A/N: This has taken forever. I owe you all a million apologies. I owe you better than this, after the wonderful response I've received – both for the first two chapters and for Things before. It's just been a lot going on lately, and I've had trouble finding trouble for fanfiction in general, and then when inspiration hit, it wasn't for re-writing this… I'm sorry. I wish I could promise quicker updates now, and I hope I will manage that, but I can't make any promises. Just know that it won't be until after I've re-written all of them until I start posting new ones. Someone new should be coming up pretty soon (in chapter order, that is, and hopefully time-wise as well…).
Anyway, this is almost completely re-written, because I wasn't too fond of the old version. Number 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 are completely new. 9 and 10 are almost the same as before, while 5 is a developed version. Hope you'll enjoy.
At Muggle school, she wasn't bullied, per say. Only rarely did someone tease her a bit, calling her a teacher's pet. It was more the fact that they were all divided into pairs and that she just happened to be left out. Sometimes one of them invited her to a slumber party, and sometimes she attended, but she never really felt the point of lying awake all night, giggling about the boys.
Learning that she was a witch, something fell into place. So that was why she had been different. There wasn't anything wrong with her. She was different, but in a good way, and she was going to go to a school with lots of kids just like her. She was beyond excited, obviously, but at the same time horribly nervous. This was her chance, to start over, to make friends. She needed to be prepared. She needed not to make a fool out of herself, not knowing magic like the others did. She needed not to give them a reason to dislike her.
So she learned all the books by heart. She wanted to fit in, and, of course, she wanted to do well in her classes, as she always had. Plus, the books were so interesting! This whole magical world – it was fascinating!
Getting to Hogwarts didn't turn out to be the great change she had expected it to be, though. No matter how hard she had tried, she ended up getting those looks again, those looks that said she wasn't welcome. She ended up sharing a dormitory with two other girls, who loved to braid each other's hair and discuss the cuteness level of the boys, day in and day out. And, even when she tried to join in, they mostly ended up giggling for reasons she couldn't understand, and she pretty soon gave them up as a lost cause.
It wasn't just them, though. As she looked around, she found with disappointment that she was regarding the exact same conditions as she had in the Muggle world; the girls were looking at the boys, who were either looking back or simply discussing sports. Constantly. The only difference was which sport. None of them seemed to want to discuss their classes, or, frankly, seemed to be very interested in magic at all. They were mostly just complaining about homework. She couldn't comprehend it. Complaining – when they had gotten the unique chance to actually learn magic!
She wasn't all alone, though. Neville had suffered the same fate as her, that of being the odd number among all the pairs. The two of them didn't have much in common except for this fact, really, but he was a kind, nervous boy and she didn't mind spending time with him. Even if his face tended to turn a nice shade of green every time she tried to analyze their classes with him, and even if he wasn't the kind of friend she had longed for, she soon learned that she could enjoy helping him with his homework, and the two of them worked better and better together. You couldn't call them a pair, in the way Harry and Ron, Dean and Seamus or Parvati and Lavender were pairs, but they were friends.
Then that day came. When the Ron-boy who she had never done anything but try to be nice to said that it was no wonder she hadn't got any friends. And it hit her, as she searched her mind for someone to go to for comfort and realized that a crying girl was way beyond Neville's capacity, that he was right.
For a few years (before kisses and weddings and kids came into the picture), she considered that the best day of her life. Because that was the day she got friends, who would always be there for her. Friends who still didn't want to discuss homework, but who somehow complimented her, and made her part of their pair. For life, she had friends (excepting a few nightmarish weeks in the third year, where all those old insecurities and all that loneliness came back to her).
Sometimes, she felt bad for Neville. She knows that she kind of did abandon him. She didn't try to get him into their group. She talked to him, yes, she continued to help him with his school work and she was his friend. But he wasn't part of their trio, and especially since Neville is so close to them nowadays, she feels that she probably should have tried harder then. She confessed this to him once, and apologized. He shrugged, and told her it was all right, that she was always his friend and that he found his way in the end anyway. That it wasn't right then. That it was supposed to be the three of them. She still feels bad, because even if he pretends to brush it away, she knows how much those years hurt him. And even if it wasn't right, and it was supposed to be the three of them, she should have tried a lot harder, because she knows what it feels like not to fit in, and she never wanted Neville (or anyone for that matter) to share that experience.
She never did explain to anyone just why she felt so strongly about house-elves. Everyone thought she was either just overly sympathetic, too unfamiliar with the magical world to understand the concept or simply on the verge of insanity. She knew that not even Harry or Ron got it, but yet she tried hard to make them see it. Really, the injustice should be obvious to anyone, but for some reason it affected her more than the others. At first, she was puzzled. She knew it wasn't that she was more kind-hearted than everyone else – she wasn't that conceited. It was something else.
It didn't hit her until a long time later, when she had gained a bit of distance to it all. Then, one day, she knew why. It was her studying. It was the fact that she knew, more than any of the people she had tried to convince, how it felt to work and work until she felt like nothing in the world could make her feel less exhausted. She knew, so well, how it felt to then, in the midst of that exhaustion receive that perfect mark she had wanted, or simply a smile and a "well done, Miss Granger" from her teacher. How much she needed that, to make it all worth it.
This was why she could not stand to watch these creatures, struggling their whole lives to please the wizards, who never saw them, never appreciated them, never even bothered with a "thank you", "please" or "well done". She couldn't imagine how they could get the strength to continue through the exhaustion with nothing but threats of violence to keep them going.
She was in fourth year the first time she admitted to herself that her feelings for Ron might be something slightly outside the realm of friendship. It had probably already been growing for a while then, but she hadn't wanted to see it (especially not the year before, when he was constantly hurting her with being the world's most immature and unreasonable prat). Then, when she felt how much it stung to hear that he didn't even think of her as a girl, it was undeniable, since she knew she could care less if Harry saw her as a girl or as a Giant Squid.
In fifth year, she realized that she was falling for him for real, when he grew up a bit and stood by her side all year in trying to support the angry, misunderstood and highly pubertal Harry, just like she needed him to.
The following year was chaos. Just when she'd gained a bit of hope that they were possibly moving a bit forward, finally, she found him kissing Lavender Brown of all people. For a long time, she couldn't even comprehend what she had done wrong. (When he did tell her this, later that year, she still thought that he was stupid and that she did not deserve his treatment of her, but still – it was Ron, and he seemed to feel pretty stupid himself, so she couldn't not forgive him.)
The day when she reached certainty followed soon after this. At Dumbledore's funeral, looking at the crystal blue sky, out over the Hogwarts grounds, at the people around her, and then up at Ron, holding her while not even trying to hide his own tears – when she met his eyes, looking down into her, she knew. She knew that she loved him. And she knew that they would have to wait, like they had sort of silently agreed to do, until the war was over, because now Harry needed them to be his friends and nothing more. But she knew that when he one day didn't, she would still need Ron and she would still find him by her side.
Being the control freak that she is, the Horcrux hunt was the greatest trial of her life. Going around, without a plan, sometimes without any hope of getting anywhere nearer to where they needed to, yet being in constant huge danger – it was horrible. She had always been the girl who thought things through first, who needed the plans and the control. Yet, she never hesitated. She knew that her two boys needed her, and she needed to be there with them.
When he left, he took away what little hope she had had left. He made the torture of this nightmare so much worse, and he already broke that faith she had gained at Dumbledore's funeral. Because he wasn't there, when they both needed him more than ever. She saw what it did to Harry, but could not for the life of her bring herself to comfort him, not really, not like she should have. It took all the strength in her to keep the small parts of a brave face she still had up for him, to not simply give up when they were still getting nowhere and the forbidden worry that she had been pressing down so firmly for so long was suddenly uncontrollable (because there was no denying now, was there, that there was hardly one chance in a million that she would ever see him again, the way their world was heading?).
This should have taken her longer to get over. Maybe she should never have forgiven him, trusted him again. Perhaps that would have been the sensible, smart thing to do. But with him, she was never sensible. He was Ron and when he got back, she was angry and she hated him, but still… After a while, it was too much, and she just needed him more than she hated him. And after everything was over – well, she loved him and he needed her more than ever and she needed him too. Simple as that. Even Hermione Granger can't be sensible all the time.
The next year, she made one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make (going on the Horcrux hunt does not count, because that never was a decision). She returned to Hogwarts for one last year, without her two boys. All that summer, she hesitated, not daring to bring it up with Ron. Then, when it became clear that he would be working with George, she tried to reason herself out of going. That she couldn't possibly leave him now, when he needed her, and that she could find something else to do. That she didn't need to complete her education, and she shouldn't even be thinking of such things after all they had been through.
But in the end, all of her arguments just weren't convincing enough. She needed to go back. She needed to get her NEWTs, and more than that, she wanted that last year at her school. She wasn't ready to get a job, and she knew she would always regret it if she didn't return. Also, she trusted Ron now, and she trusted their relationship enough to know that they could survive this year with merely holidays and a few Hogsmeade meetings together. They could, and they would.
Still, telling Ron and seeing the knowing, but yet so impossibly sad smile on his face, she almost took it all back. Except that she knew, from the look in his eyes, that he knew too that this was the way it had to be and that he wouldn't let her.
That year wasn't easy, but she had Ginny and he had Harry. She needed to go to school and he needed to help his brother. They both were where they needed to be.
Then, the time had finally come for them to live their lives and to have the futures they had fought for. A few years passed, in which Hermione had a beautiful wedding day and worked her way up at the Ministry. And then, they were going to have a baby, and all of her dreams were coming true – she was about to get that last missing piece in her puzzle. And then it just didn't happen.
It was supposed to be so perfect. The night after she and Ron had discussed it, she talked to Ginny, who decided to have the same conversation with Harry. A few days later, all four of them were in on the plan – they were going to get kids, together, and become one big family (well, of course George's and Percy's and Bill's kids were their family too, but it would always be just a little bit more with Ginny and Harry).
Ginny got pregnant after what seemed like no time at all, just according to plan. At first, Hermione was excited with her, thinking it would just be a matter of days, or perhaps weeks, before it happened for her as well. And then it didn't. And Ginny's belly expanded more and more, and Harry got more and more overprotective and generally overjoyed and Ron seemed not to mind at all – but Hermione was starting to panic. Why hadn't it happened yet? Was it supposed to take this long? Was something wrong with her, or them? And why was Ron so unfazed by it – was she just being hysterical, or was he being insensitively slow?
Shortly after James was born, she broke down completely, and was forced (by Harry, who had found her and comforted her) to speak to both Ginny and Ron. After that, it was easier, because she didn't have to pretend to be happy around Ginny and James all the time, and she had Ron, who now knew to keep an eye on her and to simply be there. It helped, yes, but not enough. It still broke her heart to watch Ginny holding her baby, to watch James grow and start crawling, and know that she wanted that so much.
Seven months later, her shriek had Ron stumbling into the bathroom, wand ready, expecting at least a dozen Death Eaters. But what he found was his wife, sobbing unrestrainedly, throwing herself around his neck, squeaking incoherently for about ten minutes before he realized what was going on. (Right then, she was sure that nothing could ever make her happier. Then, two months later, Ginny got pregnant too, and the small twinge of disappointment at the lost dreams of experiencing it with her friends was gone too.)
The night James was born, she and Harry had a fight. She never meant for it to happen, but it did (he was sleep-deprived and high on emotion, while she was close to losing it already with all the joyous people crowding the newborn and his radiant mother). She thought that she was careful in her way of questioning him, not accusingly, if he really thought it was a great idea to name his kids after dead people he had loved (she already suspected that Fred, George's son, would have a hard time with that once he started realizing why everyone sometimes got teary-eyed just looking at him or hearing his name spoken aloud). He had blown up at her, told her to mind her own business. She had soaked her pillow that night, but had been careful to hide it from Ron. Both because she was slightly ashamed about her own overstepping, and because she really didn't want him to know the real reason she was so bothered (if he hadn't yet started being concerned at their lack of pregnancy, there was no reason to worry him and drag him down with her, right?).
The next day, Harry had apologized, looking sheepish, but they'd never discussed it again and his son was named as planned; James Sirius. Not until the week before the birth of Harry's next son did he bring up the subject again. Staring at the floor, he told her that he and Ginny were thinking about naming their son Albus Severus. And then he looked up and asked her what she thought. She had hugged him tightly and told him that it sounded like a great idea to honour them, even if she didn't exactly agree, simply because she wanted that worry out of his eyes, and because she knew it wasn't her place.
Yet, when it came to their own children, both she and Ron knew that they had to give their children original names, with nothing painful or saint-like to live up to. She suspected that they would have enough to deal with, just from their surnames.
When Rose told them that she was dating Scorpius Malfoy, Hermione couldn't let herself react. It just took one look at her extremely nervous daughter and she knew that right now her only priority was to make sure that Ron didn't explode. She managed this and sighed in relief when father and daughter embraced warmly, because she had seen the initial look of fury in Ron's eyes. Then she too hugged her daughter, whispering something about how they would always love her, no matter what.
Still, the first time he came over, she only saw the smirking boy who had called her a Mudblood so many times and when she gripped Ron's hand tightly, it was as much for her own sake as for his. And even if she later got to know Scorpius, who was actually both timid and kind, she couldn't help seeing his father in him, just sometimes, when a portion of his spoiled nature spilled out. She knew she was being irrational and judgemental, but it really did take until her daughter was finally engaged to Scorpius until she really admitted defeat and took him in as part of the family – not just with her behaviour, but with her heart as well.
A/N: Thoughts? Personally, I like this better than the original, but any opinions are welcome.