Learning to brew a proper amortentia had turned out to be more than a simple potions lesson. The scents of freshly mown grass, parchment, and peppermint lingered with Hermione far longer than the duration of that school year. Hindsight was a powerful thing. She had first thought that surely Ronald was the object of her affections. In many ways, at that time, it seemed like he was her match. However, storming out during the desperate hunt for Horcruxes was a breach of trust that she could never quite forgive.
Then there was the torture she endured at Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix Lestrange had delighted in picking apart her mind and introducing her to pain on a level that she didn’t even know existed. After that experience, Ron didn’t smell like the potion anymore. Fortunately, their friendship endured those stormy seas, and they managed to defeat Voldemort in the end.
It was in the aftermath of that final battle that Hermione met the witch who smelled so like amortentia that in her exhaustion that it nearly knocked her on her ass. While the dust was still settling, family members who had not fought came to collect their dead. Hermione had heard stories of Andromeda. The other members of the Order had commented on how like Bellatrix she looked.
But when Andie walked through the rubble with a squirming Teddy in her arms, Hermione didn’t see the face of her torturer. Certainly, there was a family resemblance. The high cheekbones and riotous curly hair, not to mention the graceful bearing, were undoubtedly inherited from the Black family. But the kind brown eyes already filled with tears were nothing like Bellatrix’s.
Hermione didn’t think about what she was doing when she intercepted the witch so that she didn’t have to sort through the bodies for Tonks and Remus. She held Andie and Teddy in those first devastating moments of grief. When the witch buried her face in Hermione’s shoulder as she cried, Hermione took a deep breath and was overwhelmed by the scent. For that split second, she was back in Slughorn’s classroom bending over a cauldron. Though it wasn’t the appropriate time for romance, Hermione couldn’t tear herself away from the witch.
It was easy enough for everyone to accept that Hermione would stay with Andromeda. Hermione’s parents were still lost even to her. Andie had lost her husband, daughter, and son-in-law within a short period of time. While she didn’t mind raising Teddy alone, Hermione offering to live with them and help was a godsend. Hermione plunged into family life with Teddy and Andromeda with the same enthusiasm with which she approached learning.
It wasn’t until the end of the second month that Andie finally awkwardly approached Hermione after they had gotten Teddy to bed. She confessed that she could feel the force of the curse Bellatrix placed on Hermione’s arm from the moment they met. She didn’t bring it up in those first few weeks due to the weight of grief and late nights researching how to break the curse. Hermione cried in her arms for the first time at the omission, at the understanding and the hope of what Andie had done.
And for six months at night when Teddy was asleep, they worked through thread after thread of the curse unraveling it. It was painful and exhausting work that, after a month, led them to share a bed. They held each other each night, taking comfort in the simple act of human contact. At least it was simple until it wasn’t. When hands and lips strayed from safe areas when sighs and stuttered breath were pulled out of the darkness.
Their path wasn’t, perhaps, the most prudent. But together, they found life again in tangled sheets, the laughter of a little boy, and putting one foot in front of the other. There was love between them that existed without words or expansive promises.
On the first anniversary of her capture and imprisonment at Malfoy Manor, Hermione took the day for herself and journeyed into muggle London. She drafted Ginny and Harry into accompanying her to the tattoo parlor. She wouldn’t have minded going alone, but they wanted to spend the day with her, and she found their company soothing. They didn’t ask about the stars she chose or their placement on her forearm. They were wise enough to remember well what had once been on the now smooth and healthy skin. Ginny kept her attention with stories of her quidditch friends while Harry held her other hand. It wasn’t until they were having lunch in Diagon Alley later that either brought up the day's significance.
“I’m glad you invited us to come with you,” Harry said through a bite of sandwich. “It's been weird not seeing one another every day. But I think we have all been taking the time to recover. I know you have in particular.”
Hermione nodded thoughtfully.
“When it was all over, I think we each needed different things. We all finally had that chance to do something for ourselves. You will always be my best mate. Nothing can ever change that for either of you.”
Hermione knew from the look on Ginny’s face that she had sealed her own fate with that comment. She knew that she had suspected that something was going on between her and Andie but that they had been hesitant to ask.
“Since we are your best mates , why don’t you enlighten us as to what has been going on between you and Andromeda Tonks? I have seen the way you two look at one another. Most of our family and friends may be oblivious, but I assure you that I am not.”
Hermione sat back and looked between them. She smiled because she couldn’t help it when she thought of the witch waiting for her at home.
“I love her,” she answered simply.
The look that passed between Ginny and Harry was victorious.
“I’m so glad you found someone who cares for you. You deserve that,” Harry said earnestly.
Hermione let the compliment settle and dust her cheeks with blush.
“What do you think she will say about your new ink,” Ginny asked, leaning forward. “Does she like tattoos?”
“Miraculously, she supports me in all things. Even if she doesn’t love it, she does love me. And at the end of the day, very little else matters.”
“I imagine this is one of those occasions you enjoy being a witch.” Harry grinned. “A new tattoo is fairly easy to heal. You don’t have to wait weeks.”
Hermione narrowed her eyes.
“Seems like you know more about this than you should, chosen one.”
“Oh, he has a really cute snitch on his…”
Ginny was cut off by Harry pulling his wand out dramatically.
“Nevermind. I promise this won’t hurt you or a tattoo.”
Hermione nodded. They had been through too much for her not to trust his magic. Her arm tingled, and the pain receded. She carefully lifted the dressing away. While the skin was still tender, it was significantly healed.
She absently ran her fingertips over the ink. She loved it.
Hermione had carefully only had one drink before she went home. She needed a little liquid courage but didn’t want to be drunk by any stretch of the imagination. Stepping out of the fireplace was the same beautiful experience every time she returned to the small house.
It smelled like home. The old books that lined the family room reminded her of the library at Hogwarts. The smell of peppermint tea was wafting from the kitchen, where she would no doubt find Andie reading the Daily Prophet and enjoying her mug.
Hermione leaned against the door jamb for a moment, just taking in the sight of her. No prophecy could have predicted the love Hermione knew in Andie. She smiled when the witch felt her presence, face alight with the joy of seeing her after only a few hours apart.
“Welcome home, love.”
Andie motioned for her to join her at the table. Hermione sat down, watching happily as her worth magically served her a cup of tea.
“I'm glad to be home.”
“And I am always glad when you are. Did you not enjoy your time with Harry and Ginny?”
Andromeda tilted her head, obviously doubting her question.
“It was wonderful, truly it was. But it’s always so nice to come home.”
Hermione left off the to you that was caught at the back of her throat. Andromeda smirked that perfect Slytherin smirk that Hermione found impossibly attractive. She grasped the closest hand and squeezed it affectionately. Hermione did her very best to bury her reaction, but a muffled intake of air escaped. Before she could get a word out, Andie had turned her arm flat on the table and was pulling up the sleeve of her shirt gingerly. Hermione wanted to reassure her that no nightmares had returned on her skin, but she was stopped by the tears shimmering in her eyes.
Andromeda ran just the pads of her fingers lightly over the skin. The touch contained both the reverence of a lover and the skill of a mediwitch.
“Whoever performed this healing spell did an exceptional job,” she said quietly after a long moment.
“Harry will be thrilled you approve. It took a long time for him to get good at healing.”
Andie’s lip curled up, but she wasn’t focused on Harry at the moment.
“Hermione,” she finally whispered.
And Hermione could hear every emotion that existed between them in that tone of voice.
“Tell me why?”
There was a desperate but not unkind lilt to Andie’s voice. Hermione knew a watershed moment when she saw one. She cupped the beautiful angular face with her free hand.
“You freed me from the pain and the curse—something no one else could have done. Putting your constellation on my skin gives me something to hold on to when panic threatens to overtake me. Because I’m your’s.”
Hermione had a lovely speech prepared, but the lips capturing her own in a fiery kiss were more pressing. When Andromeda leaned back, her eyes were filled with more unmasked emotion than Hermione had ever seen before.
“I love you, Hermione Granger. This is a love I wasn’t looking for, but one that I am not willing to give up. I am sorry it took me so long to say it,” Andromeda whispered. She lifted the newly inked skin to her lips and pressed the softest kisses over the stars that she knew so well in the night sky.
“I love you,” Hermione sighed at the contact. It was so sensitive, but she still trembled at the touch.
“You should come upstairs with me, love. I am enamored that you will wear me so proudly on your skin, but there are a few other places I would enjoy marking myself.”