Dum Spiro, Spero
Warnings: weird death related fic
Fandom, Pairing: Harry Potter Un. JK Rowling, Gen: Hermione Granger
Summary: In the end, the war broke her.
Disclaimer: not mine, never was mine, never will be mine. all is jk rowling's.
While I breathe, I hope.
In the end, the war broke her.
How much or how little would never be something people remembered.
All they knew was that, in the end, after the war was over, she was no longer who she was before.
Instead, she was broken.
A flash of light, a spell, a voice.
A thud as another body fell.
She lived in a small cottage on the outskirts of what had once been a village named Hogsmead. They didn't know much about her, except she was a veteran of a long ago war.
She had white hair now, and clouded eyes. She came into the small market of the now-flourishing town called de Novo and bought groceries every two weeks. She walked with a limp. The right side of her face was covered in a long, jagged scar.
She never spoke a word to anyone, as long as they could remember.
Smoke clouded eyes. Choking for breath.
Coughing, stumbling, falling.
Crawling on hands and knees, trying to escape.
A crash. A burning sensation all along the spine.
She hadn't always been there. They knew this, like they knew that the ruins on the hill hadn't always been ruins. How they knew legend said that it was once a school, where the greatest minds had been taught and children came from all over to learn for nearly 1000 years.
But 1000 years was a long time, and eventually everything ends.
Even she would, eventually.
And then she would be just a legend too.
Screaming. Into the night, into the air.
At everyone. At no one.
For the end.
Children, as they went to and from the school house that stood at the center of the town, often whispered tales of her to the younger ones. They told of heroic deeds and flying beasts and complicated spells in a dead language.
They told of ingenuity. And of dark robed figures.
A body, on the ground.
Blood. So much blood. Drying, blackening, crusting. Thickening.
Mud covering the face. A broken wand. Torn robes.
No one knew her name. She was The-Old-Lady, or The-Lady-From-The-War, or simply, their Lady. Often times she would try and pay the baker or the grocer in antique coinage, and if they hadn't known she was from Before, it would have given it away.
Sometimes, before and after getting her things, she would stop at the play field next to the school and stare at the last remaining bits of an old foundation that had once held a building there.
Legend had it, it had been a Pub.
Sometimes she stared hard at the path up to the ruins, but she never went up there.
At least, not on the days she came to town.
There was no warmth.
Once in a very long while she would go into the bookstore. It wasn't the same one, the owner told people, that she would have known, but it was good enough. She seemed to be intelligent, beyond anything he'd ever seen.
She rarely ever bought anything on those trips. Often, instead, she would spend hours there, pouring over a set of books.
Most of the time they were in languages long gone from this part of the country, if not the entire thing. She always took diligent notes, in whatever language she had been reading that day, and always left them behind.
The owner sent them to the Ministry, along with a list of the books she had used.
He always got a heartfelt thank you in return. He never knew why.
The rain that never stopped. Always raining, always wet.
Robes, heavy with the wetness.
Hair dripping, nose running.
Chapped hands, lips. Cracked skin.
Every now and then a historian would come to the town, looking to document The War. The people knew exactly which war they were talking about, as it had been the last war. But it was a war that was nearly forgotten here, where so much of it had taken place.
The historians never understood. They didn't see why these people would want to forget.
But they never saw their Lady as she wandered, stopping to ponder a house that they knew she wasn't seeing, that they knew had once been something else.
They never saw the damage it had incurred first hand.
Screams. It was always the screams.
Screams alerting. It's over. It's starting. It's ending. It's beginning. It's not done. It's soon to be done.
They win. We win.
No one won.
Once, a group of the towns people saw her walking up towards the ruins. Out of curiosity, they followed.
There was no path, not anymore. There had been, and she knew it, by heart. She followed it with out any problems.
The grounds around the ruins were in shambles. The grass was nearly waist high, the trees and shrubs encroaching on once-cultivated land.
The lake was clear, though, and that seemed to please her. She started to throw rocks into it, until something only she could see happened. They didn't know what they were looking for, didn't chance to notice the extra ripples from the last throw.
Didn't know what lurked inside it.
The ruins themselves were impressive. Nothing but rock was left, though the sheer amount of it told them just how large the towering castle might have been.
She showed no fear as she entered it. They lost sight of her, to scared to go in after.
It wasn't long before the screaming started.
When they raced to find her, they found her collapsed in what looked like it had been a enormous room. She was on her knees, bones around her. Crying. Sobbing.
No tears. No sobs.
Just dry heaves.
Nothing left to throw up, not now, not so far in.
Not until the war ended.
Not until it was done.
There were no crosses in the graveyard, just line after line of unmarked grave stones. No one in the town could remember the last time someone was laid there, or could remember the names of anyone who had ended up there.
Some of the oldest generations whispered about someone called The-Boy-Who-Lived, but now it had been too long. His legend had died.
She seemed to know each and every stone. She would walk down one row at a time, and each time she went through the entire field it would take her days, some times weeks. She stopped at nearly all the markers, if only for a second.
She always left crying.
When the last curse was fired, the sobs came.
No tears, or cries, just sobs.
Sobs, for the pain.
And the cold.
And the death.
She was getting to the end of her years. They could tell because she was slowing down, her steady stride faltering, her hearing going.
Her cloudy eyes saw just as well though.
She had never touched them, never spoken to them, and rarely acknowledge them. They were content to watch her and she was content to ignore them.
Until she saw the child fall.
Her reaction scared them. It was lightning fast, faster than even their spriest could manage. It was action honed by hours and days and weeks and months and years of being on edge, of fighting.
Action honed by war.
The child never touched the ground as it fell from the third story window.
Tired of war, tired of death, tired of life.
Tired of going on and on for no reason.
For finding out someone else was dead.
For realizing you were almost all that was left.
Oh so very tired.
Outsiders tired to talk to her sometimes. They didn't know any better, and she knew that.
She would smile at them, her smile slightly detached, her eyes no quite settling on the speaker. But there was no doubt that if they moved to touch her they would have found themselves at the end of an ancient wand, a relic of days gone by.
The outsiders probably would have been confused.
The locals would have snickered.
And she would have smiled, in a vaguely conspiratory way.
Love was something that had been once, but was no more.
A thought, a memory.
Something long gone.
Replaced by fear.
They often wondered, to each other, why she was still there. It was obvious that she had grown up around there, probably in the ruins. Their most likely theories told that all of the people from the unmarked graves had once lived in the ruins, a giant school city overlooking their town.
It never donned on them they could be right.
But they wondered, seeing her grief when she saw the graves. Seeing her grief when she looked at the buildings that once were. Saw her grief when she realized it was all gone.
And they wondered why she hadn't left when all the others had.
The nightmares were the worst.
Worse than the day, with the rain and clouds and little light.
Worse than the wakeful nights, with the rain and oppressive darkness.
Worse than the deaths themselves.
Because in real life, the bodies didn't speak again.
When all was said and done, they knew very little about her.
They knew she was from The War. They knew she was smart. They knew she cared.
But they didn't know her name, or her age, or where she was from.
They didn't know very much at all.
Names cried out as they died.
The names of loved ones. Enemies.
Friends. Family. Children.
Twisted lips, pulled back in cruel grins of death, forming the name of those who were dead, and those who were still alive.
Calling out a greeting, or a last farewell.
They haunted dreams.
When she died, the ministry sent a delegation to burry her in an unmarked grave.
The towns people protested – she was their Lady, couldn't her name be upon it? But the ministry was firm.
All of the people buried in the graves would be unnamed, because so many had died in such gruesome ways they could only burry what they thought were the remains of those who died, and so many had never been found at all.
In fact, they told the towns people, it was she who had insisted on all of them being the same.
The towns people were shocked at that revelation, and pressed for more knowledge of their Lady.
The ministry officials said they knew very little, except that she had been hailed as the brightest witch of her age, and that she had been a hero. When the people asked why, the ministry told them it was because she had fought in The War and survived.
The people nodded then – that made sense of course. They found out she had been alone a long time, though the ministry could not tell them how old she was really. The War Years had confused everything, especially after all the records were burned.
The ministry also told them that she was one of the last class of the witches and wizards to ever come from Hogwarts, and had done it proud.
They didn't know what Hogwarts was, but nodded all the same.
When it was over, death was almost preferable.
So many people gone, every family torn apart.
Death littered the land, covered the people.
It was a heavy cloak of air that lay over everything, stifling anything alive.
In the end, she lived.
They knew very little about her, but they did know one thing.
In the end, the war broke her.
"One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it unless it has all been suffering, nothing but suffering."
– Jane Austen