Disclaimer: I had a tuna sub tonight. Not seared tuna from that neat restaurant on top of the building downtown that charges, like, eighty bucks for their seared tuna. Honestly. Who can afford eighty smackers for some stupid fish? Oh. Wait. J.K. Rowling can, because any of the characters you recognize from the Potterverse belong to her. Her Harry. Her Hermione. Her copyright. Me? I've just been mucking about with them..

Thanks to Ali, for her visions of rosy doom. Thanks also go to Dell and Mike. And to all the other moment-makers typing away while the sky lightens.

This is a prologue. Perhaps a story of its own, but the info'll come in handy, I suppose. Please, give it a read and let me know what you think. It may be a bit wordy in places, but thanks for reading.

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"and right there for a minute, I knew you so well"

-tori amos, "in the springtime of his voodoo"

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It was quiet in the deep Surrey night. It was warm, but not too warm. The stars were out and there wasn't a cloud to be seen in the sky. A waning moon filled one portion of the velvety sky and there were a few planets visible here and there to the educated eye. The only sounds were the soft rustles of animals and an occasional scrape of a foot from the girl on the roof.

Wait. The girl? On the roof?

Upon closer examination, it was a slender girl, her head and shoulders nearly obscured by the mounds of curly hair falling unbound around her. Her attire consisted of a pair of thin pajama shorts and a matching tank top, her feet covered in, inexplicably, slippers that had three dog heads on each foot. There was an anklet around her left ankle, with a single lightning bolt charm on it. She'd bought it solely on a whim one day in Muggle London and wore it as a sort of personal penance. She had nothing with her save a thin wooden object. She was laying back on her elbows, her knees elevated towards the sky, her head tipped back to look at the planets (obviously this was an educated set of eyes) that didn't twinkle among the oceans of stars.

Funny, that, that planets didn't twinkle. Of course it was because they had atmospheres and whatnot, but it still amused her. Yes, Hermione knew all about not twinkling. After all, she'd been the rock amongst all the stars, hadn't she? The girl stopped her perusal of the night skies and simply leaned back on the rooftop, thinking about...well, things. Things like her future, her past and why she was glad she wasn't in Scotland. So glad to not be up north.

Summer hadn't come soon enough for Hermione Granger. She was finally out of Hogwarts and finally away from Harry Potter. Of course, it wasn't Harry so much that she minded. It was seeing Susan Bones draped across him every available moment. It had driven her crazy, when Harry started seeing Susan. She was happy that Harry was happy, honestly, she was, it was just his choice of paramour. She had a tendency to pop up here and there, to say the least. She'd managed to get into every single silly class of theirs, totally disrupting the work environment and Hermione had let it go, because Harry was her friend and above all, she wanted him to be happy. For Merlin's sake, the cow had accidentally started playing footsie with Hermione during the N.E.W.T.'s. She wasn't even a Gryffindor, she was a Hufflepuff. A Hufflepuff! In the Gryffindor N.E.W.T. session.

Well, she'd been there until Hermione pulled rank and, as Head Girl, decided to inform Professor McGonagall exactly who was attending which sessions of the exams. Of course, the good professor had been livid. Harry had merely shrugged and asked Hermione if she didn't mind him not coming to the Prefects meeting she had scheduled that night so he could make it up to his Susie. She, of course, smiled and told him that she could probably smooth away his absence, possibly, maybe, but that perhaps he should try to make an appearance.

She'd really wanted to tell him that Quidditch was the sport he should stick to instead of professional tonsil-hockey and that he'd better have his arse at the meeting and that she was tired of covering for him and that she didn't know why he was so confused when Malfoy got to be Head Boy. And then maybe stomp on his foot, for good measure. After all, Draco Malfoy, while a complete git, had some sense of responsibility and managed to keep his strumpets on the side when there were more important matters to attend to. They had come to a careful truce, he respected her ability to perform academically and otherwise and she did the same. It didn't hurt that his father had mysteriously disappeared at the Final Battle while he was dueling Hermione, allowing Draco to drop all this evil nonsense and get down to snogging and a few harmless pranks. Yes, all in all, Draco Malfoy was almost palatable when he was just a teenage boy.

Of course, on the other hand, Harry had defeated Voldemort, so he, too, was entitled to a little fun. So what if he noticed Susan's charms? They were certainly obvious enough. She had a figure that was quite rounded in the right places and mounds of red ringlets. Hermione, with her slender build and brown waves, couldn't compete. Not that she'd spent all of her time in the library. She'd gone out with Seamus when Dean was out of town a few times and she'd even been spotted having a butterbeer with the aforementioned Head Boy once or twice. And then both of them had disappeared for a while, only to appear again later, looking slightly sly. No one was quite sure what had happened, only that Hermione was still able to touch unicorns.

That, as Harry and Ron were quite fond of reminding each other when Draco had said something particularly snarky to the two of them, left a lot of room to work. She often enjoyed it when they said something ridiculous like that because it gave her a few moments to work out some of her aggression towards them. After all, what business was it of theirs? They had been too busy off with whatever had possessed them to stop speaking to Hermione. And she'd been there for them. Through thick and thin. Her reward was accusations of lewd behavior with Malfoy and the cold shoulder whenever someone who would snog them came around. As far as they were concerned, she was an asexual being. Popping off with Draco had disturbed their delicate sense of What Was True and they didn't like it a bit. Eventually, it blew over and just became a minor joke to the trio, but it still distressed Hermione to think about it.

She hated being Just Hermione. "Just" might as well have been attached to her name. "Oh, Susan, of course I'm not cheating when I say I go to the library. It's JustHermione, so you know we're doing homework. What else would we be doing?" She was the third. The homework source. The backup, the excuse, the friend.

She wasn't even sure they still considered her their friend and, furthermore, she didn't want to be sodding Harry Potter's sodding friend. She wanted to drown in his eyes and kiss those soft lips and feel those gorgeous Quidditch muscles rippling under her fingers and trace the scar on her forehead that matched her anklet. But none of that was happening. It simply wasn't occurring, hadn't occurred and now here she was, having wasted all her opportunities. Sitting on a roof after seventh year alone. Harry and Ron were probably having a jolly good time with their girls and here she was. Sitting on a bloody roof ruining her slippers. Of course, she and the boys owled each other, but the missives were surprisingly brief and impersonal. Ron told her about his girl(s) and working for his brothers at Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, Harry told him about Susan and living with Sirius and his mounds of offers from Quidditch teams and Hermione would write back about the texts she was reading in preparation for her potions apprenticeship in the fall and the museums she visited with her mother.

They had still been in contact, obviously, at school but it was nothing compared to the intimacy the three had shared when they were defeating the Darkest Lord ever. There was the old saying that everything looks different in peacetime, but it was a bit absurd, really, the level they took it to. They would still dine together and once in a while, if their girlfriends weren't there, they'd have a chat in the common room. It smarted, though, that since they thought they couldn't snog her they ignored her. She couldn't help it if they'd grown up together. She couldn't help it that she could have conversations with them without blushing. She had known them and they had known her and she didn't understand why they were letting all this come between them.

Besides, one of them could've snogged her anytime he wanted. And now he was gone. Doing whatever it was that he was doing. She gave a little shriek, as unbidden, those images of what he might be doing floated through her mind. Rubbing her palms over her eyes and reciting the twelve uses of dragon's blood, she tried desperately to get rid of the vivid pictures of him and Susan Bones. She took a few meditative breaths and thought that maybe it was time for her to get to bed. Sitting up, she scraped her feet once again on the shingles of the roof and picked up her wand, preparing to Apparate back down to her bedroom. She had just closed her eyes to focus on her bed, where she hoped to land, when she heard the unmistakable popping of someone else Apparating in the split second before she did.

Hermione was a child of the war and, therefore, didn't stop to think. After all, Voldemort had had legions of followers and she was not only Muggleborn, but she had been lauded as one of the Trio that had defeated him. Thinking of the danger that could be lurking among her mother's roses, she was immediately up on her feet, balancing on the gently sloping roof. Her wand was up and in dueling position and she was looking around wildly. No one was on the roof with her, so that was clear. No curses had drifted up so she must also be okay, but she had heard someone say something very softly down there. Honestly. Couldn't a girl sulk a bit in peace? She carefully began walking to the edge of the roof to get a better idea of the situation when she he heard a soft swoosh that she recognized as a broom.

She laughed softly to herself, thinking that while it was nice to not be alone anymore, some people should announce their presence better. Wand at the ready, she finally reached the edge of the roof. Swallowing her nervousness, she looked down. There, sitting on a broomstick and looking into her bedroom window, where all of her laundry was laying out, was Harry Potter. Surprisingly, her first thought was that she needed to distract him before he saw her underwear.

"Harry," she hissed, "what in the name of Merlin are you doing here?" That's right, girl, she thought to herself, stay mad. He felt like he could just come popping in like this? Oh, god, it was two a.m.! More importantly, had he just guessed the location of her bedroom? He and Ron had been here for a weekend in sixth year, but how could he still remember?

"'Mione," he slurred, looking up at her, "I just wanted to see how my best girl was. . ." Oh. That explained it. Slur in the words, the words themselves, the glazed green eyes.

Harry Potter was not only looking at her unmentionables, floating on a broomstick in her backyard, he was drunk, as well. Wonderful. She just stared at him for a minute, her mind whirling as she tried to decide what to do. She could send him away. She could tell him exactly what his "best girl" thought. She could go along with it. Maybe that's what she should do. He was drunk and who knew what a drunk Harry Potter would do if he got upset. She could also do a sobriety charm. Yes. A sobriety charm.

While she was deciding what exactly to do with Harry, he was deciding what to do with her. She was a girl. Hermione was a girl and Harry had just been broken up with and she'd always been there for him before, right? Hadn't Ron told him that maybe Hermione fancied him a bit back in sixth year? Surely she would've gotten over that and wouldn't mind a quick snog with an old mate of hers. She'd wanted to do it a year and a half ago, so it must be okay now, his inebriated brain reasoned with itself. So while Hermione was standing there, staring at him, Harry slowly drifted his broom closer to the rooftop, the edge of which she was still perched on. She saw him coming closer.

"That's right, Harry. Why don't you come up here with me and get off that bro. . ." Hermione never had time to finish her sentence. By now Harry had made it to her level and reached out and put one of his hands on either side of her face. She had a second to wonder how his broomstick was hovering so perfectly and then he was kissing her.

Harry Potter was kissing her. Harry, her Harry, was kissing her and here she was, standing there. What was she to do? He was drunk, and that was a negative thing. But didn't alcohol just lower your inhabitions? She thought about it for a moment, before parting her lips to allow his tongue into her mouth and then they were truly kissing, all her late night dorm dreams were coming true and she didn't feel like JustHermione right now, that was for sure. She'd waited for this day for three years and it was finally here. She threw herself into it with all the fire of her unrequited love and then, then she tasted the Firewhiskey.

Reality came crashing down like. . .she couldn't think of anything extreme enough. A lightning bolt, humorously enough, was the first analogy that came to mind. She had waited three years for this and he'd never noticed. Not once had he shown an iota of interest in her that way. Merlin only knows why he was here tonight. Probably got tossed and decided he'd come here to make sure he was still the great Harry Potter. What better way then to pull Hermione, the girl who'd never even remotely acted interested in him? Ron had almost blown her cover once, in sixth year, with some teasing, but she'd managed to defuse that situation. No, she made sure she stayed harmless. She was his partner in crime, one of the Dream Team, they'd stayed up late nights in the common room whispering secrets and he was treating her like just another fangirl, to be used and then forgotten. She'd carefully protected her secret, like a precious jewel and here he was, dammit, drunk on Firewhisky and hovering over her roof kissing her.

Oh. This, her mind decided, was not the way it was supposed to be. And it had to stop. She ran her hands up his arms to his shoulders, like she wanted a better grip. Which she did, but only for what she did next. She steeled herself and then, thinking of all the times Harry had ignored her at breakfast after sniffling about the pressures they were all bowing under and then copying her notes, she pushed. It wasn't a light push, either, since Harry was drunk and those Quidditch muscles were no laughing matter.

Gravity being what it is, Hermione was rewarded when Harry promptly let go and quickly moved his hands towards his broomstick, which was wobbling under his unbalanced frame. Alas, his reflexes weren't quite what they should've been, thanks to Old Ogden, and his hands came down about six inches to the left of where his broomstick actually was. Which was how Harry Potter, the Boy Who Saved The World ended up nose over arse in her mother's prizewinning rosebushes. Hermione, oddly enough, was quickly trying to come up with an excuse for the destruction of her mother's roses instead of wondering about his safety. He'd taken enough falls off his broom at much higher heights, he'd be fine. And, now, she thought, let's see what happens when I do this. Firing off a sobriety charm at Harry, she wasn't surprised when he looked completely baffled.

"Hermione? How did you get here?" Harry looked around for a moment. "Oh. This isn't Wizard's Way." Hermione wasn't surprised, but instead that moment was the culmination of all the fears of the last five minutes. They had run through her head, had their time and she was ready for this. Now or never, Granger, her inner voice murmured. She sat down on the edge of her roof, brushing her palms off of on her legs.

"Harry, you're in my backyard. In Surrey, at my parents' house," she said softly, noting his look of confusion move to one of shock, "and you've just kissed me. I'd like to know why." He looked away from her as he touched a hand to his lips and noticed that they were definitely feeling a little foreign. The tip of his pink tongue came out to touch them and there was the slightest scent of the vanilla lip gloss Hermione always used. Denial not an option, he stood there for a minute, looking up at her as if he was trying desperately to come up with something, anything to tell her. His answer, as they both knew, was inevitable and so was the explanation he was sure to give. She briefly considered just Apparating down to her bedroom and setting up a quick ward, but she'd come this far. She was no coward and being Harry Potter's best friend had put her in the path of things far scarier than the tragic looking boy in front of her. It was time, once and for all, to get this over with.

She tried desperately to stifle her laughter in the unending moments between her question and his reply. Fifteen minutes ago, she would've given anything to be kissing Harry and now she had. She was now positive she could forever identify the taste of his kisses and she regretted it deeply. Of course, she could convince herself that this hadn't happened. That he hadn't used her in a scenario fashioned from the nightmares of every teenage girl. She was his safety blanket. She had an Order of Merlin, First Class in her mother's curio cabinet. She had given a talk about the importance of tolerance towards Muggleborn witches and wizards to an international consortium. And here she was, a placebo. She was the apple and he wanted the candy bar, but in a pinch.

She wasn't going to go that route. Harry would love her or not love her and that's how it would be, either way. Besides, she rationalized, anyone smart enough for her would've come up with a good answer by now and anyone brave enough for her would've told the truth. Sad, that. Harry was a Gryffindor, brave and true and all that and right now he was neither. He had been fighting the forces of evil since he held a wand. And here he was, fidgeting among her mum's rosebushes.

"Harry," she said even more softly, "I'm waiting." Then and only then did he look up again, and his glance was strangely confusing. It was shocked and scared and.was that longing? No, of course not. Couldn't be. Harry would just send Susie six dozen roses tomorrow and he'd be right back to where he had been. Hermione exhaled deeply, relieved to know that after this incident, she would never be where she was again. Harry, she thought with a sad smile, wasn't the man she had thought he was. His next actions only proved it.

"I. . .I don't know. Her. . .Hermione. . .I can't. No." And then, surprising them both, he got on his broom and flew off into the night. Hermione was shocked. Stunned. He showed up, drunk, kissed her and then didn't explain anything. Just flew away without a by-your-leave. Nothing. No promises to owl, no sputtered sentences full of remorse, not even an inappropriate plea for advice. She knew she'd read about whatever had caused him to show up here, drunk and alone, in one or another of the wizarding newspapers. It wouldn't be a mystery this time tomorrow.

No, she thought as she pulled her knees under her chin and wrapped her arms around them, the true mystery was if she would ever be able to look him in the eye again. This wasn't the Harry she knew and loved. Her Harry would've at least said something, even if it was just a stall tactic meant to distract her. If he had only been honest, she could've worked through this and eventually been up to par, but he wouldn't even give her that. Surely he had felt the message in her kiss. How could he have not responded to that, even if it was to tell her no? Maybe in the last year she had overlooked some personality change in him. Maybe it was her, maybe she wasn't enough for the famous Harry Potter. There had to be some rational explanation for his behavior. She could understand if he didn't love her, but she had a difficult time dealing with his inability to tell her.

So now she knew why he was always The Boy that did such and such. She knew now that if Harry had one ounce of maturity, he would've stayed here. She had faced the issue bravely, she thought, and he had ran. Harry wasn't right for her and maybe he never had been. Perhaps, she surmised, it was the battle, the urgent need of the times that had drawn her to him. Just as it was his need to be an average bloke that drove her away. Average wasn't her forte, she'd never understood it. She had faced her challenges, be it scholastic or otherwise. She could never respect someone who didn't do the same. Harry had shown bravery when it mattered and for that, she was thankful. But this time, the time when it had mattered to her, was the one that would always echo in her mind.

Well, she thought, that was that. Three years, gone in thirty minutes. Her hand drifted down to her anklet, then stilled over the lightning bolt charm. A moment passed while her brow furrowed and the events of the evening replayed in her mind once more. She considered owling him asking for a meeting, just to clear the air. Maybe she'd make something up to cover for the awkwardness. Maybe he wouldn't remember. She could wait for him to realize what had been happening and then. . .

No, she thought, she really did deserve more. And with that, she took off the anklet, Apparated back down to her room and put it in the jewelry box her grandmother had given her. Her grandmother had been right, she mused, sometimes even she, Hermione Granger, the cleverest witch in centuries, didn't get it right the first time. She'd give herself tonight to think on it and tomorrow, she'd start Life Without Harry. Laying her hand on top of the jewelry box for a moment more, she closed her eyes and took some more calming breaths. She walked over to her bed, gave Crookshanks a casual swipe while he looked at her with some concern in his intelligent eyes.

"No, Crooks, I'm not fine. But I will be." With that, she turned off the light and crawled into bed. Her faithful familiar crawled up beside her and tucked his head under her chin, nudging her until she reached out a hand to stroke his back. With the Kneazle's soft purring in her ear to ground her, she let herself cry over Harry for the first and last time.