little piece of magic she's holding.

She hears splashing beside her and Harry appears.

He looks tired and worn.

(She wonders if it's fatigue from just one year's worth of work and trouble, or six.)

His hand comes up to cup hers and the plant there. The blooms turn from orange and violet to red and navy the longer it stays in the open air.

"You all been out here all day?" He asks.

She nods. He smiles and drops her hands holding the plant. She tries to crush the rising disappointment.

(But she doesn't need to.)

His hand comes up and touches the side of her neck where the redness is most prominent, and then it moves further down towards her shoulder. Her T-shirt has shifted there to reveal a pale stripe that clashes with the sun-burn horribly.

(It doesn't hurt yet, and Hermione doesn't spare a thought for the potential future pain the redness might cause her.)

(Not when the memory of Harry's hand there will act as a balm.)

She looks at his hand and then at him, breaking into a laugh-grin that parallels his.

Taking the flower -now yellow and turquoise- in hand she plucks one of the blooms free and tucks it behind her ear with a loose curl.

She takes the rest and moves closer to Harry; just a tiny shift of her weight forward.

His breath catches just slightly as she moves in. She's still grinning.

Plucking another bloom free with one hand, she holds the rest of the plant in the other.

Harry leans closer. His eyelids flutter slightly

Then she mashes the green pulp into his hair, drops the flower and shrieks as she runs deeper into the lake.

Harry is laughing and shouting as he follows, splashing water everywhere.

(It's a glorious day.)

She doesn't want him to go - It's simple.

But she can't stop him.

(That would make it complicated.)

She can still feel what he feels but it's muted now.

(But his distress still cuts through the fighting like a blade.)

(And try as she might she can't get up the astronomy tower.)

(She can't get to him.)

(When she does reach him it's worse than she ever expected.)

All she can see is two figures both silent-still - one is kneeling over the other.

She doesn't remember moving towards him but then she is there holding his hand as the tears roll.

(Both of their tears.)

His hand is limp and the piece of jewellery is tarnished.

The funeral is worse than any before.

(It is ill organised and everything seems to be in tatters.)

The entire Wizarding world appears to have turned up to pay their respects but there might as well not be anyone there but them.

Hermione stays close throughout. She can't leave him now.

When he says he's going alone -that he can't risk them getting hurt- the bile rises faster than ever before.

She tries not to vomit or cry on her friends.

(She won't let him be alone.)


(He's not alone.)

It's the last full day at Hogwarts when she wakes up and her eyes are both perfectly brown.

She has a whole day of packing and worrying ahead of her so it takes a long moment for her to even notice what is wrong.

And when she does it takes even longer for her to react.

(Long rattling breaths. Deep, deep breaths. She feels winded again.)

She refuses to unlock the bathroom door. No matter how hard Lavender bangs.

They get Ginny in the end.

Ginny is patient and lovely. And calm. All because this is who she is now. All because she has Tonks.

(And Hermione has no one.)

(She did. But not anymore.)

When Hermione comes out with tears and a rasping throat, Lavender is sitting on her bed quiet and solemn. Waiting for Hermione. The other girls are nowhere to be seen.

Lavenders hair still has the flaming ginger streak because she hasn't been able to access the bathroom to mask it.

(Hermione wails and throws the bottle she's been holding - the one from the Apothecary - against the wall.)

(It shatters with a satisfying sound.)

(Sending her parents to Australia is too easy.)

"Harry your eyesight really is awful." She says pulling on grey, shapeless clothes.

It's a complaint she has wanted to voice for years now. But hasn't been able to.

She should feel self-conscious perhaps, or a little shy at least - flaunting Harry's body as she is, pulling off clothes with no thought. But surrounded by those sworn to protect her best-friend she finds it hard to feel anything but admiration and love for those around her.

(It's her own admiration and love - none of it is Harry's. Just like her eyes are her own now.)

(She can't stop herself peaking in the hall mirror as they leave though.)

(Harry's reflection stares back, and it should seem strange to see such a none-reflection of herself. But seeing the green eyes again feels a bit like a home that is just out of reach.)

She wants to close her eyes and press her face into the jumper of the person in front of her.

(But there's no time for that anymore.)

The Burrow is a quieter, darker place than it was the previous summer.

The wedding is a saving grace.

(Which is something Hermione never thought she'd think.)

(There were only so many shades of ivory you could look at before you got a headache.)

Harry's 17th birthday passes with friends and laughter and a cake shaped like a snitch.

(For Hermione his birthday passes with a breath held and a sleepless night on her shoulders.)

(But nothing changes and she has to release the breath.)

(To carry on holding it or to continue breathing - either way it felt like she was suffocating.)

He dances with her at the wedding.

(It's the first time she's felt truly happy since that day at the lake.)

He dances with her again and again.

She doesn't see him dance with any others but he turns up at her side time and time again at sporadic intervals. When they twirl - the two of them surprisingly graceful - around the dance floor she looks and looks and looks. But she can't quite find what he's looking for in those green eyes.


Grimmauld place is darker than the Burrow. But it feels so much safer.

It feels safest when she has the beaded bag pressed to her skin and Harry warm at her side.

(Only then does she know that everything she'll ever need is here and safe.)

(For now, at least.)

When Ron is unconscious and Harry is angry and she is crying in the forest, her hands covered in blood, she knows that this is it.

(This is her lot in life for now. And it's going to be tough.)

(And neither of her boys are going to make it easier.)

The Horcrux drives them all into a horrible darkness. It echoes in their souls loudly - with more volume that any rational thought can muster.

Even when Hermione takes the blasted thing off and goes to sleep she can still feel its weight.

(It is in the nightmares she gets trapped in - the ones where her Other mark is back but it's red glowing eyes in the mirror, not green.)

She can feel him and his snake - it's the slithering glistening scales that have her waking up screaming.

Sometimes Harry is awake too when she emerges gasping and sweating from the terrible dreams.

(It doesn't help, but it does provide a distraction. Someone to talk to for a while.)

There's no privacy in the tent.

So it's unsurprising when she catches Harry topless one morning as he rolls out of bed.

She has tried to tell herself that she hasn't noticed the small - almost unnoticeable - scar just under his ear or it's sudden appearance after his birthday.

(Or she tries to forget when she was 8 and was trying on her father's glasses and had fallen over. The left am had snapped and cut her just behind her ear.)

(She's noticed. Of course she has.)

But this. This.

She stares for a long time: The shimmering scar tracks in a straight line from his sternum to just below his naval. She knows the very size and shape and feel of it without looking closely.

She sees it every day in the mirror.

(It's impossible to pretend she hasn't seen this.)

He catches her staring and looks down to see what has attracted her attention. When he realises he frowns and looks up at her.

She blinks and looks away just a Ron bumbles through the tent flap - a dark look on his face and brandishing the Horcrux.

Ron leaves.

She didn't think she'd be this upset. She thought she'd jump at the chance of having Harry to herself for once.

(Except that isn't her.)

(Not at all.)

(So she cries for her friend.)

She will talk to Harry now. There's nothing to interrupt. Nothing to distract. Nothing to excuse.

(Except there is nothing to tell anymore.)

Her eyes and her feelings are her own now.

(Except her heart and soul, that still belongs to Harry.)

Camping lost its appeal a long time ago.

(Most of the wonder had faded when she was 6 and her mother forgot to pack her favourite blanket that she couldn't sleep without.)

Her love for the great outdoors dies swiftly with the turn of autumn.

She's always dreamed of Christmas with just her and Harry.

(But not like this. Never like this.).

Nursing bruises and scrapes, and the heaviness of grief in the silence of the tent. She wants to cry for Harry's broken wand, for her sprained wrist, and for the little boy who grew up without a family.

(So she does cry.)

Harry comes to sit by her. He just sits nothing else, no words or touch but it's just what she needs.

When Ron comes back toting the sword of Gryffindor, a broken Horcrux, and a soggy Harry Hermione lets out a breath she didn't know she had been holding.

For once she wishes she hadn't.

She wishes she hadn't instilled the mantra of not being afraid of using the name.

(And now she's trying not to trip over tree roots as she casts around desperately for a way out of this.)

There's always a way out. Always.

(But not today, it seems.)

There's not many things she remembers from the Department of Mysteries - it's mostly darkness and pain. But Bellatrix's cackle cuts through everything; ice cold and blade thin and she's thrown back to that night.

Harry's swollen face buys them time.

(Not her, she thinks, as Bellatrix descends.)

(It buys her boys more time.)


She can see it behind her eyelids when she screws them shut as the Cruciatus slides over her.

She had thought it would be a fire; flames that burnt her bones to embers. Or maybe ice freezing her solid in pain until she shatters. But it's water; pain running across her body like a never ending torrent. Leaving her damp and heavy with it even when the curse is lifted.

The knife cuts just a high note above the rest of the symphony of pain and she sees the word bright red and sticky behind her eyelids.


(She thinks she can hear screaming from the cellar below. But then darkness.)

She hides in the soft cotton curtains blowing at the window is the sea breeze as she watches.

The back of his neck is reddening in the weak sun. The shovel in his hands looks heavy against the skin darkened with dirt.

(He's been out there for hours now.)

Despite this his hands are gentle when he lies Dobby in the grave. She lets the tears fall for another fallen member of his rag-tag family.

(She shrinks back into the room, away from the window, when Harry wipes his brow and looks up towards her window.)

The light is fading when he comes to her.

He's still wearing the same T-shirt from earlier; bits of dirt and sand still stuck to the blue fabric. The short sleeves show that his arms have caught the sun just as much as his neck and she's thrown back to that day at the lake and the sunburn on her neck.

He's holding some potion bottles in one hand and a wedge of bandages in the other.

The bed dips when he sits down next to her and sighs.

"Ron has started in on the 'is Dumbledore really dead' tirade again. I know what I saw 'Mione, the eye in the mirror was uncanny- but. But I don't believe that Dumbledore would leave us to stumble around in the dark if he were still alive."

He looks expectantly towards her, but when it becomes clear she's not going to say anything he sighs.

(It's not because she can't, there's nothing more she'd like to do that say something, anything, to help - but there is nothing to say.)

So rather than words Harry reaches and gently picks Hermione's arm up between rough hands. He turns the pale skin and bandages over so the soft inside of her arm is facing upwards towards him as he lets her arm rest on his lap. Bruises make up a sickly shade of rainbow up her arm.

She can see the blood already seeping through the white cotton where the filthy word is carved.

He reaches across the bed to reach the fresh bandages and bottles.

"Fleur said they need changing regularly." He is quieter now, gentler. His eyes are soft and non-threatening to match his voice as he starts to carefully pick at the edge of her bandages.

But she's not listening - she's watching.

The silvery- spidery scrawl across Harry's inner arm will be a match for hers when she's healed more.

(Mudblood it says.)

She brings up her other hand and touches his shoulder as he unravels the end and makes to start unwrapping the bloody cloth.

"Don't. Please, Harry." She's weaker than she thought.

(She's begging.)

(Why is she begging? This is everything she wants.)

But not like this - not still shaking with pain and cold from Bellatrix with that foul word dripping with blood and scorn carved into her arm.

There is sadness in his expression; a kind of apology as he continues to unwind.

"Please." She doesn't notice the stinging in her arm as much as the stinging in her eyes so she shuts them, hoping to shut out the pain alongside the light.

"Shhhh. It's okay. It'll be okay. It'll always be okay."

She gasps as the final piece of fabric falls loose and the pressure on the wound is removed; pulling the biting-pulsing-stinging of the word to the front of her mind.


The tears do fall then.

"It's okay Hermione. I've got you. I've got you."

When she opens her eyes again his are right in front of her. His forehead is pressed to hers. He looks nervous.

(She tries not to notice the tear tracks on his face.)

"Why didn't you ever say something?" And now she feels awful - worse than all the adults who ever kept Harry in the dark about something important or something he needed to know. "You must've known" he presses on.

(She nods.)

(And takes a deep breath.)

"When I first knew there was Sirius and Pettigrew that year, and then the Triwizard Tournament - and then fifth year was so hard for you - I know they're weak excuses I know, I know-"

(The tears refuse to stop now.)

(But the pain on her arm has diminished to almost nothing compared to the pain in her chest.)

"But you have to understand Harry, you have to - I know how bad fifth year was - don't try and deny it - I could feel it. I could see it!"

His hand stops tracing idly against her wrist and - even as their foreheads are touching - comes up and holds her cheek. His thumb brushes just under her eye, removing the tears there.

She closes them against the green - too familiar - one more time.

"And sixth year - and the summer before it - well I was afraid."

"Afraid? Of what? Hermione I would never-" Harry protests.

"Shhhh. I know. I know."

(She knows.)

(But that's not what she's afraid of.)

"At the end of fifth year, after the Ministry and Sirius and everything - I think maybe it started when you were with Dumbledore and he told you about the prophecy - my mark - Well my mark started fading Harry."

(Deep breaths, deep breaths - hers or his she's not sure.)

"There was nothing to do about - nothing I could do - one day it was green and then it started bit by bit fading back. The green disappeared completely around Dumbledore's funeral." She touches the corner of her eye. "I didn't know what to think. I didn't know what to tell you and then there was nothing to tell. I'm sorry."

Silence reigns. She thinks maybe he will be angry. She thinks maybe he will shout.

(She doesn't think he would redress her wound in silence and then release her wrist.)

He shuffles away and she whimpers. Then he's placing the bandages and potion bottles away and pulling away her blanket. When - with a sufficient amount of careful reshuffling - he's tucked carefully behind her, her back pressed to his chest - she finds she can finally breathe easily.


He starts to talk again.

(She doesn't realise how suffocating his silence had been until he talks again.)

"When I- On my birthday the first thing I noticed was the new scar on my chest. I knew what it meant but I didn't know who it was.

"After the ministry - well I knew you'd been hit and I knew there was blood. I was with you when it happened - but so much happened that night that I didn't know - didn't realise. Which meant I hadn't a clue when that scar appeared in July. When I saw you looking in the tent I wondered. But then I thought 'surely I'd know if Hermione had a great big scar down her from a fight that I caused and a dangerous situation I dragged her into.'"

(The laugh is weak and watery and she's not sure who it comes from.)

"Instead I decided to just ignore it for now - Whoever it was, they were better off without me for the time being. At least until I've finished this."

"But, Hermione, this." He drags down the collar of his t-shirt and he can make out the very top of the silvery scar she knows too well from her own body. "I am so terribly sorry, for this."

(For one horrible, terrifying moment, she thinks that this is it. This is Harry pushing her away, rejecting her as his Other.)

Then he turns slightly, shifting behind her and she feels his lips pressed to her temple.

"You never deserved to be dragged into any of this." he murmurs, lips still against her skin. "You deserve someone more than me, something more than this. I'm so sorry."

(He has nothing to apologise for.)

"You're so strong."

(No. He's the strong one.)

"So brave." His lips have moved slightly, they catch - gently - on her cheekbone. "But we've got this now. If you'll have me."

(Of course she will.)

"We've got each other." Those lips, soft, catch the corner of her mouth. She doesn't move, but lets her eyes fall shut and enjoys the sensation. His voice is even quieter now, not wanting to disturb the dusky peace of the room.

The window is still open and the sea breeze ruffles the curtains slightly.

"No matter what it means your mark has faded and mine are still here. We can do it together - we can figure it out together. Everything."

Those lips are there. reaching for something that once seemed so elusive.

(Eating ice cream in Diagon alley. Flying above the Black Lake. Standing at the edge of the maze. Walking through the Forbidden forest. Sitting in front of the fire. Splashing in the lake. Dancing at the wedding.)

She shifts slightly, moves; turns her head just to the left and meets those lips, just briefly.

(Eating, flying, standing, walking, sitting, splashing, dancing. Dancing.)

(That's how they fall asleep - together with everything stretching far into the horizon in front of them.)

One day later, two maybe - time has ceased to matter much, when she's pressed close to Harry's astride a dragon staring at the vast landscape before them, she can almost believe that everything is still there and whole, waiting for them after all of this is over.

Stuck in the grimy pub with Abeforth Dumbledore explaining everything - his past, his brother, his actions, the DA - Hermione grabs hold of Harry's hand and refuses to let go.

(Even when Neville raises his eyebrows at their intertwined fingers, a smirk playing at his lips, she refuses to be embarrased.)

(Even when she rushes to hug Ginny in her relief that her friends are still alive and whole, she doesn't let go.)

They're dishevelled and dirty but smiling.

The girls, Ginny, Luna, Parvati, Lavender and the rest of her classmates and even some girls - younger girls - that she doesn't recognise all have their Other marks on proud display. She grins when she notices it; happy to see common sense prevail for once. There's no time or place for etiquette or propriety about such things during war time.

Lavender and Ginny's differently coloured streaks have been braided and pinned back, separate from the rest of their hair.

Luna's eye blinks back a dusky-black-brown and Hermione startles to see Kingsley's gaze from Luna's face.

There's no hiding it and there's no shame in it.

She wonders if this is what their entire relationship will be.

(It is what it has always been it would seem.)

Her, holding onto Harry as tightly as she can, whilst they fly either to or from danger.

The flames lick and snap up her leg and she screams as she feels the burn. The broom swerves and Harry curses. His own hand - the one not holding the broom - dips down to pull at non-existent flames on his own leg.

(She forgets he can feel everything.)

(She doesn't let go of the Horcrux though - they've come too far for her to let go now.)

A sinking feeling settles in Hermione's gut when Harry pours the contents of Snape's memories into the pensieve.

He hands the flask she had conjured back to her. The metal - despite being clutched by Harry for so long - is ice cold beneath her fingertips.

She doesn't know when she last saw Ron.

(Except she does: He was duelling alongside Percy and Arthur - and Hermione's heart - but not her racing feet - had stopped when she saw it.)

(She had kept running with Harry - ducking hexes and shrapnel - up to the headmasters office.)

And now they both stand looking at the swirling mess of the past.

She's about to ask if he wants her with him, but then his face is breaking the surface and it's too late.

(Why is it always too late for Harry?)

She's stuck standing in that office for a long time. Minutes, hours maybe. There's still a grandeur about it, despite the sparser decorations that must have come in under Snape's administration. The paintings on the walls are silent and sombre, but not asleep. The headmasters of centuries past look on with a grim resignation. The longer she looks at the paintings the more she thinks.

Dumbledore's frame is there, and a new one next to his - for Snape, she thinks.

There's a few of the silver objects on the desk, the ones she knows that Harry had smashed after Sirius' death, but they are still now. Like the rest of the office. Silent and motionless.

She's standing there for so long just watching and waiting that some things, just little pieces-of-fragments-of-things - hardly worthy of note - start to fit together.

So much so that when Harry emerges, panting with tear tracks down his face, she already knows what he's going to say and she's holding him before he can utter a word.

(She won't let him go. Ever.)

(She can't let him go.)

(She lets him go.)

He slips away when she's not looking.

(Even later she can't justify why she was not looking.)

(Why should she ever be looking somewhere that wasn't him?)

But she's looking elsewhere.

She's thinking how there must still be some hope, just a glimmer of luck or impossibility for Harry's future just as there had always been in their past. She's too busy taking in all those who are daring to live and willing to fight and die-

(He's dead.)

(The bright ginger hair looks duller when it's against the stone floor of the Great Hall.)

(Ron and Arthur and Molly. Ginny and Bill and Charlie and Percy. And George are all there.)

(Oh, George.)

George is kneeling despondent over the corpse of his twin.

But there's someone else. Someone Hermione didn't think quite fitted into the picture.

She's lying, forehead pressed into Fred's still chest, shaking, quavering sobs can be heard from the entrance hall.

Hermione watches as Lavender grasps at Fred, unwilling to move even though no one is asking her to.

Dirty blond hair is splayed across Fred's bloodied torso and the ginger streak looks so out of place and stark. Hermione can see it from where she's standing at the very entrance to the Great Hall.

(Except- no, she can't.)

(At first it's hard to make out from afar - but then she realises what she is seeing. The flame red is slowly being eaten - from tip to root - by Lavender's blonde.)

Hermione clutch-grab-claws at Harry.

But he's no longer there.

Her shriek might've caused the owls in the rafters to take flight.

(If there had been any there.)

Neville finds her on the floor. He doesn't talk to her. He doesn't even try to move her.

Everything has gone so still. Not just in her mind, but in the castle. Hogwarts itself seems to be drawing in its breath.

They - Neville and Hogwarts together - hold her in the long - long - hours that follow.

(She- She doesn't know how to feel.)

(She doesn't know anything anymore.)

She thought she'd be able to tell the exact moment when everything ends.

Instead there is forest smells and pine needles in her sight line, there is the conflict of telling Narcissa Malfoy and there is the comfort of Hagrid's warmth.

(Instead she can tell the exact moment when everything starts again.)

They're helping to move the injured when Ron mentions it.

("I hate to break it to you 'Mione - but I think you might need to tell Harry something." he pretend grumbles, a smugness pulling at his voice.)

She's a little confused.

"What do you mean? " she asks.

"Well it's certainly none of my business- but if I was a gambling man- I'd say that eye looks to be about Harry's colour."

Her hand lifts unconsciously to brush beneath her eye.

(And then the laughter spills forth and she can't stop it.)

(It's done.)

(It's done.)

(And they survived.)

It's later, so much later, that she can feel Harry behind her, hidden beneath the invisibility cloak.

She can feel his exhaustion mixed with her own. But it's tinged with relief and a little guilt at being happy that it's all finally over. She knows it'll be months and years before the full pain of the war is numb enough to carry on completely - and even then it would never be truly gone, but she leans back into him a little and lets out a long sigh.

No one tries to stop her or Ron as they walk from the hall together, not how they might have if they knew Harry was next to them.

Luna looks up at them as they pass - pausing in her work of bandaging Kingsley's wrist - and she smiles a little wistful smile at them.

Hermione grins back.

(And maybe she looks a bit manic with the broad grin and wild hair. With one green eye and an arm without a hand - tucked as it was in Harry's hand under the invisibility cloak - but she wouldn't ask for more at that moment.)

The sun hits them bright as they walk out of the castle, and Hermione fancies that she can see it glinting just slightly off the top of the invisibility cloak as she turns to look at Harry.

She reaches out a hand and tugs at the soft fabric and -there. There he is.

He looks so tired and his glasses are broken in several places. Cuts and bruises cover his face and in the sun she can see the pale shine of new Other scars, marks she can still feel stinging or bleeding slightly on her own face. She grips his hand just a little tighter.

(Her smile mixes with tears.)

(She's not going to let go.)