Hero's Burial

Part 1 of The Debts of Heaven

by Waywren Truesong, scraftrendon

Disclaimer: Harry Potter et al are the property of J.K. Rowling and WB and I expect any number of other license-holding type peoples which are so totally not me. For which we should all be grateful, as if HP was -mine- I'd never have got up the gumption to publish in the first place, and even if I had done it would not be nearly as good.

Hermione Granger is no stranger to bad dreams.

She's not spectacular in her dreaming; she doesn't dream of old terror, like Ginny, or with the too-real Vision that Ron tells her Harry has, even without Voldemort's interference.

Yet she is Hermione Granger, best friend to Harry Potter, Muggle-born, and not for nothing is she called the smartest child in her year.

She has the knowledge to cause bad dreaming, the stark acknowledgement of reality to accept it, and more than sufficient imagination to encourage it.

So, yes, Hermione has her nightmares.

There's one in particular that's been haunting her lately, ever since the Ministry horror, ever since she found out there was a prophecy.

She doesn't know what the prophecy was; Harry hasn't told her, if he knows.

But there was one.

As if Harry weren't textbook Hero enough.

She dreams, and in her dreams there is an altar -

No, a bier.

There is someone laid out upon it, jeweled and crowned and richly robed as he lies in state.

He is small, too small, dressed as if he were a much larger man; the robes swallow him in a way that is too familiar.

His arms are crossed over his chest, as with dead kings of old, and in one hand is clasped the hilt of a silver sword lain bare down the length of his body, across his chest. It is too big for him, as the robes are, and graven upon the blade is the legend 'Godric Gryffindor.' The robes are Gryffindor's, all red lions and cloth-of-gold.

In the other hand is a wand, and she knows this wand, as she knows the way the robes do not fit, but she does not let herself know the wand, does not let herself recognise it.

It's not true if she doesn't recognise it.

The hands wrapped around wand and sword are too thin, callused and well-worn, as if 'worked to the bone' were not clich├ęd hyperbole, but fact, cruel fact and cruel fate and cruel treatment, with fingers too long and palms too wide and wrists too thin and awkward.

These are a boy's hands.

And she knows them.

She bites her lip, closes her eyes, shakes her head; this is not him, not - not this person, she doesn't know this person, she doesn't, it can't be, it won't be him because it can't be.

She tells herself this, again and again, and lifts her chin and looks with closed lids where she knows the (stranger's) face will be.

She opens her eyes.

It didn't work.

She shakes herself, hard, forces herself to look, to catalogue each feature. If she looks hard enough, she'll find some difference, some discrepancy, and it won't be true.

It won't be.

It won't be that fine-boned, sharp face, thin with stress and malnutrition, pale with work and worry.

It won't be the bruises of stress under the eyes, the hollows under high cheekbones, the sharp, stubborn jaw that even in death - sleep - never seems to relax.

It won't be the battered, ugly old spectacles, absent from their perennially-uncertain perch upon the bridge of his nose, now folded beside his head as if waiting for him to awaken.

Won't be his messy black hair, the lines of pain around his mouth and laugh lines already around his eyes.

Won't be the damned scar on his forehead, almost obscured by a crown too large and too heavy for a boy to wear.

It just won't.

But it is.

Hermione knows the stories.

Hermione knows that boys of sixteen are often heroes; often go off alone to fight the dragon and the demon and the evil fucking wizard.

Hermione knows that heroes are buried with hero's burials.

That heroes die hero's deaths.

Hermione knows.

Nevertheless, Hermione knows that not every hero has to win by losing.

And she's damned if she's going to let her best friend die a hero's death.