It was a long war.
How could it not be? Wizards didn't line up on either side of a battlefield and slug it out. It was secretive, and cruel. Merciless. By the end, there wasn't a wizard or witch alive who hadn't lost in some way. The loss of loved ones was difficult, but the loss of one's innocence, or self-respect... that was harder. To do things you knew to be evil to kill those who were evil. Just as in a muggle war, nobody really won. Not really. Nothing is ever that cut and dry.
Hermione had been so tired. Physically, emotionally, she knew she was a wreck. The ministry had provided psychologists for anyone who asked but she wasn't interested. And there weren't enough psychologists anyway. The magical world being what it was, they'd only cottoned onto the idea recently. And there were a lot of people who needed help, not just those who had been attacked but all of those who had risen up to fight.
The Order of the Phoenix had expanded, taking in anyone who wanted to fight, to help. The ministry had been fine with that, not wanting to sully their hands by raising their own army. By the end of it, the original members had become organisers, administrators, teachers. The chance to lead in a foray became slimmer and slimmer as more people became soldiers. More expendable soldiers. Soldiers who were fiercely protective of their mentors and often refused to have them along on missions.
Hermione on the other hand had very few helpers. Those who wanted revenge, or to fight for freedom – they wanted immediacy. They wanted to train and kill death eaters as soon as they could. Very few of them wanted to spend day after day, night after night in the cool, dimly lit environment that potions brewing necessitated. And not all of those who were prepared to do that, who wanted to help but got squeamish at actual killing, were any good. She could have cried every time a new recruit who swore they had an outstanding in their potions N.E.W.T ruined a whole batch. Ingredients were harder and harder to come by as the war wore on, every spiders leg was precious.
By the time the Order had finally 'won' she had five people other than herself who were up to the task. The potions they brewed saved lives, and took them. There could be no mistakes, no duff batches. They had become a little family of sorts. How could they not? They all suffered the anxiety of watching friends leave to fight a battle with potion bombs they had brewed. They all had the survivors guilt. Asha, Bernard, Kimberly, Pat and Duncan. Their names were engraved on her heart. She would never forget that one Christmas when they had decorated the lab. Of course that Christmas Luna had died so they never did it again but she could still taste the mince pies if she allowed herself to remember. Mince pies and tears.
She was still friends with the others of course, but the war had changed them all. Ron spent all of his time over a map of Britain, strategising. She wasn't sure why she'd been surprised at first. He was brilliant at chess. But sending people on missions and having them die had lost him his cheeky smile and hot temper. He was, not cold exactly, but he was so wary of being blamed for a death he had withdrawn a bit. Better to keep a clear head he said, better not to make too many friends or show weakness. He had been a pain in the butt in school, especially that last year, but she missed the kid who would jump to outrageous conclusions. Ginny was in charge of the airborne division with her brother Charlie. She was the brooms, he was the magical creatures. Hermione wasn't completely sure, but Ginny only ever seemed her old self when she was in the air. The rest of the time she was a mini-Molly, fussing over her brothers and trying to keep tabs on everyone, keep them fed. Especially Harry. Harry. Wracked with guilt he couldn't find the seventh horcrux. Twelve years was a long time to be at war and he blamed himself every day for not putting a stop to it. When Dumbledore finally figured out Harry was the horcrux (she chided herself, it wasn't Dumbledore's fault, he had been bedridden after a coma that had lasted three years) he had nearly committed suicide on the spot until someone pointed out he had to kill Voldemort at the same time.
But everything had worked out somehow. Why the love shield thing Harry had couldn't have protected all of them when the first order member died to save the whole world she hadn't quite worked out. But being so busy with her potions, she hadn't had time to research it properly. And even if it had happened, the Death Eaters would have just switched to muggle weapons. Voldemort may hate muggles, but he had grown up one and wasn't stupid.
Celebrations at their victory had been muted. The golden trio had died a long time ago, and she hadn't felt comfortable at the dances and dinners. But then, even in peacetime childhood friendships broke down as people grew and changed. She had more contact with Neville than she did with her other fellow Gryffindors, Neville who had suffered so much was the least touched of all of them. He killed death eaters with a single minded ruthlessness, but in her room at Grimmauld Place could still laugh. He and Asha had a thing, and she couldn't be happier for them. Another close friend was Draco oddly enough. He had turned very early on. Not many people had trusted him at first but Hermione had seen the great strength of character it must take to turn your back on everything you've ever been taught to believe, and your entire family. It would be like her turning her back on everyone and joining the death eaters. People stopped hassling him when he killed his parents though. You couldn't fake that.
They'd bonded over Severus. Turned out, Severus was his godfather. Draco had nearly killed him when he'd strolled into her lab one evening while they were chatting. He had wept with relief when she explained Severus was on their side. Wept. One person he had grown up as family with was on his side. One. She'd cried too.
She never brought her parents back from Australia. They were safer where they were for now, blissfully unaware. To have them remember her would hurt them too much, too much had changed. So she watched them grow old and die from afar, missing them but satisfied they were happy. There were still a few death eaters around out for revenge, and she was an original order member, Harry Potters school chum and potions mistress extraordinaire. And the traitor Snape's wife.
She and Severus had gotten together during the war, unofficially. One too many nights patching him up, listening to him talk... He would only talk to her. She carried his wounds as well as her own. One night, he had looked at her with wide eyes, she'd nearly laughed at his expression.
"What is it?"
"I've realised I can't remember the last time I thought of you as my student. That ridiculous prank competition, do you remember? That night we got stuck behind that statue, the night in myrtle's bathroom..."
She had lain her hand on his arm, and smiled. "I remember."
It had been sporadic, but so simple. So right. He was the only one whose arms she could even imagine falling into. And every time was wonderful and awful at the same time. Because any night together might have been their last night. By some miracle, he survived the war. Seven years in he had been revealed as a spy, and gone fully underground. He wasn't a death eater anymore, but he still felt the call in his tattoo whenever Voldemort gathered his minions for something big, and he still risked his life gathering information. They had their own tattoos made, he knew how, and whenever she felt hers pull at her she would abandon her potion to whoever was on emergency relief in the lab and apparate to him. They had lived their love for one another under the stars, in the remotest places they could find. But always in Britain. After the apparition blocking spell had been cast around the island the safety of other lands was taken from them. He had proposed on the starriest night she could ever remember, a meteor had showered the highlands with shooting stars...
But they lived, and loved. And now the war was over they lived and loved in peace, in a small cottage in Scotland. Not near Hogwarts, neither had gone back to Hogwarts except to repair any damage. There had been precious little. Like so many muggles, Voldemort loved Hogwarts. As an orphan, she suspected that like Harry he thought of it as home. Teaching children may have gone underground as muggle-born and order supporters feared for their lives, but Hogwarts had remained virtually untouched. No, there home was out in the wilderness where no one would know to look except for those they chose to invite. And they did invite friends, they weren't interested in being hermits. They just didn't fancy endless publicity. They started a potions company together, her five potions comrades from the war travelled to work by floo, and they all enjoyed the process of brewing potions that weren't designed to kill. They were researchers as well, Hermione and Severus would find a hole in knowledge, put their genius to good use and create a new potion in a matter of months. They were heroes, technically, for what they had done during the war. But both were happier creating than destroying.
When their children went to Hogwarts, the school was back to how it must have been before Hermione had gone there. She forgot sometimes that normal kids would go a whole lifetime without solving one evil plot. Their son and daughter didn't get too much extra attention. Which was a relief, neither her nor Severus wanted their son and daughter to suffer on their account. Harry had been one boy. The newest generation had dozens of children of famous war veterans to share the notoriety with. In time, their son became the founder of the Wizarding Science Institute, and their daughter headmistress of Hogwarts.
It hadn't all been easy, they both suffered from flashbacks and nightmares. They could scream at each other for hours, freeze the other out for weeks while they dealt with some issue alone – they were both like that – but they always came together again. And they always, always, throughout their long marriage, found the time for the odd prank.