Chapter 1 : Truth
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I felt my mother hold my hand so tightly that I felt my fingers cracking. I was nervous too, but something inside me told me that no matter the result, it wasn't going to be all right in the end. I'm not going to lie, I want to live, I am afraid of death, I am afraid to die. I'm not like those spunky heroes in books that look into the face of death, laugh and say 'Bring it on'. I'm the complete opposite. If I had to sacrifice a friend for my own life, I would give some real consideration to sacrifice the friend. I'm not cruel, evil or twisted. I'm just human.
"It's going to be alright, my little Hermione." my mother said quietly. Her lips were pursed with anxiety and her eyes were bloodshot from staying up the whole night. Although she was addressing me, it sounded more as if she was reassuring herself. If he comes in, and says what I don't want to hear, I'll kill him. He has to say that I'm all better.
The wooden door swung open. The doctor came in, his hair was a snowy white and his eyes a glassy blue. He reminded me slightly of a young Dumbledore. He closed the door behind him and sat in the wooden chair in front of us. He smiled weakly, as if he was pitying me with all of his heart. I may be a coward, but I don't want pity.
"How are you, Hermione?" I must've mumbled something like 'all right' because he smiled. "Good," he said happily. He reminded me of one of those happy-go-lucky psychiatrists on television; the kind that always smile their quirky smile and ask you 'How does that make you FEEL.'
"Hermione, Mrs. Granger." He said with a heavy voice. Something inside me dropped, I knew what he was going to say. I already knew it since they first told me I had it. "Hermione, it's gotten worse. It's beyond the point of cure." He covered his face with his hands, as if he was my long lost uncle who was mourning for me. My mother's face drained all of the color it had left. I felt her hand slowly unclasp mine.
"How long does she have?" she asked in a hoarse voice.
"I'd say," He glanced at me. "Eight months, at the most."
"Eight months?!" My mother exclaimed. She buried her face in her hands and cried.
The doctor turned to me, his blue eyes piercing into my soul. He nodded to me. "I suggest that she enjoy life. I suggest she do all of the things she's ever wanted to do. Maybe, take her to see the world." It occurred to me that muggles are extremely narrow-minded. I could've seen the world within a week, with the help of apparition. My mother kept mumbling things miserably.
"My little Hermione...my baby..."
I ignored her. What I really wanted to do was go to school. I wanted to act as if nothing was wrong with me. I wanted to finish top of my classes again. And even if I couldn't stay the whole year, it'd be all right. I wanted to go back to Hogwarts; I wanted to go back to the world, which I love so much.
Later, in the car, my mother drove slowly and cautiously. She kept looking over to me, and smiling. I don't know why I wasn't upset. I don't know why I didn't cry. It was as if, I knew it was going to happen, no matter what I did.
"What do you want to do, dear? Do you want to see Paris? Do you want to go to China?" she asked me.
"I want," I said, looking out the window, into the traffic. "I want to go back to Hogwarts."
"You want to back to school?" she asked as if it was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard of.
"Yes, mum." I said hopefully. "That's what I want. That's what I want to do until--" I gulped. "I want to finish top in my year."
"Hermione, dear..." she whispered. "You've already spent five years at that school. Don't you want to see the world?"
"Mum! This is what I really want!"
"Alright, if that's what you really want..."
The Hogwarts Express hooted loudly. I stood there, carrying my new school supplies. The thought that I would never ride this train again haunted my mind, but I pushed it away. I was determined to make the most of this year. Well, what I had of it, anyways.
"Hello, Hermione." Ron greeted cheerfully as I sat beside him. "Did you have fun reading the entire holiday?"
I remembered all of the painful tests and injections I had over the summer and bit my bottom lip. I would tell Harry and Ron, just not right now.
"It was wonderful." I said. "I read tons of books that I bought from Diagon Alley. Did you know Gilderoy Lockhart wrote another book? He's slightly recovered from his amnesia."
"Lucky he hasn't." Harry laughed. "Hermione, I only got one owl from you this summer. Where've you been?"
"Oh," I stammered. "I volunteered at a homeless shelter."
"Muggles..." I heard Ron mutter under his breath.
"Any luck with Cho?" I asked Harry, eager to change the subject.
"Blimey, your memory must be horrid!" Ron laughed. "Remember? Cho's going out with Ginny's old boyfriend." Ron slightly cringed on the word, boyfriend.
"She cried way too much, anyway. I could never stay with someone like that."
"We have N.E.W.T's this year..." I said distantly. It passed my mind that I might not be alive to take them.
"Don't remind me." Ron said.
"Snape's rejected me out of his." Harry laughed. "That's a big surprise."
"The train's slowing, we must be nearly there." Ron said, looking out the window eagerly.
"I can't wait." I smiled.
The first term passed rather quickly. Snow coated the ground now, and Ron Harry and I sat in the common room, enjoying some hot chocolate that Ginny had swiped for us. She had gotten to be more and more like her brothers.
"Hmm.." I said, looking distantly out the window at the falling flakes.
"Hermione," Harry asked. "What ever happened to Viktor?"
"Oh," I said vaguely. "He got married."
"Right under your nose?" Ron stood up and practically yelled.
"Yeah, I guess." To tell the truth, I was happy to have let him go. He was very unintelligent, and all he seemed to care about was Quidditch.
Ron ears seemed to plunge into red. His face followed, camouflaging his freckles. I would've laughed at him, if he weren’t so mad.
"I'll kill him! I swear I will!"
"Ron, calm down. He wasn't all that interesting..."
"I could've told you that." Ron said. "But still, the ruddy--"
"Hermione," Harry interrupted. "Weren't you madly in love with him?"
I shrugged. "Not really."
Ron let out a small sigh of relief. He was attempting wrap a Christmas present. He lay the box down on the paper and started to literally attack it with tape.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked.
"What does it look like?" He asked.
"It looks like you're attacking a box with tape and paper." I said, laughing slightly.
"Well, then you do it, if you're so clever!"
I kneeled beside him and neatly wrapped the present. As I tied the bow, I remembered all of the Christmas's before. I was usually out of Hogwarts, but when I was, it was so magical. The three of us would get in all sorts of trouble and get detention. Now that I look back, I wouldn't change anything I'd ever done at Hogwarts.
"I've been doing this since I was five." I commented airily.
"Wonderful!" Ron exclaimed. "Thanks, Hermione."
"Who's it for, Ron?" Harry asked.
"It's for Fred and George. I sent them the sweaters that mum made for them. She said she will never go near that Joke Store, much less write the address of it." He shrugged.
Professor Dumbledore entered through the portrait hole. Every eye in the room turned to him. He smiled kindly at all of them and gave a small wave to Harry. He was getting older, but he still acted as if he was never going to die.
"Miss Granger?" He sent a scroll flying across the room and into my lap. "Good day." Nodding, he left the common room.
I opened it slowly, as all the people turned away from me, unconcerned. Ron and Harry sat on the floor beside me.
"What's that?" Ron asked.
"I don't know." I said.
"Must be pretty important," commented Harry "if Dumbledore came and delivered it himself."
"Dear Miss Granger," I read softly. "I'm aware of your condition..."
"Condition, what condition?"
I quickly rolled up the scroll and stood up. I didn't want Harry and Ron to know about my condition, yet. Not yet...I was curious about what else the letter had said, but I wasn't willing to let them read it in front of them.
"It's nothing." I said.
"Hermione? Is there something wrong?" Harry asked.
"No, no I'm fine."
I bolted up to the Girl's dormitory. I'd like to see if they followed me now. I sat on Ginny's bed; mine was too filled with clutter to sit on. It always was.
'Dear Miss Granger, I am aware of your condition and I am very sorry. I only wish that it weren't so that you were inflicted with this horrible disease. As you know there is no cure for it in the Human or Wizarding world. I hope that you will be able to finish out this year before your departure. And if you shan't, then Hogwarts will honor your memory. I have alerted all of your teachers of this. You have my hope. Professor Albus Dumbledore.'
I closed the scroll again. The door opened and Ron walked slowly in, looking left and right, to see that there were no girls around except me. Harry followed close behind him. Harry closed the door behind him and they both sat beside me on Ginny's bed.
"Hermione, what does it say?"
"I'll tell you later." I said distantly.
"No, now!" Ron protested.
"You're so impatient, Ron." I said. I walked over to the window and took out Pig, Ginny's owl. I strapped the scroll to her legs and let her loose outside.
"Hermione--" Harry said.
The Yule Ball occurred and I sat at a table with Harry and Ron, looking out at the dance floor. Couples danced magically around, embraced and dancing within the notes of music. I tried to look at every face; I tried to memorize every feature of their face. I want to remember Hogwarts until my last.
"I don't see why you couldn't pick between us." Ron said. "We wouldn't have been offended."
"Oh yes you would've." I said hotly. "I know Harry wouldn't have."
"It sounds like you're calling me an impatient, jealous person."
"It's funny," I said angrily. "If that's what it sounds like, I think I sound quite truthful, don't you?" I shrugged. "Besides, I'd rather go with both of you then just pick one."
"Hermione's right." Harry said. "It would be awful to break up the Three Musketeers."
"Three Musketeers? Blimey, Harry, is that a muggle book?"
"Yes, it is, Ron." I answered him.
"The Terrible Trio, then."
"No, no, that's overused." I said, waving it off.
"The three friends?" Ron suggested stupidly.
"Can you get any stupider, Ron?" Harry laughed. "How about the Three Outcasts?"
"The idiots three!" Ron said heartily.
"The two boys and a girl." Harry said.
"Three Musketeers sounds professional compared to all of these." I laughed.
"Alright then, The Three Musketeers!" Harry raised his glass of buterbeer.
"The Three Musketeers!" Ron and I said, clinking glasses with Harry.
And as we sat there, laughing, I forgot all about the world. All I cared about was that moment, the moment in the present. I didn't care what happened a week ago, or what happened four months from now. All I cared about were The Three Musketeers...
I tried not to count down the days until I had to leave Hogwarts and reside in a hospital for the last of my days. I tried to write down the date without automatically calculating how many days I had left.
I sat in the girl's bathroom one day. I decided to skip class. I'd never done it before, and I figured this'd be my only change. Besides, I never really liked Potions anyways. Moaning Myrtle sat on top of the sinks, her legs crossed and she carried a distraught look on her face.
"What's it like to die?"
"To die?" Myrtle asked. "I dunno, I s'pose it all depends how you die."
"What if you had a disease that was killing you inside, but you didn't feel it and you knew you were going to die..."
"Well..." Myrtle said thoughtfully. "If I knew I was going to die and I was still alive, I'd spend all my time getting revenge on all those nasty boys that teased me."
"Seriously, Myrtle, if you only had a few months to live, what would you do?"
"I dunno. Why are you asking me?"
"Because your dead. I figured I'd talk to an expert."
"Well," Myrtle's pale blue skin turned a slight dark blue at the word expert. "I'd do everything I'd ever wanted to do."
"I've always wanted to have my first kiss..." she said sadly. "But I died..."
The bell rang feverently through the halls and the familiar clutter of footsteps and yelling filled the hallway outside of the bathroom.
"Oh, Hermione." she said.
"What?" I stopped and looked around.
"Why are you asking these questions?"
I entered the hallway just as Harry and Ron walked by the Girl's Bathroom. They smiled at me as I joined their group and we walked on, towards our next class. Ron was babbling on about Quidditch and Harry was looking thoughtfully at his Transfiguration Homework.
"What was the assignment, Hermione?"
"An essay on how to turn a toad into a mouse. Why?"
"Damn! I did how to turn a frog into gold!" Harry said miserably.
"I'm sure Professor'll give you credit for trying." Ron said.
"When has she ever done that, Ron?" Harry asked, feverently scribbling on his essay, changing all 'toads' to 'frogs' and all 'mouses' to 'gold'.
"Never, I suppose." I said.
"Ah, forget it!" Harry said, ripping his parchment in half. "Hermione, Ron and I are going to skip Transfiguration and hide out in the girl's bathroom. Will you cover for us?"
"I--" About to recite another rule from Hogwarts, a History, I stopped myself and smiled. "Sure."
"Thanks." Ron said. "Wish I would've done this during Herbology. Sprout wouldn't have had to have that horrible fit. Did you see her cheeks turn purple?"
I laughed as they both turned around against the crowd of opposing students. I walked onward, mixed with the crowd. It's kind of funny, in a hall full of students; I'd never felt so alone.
After Transfiguration, I made my way to the Girl's Bathroom. I was ahead of the crowd, since Professor had moved my seat to the back; near the door. I was practically bursting with excitement to tell them that they'd skipped class for nothing. Professor had assigned that essay for extra credit! They met my glowering glance with a concerned one. I smiled a little less.
"Guess what Harry? Professor only gave that assignment as--"
"Hermione, we need to talk."
"Alright." I said happily. "But you skipped class for nothing."
"I wouldn't say it was for nothing." Ron said, sounding a bit agitated. "We had a nice little chat with Myrtle."
My brain seemed to freeze in the process of thinking up a solution the problem given in Arithmancy. I almost stumbled on my own two feet as I attempted to show no sign of worry.
"Really? I never really found her that interesting to talk to...." I said, trying to sound as cool and collected as I possibly could.
"Hermione are you going to die?" Harry asked.
"Well, Harry." I started, trying to think of a decent excuse. "I suppose I am. Everyone's going to die, sooner or later."
"You know damn well what we're talking about." Ron said.
"W-well..." I stuttered. "Look, I'm not going to talk about it here." I said angrily.
"Alright then," Harry and Ron pulled me back into the Girl's Bathroom.
"Now tell us." Harry demanded.
I tried to smile. I tried to. I never wanted to tell them. I never ever wanted them to know. I wanted to have a normal life at Hogwarts. I wanted to be bossy and intelligent and only have to worry about books and spells that I already knew. I didn't want to die....
"Well..." I started.
"Hermione, you have to tell us." Harry said.
"Yeah, if you can't tell us, then who can you tell?" Ron asked.
"I have a disease...it's called HIV, or AIDS."
"I've heard of that." Ron said. "Dad says it wipes out muggles so fast you don't even get to know them before they die. But, how can you have it if you aren't a muggle?"
"I've had it since I was born..."
"But why now?" Harry demanded. "Why sixteen years later?"
"Sometimes it takes time for the virus to grow so much it becomes life threatening."
"Well, I'm sure there's a cure!"
"No, scientists haven't--"
"Scientists? Surely potion masters like Snape would--"
"No, Harry." I said, getting a little angry. "Potions have no control over muggle diseases."
"Says who?" Ron asked angrily.
"It just doesn't work that way. We have to keep our worlds seperate." I took a deep breath. "Anyways, I went to the doctor before school started. He told me--"
"That you were going to die?" Ron asked.
"I already knew I was going to die." The words sounded funny coming from my mouth. It was like I was planning my own death-day party. "He just told me when."
Harry and Ron were silent for a long time. They looked at the floor curiously, as if suddenly captivated by its stony surface.
"When did he say?" Harry finally asked.
"He said in eight months...at the most."
"WHAT? HERMIONE YOU'VE GOT YOUR WHOLE LIFE AHEAD OF YOU!" Ron yelled.
"I've never had any life ahead of me. All I've had were shots and pills every day...."
"But surely those pills and shots would have some effect..."
"No, they only slow it down. They only postpone the inevitable." I said angrily. Burning tears seemed to clench my eyes and impair their vision.
"Hermione, we never knew...." Ron said softly. He put his arms around me in an awkward hug.
"I don't want to die, Ron! I don't want to die! I want to get married, I want to have my first kiss, I want to be with Harry and you until I die, I want to have children, I want to graduate Hogwarts, I want to be old and have aches and pains! I don't want to die!"
I leaned into his embrace. My knees failed to sustain me and the next thing I knew I was on the floor. Harry put his hand on my lap and stroked my hair. I let the tears fall, I let the stupid diseased tears fall into my lap, onto my face, wherever they felt like falling.
"Hermione..." Harry said softly. "We promise, we’ll be there for you until..."
"Until forever." Ron finished. "We won't let you die, Hermione. We won't."
I knew his promise was an empty attempt to comfort me. I knew that neither he nor Harry could prevent me from dying. But somehow, that promise made me feel more secure, more safe. I felt as if there really was some hope that I might live through this.
After that, Harry and Ron went with me wherever I went. I had ordered them not to pamper me, but they did anyway, getting me things and carrying my books. I really hated it, partly because I didn't want to draw attention to myself and partly because it made me feel even more stupid and sickly then I already was.
I was overdue for my death date. It had been over a month since my expected passing and I was overjoyed. Ron and Harry were too. As the days passed, and as the dates increased, I gained hope. Hope that I might live. Hope that I might actually be able to get what I wanted.
Too bad, hope is just a myth.
"Everyone have their nectar? Good!" Professor Sprout exclaimed. "Now, do exactly as I do."
I had been feeling a little faint that day. The nectar vial felt extremely heavy in my hand. I thought it was because I didn't get enough sleep last night, but my head was spinning. Harry and Ron had stopped pampering me a little, but still kept glancing over me, as if expecting me to drop down dead while they weren't looking.
"Now, pour the nectar--Miss Granger? Are you alright?"
I had put my hand in the air; I don't seem to recall how I gathered enough strength to put it there.
"P-professor? I feel--I feel a bit--"
The whole world went black. I heard Harry and Ron calling my name, but their voices were lost in the abyss of the darkness. I heard nothing but echoes of memories...
"She's a nightmare! Honestly! It's a wonder she hasn't got any friends..."
"All right there, Hermione..."
"We won't let you die..."
I was awake, but my eyelids were so heavy. They heaved over my eyes like a ton of bricks. I thought to use my hands to open them but my hands seemed paralyzed with either pain or numbness. I smelled antiseptic in the room and--something else. It smelled curiously like chocolate. I forced my heavy eyelids open.
The first thing I saw was Ron. He was munching slowly on a Chocolate Frog, writhing angrily in his hand. His red hair was messed up and his eyes were bloodshot.
"R-ron? Where's Harry?"
"He went to take a piss." Ron said. He smiled widely. "He's been gone quite a while. Must've drank a bit to much, the poor devil..."
I laughed. My chest was paralyzed with pain as I chuckled. I closed my eyes again, but immediately opened them, afraid to be swept into the darkness again.
"Sorry, Hermione, shouldn't have made you laugh."
"Where's my mum?" I asked weakly.
"She's in some place called California. She said she's rushing to get home." Ron bit another piece of his chocolate frog. "On something called an airplane. How do they get shapes to fly, Hermione.”?
My chest burned with pain.
"Sorry, sorry." Ron said.
"Ron, I don't like being attached."
"Attached? Oh you mean these little tube things? Muggles are so crazy..." he said, laughing. "I'll take them off."
He went around, disconnecting me from all of the cables. He was smiling widely, but tears were running continuously down his eyes.
"There now, better isn't it?" he said. "Oh, hullo Harry. Close the door will you? Don't want that crazy doctor coming in here."
"You're awfully cheerful." Harry scowled. He wiped his eyes furiously with his sleeve.
"I feel like I'm a chocolate frog." I said softly. "All boxed up like this."
They both said nothing, just stared down at me sadly.
"You know how I'd like to die?" My own eyes starting to tear.
"I'd like to die," I interrupted him. "In the arms of my two best and only friends. Looking into the stars. I want my last memory to be of that."
Harry didn't bother to wipe the tears from his sparkling green eyes.
"Y-your wish," he said, his voice trembling. "Is our command."
Ron jerked the blinds open on the window in front of my bed. The sky was beautiful, filled with blazing beautiful stars. They carried so much hope, they would live on for millions more years, always reminding.
Harry and Ron climbed into the bed with me and helped me sit up on my headboard. The both held my hand and for a few minutes we said nothing. I leaned back against both of them. They were both tall, much taller then me. Nevertheless, I felt as their equal, as their friend.
"That's better, isn't it?" Ron asked, smiling.
I felt so tired. The darkness was creeping over my body, threatening to take over my mind. I fought to keep my eyes open. I fought to stay with Ron and Harry in this hospital bed.
"Don't fight anymore, Hermione." Harry said.
"Just, relax," Ron's eyes were full of bright tears. He pulled out his wands and destroyed the lights. "We'll never let you die Hermione."
"Don't be stupid Ron, I'm dying." I whispered.
It was so beautiful, the full moon shown down the three of us. The dark room held so many memories and so many emotions.
"What he means, Hermione." Harry said. "Is that your memory will never die. We won't ever let it."
"That's good." I sighed. "I think I'll take a little nap..."
"Good night, Hermione." they both said.
Ron held my hand on his lips and I felt his hot tears run onto my weak hand. Harry kissed the top of my head and lay back.
I sighed quietly. This is exactly where I wanted to be. This is exactly were I belonged. I was Hermione Granger, of the Three Musketeers.
I closed my eyes and let the darkness fill my eyes and my mind. I let it invade. But this time, it wasn't ominous; it was welcoming, as if it had been waiting for me my whole life.