This came to me after finally taking the time to download "Let Go" by Frou Frou. I had it on repeat while writing this; it might be a good idea, just to get the right mood, to listen to the song as well as you read this. It's a nice break from "Unexpected," which will be updated... within the month, at least. With the end of school looming within the next few days and a new job keeping me busy, it's hard to find the time for that story. I stayed up later than I probably should have to write this one. I knew that I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I stopped writing it. (The rambling is from exhaustion, by the way.)

Dedicated to Jess, because out of everyone in the world, I know she'd appreciate it the most. I love you, pretty girl.


Stars

The single lit candle swayed slightly, making carefully copied calligraphy slant just enough to make the words seem sinister and unwelcoming. Hermione blinked once and marveled at the simplicity of the changing of a mood over a second before returning to her reading, an easy-reading novel about ghosts and what kind of magic made them be. She'd been sitting there for hours, curled up in an unused corner of the Weasley family's attic. She had excused herself from the general after-dinner fun and games because of a sudden overwhelming feeling of misplacement. The Weasley's were a family, tightly-knit; Harry had never known the love of a family, so he fit smoothly into their equation. They could laugh about Quidditch and teachers and not feel awkward or self-conscious. But Hermione, the one who had been overlooked until Ron and Harry had gingerly accepted her as their friend, had her own family, had her own hobbies and interests. She would have talked to a number of them about it: Ron, the clumsy oblivious one; Harry, the thoughtful but clueless dark-haired hero; Ginny, the frank and independent lone female of the Weasley clan. But it was so hard to even think about forming the words, much less try to explain to them that they weren't necessarily the problem - she was.

She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. The steps began to creak. The boys were coming upstairs; she pretended to be reading, but she was really listening to their conversations, trying to pinpoint which of the many redheads it was with Harry. But they knew she was there - their conversation became lower, probably so they would not disturb her concentration. Hermione felt a guilty, but she was sulking - and she hoped they noticed it, too.

It was Fred and George. Of course. She smiled gently as they passed, looking up briefly to acknowledge their half-grins and wiggling fingers. Outside their shared bedroom door, she could hear one of them mumble, "Hermione, back to books a month early, as per usual."

"She does enough studying for the both of us combined," the other replied with a slight snigger. "Which is why we don't bother with it at all."

The door opened and shut. Hermione let go her breath and felt a cold pain in her stomach. She'd heard it all her life, even as child in Muggle school. Hermione, the bookworm. The infamous brainchild that could rattle off any fact or figure without difficulty, without fail. The girl who overanalyzed every subject just so she could get ahead. She wasn't sure why it hurt so - after all, the twins were always willing to tease her about her studying habits, and usually she was quick to join in on the joke without offense. Perhaps it was because they seemed to mean it so seriously, and they hadn't said it to her face. They hadn't let her in on the joke.

Hermione slammed the book shut and left it on the floor at her feet. She walked coolly to the room she shared with Ginny, the candle flame dancing in a wild panic on the wick. The moon was shining like a beacon upon the settled bed. She defeated the fire with a sigh and set the candle on the bedside table before shedding herself of all but her underwear and white tank top, before curling up on top of the bed sheets. This was the only place she felt safe enough to cry at. The tears squeezed out from between her eyelids as she blinked, tears falling across the bridge of her nose and down the side of her temple into the beginnings of a wet stain under her head. The loneliness and the feelings of isolation consumed her entire body and made her joints ache, made her heart burn and twist in her chest. Why, why, despite all that she had, despite all that was presented to her, did she still feel so alone?

It might've been hours; she might've fallen asleep. She might've lost herself in her misery that she hadn't heard the tell-tale squeak of the door opening, or the delicate bare feet across the aged wood floor. Yet there was still the warmth of a body suddenly next to her, the breath of a girl with dark fiery hair.

"What's wrong?"

The simplicity of the question drove Hermione to more tears, deeper sobs. Ginny took her lover into her arms and held her head against her chest; Hermione clutched at her back and didn't understand why the tears were still coming. She wasn't alone, she wasn't alone - but why did it still hurt? Why didn't she know?

"I -" she tried, and choked, and gave up. "Gin -"

Ginny placed a gentle hand under her chin, coaxed it up so she could see Hermione's shining, teary brown eyes. Her face was splotchy - Hermione always complained that she couldn't cry pretty. "You're still lovely when you cry, you know," she told the girl, who smiled slightly through her tears. "What's wrong?" she repeated, a bit more firmly.

Hermione bit down on her lip, feeling breath coming a little more easily to her. Ginny wiped away tears, snot, on the sheets, seeing as they were already stained with the fruits of her labors. "I just got - lonely," Hermione explained and felt incredibly stupid. She blinked. The tears stopped suddenly, like a leaky facet finally tightened. "That's so ridiculous. I was lonely, in a house full of people. In a house full of people that I love." No, they had returned - an anxious encore. "Especially you. I love you, yet I sat up here and cried and felt lonely." Ginny didn't say anything. Hermione continued, her thoughts from the past few hours falling out of her mouth like a waterfall of sound. "Sometimes I feel so out of place. I'm a Muggle in a world full of Wizards. I'm a bookworm in a house full of people who dislike studying. I'm a brunette in a room full of redheads - I'm another human in a sea of defeat - I don't know where it all came from, when it all starting spilling out of me, this feeling… Sometimes I feel like I don't belong here. Like I should return where I came from and never come back because I'm so different from everything that anyone here knows." More came out as her mouth delved deeper into her psyche. "Sometimes I feel like you and me is just a dream. Sometimes I feel like I'm not good enough to be called yours because you possess so many beautiful things. This house full of family that loves you, this countryside that calls your name, this world that you belong in. Yet I am just a stranger here in comparison to the things that you've had all your life. The things that you cherish. The things that make up who you are. I came here late in the game expecting to become all of that, expecting to be something more than just another face in the hallway. I know that I've gained some of that. I know that I love you, that you love me, but is it enough to be interwoven into everything that you are?" The thoughts stopped abruptly, and her mouth shut upon them to stop whatever else might trickle out. Her eyes were wide and unblinking. The awkwardness of confession hung in the air and settled like cobwebs on their lives.

She looked at Ginny and saw tears of her own slipping down her freckled cheeks and guilt slit into her like a sword. She moved to comfort her; the redhead shook her head and smiled ruefully.

"Don't," she said, and Hermione pulled away confusedly. "You shouldn't be comforting me. I just had no idea, about any of this… but I can understand why you wouldn't want to talk about it." She sighed, eyes wandering across the room as she tried to gather her thoughts. "You have no idea, Hermione… You have no idea how much you being in my life has affected me. How much brighter the sunset is over the countryside, how much more love I feel in the air here. Is it enough to be interwoven into me?" Ginny smiled gently and caressed Hermione's cheek with the back of her fingers. "You are so much more than enough for me. You'll probably never see how wonderful you are, but I'll be damned if I don't try and make you." She abruptly looked out the window and just as abruptly looked back, her trademark half-grin playing across her lips. She suddenly climbed off the bed and grabbed Hermione's skirt off the floor, offering it to the girl. "Put it on," Ginny told her. "I want to show you something."

Hermione gave her an incredulous look but took it, stepping into it and pulling it up to her hips as she stood. The lightweight pastel green fabric brushed against her legs and moved in the breeze. Ginny had her wand and a Lumos spell already illuminating the way out the door; the girl took Hermione's hand and did exactly that, leaving Hermione no other choice but to go along.

The rest of the house was dark and the snores and heavy breathing of the others permeated hollowly through the night. Through the back screen door they went, through the backyard set up for Quidditch and the hanging laundry that was collecting dew, forgotten due to the excitement and delight in company. Through the tall grass just beyond their actual property, and out into the open fields that was their world together. The grass was green and soft and brushed against their legs, rustling to announce their descent into their heaven. The moon was pregnant and ready to explode into darkness, but it still held onto its light before it was ready to give birth. Hermione's favorite part about the sky out here was the endless stretch of stars, the millions and millions of twinkling lights that reflected in the pupils of their eyes. Once they had stood out here and they had begun falling, an unscheduled meteor shower, above their heads. Hermione remembered how she had had her arms wrapped around Ginny from behind, how she had leaned her lips to her ear to whisper, "This is just for us; the gods are smiling down on us." How Ginny had turned her head, eyes shining with stars and tears and love, and kissed her with a gentle, intoxicating passion.

They stopped running. The wand dropped to the ground as the Lumos spell died, and Ginny whirled around to take both of Hermione's hands in hers. She threw her head back and looked up at the deep purple night and the white firefly stars. Hermione watched her expression, a mix of awe, wonder, and contentedness. The love for this girl swelled within her heart like a shower of stars. But before she could speak, Ginny had come back down to earth with a light smile playing on her lips and a whisper entering the silence.

"None of those stars are in the same spot, you know," Ginny explained. "Perhaps only a cluster of them in close to same spot are in the same galaxy. Yet they all shine down on us in the same sky. That's what unites them - their purpose, their location, their need to be together, at least in theory. At least in thought. Just because they're not doesn't make it bad. Just because they might be different from each other doesn't mean that one star shines less brightly than the other."

She suddenly pulled Hermione close and kissed her fiercely. Hermione melted, her heart reaching up to the sky and becoming a star. When they parted, they both were smiling. Ginny held Hermione's face between her hands and stared deep into her eyes, face serious now. "This is where you belong. Out here, with me, in our world." Hermione cast her eyes downward in embarrassment and shyness; looking up again revealed that same half-grin, that beautiful and devilish twist of the mouth. "Don't let anyone tell you differently - not even yourself. Because in all honesty, Hermione Granger, I wouldn't know what to do without you. I didn't know what I was missing until you slipped so quietly into my life. I would give up all the stars in the sky just to stay with you."

New tears were being shed from Hermione's eyes, but they were not the same tears as before. These were fresh and full of love, happiness, and the overwhelming feeling of belonging, of love. She reached for Ginny, and the girl was already there. There lips met halfway; their bodies did the same. Soon their skin was on fire and their love matched the rhythm of the night and the intensity of the stars above them.

As the first signs of dawn bled into the darkness and they scrambled for clothes, laughing all the while, and as they hastily ran back to the house that seemed so many miles away from where they were, and as they crept on tip-toes up the creaking steps and back into Ginny's bed only to discard clothing once again, and as their suppressed giggles turned into moans into the bed sheets and into each other's mouths, Hermione couldn't help but truly feel it: this is where she belonged.