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On bended knee, looking up

by girl-wonder

[Story Headers]

She stayed because her first thought was, "Blast, it's a muggle pub."

She stayed because she felt immediately guilty and remembered the look on her parents' faces when she left for her first term at Hogwarts.

She remembered how her mother had been embarrassed the first winter holiday, when Hermione couldn't stop talking about Hogwarts's tall tree and floating candles. She remembered thinking that as soon as she was a real witch she could make the candles float on her own tree. She told her mother about it as they strung popcorn garlands through the branches of their Christmas pine.

Now she remembered her mother's self-conscious additions to Christmas, the new overly-large tree and the candles balanced precariously on the branches.

So she stayed because it seemed ridiculous that that was her first thought. Really, she of all people should have known better.

Anita worked at a primary and sometimes brought home pictures that her kids drew for her. She put them on the icebox, and Hermione abstractly thought that she wanted kids, too.

When they first met, it was at the club. Anita bought her a drink, and the lie slipped so easily out, she worked in government, even drunk she never could mention the Ministry of Magic to muggles. Later, when a drink turned into dinner turned into girlfriends, turned into something more, it was too late to say, "I'm a witch."

Hermione wasn't sure that she wanted to correct the misconception. In Anita's eyes she was normal, there wasn't the inequality of muggle and witch. She didn't have to worry that one day Anita would look at her like her parents did when she came home on break, nervous and uncertain.

Her mother bought her everything she wanted for her fourth year, went to Diagon Alley and bartered down the price of the cauldron Hermione wanted. She went back to school, sad to see her parents waving her off.

Still, she stayed at Hogwarts that Christmas. It was easier than remembering that she couldn't tell any muggle jokes. It was easier than remembering to love her parents more than Harry and Ron.

Ron and Harry arrived in the middle of tea, which seemed awfully rude, but she didn't say anything and Anita put another kettle on.

"So, 'Mione, what's with the," Ron's voice lowered and he whispered, "muggle?"

Harrry stared at her hard, his face pale and tight, the scar standing out like it did their first year when everything was too stressful and he was still Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived.

She refused to look at him, focusing instead on Ron, who she could at least understand.

"Anita is... Anita's my..."

When she first met Harry he was shorter than she, his haircut was odd and she felt sorry for him. She was jealous, but mostly he looked so uncomfortable in his own skin that she couldn't really hate him.

His interruption reminded her of that.

"Why did you leave?"

Unsubtle and gawky, it was everything that she remembered about his first year and forgot when she left.

"I left because the ministry needed me."

It had been such a long time, that she had forgotten all the real, messy reasons for leaving and remembered only the noble ones that she didn't mind talking about. In her mind, she skipped over the way that she had seen spells trip from Harry's mouth, spells he shouldn't know, not if he really was good the way that Voldemort was evil.

"Deputy Minister of Magic," Harry's bitter twisting of words made her wince.

Hermione glanced over her shoulder towards the kitchen, but Anita hadn't looked up. She glared and lowered her voice. "Quiet." For a moment she held his gaze, making sure he understood.

Ron opened his mouth, but shut it when both Hermione and Harry glanced at him.

"I left," Hermione said softly, "because I didn't want to be in your army."

"Dumbledore's Army," Harry corrected automatically. He leaned back in his chair. "I'd give you your own unit. If you came back." She looked at her hands in the pause. "You'd have to submit a letter or something. Asking." He said it as though she had already decided.

"In a few years Cornilis Fudge is going to retire," Hermione said. "I'm a shoe in."

Anita came in suddenly, carrying a tray. Ron stood and took it from her, placing it on the coffee table between Hermione and Harry. Hermione smiled suddenly, recognizing the move from every tea with the twins and later with Charlie during her internship.

"Anita and I are together," Hermione said suddenly.

Harry looked away, and Ron gawked. "Really? Together? That means you're... you're lesbians, then?"

"Yes," Hermione took the pot off of the tray and poured Harry a cup. Two sugars, no cream, she remembered. Even on a battlefield, they had time for tea and here in her own house she didn't bother with anything, handing it to him plain.

He sipped it without comment, but his eyes were tight. He never missed insults.

Anita's hand on her leg was reassuring when she dropped a sugar into Ron's and put it down in front of him. He started, "But we," his blush crept down his neck. "I thought you and I..."

Harry glanced at him, tight lipped, and Ron quieted. Hermione remembered when she would have quieted, too.

"You need to come back," he didn't look at Anita.


Ron stood when Harry did.

"Nice of you to stop by," Hermione grimaced.

"'mione, if it's girls you're into, Ginny..." Ron stilled at her glare. He had done that before, too, trailing off into nothing when she frowned.

If Anita had stood with her, if she had tucked an arm around her waist like she did sometimes when Hermione did the dishes, then Harry probably wouldn't have tried it but Anita stayed behind to pick up the tea tray.

Hermione stood at the doorway and watched, Harry already walking down the steps and Ron only a few paces behind him. When Harry turned suddenly, wand already raised, Ron gasped, but Hermione didn't.

That first lonely night with Anita asleep beside her and her house empty of hate and blood and the constant war, she had done something. She didn't remember it in the morning, she didn't remember the words, but she remembered the feeling of safety. When she wasn't a student, was a deputy at the Ministry and still trying to find her way around the building, McGonagall had said, "Some magic is accidental, witches are powerful like that. We forget how powerful our emotions are."

It had explained why there was no recorded spell in the case she was investigating.

When Harry stood on her porch and pointed his wand at her, his mouth open to words she was sure he couldn't know, he shouldn't know, she smiled and thought, "Safe."

He stumbled in his recitation and then stared at her, not frightened but annoyed.

She closed the door.

Draco Malfoy arrived before them. The week she left Harry's army, she was sent to talk with him. He was being held for questioning by the Ministry, but they could never hold him for long in between his public visibility and his powers.

Everyone knew she had talked with him. She reported to Harry and Dumbledore, then packed and left four days later.

Later, she heard that Harry blamed Draco for her betrayal. Because it was true, she wasn't angry at Harry.

Almost a month after Harry and Ron stopped by for tea, Draco appeared. Anita left him on the porch, his hands in his pockets. Wearing a trenchcoat instead of a cloak, he looked muggle for a moment.

She stared at his back, the shock of blond against the dark grey of the coat and said, "Come in, Malfoy."

He smiled, though it was not kind. When she saw Anita standing uncertainly in the kitchen she said, "Malfoy and I are going for a walk. Do you need me to get anything while I'm out?"

Hesitantly, Anita kissed her and whispered, "I don't trust him, Hermione."

Forcing a smile, Hermione said, "I'll be ok," even as she slipped her wand into her sleeve. It had been a long time since either of them had worn the cloak of a wizard outside of the Ministry.

Aging had been less kind on him than it had on Harry, the fine scars of time marked his eyes and mouth deeply.

"Malfoy," she said finally, breaking the silence.

"Granger," he said, parroting her tone.

"What are you doing here?" Next to them, children screamed and ran, playing as though it wasn't about to rain.

At first he didn't answer, pausing suddenly in his steps to stare at a crying child. Red blood stained her white knickers, and his mouth pursed.

She followed his gaze, but the girl blinked and the blood disappeared. He had already turned and passed Hermione.

"You left them," he said when she caught up.

If it required an answer, he didn't show it. "Yeah," she said, her voice soft.

"I didn't mean to make you... do that," he sounded puzzled. "You upset them."

"You mean that I upset the balance." He glanced at her, surprised at the venom in the words.

"Well, you did," he didn't look at her, but she glared at the side of his head. He was taller than she was, had grown suddenly into his looks and his parentage.

"You're just as bad as he is, you know. You both want me to go back."

He looked at her, one eyebrow crooked. He had grown into so many things, his youthful cruelty had matured into cold malice, his temper had been the seed of his penchant for action over planning.

"Balance, Hermione, needs to be maintained."

She spit, the sour taste of bile burning at her tongue. "So you said. I'm not going back."

Nodding, he looked at her, "You want this," his gesture included the park and children and Ministry and Anita, "that much?"

"No," she spit again.

When he narrowed his eyes, she thought he was going to try to kill her again.

Maybe they knew each other too well, enemies since their first meeting, but he smiled and held his hands up, amused at the wand in hers.

"I'm not going to kill you."

"Liar," she said shortly. Beyond the scope of this moment, she knew that he would kill her if he thought that it would help his crusade, as it was.

He smiled, this time not amused at all. "Potter is going to win this war if you don't go back."

It started to rain, softly across her body she felt the earth groan. He didn't feel it like she did, he felt the slap of drops where she felt the elation of falling. Different teachers, same lesson.

"I will not go back."

The same child streaked past them, lunchbox held over her head. They looked on as she tripped over the curb, hands and knees flying forward. Neither moved to help her.

"When those children of yours died, did you blame Potter or Voldemort?" The question was well aimed, but she had long ago left that chink in her armor open.

They had screamed, and she had been right. None of them had the control for the spells, yet. None of them could even grasp what the words she had taught them meant. Parroted sounds that did nothing against the lightning spell.

Across the battlefield, she tried to focus, to think of a spell that would save one, just one of them. But she was fighting too, and dual spells were too difficult to balance.

Glancing now at Draco's profile, she said, "You know the answer."

"Then, help me," it was the same petulant voice she remembered, saying something so much more serious.

"If you try to kill me, if you try to hurt anyone I care about..." when he waved off her threat, she turned towards her house.

"I can't let either of them win."

It sounded like an ultimatum, like a man standing against the tides, but she knew that he would never last. He had been running as long as they had and he was tiring faster.

Balance, she sighed low in her throat. Too much for him to lose if either won. Too much everything if either of them won.

She thought Draco would be the last, but when an owl showed up out of the blue, she was furious and sent back her reply immediately. If Anita had been home, she would have shooed it off like a real owl. As it was, she made her last line count.

Harry wanted her back. Draco wanted her to go. She thought angrily that Voldemort (she remembered back when even she thought that saying his name gave him power) probably wanted her to rejoin the army.

In the end, she talked to personnel and secured the money for a grant.

She kissed Anita lightly, "I'll only be a few weeks."

Distance, when you can walk miles in seconds, meant nothing. They still came, but she was still just Hermione to Anita, and she could openly protect her camp with spells.

Life continued on, and she tried to wait out the war.

When her grant ran out, she went back and Anita thought that the slump in her shoulders was because of her "retreat." The ministry wanted her to do a commission with Drumbledore's army. Just a brief stint, to check their spells for flaws, to make sure that muggles wouldn't be involved.

It was a open invitation back, Harry said when she left. You can always come back. Once, twice now he had tried to force her back, sending her news of the second years killed (she made sure that the ministry had raised the enlistment age to second years) and later, reports of the friends she had known. Lists of dead, that meant that they were losing, that meant, "obviously you're one of the only people who can help us win, Hermione."

And now, he had succeeded. She knew that the ministry thought that they would only survive if Potter won, and they were right. She knew what type of wizard-world Voldemort favored, briefly picturing herself dead.

When she arrived at his headquarters, they almost searched her, hands open for her cloak. She rolled her eyes and told the overeager guards that she was there to see Harry Potter and if she could kill him in his own camp then all of them were in more trouble than they thought.

Ron came to walk her to Harry before she scared them more than that. In the past, when her hair had been loose and frizzy and she had been the least liked of all the first years, she had never imagined she could frighten anyone. Now, with her hair pulled into a tight bun and her eyes dark, she knew she scared everyone.

Harry sometimes forgot what fear felt like. She imagined he thought it felt like desperation, and since both had the same effect when it came to him, she didn't bother reminding him.

After filling out the forms, she went home to Anita. She ignored the children Harry had set out before her, the children she would captain if she went back. If she was being realistic, she thought she would have to admit that they were done for and even if she did go back they would still be done for.

Anita never found out that she was a witch, and when she stood over Anita's dead body, blood running from her nose and curses flying from her mouth, Hermione was grateful in an instant. She paused, and pointed at the Death Eater, her mind whipping through the pages and pages she had read.

He didn't have time to scream before his lungs stopped surviving on oxygen. One last breath, two, and his final exhalation was a mangled cough of blood. The last one, the one she had saved, the one she had merely incapacitated, looked at her with panicked eyes as she approached. She put her foot on the Death Eater's windpipe and said to the pulsing tattoo, "That was a mistake, Voldemort."

Leaning on her leg, hearing pop was more satisfying; she had no appreciation for dramatic speeches.

She refused the children Harry sent her. Instead, she sent them packing with protection spells floating around their heads like wind chimes. It was Anita's picture she put in her pocket, it was Anita's love that bound the children safely in a cocoon of magic.

"Go home," she said when she was done. They did, after she told them how easily a true Death Eater would kill them.

If she could have, she would have sent one final spell out into the night, something that would turn Malfoy's dreams to nightmares of Anita's death, but she was spent and she knew that Malfoy had his own demons feasting on his sleep. He wanted his bloody balance, playing both sides against the middle, hoping that they would both kill each other, hoping that would prevent the worlds he saw.

It had come as a surprise that he was a clairvoyant, his second sight did not seem like something a Malfoy would be graced with. But after she learned how painful it lay on his shoulders, a borrowed ability that he could never return, she realized that of course it was something a Malfoy would be given.

Not as karmic justice, but rather a continuation of his school fights with Harry. He would never be Harry's true enemy, he would never hold Harry's attention like that, instead he was the one in the middle still fought against but never the ultimate goal.

Talking to him in his cell, knowing that he had never seen a future where everything was fine, she made the decision to leave. You're a weakness for Harry, he said. His eyes were narrowed, cold and distant, "Do not leave Potter."

A few months later she met Anita. More than a year after that she killed Death Eaters again, happy for once to soak herself in blood.

When the owl came, she recognized it and opened the letter even while others stared at her. Strange owls weren't seen anymore and never trusted. Of course none of them would recognize Malfoy's owl.

Thanks. the message read. She wasn't sure if he was thanking her for returning to Harry or for the lack of dreams. She thought briefly about sending back the counter spell, the one that would release his nighttime visions, but she knew that he had enough visions while awake. Adding to them would be excessive.

At night, in a camp not too far from the fighting line, she dreamed of Anita. She cried and when Ginny came to her tent a fifth time, she didn't say no again.

It was too much and Hermione saw spells that would kill Voldemort hovering just beyond her eyes, and she waited for the moment that she could tell Harry what he would need to say to deliver the final blow. She thought that Harry already knew, but was waiting for her to say it was ok.

Or he was waiting so that she wouldn't realize how well he already knew the spell.

She traced what she remembered onto Ginny's flesh, wishing that it would burn so that she wouldn't wake up in the morning again already having forgotten everything.

Wishing it was all over, wishing she was all over, made her days bearable.

She waited. Harry waited. One night, she woke to find Ginny's back tattooed with phrases, a full spell. Ginny began to scream as soon as she woke, not understanding, not comprehending her position in their drama.

Hermione took it before Harry, wondering if he would even notice the clause in the middle. Linking him to Voldemort was the only way she saw, linking him completely meant that he could be killed. It meant that they could both be killed.

Harry spoke the phrases without voice, tasting them on his tongue before nodding. If it had been a few years ago, she would have shivered at the speed he paced through the spell, the direction he seemed to already know it went.

"'s good, Hermione," the smooth parchment shivered in his tight grip.

Ignoring Ginny and the girl's pained tears when Ron spread a healing salve over her wounds, she walked out of Harry's tent. If she had thought it was safe, she would have walked into the forest, beyond the sentries; she almost did anyway. Instead, she returned to her own tent, the bed now cold, and climbed between the sheets without casting a warming spell. Her tears were sudden, sharp bright things, at odds with the loud sobs she still heard coming from Harry's tent.

Later, Draco would say that he imagined Judas felt "pretty shitty" afterwards, too. He reminded her that Brutus was guilty, too. Looking out at her garden, she felt the silence against her skin, uncomfortable. It was good, she thought, that she couldn't speak anymore.

She imagined if a curse hadn't slit them already, her lament would shred her vocal chords.

Draco said that this was the happiest ending he had seen.


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Fandom:  Harry Potter
Title:  On bended knee, looking up
Author:  girl-wonder   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  R  |  *slash*  |  19k  |  11/28/04
Characters:  Hermione, Harry, Ron, OC
Pairings:  Hermione/OC, Hermione/Ginny
Summary:  The end of the war was never supposed to cost this much.
Disclaimer/Other:  I do not own Harry Potter or any other characters that JK Rowling claims.

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