"There is no greater pain than losing yourself."


Shivering, Hermione slowly removes her clothes in the sanctuary of the bathroom. After sleeping for what felt like days after the war, all she wants is a hot bath to warm herself up. She is not cold but painfully numb, and craves the feeling of heat seeping into her body to remind her she can feel. She removes her clothes gently, as if any sudden movement will snap her limbs off.

Stripped to her skin, Hermione steps toward the bath, but a glimpse of an emaciated girl across the room stops her. The logical side of her has already processed that the glass was a mirror and that is her reflection, but she stares dumbly at the figure, uncomprehending.

She raises a shaking hand, and the figure does the same. But a hand would be a kind word for the cluster of bones barely kept together by skin.

Slowly, slowly, she trails her horrified gaze downwards, tracing the path with the tips of her fingers. She brushes the collarbones that slice their way across her shoulders, the dizzying swoop of her ribs, the gaping hole between her thighs. Her hipbones jut out of her body at a dangerous angle, and she hovers her hand over them, unwilling to touch lest they break.

Hollows have blossomed their way onto her skin and she stares at them in sick fascination. The war has marked her with a fair share of scars – the wound from Bellatrix's knife, the burn on the side of her cheek – but all she can see in the mirror are the glittering bones that curve their way across her chest.

Her heart is a frail blue bruise on the left side of her chest, threatening to burst out of the delicate cage of rib it is trapped in. Delicate rivers of veins stem out from this center and map their way across her paper-thin skin like ink lines against translucent paper.

She looks, sickened, at the way they bulge out of her body, straining against shrunken limitations. Fear seizes and shakes her until her thoughts rattle like coins and she imagines the strength of her skin not being enough, and those veins opening like petals to splatter blood across the walls and those knife-like bones splitting through her skin to gleam bone-white in the air.

She has read enough books to know that history will mention the loss of life, of property, of time, but never of her beautiful flesh, her supple skin that embraced her soft curves. Compared to others, she has lost nothing – but a keening sense of mourning slices through her heart, and she lays a hand carefully over her chest, as if that will be enough to keep her from bleeding out.

All she wants to do right now is sob like a little child for the body that was once her own. But she can't, because she is afraid that if she does, she will shatter, leaving bone fragments ricocheting across the polished marble floor. She holds her breath and presses her lips into a white line, willing herself not to break.

In the end, her heart does not break but bleeds – a slow disintegration of spirit that leaks out of every cell, every pore, every ounce of hope within her.

A broken kind of sound wrenches its way out of her throat, and though it's quiet, the force of it folds her body in half as she sinks onto the bathroom tiles. Her hands clamp around her mouth to stop her heart from spilling out and she lets out a stifled moan. Unable to keep her body upright, she curls up on the floor, the cold stone cradling her skeleton body.

She doesn't move for a long, long time.


A/N: 19 years later is all fine and good, but when it really comes down to it, war is not happy or funny or fairy-tale endy. It is a catastrophe, calamity, a tragedy - and reality.

I will not lie, I am extremely proud of this. Do not favorite without reviewing, please.

~Astra