i. the innocent
This life starts with a rainy night in September and approximately 9.4 hours of labor.
It is carefree and wistful, full of long summer days awash in pastel colors and riding on her father's shoulders. It is falling asleep in the back of cars, storytime with hot chocolate and the fuzz of her mother's sweater against her cheek.
But while blissful, there are times as a child when she wonders whether she was switched at birth. She is nothing like her parents, bland and content as a pair of clams in their small corner of Reading. There is something yet nothing different and it bothers her 4-year-old mind.
Her parents, on the other hand, wonder if they have not been given a changeling child. They cannot understand this tiny bundle of whys and wherefores, who dreams in technicolor, who reads - no, devours- any printed material like her life depended on it, and who always wanted to know what was beyond.
The fact that the rational explanation for her involves magic is poetic.
She goes to Hogwarts and when she comes home for summer or Christmas break, she regales them with stories of her two best friends, her teacher's praises and the wonderful feasts. They delight in hearing her so happy. As the years go by, they do not hear about the three-headed dog, the voices in the walls, the escaped convicts or the man who featured in her nightmares more times than she would like to admit.
For the first time, subconsciously, she is protecting them in the only way she knows how.
And as time goes by, the things left unsaid push them further and further away. She is part of an entirely different world now, one they had no hope of understanding.
Yes, they cannot understand her but she always remains their innocent little girl.
By the time the first Death Eater falls to her wand, she hasn't been innocent for some time.
ii. the soldier
Once in a while, she thinks about it, seriously puts her mind into analyzing her situation.
On paper, this ragtag group of teenagers, misfits and war veterans would have seemed like a low budget action film with delusions of grandeur.
It is certainly real enough.
She is also certain it is inappropriate to laugh.
There are times when she has fun. Like the time the twins had the ill-conceived idea to give everyone a code name. She laughs every time she remembers the charmed two-way radio coming to life and squawking,"Won-won..come in, Won-won.."The practice, however, comes to an explosive end when she finds out the boys have dubbed her "Fuzzy".
George's eye still twitches whenever she looks at him funny.
Then there are times when she feels too old for seventeen. These are the times when she has to serve as tactician, lieutenant and medic all at the same time. After the innumerable weeks of alternately crying herself to sleep and vomiting her pain out, she is numb. If anything haunts her still, it is looking into the eyes of a dying child and seeing the light leave them.
No 13-year-old should ever have to die for the sins of his father.
Whenever her thoughts skitter away to visions of the future, of what will be when (if?) they win, she stops herself. In this life, she thinks about surviving and rescue missions and potable water. In this life, there is a plan: save Harry, save the world. Horror and death are frequent staples but there is also camaraderie, honor and good. There are nights spent huddled around a campfire, telling stories of the good old days (as much as teenagers could ever have good old days). There are shared smiles over boiled potatoes for the 5th night in a row. There is the clasp of hands, unspoken words and a breath of a kiss from a green-eyed boy before he leaves.
Which is why, when everything is over, she finds herself somewhat wistful for those days.
Because now she has to go and figure out what happens next.
iii. the actress
She wonders when it had become like this. As a child, she never thought she would be the kind of person that, when asked if she was happy, would pause and answer,"Define happy."
It stood to reason that people would expect things from her. The only problem was she didn't even know what she wanted from herself.
Her parents expected her to leave the Magical world. After everything that had happened to her while she was in it, she couldn't blame them. But because she couldn't remove herself from the only life that she knew, she compromised by taking a job in the Ministry...even if she hated it with every molecule in her being.
Everyone expected Ron to be her happily ever after. From their very first kiss, she knew they didn't belong together. But he seemed content and she wanted to make him happy. He has had enough sorrow and disappointment in his life; she does not have the heart to break his and tell him that she is in love with another man. No matter if that man had never done or acknowledged anything. No matter if one cannot a relationship make from deep gazes and friendly touches.
As she goes through the motions of living a life, she wonders whether if one looks closely enough, one can see the strings that hold her up.
One summer day, when she misses her period and notices the telltale signs, the trapped feeling she gets settles the question. She doesn't know what to do but the joy in Ron's eyes makes her decision for her. So she smiles and laughs and even jokes along with everyone when they hint at a quickie wedding. She doesn't scream, even if it deafens her inside...and she doesn't look at a corner of the room where her other best friend is sitting.
Once everyone else, even her boyfriend, has left, it is just the two of them. Her face crumples as she runs to him and the only thing she can say as she lies safe in the circle of his arms is"Hugo! He wants to name the baby Hugo!", because the ridiculousness of the name only underscores how ridiculous her own life has become. She feels, rather than hears, his chuckle. It is only later, when she has calmed down and he is making tea, that she thinks the sound resembled a sob more than a laugh.
She refuses to think about what it means.
Two weeks later, when she begins to bleed profusely, she knows. She feels guilty for being relieved but trapping a child with her in the cage she built herself was no future. When Ron sees her tears, she lies and says they are tears of sorrow.
In six months time, as he drops down on one knee and pulls out a ring, she is biting back tears again. Not because she's happy but because she can see the man behind the one she is expected to marry and the only thing she wants to do is call his name and ask him to save her again.
In the end, interminable minutes after she has been asked a question, she says the only words she can think of saying:
She runs. And never looks back.
iv. the fugitive
She never thought her 4th life would involve hurricanes in September. The proper way to tape down windows is one of the first things she learns when she arrives.
It's a little fucked up that she is able to disappear so easily because of old back-up plans and failsafes she hid in another life. She believes she is now using PLAN M but can't be sure exactly. This plan involves her going across an ocean and erasing all traces (Magical and Muggle) of Hermione Granger. She changes her name - not to Jane or Jean or to any anagram of her name or even anything related to her old life. She picks a small house in a small village on the coast. She thinks (quite rightly) that this is the last place anyone would think to look for her. Sunshine and beaches aren't exactly the first things that come to mind when one thinks of her.
Sometimes, she misses being somewhere where she has a history, where she isn't just another face in the crowd. She misses the smell of heather and the cold snap of winter in a place where it is hot, humid and raw. But most of the time - when she gazes out at the expanse of blue outside her window or turns her face to the bracing tropical wind - she feels free.
She didn't think she would come to love it but she does.
Here, she is Anne Parker, originally from Shropshire, who rents the yellow cottage with the dock in front and works at the seafood restaurant serving stone crab claws. She burns and freckles in the sun. She puts down literal roots and plants an herb garden. She learns how to fish. She blunders through learning how to drive. She manages to fall in love with kayaking. She remembers how it is to laugh. She, no matter howclichéit sounds, is rediscovering who she is.
But she cannot leave everything of herself behind.
For one, her tiny living room is more of a library than the public one on Main Street. For another, she finds herself usingAlohamoramore than her keys and people keep commenting on how exceptionally spotless she is even after a 12-hour shift.
It is only through discipline that she makes certain that nothing of her old life slips out.
She is vague when asked of her family and betrays no familiarity with Scotland or its environs. She has trained herself not to instinctively look when anyone answers to the name Harry. She goes so far as to have nothing resembling witches decorating her tiny house in the weeks leading up to Halloween.
One night, she watchesSense and Sensibilityon DVD via a quaint service that delivers it straight to her door. Not for the first time, she thinks about how much she doesn't like Marianne. She was never a flighty, overly dramatic, sentimental 17-year-old (at least, she hopes so). She thinks that Elinor fits her more - practical, self-assured, bottled emotions.
But then she remembers how similar she is to another Anne. The solitary one. The one who worked in the background to please everyone else at the expense of her own happiness. Who never forgot the one man who mattered.
She cannot forget black hair and green eyes no matter how hard she tries.
But still, she survives and before she knows it, 3 years have passed. Now, she doesn't have to constantly stop herself from missing her parents or imagining her best friend around every corner.
Which is why the sight of Harry Potter waiting on her stoop when she comes home almost gives her a heart attack.
She made herself impossible to find but then again he always excelled at the impossible.
Her first instinct is to run. But Anne Parker is not a person who runs away. And Hermione Granger, at least the Hermione Granger that she wants to be, doesn't either. So she stays and waits as his eyes lift to meet hers.
She was right about one thing.
She cannot leave everything behind.
v. the woman
It takes some time before she regains his trust. In fact, it is a long while before she learns to trust herself.
She has not been Hermione Granger for so long that it takes some time adjusting to her old life. It takes a lot more to tailor that life to finally fit her.
She is uncertain about this particular existence, with its quick twists and sharp edges. She thinks Ron may never forgive her completely but she wants to try. Her family will never completely give her the understanding or the acceptance that she wants but right now, their love is all she needs. Despite everything, she still had that in abundance. She is not quite sure what to do with her life but maybe, just maybe, she can figure it out as she goes along.
For the first time, she has no template to adhere to, no crisis to overcome, no fake name to hide behind, and no one to please but herself. She is just Hermione...and this fact scares her.
But when she turns to her side and encounters the hard planes of a man she never imagined would end up in her heart, let alone her bed, when she catches a whiff of that weird salty peppermint smell of his mouthwash...she thinks maybe it was worth it.
No, it definitely was worth it.
She feels like she has lived so many lives since that September night long ago. Despite her missteps and might-have-beens, she would not change a thing. Each life had a purpose and she is grateful.
Still, she may like this life best for three reasons.
He is there.
It is real.
It is finally hers.