A/N: Inspired by a gorgeous Ten/Hermione gifset on tumblr. I'm going crossover crazy at the moment. Jeeeez.
She cannot sleep. She doesn't know how Ron manages to stay unconscious for at least eight hours every night, but he does. It's not even his incessant snoring that keeps her awake. She likes that. It's a reminder that he's still here, that he's still alive, and they've both made it.
Except only half of her made it. She feels like a good portion of Hermione Jean Granger is trapped, somewhere in Hogwarts, maybe some time around fifth year. She can't exactly remember when she made the transformation from a thinker to a fighter, but maybe it was that meeting in the Hog's Head, that first uprising that changed her. And now, she doesn't know how to change back. Where books would comfort her before, they now feel dull and heavy in her hands. She buries herself in them so as not to alarm Ron, but the last time she actually read anything, she cannot recall.
The war has destroyed her. And she cannot bear to tell the others.
She dare not let Harry to find out. He would feel so guilty - she sees the way he looks at George, who sits alone these days, who laughs loudly and falsely and and whose smile drops when the attention is no longer on him.
She will not become another victim.
She throws the covers off of herself, pulls on some jeans and a t-shirt, grabs her wand, and leaves the bedroom. She casts around for a place in her mind, anywhere other than this, and then turns on the spot.
It's a rough part of a rough town. People are pouring out of a dingy club in various states of drunkenness. A group of young men stumble past, laughing loudly and stinking of alcohol. They're not quite right though, and so she searches for others, her eyes scanning the crowds.
She spots one, kicking off at a man who has no interest in him or his imagined slights. His friends are too busy harassing a group of girls, who are far more interested in their high pitched, high speed conversation than a few blokes in knock-off designer polo shirts.
Hermione follows the men, keeping her distance, until they pause as one vomits against the side of the building. She walks ahead of them, trying to block out the sounds of the splatters, and rolls her wand between her fingers. She is incredibly conscious of her own breathing, of the movement of her lungs, of the sound of the air being pulled in through her mouth, and thrown back out again moments later. Her heartbeat has slowed, perhaps, so she can hear a little easier. She had always noticed towards the end that her heart would take her hearing into account.
Or maybe she became desensitised.
"All right darlin'?"
Hermione doesn't turn at the sound of the call.
She hears footsteps, loud and fast, and within seconds, a man is at her side. He has gelled hair, a pierced ear, and a bright blue stain down his shirt, which is, apparently the result of some sort of drink spillage. He grabs her arm and hauls her to face him.
"I'm talking to you."
Hermione wrenches her arm from his grip, and turns away. There are more footsteps, and a second and a third catch up with them. Hermione turns down a quiet little street. It's poorly lit, and the darkness excites her.
She waits until she is completely surrounded, her personal space invaded, and the hot breaths of many mouths making her skin crawl.
And then she explodes.
She clambers into bed at half past five, closes her eyes, and falls asleep quickly, her hand finding Ron's amongst the bed covers.
When she wakes, two hours later, she feels relaxed. Ron has a pillow pulled tight over his head, blocking out the sunlight that's streaming through the gap in the curtains, and Hermione kisses his shoulder. After a few moments of convincing herself that getting out of bed is the right thing to do, she gets up and pads into the bathroom, ready to wash away her night time sins.
She reasons to herself, as the hot water streams onto her head and down her back, that if those men hadn't started on her, they'd have started on some other poor soul, who wouldn't have been so able to defend themselves. Really, she's doing the world a favour, because she's sure those idiots from last night will think twice before following a girl down a poorly lit street again. Maybe.
But deep down she knows she acts on selfishness and selfishness alone. Deep down, she knows she goes looking for a fight because there is something so deeply wrong with her, that she cannot let go of the fighter. She cannot sleep because her fingers itch to cast curses, she yearns for chaos and explosions, and above all, she doesn't want the space to think.
She and Ron are engaged. She has been forced to think about the future and that's something that she used to be good at. It took her weeks to say yes, and in the end, she only said yes because she saw how much her indecision was destroying him. But thinking in the moment is all she can do, so how can she plan a wedding? She feels as though she might drown in seating plans and flower arrangements and menu options and so she has as good as left it to her own mother and Mrs Weasley to deal with. They couldn't have been more thrilled, Ron's happy that all the fuss is out of their house, and Hermione sometimes feels as though she can breathe.
But only sometimes.
When she arrives at work, and is facing a mountain of paperwork and several disgruntled looking goblins, she realises that she'll be roaming the streets in the early hours once again.
She's been dawdling through alleyways for ages. They're more difficult to come by than you might think. She's already apparated to three different locations and spent hours playing the bait, but there's nothing.
Her skin crawls with the need for something, and so she apparates to a dark and dismal street. The buildings have more broken windows than not, paint is peeling from doors, walls have been kicked down, the bricks salvaged for undoubtedly illegal purposes, and it is, perhaps, the most perfect place to find a fight.
The streets are quiet however, and what small groups there are mostly ignore her. There are a few whistles, because she's female and that's required, naturally, but nothing more. She comes to rest on the pavement outside a boarded up shop. She puts her head in her hands and wonders when her life became this.
What happened to the eleven year old who would stay up late reading and wake up early to do even more reading before her classes? What happened the thirteen year old who kept the werewolf teacher a secret because she knew what it was like to be judged? What happened to the fourteen year old who rattled her tin and raised awareness of the oppression of house elves?
What happened to the girl who was going to make a difference in the world?
Well she made a difference all right. Except making a difference burned her out and fucked her up like nobody's business. And what has it all led to?
Sitting on the ground in a shitty little city hoping against hope that someone will attack her, will give her something to do.
And then she feels a hand on her shoulder. She gasps, and looks up into a hard face with a heavyset brow. Her heart is beating fast, her hand ready to snatch her wand from her pocket, and then -
"You all right, love?"
She lets out a sigh. "Yes, I'm fine."
"You sure? You don't look fine."
"I am," she says vaguely, her heart sinking. "I am..."
"D'you need to call someone to come and pick you up? You can borrow my phone if you like."
"No..." she says, "No..."
"Are you hurt? D'you need a doctor?"
She shakes her head.
"D'you want me to call you a taxi?"
"Well you get yourself home then, all right?"
"Yeah..." she says softly. "Yeah..."
The man holds out a hand for her, and she takes it. He pulls her up and gives her a nod, before setting off down the street, disappearing into the darkness. Hermione puts a hand to her head. She had been so ready to feel, and then it had all been snatched away by a do-gooder. What are do-gooders even doing in a place like this? It doesn't seem fair.
Chewing on her lip, and wondering whether she should admit herself to St Mungo's, she turns. She begins to walk, but then she looks up at the road ahead. Silhouetted against the moonlight is the figure of a man, standing next to some sort of...she can't make it out. Perhaps a newspaper kiosk. There is a bright light shining on its rooftop, and the hem of the man's coat is fluttering in the slight breeze.
Hermione knows he is waiting for her. She's not sure how she knows, but she feels it in the pit of her stomach, much like she feels it when she sees a couple of incognito death eaters.
She carries on walking, rolling her wand in her fingers, ready to strike at the first sign of a threat.
"You've been up to no good," the stranger calls.
Hermione narrows her eyes.
"You've worried a lot of people," he continues, seemingly not bothered by her lack of response. "So much that they called me, in fact."
"And who are you?"
The stranger chuckles, and she sees the glint of a smile in the darkness. "Just the Doctor."
"What d'you want?"