Salt in your wounds

Disclaimer- JK Rowling owns all characters and everything besides the story line. And the song sung at the end, "lets go" is owned and sung by 'FrouFrou'.

Final Epilogue

Ten years later…

Hermione granger lay on her back looking up at the ceiling; she stared unblinkingly not caring that it made her eyes water and flashes of lights appear before her eyes against the backdrop of the white ceiling. She often did this; it was a game she had learnt from her ten years incarceration in the wizarding hospital.

She would make stories using the things she saw flash before her eyes as she lay unblinking on top of her bed.

A story about a young prince who was captured and placed in a tower, amidst a valley of thorn covered vines was one of her favourites, she often when back to that one and remembered the story she had made about two years after she was institutionalized, The prince would stand on the top of the tower and watch as the thick vines weaving their way together, entwining themselves into what seemed like a unmovable mass. Once or twice the prince had tried to cut his way thought the mass, or find a way to get though, but each attempt ended up with him cut and battered from his attempts. So the prince decided he would watch, and he did. He stayed watching the quivering mass of thorns and vines slowly grow; and after long years of watching he saw the smallest of paths begin to form in the vines; and though that he escaped into the other world away from the hell that he had lived for all his life.

For some reason this story reminded her of Draco, he had watched his whole life, looking for a way to escape, and finally after years of waiting he got his freedom, even though he didn't know what was outside the world he knew.

Stories like these littered Hermione's mind; it was what kept her sane in the long hours. Her copy of 'Hogwarts a history' still lay under her pillow, bringing dreams of her time there and the hidden rooms that had yet to be found.

Clattering noises and footsteps passed though the walls and into her room, giving her little connection to the outside world, besides the often mundane nurses visits.

The nurses had been acting strange lately, they all seemed to be looking closely at her, when usually they would chatter away keeping up the constant stream of useless banter going, but lately, they have been quieter looking closely to see if there was something written in her eyes or on her face that was just that little bit too much smudged.

But Hermione pretended she didn't notice it was easier that way, if you don't give them a reason to question you; you give them no reason to sedate you.

That was always the worst, the calming spells that they would place on you, it didn't really work, it was more like you had been placed in a tub of thick honey, and it was almost unbearable at times.

"You have a visitor." Her latest nurse stated as she entered the room; Hermione didn't look down from the ceiling. But nodded her head and replied quietly and politely like she had learnt was best over the years.

"Thank you." Hermione rarely ever got visitors, her friends couldn't bare to see her like this, her parents were dead; there was no one left to care.

Minutes passed and the nurse left, satisfied that Hermione was fine and wasn't going to do anything crazy.

About half an hour later, Hermione heard the door open again; it wasn't time for the nurse to come back, so it must be her mystery guest.

"Why hello young Hermione, you're looking good." Hermione closed her eyes and almost laughed, of course it would be Dumbledore, who else would come and see her? Except the man that sent her here in the first place.

"You too Dumbledore" Hermione replied still not looking towards the man, choosing instead to continue staring aimlessly at the ceiling. Dumbledore chuckled and sat down on the edge of the bed.

"Now how would you know that Ms Granger, you haven't even looked at me yet." Hermione smirked, much like Draco used to do.

"I guess I'm just smart. So why don't we please cut the pleasantries and you tell me why you're here." Dumbledore sighed but nodded whilst taking out a sherbet lemon and popping it in his mouth.

"I've come to take you home." For the first time that day Hermione looked away from the ceiling and sneered.

"Home? I haven't got a home." Dumbledore stayed silent for a moment before replying.

"You're to stay with Harry and his wife for the time being until we can find you a place of your own." Dumbledore seemed satisfied with his answer and stood up preparing to leave.

Twenty minutes later Hermione stood outside St Mungo's shielding her eyes from the harsh sunlight. It has been so long since she had been outside without the nurses and doctors smothering her, afraid she would do something drastic.

It was strange to be out, she could run away right now and no one would ever find her. But where would she run? Home? She had no home. Home was supposed to be where the heart was, so why is it that her home has been buried for ten years?

She couldn't go to Hogwarts, the place that had been her sanctuary for so many years, was now nothing but a memory that belonged in her past.

The past was to be forgotten. Hermione had heard that somewhere, she couldn't remember where. She assumed it was from one of the many books she had read.

Hermione stood clutching the now worn book of 'Hogwarts: a history'; it held so many memories, of the earlier years of Hogwarts, and the later ones. Everything this book was, was what had tied her to the outside world, proved that it was real and that she hadn't just dreamt it up- that Draco had existed and that he had loved her.

"Come Ms Granger, we are going to Hogwarts, Harry and Ron will pick you up tomorrow." Hermione wanted to laugh, 'just like old times right?' did they expect to come and pick her up and she'll be the same Hermione Granger that they knew and loved? Did they think it would be 'best friends forever' and all that shit again?

The irony was nearly killing her, of all places to go, take me back to the one place where I lost my last shred of hope. But instead she just nodded and followed Dumbledore to the portkey.

Hogwarts. It was the oldest –if not the best- Wizarding School around, and she hated it. It wasn't easy to hate something that for so long was the only thing she really loved.

It looked exactly the same; the same portraits lined the ancient walls, the same stairs that moved at any given time. It was exactly like it was all those years ago. Except the small statue that stood out the front of the great hall, with all the names of the people who perished during the war. That was one thing Hermione was glad she missed.

Hermione wandered the corridors, smiling at the portraits and remembering times that she once wandered these corridors with her two best friends-without a care in the world.

Almost without think she found herself standing at the door to the highest balcony of the tallest tower. And for a moment, just one moment she let herself believe that Draco would be on the other side, standing tall near the edge, watching the sky move about its business, she let herself believe that Draco would turn towards her and a simple light comment of how this was becoming a habit was all that was said.

They would stand silently together watching the world, listening to the distant sounds of laughter and happiness and wouldn't say a word, until she would ask something-anything; would ask about hate, pain, life. and Draco would always answer. He answered questions no one had ever thought of before, answered questions that nobody else could understand. Then they would stand in silence and watch the sky.

As the door creaked open Hermione's breath caught in her throat for a second- a figure, a person, a man-standing on the edge of the balcony leaning on the edge looking at the sky. Then his black hair caught the light a slight hope appeared- pure black hair that made ravens look dull was how Draco's always was; but then his robe moved harshly in the wind.

Draco's robes always flowed, like they were made of the softest materials, like they were made from fairies wings. The door slammed shut behind her and the figure jumped from the noise looking towards the intruder.

Harry Potter stood before her, a look of shock and surprise with an underlining hint of anticipation.

"Hermione! You're here already." His voice was old; he wasn't the same boy that had hugged her before she was portkeyed away ten years ago. He was now a man that had seen one of the most gruesome things known to man-war.

They stood in silence and Harry watched Hermione intently, seeing how she had changed over the years that they had been away from each other. "It's good to see you Hermione." He stated and Hermione nodded before walking forward to stand next to him on the ledge. Harry shifted uncomfortably and wanted to reach out to her to make sure she didn't jump. He knew it was stupid but he couldn't help it.

The two were silence for a while until Hermione broke it with the question that had been plaguing her for all those years.

"Why'd you do it Harry? Why did you save me?" Harry swallowed hard and continued to look directly ahead, he had been expecting this, although he hated to admit that he still wasn't quite prepared.

"I thought it was saving you, I thought I was doing the right thing." Hermione nodded, she had already known this. But maybe she was hoping for a different reason. "I thought that I could undo it all and you would be the same Hermione again." Harry whispered looking down to the ground below. "I though it was all a lie- that Draco didn't really reach a part of you I never knew existed. I just didn't want to think that there was anything wrong with you- because I was selfish and was scared about what I had to do, so I thought that if you were the same Hermione and we could all go back to being 12 then everything would be alright and you and Ron would stand beside me and we would win." Hermione closed her eyes. She had heard what she had wanted to hear.

"But that could never be Harry. I was hurting and Draco was the only one that knew how to stop the pain and make it go away." Harry nodded slowly remembering the pain he had felt after the war- pain that he still feels now. The sleepless nights tossing and turning –waking up in a cold sweat. The pain that filled his body to remember things-things nobody else saw.

"I understand. But I didn't back then- I thought I was the only one who knew how to hurt." They continued to stand in silence and they let his words sink in. "I now know what I did- I stopped your freedom, I made you stay in a place that you hated because I thought it was something you could grow out of. I took you away from the person that you love." Hermione nodded and moved to stand on the ledge.

"Do you know Harry, what it's like you fly?" Harry stared up at her, her arms wide and the wind blowing strongly against her. He shook his head and whispered 'no'. Hermione closed her eyes and smiled her first smile for so long. "It's the most amazing feeling in the world. Nothing but air around you, and no thought going though your brain. It's so painful, but so right all at the same time. It's like a million happy moments all brought into one. The air screams in your ears drowning out everything else. And for that moment there is no pain. There is no fear. There is no past. And there is only freedom." Harry closed his eyes and smiled into the wind that blew on his face.

"It sounds nice." He stated imaging what it could possibly be like.

"It is." Was the whispered reply.

Time seemed to disappear for the two who stood on the tower. Silence had enveloped them after Hermione's explanation, but thoughts wizzed thought both their minds. And a single question seemed to constantly reappear in Harry's mind.

"How could you do it when you don't know what you would find when you get there?" there were gaps in the question but both knew what he was talking about. "What did you think it would be like?" Hermione smiled thinking of conversations much the same with Draco.

"Nobody knows what it's like Harry. But I think-" she paused for a moment to look at the sky though closed lids. "-I think its freedom, all the people you love and who love you back are there, there is no hate or fear, and you are alone with the people you love- draco will be there, he will wait. He'll smile when he sees me, and nothing will matter, because there will be no past and there will be no memory of what we both knew." Her voice broke slightly at the end but no tears fell. Harry nodded and smiled slightly happy that she trusted him enough to tell him this. Hermione swallowed her tears and looked down at Harry. "Hey Harry, what would happen if I jumped?" Harry looked up shocked and stared with wide eyes at her.

"I don't know." Harry stated looking at her scared 'Your death would make people wonder, make them wonder what made the perfect Gryffindor head girl jump' such different answers. Hermione thought bitterly.

"How long would it take for them to find me?" Hermione enquired again. Harry was starting to look really scared, but tried to act calm.

"As soon as I tell them what happened." He stated shakily 'As long as it takes for them to notice your absence,' Hermione nodded to both answers. A moment passed before Hermione spoke again.

"To jump from the tallest tower to escape the evil that dwells in the world, seems like something that you'd read in a fairytale, sick and twisted like they are." She recited; Draco's voice ran though hers, making it strong and dominating, it seemed to drown out the roar of the wind; and stain Harry's ears, ringing over and over again until he wanted to scream, and then the bitter truth behind the statement hit him –he had said this, Draco had comforted her with these whispered words of understanding he comforted her by answering these questions. "What would you do if I jump?" Hermione asked quietly, and Harry had to wonder what it was that Draco had said to this. But Harry didn't know, he stayed silent for a moment pondering the question.

"I'd let you fly." He stated finally 'I'd join you in the sky' echoed in Hermione's mind.

Harry Potters house was very neat and clean, it was modern and seemed completely dependant on magic, Hermione smirked at this thought- after a childhood like Harry's no wonder it's such a relief to be able to do magic at will. Hermione was staying in the guest room of the double story home. The room was painted in lavenders and pinks.

The colours seemed so vivid compared to the white she had lived in for so long. Harry's wife, nodded and smiled and shook hands being extra polite; but Hermione could see the strain it was having on her-she didn't want this suicidal freak in her lovely clean house.

Hermione had been beginning to feel sick and dizzy when the clock struck four- it was time for her usual dose of spells and enchantments to be placed over her, she felt strange not having to have someone perform these on her. But she labelled her dizziness and pain with 'all the excitement of being back' but deep down she knew that wasn't the reason.

So she went to bed early-straight after dinner where she hardly touched a thing she hugged Harry goodnight and smiled and said goodnight politely to his wife and hugged Harry's daughter quickly. And as she lay in bed she tried to ignore the way the room span and her eyes hurt to move.

It was nearly midnight when Harry walked down the hallway passed Hermione's room on his way to bed; he heard a small gasping noise coming from behind her closed door.

Curiosity got the better of him and he entered the room, to find an out of breath Hermione laying on her back barely moving, her breath was becoming short as though she couldn't get enough air to fill her longs, and a sweat was breaking out on her forehead. At the sound of the door opening she turned her head and groaned painfully as the world span again.

"Hermione what's the matter?" Harry asked rushing over to his friend placing a hand on her forehead and feeling he fever. "I'm going to call the medi-witch." He said and he made a move to get up, he was stopped by a cold hand holding his arm, he turned back around and saw Hermione staring up at him.

"Please Harry, don't. You promised me you'd let me fly." She said between gasps for air, Harry looked down at her and tried to hold back his tears. He didn't know what was happening, why this was happening to her.

"But your sick Hermione, you need a doctor." Hermione smiled lazily, trying to keep looking at Harry.

"I'm just as sick as I have been for the past ten years. But now I just don't have those awful spells keeping me well." She laughed lightly still smiling at her dear friend. Her smile vanished quickly and she stared into Harry's emerald eyes. And for a moment Harry thought she saw a spark of the old Hermione still inside. "Please Harry, I need it to end." Harry looked horror stricken and stared right back into chocolate brown eyes, that once seemed so warm. "you have another life now Harry, you love a woman that saw the war with you, you have a family that loves you unconditionally; forget about the war and the things you saw, forget about the pain that you once felt. The past is the past and is meant to stay there. No matter what, I can never be like that; I can never find another life. I'm tired of waiting for my soldier to return, and all I want is to see him again. Life is only ever as good as you let it be." Harry tried to blink back the tears that were now brimming in his eyes.

"Since when did you get so wise?" he croaked out staring at the smiling girl, so pale before him.

"I've seen so many things, and I had a man that was wise beyond his years teach me." Harry nodded, knowing what she meant.

"Sing me one last song?" he whispered. Hermione smiled and reached her hand to clasp his. Before nodding slowly and closing her eyes as she rested her head on the soft pillow.

"Drink up, baby down
mmm, are you in or are you out
leave your things behind
'cause it's all going off without you
excuse me, too busy you're writing your tragedy
these mishaps
you bubble wrap
when you've no idea what you're like"

Hermione closed her eyes and let the darkness of her mind set in, she felt Harry's warmth though her hand as he voice travelled though the silent room.
"so let go, jump in
oh well, whatcha waiting for
it's alright
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown
so let go, just get in
oh, it's so amazing here
it's alright
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown"
Hermione wondered briefly what people will say, one day out of hospital and already her body is too weak to continue, her body was hit with wave after wave of pain again, but like all those times it seemed dulled by the words of a song.
"It gains the more it gives
and then it rises with the fall
so hand me that remote
can't you see that all that stuff's a sideshow"
whirling memories of other times, other places filled her mind. The painful memories of the summer that changed her so much and the memories of smiling happy days of sun filled smiles and childish banter, echoed with the heart-warming laughter of a child who has nothing to fear.

"such boundless pleasure
we've no time for later now
you can't await your own arrival
you've 20 seconds to comply"
her voice began to fade and she her breath was becoming thin, her heart beat wildly in her chest as though it was fighting against the slow loss of air.
"So let go, jump in
oh well, whatcha waiting for
it's alright"

She tried to breath but it was becoming so hard she felt Harry's grip become tighter as though he was trying to hold her into this world.
"'cause there's beauty in the breakdown
so let go, just get in
oh, it's so amazing here
it's alright
'cause there's beauty in the breakdown…"
her final breath was taken as Harry stared down at the now lifeless figure that was once his best friend.

At first he though it just might be his tears, but then he wiped them away and he noticed it was real; Hermione lay motionless on the bed, with a small smiled lighting up her face.

A/N there it is, the final ever chapter for 'salt in your wounds', I decided to take pity on everyone and give you all what you were wishing for, so after I got about fifty emails telling me I have to write 'just one more chapter'. I thought about it and got a little inspiration. I hope you enjoyed it and it was worth the wait and suspense.

Thank you everyone who reviewed this story. And I am so glad so many of you were touched by it.

If any one is having withdrawals from this story, I do have a couple of one shots, and another full length story that I am in the process of writing.

Once again. Thank you everyone who made this story enjoyable to write.