Picture Book Girl
"Die on the front page, just like the stars"
Out of all the things he thought she would do after the war had ended this had never entered his mind.
He stared at the images in front of him, eyes roving over a face that should have been familiar but was not.
Of course, he never expected her to forgive him. Perhaps she might have had he merely stood by, a passive observer to her pain. When he lifted his wand against her, though, anything between them died.
Not that it should have been there to begin with.
The war went on a lot longer than he had ever expected. Her graduation came and went, and instead of going to university she stayed by Potter's side.
He trained them, all of them, as much as he could between his duties as a teacher, spy, and Death Eater. He helped Dumbledore sow the rumours that Potter was abroad, leading his 'colleagues' on wild chases that ate up months of their time and drove the Dark Lord to the brink of sanity.
Somewhere in there, between her graduation and the four years that it took before she found herself in a situation she couldn't fight or smart her way out of, they'd become...something.
Friends? Lovers? Companions?
None of those seemed to fit.
Something. They were something.
But then he'd been forced to choose between her feelings and his cover and it had ended.
He was kind to her, all things considered, but he couldn't imagine that looking up into his sneering face, his wand pointed directly between her eyes, was very good for a budding relationship. He had hoped that she would understand, that she would forgive him.
She hadn't. And he'd refused to make a fool of himself for a woman once more.
He'd refused to plead and beg. He would not demean himself by sitting outside her door, crying that he loved her.
He didn't love her, anyway.
There was a part of him, the rather perverted part, that was happy she had chosen such a career.
At least this way he could see her, could admire her in a way he'd never been granted before. Theirs had been a relationship of rushed encounters, fumbles in dark hallways, and up against the wall. He'd never experienced the leisure of exploring her body with the lights on and all the time in the world.
His eyes focused on the glossy Muggle magazines spread out before him and tried to find a hint, anything, of the young, brilliant, and courageously fragile woman he had once known.
He could not.
"Tilt up, just a...perfect! There!"
Hermione held her pose, head tilted to the side, eyes on the camera. The shutter clicked away, taking several photos a second as the photographer moved around her. She followed him with her eyes until he gestured for her to look away. Focusing on the people moving around behind the camera equipment, she watched the unfamiliar faces lit by the glow of Muggle computer screens. She knew them to be various directors and editors, for both the magazine company as well as the modeling agency that represented her, but she couldn't remember their names. She didn't really care enough to bother remembering anyone's names.
"Okay, let's try a different pose. Lie down on the couch thing."
She looked at the ottoman that the photographer was pointing at and bit back the retort on the tip of her tongue. Instead, she walked over to it and sat down as people swarmed her. They helped her lie back in the giant, awkward gown she wore, a completely non-functional piece, and fixed her already perfect make-up.
The photographer made his way over to her, repositioning her arms and legs like a doll, tilting her head just a smidge this way and that, before declaring her perfect.
Looking up at the ceiling of the studio she wondered, not for the first time, why she thought this was a good idea, why she thought it would make her happy.
Perhaps it had been fate; it had certainly felt like it at the time. She had fled England shortly after the war ended, needing space from magical Britain specifically. America had seemed like the perfect opportunity to disappear. Running into an old primary school friend—well, friend was a rather generous term—had been a stroke of luck for her. The odds were astronomical.
She had been looking to go to University, to start over with the things that she truly loved, but that required money. Jessica had held all the answers to her problems. A stop in a cafe for a cup of coffee, a bit of a chat, and an hour later Hermione was left holding the card of a modeling agency. She figured it was a sham, but she hadn't anything to lose and her funds were dwindling fast. The sale of her parents' house did not spread far and she needed tuition money.
So she had put a light glamour on her scars, done herself up as best as she could, and taken a cab to the studio.
No one was more surprised than her when they signed her on.
It had been truly perfect. She earned enough money to keep herself afloat and was able to study at Salem Academy. It had always been on her radar, a dream to make reality after the war, after she could safely leave Harry's side, and the completion of that goal had been sweet.
"Turn to me!"
She turned, repositioning her head carefully so as not to muss up her hair.
That had been the first thing to go. It was too much like her old self, the one she no longer knew. She'd stood in front of her bathroom mirror one evening, her hand pulling it away from her neck, and severed it all with one clean hex.
Next, she taught herself charms to apply make-up and style her short hair.
Then was a change of wardrobe. Her casual and comfortable clothes no longer suited. She was a model after all; she had to look the part, didn't she?
No one around her knew it, but the physical changes were merely a reflection of the inner ones. She was quieter, far more reserved than she had ever been before. Jessica assumed that it was due to age, that the bossy little swot she'd known as a child had simply become an adult. She didn't offer her opinion unless it was asked for, she didn't answer every question, she didn't flaunt her knowledge.
The only thing that stayed the same was her dedication to her studies. She'd devoured her school work, she'd thrived on the challenges her Masters set before her, and she'd graduated with honours, top of her class.
And then she'd found herself adrift, without anchor, purpose, or direction.
"Give us a bit of a smile, Hermione! Let's put some life in this!"
Her lips curled upwards reflexively and she laughed, a fake, practiced laugh designed to be captured by a camera and splashed across a page.