How Far We've Come

I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world,
but its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone,

The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour if that,
and started staring at the passengers who're waving goodbye
can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

But I believe the world is burning to the ground
oh well I guess we're gonna find out
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
let's see how far we've come
let's see how far we've come

I think it turned ten o'clock but I don't really know
then I can't remember caring for an hour or so
started crying and I couldn't stop myself
I started running but there's no where to run to
I sat down on the street, took a look at myself
said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell
say all goodbyes if you've got someone you can say goodbye to

-- Matchbox Twenty

Stephanie was dressing for battle. It was a Saturday, there was a quidditch game. She dressed in sexy black lingerie, not because it was a tool but because it made her feel good about herself. She pulled on a dark blue baby-T over the top that said 'Yes, I'm smarter than you' and had the Ravenclaw Crest in the background. She pulled a pair of snug dark blue jeans on, followed by her black tennis shoes. Her favorite belt was slipped through the loops at her hips, the buckle a crossed pair of quidditch bats. She ran fingers through her wild curls before giving her head a hard shake and glancing in the mirror. Tall, slender (but still curvy,) hair tousled, face severe. She picked up her wand, but didn't bother to holster it in the special holster attached to her belt. She'd be using it soon enough.

"Heading out early as well?" She asked the wispy looking blond ahead of her as she exited her dorm. Luna Lovegood was her favorite Ravenclaw. The girl was just so far out there, but managed to make so much sense. That and she had an awful lot of power behind those big eyes of hers. The girls unkempt pale hair hung in snarls down her back, ending at her hips. She turned to look at Stephanie and paused, waiting for the older girl to catch her up.

"Ginny asked me to help her with a mission," Luna said, walking again. Stephanie grinned. She'd had the feeling that Ginny would get some of her girlfriends to help her with the owl windows. Luna was Ginny's best friend so it made sense that she would be in on it as well.

"I've a mission of my own," Stephanie answered, twirling her wand in her fingers.

XXX

Hermione pulled on a pair of black jeans, followed by a black long sleeved shirt. Her Black winter boots were pulled over her jeans, and a crimson and gold striped scarf and cap added to the ensemble. She glanced in the mirror and sighed. She wanted to bring her heavy cloak, but figured that she would need the down time away from everyone after breakfast, so left it in her room. She walked down to her common room and paused, noting the Slytherin draped across the couch. Draco too was wearing solid black, only he wore nice slacks and a sweater. He stared pensively at the fire that was dying in the grate and didn't seem to notice Hermione at all. She wasn't sure she knew why she was staring at him at all. Something drew her eyes. Maybe it was his hair, lying silken across his forehead and trying to caress his eyes, instead of slicked back as it usually was. Maybe it was the relaxed tone of his body. She tilted her head to the side and his eyes shot to hers.

"Yes?" He drawled, sitting up quickly, his movements liquid grace. Hermione didn't startle and didn't pause.

"Would you like to walk to breakfast with me?" She asked. He raised an eyebrow and shrugged.

"I'll be right back," He agreed, striding quickly to his room. He appeared moments later, his hair slicked as usual and his winter cloak, gloves and muffler over one arm. He opened the portrait and waited for her wordlessly. Neither said anything as they walked to the great hall, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence. They went their separate ways when they got to the half filled tables. More students trickled in as Hermione took her place between Harry and Neville, Ron and Ginny across from her.

"I would like to remind everyone of the quidditch game this afternoon," Dumbledore said as he stood up for the morning announcements. "Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff will both appreciate the support. Eat up, it's cold outside," He said, but his tone was lacking it's usual sparkle. The food appeared on the table and Ron plopped eggs on Hermione's plate, Harry passing a plate of toast so that some of that was added as well while Neville filled her cup with pumpkin juice. She raised an eyebrow and Ginny gave her a winning smile.

"Eat it up, you're nearly skin an bones," Ginny told her pertly, munching on bacon. Hermione managed a few bites of toast before everyone in the hall went silent. Utensils stopped and eyes went upwards, the only sound in the hall the rush of wings and a few soft hoots. There was sudden mass confusion as at least half the newspapers burst into flames at a certain point just after the birds swooped through the windows. The silence was broken as professors jumped to their feet, shouting orders and pulling out wands. Hermione closed her eyes and tilted her head back, a radiant smile breaking across her face as ashes and charred bits of still burning paper rained down on the students all around her, but none came near to landing on her. Colin Creevy held up his ever-present camera and snapped a picture of Hermione before turning back to the rest of the confusion. He got a good one of Stephanie Stormwing twirling her wand between her fingers, an amused smirk on her face. She zapped a Hufflepuff 5th year and the girls hair started to try and strangle everyone that got to close to her.

"I wonder how that happened?" Seamus asked in mock astonishment, looking around his table.

"Can't say as I have a single clue," Jan said in overly innocent tones, blinking wide eyes at the older Gryffindor.

"That was absolute brilliance though, whoever did it must be some sort of genius. At the very least truly amazing," Ginny said earnestly, the satisfied smirk firmly rooted on her face.

"It's a sight better than the morning I'd been expecting," Hermione agreed, focusing on those around her, the smile still on her face. She looked down at the plate of food in front of her and found herself hungry for the first time in a long while. She had just finished her eggs on toast when one of the few owls who'd made it through the window with an intact paper landed in front of her plate. Again the hall went silent. Hermione drank the last of her pumpkin juice and stood up.

"Want me to come with you?" Harry asked her, kindness showing in his eyes instead of the pity glowing in so many others. Hermione smiled sadly and shook her head.

"Just going to get my jacket and gloves from my room. I'll meet you at the pitch. Save me a seat," She told him, walking away without taking the paper from the owl. So the owl followed her. Hermione pulled out her wand and slammed a glowing barrier up behind her so the owl couldn't follow her, but wouldn't run into the magical wall and hurt itself. She opened the door, the entire hall still silent behind her, and left. As she walked down the corridor she started to shake. Her steps sped up as she tried to get to her common room before the tears she could feel rising could start to fall. She began to run, her footsteps echoing through the stone walls surrounding her. She ran faster, trying to escape the sound she knew somewhere inside she couldn't get away from. The faster she ran, the louder the sound and the more it sounded like someone was chasing her. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she got to the portrait guarding the entrance to the heads common room.

"Salazar," She panted, stumbling through the doorway and into the room in front of her, with the silver and gold and red and green. She looked around and thought of past Christmases, her parents doting on her, her friends around her, and the tears slid down her face. She walked to the wingchair facing the fireplace and collapsed into it, hiding her face in the corner and sobbing like she couldn't remember ever having sobbed before.

XXX

"Bet you 4 galleons she's going to go cry alone in your common room," Blaise commented idly. His girlfriends green eyes snapped over to him and she raised an eyebrow.

"Sucker bet," She returned, snagging a banana out of a third years hands and peeling it. The third year sent her a dirty look and went back to hunting for another banana. The two turned to stare at Draco and he stared back, a blank look on his face.

"Your point?" He asked, knowing the two had one. They always did things for a reason. Blaise laughed a little and snagged the last of Daphne's banana while the girl glowered at Draco.

"Who has the password to your common room besides the two of you? Certainly not her friends sitting around the table not knowing how to proceed. Not Miss Stormwing, hexing and cursing various Puffs," Her hands gestured before she paused to stare at Stephanie for a moment. "I really want to know that curse," She said, vague interest in her tone as she watched a Hufflepuff's scarf dissolve into ants. Draco sighed and stood up. They had a point, it wouldn't be fun if his dorm mate offed herself. He stood up with a much put upon sigh and wandered out of the great hall, snagging the paper from the owl trying to get through the barrier Granger had put up minutes ago. He didn't so much as glance at the pictures he knew were there. Other students had gotten some papers and horrified whispers were already clouding the air. He waved his countered the spell for the barrier and strode out of the hall and down the corridor to his common room. He paused to state the password before walking silently through the entrance. He heard the sobs before he pinpointed her location. He dropped the paper on the table and took a seat on the wing chair beside her, staring pensively at the fire again. Staring at the fire helped him clear his head and focus, it always had.

"Planning to go to the game?" He asked a few minutes later as her sobs began to die down. She sniffed and shrugged, but he missed the motion because of his focus on the fire. She blinked her swollen eyes and looked at him for a moment.

"Harry and Ron are going to save me a seat," Hermione told him quietly, her voice sounding a little strained.

"Best to keep your chin up. Don't give them a reason to think you're ashamed," He went on. Her brow wrinkled in confusion.

"I am ashamed," She whispered after a moment. He turned this gaze to her, a mild look on his face.

"Oh really? What about?" He asked, as though they were merely talking about the weather.

"I-" She cut herself off and thought for a moment. What was she ashamed of? Not being strong enough to stop Troy? Not being there when her parents died? Being a Witch? She thought back to what Stephanie and Ron and Harry had all told her in some form or another over the last week. What her professors had been asking with their eyes. Why hadn't she told someone. "I should have said something," She whispered finally, siffling again. Draco passed a handkerchief to her, the white cloth hanging limp in his relaxed fingers between them, a banner that somehow felt like a flag of truce.

"I'm going to share with you one of the very few bits of wisdom my father ever shared with me." He told her, his eyes looking straight into hers, searching for something she wasn't sure she could give. "Never be ashamed of your actions. They shape who you are and what you can be. Apologize for them if you must, repent if there is need, but never be ashamed," He turned his silver eyes back to the golden glow of the fire and Hermione wiped her eyes before blowing her nose. She didn't offer the kerchief back and he didn't ask for it. A few minutes later she went upstairs to the bathroom to wash her face and came back down looking fresh and clean, no sigh of puffy eyes or red nose. She swung her cloak around her and pulled on her gloves as she walked over to the portrait that Draco was holding open.

XXX

Stephanie rolled her head on her neck and stretched her shoulder blades, her eyes bright with anticipation. As Leo St. James, a 5th year Gryffindor, introduced the Ravenclaw Quidditch team Stephanie bounced on her toes and followed the rest of the team out, jumping on her broom and taking off into the air, swinging her bat over her head and encouraging the crowd in their cheering. She blew a kiss to a cheerful red-head at the top of the Gryff section as he and his brother and some of their other friends clapped and pointed to the sign behind them. "Trouble Comes With Curls and a Beaters Bat" was proclaimed in large sparkling letters while a stick figure in blue with long dark curls smacked a bludger at a figure in yellow. The pictures moved and someone the blue figure always managed to hit the other figure (who's uniform changed depending on the team she was playing, though the red figure would hit the bludger back.)

"And the Weasley's say it all, Trouble comes with Curls and Beaters Bat, Stephanie Stormwing sets the mood for this game as she goes after the bludgers with an intensity that has me thankful I don't have the stones for brooms," Leo commented as the brunette slammed a bludger at the Puff Keeper. McGonagall cleared her throat loud enough for everyone to hear, but didn't say anything as the game continued. She flew with a single minded intensity, knock the Puffs off their brooms with the bludgers, don't let them score, don't let them get control of the bludgers or the quaffle. She watched in satisfaction as a bludger she'd just hit almost knocked the Badger's Seeker off his broom. Her partner beater sent a bludger careening from their own seeker and Stephanie hooked her ankles and flipped under her broom to use both hands on her bat and strike it toward the yellow keeper. She tugged her broom back under her and smirked as the keeper ducked the bludger and missed the quaffle that followed straight behind.

"If he'd been a man about it and just taken the hit he may have stopped Ravenclaw from scoring another 10 points, letting the Ravens lead 80 to 0," Leo said derisively.

"Mr. St. James," McGonagall growled as people in the stands laughed in good nature. Both Seekers suddenly dropped their brooms and went racing in the same direction. Stephanie spotted the little golden glimmer and shot off as well, but upwards instead, toward the bludger making it's way toward another player. She looked over at the stands and smiled at Hermione, pointing to the head girl for a moment before slamming her bat into the crotchety game piece and watching it slam straight into the puff seeker, allowing Ravenclaw to get the snitch and win the game. The stands erupted into cheers and Stephanie smirked down at the fallen player. He had a bloody nose, but was well enough to be shouting obscenities at her while Madame Hooch reminded him that it was all part of the game. She turned her smirk to the Badger Beaters and shrugged as she pulled her hair out of it's ponytail, allowing the mass to tangle and dance around her as the wind commanded. She landed and joined the group hugging for the team before heading to the changing room and stripping out of her sweaty uniform. A quick charm later and she was perfectly clean. She changed back into her clothes from earlier, this time with a denim jacket and a Ravenclaw scarf, and went out to greet her boyfriend. She was going to sneak off and join him later, but they were allowed to stay on the grounds for a little while, and they might as well give the others something to be shocked about.

"Lovely game," Luna said absently as she walked by, a gigantic hat with a large croaking Raven flapping it's wings atop her head.

"Thanks Luna, I'll bring you a butterbeer," She told the girl. Luna waved a hand absently and continued on her way as Stephanie shouted and leaped at Fred. The redhead caught her and she wrapped her long legs around his waist, ignoring the scandalized looks on a lot of the other student's faces.

"Must you be so forward with my brother, of all people?" Ron complained loudly as he came to congratulate Stephanie and greet the twins.

"Would you prefer I was with your sister?" She asked as she hopped down. Ginny had just walked up to join them. The girls sized each other up thoughtfully and Fred groaned loudly.

"Couldn't you have picked another girl sweetheart? Any other girls? I can't fantasize about Gin-Bean, it's wrong and I'll not be able to get it up for a month if I try," Fred complained.

"And on that note, I'm leaving, before anything else I certainly don't want to hear tries to attack me," Ron complained loudly.

XXX

Miss me? Here you go, a brand new updated just for you all! - Damia

Silent-Mousie - I'm sorry dearest, not cliffy this time, just for you!

slytherin shadow - I'm glad I'm keeping your attention. Might some of it have to do with the mystery of when I will update? As for Stephanie, feel free to vent as you need. Some of the things she does irritate me as well, but she's a person with flaws.

Darkness Shadowed - Yes Stevie, you have flaws. Though cooking is not one of them. Or baking. People relations though ... we'll have to work on that. Did you like the battle clothes? I know, clothing design is your forte and I've likely got the outfit not at all to your liking. Still.