Disclaimer for this entire fanfic: I do not own anything Harry Potter, not the characters, not the places, nothing.The plot of this story, however, is all mine.

Foreword

Our story starts as June draws to an end. Harry Potter had once again thwarted Voldemort. Once again, Fawkes had been present. However, unlike each time before, Hermione had remained with Harry through the entire battle. She stayed by his side when he had ordered her to go, stubbornly refusing to listen to reason. He had begged her to turn back, to take Ron's prone form with her, but she stood firm, never wavering. Voldemort had laughed. During the actual battle Harry had had to push her aside when Voldemort sent an unknown curse her way. In doing so, he took a hit himself. It had nearly proved fatal. But then hubris gave our heros the break they needed.

Voldemort had dismissed Hermione from his thoughts. She was nothing. She was unworthy. She was forgotten and in so doing, he sealed his fate. For once in her life she did not think, but simply acted. Throwing herself at him when he would have killed Harry, she caused him to miss and fall to the ground. She could hear as multiple bones broke within his fragile and twisted frame, but before she could move he hit her with a spell so painful all she could do was scream... and scream and scream.

Harry had heard her and was gripped with a terror so real, it flooded his body with enough adrenaline that he didn't even feel the pain as he stood and took aim. Somehow the world had slowed. He could hear it, feel it, as even his own heartbeat followed suit. He could see Voldemort. The demonic creature hadn't even stood yet, but his wand was trained on Hermione. That was his mistake: wanting to punish her. Harry raised his own wand and allowed the sound of Hermione's screams to fill him with an overpowering protectiveness and hatred toward whomever was hurting her. In that moment he opened himself to all the hurt, the anger, the fear, and the hatred this one man had caused him. Then he cast his spell.

"Avanda Kadavra!"

It rang out into the night as green light issued forth from his wand. He watched, the world speeding back up again, sound filling ears he hadn't realized had gone deaf, as the light engulfed his mortal enemy, as it was drawn into every part of his being. But it didn't work the way Avanda Kadavra was meant to work.

Voldemort screamed, a high pitch, gruesome, horrifying sound. He jerked and twitched and collapsed to the ground. The light didn't fade. Everyone around them broke out into mass hysteria. Harry rushed to Hermione's side, desperate to get her away from him. He didn't know what else to do. Just as he bent to pick her up Fawkes appeared beside him. He didn't know what the phoenix was doing as he spread his wings, enveloping the two in a forest of gold and red feathers. Then he heard the world around him veritably explode, the ground shaking beneath him. Despite the protection of the wings sheltering them, Harry shielded Hermione as best he could. He could feel a light pass through them, followed seconds later by heat too intense to comprehend. Fawkes was unharmed, his feathers gently shifting as if in a light breeze, his eyes glowing a brilliant gold. That was the last thing Harry saw before blacking out completely.

The effects of that one brief moment were incalculable.

Chapter 1

A Way of Life

Three and a half months later...

Harry sat in the common room, staring into the dancing flames of the fire without truly seeing them. Why couldn't he get her out of his head? Lately, even when he was lost in thought or working on a difficult spell, she was there, always there, hovering at the edges of his consciousness, just waiting until she could come to the forefront again.

He'd started to notice things. He wasn't even sure when it had begun, but he noticed everything now. There was the slightest shadow of a dimple in her left cheek that only showed when she was trying to hide a smile, which usually resulted in a slight half-smile. He found it adorable. When she laughed, it was a joyful, mirthful sound that never rang false. When she got confused or was thinking hard, she'd get a little crease between her eyebrows. Her creamy skin was never marred by blemishes, but she had a smattering of pale freckles across the bridge of her nose and high on her cheeks; they were so pale you couldn't see them unless she blushed or you were very close. When she was worried she'd bite her lower lip and if she was worried about you her heart shone in her eyes.

He'd looked directly into those eyes countless times and had been completely unaffected. Now they took his breath away– without fail. He noticed that they actually changed color based on what she was feeling. When she was angry or impassioned, they were a deep, rich, chocolate brown, but when she was happy, when she laughed, they shone brightly, like amber. Sometimes when she was intrigued or felt playful, they fairly danced with an inner light that shone tawny.

He'd even begun to notice her scent. He could never quite place his finger on what it was. There were simple fragrances that mingled with it, like vanilla or some type of flower, but there was also something unidentifiable and exquisite that was uniquely her. He'd spend hours trying to relate it to something, then he'd usually laugh or berate himself, depending on how many times he'd thought about it that day. But none of those new realizations held as profound an impact on him as the feel of her.

Something had changed. Suddenly, he couldn't touch her, or be touched by her, without a softly burning sensation zinging along his skin– and that was through his clothing. When she her skin actually touched his, the point of contact fairly glowed and the heat was amazing. He was truly and sincerely shocked that he hadn't burned her to a crisp already. But he didn't need to touch her to feel her. When she walked into a room the air changed. He could feel when she approached, when she left, and especially when she was way too close.

Harry sighed, looking around the Common Room. It was well past midnight. He could brood on her for hours and get nowhere, which was usually the case. It was an even bigger problem than he'd have thought originally, because he needed the extra time to do all of his assignments without her seemingly infinite knowledge. He'd been avoiding her. He practiced Quidditch often, and late into the evening he'd disappear into the many passageways of the castle. He wasn't eating in the Great Hall anymore, but took his meals in the kitchens instead. He avoided the worktables in the Library and worked on the floor between two shelves in the back. The lighting was poor and there was a draft, but most importantly there was no one. No one ever came back there. Even Madame Pince seemed to have forgotten the small and well hidden alcove.

It worked out well enough in avoiding unwanted meetings, but the problem was they weren't truly unwanted. He missed her so much there was a dull ache in his chest where his heart should have been. He found himself rubbing it unconsciously more and more each day, usually when he thought of her, which could be anytime really.

Harry walked to the fire and began stoking it. He knew he wasn't exhausted enough to fall straight to sleep yet and he couldn't just lie in silence. In the quiet of his bed, his thoughts seemed to magnify tenfold and he'd find himself missing her all the more. As it was he dreamed of her, of holding her. That was always the dream. He'd awaken with her name on his lips and his pillow held tightly yet gently against his chest. It wasn't fair. She belonged to another– and not just any other, but Ron. She was Ron's and there was nothing he could do about it. He wouldn't even if there were, because it was Ron. He was avoiding him now too. It was just too painful to be near him, knowing that when they parted he would go to her, where Harry wanted to be. When he'd found himself making comparisons to Ron, finding Ron inadequate and wondering why she'd chosen him, he'd been so disgusted he couldn't eat for nearly a week. Since that moment he'd avoided them both.

Why her? Why now? Why? he asked himself as he took out his frustration on the fire. He'd asked the same questions over and over again, but to no avail. The cosmos was stubbornly refusing to answer him. And so he lived on, hoping, praying each night for relief, waking each morning with a deeper ache and a heavier heart.

Harry had decided two weeks into term that being nocturnal wasn't such a bad idea. Thus, each morning he arose just in time to throw on some cloths and book it to class. Then he'd sit in whatever empty seat was closest to the door. As soon as class was dismissed, he was out the door and down the hall before most of the others could pack their things. From there, he'd usually grab a bite to eat before rushing off to his next class. That was how it was, rush to and from class and disappear in between. Though most of the teachers noticed his haste, not even Snape bothered him, for Harry did nothing wrong. Actually, he was doing much better in all his classes, and Potions in particular.

Harry had never realized how much he'd relied on outside help until it was removed. By isolating himself, he was forced to look up everything, to take more and better notes, and all the time in the Library helped him tremendously. He worked twice as diligently, because it helped to distract him. He found that he understood more and faster with each new lesson and, to his great surprise, Potions fascinated him. Snape had stopped picking on Harry in class, because he had nothing to criticize. Often Harry knew every answer, was a quiet and diligent worker. And so, Harry awoke one fine Monday morning in mid-October feeling lonely, tired, angry and resentful, but expecting nothing less than a rushed day of hard work and hiding. He was wrong.

a/n: I have no idea if this is worth continuing or not, so please review and let me know what you think- good or bad. Constructive criticism is always welcome and considered with an open mind. I hope you enjoyed it. - Cassie