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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 48: Year 5: Mother
She hadn’t talked in days; they said she had become too weak, and what little strength was left in her, she needed just to breathe – to live. But all around Mrs Granger, who lay quiet and pale and thin between the white sheets in her hospital bed, people were talking. Nurses, mumbling about better places, doctors with grave voices giving instructions on pain relief dosages and oxygen supply, and the hospital priest, offering words of comfort even when none would help.
Over the past couple of weeks, Hermione had spent every waked moment with her mother, though she had gone home to shower and sleep every night. On a Tuesday in the middle of March, one doctor carefully suggested that she’d stay the night alongside her father, just in case. Her mother was not conscious all day.
Hermione and her dad were almost as quiet as Mrs Granger, drifting in and out of sleep next to her bed, taking walks down the corridor or staring out the window, watching as nature came to life again after winter, while a life inside the room was fading with devastating speed. At noon, Mr Granger always stood up and walked to the cafeteria, bringing back sandwhiches that Hermione only ate because his eyes were so pleading when he passed them to her – each bite made her want to vomit, but she forced them down, only to go back to staring at the enormous parking lot across the roads, where patients and their loved ones were arriving and departing in a constant flow.
Hermione’s favourite nurse, Ella, sat down with them that Tuesday night, explaining that with the strong morphin, Mrs Granger was most likely not suffering. Hermione liked Ella, with her soft, round face and eyes that weren’t so completely drenched in sympathy and pity, so that Hermione could actually look into them without wanting to vomit again. But as much as she liked the nurse, she wanted to cover her ears as the conversation steered into the subject of escaping the pain and finding peace.
Truth was, people could carefully choose the nicest words and twist their sentences around all they wanted, until it seemed okay – almost beautiful. But in the end, it wasn’t like in the movies, when someone dies gracefully with their hands clasped together upon their chest, the morning sun lighting up a still, pale face as tears rolled quietly down the specators’ cheeks.
It wasn’t a movie, and it wasn’t beautiful.
Mrs Granger struggled to breathe for a long time; the horrible sound coming from somewhere deep within her chest was going to haunt her daughter’s nights for years to come. Her whole body shook, as though it was trying with all its might to cling to life, and when it finally became still, it wasn’t relieving, and no one cried silently in acceptance. Instead, Hermione’s tears streamed violently down her face and Mr Granger was screaming:
“No, not yet – not yet, love – just hold on…” It wasn’t until much later that Hermione’s loud cries had turned into quiet sobs, her face pressed into Ron’s chest and her hands refusing to let go of her mother’s skeletal one, and her father’s screams were only quiet pleads: “Please, no… please, just breathe…”
It was as though the sun went down, and the darkness that followed had neither peace nor beauty.
You don’t think you’ll survive in the world without your mother, and yet, somehow, the world doesn’t end when you lose her. The sun still rose the morning after Mrs Granger’s passing, and when Hermione and Mr Granger returned to the house out in the suburbs, it was still standing, pittoresque and charming as ever, dressed up for spring with little white flowers spread out all over the lawn. Hermione had never known how people continued to breathe when their loved ones didn’t, and she couldn’t explain it then either – she just did it, completely clueless as to how it was possible.
Several days became a haze, with relatives filling up the emptiness in the Granger household, neighbours bringing over cassroles and cold dishes when no words would do, and all the Weasleys coming and going, offering warm embraces and a sense of recognition as they went back five years in time in their minds to when Fred had just died.
There were moments when Hermione suddenly could not move, because her mother had been an embrace, always open if she’d need to fall back into it, and now it was gone, vanished from the physical world; like when she stirred her cup of tea one morning and realized she’d never have breakfast across from her mother again, and sank down to the floor in tears, only to be found by Ron, who held her until she stopped shaking. Or the time George told Bill about something funny a customer had done the other day, and Hermione caught herself smiling, only to inwardly berate herself for allowing herself to forget, if only for four or five seconds, what had happened.
On the second weekend after, the funeral was held – the same weekend that Ginny was meant to be training with the national team. She wrote a whole letter to Avery Hawksworth, explaining that she couldn’t make it, but as soon as she found it, Hermione threw it on the fire and begged Ginny not to miss out on anything for her, Hermione’s, sake.
With Ginny at the National Arena and Charlie in Romania, there were still enough Weasleys in the Muggle church to take up two whole rows of seats. Hermione and her father stood at the entrance, both dressed in black, greeting the funeral guests with identical, solemn smiles and accepting their condolences by bowing their heads, finding themselves at loss of words. Every now and then, Mr Granger would place his hand on his daughter’s back – it was such a small gesture, but Hermione knew he was looking for some sort of strength in the touch, and she was quite sure they both needed it.
Hermione’s aunts and uncles were there, her cousins to whom she had once been close, but who had somehow lingered behind in that whole other life pre-Hogwarts, and who had grown up and changed so much they might as well been strangers – although, they hugged her too tightly to be anything but family on their way into the church, the eldest with her arm around her mother, who was already crying.
Audrey had helped pick out black suits and ties for all the Weasleys, and they sat in silence when Hermione and Mr Granger could finally enter the church as well; Mr Weasley didn’t say a word about the microphone on the priest’s collar or the electric lights shaped as candles that hung on the white walls, illuminating the magnificent paintings and crucifixes that decorated the church walls.
Hermione watched the ceremony through a coat of tears – the priest who spoke with his eyes fixed on the ceiling, or perhaps looking beyond it, towards the sky; the lady who cried on her way back to her seat after singing Amazing Grace, and then her father, her uncles, and Ron, walking up to the coffin to carry it outside, where it would be buried under the light of the April sun.
They would put her in the ground; the arms that had once held Hermione, the chest she had rested on as a baby. The legs that had chased after her when she had been a toddler, and the eyes that, filled with pride and a hint of melancholy, had watched her grow up. Life was gone from those arms, that chest, those legs and those eyes, but what was very much alive still, was Hermione’s love for her mother – the one thing that would continue to exist even when death had taken all the rest.
Feeling lightly queasy, Ginny stood up at the spot that her Portkey had taken her to, wondering if her nausea was a result of the stomach-churning mean of transportation, or of the knowledge that back in London, Mrs Granger's funeral had just started. Before she could give it much thought, however, a firm hand had grabbed hers, and was shaking it enthusiastically.
“Mrs Potter,” said the person to whom the other hand was attached. “Right on time.”
Ginny smiled at the proper-looking witch in deep purple robes and matching lipstick, and turned her head to look around. She was in by far the fanciest hotel she had ever set foot in – giant, evovlving doors made of what looked very much like actual gold led out to a quiet street, and through the floor-to-ceiling windows behind the marble reception, the stunning view of a still lake surrounded by mountains made Ginny feel as though she was looking at a postcard. Feeling completely out of place as she proceeded to look down at her worn-out trainers, which appeared so dirty in contrast to the shiny, polished floor, she smiled unsurely back at the witch in purple robes, and brushed a strand of messy, red hair from her face.
“Let me take you to your room,” said the witch. “Don’t worry about that,” she added when Ginny bent down to pick up her trunk, “a house elf will bring it up shortly.”
She reached out her arm towards Ginny and, uncertain of what to do with it, Ginny hesistantly grabbed it, and the two started walking towards the wide, marble staircase.
“I’m Ginny,” she said, only wanting to break the rather uncomfortable silence.
“Trust me, I know,” answered the witch, raising a perfectly shaped, dark brown eyebrow. “You’re rather famous, you know – surely you don’t have to introduce yourself to most people nowadays?”
“My mum would probably tell me off I didn’t,” Ginny grinned. “I reckon she’d think it was quite unpolite.”
“Well, I know your name,” the witch said. “You were one of the youngest to fight in the Battle of Hogwarts. You’re a Weasley – and the only girl, so I wouldn’t get your name mixed up like I do with your hundreds of brothers–“ she paused to wink at Ginny “–you’re a fantastic Quidditch player, and you’re married to Harry Potter.”
“I’d rather not be famous for who I married, though,” Ginny sighed, and the witch stopped in front of a large, white door and smiled at her.
“Play well this weekend, Mrs Potter, and people will be asking him if he’s really Ginny Potter’s husband. Now, here’s your room, and your key…” She held out a little, silver key and Ginny grabbed it out of her palm. “Enjoy your stay. I’m sure you’ll do great.”
Then, scurrying off, she left Ginny to unlock the door, and reveal a suite big enough for her entire family (and being a Weasley, that was saying something). To her surprise, she found that her trunk was already at the foot of the large bed, and a tray of steaming tea and biscuits stood waiting at the coffee table. Shaking her head in disbelief, she walked over to the velvet couch, and sank into what felt like the softest piece of furniture ever made.
She had little time to relax, however, before there was a knock on the door, and she opened to find a small, thin man in similar purple robes as the receptionist smiling up at her.
“Mrs Potter,” he said. “The team is gathering at the pitch. Just get changed and take the lift to the tenth floor.”
Then, with a bow, he turned and left. Ginny, suddenly even more nauseous than before, turned her trunk upside down in her search for her training robes, and pulled them on wondering if she’d be able to make it all the way to the elevator without vomiting.
Somehow, she managed, and a few minutes later found her walking through a wide aisle of red and white, feeling the eyes of the countless English players on the portraits on the walls watching her every step. Where the aisle ended, she could see a line of green grass, surrounded by the golden walls of the National Arena.
The pitch was gigantic, bigger than it had seemed from up the bleachers when Ginny had watched the World Cup final eight years ago. It seemed each blade of grass had been cut by hand, as each was perfectly symmetric to its neighbour, and the hoops way above them were shining gold.
“How are you feeling, Potter?”
Avery Hawksworth was gliding up next to Ginny; he had already mounted his broom, and was soaring about two feet above the ground, smiling as Ginny, slightly startled, turned around to look at him.
“All right,” she said, trying to sound cheerful, and his smile grew wider.
“You will be,” he assured her. “All right, I mean.”
As the two joined the group of players in the middle of the pitch, Ginny felt a strong urge to pinch her arm and make sure she wasn’t dreaming. There she was, surrounded by her Quidditch heros – and then, only ten minutes later, in the air with them, playing with them! Their swift movements and unbelievable speed almost gave her a headache, but when she remembered she should try and keep up, she somehow fell into their pace, snatching the Quaffle out of the hands of Hawksworth himself, who laughed and let out a whistle as she soared off, passing it onto Edric Vosper, who scored and almost immediately got hit by Dawn Withey’s Bludger.
Ginny went to bed that night so sore that she wondered how she was ever going to get up the next day; but it didn’t worry her too much. As she curled up under the unbelievably soft duvet, she pinched herself for real, and simultanousely smiled and grimaced in pain. It was everything she could have dreamed, from that goal she finally managed to score (albeit the Keeper was slightly distracted by the fact that the Golden Snitch was soaring right by her left ear, and both Seekers were colliding straight into her the moment that Ginny threw the Quaffle) to having dinner in the restaurant afterwards, hearing all about Indira Chourdy and her outgoing contract with her Canadian team, the Stonewall Stormers, or Edric Vosper’s tales of the Nordic Keeper Martin Helstrom, whom he swore tried to curse him just before their match in the 1994 World Cup.
“You know they call him Tiny?” he said to the younger players, who were there for the weekend training. “He’s so small, I had to ask if he could even cover one hoop if he reached his arms out, and he got out his wand… I’m just lucky the entire Kenyan team walked by in that moment and would have witnessed it; otherwise I’m sure he would have done it. I s’ppose his height is a sensitive subject…”
Finding herself unable to sleep, Ginny sat up in her bed, grimacing at the strain it put on her wornout muscles. Then, she flicked the lights on, grabbed a piece of parchment and a quill and started writing.
I wish I could have been there today – I’m a lousy friend for putting myself first, aren’t I? Well, you’re an amazing friend for making me. This is all like a dream. Please write at any time if you need me.
Then, tearing off another little piece of parchment, she quickly scribbled down a second message.
It’s hard to fall asleep without you next to me, as tired as I am tonight. Please check on Hermione again in the morning and let her know I love her. Hope the funeral went all right. I miss you and I love you.
She sent the messages with one of the hotel owls down in the lobby and headed back to bed. Before the bird had reached its full height under the starlit sky, Ginny was fast asleep between the heavenly soft sheets.
A/N: I've been dreading this almost as much as Hermione. Let me know what you thought - and sorry about the delay, but I'm one month away from moving back home across the world, and it's crazy chaotic and I'm trying to just enjoy the last bit of my time here. I'm also a bit of an emotional wreck and don't want to leave...
But thanks, again, for being such amazing readers. I really do appreciate it more than I can explain!