Title: Dog Tags Are Not Always Physical
Notes: Written as a way to articulate this statement read in a friend's blog: Hermione was more soldier than Harry was. She thought like one, functioned like one.
The summer of her thirteenth year, Hermione's mother buys her "On Basilisk Station" and "The Honor of the Queen" as a 'welcome home' present. She cracks the first because, with a title like that, how could she not.
She finishes both in a day. Afterward, she quietly sits in her room, staring out her window into the garden. She doesn't sleep that night.
Hermione knows that all her best ideas have always come from books. Above all else, she wants to learn so that she can understand. So she can shape herself to be useful and needed. To find a place where she can give of herself.
It isn't until decades later that it occurs to her, maybe, she should have been thinking about receiving too.
It's not until she's watching Sirius fly off on the back of a rogue hippogriff that Hermione suffers her own personal apocalypse. Standing there under the stars, watching Harry watch the departing shadow. He looks so incredibly broken that a stiff wind could knock him sideways, and it hits her like a bolt of lightening. Like a stunner.
This is the boy everyone is going to be looking at to save them.
She's not stupid. No one in her life has ever accused her of that, at least not in terms of figuring things out. She knows there is a war coming. It's written on Harry, the same as if someone had taken a tattoo needle to his forehead. It's in the fear visible in every single teacher in the castle, and the way that Albus Dumbledore stared directly at her and told her everything but not not to break the laws of time and space.
Harry is standing, watching the empty distance and looking like he wished he actually knew how to cry.
A flip in Hermione is switched in that moment. Something hard and cold and terrible settles in her mind. In years to come, she will hear platitudes and descriptions that come vaguely close. Doing what's right instead of what's easy. Standing up. Not backing down.
The truth is much simpler and much more complex.
In that moment, Hermione knows that she will win this war for this boy, because no one else will. He needs her because for all his heart and desire and willingness to please, he doesn't have the sense to deal with what is present.
"Harry." Her hand is cold on his shoulder. "We need to get to the infirmary."
She breaks twice.
The first is the summer before her sixth year. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, and despite the horror and confusion of Cedric's death and watching Harry nearly die in the tournament, her true first contact is in the form of a purple spell that slices into her from neck to pelvis. Leaves her broken on the floor of the Department of Mysteries.
She wakes up in the infirmary, hazy with pain and potions, to a new scar and the knowledge that she is not good enough. Her plans and her persuasion are not enough, and that Harry is going to die because of it. She is going to die because she is going to get Harry killed. Because she is not strong enough or smart enough. She cannot plan well enough. There is her and there is Voldemort and Bellatrix LaStrange and Lucius Malfoy, and so many others who have had so much longer to plan and knowledge of this world that she can only dream about having.
She gets over it.
Desperation can do wonders for confidence, especially when silly little boys try to fall in love.
Needs must, and no one else seems to be doing a damn thing to keep Harry together. Not really.
She trains Harry carefully. Nagging and pushing in specific ways. Looks at his weaknesses, shores up the armor. More than once, she thinks of bombs and sandbags and how, really, this should all go up in her face.
No one ever learns that the most devastating part of erasing herself from her parents' lives is that it's so, so easy. How simple and neat. A flick and a swish, and everything she was is gone.
No one, not Ron or Harry, ever know how she cried after walking away. They have no idea how she folded herself over, tears and snot streaking her face as she sobbed. Not for her parents or for what she'd done, but for herself. For accepting that she is, effectively, nothing.
All they see, all anyone ever sees, is her washed face; calm and sad.
The second time, there is Bellatrix and pain like nothing she has, or will ever know again.
Defeat all the more bitter with the knowledge that Harry will be next. That her survival rests in the lessons and examples she has tried her damnedest to beat into him over the last six years.
Relief and surprise war with dread when he pulls it off.
When Hagrid sets Harry's dead body on the ground, she screams. Just once. It's a keening noise that she hears from a distance, rather than experiences. She doesn't break though. Because she knows. She knows that all of the pieces have settled. That Voldemort is vulnerable and mortal, and that every thing she's ever done has lead to this moment.
Her wand is cold in her hand. Familiar and solid, its weight is comforting.
Because one way or another, everything will be over soon, and she is so, so tired.
She knows what she has to do.