Starts with Lily. You imagine her as shrewd, for some reason : calculating, sharp under her glossy smile, with the body of an adjective and the voice of a haunting half-mumbling verb -- but God, she must have been so loving, it's written all over Harry's face.

(You laugh darkly.)

Then his aunt. Not much to be said here, but she's Lily's sister; cut from the same cloth, even, but she had to settle for far less. That changes a girl. You know. Different pattern, different scissor.

And how sad.

Third is

Cho Chang. Cho Chang, Cho Chang.

The envy of your life. How does she keep her hair so beautiful and her skin all gold & ivory and her mouth dripping cherries? It defies any logic. You'd really like to hate her -- it would be so satisfing -- but she is smart. And even in mourning she's... well, she's just...

Very pretty. That's it, really. Pretty enough that you prefer her over Fleur, who doesn't make this list out of spite.

(Or jealousy, but you wouldn't admit that, would you? Harry cleans his broken glasses just to the left of your shoulder and he looks up and you look away.)

Anyway, both are unquestionably prettier than Ginny, who is fourth and seventh all at once. You would like to say you know her, but nobody does -- and that's because it's all there in those preteen hieroglyphics, all of her scrawled in the only book forbidden to your questing mind. Is it horrible to wish you knew what it was like?

Hmm. Probably yes.

But it's alluring, the idea: that by the time anyone got to Gin she was already all gone, and a new one sprung up in her place.If you wrote in Tom Riddle's diary now, would he reply

in bubblegum ink?

(You shiver.)

&

Next, there is Mrs. Weasley, who has taken to aging far better than McGonagall, sixth, and poor Pomfrey, seventh. She also makes far better peach cobbler.

(But Harry required so much bandaging,and students years from now will be making up for points he lost. that is: him, you and--)

Oh, that hurts.

Eight and infinity is Luna Lovegood, who isn't crazy, thank you -- no, not any crazier than you are. It's just that you're far subtler. You're better that way. To hide this fact you've sometimes spoken down to her; but then she knows anyway, knows you're probably more her equal than anyone else. That's really what matters.

Finally it's you, hoping you haven't forgotten any one. So polite in your nakedness. Yes, you, Hermione, with your face pressed against the stones here, listening to the murmur of your worst enemies down the hall. The ones who tore everything from you: wand, woolen socks, headband. You can't speak, you're so cold. When you shut your eyes all you see is pinprick stars and a broken skull, but regardless you are still you.

Thinking, thinking.

And tonight, you are completing Harry's history, which is as inexplicably tied to your gender as it is to your straining mind.

Hopefully, this isn't the end of (you) it.

Maybe.

Still, he's crying. It's the first time you've seen him cry in weeks. His mouth is a bruised strawberry, and he keeps bringing his hands up to cover his eyes; but whenever they fall back to his sides, there you are. Nothing's changed. There's no cue to follow, so you stay as you are. You stay blank, shaking and quietly furious: a bitter animal. You stay like him, and then Harry crawls up to you in the darkness of the cell, and you're too sames without the difference that was Ron (stinging you) and to make up for it you sort of push in closer.

My anatomy, you think.

"Hermione, you're my best friend."

"And you're mine. You've always been."

Harry presses forward. Fingers catch at your hair and then settle on your shoulders, pulling you to him. And that's when you realise that Ron is really gone, gone forever. Those aren't his hands, and it's not your mouth you pour into, inside-out. When your body starts to ache, aroused by your own mortality -- your betrayal, because that's what this really is -- and you swear you hear footsteps in the sound of kissing, you start to see how mundane death really is.

Besides:

a lot of times

when people go making history,

they never come back.

That is simple science.

That's statistics.

And --

"I love you."

"Love you."

There is no paper to record who says it first, but you know who means it.

He sounds like he's been dying for years.