How the Light Gets In
Chapter One: A Lightning-Shaped Burn
At the age of 24, after three years of teaching, Hermione Granger had gained a tremendous amount of respect for the Hogwarts professors of her youth. As she packed up her classroom, sweeping up the feathers that fell from quills and tracing her fingers over the initials scratched into the wooden desks, she felt the first pang of real sadness hit her. She wouldn't miss teaching, but there was something about the classroom—the place she felt most at home—that she was apprehensive to leave behind.
A tall, thin woman with narrow spectacles appeared in her doorway. "Finished yet, Miss Granger?"
Hermione smiled warmly, knowing that she'd never again have a boss as wonderful as McGonagall. She set down the picture she was wrapping in newspaper—a framed photo of Harry, Ron, and herself laughing outside of Hogwarts after it had been rebuilt—and smiled at the older woman. "Almost there."
The room would have probably taken a half hour to clear magically, but Hermione liked to pack the Muggle way. She enjoyed going through her things, reminiscing, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. As she stripped her room bare, she exposed the lovely brick walls and the six-foot-long windows. The sun was setting and dusty rays of light were dancing on her desk, the last thing in the room she had to clear out.
"I suppose it's too late to beg you one last time to stay?"
Hermione smiled sadly. "You know this isn't easy for me."
"I know. It's just too good an opportunity to turn down, isn't it?" McGonagall's smile was also sad, but her eyes were full of pride for her old student.
At age 21, Hermione had been one of the youngest Hogwarts professors in the school's history. She spent three years teaching an Introduction to Magical Law and Justice course to third through fifth year students, and while her proximity in age to her students allowed for a friendly classroom environment, it also meant she wasn't always taken as seriously as other professors. Nevertheless, teaching was easy, relaxing, and she had plans to stay for at least five years to give herself some time off from the stresses of the war. But when the Ministry came knocking at her door with a career opportunity she couldn't turn down, she had no choice but to offer her resignation to McGonagall.
"Well, I just wanted to stop by and wish you luck before you leave. You be sure to visit," the elder witch said sternly.
Hermione felt tears well up in her eyes as she hugged McGonagall. "Thank you so much for everything."
"Of course, Miss Granger. You know you'll always have a home here." With a final smile, a very Dumbledore-like wink, and a crack in the cool evening air, she was gone.
Hermione picked back up the photo she had been wrapping and traced a finger over the edges. She remembered the day so vividly: they were invited for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand re-opening of Hogwarts, dressed in their finest robes, laughing at something Ron had said. She watched herself throw her head back in mirth, her hair flying wildly in the wind. She smiled at the way Harry's nose crinkled when he was trying to hold back a giggle and the way Ron dimpled as he looked at his friends in admiration. It had been a wonderful day. Behind them were a few of the other Weasleys: Ginny was tousling George's hair while Percy, watched them solemnly from a few yards away. This was before Percy had to be institutionalized, gone insane from guilt after the death of his brother. In the photo he was wearing a white hat, which he wore every day and refused to take off.
As she moved to tuck the photo away, something in the far background caught her eye: a flash of blond hair she hadn't noticed before. She squinted, brought the photo closer, and sure enough, in the far left hand corner of the photo, a sulking Draco Malfoy was watching the trio of friends and frowning deeply at their joy.
Hermione rolled her eyes. She hadn't remembered Malfoy attending the event, but of course he would be the one to ruin yet another pleasant Hogwarts memory. With a sigh, she moved to place the photo in the throwaway pile, but at the last moment she changed her mind. It was a lovely picture, and perhaps there was a way to charm Malfoy out of it. Tucking the frame away in the keep pile, she made a mental note to read up on photo-altering spells that evening.
"Harry Potter, you absolute twat!"
Hermione stood in the busy Burrow kitchen, grinning stupidly as she watched Ginny Weasley chase her raven-haired husband with a spatula. Her normally fire-engine red hair was now dyed a deep shade of royal blue, courtesy of Harry.
"You'll never catch me," he taunted as she skipped away. "And I've got more where that came from!"
Ginny was waving her wand over her head, trying every charm she could think of to bring her hair back to normal, but nothing seemed to work.
Molly Weasley shook her head as she kneaded away at a ball of dough. "I thought once you lot graduated and aged a few years, it wouldn't be a raging mess when you visited. I suppose I was a touch too optimistic."
Hermione chuckled. Regular dinner gatherings on the first Sunday of the month were a tradition at the Weasley hom. Over the years, the crowd of guests varied as people moved in and out of the area, became busy, and found new partners to introduce, but the chaos of the Weasley home never changed.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Hermione offered.
"No, thank you dear. I have a fine-tuned system going on here, you'll probably just mess it up."
Hermione couldn't argue with the woman. Pots and pans whizzed around the kitchen in precise movements like stations on a factory conveyor belt. Pots of water were boiling on the stovetop, three ovens were set to three different temperatures, and knives were chopping onions all on their own, eliminating the risk of tearing up. Cooking for a group of over twenty was no easy task.
"So, tell me more about this new job of yours," Molly requested as she poured tomato sauce over as steaming vat of pasta. "I never got to hear the details."
"Oh, I'm so excited!" If anything could bring forth the passionate side of Hermione, it was her work. "Kingsley had been contacting me for months, trying to get me to come work at the Ministry. You know, they need good press now more than ever, especially after that toxic potion spill. I think he really wants Harry, Ron, and I there together, you know, the whole box set."
"Nonsense, he wants you for your talent and brains and nothing more," Molly chided, pointing a red-stained spoon at Hermione, who blushed
"Well, I liked where I was at Hogwarts, but teaching was never a long-term plan for me. Then a few weeks ago, Kingsley owled me explaining that there was all this extra work to be done that didn't fit in any of the existing departments at the Ministry. He offered for me to travel for three months across Europe and the States to complete the work, make new contacts with foreign government officials, and do various types of research. Once I come back he wants me to create my own department that focuses on International Relations and Magical Justice."
The kitchen door swung open and another pink-faced redhead entered the kitchen. "Are we talking about Hermione's fantastic new gig?" Ron reached for a dinner roll, which earned him a smack on the wrist from Molly. He sat down next to Hermione and placed a welcome kiss on her forehead. "When did you get here?"
Hermione was used to her entry being overlooked; she often arrived later than the others and always declined to join them in their customary pre-dinner Quidditch match. "Only an hour ago, which you may have noticed had you and George not being trying to murder one another with the Quaffle."
"Ah, I've missed that sarcasm of yours so dearly. But I won't have to worry about that for much longer, now that you'll be joining us at the Ministry—"
"Maybe—Kingsley said I can decide on my own once I come back if I like Ministry work."
"Oh, you know you're going to love it. How can bossy Hermione Granger turn down the opportunity to order around her own department? Teaching might be fun, but we all know you belong where the action is—sticking her nose in everyone else's business and telling them what is and isn't morally just!"
Hermione turned her nose up at him stubbornly, but she knew he was right. After the two year long relationship they'd had, he could read her like a book. Even though they weren't together any longer, she still felt most relaxed and at home when around Ron. Their relationship, for the most part, had been good and familiar and warm. In the end, it became a little too familiar, in the way only friends were, which is what they decided to remain—just friends.
Hermione watched somewhat wistfully as Ron wandered off again to the hill outside where the Weasley men were playing some hybrid of Quidditch and dodge ball. Some nights, she missed the familiarity of Ron: his simple moods, his goofy laugh, the way she could never be truly angry at him, just annoyed. More than anything, she missed having a companion, someone to lean on and confide in. After school, without any reason to constantly be around her friends, Hermione found herself lonely quite often. She saw her friends regularly, at least once a week, but she felt a little lost sometimes. Harry and Ginny were already married, Ron had his own career and life outside of her, and it quickly dawned upon her that she didn't have many other friends.
She thought briefly of the photo she found earlier, and realized that, frowning at the Weasley's Quidditch game as Harry chased Ginny up the hill, she felt a little like Malfoy had looked. Alone, like she was on the outside looking in on something happy she didn't belong to.
Dinner that night was plagued by an invasion of George's newest prototype for his joke shop: color bombs, tiny pellets that changed the color of any object they came in contact with. Ginny had been their first victim earlier in the evening, courtesy of Harry, and the first to discover the magical twist of the bombs—they were semi-permanent.
"I hate you, Harry Potter," she grumbled as she sullenly spooned creamed corn into her mouth. Her new hair color wasn't horrible, but it made her skin seem even paler and somewhat sickly, and she was the first to discover that the dye was semi-permanent.
"You love me," Harry said, leaning over to kiss his wife on the cheek. The two had a whirlwind romance after the war, marrying each other at just 20 and 19. Although Hermione had never been close to Ginny during school, the two had become fast friends after the marriage. Ginny's quick wit and dry sense of humor complimented Hermione's wry one well.
Hermione leaned over to her friend, knowing how unpleasant it was to be the guinea pig for George's new tricks. "Do you want me to try to charm it back?"
"I tried everything. I have no idea what he put in this stuff, the wanker."
"It's charmed. You can't get rid of it," George said. "There's only one way to make it disappear."
"George," Molly warned, picking up on the mischievous tone in her son's voice. They had made it thirty minutes into dinner without an incident, which was practically a Weasley record.
"Tell me," Ginny pleaded. "I'm desperate. I have a publicity event tomorrow with the Harpies and I cannot go out like this."
George flashed his sister a familiar grin and Hermione instinctively tensed up, ready for whatever was about to happen.
"If you insist," George said slowly. "All you need is a little… water!"
On cue, he leapt up, leaned across the table towards Ginny, and poured a glass of ice water straight onto his sister's head. Hermione yelped and jerked aside to avoid the spray of freezing water, but a small amount still splashed onto her cheek. Ginny froze, her mouth agape in surprise and anger. Her clothes were soaked, but true to George's word, her hair was back to red.
"You. Absolute. Prat," she hissed as she jumped from the table, wand pointed at George. He narrowly avoided her Bat Bogey hex, then picked up his broom and took off, which was a grave mistake. Ginny was the star of the Harpies, and her skills in the sky were better than even Harry's.
Harry leaned over, a sly grin on his face, and whispered to Hermione: "He's going to regret having done that later."
He shrugged mysteriously. "You'll see."
Despite Molly's protests and Arthur's flustered attempts to keep the family in check, the meal only degenerated further from there. Ron tossed another bomb onto Bill's shirt, which exploded bright pink all over his chest. A little dust scattered onto Fleur, who did not take the prank in good humor.
Soon enough, Aguamentis were being cast left and right, and before long there wasn't a dry body left at the table. As the sun set, the cold drove the group inside, where they huddled by the fireplace with mugs of cocoa and slices of pie. Charlie sat beside Hermione on the couch, where the pair chatted about her impending travels. Hermione quite liked the company of Charlie, who was steady, good-humored, and a little more serious than his younger brothers. He was also very intelligent, something she hadn't known about him previously.
Charlie's girlfriend, Astoria Greengrass, joined them on the couch. She was a fair bit younger than Charlie and their relationship caused quite a stir when Charlie first brought her around, not just because of their age gap. But Astoria proved to be very different from the pureblood Slytherin stereotype. She was quiet, shy, good-natured, and kind. She was also a little boring for Hermione's taste, preferring light conversation about fashion over more engaging topics, but they got on well enough.
"I have some a good friend in the states who handles particularly violent dragon species, the kind that are only safe in captivity. He'd love to meet you," Charlie said to Hermione. "Right now he's drafting some legislation to improve dragon habitats. Plus, he's single." Charlie winked.
Astoria wiggled her eyebrows at Hermione. "He's talking about Andrew. He is very cute."
Hermione flushed. "I think I'll be busy with work. And I'm not really looking for anyone at the moment."
"Come on, now. Who was the last person you dated, my brother? I won't allow that, not for the great Hermione Granger."
Hermione frowned, trying not to take Charlie's comments too seriously. She was tired of everyone—family, friends, even some of her old students—badgering her about her love life. It got tiring after awhile, and she was doing all right on her own. Although, even she had to admit, she hadn't been shagged in almost a year, and the dry spell was getting to her.
Astoria leaned in and looked at Hermione mischievously. "I overheard you and Ginny talking about someone named Daniel the other day. Could that be someone special?"
Hermione flushed. Daniel was a wealthy foreign man she met at one of Ginny's Quidditch game who was badgering her for a date. He was nice, but she wasn't sure she was ready to get seriously involved with someone.
"He's no one. And I'm happy on my own," she said somewhat defensively. "I have plenty of time to find someone, I'm not an old hag quite yet."
Charlie nudged her shoulder. "Aw, Hermione, you know I didn't mean that, I just—"
Harry, who had suddenly stood and walked to the front of the fireplace, where he was grinning like a child with a juicy secret, cut Charlie's apology short. Ginny was standing next to him with an equally idiotic smile on her face. "Excuse me, everyone!" she called out.
Hermione frowned, trying to read her friend's face, but Ginny refused to make eye contact. Instead, she was looking up at her husband with googly eyes full of excitement and love.
"Ginny and I have a little announcement to make. We've been waiting quite a bit to tell you all this, but we wanted to wait until we had everyone together as a group."
"Oh, don't tell me you're divorcing already," George groaned. "I know my sister can be a pain, but hang in there, mate. She's too young to be a divorcee."
"No, George, it's not a divorce. I bet this is some pyramid scheme they've been roped into. If it is, I'm sorry, but I'm not investing," Ron chimed in. Since Fred's passing, Ron had stepped up to take the place of George's right-hand man.
"Oh, no, I've got it—I bet she's gone and got herself knocked up!" The two of them fell into a fit of giggles, but Ginny's mouth fell open slightly. Harry's smile turned into a frown.
"Well, thanks for ruining it."
The brothers sobered almost immediately. "What?"
"Hold on—what?" Molly repeated, her voice shrill.
Hermione felt the room freeze, and even she couldn't find the words she was looking for. "Ginny?" she managed, eyes wide, gaze locked in on her friend's stomach. She couldn't be…
"Well, I guess the long, emotional speech we had planned is out the window," Ginny said, throwing her hands in the air in defeat. "Yep. I'm pregnant."
The noise that erupted following her words was enough to deafen. Hermione felt warmth rush through her chest and she jumped up to be the first to embrace her friend. "I can't believe you didn't tell me!" she squealed into her friend's hair as she pulled her tight.
"Harry made me promise we'd announce it as a group," Ginny apologized, her voice muffled by her friend's embrace. "He wanted to tell you and Ron separately as well, but we couldn't trust Ron not to spill the beans."
"Congrats, mate," Ron said as she clapped Harry on the back. His pale cheeks were tinged red, clearly uncomfortable congratulating his friend for impregnating his sister.
Hermione had a thousand questions to ask, but Ginny was swept away by her parents and brothers, each wanted to tousle her hair or put a hand to her belly or simply marvel at the fact that there was a baby growing inside her. She turned to Harry, but he was now shaking hands with Mr. Weasley, somberly promising to always protect his daughter and her unborn child. Realizing that there would be time later to talk, Hermione backed away slightly and watched the warmth of the scene before her. She suddenly felt like an outsider again until Ron caught her eye from across the room and smiled at her, anchoring her back to reality. Something about the way he smiled reminded her that this was her family—not by blood but by bond, full of laughter and light and life.
After Ginny and Harry's announcement, the rest of the night was spent discussing the new child. No, they didn't know the gender, yes, they were going to find out eventually, no, they wouldn't name him George if it was a boy, yes, they were going to get a private room so everyone could be there when it arrived. The family celebrated late into the evening, and it wasn't until half past midnight that people started to march upstairs or Floo off to their respective homes. George, Bill, Charlie, and Fleur left, and the rest were saying their farewells.
"I was going to go home, but something tells me that Molly isn't letting Ginny go anywhere tonight." Harry was alone with Hermione in the kitchen, away from the others who were still interrogating Ginny in the living room.
"I should probably be getting home soon," Hermione said with a long yawn. "I've got so much to do…"
"Stay a bit. I feel like we haven't talked in forever."
"We haven't!" Hermione agreed. She and Harry hadn't had a good, long conversation in months. He used to meet with her regularly at Hogwarts for lunch and they would talk for ages. Sometimes she would let her students visit and she'd watch in amusement as they drilled Harry with questions about his childhood adventures and time at Hogwarts. But life got in the way, and he visited less and less often, eventually stopping altogether.
"Although I see now that you had a big secret to keep from me," Hermione teased.
"I wanted to tell you, really! Ron as well. But I think it was best that we did it with everyone at once—no playing favorites."
Hermione could see the pure, unadulterated joy in her friend's face, something he lacked so much when they were younger. He was young to be a father, but Harry deserved the family he so craved. He deserved a pure start. But part of her, some horrible part of her that she tried to shove down inside, was having a difficult time being genuinely happy for her friends. In many ways, she was jealous. They had so much figured out, so much stability in one another, and she had none of that. Worst of all, she was supposed to have that. She was Hermione Granger, after all. She always had things figured out.
"What about you, Hermione? Are you doing alright?" Harry, like Ron, was exceptionally good at picking up even the slightest change in her moods. "You've been a little isolated lately."
She had been. Ever since the war, she had been struggling with anxiety, post-traumatic stress, everything you'd expect someone to be struggling with after what she had been through. But unlike many, she preferred to struggle in silence. She knew the boys would understand, even relate, but she had no desire to talk it out with them. Some things were best dealt with alone.
"I'm fine, just really busy, and really, really tired."
"Well, get some sleep. I miss your incessant nagging."
"Is that the litmus test for if I'm okay? Whether or not I'm nagging?"
"Yes, it is," Ron answered from the doorway, where he appeared with a fork in hand, working away at his third slice of pie. "I was wondering where you two—"
Suddenly, his line of vision shifted from his two friends to something behind them. His eyes went wide and his mouth fell open slightly. There was a crashing noise as his plate fell to ground and shattered as he swiftly reached for his wand. "Stupefy!"
Hermione screamed as the spell shot just over her head. She turned around to find three white hooded figures inside the Burrow. The back door to the kitchen was wide open; they had forgotten to lock it. One of the men narrowly missed Ron's spell, and they took off racing across the kitchen with their wands raised. With a swish, one of the men produced a thick stream of fire that slithered over the ground and hid them from view. Ron flicked his wand wordlessly and the fire rose from the ground and began to chase the intruders into the kitchen. His wordless magic had improved immeasurably after Auror training.
Harry scrambled for his wand as Hermione steadied herself against the counter, still trying to understand what was going on. The men were dressed in long white robes, with hats like KKK members, except their hoods were tight against their head, not pointed up like cones. "My wand… I can't find my wand…" he hissed.
"What was that?" Molly called from the other room. A moment later there was a chorus of screams—the fire reached the living room.
Hermione finally centered herself and followed where Ron had run, where she saw the two other men running out the front door of the Burrow, a trail of fire following them. "Expulso!"
The front door to the Burrow exploded, and a gust of wind came roaring in that drew the flames up higher.
"GINNY!" Harry screamed hoarsely from the kitchen, unable to suppress the flames that now blocked the entrance to the living room. He was too panicked to produce a healthy Aguamenti. "GINNY!"
"I'm here, Harry, I'm okay!" Ginny's voice came from the other side of the living room, away from Hermione.
"Run!" he yelled.
There were other shouts from the rest of the Weasleys as they tried to find one another amongst the fire. Hermione was behind Ron, who was climbing over the decimated doorway. He turned back to her and shook his head disappointedly: her explosion hadn't hit any of them. They got away.
Ron climbed further up the rubble, trying to find higher ground. "Aguamenti!"
Hermione joined him atop the cement pile and the pair tried to put out the fire faster than it could spread. She spotted Ginny holding onto Molly and Arthur near the bookcase, her sweater slightly singed. Both women's faces were white as the intruder's robes.
"Are you okay?" he yelled to them. They nodded mutely.
"They're gone," Ron said. "Must've apparated."
They extinguished the rest of the fire in a matter of seconds and Harry raced over to his wife. "Are you okay? Is… is it okay?" He looked up and down from her stomach to her face, cradling it closely in his hands.
"I'm fine, just shaken up. What happened? We were just talking, next thing I know there's a fire up to the ceiling in here!"
"There were men. Three of them," Ron said grimly.
Arthur moved towards the door, but his son shook his head. "They got away."
Molly was staring, shocked, at what was left of the front of her home. "What… who…"
"Ron saw them first. There were three of them, three men." Hermione heard her voice shake. She hadn't realized how terrified she was. "They were dressed in hoods. Ron tried to stop them, but they ran, so I tried to hit them by exploding the door. I wasn't thinking, of course that was a dumb decision, and they got away…"
Ron reached out and pulled her into his chest. "Hey, it's okay. Don't cry."
Hermione reached up and felt her cheeks—indeed, they were wet. She hadn't even noticed. "I'm sorry…"
"It's not your fault."
"I just… that was horrible… Who were they?"
Ron didn't answer, just held her tighter. He smelled familiar, like home, and she cried openly. They hadn't been attacked, not even a small threat, in years.
It was silent for a moment as the four friends held one another and recovered from the shock. Then came a whisper from Molly, soft and low, from somewhere near the gaping hole in the wall. "Oh, my God…"
Hermione pulled away from Ron, on edge again. "What?"
Molly didn't say a thing, just pointed to something in the front lawn. Harry, Ron, and Hermione slowly came up behind her, and another sob caught into Hermione's throat when she saw what was burned into the grass.
There, charred into the ground, at least ten feet long, was a jagged lightning scar.
This A/N comes to you in six parts. Get used to long A/Ns!
1. This story is nearly finished. I've been working on it for the past few months and suspect it will be a little over 30 chapters total. It is a slow-burn romance, so don't expect happy fluffiness every chapter!
2. Chapters will be likely be posted once a week, possibly more often, probably not.
3. I wrote this as a way to get out my urge to write romance and then decided I might as well post it! Be kind. It's not meant to be a literary masterpiece.
4. This is rated M for language and sexual themes. I don't write smut but there's certainly sex in this fic.
5. The title of this fic is inspired by a lyric from Leonard Cohen's song 'Anthem'. It goes "There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in." The lyric matches the struggle our characters are going through—finding light in their brokenness.
6. I characterized D & H how I pictured they would be post-war. I built Draco mostly around what I read in Cursed Child (the only redeeming part of that trash book was Draco lol). He is not evil or hateful, but rather broken and struggling between his prideful nature and the fact he knows he's done wrong. I might explain more about why I wrote him the way I did because I did quite a bit of research and character building for him before writing.
When I went back to the novels for the millionth time to research Hermione, I noticed that she's quite a bit more emotional than I read in a lot of fics. Canon Hermione does have a lot of emotional responses to events, but she was also very self-confident and smart, which balanced that out. I see the war bringing her vulnerable side to the forefront and really wanted to explore that idea.
I feel as if it's important to explain why I'm writing the characters the way I am because they're observed in very different ways in different fics. This is the angle I chose to explore—I hope you enjoy.