I do not own Harry Potter or any of its characters; J. K. Rowling does. In addition, I do not make any profit from this fanfiction. Huge thank you goes to my betas Glorioux and Lima Bean.

To Be a Woman

To be a woman is a great adventure;

To drive men mad is a heroic thing. – B. Pasternak

Prologue – Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope – life is a kaleidoscope, mused Hermione Granger, sitting at her London flat on a quiet April evening. You do, I hope, know Hermione Granger, my friends – a brilliant witch, or, as Remus Lupin once said, the brightest witch of her age, the war hero, the brains of the Golden Trio, the best friend of the legendary Harry Potter (Merlin let him rest in peace). Yes, yes, and yes, my darlings; this was she – the one and only Hermione Granger.

So, as I was saying, this legendary person, Hermione Granger, sat in the living room of her London flat, with a nice glass of rather tasty Portuguese Malbec in her hand, musing about the eight years that had passed after the war.

The analogy she drew between life and the image we would be able to see in a simple kaleidoscope, easily acquired in any Muggle toy store, was quite logical and obvious. We all know how this interesting device works – all you need to do is point it towards a source of light and turn it while looking into it. Colourful pieces of glass, beads and who knows what else mix, scatter and then magically (in this case, the magic provided by tiny mirrors) create a geometrically harmonious and beautiful artwork.

The life of the whole Wizarding society in general, and of Hermione Granger in particular, had also been turned and twisted in different directions more than once during these years. Similarly, it was also comprised of tiny pieces – births, deaths, marriages, divorces, small personal triumphs and huge, public fiascos. Much like a silly children's toy, these pieces never failed to weave themselves into a vivid, motley picture – a picture of life.

In eight years, there had been a lot of little pieces in this life's kaleidoscope, and quite a few unexpected twists and turns contributed to the current scene.

Now, my dear readers, I would like to unveil what had happened during these past years in the lives of a few people relevant to this particular story.

By the third anniversary of the victory over Voldemort, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley – the famous Golden Trio that saved us all – had been happily rebuilding their lives.

Harry and Ron had both pursued careers in the Magical Law Enforcement, while Potter

had successfully dated the witch of his dreams, also known as Ginny Weasley. Talk of their upcoming wedding already had become official.

Ron as well had dated the witch of his dreams. He, however, hadn't been as successful as Harry in his quest for love. Hermione and he had dated on and off for three years, and by this point both had been convinced that they were, unfortunately, not soul mates and would probably do much better as friends. His career, on the other hand, had been going quite well.

Hermione Granger had been one of a few enthusiasts who had returned to Hogwarts after the war. She had attained her N.E.W.T.s with the highest scores possible, of course. After Hogwarts, Hermione had continued her education. Despite a somewhat disappointing, but certainly endearing, failure in her love life, she had felt confident, looked forward to working in the Ministry of Magic, and couldn't wait to put her ideas into practice there.

Severus Snape had not been allowed to die. He had been saved by one extremely stubborn and persistent witch (yup, Hermione Granger again). The former professor and Death Eater had been fully rehabilitated, and all his actions which took place during the long and torturous years of spying had been pardoned. His loyalty to Albus Dumbledore and the Order of Phoenix, his years of living on a knife's edge, his willingness to sacrifice himself for the light side, and his enormous contribution to the victory over Voldemort had all finally been recognized. Severus Snape had been regarded and respected as a hero. Had he been happy about it? Of course not, or at least that was what he had said to Rita Skeeter, right before he had almost hexed her arse into…well, you know where.

The Malfoys had been mostly rehabilitated as well, although Lucius had needed to appear before the Wizengamot and answer highly unpleasant, annoying questions. Unsurprisingly, our ever sly and veritable Slytherin had managed once again to come out clean and dry – almost clean, that is. The smooth surface of Lord Malfoy's private life, however, had suffered something of a crack. His wife, Narcissa Malfoy, had left him. In her eyes, quite rightfully so: Lucius had brought devastation upon the family, and worst of all, he had put the life of their only child in mortal danger. Lady Malfoy simply hadn't been able to forgive him, so she had divorced the wizard and moved into a villa on the French Riviera.

Draco Malfoy had become a changed boy after the war. His faith in his father had been shattered and all his lifelong beliefs had been undermined. The need for education, though, hadn't changed, so Draco, along with Hermione, had returned to Hogwarts. Then, after attaining his N.E.W.T.s, he had continued his education somewhere in France, near his mother.

The magical world had been recovering and healing. It had been a joy to be able to love, to work, to catch up with friends in the Leaky Cauldron without death constantly stepping on one's tail. All had seemed well, even better than well – older and younger generations alike had been happy and optimistic, and the future had looked brighter than ever.

Alas, however, all it took was one ill-willed twist of life's kaleidoscope, a stupid coincidence, and everything, everything, had broken into a thousand pieces again.

It happened four years ago.

The story had been disgustingly simple – for the last time Harry had managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some pathetic Muggle thief had shot him during an attempted robbery at a Muggle food shop. Harry had never even seen it coming. All he had done was open the door of the store, when a stray bullet had found its way into his head and there was no Harry Potter anymore. What exactly he had wanted in the shop was never discovered.

There is no need, my dear readers, to explain the extent to which this tragedy had affected the magical world. For everyone, it had been too darn hard to grasp, to comprehend and to accept. All the pieces were scattered and the Wizarding community was in mourning again. Naturally, those closest to Harry had suffered the most.

The whole future had changed with one mad turn on the road of life. Ginny, poor, innocent Ginny, who had already had lost her brother in the war had now lost her beloved, soon to be husband. She was devastated, as they all were. Ron, Hermione, and all the remaining Weasleys had been crushed by cruelty of fate.

Still, the ability of human nature to bounce back and survive is remarkable. Eventually, everybody had adjusted and had moved on with their lives. Now, four years later, the image in the kaleidoscope had been harmonious and beautiful again, with only one little difference – there was no Harry in it.

Ginny had found herself in professional Quidditch, saying that the prospect of traditional family life was not her cup of tea anymore. Later, Ron had also joined her. Frankly, since Harry's death, the work in Magical Law Enforcement had lost all its appeal for him. Sadly, first romance and then the friendship between Hermione and him slowly had come to an end. Somehow, without Harry, the relationship between Ron and Hermione hadn't worked well.

Surprisingly, Draco Malfoy had been strongly affected by Harry Potter's death. Inexplicably, the death of his former rival and saviour had been the turning point in the poor boy's life after which something had snapped in him. Draco had left his mother, cut off all communications with his father, and had disappeared.

There had been rumours that he was living in Paris with an unknown witch, a divorcee who was older than he. You can probably guess the level of distress the news had instilled in Lucius Malfoy. He had considered it a disaster – first he had lost his wife, and now he had lost his only son and heir. It had been an unimaginable catastrophe.

On the other hand, Lucius' friendship with Severus had developed to a new level. They had become close friends, meeting regularly for a glass of Firewhisky, a chess game or a round of poker. Harry Potter's death and the considerable amount of time since the war had allowed Malfoy to re-establish his standing at the Ministry and among the wizards once again. He had not been quite back to his full strength yet, but had been well on the way.

Severus hadn't returned to Hogwarts, but instead had left his teaching career for good. He had bought a small villa in the south of England, had set up a small potions laboratory there and had been happily brewing potions for a small group of customers.

Hermione had been working at the Ministry of Magic, striving to achieve everything that Harry and she had dreamt about. She had felt compelled to do so. Sometimes she had felt all alone, but it wasn't strictly true. She had friends, nice co-workers; it was just they hadn't been Harry and Ron. Despite these occasional traitorous feelings, she had felt rather contented. She had become a rising star at the Ministry and in the Wizarding political arena as well. Hermione had felt herself to be on the right track to reaching her and Harry's dreams.

It was the evening of April 2006, just a few weeks before the eighth anniversary of the victory over Voldemort, which may have been the reason for Hermione's philosophical musing.

Although, when more than half of the wine had disappeared from the witch's glass, her thoughts moved swiftly to a topic more connected with reality – the Victory Ball at the Ministry. There were undoubtedly a lot of things to consider and a few problems to solve – the dress, the shoes, the hair, and a beau – the most crucial issue of all!

Here we go again my darlings – a promised love triangle. I have strayed from long stories for long enough. There will be drama, romance, angst, love, laughter, tears, broken promises, betrayal and friendship in this one. I will bend heroes as needed, and they may therefore occasionally behave out of character. As always, I need all the support I can get .You know me: I tend to get all unsure and insecure without your reviews. Thank you in advance for them.