Disclaimer: Any characters you recognize are property of J.K. Rowling. I own nothing, except any original characters (those that you do not recognize) and the plot. This disclaimer is implied for any subsequent chapters in this piece of fanfiction.
"Little Jeannie, you got so much time, little Jeannie
Though you've grown beyond your years, you still retain the fears of youth
Oh little Jeannie, you got so much time, little Jeannie
But you're burning it up so fast, searching for some lasting truth
And I want you to be my acrobat, I want you to be my lover
Oh there were others who would treat you cruel
But oh Jeannie, I will always be your fool"
Elton John, "Little Jeannie"
They stared at her as she passed, their heads coming together, whispering and pointing.
Not blatantly, mind you – the wizarding world was very proud of their ability to keep a secret – but as individuals, they did not fare as well as the whole.
She could hear snippets of conversations as she tried to appear nonchalant, quietly stepping, head held high:
". . .sad thing, what happened to that girl - said she cried for a week afterward. . ."
". . .heard she miscarried the child after she got the news. Ain't nothing sadder'n a widow with no children, no connection to her husband . ."
". . .I can't imagine what it's like to be her. Said they never found a body. No closure, nothing to bury. That poor darling. . ."
". . .heard 'twas the Death Eaters that did him off. Considerin' that all of the Death Eaters were killed, I suppose we'll never know where the body is. . ."
". . .smart girl, she is, but what can she do now?. . ."
Her bushy hair hit her face, the wind throwing it forward, at the same exact moment as the tears started to fall. She looked towards her feet as the drops flew off the top of her nose, onto her pristine black robes.
Hermione Granger was not used to being pitied. She was used to pitying people, but being the object of pity? It was amazing the difference once the tides had turned. The dew fell from her eyes in a steady stream for a few moments before she wiped them away, thankful that she had not cut her hair as her husband had suggested.
" 'Mione, love, please. If you cut that mop off, I'll get to see that beautiful face of yours more often," the love of her life had laughed, pushing her hair out of her face and kissing her softly on the mouth.
Frustration bubbled up within her. This would be considered exceptionally uncharacteristic of her, except the whole situation thus far was aberrant and far from ideal. Her husband was dead. All of the wizarding world could not speak her name without it dripping with sympathy.
And she was alone.
The wizarding world was a lot like the Muggle world in the fact that it savored gossip. There was nothing better than seeing anyone suffer, and Hermione was absolutely sure that no one in all of England was suffering more than her in this moment.
In this moment when she could not walk down the street without drawing attention – without drawing compassionate nods or whispered words of encouragement.
They all knew her pain.
They all knew the obstacles she had yet to overcome.
The death of her husband and her baby within a week.
Hermione Granger, though, was nothing, if not resilient. She would weather this storm, with her chin up and a smile plastered on her face even if the rest of her was trembling with the need to have her husband by her side, near her. Or the never ending wonder that lay deep inside at what it would have been like to have a little amalgam of her beloved and her nestled in her arms, speaking the word, "Mum," for the first time.
Whereas most of the world would have assumed she, as the logical one in the relationship, would have been the rock, the secret was that he – he – was the actual sturdy one. She was the one who, more often than not, got frazzled, as the momentous duties she placed upon herself towered over her. All it took was one look from him, a whisper in her hair as he held her, and she felt that she could take on the world if that's what he wanted.
Wiping the last of the tears, a resolved mouth replacing the previously downturned one, she pushed her hair out of her face, damned the wind, and walked home, ignoring the three women speaking softly huddled together in front of The Leaky Cauldron, ignored their empathetic stares, their silent encouragement.
Ignored the words, "Poor lass," as it tumbled down their lips.
There were times when she was convinced this ache in her heart would never go away.
There were times when she was so mournful that a scream not unlike a banshee would escape her beautiful mouth.
There were times when she did nothing but curse her dearly departed husband for being so foolhardly, for being so damn noble, for leaving her alone.
She scared herself when the resentment welled up (as it often did), and spouted. Hermione found herself questioning why she ever let herself fall in love with anyone – especially this husband of hers. She had put herself in peril by falling in love with him.
The simple truth of the matter was that she had been daft enough to give her heart to Harry Potter, knowing full well that as long as he breathed, he would be in danger.
And when he had died, he had taken more than her heart with him; he had taken her reason to live as well.
Hermione walked briskly towards the exit of the Diagon Alley, through the brick wall behind the Leaky Cauldron, back to the Muggle world. Back to the place where she was not the Harry Potter's widow, but instead, just Harry Potter's widow. Where the Muggles held a certain awkwardness in talking to her. Where there was a comfort in knowing that here not everyone knew her husband's life story.
She breathed deeply, taking in the busyness and anonymity often considered the signature of Muggle London. Men, women, children just being. Being with each other, being annoyed, being in love, being rushed. Just being.
And bitterness stirred within her as she questioned the gods why she couldn't just be with her husband or her child.
A scene in a corner near a clothier's caught her eye. Amongst all the hustle and bustle of people walking with shoulders squared, purpose in their eyes, two twenty-somethings, a man and woman, talked quietly in front of a clothier's. She laughed softly, touching his arm, as he said something. He whispered something more, and the look on her face changed to shock, a hand flying to her mouth as he earnestly said something more. It didn't matter that Hermione was far away, it didn't matter that Hermione could not hear one thing he said to her. The looks on their faces were enough; he was telling her he loved her for the first time. The jolt faded as her face softened, and she hugged him. As she kissed his neck, she could see her mouth whisper, "I love you too," into his ear.
Hermione Granger knew this because the first time he had said those words had occurred in a setting not unlike this. In weather not unlike this weather. In front of a shop not unlike this shop. At an age not unlike their's.
It had been years since they had graduated from Hogwarts – almost three when they had met for what seemed like an innocent lunch. A brief game of catch-up on each other's lives before they proceeded with further down the road of unfamiliarity. The owls were continuous, but in a time when each was paving their own way in the world, sometimes they lost contact.
Harold James Potter and Hermione Berit Granger, though, as dedicated as they were, did their best to prevent this slow fractioning of the Golden Trio. When Ron had cancelled on the lunch by way of a very exhausted Errol (whom Hermione had already assumed was dead) at the last minute, Harry and Hermione had decided to meet anyway.
And Harry had taken this opportunity to tell her of his feelings. In front of Madam Malkin's, no less, where they had spent countless moments in the summers preceding their years at Hogwarts.
Hermione had to laugh quietly as she remembered the utter shock she had felt when he had told her of his long harbored feelings - those feelings that were "more than fleeting and much more than platonic."
She only wished she could have reacted with as much grace as the woman she now stared at, who had tears running down her face, kissing the boy of her dreams at breakneck speed. Instead, Hermione remembered her reaction - how she had walked back a few paces, allowing the words to settle in her head before cocking an eyebrow at him and asking, "Have you been at the Weasley twins' InsanitiSerum again, Potter?"
And the truth was that, no, he had not been chugging InsanitiSerum. And yes, he was perfectly sure of what he was saying to her. And yes, he did know the risk he was taking by telling her these feelings he had held close for so long. And yes, he would understand if she felt uncomfortable -
He could not finish that thought, though, because in a strangely un-Hermione moment, she had taken the opportunity to shut him up. She had kissed him.
As she watched that boy and girl create an enduring love for one another, she could feel Harry's lips on hers, his arms wrapped around her waist, their heads together as they thought about might be, and what could be, and what would be. She could think of nothing but him and how they were the only two people in the world in that moment. The extraordinary feeling of moving from something as permanent as friendship into the topsy-turvy world of love welled deep inside.
She remembered how the circus had rolled into her mind as he kissed her for the first time. (And she laughed as she stood there in the Muggle London. A circus? Why that of all images, she questioned herself in hindsight.) A trapeze artist must feel like this, she had thought back then, when she steps off her solid platform and grasped onto that pole, swinging higher, higher. . . staying connected to the bar because of her own strength, but never losing sight of that one person ahead of her with whom she would soon be connected, whose hands would be intertwined with her own as he held her, would do anything it took to keep her close.
Who would catch her if she fell. Would fall with her if it made her feel better.
Hermione caught herself staring at the couple, as a flame-haired man with a briefcase swiveled to miss bumping into her.
She needed to stop doing this – living in the memories. She needed to move on. She needed to find closure.
To hell with that, she thought bitterly. What she really needed she would never have.
She needed her child.
She needed Harry.
A/N This piece of fanfiction will be more character-driven than plot-driven. If high speed chases and confrontations with Voldie are what you are looking for, I do not think this is the fic for you. You have been warned.