DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Okay, I used to be a "cutter." But I was not emo or goth. I was basically your run-of-the-mill, girl-next-door who never told anyone that I self-mutilated. And it was all about underlying psychological issues. In research for another story, I read quite a few emo, angsty, goth cutting fics, and none of them bear any relation to what I went through. So this is my interpretation of what it would actually be like if a canon character was a cutter. This is not my story at all, but it is a realistic look at the issues as I've come to know them. And I took great pains to keep Hermione as in character as a cutter!Hermione could be.


Scars

Hermione Granger knew every scar on her body by heart. There were scars from falling down as a child, scars from adventures with Harry. But the most interesting scars were the ones on her left hip.

She had read about cutting and cutters. She couldn't remember why, but the phenomenon had fascinated her as a child. She supposed there was always some smidgen of depression hiding deep in her soul. Maybe that was why she had to be so perfect in school. Maybe she was overcompensating for feelings of emptiness inside. She never wanted to know, so she never asked herself.

It was a few years after her interest began that she actually took the knife to her skin. For the longest time, she would think about it. It sounded appealing, the idea that you could give yourself a physical scar and erase an emotional one. The literature had never put it like that, but that's what she thought it would be like. It took her exactly two times to realize that it didn't work that way. It didn't matter by then, though. Cutting herself, seeing blood well up to the surface, it was seductive. The emotional scars were never going to go away, but cutting redirected her energy. When she was so blinded by sorrow or anger or inadequacy that she didn't know how to live with herself, the knife in her trunk called to her, "This is how. This is the answer."

Every scar was special. She could look at them and know precisely which one corresponded to which "episode," as she liked to call them. One scar was for her first and only "A" on a test. The A was supposed to stand for Acceptable, which was a joke because for Hermione that grade was simply not acceptable.

The scars had a way of taking on a new meaning, separate from her intentions. Her "Acceptable" scar didn't tell her that she had to be perfect. It said to her that her goals are unattainable, because perfection is unattainable. The scar from the night she saw Ron with Lavender didn't represent any feelings of betrayal; it reminded her to never be anyone but herself. If the only way to make a man love her was to be as pretty and shallow and slutty as Lavender, then he wasn't worth it, even if that man was Ron Weasley. You see, she couldn't stop cutting; it was the path to her personal growth.

Of course, there were other times when Hermione wanted to cut herself for no specific reason. There were times when her hand reached out for that knife because her life and her responsibility were crushing her alive. But she wouldn't allow herself to cut then. The scars had to be special. They had to have a reason.

Hermione had never seen suicide as a viable option. She couldn't do that to her parents; she couldn't do that to Ron and Harry. Harry needed her. The fate of the world rested on his shoulders, and he needed her and Ron to share that burden. So, yes, sometimes she lay awake at night and felt the weight of it all bearing down on her chest, and she wished she could at least consider suicide, but she had to be stronger than that.

She never told anyone about these feelings. Ron and Harry would have understood about burdens and overwhelming responsibility, but they wouldn't have understood masochistic self-mutilation. They wouldn't have understood about her scars. Harry's scar reminded him of his parents' deaths and his destiny. Harry's scar offered little hope and no relief from the horrors of life. How could she tell him that she willingly gave herself scars and that they were a source of comfort? For that matter, how could anyone understand that watching blood trickle down your leg could be cathartic? She knew it sounded crazy. She knew, in a way, it was crazy. It was a symptom of a mental defect. It didn't matter to her. It helped; that's what was important.

So she never told anyone and she never wanted to tell. She purposefully put the scars low on her hip so that no one would see them. There were factors she hadn't accounted for, though. That became clear to her after the first time Ron kissed her. No one was going to see those scars when she was fully clothed, but someday she wanted to be unclothed in the presence of a man. In fact, at that moment she was hoping that it wouldn't be too many more years before she was unclothed in the presence of Ron. And then he would see the scars. Now Ron was not the type of guy to be knowledgeable about these things, but she looked at those scars often and their origin was quite unmistakable. The rational side of Hermione, which had served her well over the years, knew she had a problem of which cutting was only a symptom. If she were to have a relationship with Ron, or anyone, wouldn't that side of her need to be exposed? Did she really think that she would be able to hide it from a man during a long-term relationship? The answer was yes. She had never actually intended to tell anyone, not even the man she married. Maybe it was odd, but when she boiled it down, she realized that she didn't want to be with a man who would be okay with that.

It was too late now, though. If she had healed the wounds when she was first cut, there wouldn't have been any scars. But there was nothing she could do about it now. There were no spells to vanquish scars months after the fact. They faded on their own, of course. She was not really cutting all that deep, just deep enough to draw blood, so the scars would have faded, except that once she had the knife in her hand, Hermione would refresh the scars that were starting to vanish. Every one of them meant something to her, and she could not bear to see them go. Once they were re-cut, the scar lasted longer than the time before.

Still, if she really wanted to, she could stop and eventually those scars would go away. She occasionally wondered if it could really be that easy, to just stop one day and let it be over. In all actuality, it had been over a year since she cut herself. When she was hiding out with Harry and Ron, Ron had left them in such a heartbreaking way that Hermione felt compelled to cut, but she couldn't do it with Harry there. It was several days before she got the chance. As she pulled out the knife, the same knife she had been using since she was thirteen, and carefully unwrapped it, she reflected on the fact that it had made the list of necessities. She stared at the cold metal of the blade for a long time She even dragged the tip across the skin of her arm, applying only enough pressure to leave a faint white mark. Seeing this knife, which she had qualified as a "necessity," made her feel physically ill. She did not cut herself that day, and, in fact, she thought about discarding the knife right there in the forest. She had stabbed it into the ground to the hilt and tried to walk away, but she couldn't take her eyes off it. That knife was a part of her; she could not leave it there. She cleaned off the dirt in the stream and carefully rewrapped it.

After the war was over and there was no need to hide anymore, Hermione was already thinking about the issue with being naked in front of Ron. So, she hadn't cut then either. That didn't stop her from wanting to, though. So many times she had taken out the knife, which had been properly sterilized, and stared at it, just as she had done that day in the forest. There were times when she knew she wasn't going to cut, and there were times when she wasn't so sure.

Now the war had been over for months, and job offers from the Ministry were poring in. Hermione wanted to finish her education at Hogwarts, but the school was in crisis, and it wasn't the best time for it. The Ministry did not care that she had no N.E.W.T.s; they only wanted her for her name anyway. Ron and Harry had already entered into Auror training, but Hermione was going to take her time in choosing a career. Being an Auror had never been her dream the way it had been for the boys

She and Ron were together, but it was still a bit informal, which was so frustrating. There were problems lifting the memory spells on her parents. They still had holes in their memories, and Hermione was spending so much time with the Healers to try to fix that. She had not finished school. Nothing was really going quite right in her life. In fact, things were a little out of control. Hermione really felt that she had a decision to make. To cut or not to cut...

Hermione pulled out the knife from its place in her trunk. She looked at her reflection in the steel and held the flat side of the blade against her arm. She loved the cool feel of the steel. She walked over to a proper mirror and pushed down the top of her pyjamas so that she could see the scars. They had faded a lot in the time that had passed. She could barely even see some of them, but others were still red. The easiest ones to see were the oldest, and although she understood why, it seemed ironic to her. She traced the scar from the first time she ever cut herself with the fingers of her left hand, while she still held the knife limp in her right one. She lifted her head to look her reflection in the eye. Her face was red and splotchy and there were salt trials on her cheek from the tears she had cried.

She had no idea how long she stood there looking from the scars to her face to the scars again, barely aware of the knife at her side. She had a definite feeling of "now or never," but her mind seemed unable to make the decision.

After a while, she heard Ron's voice come from downstairs. He was talking to her parents, and soon he would call for her. She finally lifted her right hand and looked at the knife again. If she did it right now, she would have enough time to bandage the wound and to clean and hide the knife.

She transferred the knife to her left hand and pressed the point to her thigh. Then she dragged it up with not nearly enough pressure to leave a mark. This was her custom. Even after all these years, she rarely had the courage to cut deep enough on the first swipe. She pulled the knife away from her skin. She could either replace it at the starting point or wrap it up and put it back in the trunk.

She heard a loud laugh come from Ron and hurried to hide the knife in its place. There was a sense of victory as she laid the knife among her robes. If she could refrain tonight, then maybe it was possible that she really could stop cold turkey. As Hermione walked down the stairs and tried to wipe away the evidence of her tears, she wondered if it would get easier or harder to resist the call of the knife as time went by.

END


More Author's Note: I thought a lot about whether I wanted to post this. I'm not really comfortable outing myself in this way. So you can flame me or criticize me or critique my handling of the issue. I can handle that. (Honestly!) BUT if you were any sort of decent, you would bear in mind that this is a real problem that I dealt with and have some sensitivity toward the actual disorder. (And, I know. I hate cutter fics too.)