Well. I know I have actual stories that need to be worked on, and I doubt anyone is going to like this, but it needed to get on paper. The first bits of dialogue were planned this morning, and the rest was written when I had time this afternoon. It grew way more than it should have.

DARK. I wasn't having a happy day, today. I wanted to do a 'Harry chooses Ginny when he really loves a broken Hermione,' piece, and voila. There are plenty of Hermione/Harry moments though, don't worry. I don't think there is any bashing. (Except Ron-bashing. But that's going to turn up in any story that doesn't feature Ron)

Thanks to a song- I don't remember the exact name of the singer, (Missy Higgins, maybe?) but the song is "Where I Stood." I snatched one lyric.

Enjoy, if you can. Please review.

"Where are you going?" Ginny's voice was sharp, high pitched, though in either in pain or in anger he didn't know.

He turned to look at her anyway. "You know where I'm going," he said quietly. "It's her birthday, Gin. She shouldn't be alone on her birthday." He knew there was pain in his voice- if it was raging so strong in his heart, in his mind, why shouldn't it emerge in his voice?

But his wife wouldn't be placated. "She doesn't even know it's her birthday!" Ginny hissed back. The red-haired witch's hackles were raised- the brown eyes that could be so loving, so kind, were alive with fury. Her pale hands were balled into fists at her sides and strands of red hair were coming out of the bun she had made earlier.

"And that's my fault," said Harry simply. He shrugged on his coat, ignoring the rest of what Ginny was saying. He had heard it several times before.

He Apparated into a dismal alleyway, thoroughly littered with empty beer cans and worn brown leaves. The fall chill was already draining into the air. Harry didn't notice- he was more intent on turning the corner and catching his train. He had cheated by Apparating- but he had needed to get away from Ginny. He would do the rest the Muggle way.

Her way. The way she had been raised in. Hermione Granger had lived as a Muggle for eleven (almost twelve) years. Like he had. That had always connected them, a bond none of the Weasleys could understand. They couldn't understand it. How could someone who had always lived with magic truly know the fear of it being taken away? How could they experience the sickening feeling of realization as the magical, fairy-tale, perfect world turned to one where demons were hiding behind every corner, one where the shadows lurking in the corners were more than just fictional nightmares?

His train arrived in the hustle and bustle of London, and Harry allowed the crowd to carry him, drifting closer and closer to where she was. He checked his watch- he had arranged with the Grangers to meet them near the hospital at noon.

And there they were- Dan and Emma. Harry knew them well- as soon as he sobered up, he was on the first plane to Australia, with the addresses of every Wendell and Monica Wilkins clutched in one sweaty hand. He had found them working in a small dental practice in a Melbourne suburb, watching them for two days to be sure he had the right people. He hadn't needed to, really. 'Monica' was a blonde, forty-something Hermione welding fluoride and floss. 'Wendell' had Hermione's slightly-too-large front teeth, mop of curly brown hair, and friendly manner.

And then he removed their fake memories.

To their credit, they didn't throw him out. They had taken Advil for the headaches, and made a pot of strong tea and clasped hands tightly. Finally, though, they asked him the question he had been dreading. He knew it had to come sooner or later.

"Thank you, Harry," Emma said slowly. "For giving us back our memories. But-" here, she paused in fear, clutching her husband's hand tightly. "But why wasn't Hermione the one to do this?"

When he didn't answer right away, she pressed her face to Daniel's chest. "Is my daughter dead, Harry Potter?" the steady man asked, voice holding the hint of a tremor.

"No," Harry said. "But-

He shook his head to clear it of the memories, shaking their hands as he normally did. Emma had been crying. He pretended not to notice.

St. Mungo's was bustling, full of odd noises and odder sights. They bypassed all the hype and commotion, though, heading straight for the lift. They were the only one in the slightly crowded metal cage to push the four.

The Closed Ward, it was called. The ward for those people who would probably never leave Mungo's. Fred and Alice Longbottom had passed away there. Hermione lived there.

Healer Patil was waiting for them at the desk near the lift. "Hello, Harry," she said wearily. "Mr. and Mrs. Granger. She's- She's not doing so well, today. But it's a good thing you're here, Harry. She's been asking about you."

Harry had feared that. But he followed his old yearmate through the green hallways to her room. He paid for it, of course. She had a private room, all to herself. It was the least he could do, after all.

And there she was, fragile, drawn, skinner than he would have liked. "Harry!" she exclaimed, leaping up to great him and ignoring her parents. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you angry, I just-" she looked up at him through tearful lashes. She felt to frail under her thick turtleneck and loose jeans.

"It's fine, Mione," he said, forcing a smile on his face. "I could never be angry with you." She beamed at him, throwing her arms around his middle. Her parents looked on uncomfortably.

Dan glanced at the Healer, then at his daughter, who still had her arms wrapped around Harry. "What day does she think it is?" he asked, sagging down. "Or what year?"

"I'd guess third year," Harry responded. "After she turned in my broom. Or maybe-" He was cut off by a kiss. He pulled away. "Seventh year," he said, stroking Hermione's hair unconsciously. "Before we went to Godric's Hollow." He stepped away from Hermione, who finally noticed the people with him.

Instantly, she was alternating between anxious fear and spitting mad. "What were you thinking, Harry!" she shouted. "The war is no place for my parents!"

This went on for a while. They distracted her with her birthday presents. But Harry was thinking of Hermione's kiss.

Gods. Hermione's kisses were the food of the gods, the broken statues that littered the seas and the dust that floated through the world, the forgotten nectar and ambrosia that mortals dared not try. Her lips were warm and slightly chapped, so different from Ginny's lipsticked fullness. They brought him back to the days in the warm tent with the cold wind raging outside and the two of them, lying side by side talking, kissing, or just being together without sound. They were in love and pain, feeling pangs of hunger and loneliness, needing a warm body, a friend who was something more, a place to escape.

He had never known if she had loved him or if she had loved Ron. It seemed unlikely- he remembered all to vividly the look on her face when she lay in the sheets sated and happy, the quick kisses for no reason, the softness of her face when she didn't know he knew she was watching him. He had loved her, for sure. She was all hot skin and wild curls and snapping eyes- and delighted giggles and strong hugs and comforting words.

Ron had returned, though. She gave him a pained look, then hit Ron over and over again, finally collapsing into Harry's arms and sobbing. He couldn't lay her in his bed with Ron looking at him, so he put her in her own. The next day, she avoided both of them, and he could hear her sobbing her bunk at night. She had botched her Silencer- which wasn't like her. He was on the verge of rising to go comfort her when Ron beat him to it. She had sent him away with a face covered in boils.

And the day after, Harry had spoken the Taboo, and they had been taken to Malfoy Manner.

Her screams had echoed through his body and he couldn't think straight. He had gotten to her. People had died. She was still in his arms.

She didn't wake. She was prone on the bed at Shell Cottage, eyes moving rapidly under her lids but refusing to come out of whatever dream she was having. Nothing worked.

He, Ron, and Luna had robbed Gringotts, flying on the back of the dragon. They had stormed Hogwarts, and he had defeated the Dark Lord. And still she wouldn't wake. But by then they knew what it was. Neville had turned pale the first time he'd seen her, throwing up bitterly into a trashcan.

When she finally came out of her coma, Harry was with her. He hadn't left her side for three months. He was so in love with her, it hurt. He talked to her constantly, like he had done when she was petrified in second year. At least this time, her hand wasn't cold stone.

She had greeted him normally enough, although a small frown was playing between her eyebrows. "How did you get into the Girl's Dorms?" she asked. "It's impossible. If Professor McGonagall finds out, she'll kill you and I don't want another detention like the one after Norbert."

At the end of the week, he was drinking himself into a stupor when Luna breezed through his door, handed him a Sober-Up Potion and a plane ticket to Australia.

But now was the present. Some days, she knew who she was and why she was in St. Mungo's Mental Ward. Those days were the worst, in both her and her Healer's opinions. She was the old Hermione, calm and brilliant, understanding that she had lucid moments sometimes but they would soon flee and she would be living in the past once more. It wasn't like she had much of a past to live in- only seventeen years.

Today she was compliant, her anger lasting moments before she hugged her parents calmly and opened presents and ate a cupcake with them. Harry pulled Padma over to the side, leaving the festivities.

"You've been doping her up again." It wasn't a question- it was a statement of fact. He was aware of the warning in his voice and Padma was too.

The Indian Healer crossed her arms over her chest protectively. "That might be because last week she woke up and though that Healer Zabini was trying to kill her. She knocked him out with her lamp and was halfway down the hall before she slipped in her socks and gave herself a concussion."

Drawing in a sharp breath, Harry swore lightly. "And nobody called me?" he whisper-shouted, a strange mixture of demand and regret.

"Considering you haven't visited since June-" Padma started, but she stopped. "She gets worse when you don't see her regularly."

"I have a life," snapped Harry. "A wife, three kids, a job- and it's not like she's getting any better!" His green eyes were livid behind his glasses.

Padma rose to the challenge. "She stood at your side when no one else would," the Healer said in a low, heated voice. "I'm her primary caregiver, I've heard of everything you two have ever done together from the troll Quirrell let in to Godric's Hollow. She wonders why you don't come see her, she asks me to let her write you letters, she begs us to call you."

"So why don't you?" Harry asked, on the verge of throwing his arms up in the air. "She's my-" he cut himself off. What was he about to say? Best friend, girlfriend, love of his life, ex-lover?

She looked at him with cool black eyes. "That's why," she said. "You have a wife. Three kids. A job. I've seen enough over the past thirteen years to know that eventually the visits cease and the more dependent she is on you, the more painful it is. I almost decided to not let you see her today."

"You cannot keep me from Hermione," said Harry, power flooding his voice. "She needs me." And I need her.

"Too much," Padma agreed with him. "It's not healthy for her-"

Dan Granger had stepped up to them. "Is something the matter?" he asked in a gruff voice. "Is there something Em and I need to know about Hermione?"

Padma and Harry exchanged glances. "No," Harry said brusquely. "Healer Patil was just informing me of some events that happened earlier last week. We need to get Hermione socks with those rubber things on the soles, to stop her from slipping."

The visit lasted for another hour, until the Grangers had to leave. "Are you coming, Harry?" Emma asked, wavering on her feet. Harry knew that as soon as they were alone, Emma would be sobbing on Dan's chest. Thirteen years had aged Emma Granger terribly, and done nothing for her pain and grief. The fact that she had to depend on Harry or Luna to take her to see her daughter made the pain even worse.

Then it was just Harry and Hermione. Padma was out doing rounds and charting, so they were alone in Hermione's nicely furnished room, scattered with personal items. It would have made Harry feel better if it was impersonal- that meant that she didn't need to stay long enough for the color of the walls or the number of shelves to matter.

"How've you been, Hermione?" he asked gently, running a hand through her hair.

She smiled happily at him. "Better, I think. I forget sometimes. My parents told me I'm in St. Mungo's. And then I remembered a bit." She leaned against him, nuzzling the junction of his neck and shoulder. "I miss you when you're not here."

Harry felt incredibly guilty. "I'm sorry," he said automatically, extending and arm to hold her. "Happy Birthday."

"I'm thirty," she said with distaste, wrinkling her nose. "I'm old. This morning I was seventeen and now it's five in the evening and I'm thirty."

Harry laughed hollowly. He wanted to cry, to beg forgiveness. Instead, he joked with her. "I'm twenty-nine," he said, trying to affect a smug tone.

"So is Ron, I suppose," Hermione said, brow furrowing in thought. "Ginny would be twenty-eight or so. Luna, too. I see Luna a lot. She brings me carrots and radishes and makes me eat my jello."

"That's Luna for you," Harry said with a shrug. "I'll try to visit more, Hermione, I promise." He could feel the magic in him and in her binding him to that. He didn't mind.

Hermione turned her large brown eyes on him. "What happened?" she asked finally. "It's all a blur. I remember it was you and I in the tent-" his eyes widened as he felt her hand snake up his shirt. "And then… my head hurts. I think I remember hitting it on the floor." She was anticipatively quiet for a minute waiting for him to answer. "Why am I crazy, Harry?" she demanded at last, as she always did.

"Bellatrix," he answered, voice breaking. "It was my fault, really. Ron came back, and I said Voldemort's name and then the Snatchers were on us. You hit me with a curse to hide my face, but they took us to Malfoy Manner anyway. Bellatrix Crucioed you into a coma and you woke up about three or four months later." Three months, two and a half weeks. "You didn't know where you were."

"Oh," said Hermione after a moment. "I don't remember."

Harry felt the sob rising in his throat. "I know."

They watched the window she had been given. It was snowing gently- apparently, the Healers had tied it to Hermione's mind to try and get a sense of where she was on any current day. Earlier, it had been a blizzard. When she had blown out her cupcake, it was raining golden leaves. And now it was snowing.

"I do remember one thing very clearly though." Her voice was soft, almost timid. She stretched up, pressing her lips to his. He wanted to badly to open his mouth to hers, to taste her tongue again. But he was married to Ginny.

Ginny, who had waited patiently for him. Ginny, who he had fallen into bed with one clichéd night after too much Firewhiskey. And damn to those fertile Weasley genes, but she'd turned up with a blue stick and he'd gotten a ring at some shop and they'd kissed again, a bit awkwardly. The old attraction was still there, though, so by the time they'd gotten married, Harry was half sure he was in love with the red-headed witch.

And he had quashed the little voice in his head that longed for Hermione. His Hermione was gone. (or the opposite, rather- forever his, forever trapped in her seventeen-year-old body that might or might not have been in love with him)

He had really fallen for her when he had held James for the first time. She was exhausted and in pain, red hair plastered to her face, but a happy smile present. "He looks like you," she said, setting her hand on his. "Let's name him after your father."

At two in the morning, he had woken and picked up his son. The babe stirred, then tried to nuzzle at his shirt. He had made sure Ginny was asleep, then he had slipped out of the room, James in his arms. The medi-witches tried to stop him from leaving the ward with the baby.

He fixed them with his best 'Harry Potter' stare. "My best friend is on the fourth floor," he said as calmly as he could, for the sake of the child in his arms. "She is going to see my son now, and then she's not going to remember it in the morning."

They moved aside to let him pass. Hermione's room was still, but when he opened the door she stirred in her twin bed. She knew it was him immediately- and she knew what was in his arms.

"So this is your son," she said faintly. "I remember Ginny was pregnant when she came to visit me a while ago. He's hers?"

For some reason, Harry felt unbelievably ashamed. "Yeah," he said hesitantly. "We named him James." Harry felt strangely anxious letting her hold James- what if she had one of her episodes, what if she thought he was an enemy, what if-

"Stop it," she demanded. "I'm not going to hurt him. He's your son. Trust me, Harry." She cooed at the child. "I wanted children. But that's never going to happen. He's cute, Harry. A little squished, a little red, and of course, your mop of hair. You and Ginny are lucky."

The next morning, she didn't remember.

So when he pulled away from her kiss, Harry knew what was coming next. It had happened countless times before.

"We can't, Hermione," he said firmly. "You and me- we've been over for a long time."

The tears in her eyes spilled over. "But-"

"No, Hermione," said Harry, trying to sound as resolute as he should. "I'm married."

The look she gave him was full of disbelief and horror, then realization. "Oh," she said, in that tiny, hurt voice. "You're twenty-nine. I suppose you are married now. Do you have any children?"

"Three," Harry said, and he knew a bit of his fatherly pride leaked into his voice. "James- the oldest- is off at Hogwarts. Gryffindor, just like his parents."

She choked on something, then made that soft sound again. "Oh." She wiped her eyes slowly. "Are you happy, Harry?"

Was he happy? He and Ginny got along well enough, and he adored his children. His job was good, and even though it paid well, he didn't need the money. The only thing he would change would be- her. "More or less, Mione. It would be perfect if you were…" he trailed off. "Not that I don't love you the way you are," he tried again. She make that choking noise again.

"We've had this conversation before, haven't we, Harry?" she said brokenly. "That's why this isn't affecting you. You've broken up with me before."

Harry sighed. "Don't be like that, Hermione. I'm married, I can't break up with you. It's not your fault you can't remember, it just makes it awkward between Gin and me if you keep trying to snog with me every time I visit." He winced at how bad that sounded.

She slipped out from under his arm. "Ginny. I should have known. I was going through all the Gryffindor girls in my head and I realized that the Final Battle was already over and I didn't know who'd died. Not Luna, but she's never mentioned you so that must leave Ginny."

"Yeah," said Harry again, feeling inadequate. This wasn't the first time this had happened, and it wasn't the worst, but it still made him nauseous every time.

Hermione checked the clock in the corner of the room. "It's nearly six. Suppertime. I suppose Ginny will be expecting you."

She wouldn't be. Both of them knew he wouldn't come home until late and he would smell like a distillery when he did. But Hermione didn't need to know that. "Do you want me to go?" he asked her, wishing he still had the right to stroke her cheek, to wipe away her tears.

"No," Hermione said. "I just wish she was with you. Ginny. She who dares to stand where I stood."

"And where was that?" Harry asked, taken aback.

Hermione looked at him like it was stupider than the questions he normally asked. "At your side." After a moment, she clarified. "It's a heavy responsibility, Harry," she said in that tone of voice normally reserved for lectures. "You need someone to support you, to love you, to make you happy, to deal with your issues and help you past them. You need someone strong, someone young, someone brave and beautiful and brilliant."

You were all those things, Harry wanted to tell her. I loved you for it. But she was still speaking. "I know I'm not what you need. I'm broken. My mind is in shambles and I'm trapped in this hellhole."

He couldn't say anything. She understood, then. That should have made him feel better. It didn't.

"I'm not going to remember any of this, am I?" Hermione wondered aloud. "And you're going to come and visit me next week or the week after or next month and I'm going to 'try and snog you' again. Is that why Ginny doesn't come see me anymore?"

He was going to lie to her, but the look on her face made him reconsider. "Yes," Harry said. "The last time she was here, you spilled our secret relationship and scared the hell out of her. She moved out for two weeks." The worst two weeks of my life- after-Voldemort. No wife, no kids, no Hermione.

Hermione sat down on the bed. "I'm sorry. I didn't know." He wasn't surprised when she started crying. Awkwardly, he sat down by her and patted her back. "It'll be okay, Hermione. In the morning, this entire conversation will never have happened and you'll be happy again."

"Would you help me kill myself?"

Harry stared at her aghast. "Hermione!"

She stared back at him resolutely. "I don't want to live a life of lies and memory and crazy. Maybe your life is perfect and you live happily with your wife and your children. I live in a world where Voldemort is everywhere and his Death Eaters are hunting me and the one I- and you and I can never find you."

"No," said Harry, voice shaking. "No. Hermione, I couldn't kill you, I couldn't live with myself-"

Hermione cut him off with a wave of her hand. "Alright then. I'll find another way. Do you think you could fetch me a pen and paper on the way out?"

Still thinking his last words over, he shambled over to the nurse's station and fetched the desired parchment and quill. He set it down on her table, still thinking.

"Hermione, you can't die," he said finally. "There are too many people who love you." He didn't say that he was one of them.

She laughed bitterly at that. "The only one who come to visit me anymore are you and Luna. Where's Ron, anyway?"

"Quidditch," answered Harry. "He's a coach."

Hermione nodded, as if she had expected that. "When was the last time he visited me?" Her eyes were large and dark in her tiny face that was framed by her frenzied curls. In the slowly darkening room, her white face floated above the fold of the turtleneck and inside the bushy ringlets.

"Five or six years ago," Harry replied, acknowledging the fresh bursts of anger at his brother-in-law. No matter what he said, the red-head wouldn't go visit Hermione.

She nodded again. "And Neville?"

"At least six months. He came with Luna, I think. You remind him of his parents."

Hermione frowned in indignation. "No offense to his parents, but I have much more brain function."

It continued for a while, the names and the number of years or rarely months since they had visited her. Each one seemed to deflate her a little more. Then came the next step of the dance- she wanted news on everyone. And then she paced the room, cursing and crying, mourning her lost life. When she started to pull on her hair, Harry called Padma and gave Hermione her sleeping potion.

And Harry went to the Hog's Head.

At some time between midnight and daylight, Harry stumbled home, more than slightly dizzy and disorientated from the fire whiskey and vodka. He went to the guest bedroom- his pillow and toothbrush were there. He brushed his teeth sloppily, stripped, sank into bed, and cried like a baby.

Hermione fought the sleeping drought with all the strength she had in her body. It helped that she had built up a bit of resistance though the years- at least, that was her best guess. As soon as the Healer left, she rose and tripped her way over to desk, where the paper, ink, and quill lay. She wrote feverishly, fighting to keep her eyes open. And when she could hold them open no longer, she hid the parchment under her bed and went to sleep.

Three Weeks Later

"Owl," Ginny observed casually from the breakfast table. Harry had the Daily Prophet open, scanning the less important headlines for any hidden information. He looked up when his wife spoke, then looked down.

"Lily, dear, get that, will you?" The nine year old eagerly opened the window for the handsome tawny bird.

Carefully, she unwound the letter and checked the envelope. "It's for you, Dad," she said, handing it to him. "From St. Mungo's."

Ambiguous ending, I know. I didn't want to say what happened- what do you think happened? Did Hermione commit suicide? Does Padma need to tell Harry something? Is Hermione cured? Does she remember? End it the way you want.

I told you I was in a dark mood. The story is dedicated to my lovely . If you read French, read either one of her great stories. More will come for TWOT and 1995. I have half of the next chapter of 1995 written and none of 42 for TWOT. Sorry.

Review and let me know how you think it ended. :)