Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, Warner Bros., Inc., and others. We are not making any money off this story do not intend any copyright or trademark infringement.

Authors' Notes:

Welcome back to anyone who is reading this still! This is the same story that we began…oh…four or five years ago. In case you haven't been reading our profile, here's the deal: we began writing this story for fun, and did not have much of an idea where it was going, or how it was going to get there. After we finally made up a plot, we realized that we had, in some areas, written ourselves into a proverbial corner. That had to be undone. After much delay, we are ready to begin posting the "fixed" version of the story. Thanks for anyone who has continued to read this despite embarrassingly long delays, and thanks to everyone who reviewed. Please do it again, as a lot of work and time has gone into fixing this up, and we would really appreciate feedback! Don't worry, we should be back up to about where we left off last time in no time at all. Thanks, happy reading! - MarianneLinley and SarahQuinn

Chapter 1: The Beginning After the End

The last rays of sunlight were just fading over the trees of the Forbidden Forest, casting eerie, elongated shadows of trees over the schoolyard grounds. The heat of the summer day dissipated into the cool crispness of the evening, a sure sign of the upcoming fall. A slight figure trudged over the exhausted grounds, headed for the entrance door to the castle.

She looked up at the golden sunlight shimmering hopefully on the stone walls of Hogwarts. She strode purposefully, though the strain of her brisk pace was evidenced on her tired features. As she walked, her long brown hair shortened to bubblegum-pink spikes; her pallid complexion resumed its natural rosy glow, and her brown eyes changed to a strikingly light blue, a new color that she had recently begun experimenting with. Tonks turned and ran lightly up the steps leading to the entry hall, holding her tattered brown coat close to her body.

The front door opened as she approached, and an aged woman beckoned to her with her eyes, then opened the door further and motioned for her to enter.

"He has been waiting for you," McGonagall said with no preamble, hustling the younger woman inside. They turned and began walking through the entry hall. "News has not been good here, as I am sure you have caught word of by now. We have managed to confirm the existence of the orb, but Remus still has not been able to find any more information about its magical properties. So we need Tobbletop -- "

"How is she?" Tonks interrupted, concern darkening her face.

McGonagall paused, frowning. "Not well," she responded finally, as they turned the corner and came to face the gargoyle statue that led up to Dumbledore's office.

Tonks hesitated. "The potions…?" she began, then stopped at the professor's severe look.

"She is not well, despite our best attempts. Skittles."

The gargoyle leapt to life, moving aside and revealing a long revolving staircase. The two women stepped onto it, making their way to the door at the top. Tonks lapsed into silence, thinking. Then she spoke again, as they reached the door to Dumbledore's office. "But, since she isn't …well, as you say, then what are we going to do to infiltrate You-Know-Who's meetings and find out about the orb?" McGonagall raised an eyebrow at her. "Do you want me to --?"

The door opened. "I'm hoping that will not be necessary," a new, older voice said. "I need you back in America, with Sirius." Dumbledore rose from his seat behind his desk and went to greet the women. "However, some interesting news has just reached me, from Sirius, in fact. Apparently, he has discovered another witch in San Francisco, apart from the Death Eaters we knew were there. One that, perhaps, we can trust." He raised his eyebrows meaningfully, looking at her over the top of his spectacles.

Tonks frowned. "Professor, are you sure--" Another look from McGonagall silenced her.

Dumbledore gave them a tight smile. "I am sure that if we are able to gain her trust, then our problem in this matter will be solved."

Hermione dreamed. An elderly woman sat across from her on a sofa. On the coffee table that separated them lay an untouched pot of tea and several round eggs. For some reason that Hermione was not able to ascertain, she felt irrationally angry.

She extended her hand to the woman, frowning crossly. "Give it back to me."

The woman smiled impishly, but said nothing.

Hermione grew more frustrated. Trembling, she again demanded, "Give it here!"

The woman positively burst out laughing at this, and Hermione lowered her arm. The woman shook her head, wiping a tear from her eyes. Hermione bit her lip furiously. Feeling almost close to tears herself, she raised her arm again. "Please--"

The woman smiled again. "Silly girl," she said, angling her head down to look at Hermione over the tops of her glasses, "you have no idea what you want."

Hermione hesitated briefly. What did she want from the woman? She frowned. Though she wasn't sure, she knew that it was imperative that she got it. "You have what I want."

The woman rose quickly from her seat, and for the first time, Hermione took note of her clothes. Instead of a dress, she was wearing a toga, or a robe of some sort. She leaned across the table towards Hermione. She reached out with the speed of a snake striking, and her bony hands wrapped around Hermione's arms. Hermione's breath caught in her throat as she stared into the older woman's pale blue eyes.

"It was not by chance that we have met, my dear. You are young, you are foolish." She straightened, and Hermione began breathing again. "You do not know what you are asking for."

Hermione broke her gaze away from the woman's intense stare, looking instead at the plaid sofa she was sitting on. The woman turned away and began walking across the polished wood floor, towards the heavily curtained windows. Hermione chanced a quick glance at her, still unsettled. From this angle, she could see something in her pocket. Hermione squinted at it. A stick? That was odd, she thought. Something heavy seemed to settle in her stomach, and her heart beat faster. No, not just a stick! Hermione realized suddenly, frantically. She rose from her seat, startled. "You have a -- " she began, but the woman spoke over her.

"I am going to help you get what you are asking for," she cried, whirling around, her eyes flashing, and she tore the burgundy curtain from the window. Bright light streamed in, blinding Hermione. She reacted quickly, bringing her hands up to shield her eyes, and --

Hermione woke with a start, tangled in her bed sheets, and tried to sit up as she caught her breath. A small but bright ray of light streamed across her face from her partially-opened blinds. She took a deep breath, steadying herself from the turbulent dream. It was the third time this week that she had dreamt of the woman, the tiny living room. The third time this week that she had demanded and pleaded with the woman for something, something that Hermione knew was terribly important, but could not identify.

It was the first time the woman had responded to her demands with anything but laughter.

She sighed again, her heart finally returning to its normal pace as she ran a hand through her shoulder length, bushy brown hair. Turning her head, she saw the green neon lights of her clock. They read eleven twenty-seven.

Hermione tripped in her haste to untangle the sheets from around her legs. "Eleven twenty-seven! Geez! Why didn't my alarm go off?"

"Because I turned it off, Herm. You need to get some rest. You haven't gotten enough sleep in days."

Hermione looked up as a woman entered her room, wearing a bathrobe. She yawned and rubbed her head of short blonde hair. "Besides, I wanted to sleep in, and you know I can never get any rest once you start banging around the house in the morning."

"Parker! You know I've got a very important meeting today at noon. I've been waiting for this opportunity for my whole life." Hermione scrambled to her feet and dashed to her closet, throwing the doors open. Where in God's name was her blue suit? "Just because you have mornings off doesn't mean that the rest of the world doesn't get up early to work!" she said angrily from inside the closet.

"Looking for anything in par-tic-u-lar?" Parker drawled from behind her. Something in her tone made Hermione turn, and she saw her roommate holding up her suit, freshly ironed. Hermione grabbed it, and without another word, sprinted into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her in her haste.

Parker rolled her eyes at the closed door, and turned to Hermione's unkempt bed. A smile starting on her face, she pulled up the sheets. "You've waited you're whole life to be a doctor? Aren't you already a doctor?" she called to the closed door, as she turned back around and leaned back on the bed.

The response was muffled. "Well, maybe not my whole life. But a good seven years of it. And yes, I'm already a doctor, but I'm going for a higher position. I have to take a quick shower. Be useful and get me some breakfast or something?"

"Fine. Fine. If you're going to be like that," Parker answered, raising her hands in defeat, as though Hermione could see her. She stood and straightened her robe. "Oh, and by the way, the hospital called. They pushed the meeting back to one-thirty," she called as she left the room.

Hermione fell out of the bathroom, one hand on the doorknob, the other still holding the high heel that she had been struggling in to. "You could have told me that sooner, you know," she said quietly, hopping across the room, and falling onto the bed in relief.

"Great job, Hermione. I think you've got a great shot at the chief resident job," exclaimed Tom Marks, her supervisor.

"Thank you, Mr. Marks," replied Hermione. "I should be getting back to my rounds. Have a good day, Tom."

She walked out of his office and closed the door behind her, then made her way to the elevator at the end of the hall. She pushed the call button, the leaned back against the wall, closing her eyes. She breathed a sigh of relief, a smile upturning the corners of her mouth. She was happy. For the first time in years, Hermione felt genuinely happy.

Maybe things were going to start going right again.

Maybe she would get her new job.

Maybe things would start to be how she had always wanted them to be.

The elevator bell rang and she opened her eyes. She pushed off the wall as the door opened. A young man stepped out of the elevator, staring down at the chart in his hands. He had unruly black hair, and brownish-green eyes, and when he wore the glasses that he usually kept in his pocket, he almost reminded Hermione of….

Stop that, she ordered herself.

The eager new nurse looked up at her, his pleasant surprise evident in his boyish smile. "Oh, hey, Dr. Granger…"

"Harvey," she said in reply, smiling briefly. "Good to see you."

He moved off quickly down the hall and Hermione entered the elevator, pushing a button. She sighed. Maybe….

Hermione got off the elevator at the first floor and headed down a long hallway towards the front desk. A large balding man sat behind it speaking on the phone.

"Yes Mrs. Baker... Yes... Yes ma'am. All right. Yes. Have a great day. Buh-bye." The man hung up the phone and turned to Hermione, "Good afternoon, Dr. Granger. What can I do you for... I mean, what can I do for you?"

Hermione bit her lower lip, grinning at him, and trying not to laugh. The amiable older man was always working hard at his receptionist post, appeasing the clients, but often seemed awkward, eager, and anxious in face-to-face conversation. "Do you know if the labs for the girl in room one-oh-three got sent down?"

He nodded as he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his brow. "Yes. They were sent down about fifteen minutes ago. I put them with her chart," he answered, smiling timidly.

"You are a lifesaver, Jerry," she said coyly, smiling, then turned and walked briskly to room 103, quickly picking up the chart on the way.

Hermione pushed the door open and found a little girl about the age of ten sitting in bed, with a worried father sitting next to her in a chair. She paused at the end of the bed, scanning the chart.

"All right. I reviewed your chart Angela, and everything is perfect, but I would like to keep you overnight, just for observation."

The father stood. "Does she have to stay overnight if she's fine?"

"She doesn't have to, but I would recommend it," replied Hermione.

"Okay." The father sat back down and took the girl's hand in his.

Hermione was on her way to the doctor's lounge when Jerry called to her from the front desk.

"Uh... Dr. Granger? There's a man here to see you."

"Get Dr. Maredon, or a first year med student or someone. I'm off in a minute," said Hermione, not looking at him.

"Uh... I'd love to do that Dr. Granger, b-but he specifically asked for you, and, um, says that he only wants to be treated by you."

Hermione looked up in surprise at the frantic worry in Jerry's voice. He shifted uncomfortably behind the counter, and she saw him reach for his handkerchief. What got him so upset? she wondered.

"He's, um, in the waiting room, Dr. Granger," the man said, mopping his forehead, and then pushing a chart across the counter towards her.

Hermione studied the man for a moment, then nodded slowly. "Fine, don't worry about it, Jerry." She picked up the proffered chart and walked down the hall to the waiting room. She pushed open the door and walked in with her head down, looking at the chart. When she saw the name of the patient, she felt her heart stop in her chest, and she blinked rapidly, as if trying to clear the sight of it from her eyes. But, no, when she looked a second time, it hadn't changed. Hermione swallowed a lump in her throat and looked up slowly. She was frozen to the spot. In waiting room, sitting patiently in front of her, was an elderly man with a silver beard long enough to be tucked into his belt.

When Dumbledore spoke his voice was calm and even. "Hello, Hermione."

With a start, Hermione start breathing again, quickly. Her eyes narrowed. Somehow, she found her voice. "What do you want?" she spat out, her hands clenching around the clipboard.

"Could we go talk somewhere in private?" the old man asked quietly. Hermione thought she detected a hint of – could it be?—sadness in his voice.

Unwittingly, a snarl twisted her fair features. Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and cocked her head to the side. She looked at Dumbledore. He looked changed very little since the last time she had seen him – almost eight years ago. Her frown deepened. The eight hardest years of her life, through which she had struggled daily to continue living to see another sunrise. And after eight years, he dared to sit before her, looking calmly unruffled, and sad. As if she was something tragic. Hermione blinked, glaring. He may not be different, but she was not the same Hermione he had sent away.

Dumbledore looked up gently, expectantly, at Hermione, one eyebrow raised in submissive politeness. No, Hermione thought. I will not let this happen. No.

"No," she whispered.

She turned around, breaking his gaze on her, pulled the door open and walked down the hall to the doctor's lounge. Hermione quickly grabbed her belongings and rushed into the elevator, jamming the button repeatedly for the parking garage, frustrated at the slowness of the response. Finally, the doors closed, and she closed her eyes, fighting back tears and unwanted memories. The doors slid back open, and she hurried to her car, only to spot her old professor right beside it. Hermione threw her belongings on the ground, in a childish display of her anger, and glared at the old man. She beat her arms furiously, her eyes diffused with tears.

"Why are you here? Why the hell are you here? If you are hurt and need medical attention, why would you come here? Why would you come to me after what happened?"

Dumbledore remained irritatingly calm. "Because I need your help."

Hermione took a step back, her shock and outrage evident on her face. "My help? You need my help? No, you don't need my help, you need a shrink. You really need a shrink if you think that you can come here, ask for my help, and get it in a snap. Besides, why would you want the help of a traitor?" Hermione snarled maliciously. She bent down and grabbed her purse and jacket from the ground, then pushed past Dumbledore towards her car, dismissing him. She put her key in the door lock.

"You aren't a traitor. I know that now. We…" He paused when she didn't turn back to him, or even so much as acknowledge his words. "The Wizarding world is in danger. Voldemort wasn't completely destroyed."

She paused with struggling with her key for a moment as his words took effect. Then she moved again, this time succeeding in unlocking the door. She opened it and shoved her belongings into the passenger seat.

"I don't care," she said softly.

There was a pause. Then, "Harry and Ron would like to see you again."

At this, Hermione turned around in a flash. "Bullshit!" she screamed at him. "They believed it was true. Just as you did. You want to know something funny? The only one who seemed to believe my side of the story was Snape. You know why? Because he was there, too. Do you know what it feels like to know that your friends don't believe in you? No matter how hard you try and explain it; there will always be that little seed of doubt, no matter how many years pass, how many apologies are given, and how many feelings you express. It will never go away! How could you trust and forgive Snape after the things he'd done and--," she choked suddenly, "and not trust and forgive me?" she whispered.

Dumbledore paused again, his eyes downcast. He raised them to meet hers. "I trust you now. I forgive you now. This will affect the Muggle world as well. You must know that."

Hermione turned her back on him. "It is a little late for trust and forgiveness. And as for the effects, I'll deal with it when it comes. But for now the whole damn Wizarding world can go to hell. It turned it's back on me once I'm not going to set myself up for that again." Without another word, Hermione got in her car backed quickly out of her parking spot, briefly considering indulging her urge to hit Dumbledore with her car. But by the time she had straightened out her car, the old man had disappeared.

Once she was home she threw herself down on her bed, unable to hold back the haunting memories.

Hermione was sat up in her bed in the infirmary. Ron and Harry were there, in chairs beside her.

"We're so glad to have you back, Hermione!" Harry held her hand and squeezed it gently as he spoke.

The picture faded into black and all she heard were voices.

" I saw it plain as day. What are we going to do? Do you think the kidnapping was planned?" Madam Pomfrey asked.

"We will do nothing. I'll watch her for a while. See if she changes in behavior. I don't want to believe this. It seems that she wouldn't do something like this, being the responsible person that she is. But after her parents were killed everything changed in her life," replied Dumbledore.

Their voices faded and a new picture emerged. It was a circular room with rows after rows of seats. The room was filled with people glaring coldly down at her.

"You, Hermione Granger, are charged with fraternizing with the Dark Lord and his forces. Seeing as how we have no real evidence, except for the Dark Mark on your right forearm, your punishment cannot be as severe as Azkaban. Instead, as your punishment, your wand shall be snapped and you are hereby to be banished for the Wizarding world." Cornelius Fudge said triumphantly, glaring maliciously at her from his pedestal.

If only they knew…

Hermione looked to her left. Tears welled up in her eyes as she saw Harry's cold, indifferent eyes. Beside him, Ron had his head down. Professor Dumbledore looked at her sadly. Next to Dumbledore, Snape was on his feet yelling at Fudge.

"She isn't a traitor. That mark wasn't..." Snape was cut off by Dumbledore, who stood and told Snape to sit down.

Hermione filled her eyes with Harry, willing him to look at her, believe her. I wouldn't ever do anything like that, Harry, please believe me. She opened her mouth to say the words, but couldn't make her mind comply. Suddenly, two men were at her sides, lifting her from her seat and hustling her, numb, from the chamber. The last thing she saw before the guards took her away was a single tear roll down Harry's cheek.

Hermione buried her face in her pillow, willing sleep to come. But as hard as she tried, she couldn't push the memory of Harry's face from her mind, unable to even look at her, in his heart believing she had betrayed him in the worst way.

Neither could she fathom why Dumbledore would return to her, after all that had happened, and ask for her help.

Hermione sighed, turning over and switching off the lights in her room, pulling her pillow over her head. She lay there breathing slowly, but not sleeping, the constriction in her chest preventing any such rest.