Disclaimer: I own nothing. I swear. Just doing this because I can.

A/N: Sorry that The Doppler Effect is taking so long. I'll try to update that as soon as I can. I had surgery last Wednesday, so I've had basically nothing else to do. I came up with this idea a while ago, and—being the bed-ridden loaf I've been since Wednesday—I've finally had time to get it down. I first thought of it when watching DH Pt. 1, so it's been in my mind for a while and is definitely more movie-verse than anything.

Let me know what you think.

:::

Healing

:::

She's lying in bed and wearing some of his clothes. They pool around her on the mattress, bagging like they're trying to swallow her. That's part of the problem, she thinks, as she props herself up against the headboard. This life with him (this life with them, and maybe I do, and possibly forever) it's trying to swallow her. It's eating her, devouring her whole and she's not completely sure she's ready for that.

She'd like to be, but she isn't yet.

So she lies there and thinks that, glancing at the window where the sun's starting to come up, lighting the sky in a pinkish-orange hue. He's sleeping on his side facing her, eyes shut loosely, breathing slow and steady and she runs her fingertips gently over his face while she thinks all of this. His skin is smooth, except where his stubble starts and she smiles when she reaches the roughness of his chin.

He looks so different without his glasses on, especially early in the morning when he smiles at her sleepily. His eyes are a beautiful, glowing emerald all the time, but, without his glasses on, they're almost deep enough for her to fall in.

She runs her thumbs over his eyelids and smiles a little, leaning her head against the headboard with the rest of her. He doesn't stir when she does this. His breathing doesn't even change. He used to be a light sleeper, especially during their seventh year, when every night in their tent could have been their last. Not now, though. Now he sleeps deeply and barely even stirs in the night.

She likes to think that maybe she did that. Maybe her being there makes him comfortable enough to let his guard down. But she'd never ask, so she'll probably never know.

Eventually, her fingers find the familiar scar on his forehead. It's the one part of him that she's touched the least, maybe because it feels off limits, like it's still a part of him she's not sure about. It was the first part of him she knew about, though—the part she'd read about, the part that made him famous.

But there's so much more to him than just the scar. There's his warm hands and his deep laugh and his white smile and the way his voice gets all rumbly when he's tired. There's so much more to him than just this little part of skin that didn't heal the right way. And yet it's the one part people think of when he's brought up or when they meet him or see him.

All at once, her arm feels like it's on fire and she glances down at it. It's covered up by the long sleeves of one of his sweatshirts, but she knows that if she'd just pull the sleeve back a little, she'd see the thing that's causing that burning sensation.

It's still there. It's always been there, and maybe that's why it's so hard to think that there's life past it. There's life past the scars and the past and the darkness. Things can go on.

Maybe that's why it's so hard for her to accept that he could want her, that there's probably a small black, velvet box in his sock drawer and he's just waiting for the right night to pull it out. For years there was just danger and death and fear and now that everything's over (now that everything's been over for a while) there's palpable life. It's a hard adjustment to make. A few years ago, she lived day-to-day, because she wasn't sure how many hours her life would have left. Now, though, there's a future with a husband and kids and smiles and family picnics and she can't wrap her mind around it.

She pulls her hand away from his face and presses her fingers into her cotton-covered upper arm. She watches the dark blue fabric fold under her touch and bites her lips when she feels the small bumps in the skin under the sleeve. Tears fill her eyes and she wonders if there's a way to get rid of it, a way to remove it. Some spell or something. So she turns to the side-table to grab her wand and thinks through all of the spells that might be helpful.

Just as her hands wrap around her wand, though, she hears him stir beside her. The sounds of him in the morning are a lot different than the sounds of him sleeping. As much as she loves his steady breathing, she loves the sounds of him moving closer to her just then—his shifting on the sheets, hands moving up to her arm as he props himself up and kisses her neck gently, the deep inhale of air through his mouth and his yawn as he presses his face into her hair.

She releases her wand and closes her eyes, settling back against him, heart pounding at his touch. His voice is deep with sleep as he speaks into her ear, "Good morning."

"Good morning," she whispers back, but part of her mind is still on her arm—still thinking about how it's sort of every danger they've ever faced contained in the eight-letter word permanently etched in her skin. When she looks at it, she remembers the fear, the death and the loss, that came with all those years everyone's trying to glorify.

She wonders if he ever looks at his scar in the mirror and remembers everything he went through—everything they went through. It sometimes feels like all of the pain in her memory will make her explode or break her down and she has a hard time trying to accommodate the old, scared version of her with this stronger, future-holding self.

His mouth is on her neck again, smile spread against the skin he finds there, and she's able to hold herself together because of this. She turns in his arms and kisses him. It's soft, delicate; like it always is (he's always kissed her like he's afraid she might break). Her heart pounds because his lips are so familiar on hers and his hands are on her waist, and, when he pulls away, she's surprised she made it out alive.

Even though he's smiling at her still, eyes bright in the early morning sun, the emptiness from before comes back full force and she rubs her fingers over the scar on her arm again. He frowns when he sees her face and he looks down to where she's rubbing at her skin through his baggy sweatshirt.

"Hey," he says softly as he gently grabs her hand to make her stop. "What's wrong?"

She averts her eyes because she's afraid he'll think she's weak and shrugs. She needs to ask, though. She needs to know the answer before he bends down on one knee and asks those four words (before she walks down the aisle and they buy a house with a picket fence and make little versions of them and get a dog). She needs to know so she can move on. "Do you ever…" She trails off and looks from his eyes to the scar on his forehead before looking down again. "Does it remind you of…everything?"

He thinks for a few moments and she watches the emotions cross his face. "Sometimes," he decides finally. "Sometimes it does."

She nods. "Yeah…me too." Her eyes are on her upper arm again and he follows her gaze, frown deepening.

Without another word, he reaches down and grabs her arm, pulling back the sleeve as he brings it up closer. The sun shines through the window behind his bed and illuminates the ridges on her skin. She winces when she sees it and all that fear comes back, but she doesn't hide it again. Instead, she watches him as he inspects the word written there. His head turns this way and that, as though considering it from each angle, before he bends his head a bit, and kisses each letter written there.

When he's finished he looks back up at her, his smile back on his lips. "You're not broken, Hermione," he says softly. "This doesn't mean you're broken."

She feels a tear run down her face, but she makes no move to wipe it away. "What does it mean, then?"

"It means you're healing."

As he says this, a weight lifts from her shoulders and she feels light enough to fly for the first time in a long time. She lets him wrap his arms around her while she curls herself into his chest and cries. She lets herself stop caring about being strong and concentrates on healing.

Later, when they're eating breakfast together and she's playing with the hand he has on her knee, she rolls her sleeve up and smiles down at the word, 'Mudblood,' marked into her skin. She smiles down at one of the many scars she got from her past (from their past) and thinks to herself, I can do this.

Healing gets easier after that.

fin