Disclaimer: Am I female? Am I rich beyond the dreams of men? No? Blast, I can't be JK then. I own squat.
The Needs of the One
Chapter One - After the War
Twelve years later
All was not well.
Not for Hermione Granger at any rate.
True, Voldemort was gone. Killed by his own Killing Curse during the Battle of Hogwarts; a curse he had intended for Harry. But Harry had prevailed, victorious, thanks in no small part to a 'power the dark lord knows not', as the prophecy that marked him as the chosen one had called it.
Dumbledore had referred to it thusly - love.
Harry had willingly sacrificed himself that night so that others could live on. That noble act of pure, unadulterated love, not only sparing his own life, but also destroying the last Horcrux that had accidentally been placed inside him during Tom Riddle's first attempt on his life on Halloween night, nineteen-eighty-one.
Combined with a greater understanding of the complex science of wand lore, ensured that Voldemort, now mortal once more, had fallen at Harry's hand, bringing to a close one of the darkest chapters in British wizarding history. Voldemort had been destroyed, never to return; his army of death eaters, those who had not fallen in the fighting at any rate, had been scattered to the winds; some in hiding like the rodents they were, whilst others served out life sentences without possibility of parole in Azkaban.
But, whilst the rest of the wizarding world prospered under the guidance of the New Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, in a new era of peace and togetherness, Hermione Granger was still waiting for her happily ever after to begin.
In the hours after Tom Riddle's defeat Hermione had experienced what some would have called a prophetic vision - she preferred to call it a daydream of the future yet to pass. But whatever it's source, she could still picture with crystal clarity, the scene she had witnessed in her minds eye that day so long ago, as she stood contemplatively by the shore of the great lake the morning after the battle.
In her 'dream', she had seen herself as she would be, nineteen years from then; Married and with two beautiful children - Hugo and Rose. Married to Ron Weasley.
She snorted aloud at the memory. Couldn't even be honest with yourself then, could you Hermione? Even in a dream, your fear of what your heart desired, controlled you, taunted her inner voice, and she knew deep down, that it was right. She had never wanted Ron - not really. He was merely the one the self doubting part of her viewed as attainable.
Their short lived romance in the weeks after the battle had proven that much, and although their friendship had been strained for a time after she ended it with him, they had managed to continue being just that; friends.
Harry had been there too. His dream counterpart had married Ginny Weasley, and together they had raised three children themselves - James, Albus and Lily. The two families had gathered together at Kings Cross station to see off the older children on the Hogwarts Express - two of whom, Albus and Rose - were starting their very first year at the magical school.
But a dream was all it was. Neither was she married and nor did she have any children. Not that she would want to subject any child to the nightmare that had become her pitiful existence.
"D-DON'T! DON'T KILL HIM!"
The frantic screams, that fuelled that nightmare, pulled her from her morose musings. She slipped of the small chair she had been perched on - the only piece of furniture in an otherwise unadorned room, best described as a cell - and knelt on the floor, soft shushing noises escaping her lips as she did so.
"Its ok my love," she whispered automatically, shifting closer to the shaking form of a man lying restrained in the corner of the room.
"IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ME!"
The almost feral growl that accompanied the pained plea would have shocked her into retreat had it not been so common an occurrence.
The-boy-who-lived. The chosen one. Harry! Lay before her, a mere shadow of the vibrant person he had once been, and it made her heart break a little more every time she saw him this way. His thin, emaciated frame, twitched and writhed where he lay, his eyes screwed shut against images only he could see as his inner demons tormented him; as they did did every day of his miserable existence. His arms and legs were bound, restrained by magic suppressing manacles, designed to neutralize the wearer against uncontrolled bouts of powerful, potentially harmful, magical energy.
Even so Hermione could sense the magical energy radiating off him in waves; waves powered by anger, fury, but most of all guilt.
It was that guilt; survivors guilt the healers had called it, that led him to be placed under the care of the St Mungo's healers in the first place, six years earlier, when his self destructive post traumatic stress disorder had turned him into a threat, not only to himself, but those around him.
Perhaps in a ironic way, she had caught herself thinking on more than one occasion, it was merciful that his spiral into depression meant the later group was by that time relatively small. All of the close knit group of friends that had once surrounded him had all, slowly but surely, been forced out of his ever shrinking world. Ginny had been the last, tearfully admitting to Hermione that watching Harry's downward spiral towards implosion was going to do the same thing to her unless she made a clean break. She hadn't returned since, and Hermione noted that, far from being angry with her erstwhile house mate, she was pleased that she was moving forward with her life. So, aside from the occasional visit from their former transfiguration teacher, Professor McGonagall, only she and Ron had been regular features in Harry's life.
Not that Ron was much help to anyone these days either. His own battle with depression, brought on, Hermione often believed, by her own devotion to Harry's struggles, had led him to search for answers, not in a padded cell like his old school mate, but at the bottom of a bottle of Ogden's best. The depths to which he had sunk, often left him too drunk, or on his occasional sober days, too angry, to recognised the burdens Hermione carried with her as she attempted to care for her oldest friends - her only friends.
Outside of the hospital she had very little that could be described as a life. She had given up a very promising career at Magical Law Enforcement, during the earliest days of Harry's illness in the hope that she could pull him out of the stupor, and self imposed exile he had fallen into. But as the days had become weeks, months becoming years, she had never felt able to return to the life she had left behind. Instead she now worked as a clerk at Flourish and Blotts, where the few shifts she permitted herself each week were just sufficient to pay the rent on her tiny bedsit located on a side street of Diagon Alley, spending every other waking moment with Harry. Her Harry.
Harry let out another moan of agony, his palms literally crackling with raw magical energy that the suppressors couldn't completely contain. Knowing he would need to be sedated if his magical core continued to radiate energy in such an uncontrolled manner, she flashed a glance over her shoulder to the metal, handle less door, where, through its small window, she could clearly see two healers, poised and ready to act. Nodding to them she scooted across the floor towards him and extended a trembling hand to stroke his tangled, sweat soaked, raven hair. He shuddered at her touch making her flinch, but then his twisted writhings calmed somewhat and his breathing slowed. She pulled his limp form close to her lap, cradling his head to her chest as she whispered continuous assurances in his ears, hers tears flowing freely down her own face where they commingled with the sweat beds on his furrowed brow.
This had been the way her life had been for longer than she cared to remember now. Even before his slip from depression into near catatonia, Hermione had been Harry's crutch.
In the earliest days of his illness, when the good days still outnumbered the bad she had been the one to all but forcibly drag him out of the house to see the good they had achieved - the magical world freed from the oppression of the dark lords regime. She had, perhaps naively, believed then that he would come back to them - to her. But, as he slipped further and further away, she had offered every part of her to him, both figuratively and literally, hoping against hope to anchor him in the reality they had helped create. But even the post coital glow rarely lasted more than a few moments before the darkness that had once threatened the whole world, claimed him - her world - once more, leaving him crying in her arms late into the night.
"It's ok my love," she crooned, noting through the window that the healers had stepped away, apparently assessing the threat as under control - for the time being at least.
Startling her with a speed of movement that seemed to defy his condition, Harry leapt to his feet, his emerald eyes now wide and wild, as he began to pace the room in short, rapid shuffles, constricted as he was by his bindings. The magical detention cell recognised his movements as non-threatening and transfigured the padded cell walls and floor into smooth unadorned surfaces, each the same bland colour of freshly skimmed plaster.
Hermione pulled herself to her feet and resettled herself on her chair, recognising another of Harry's delusions, knowing she would be invisible to his eyes now, as he re-lived those dark days of the Horcrux hunt.
"W-what could they be? What c-could they be?" he mumbled repeatedly to himself as he shuffled from one wall to another and back again. "The r-ring. T-the diary. Sl-lytherin's loc-ocket - "
Hermione watched him as dispassionately as she were able as he mindlessly repeated the conversations the trio had shared innumerable times themselves during what would have been their seventh year, knowing that this, relatively calm manifestation of his condition, wouldn't last long.
She was right.
But not in the manner that she had suspected.
Harry crumpled to the floor, sending her leaping from her chair as if propelled by a firework. She had obviously shouted aloud for a moment later the door to Harry's detention room swung open, two healers with wands drawn, silhouetted against the bright light of the corridor behind.
"Miss Granger," the taller of them enquired, as she knelt beside the form of her beloved.
"He collapsed," she explained as she felt for, and found a strong if rapid pulse. "He needs - "
"Her - my - nee?" her voiced trailed away to nothing as Harry - the real Harry - spoke for the first time in many months.
"We'll leave you alone then," said the other guard/healer kindly, knowing as they did that Harry was rarely lucid, and often for only short periods of time. It had been well before Christmas, eight months earlier, since he had uttered so much as a single comprehensible thought to anyone.
Hermione barely heard the door close behind her as she settled herself once more on the floor, pulling Harry onto her lap as she did. "I'm here Harry."
"Wh-where am - " his question faded, his voice sounding as dry as the desert winds.
"St Mungo's Harry," she replied softly understanding his unfinished query, as she conjured a plastic cup and some water which she passed to Harry's shaking hand. "You're - you're not well," she finished, her voice cracking with emotion as she uttered the wholly inadequate turn of phrase, that did little to convey the seriousness of his condition.
Harry gulped his drink greedily, his eyes closing as he savoured to cool liquid running down his throat. "How long?" he asked, his voice steadier, but still the merest of whispers.
Tears flowed copiously down Hermione's face. If anything it was harder seeing him this way than in the grips of his delusions. "Six years," she choked out as she fought to stay in control of her emotions.
The ghost of a smile fluttered across Harry's pale features. "Hermione - " he muttered sadly, reaching a single finger up to trace the line of her jaw, pulling it away a moment later moist with tears. " - I'm so sorry."
Hermione's emotional damn collapsed with his last words. Damn it Harry! she raged internally, as outwardly her body was racked with uncontrolled sobs. Always so noble. Just come back to me!
Their roles briefly reversed, Harry shifted into a sitting position and cradled her until her tears were spent. "I - I've missed y-you so much," she hiccuped sometime later once she was able to speak again.
Harry knew words could never be enough to convey his feelings towards the woman who was both his best friend, carer andlover, so, by way of reply he cupped his hand under her chin so that he could lock his emerald eyes with her chestnut ones, and tried to pour every emotion he felt for her into that one look, hoping she would recognise them for what they were.
He got his answer when Hermione gasped, and pulled him into a tender embrace. "Oh Harry," she moaned softly, as he too wrapped his arms around her.
How long they stayed like that Hermione could not say. Long enough, she reflected afterwards, for her to foolishly hope that she would not need to instigate the plan she had been working on for more than a year. A plan that, she believed, would bring Harry back to her for good.
Those naive delusions were brought to a crashing end as she felt Harry's body tense around her, the cells magical enchantments reacting to his abrupt change of demeanour by reverting the floor and walls to the soft padded material designed to prevent The-boy-who-lived from injuring himself.
"Stay with me Harry!" she called frantically, kneeling beside his body as he now lay on the floor.
Realising what was happening she gripped his chin between her thumb and forefinger and turned his face towards her once more in an attempt to reach out to him. But where before his emerald eyes had shone with unspoken love and sorrow, they had now retaken the glazed, faraway look he normally wore - his inner torments once more hidden deep inside - not even the merest flicker of recognition visible.
Hermione made her decision. "Harry my love," she crooned, stroking his black hair once more. "I - I have to go away for a little while now, and I d-don't know when I'll be back." she said, hating herself for lying to him; she knew with almost complete certainty that she would never return to this place. Forcing her voice to remain somewhat even and controlled she added, "I love you."
She placed a single chaste kiss on his lightning bolt scar before standing and calling for the guards, who opened the door swiftly from the outside.
Forcing herself not to look back, knowing her will would falter if she did, Hermione squared her shoulders and strode from the room, certain that, one way or another, she would never return.
As she turned the corner towards the lift, a single strangled cry she recognised as Harry, reached her ears;
She broke into a flat run in an attempt to escape the maniacal screams of her best friend. Objectively she knew he didn't know - couldn't know - what she was planning to do. He was merely reliving yet another past hell - possibly her own torture at the hands of Belatrix Lestrange - but his coincidental screams for her almost sent her running in the opposite direction back to him.
The doors to the lift parted and she stepped inside, almost without breaking stride, the tortuous sound of Harry's anguished cries only cutting off once the doors had closed and lift had begun it's decent.
Shooting off a quick freezing spell, Hermione halted the decent of the compartment, providing her with at least the illusion of solitude. She leant her shoulders against the wall of the lift car, slowly sliding to the floor as she did so, pulling her knees up towards her with her arms once she rested on the floor.
There she stayed for several hours, weeping uncontrollably.
Hello all. This was my first attempt at a Harry/Hermione romantic tale. I'm fairly pleased with the end result and I can promise you it doesnt stay this bleak for long. I'm re-editing the story now in an attempt to fix any mistakes I missed at the time, but feel free to PM me if you noticed anything still amiss.