Chapter Two

The next days passed in a blur. Hermione could scarcely believe that even with the battle over with, the excitement was not.

As she'd promised herself, the moment she was able to escape the celebrating in the Great Hall, she went to find Professor Snape's body. She made her way quickly to the Shrieking Shack, and when she got there, she found Professor Snape lying exactly where she and the boys had left him. Overcome by sorrow for the man and by the stress that had built up over the entire year, she sat against the wall next his body and wept, her elbows braced on her knees as she clutched her hair and tried to contain her sobs.

She almost missed hearing the groan. Her eyes snapped open and the shock of seeing him sitting up, clutching one hand to his head and one hand to the wound of his neck, caused her to jerk back and crack her head on the wall.

"You!" she exclaimed, clutching her head in pain, "You're alive! But – but we saw – ! And then – !" The rest came out as unintelligible nonsense.

"Miss Granger," he groaned, and she shut up instantly. "Kindly cease your inane prattle. My head is pounding with the force of a jackhammer."

Distantly she mused that the fact that he knew what a jackhammer was shouldn't have shocked her as much as it did. Finally she managed to pull enough of her scattered wits back together and asked, more quietly, "What do you need, Professor? How can I help you?"

In the end, she had to conjure a stretcher for him, because before he could even answer, he fell back limply, having lost consciousness again. In a panic, she ripped open her beaded bag and summoned bottles of Dittany, Blood-Replenishing Potion, and anesthetic. He was bound to be in a lot of pain. After a moment's thought, she used a gentle Aguamenti to wash off the blood to see how his neck looked, and though it was ravaged, there was no sign of the venom that would have blackened it. He must have taken an anti-venin before the battle started, or at least shortly before reporting to Voldemort.

She poured some of the Dittany over his neck to seal the wounds, and then some of the anesthetic down his throat followed by the blood replenisher. Then she conjured the stretcher and levitated him before her. She avoided the Great Hall, knowing she needed to get him to Madam Pomfrey soonest.

She would have left immediately after ensuring that Professor Snape was seen to, but the mediwitch stopped her. "You've got a wound on your neck, Miss Granger," she said.

Hermione froze. Her hand flew to her neck and her fingers encountered what she knew was a mess of crusty, dried up blood, and she paled, remembering how she'd been bitten by Fenrir Greyback.

"F-Fenrir Greyback," she said, her voice breaking. Her knees wobbled, threatening to give out.

Madam Pomfrey ordered her to sit down and immediately began casting diagnostic spells on her.

"All right, well, obviously, the main thing is that while you were bitten by a werewolf, it's not a full moon," the nurse said as she began to cast spells to clean and heal the wound. "At best, you'll find a preference for steaks on the rare side and your sense of smell will be stronger. You may also experience a bit of a difference in your instincts. They may be a bit more canine. I would highly advise that you ask Bill Weasley. His experience will prove invaluable. Now I understand that the dog bit you at the same time that Mr. Potter's spell hit you, is that right?"

Hermione nodded. "Yes, and then I turned into a giant wolf."

The nurse nodded as well, pursing her lips in thought. "Well, obviously I'm not an expert in that sort of magic, but Professor McGonagall might be able to give you a bit of insight into the magic behind your transformation. Perhaps, once he is fully healed, Professor Snape might be able to lend his expertise as well. I don't know how the magic of Potter's spell will affect the bite. It's best to be prepared for as many different scenarios as possible. It is possible you'll transform at the full moon, but perhaps not. Or perhaps if you do, you'll be able to retain full control over yourself. There's nothing to do but wait and see."

She finished treating the bite and stepped back, asking, "How do you feel?"

Hermione thought for a moment. Finally she said, "The best way to describe it is tired, but restless, as if I haven't slept in days but have had far too much coffee. It's as if Harry's spell was like a shot of caffeine straight to my blood and that's the only thing keeping me going."

The nurse pursed her lips. "Well, I think it best that you get some rest. There's no telling what effect Potter's magic combined with that bite on your neck will have on you," she said as she turned away.

Despite Madam Pomfrey's advice, it was some time before Hermione let herself rest. There was too much to do. Too many dead to help sort through, too many injured to help treat. Then there was the fact that Hermione feared that if she allowed herself to fall asleep, she'd be overcome by nightmares. But when she'd stumbled too many times, Harry and Ron abducted her and spirited her away to Grimmauld Place, telling only Molly, Arthur, and Professor McGonagall where they'd gone. There the three of them arranged everything the way they'd had it that first night they'd spent there when they'd gone on the run, and crashed in the living room.

After that, she divided her time between helping to organize the burials for the Light dead and the cremations of the Dark dead and helping Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing to keep herself busy. She avoided the on-going celebrations as much as she could, knowing that for her, the losses from the war would be too much to allow her to celebrate right now. She didn't think she'd be able to lend the proper facial expressions.

Of course, as much as she tried to avoid the celebrations, they inevitably came back to her, for everyone in the Great Hall had seen how the enormous white wolf that had killed Voldemort had approached Harry, sat down, and then transformed into Hermione Granger. She and Harry both were besieged with questions and demands for interviews from reporters, and she was also inundated with fan mail. Everyone wanted to know how she'd managed to change into such a large wolf and killed Tom Riddle, why the Prophecy had not been fulfilled, how Hermione felt about having been the one to ultimately kill Voldemort, and how Harry felt about his destiny being snatched from him by another. The whole mess gave her an immense headache, to the point where every letter that came to her in handwriting she didn't recognize went straight into the fire.

Ron, while he once upon a time would have been jealous of all the attention his friends were getting, was her rock. For one thing, he was instrumental in helping to fend off the reporters, by turns blocking them so that Harry and Hermione could make an escape and providing outrageously smart-arsed comments to questions the reporters shouted at Harry and Hermione, comments that either left the reporters floundering for something to say or turned their attention to him.

The three of them had actually worked out this particular plan of action fairly early after the battle and after having first seen the attention Harry and Hermione would be receiving. It had been Ron's idea, in a rare display of both brilliance and cunning that reminded them that even the most impulsive and courageous Gryffindor had a bit of a Slytherin side sometimes, however buried deep.

Besides coming up with the best ideas to block the media's access to Harry and Hermione, it turned out Ron had a lot of insight when it came to finding closure after the war. And so it happened that even after everything, after Tom Riddle was dead and his Death Eaters mostly dead or captured, Harry, Ron, and Hermione remained as inseparable as ever. In the beginning they found themselves unable to sleep if they were separated, and would inevitably find their way into each other's rooms at the Burrow, despite the lack of space in one room what with Luna, whose home had been destroyed and her father killed the night Harry, Ron, and Hermione had gone to see him about the Deathly Hallows, staying with them as well. It was Ron's idea to enlist the help of Professors McGonagall and Flitwick in casting a few enchantments on the wall separating Ron and Harry's room from Hermione and Luna's. Now the wall was more like a curtain, and had an opening that connected the two rooms. Molly wasn't terribly happy with that, but when Arthur reminded her that the three of them had survived being on the run living that way, she couldn't argue.

All of them had nightmares. Harry dealt with his by clinging to Ginny, who had her own demons from the year spent at Hogwarts under the oppressive Carrows. After having been separated for so long, Harry and Ginny found immense comfort in each other.

Likewise, Ron and Hermione would soothe each other after their own nightmares. It was Ron who would encourage Hermione to talk about them as they sat together in the darkness, a silencing spell cast around them so that they wouldn't disturb the others. But their intimacy came at a price. Despite their kiss in the Chamber of Secrets, all the time spent in such close quarters in the tent both during and after the war, unable to avoid seeing both the best and the worst of each other, destroyed any possibility of romance for the two of them. They tried briefly, but ultimately they realized that the kiss in the Chamber had been the result of adrenaline and a fear of never again having the chance to kiss, for now when they kissed it felt too much like kissing a sibling.

Luna was lucky. Her time spent shut away from the world in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor meant that the presence of other people was immensely soothing – she didn't have to be wrapped in someone else's arms to hold her nightmares at bay. They would come when she was completely alone, but as long as someone else was in the room, her sleep was dreamless.

Inevitably, word got out that Hermione had also saved Severus Snape's life, and so the reporters tried to invade the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts to talk to him as well, many of them having conveniently forgotten that he had taught quite a few of them at one point or another. But if anything could be said of Madam Pomfrey other than that she was an extremely competent healer, it was that she could be a dangerous woman to cross. More than one obstinate reporter had found themselves literally tossed out the Hospital Wing doors after failing to heed her warnings to stay out. There had even been one who had decided to get rather lippy with her after she refused him admittance, and he shortly had to take himself to St. Mungo's due to intense stomach pains that, upon their examination of him, turned out to be his stomach twisting itself into knots and coming undone again. The reporters stayed away after that.

Because of Madam Pomfrey's success in keeping the reporters out, Hermione decided to spend as much time as she could helping in the Hospital Wing. Sometimes Harry and Ron accompanied her, though they didn't have much of a gift for healing, so they were relegated to more menial tasks, such as rolling up bandages or recording care information in patient charts.

One of the patients Hermione assisted – partially because he would allow no one to tend him but herself and Madam Pomfrey – was Professor Snape. She endured his griping in good spirit, because he wasn't griping at her. Or rather, she wasn't the cause of his griping, merely the unfortunate soul in whom he chose to confide his many frustrations and irritations with being in the Hospital Wing. As unlikely as it seemed, she was becoming friends with the dour man.

The next days were also filled with funerals and memorials. Trials for the surviving Death Eaters would start after the funerals and memorials were all over. Everyone seemed to want Harry to come to the funerals of their loved ones lost in the battle. He couldn't, of course, as there were far too many, but he attended those of his closest friends, and made do with sending personally hand-written sympathy cards and letters to the families of those whose funerals he could not attend. There was one grand memorial service held on the grounds of Hogwarts near Albus Dumbledore's tomb at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

It was decided that there would be a memorial structure to commemorate the battle and all those lost in it, and to accommodate the memorial, a number of witches and wizards that worked for a wizarding landscaping company combined magical efforts to shift the trees at the edge of the Forbidden Forest just behind Dumbledore's tomb to clear out a semicircular hollow. In the center of the hollow and directly behind Dumbledore's tomb was erected a tall white obelisk. It was simple in shape, its only ornamentation being a black granite base into which were carved the names of all the dead Order of the Phoenix members, Hogwarts students, and Aurors who had fought against Voldemort and defended Hogwarts in the battle.

Eventually, life moved on. Hermione and the boys spent the majority of the summer helping to rebuild the school, and through the combined efforts of what seemed like half the population of Wizarding Britain, repairs to the school were complete by the end of August. By the end of July, in fact, Headmistress McGonagall was certain that at the very least, enough of the school would be restored to allow classes to resume.

A few additions had to be made, of course. For one thing, this year's incoming class of first years was twice the normal size, since not only was last year's first year class about a tenth the normal size, but it was also decided that all students would repeat their last year of classes. So the first year class had not only those who were entering Hogwarts as they normally would, but also those of last year's first years who either hadn't come to Hogwarts at all or were repeating the year. Fifth, sixth, and seventh years were being given the opportunity to test out and enter the next year, or graduate as the case would be for the seventh years. While about half the fifth and sixth years chose to test out, only about half of those who took the tests passed them. None of the seventh years chose to test out, except, to everyone's shock, for Hermione.

Hermione had her reasons, of course. In fact, she had two reasons, but only one did she share with anyone who asked. The reason she gave aloud was that by testing out, she could take advantage of apprenticeships, for it was her intention to become a teacher.

She had decided she wanted to teach Muggle Studies. She reasoned that as someone who not only came from a Muggle background but enjoyed passing on her knowledge in a way that made it easy for others to understand, she was in a unique position to ensure that there were no more Tom Riddles in the future. Perhaps Dark Lords would still arise, but it would not be for prejudice against Muggles.

But Hermione's other reason for testing out of repeating her final year was one she would admit to no-one. She wasn't healing as well as everyone thought. The all-consuming demon known as PTSD had her securely in its clutches. She couldn't sleep much, and what sleep she did get was fraught with nightmares from which she inevitably woke herself with the sound of her own screams. In addition to lack of sleep, the year on the run with limited supplies of food had taken a toll as well – she couldn't eat much. Too full a belly led to lethargy which could be detrimental to attempts to escape. The amount of coffee she drank to battle the exhaustion made her jittery, and she jumped at sudden movements or loud noises. Thunderstorms found her cowering in a closet, and someone popping up on her out of nowhere saw hexes flying from her wand. A luckless reporter who'd jumped out at her one day and was hit square in the face with something that burned and caused boils to erupt ensured practically the moment he was released from St. Mungo's that she was given the moniker of Mini Moody. But those who knew that Mad-Eye had died a hero's death said, "Well, there are worse things to be called."

One enormous weight, however, was lifted from Hermione's soul when the first full moon following the Final Battle passed and she stayed human. So it seemed that at the very least, whatever magic Harry's wand had cast hadn't turned her into a werewolf. She was so elated that she decided to throw caution to the wind and see if she could make the transformation herself. Since neither Professor McGonagall nor even Professor Snape could give her any insight into what Harry's magic had done that night, she decided to see what would happen if she went about the transformation as any witch or wizard looking to become an animagus would.

Perhaps the magic simply paved the way for her to learn how to be an animagus more easily, or perhaps the knowledge that she'd made the transformation before, even if by accident or by magic that wasn't her own, removed a subconscious mental barrier that was present in most witches or wizards. In any case, it took her two weeks after the first full moon since being bitten to make any kind of change, and then it was an accident.

She was doing some reading on becoming an animagus late one night, after having completed some work for her apprenticeship, and her eyes were beginning to cross from tiredness. Still she tried to forge on, but her eyes kept losing focus. So at first she thought it was only a trick of her tired eyes when she saw how pale her skin was, but when her skin began to itch all over and she reached for the skin of her legs with her hands to scratch at it, she nearly fell out of her chair in shock to see all the white fur sprouting.

The complete and utter shock halted the transformation completely, and the fur receded back into her skin, which retained its normal coloring. When nothing else happened, she decided she needed to go to bed.

But in the days following, she realized that every time she began thinking about animagus transformations, whether she was recalling her reading or thinking about what it would be like to transform herself, she found some kind of change happening somewhere on her body. She nearly gave Ron a heart attack when she began sprouting fur at the breakfast table one morning, having been staring off into space thinking about the reading she'd done the night before. Blushing furiously, she explained what had been happening to her, and had to join in the laughter than rang all along the table when she finished.

It was another two weeks after that before she made the connection, and she wondered how it had taken her so long to see it. Every time she thought about something regarding Animagus transformations, she would begin to transform. When she did realize the connection, it was next to nothing to imagine the entire transformation until she found herself on all fours, staring into a slightly smaller version of her mirror, in which she could see a pair of golden eyes in a snow-white face staring back at her.

From that point on she could make the change deliberately. Rather, she could change when she wanted to, but her mind still had a tendency sometimes to wander away, and she would begin sprouting fur or a tail without realizing it. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Her lack of control over the ability forced her to seek help from Professor Snape in learning Occlumency. His forays into her mind as a result of these lessons revealed to the spy her battles with PTSD, and so the Professor, in a manner befitting any Slytherin worth his salt, began to subtly adjust the way he taught the witch so that ultimately, the Occlumency she learned was the kind best-suited to ordering one's subconscious so as to minimize the effects of PTSD.

Of course, the structure and order that Occlumency brought to a mind could only do so much when the body was asleep and the mind unable to consciously avoid negative thoughts. So it was that Hermione slept better than she had, but she still wasn't getting a full night's sleep free of nightmares. Part of the problem was that Hermione had started organizing all her negative thoughts into compartments for later examination, but she kept putting off the examination of said thoughts. It wasn't long before Professor Snape realized what she was doing, and he resolved to confront her about it. But before he could, something happened that caused everything to go to hell for the witch and one of her friends.

The repeating seventh years were given two more Hogsmeade weekends per term than other students, for a total of four weekends per term. They were also not required to be back at the castle for dinner, with the stipulations that no student staying in Hogsmeade beyond the time they would normally return for dinner would travel alone, they would inform a staff member of where they would be, and all students would be back at the castle by an established curfew of nine p.m. and in their dorms by nine-thirty. It was a mark of how they had all matured that not one of them broke curfew, even if every now and then one or two of them (any one of five particular Gryffindor boys might come to mind) came close. Hermione, with the legal status of an adult who was no longer in school and as apprentice, was allowed to leave the castle whenever she needed to provided she informed another staff member when she left.

It was during one Hogsmeade weekend open to all eligible students that something happened which would lead to the derailment of all Hermione's plans.

She had gone with a group of the repeating seventh years, plus a couple of the repeating sixth years – namely Ginny, Luna, and one or two of their year-mates – and as the majority of the group was heading back after dinner at the Hogshead, Luna exclaimed that she'd forgotten something in the pub and took off back toward the pub before anyone could say anything. Hermione bade the rest of the group go on, that she would stay with Luna, and as they left she jogged to catch up with her friend.

Her jog turned into a flat-out run, however, when a scream rent the air. "Hermione! HERMIONE!"

"Luna!" she screamed, lighting her wand as she ran. Frantically, she cast the Point-Me spell, and ran in the direction in which her wand spun. As she turned into an alley, she saw a flash of long blonde curls and froze for a brief second, her eyes widening in horror at the sight that met her eyes.

Luna was grappling – and losing – with a tall man of unholy beauty. He was an odd juxtaposition of light and dark – his hair and the shape of his face suggested origins on the Mediterranean Sea, and his complexion would have further supported that conclusion but for the deathly porcelain pallor of his skin. But it was the eyes that gave him away, for no man, wizard or Muggle, had such eyes.

Hermione lurched into a run. But even as she did, she watched in disbelieving horror as the vampire managed to pin Luna and tear enough of her clothing to give him access to what he clearly sought. Hermione screamed in fear and rage as she watched the vampire fall onto her friend, one hand wrapped around Luna's throat.

Her wand slashed viciously through the air as she skidded to a stop, a wordless shriek of fury lending voice to the magic just as the menace finished with her friend with a triumphant snarl. He was thrown back several feet by her Bombardment spell, and in a flash he leapt to his feet to face the witch, a beautiful and terrifying smile on his face as his scarlet eyes took her in. They ran down her body in a single lazy sweep before coming back to catch her gaze. She could see a power of some sort gathering in his eyes, and she knew he was probably about to compel her to do something – give in to him, most likely. So she gave him no chance.

Without further thought from her, she jabbed her wand at him as if she were thrusting home the point of a sword and shouted, "Avada Kedavra!" The vampire, who'd begun approaching her, halted in his tracks as the jet of brilliant green light struck him in the chest. His eyes widened with surprise as the hard marble that was his skin suddenly began to crack, until it resembled a mosaic of irregularly cut pieces.

Knowing that vampires were not living and that they could put themselves back together if simply ripped apart, she didn't stop with Avada. "Reducto! Incendio!" The two back-to-back spells hit him in quick succession, thus ensuring that first he was blasted apart and then the pieces went up in flames.

With that done, she turned back to Luna, and threw herself to her knees beside her prone friend. Hands shaking and tear tracks streaking down her face, she ran diagnostic spells over the blonde's body, trying to see what the monster had done to her friend. She wept with relief when her spells found no trace of venom in Luna's body. But her relief turned quickly to horror when she saw the blood between the blonde's legs where the vampire had torn viciously into her body. Further diagnostic spells revealed a broken pelvis, bruising around her hips, and, worst of all, a gash in one thigh that appeared to have severed Luna's femoral artery.

She hastily cast her Patronus and sent it racing back up to the castle to fetch Madam Pomfrey. No sooner had she done so than the group of students she and Luna had been with came running into the alley. They all stopped and gaped at the sight of the flaming debris, but when they saw her kneeling next to Luna, Harry, Ron, and Ginny ran forward.

"We heard the screaming!" Harry exclaimed as he threw himself to his knees next to Hermione. "What happened?"

"Harry!" Hermione cried as her shaking fingers fought to steady her wand, "Luna - she was attacked, it was a vampire – Oh, God, Luna – please, hang on – Harry, give me your shirt, press it against her leg – she's bleeding too much – come on, Luna, stay with me! Ron, Ginny, go get Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall! I sent my Patronus but I don't know if it got there!"

The two redheads obeyed and took off toward the castle, followed by the other Gryffindors who'd been with them

"Hermione!" Harry said urgently as he obeyed. He gripped her shoulder in one hand to make her look at him. "There's a spell – I heard Snape use it on Malfoy once, when I cursed him – listen, it's 'Vulnera sanentur,' maybe it'll work for Luna!"

She nodded shakily and began repeating, "Vulnera sanentur, vulnera sanentur, vulnera sanentur!" She fought to hold down her panic when it seemed nothing was happening, but then, miraculously, the bleeding slowed and then stopped, at least as long as Harry kept his shirt pressed to Luna's leg.

The wait seemed interminable to the remaining two Gryffindors. It seemed hours but was probably only twenty minutes before help arrived in the form of Professor Snape. He later said that he'd seen Hermione's otter Patronus as it raced to find Madam Pomfrey, and he didn't wait to find out whether it had found her. He sent his own to her himself before he took to the air and flew. He touched down in a billow of black robes and took one look at the three of them on the ground before he raised his wand. He conjured bandages that wound themselves tightly around Luna's leg, over the makeshift padding of Harry's shirt, and then he levitated Luna onto the stretcher before he conjured a small blanket to cover Luna's lower body, thus preserving her dignity. He sent another Patronus to Madam Pomfrey, informing her that he had Luna on a stretcher and was flying her to the castle. He told her to stay and gather what she would need to heal a victim of an attack and rape by a vampire.

Snape took back to the air, the stretcher holding Luna rising into the air at his side. Hermione and Harry stumbled back onto their feet and ran the entire way back to the castle, not stopping until they reached the Hospital Wing.

Professor Snape met them just inside the door, preventing them from going any further. He told them Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall were treating Luna's injuries now and must not be interrupted. He distracted them by asking how they had managed to keep Luna from bleeding out. "I told Harry to use his shirt and put pressure on her leg, and he told me to use Vulnera Sanentur," Hermione replied instantly, at which Professor Snape cut a glance to Harry, who turned red and looked down at his feet. "Well, at least it seems Potter can learn from his mistakes," Professor Snape murmured, though there was no trace of a sneer in his tone. "In this case it seems it was a lesson well-learned, however unintentionally. Well done, Potter, Miss Granger, it seems your actions kept Miss Lovegood from bleeding to death."

Hermione promptly burst into tears from relief. Harry, reassured that Luna was in good hands, left to return to Gryffindor Tower and let the others who'd been with them that night what was going on, but before he did, Professor Snape stopped him.

"One moment, Potter," he instructed. "I don't know how much of what happened to Miss Lovegood your friends know, but if they are not aware of…everything that happened, don't tell them. Miss Lovegood will have enough trouble dealing with what occurred without everyone knowing the full extent of her ordeal. How and when and even if she chooses to inform anyone else is up to her. The Headmistress will be speaking to the other students in your group to ensure that they all respect Miss Lovegood's privacy by not talking about the specifics of her attack, if they know of them, to anyone else."

Harry nodded firmly to show that he understood. "Yes, sir," he said. Professor Snape searched his face for a brief moment before he nodded as well, dismissing him. Harry left.

When Professor Snape turned to go back into the Hospital Wing, it was to find Miss Granger hovering near Miss Lovegood's bed, outside the curtain and out of the way but looking worried.

He made his way over to her. Without a word he grasped her shoulder and propelled her over to the bed beside Luna's. "Sit. I know for a fact that Vulnera Sanentur takes a lot of energy to cast, let alone maintain. Sheer adrenaline has kept you on your feet, but the toll the spell has taken will knock you out in another couple of minutes. Relax. Miss Lovegood has been in good hands from the moment you destroyed the vampire who attacked her."

Surprised, she looked up at him. He raised an eyebrow. "The magical destruction of a vampire is one of few things that produce that kind of flaming debris, Hermione," he told her. "Add to that the condition Miss Lovegood was in and the look of panic upon your face when I found you, and it wasn't difficult to deduce exactly what happened. You saved her life. She will be fine."

The witch sagged back against the bedframe. "I just can't help but think that if I had caught up to her more quickly, or if I had stopped her from taking off like that, or if I had insisted on coming back earlier, this wouldn't have happened to her."

He shook his head. "You are dwelling on what-ifs. It is one thing to acknowledge where you went wrong, for that is how we learn not to make the same mistake twice, but the fact of the matter is that allowing yourself to dwell on those thoughts will do you no good. It will not undo what has been done. Acknowledge them for what they mean, but don't dwell on them. Move on. That is how we learn."

She nodded tiredly but didn't answer. When he looked, he saw that she'd fallen asleep.

He waved his wand and the blood vanished from her skin and clothes even as her body shifted itself until she lay comfortably beneath the bedclothes. When he finished, he looked up just as Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall emerged from the curtains drawn around Luna's bed.

"Well, that's it. Miss Lovegood is on the mend," the nurse said. "Physically she'll be just fine in a couple of days. But emotionally, she's got a long journey ahead of her. My guess is that when she finds out it was Miss Granger and Potter who saved her life, one of two things will happen. Either she will cling to them, and be reluctant to let them out of her sight, or she will withdraw from them. Does Potter realize the extent of what happened to her?"

Severus nodded grimly. "I'm not sure if their other friends do or not. I told Potter not to talk about it with them in case they don't, but I would suggest we speak to all of them and make certain they don't speak of it to anyone. This will be an immensely personal matter for Miss Lovegood to face without having to worry about other people sticking their noses in her business. She will have support in Miss Granger and Mister Potter, but beyond the two of them, none of the other students need interfere."

The two older witches nodded, and the three of them went their separate ways.

It seemed that Poppy was once again, as usual when it came to the health of her students, correct. Luna did indeed withdraw from her friends, spurning their company – and their pity – for her own lonely counsel.

The whimsical witch became silent, no longer spouting off any of the random oddities or surprisingly profound insights that had previously made her unique. Now she kept her mouth shut and her head down, her silence and lack of interaction making her as forgettable as the rest. She no longer floated above the mayhem and foolishness that was student life at Hog-warts, keeping to the straightest path to anywhere. Where before she floated, now the flow of the crowd seemed to swallow her until she was lost in the chaos, the noise and activity serving to hide her so that no one could see the pain and hopelessness she could not hide herself.

But she had not counted on the fierce determination of one witch who desperately needed to feel that she had a purpose and who had already lost enough loved ones that she refused to stand by and let another lose herself deliberately. Hermione confronted her one day about a week after Luna's rape and dragged her into an empty classroom. After casting a series of locking and silencing spells on the room, she demanded that Luna stop avoiding her. When Luna would have reacted apathetically, Hermione became angry, and she jerked the long sleeve of her shirt up her left arm, uncovering the ugly word that adorned it.

"Stop pulling away from everyone, Luna! You might think that no one could ever understand what you're going through, and maybe most of them don't. But I do! Look at that!" she exclaimed, sticking her arm in front of Luna's face and shaking it for emphasis.

In a more gentle tone, she said, "Look, what happened to you might make you feel like you've been sullied, that you're dirty, worthless, and I can't tell you when you'll stop feeling that way because I don't know. I've never been raped, but I have been tortured until I was nearly out of my mind. Bellatrix Lestrange did her very best to break me, and if she couldn't, she was going to kill me. And by the time Harry and Ron came for me, I wanted to die." Her voice broke here, and she had to pause to take a couple of deep breaths. Talking about her ordeal was difficult, even to someone who had been through their own trauma.

"The truth is, I still feel weak and helpless, all the time. I couldn't keep Harry and Ron and myself from being captured by the Snatchers, I couldn't keep Harry from walking to his own death, and I couldn't keep you safe from a vampire. I jump at loud noises or sudden movements, I attack anyone who surprises me, and I haven't gotten a full night's sleep since before Harry and Ron and I went on the run, because I wake myself up at night with the sound of my own screams. They say time heals all wounds, but whoever said that must never have experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because some wounds don't just go away with time. Sometimes they need help. Please, Luna, please let me help you. We've lost so many people already, and I can't watch you lose yourself on purpose." By this point she was crying as she begged her friend her friend not to lose hope.

Throughout Hermione's speech, Luna had been staring off at a point somewhere to the Gryffindor's left, unblinking and unmoving, her brow slightly furrowed as if she were trying to move objects without spells or her wand. The complete lack of change in her expression would have implied she hadn't heard a word her friend had said, except for the silent tears tracking down her cheeks. That was how Hermione knew she had gotten through to the Ravenclaw.

In another fraction of a second, Hermione found herself with her arms full of a sobbing mess with long, dirty blonde curls. They clung to each other and wept for a long time, two broken souls whose bond would go a long way toward putting each other back together.

In the days that followed, Hermione altered almost her entire schedule to be there for Luna. Ginny leant a lot of support as well, as she had a fairly good idea what had happened, but it turned out that Hermione and Harry were the only ones who knew for sure. As Madam Pomfrey had predicted, knowing that Hermione and Harry had been the ones to save her life meant Luna felt safest with them. So when it was confirmed by her dorm-mates a couple nights later that Luna was having nightmares, Hermione requested of the Headmistress that she be allowed to ask Luna if she would want to stay with her, since apprentices had their own rooms. The Headmistress agreed readily, and so did Luna.

The two spent their nights talking. While they both still had trouble sleeping due to nightmares, the time spent talking strengthened their bond with each other and helped each girl as she struggled with her own personal demons.

Two weeks later Luna dropped a bombshell. She found Hermione in the library and immediately cast privacy and silencing spells, then turned to face Hermione. The Gryffindor was immediately filled with dread at the look on her friend's face. It was a look of abject terror.

The entire story came tumbling out, and though much of it was garbled nonsense that Hermione thought had to do with steak-and-kidney pie, rancid pumpkin juice, the loo, and a spell Luna had found in a book for Healers, bits of it were all too clear. When the story was finished and Luna was weeping into Hermione's shoulder, the Gryffindor's head was fairly spinning with what she'd learned, and her heart was heavy with the gravity of Luna's situation. Her friend was pregnant with the child of the vampire that had raped her in Hogsmeade.