Waiting to Exhale

BY : Wolfling1972
Category: Harry Potter > Het - Male/Female > Draco/Hermione
Dragon prints: 6892
Disclaimer: The worlds of Harry Potter, and all properties thereof, are my playgrounds. This means that I own nothing beyond my own poorly conceived plot and OC characters. In no way am I making money from this.

AN: My very first solo fanfiction so, please. Oh please. Be gentle.

The story itself is mostly canon compliant~at least through the end of the Second Wizarding War (to a point because really, Dramione does not happen easily!)  with only Severus Snape avoiding his deaths. (Because Snape!!) Read at your own risk. (Yes. Really. Read it)


_ Early Morning May 2nd, 1998

She had huddled, broken, in the very center of the Great Hall; her mind blank, her eyes closed. There had been so much death, so much carnage, so much pain and the ending was almost, not quite but almost, anti-climatic. And yet, the ending HAD arrived and her mind, hailed as the greatest in an age, was blank, damned near broken. 

No point in letting them know nor in showing the weakness no one would believe. No use in being exactly what she had always known she was- a lost girl in a world that had never wanted her. A young woman, torn by circumstances beyond her control. She was now battle-hardened, wearied, disconsolate. She could no longer find the point for anything.

"Hermione," a ragged voice queried, final syllable rising on an up note. 

Dark eyes blinked, traveled to the left, skipping over the bodies of the fallen even as her voice- husky from screaming curses and jinxes, charms and protections- broke the momentary befuddlement which had covered her, like a blanket. Slender fingers pushed tangled curls from those wide doe eyes before her mouth allowed tired words to trickle out.

"Yes, Harry? Are you alright?" 

Bright green eyes fastened upon her, his mouth turned down into the saddest expression Hermione had ever had the misfortune of seeing. Dark, dirty hair had fallen upon one-half of his round, broken eyeglasses, which obscured a portion of his bloodied and dirtied countenance. She waited and watched until the young man-one of her best friends, her brother of the heart- shook his head.

"Nowhere near to being alright, but it's over, isn't it? Finally over."

Hermione could do naught but nod.

It WAS over and she felt as if she would never be the same.

August 31st, 1998

Ron hadn't wanted her to return to Hogwarts. However, she felt as if she had no real choice, no real reason NOT  to go back. It wasn't as if they were a couple, wasn't as if the kiss in the Chamber of Secrets had meant anything beyond an affirmation that they were still alive, that they were fighting. It wasn't as if he would ever be what she needed, no matter how much she had wished it to be so- back when they had been much younger, in that time of ago, before the war had come.

After all, he had broken her trust more times than she could count.

Ron knew what he wanted to do, so did Harry- but not her, no, not her. In her mind, it would be better to take a year and dive back into the safety of learning. Best to hope for a year, FINALLY a whole year, where she could be safe and reconnect with the childhood she had lost, through no fault of her own. Did her best friends understand? Not really nor did she blame them but real life had given her enough abuse. She needed a break.

So, with a sigh, she'd explained to the pair, yet again, why this break from reality was needed. She was lucky in that Ginny had taken her side- loudly and often enough that the boys had once again given up and allowed her to finish her packing in peace.

"I don't understand why they can't just give it a rest," Ginny had opined for the third time as the girls finally settled down for their last night in the Burrow. "It isn't like they will never see us again."

Hermione allowed herself a small grin. "Well, maybe Harry is worried that you might find someone new."

Laughter greeted her assertion before the young redhead responded."Nah, he doesn't care. We aren't together, right now. He is off to continue saving the wizarding world. Plus, he knows that I just want to have some fun."

"Me too," was Hermione's final word on the subject and soon enough? The pair were asleep. Though, as with every night since the final battle, Hermione did not stay that way for long. Dreams, though more honestly- nightmares, chased her from the solace of sleep's arms, her diminutive frame shaking and covered with sweat, damp curls clinging to her forehead, chin, neck.  And though it was only four in the morning? She did not bother to return to bed.

September 1st, 1998

Silence reigned as the Weasley family, including Hermione and Harry, made their way to Platform 9 3/4 to await the Hogwarts Express. Eventually, the unnatural calm was broken by whispers and half-formed sentences as Ron and Harry tried their best to be more supportive. The girls, for their part, were the very picture of excitement; though they did try to contain it. However, their joy was easy enough to see, as it capered within the depths of their bright eyes and lurked behind their quick grins.

As the crowd expanded, Hermione's gaze searched for others like herself, those who had opted to return for their missed N.E.W.T.'s and the rare few who did not feel their last year had provided them with the education they required due to the Carrows' reign. Alas, because of her own stature (a shrimp compared to most her age) it was difficult to see beyond the jostling throng.

With only a few minutes left before boarding, hugs and cheek kisses were given and received, promises to write were reiterated and the girls had disappeared onto the train, there to part ways as Ginny went off to find her own friends, leaving Hermione to shift for herself. It left the once bushy haired female feeling decidedly ill at ease.

'Oh, well.' The thought was tinged with melancholy but Hermione refused to allow it to get her down. Instead, she opted to find an empty car and settle in with a book. Soon enough, one was found, closer to the Slytherin cars than she would have preferred but empty, nonetheless. Or at least it was when she found it.
The sound of the door sliding open drew dark brown orbs to the now filled entrance.


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