These precious things
Let them bleed
Let them wash away
These precious things
let them break
Their hold over me
Precious Things — Tori Amos
It was unlucky to be born with brown eyes. The commonness of it, the frequency for which it appeared, made it one of those things parents told their children not to worry about. Surely it wouldn't affect them as much as people assumed. They'd still be able to find their soul mate, should they have one.
It was when the child's limbal rings – the rings around their irises that separated the color from the whites – was black that parents had a much harder time pretending nothing was wrong. Children born with black limbal rings either had soul mates with incredibly dark eyes or, more often than not, had no soul mate at all. Instances of both scenarios were not unheard of, but certainly not common enough to prevent rumors and legends. It was, however, much more likely for one to be without a mate than it was for someone to have eyes quite so dark in color, immediately marking the rare occurrences as bad omens.
Hermione had never really paid her eyes, deep brown with their ominous rings of black, very much attention. She preferred her studies to the company of boys and boys preferred...many things to her.
She'd taught herself not to care.
Through the years, she became better at ignoring the pitying stares that people gave her after they got a good look at her eyes. She grit her teeth when difficult career paths were encouraged under the silently blaring insinuation that such time consuming work would be perfect for a single, intelligent young woman.
Viktor Krum had been the only time she'd hoped for a mate to call her own. His eyes were the right shade, only his limbal rings were just a bit too light, closer to a honey brown than Hermione's mashup of dark brown, deep maroon, and whiskey. Realizing that there was no pull of a bond for either of them had been devastating and Hermione had redoubled her efforts to focus solely on her studies afterwards. She didn't have a mate and it didn't matter. She didn't need one.
In fifth year, Harry discovered that his green eyes with their bands of grey were reversed in Draco Malfoy. Naturally, the revelation led to the Malfoy's defecting from Voldemort's ranks almost immediately, putting them under the protection of the Order and resulting in an amusingly awkward six-month adjustment period for the boys. Ronald had begrudgingly come around to Draco joining their group, since he understood that Harry had no control over who his soul mate was, and it helped that Draco's attitude changed considerably in light of the situation.
It went unspoken in seventh year when Draco and Hermione were appointed as Head Boy and Head Girl, that Harry would practically live in the dorm with them. Hermione had smirked when she noticed some of Harry's knickknacks had found new homes around the common room by the end of the first week of term. She was happy for them. She was happy that Harry had something positive and stable in his life that he could count on no matter what happened with the impending war.
She was fine. Her best friend was happy, she was pleased with her academic progress, and had long since accepted her mate-less state. She was as content as one could be with a dark wizard and a war on the horizon.
At least, she was content until she turned eighteen.
Despite the phenomenon being well known, there was a mysterious effect on bonds when mates met prior to one or both parties' magical maturity. Once that maturity was reached at seventeen, the potential to cause significant strain and damage to the bond became a dangerous risk. As most witches and wizards could sense and recognize their mates on sight — or in Harry and Draco's case, after puberty settled — damaging the bond was impossible to do consciously. However, there were cases where one or both mates didn't recognize one another, leading to joint suffering from Mate Deprivation Disorder — MDD — until the straining actions ceased or came to some sort of resolution.
There was a grace period of sorts where, for one year's time after reaching magical maturity, the recently matured witch or wizard would not develop MDD symptoms despite any straining or damaging behaviors. During this time, that strain would build, surfacing only at the end of that year with a fierce intensity. As far as most medical professionals had been able to determine, the aggressive nature of the grace period ending was meant to force a sense of urgency upon both mates in an effort to bring them together. Very rarely did young witches and wizards reach this suffering point, but those who did tended to find and reconcile with their mates with understandable haste.
There weren't enough cases of mates failing to mend their bond for conclusive medical research to be conducted, but mates who were forced apart for extended periods of time would develop MDD. If left separated or in any state that strained and damaged their bond for extended periods of time, all historical examples of such tragedies pointed to certain death for the mated pair.
Aside from being irritated, Hermione didn't think much of the splitting headache that greeted her the morning of her birthday. She glared at Harry when he kept peppering her with softly spoken questions of concern as she, Harry, and Draco made their way towards breakfast. Unfortunately, the longer they walked, the worse she felt, and she didn't feel like to go to the hospital wing. She'd just grab a pain potion from her trunk before they went to classes if eating didn't help.
Hermione hadn't been expecting the pain to increase exponentially when they entered the Great Hall. She stopped in the threshold, her body going rigid with shock in response to the sudden spike in pain, and wondered why Harry's lips were moving when he wasn't making any sound. All she could hear was a horrible ringing as she squinted against the too-bright light of the room. Hands held her shoulders as she shut her eyes and tried to focus on breathing…
Darkness beckoned and Hermione answered its call without hesitation.
A/N: My planned posting schedule for this is Tuesday & Thursday afternoons. Although, I may be overwhelmed with an aura of generosity on Sundays from time to time...