Chapter 5 : A Birthday Present
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Harry was frozen to the entryway floor. The sight of Hermione’s limp body cradled in Professor Dumbledore’s arms had drained all feeling from his mind. The ice that had lodged itself in his stomach the night before had spread throughout his entire body, paralyzing his limbs.
He had been playing chess with Ron in the dining room when Lupin’s shout of surprise alerted everyone of Professor Dumbledore’s return. Harry bolted from the table, only to stop dead in his tracks at the scene in the entrance hall.
Not only was Hermione deathly pale, but there was another woman hovering just behind Dumbledore; her eyes wide in surprise.
“Hermione,” Ron whispered next to Harry. Remus helped lay Hermione on the floor, and Dumbledore waved his wand in intricate patters over Hermione’s body.
“Albus…” McGonagall whispered in shock. “What happ-”
“I will explain later Minerva,” he interrupted. “Right now Miss Granger needs to get to a bed and-”
“My God, Dumbledore!” Mr. Weasley breathed, his had feeling for the unknown woman’s pulse, “she’s…”
He saw Dumbledore close his eyes and nod slowly. “I will explain soon enough, Arthur. At the moment Miss Granger needs to be taken to bed. Our ride through the country was not nearly as easy as I had hoped.”
“Where should I put Aria?” Professor McGonagall asked feebly, her eyes still focused on the dead woman.
“In a back room. We will return her to France when I know that it is safe to take her.” Turning to Mrs. Weasley, Dumbledore said, “Molly, please bring a large bowl of cold water to the largest bedroom on the second floor. Arthur, please contact Severus. Tell him to bring as many of his healing potions as he can. Remus, floo Poppy and tell her the same.”
Healing potions? But…a sudden horrible thought came to Harry. “But Professor, I thought-”
“The escape from France has taken a larger toll on Miss Granger that I anticipated, Harry,” Dumbledore interrupted. Turning back to the others around him, he said, “Please, Molly, Arthur quickly.” Harry felt Remus squeeze his shoulder before heading for the lounge. Ginny and Ron were still, like him, rooted to the spot. Harry had expected Dumbledore to be helping Hermione through the door. Instead, she was worse off than she had been before they left France.
Harry watched as Professor McGonagall magicked the other woman—Aria, Harry reminded himself—onto a stretcher and very solemnly take her to a back room down the hall. Her wand, normally steady in all situations, was trembling ever so slightly.
As she left his view, Harry returned his attention to his best friend lying on the cold hard floor looking near dead. He couldn’t help but feel not only sick, but angry as well. Angry that he couldn’t do anything for her again. Angry that after his own assurances that she would be fine, Dumbledore had allowed Hermione to get worse.
“P-Professor?” Ginny’s voice snapped Harry out of his thoughts. He hadn’t even noticed that he had clenched his fists.
Dumbledore didn’t answer at first. Despite his anger, Harry couldn’t help but be surprised when Dumbledore gathered Hermione up in his arms and started towards the stairs. He turned his crystal blue eyes onto Ginny. “Yes, Miss Weasley?”
“I-I was wondering if th-there was anything th-that we could do to help?” Again, he didn’t answer right away. This just made Harry angrier. There had to be something that they could do. He was not just going to sit her and wait while Hermione could be dying.
“When she wakes up,” he began. Dumbledore turned his gaze to Harry. “For she will wake up. She will need you three to be by her side. She has been through a terrible ordeal, and she will need her friends to be with her.” Ginny nodded. Silent tears streaming down her face. All three of them watched as Dumbledore gingerly carried their friend up the stairs.
No sooner had they heard the door close upstairs, when Mrs. Weasley brushed past them with a very large bowl of water hovering in front of her. She too, soon disappeared from view. Harry noticed that her eyes were red and puffy. She had been crying.
Ginny was now audibly whimpering. Tearing his gaze from the stairs, Harry found himself pulling Ginny into his arms. Resting his cheek on her head, all he could think to do was just hold her. There wasn’t anything to say. Harry feared that if he did say anything that he would end up just like Ginny, who was now openly sobbing. He could feel her tears seeping through his T-shirt. Ron was standing close by, white as a ghost, rubbing her back. Leaning in close to him, Ron managed to whisper back, “Let’s get her to the dining room so she can sit down.” Harry nodded and after some coaching, they got Ginny to the dining room. But she wouldn’t let go of Harry.
Sitting at the table, with Ginny still sobbing on his shoulder, Harry ventured a better look at his other best friend. Ron was staring at the top of the table, his eyes brimming with tears that he wasn’t letting out. There weren’t any tears in Harry’s eyes. He was beyond crying. He only felt numb and cold. The icy feeling that had plagued his blood since first hearing of Hermione was now twice as cold. It was drowning out all his senses. For a long minute, it was as if someone had turned off the sound. Harry let his eyes unfocus and, still with no sound, a sharp burst a pain swept through is scar.
Voldemort was angry.
He noted the pain, and tried to focus on something else. Harry didn’t care if Voldemort was angry. He was angry right now. His best friend was in mortal danger.
Besides, Voldemort was always angry.
Harry refocused his eyes. Ron was talking to him, but he still couldn’t hear anything. Then, slowly, as if Ron was so far away his voice was only just beginning to reach him; he heard the last part of what Ron was saying.
“I said, how long will it take do you think?” Ron repeated.
“Oh.” Did he really want to think about it? “I hope not too long.” Ron nodded and affixed his gaze on the table. Ginny removed her face from Harry’s chest to wipe her tears away.
“At least there are more people here to help Dumbledore get her well again,” she said.
“Yeah, well, I don’t think he is being fair,” Harry said, his anger starting to bubble again. Ginny just stared at him.
“No kidding,” Ron said. “There has got to be something else for us to do than just sit here and wait.” Color was starting to come back to Ron’s face.
“And what exactly would you do?” Ginner asked her face still wet with tears.
“I don’t know! Anything but sit here and wait!” Ron shouted.
“There isn’t anything we can do, Ron!” Ginny yelled back. Harry frowned. Since when was she the expert on what they could or could not do?
“What makes you so sure?” he asked her coldly.
“What could we possibly do? Dumbledore is right. The best thing we can do for her is be there for her when she wakes up.”
“You mean if she wakes up,” Harry said scowling. There was nothing to make him think that Hermione waking up completely fine was very assured.
“No Harry! I mean when she wakes up. You heard Dumbledore…”
“Yeah, well he also told us that she was going to be fine, and look what he did! She is worse off now than before they left France!” Ron yelled.
“We could at least go get people, or be able to stay in the room while they worked so that we could get more potions or something!” Ginny opened her mouth to retort, but shut her mouth. Harry took the opportunity to add: “I WILL NOT SIT HERE AND DO NOTHING WHILE HERMIONE LIES UPSTAIRS DYING!”
“NEITHER WILL I!” Ron chorused.
“RONALD WEASLEY!!” Harry and Ron turned around to see a very angry Mrs. Weasley and a thin lipped Professor McGonagall. “How dare you say such things about Professor Dumbledore!” Ron looked stricken. Harry felt the same way. He never liked being the object of Mrs. Weasley’s fury. You couldn’t possibly be human if you did. “All he has done for Hermione is save her life! I am sure that if there is anything that you three can do he will tell you!”
Save her life? Save her life! Hermione might be dying right now! “So why is he up there calling for all these…these healing potions? Why is he acting as though she is dying? Why is she so much worse off now than before they left France?!” Harry shouted back. It wasn’t Mrs. Weasley who answered.
“Miss Granger is not dying, Mr. Potter!” Professor McGonagall nearly shouted at him. Harry was so shocked to see her lose her temper that he didn’t even get a chance to reply. “Professor Dumbledore is trying to make sure that that does not become the case! He has done nothing but try to keep her safe. I am amazed at you! Just this morning you were telling me that if there was any person who could rescue Miss Granger it was Dumbledore and now you stand here and accuse him of making her worse! How DARE you! If anyone is to be blamed for Miss Granger’s diminished health it is the Death Eaters that attacked them while Professor Dumbledore was trying to escape.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Weasley said, her narrowed eyes focused on Harry, “Death Eaters. They chased Dumbledore while he was trying to get out of France.”
“The woman who was with Miss Granger and Professor Dumbledore, died trying to help them escape,” said Professor McGonagall. Neither Ron, Harry, or Ginny had ever seen McGonagall look so mad.
“Oh…I…” Harry didn’t really know what to say. Professor McGonagall gave him one last piercing gaze before leaving. “You are not the only person who cares for Hermione,” Mrs. Weasley said before following the transfiguration teacher.
Harry, Ron, and Ginny sat down again. All three of them just stared at the top of the table.
Harry was only half aware of what was happening around him. He knew that Ginny was crying again and that Ron had started to pick at the table, but his train of thought was currently imagining all the possible outcomes of this disaster. Time didn’t seem to have any meaning anymore.
He was snapped out of his thinking when someone squeezed his shoulder. He looked up to see Remus’s concerned eyes staring at him. When did he get here? Harry looked across the table and saw the twins sitting next to Ron. Tonks was sitting next to Ginny rubbing her back whispering to her.
“How are you doing?” Remus asked him quietly. Harry just stared at him. He felt horrible. He had yelled at Mrs. Weasley. Yelled at Ginny. Got angry with Dumbledore again. And Hermione was still upstairs in who-knew-what condition. If anything, he was doing worse.
“I don’t know,” he lied.
“Listen, Harry. I know this is hard for you,” he began. Harry wanted to tell him that this wasn’t hard for him. That this was, in fact, absolutely impossible. That his blood felt frozen solid. That he felt so useless not being able to do anything for his best friend; for the girl who saved his life more times that he can count. He wanted to tell him that part of his world was on the verge of shattering because he didn’t know if Hermione was going to live. But Harry had no voice. He could only stare back down at the table. “But you have got to know that there is hope, that there is always hope. Hermione is being helped by the most powerful wizard in the world, Harry. There isn’t anything that Dumbledore won’t do to save her.” Harry turned his gaze back to his guardian. “I don’t know how else to make you understand that Hermione is not going to die.” Harry managed to nod his head once or twice before staring back at the table.
Hours went by, and there was still not even the slightest sign that Dumbledore would be out of the largest room on the second floor. Night came, and Harry, Ron and Ginny were soon forced out of the lounge and upstairs to their respective rooms. And as before, Ginny slipped into Harry and Ron’s room after Mrs. Weasley checked on them. Tonight the twins joined them as well. The twenty-ninth of July was fading away in a shadow of gloom. Fred and George couldn’t even be their normal humorous selves. Instead, the five of them sat in silence waiting for some sign of the healing process being finished in the room just down the hall.
Harry looked at his watch: 11:59. He looked over at the twins. They had a deck of muggle cards and were currently trying to build a house out of them. Ginny and Ron were watching.
His watch beeped. It was now Midnight. The 30th of July. He only had a day until his seventeenth birthday. Harry had never really ever thought about what he wanted for his birthday. Sure, when he was little, he used to wish that some long lost relative would come take him away from the Dursleys, but that was a wish that he had every day of the ten years he spent at Privet Drive before he found out he was a wizard. But now, however cliché it may sound, Harry only wanted Hermione to be safe for his birthday. If there was some all-powerful being that controlled the universe, all Harry wanted was his best friend to live and be the Hermione that he had come to know and love.
A door closing down the hall snapped Harry out of his birthday wishes. He met Ron’s eyes. He could tell that they were both thinking the same thing. They were done. All five of them soundlessly tip-toed to the door. It was at this moment that Harry would have done anything for some Extendable Ears. He could tell there was some whispering, but he couldn’t quite make out…pressing his ear closer to the door there was suddenly a fleshy looking blob hovering in front of his eyes. Ron was offering him an Extendable Ear while listening to his own. Giving Ron a grateful smile, he quickly stuffed the fleshy stuff into his ear and shoved the other end under the door.
“Albus…” This was McGonagall’s voice. She was barely speaking audibly. “Is she going to be alright?” There was a pause and a sigh then, “Oh, thank Merlin!” Harry heard her whisper louder.
“She will need bed rest, Minerva, but she will be well soon,” said Dumbledore. In all his life, Harry had never heard anyone sound so relieved and tired at the same time. He could only imagine how Dumbledore looked.
“I always knew that girl was strong,” another person began. It took a moment for the voice to register as Madam Pomfrey’s. “But what she has endured is amazing.”
“Indeed, Poppy,” Dumbledore agreed.
“But surely your help made that possible? I don’t see how Miss Granger could have survived had it not been for you three.”
“That, Minerva, is why I am calling a meeting right now.” There was a moment of pause.
“Albus…what do you mean?”
“We did less for Miss Granger than she did for herself,” a third voice said. There was no mistaking or guessing on the owner of this voice: Professor Snape. Harry quickly looked at the other four kneeling next to the door with him. When the hell did Snape get here?
“Severus, Poppy, please make sure that all present Order members are in the kitchen. I will be there in a few minutes.” Harry heard the footsteps of Snape and Madame Pomfrey going down the stairs.
“Albus, can’t the meeting wait until tomorrow morning?” There was something different about Professor McGonagall’s voice. Harry couldn’t exactly put his finger on it, but it was different. “You are so tired. Please, Albus. This can wait.”
“No, Minerva, it can’t.”
“Minerva, I need you to find someone,” Dumbledore interrupted. He heard McGonagall sigh in defeat.
“Who?” There was no audible answer. “But Albus. This doesn’t-” Harry shoved the Extendable Ears further hoping to hear what he was saying. But Dumbledore didn’t seem to say anything. Finally McGonagall said something that they could hear.
“She hasn’t been seen but twice since she left. And even then it was fleeting. How am I supposed to find her?” There was a rustling of robes.
“Take this to the forest. The centaurs will confront you, but as long as they see this, they will tell you what you will need to know.”
“And how exactly can you be sure?” McGonagall asked. Her voice was giving away how frustrated she felt. “The Centaurs are quicker to kill any human that enters that forest than to even waste their time to show themselves.”
“They are under oath to assist any who carry this.” She didn’t answer, but after a moment, they head her footsteps echo down the call and down the stairs. Dumbledore’s steps soon followed.
The five of them pulled out the Ears and stared at each other for a moment. But before a word could be uttered, they heard the unmistakable footsteps of Mrs. Weasley coming up the stairs and down the hall. With two cracks, the twins were gone.
“Oh Merlin!” Ron whispered. Ginny was still there. If Mrs. Weasley came into their room to check on them, she would surely see Ginny, and if not, she would notice that Ginny was not in her own room.
“Damn,” said Ginny, her eyes wide with a little fear. Mrs. Weasley’s footsteps were getting clearer. Harry held his breath for what was surely going to be a horrible experience, but the door never opened. In fact, Mrs. Weasley didn’t even stop at their door. She went strait up the next flight of stairs. The door to the twins’ bedroom was soon heard creaking open. Harry mentally slapped himself. The twins, though young and a bit mischievous, were members of the Order. Harry could still remember how, the day before when he had first gotten to Grimmauld Place, the twins, though full of information, only nodded their heads to what Ron and Ginny were telling him and gave a few tid-bits of information.
The three of them stiffened as the footsteps passed their door and then abruptly stopped.
Don’t let her open the door. Please don’t let her open the door, Harry inwardly begged.
The door opened.
“Ron, Harry, Ginny. Come out here. Dumbledore wants to talk to all of us.” Harry was surprised she said nothing of Ginny’s presence in their room.
“So Hermione is going to be alright?” Ginny asked with an air of innocence.
“Don’t try that on me Ginevra Weasley. I know that you were listening in on Dumbledore’s conversation.” Even in the dark Harry could see Ginny blush. “Now come on you three.”
Relieved that they didn’t get in trouble for having Ginny in their room or for eavesdropping, Harry, Ron and Ginny followed Mrs. Weasley down the stairs.
They entered the kitchen and sat down at the end. Dumbledore was taking to Remus but met Harry’s questioning gaze with a smile. He motioned for Remus to sit down, and stood at the head of the table.
“For those of you who were not upstairs,” he glanced quickly at the five teenagers. The old twinkle in his eyes was back. “Thanks to the potions of Madame Pomfrey and Professor Snape, Miss Granger will be to her full strength within the next few days.”
“Thank Merlin,” Tonks muttered.
“Although she is physically out of danger,” he continued, “the most difficult part is still to come. Miss Granger has just lost her parents, and she will need as much support as we can give her.”
“Is there anything we can do for her now?” Ron asked. The color was full back in his face.
“Not at the moment, Ron. When she does wake up, the best thing that you three can do is be there for her. As I said, she has been through a terrible ordeal and will need as much support as we can give her.” More nods around the table. “But this announcement is not the only reason why I called this meeting.”
“We did less for Miss Granger in that room than she did for herself,” he said bluntly.
“What?” Remus breathed. Snape cleared his throat to get attention.
“Every move we made, every potion we administered, Miss Granger intensified a hundred fold or rejected completely.” Harry stared at Dumbledore, dumbstruck.
“How?” he managed to ask.
“We don’t know,” answered Snape.
“I don’t understand, Dumbledore, why would she reject potions intended to help her?” Mr. Weasley asked.
“We don’t know what that power is, Arthur,” Madam Pomfrey answered. “Or where she got it, but the point is that she was healing herself. It actually came to a point near the end that the only thing we could do was watch and monitor to make sure nothing became worse.”
This was almost too much. Harry really didn’t know what to make of any of this. He had expected some instructions of what to do, but this? No way.
“How could she be healing herself?” Mrs. Weasley asked. Dumbledore shook his head.
“I don’t know, Molly. There are many things that I don’t know about this. But what I do know is that Miss Granger will need her friends to be with her.”
It was nearly one o’clock when he, Ron, and Ginny were sent to bed.
With the news of Hermione’s expected full recovery, Harry was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
He woke up the next morning feeling extremely relaxed. He didn’t feel as numb as before, though there was still an icy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He looked across from him to see Ron’s sleeping figure sprawled on the bed. Ginny was fast asleep on a mattress that the twins had hovered down for her.
Slipping out of his bed without a sound, he got to the door and turned the handle. Ron snorted and turned over at the creak of the handle. He quickly opened the door, slipped through and shut it.
Before Harry took a step in the direction of Hermione’s room, he heard voices in the foyer. Stealing to the stairs, Harry saw Professor McGonagall walk through the door followed by a person cloaked in black. The hood completely shadowed the person’s face, so Harry couldn’t even venture a guess who it was, beyond that he was sure that it was the woman that he had overheard Dumbledore and McGonagall speak about that night. Harry followed the two with his eyes until the dining room door closed behind them.
Returning his thoughts to Hermione, he turned back to the hall and walked down to the last door on the right.
The first thing he noticed was how dark it was. The drapes were closed and there were only a few candles lit, giving the room an eerie glow. The giant bowl that he had seen with Mrs. Weasley was on the table next to the window. On the far left wall sat a very large four-poster bed; Hermione lying under the thick covers.
Even though she was under an enchanted sleep from which she would only wake naturally, Harry still tried not to make a sound as he made his way to her side.
Even by the dim candle light, he could tell that the pasty white color that had covered her body the morning before was gone. She was still pale, but there was some color in her cheeks.
“She was healing herself.” Harry silently thanked whatever powers-that-be for giving Hermione such a power. He gently took her hand in his and was relieved to find that it was warm.
Looking back to her face, something caught his eye. Leaning over at bit more, he saw something silver showing through her shirt. “Wow,” he said out loud. He moved her shirt over a little to reveal a silver pendent. It was shimmering as if the candlelight was bouncing off of diamonds.
“Beautiful,” he whispered.
“I thought this is where you’d be, Harry,” Ginny’s soft voice spoke from behind. He smiled at her as she sat on the other side of the bed.
“Is Ron still asleep?”
“He’s snoring louder than ever. That’s what woke me up,” she whispered. He chuckled. “She looks a lot better now, don’t you think?”
“Definitely.” He watched her look over Hermione just as he had a few minutes before. Her eyes rested on the necklace.
“What’s this?” she asked, reaching over to touch the pendant. Harry shook his head. “Don’t know. I wondered the same thing.”
They were both staring at the necklace when the door opened again.
“I thought you might both be in here,” Ron said as he shut the door behind him. “It’s kind of dark don’t you think?” Harry shrugged, but nodded; whatever was best for her recovery.
“She looks a lot better, even in this light,” he said. “But what’s that?” he asked pointing at the necklace. Harry and Ginny shrugged.
“Don’t know. Pretty, though, isn’t it?” Ginny said. Ron nodded.
“Wonder where she got it,” Ron thought aloud.
“Wonder when she got it,” said Harry.
Now that the panic of worrying for her health was nearly over, Harry could only agree with Dumbledore that this next part was going to be the hardest. How would she cope with the death of her parents?
The click of the door handle took the three out of their thoughts. Mrs. Weasley opened the door. She smiled upon spotting them. “I thought you three would be in here. Come on downstairs for a spot of breakfast.”
Harry and Ginny got up from their seats and the three of them headed for the door. With one last lingering look, Harry shut the door behind him and followed Mrs. Weasley to breakfast.
“Harry,” Remus began between bites of scrambled eggs. “Since you only have two more days until your apparation test, I think we should get some practice in.”
“Sure,” he answered after a swallow of toast. Harry didn’t need to ask Ron or Ginny where they were going after breakfast. He would’ve bet his Firebolt that they were both going back to Hermione’s room.
He followed Remus to the lounge, and shut the doors behind him.
“You’ve been practicing the concentrations over the summer right?” he asked Harry as soon as the door was shut. Harry nodded. “Good, let’s start with that.” Harry nodded again and closed his eyes.
Hermione was cradled in strong arms, against a warm body. More feeling was coming to her. She opened her eyes.
She was enveloped in white light. Someone was carrying her. She looked up to see who her rescuer was, but the light was too bright. She had to close her eyes again.
In the darkness of her closed eyes, Hermione saw the Ring gradually appear. Its color was the same as the light that was around her.
Then it turned Blue.
Hermione was running through the forest. Her silk gown and cape flowing behind her. The vision of symbols, still glowing blue, was guiding her along the path. She had chosen her course, and now she had to reach its destination.
Suddenly the ring turned red. Hermione stopped. She could hear galloping hooves. Something was coming for her. She readied herself with her left hand resting on the hilt of the sword. But what came for her was no threat. A white horse came galloping around the bend to meet her. The ring of symbols became a comforting violet. It warmed her vision and she smiled.
Slowing, the horse walked up to her and nuzzled her cheek. Hermione was safe.
She could hear dull echoes, like someone shouting at a distance.
Ron and Ginny sat in Hermione’s darkened room, hoping to see even the slightest sign of recovery. The conversation was sparse until Hermione stirred and a soft groan escaped her lips. They both called to her, hoping she would respond—hoping she would show some sort of sign that acknowledged their existence. But their excitement soon ebbed away as she settled back into her previous comatose-like state.
Hermione woke in a dark room with candles as the only source of light. Everything was fuzzy, and her head was pounding. Where was she? Was she still in the room with Dumbledore?
She slowly pushed herself up with her arms. Her head began to spin. Closing her eyes and taking a few breaths she tried to steady her head and clear her mind.. No, she wasn’t in that room. She was somewhere else. Pushing back the covers, Hermione only just noticed that she was still in her clothes that she had worn in London.
Everything came rushing back. The store; the Ring of symbols; Death Eaters; her parents.
Hermione hugged her knees close to her and sobbed.
Harry was lying in his bed. It was nearly Midnight. He would be seventeen in four minutes. Hermione still wasn’t awake. Ron and Ginny told him she had groaned and moved a bit, but nothing came of it.
He wasn’t tired, but Mrs. Weasley had told him that if she heard that he had anymore late night or early morning excursions she would put him under an enchanted sleep and she wouldn’t wake him until he was thirty.
So he waited. And it was agony.
Hermione didn’t know how long she was crying, and she didn’t really care. She never noticed the door open. What she did notice were the warm arms that wrapped around her and the chest she in which she was crying.
A soft voice was consoling her. It was when it was loud enough to really hear that she even realized whose chest she was crying into. She opened her teary eyes to find that she had her head buried into emerald robes. She was soaking Professor McGonagall with her tears.
“I’m sorry,” Hermione whispered as she lifted her face from the robes.
“What is there to be sorry about, Miss Granger?” Professor McGonagall asked. The professor brushed Hermione’s hair out of her eyes and took her face between her hands. “Robes are easily dried.” There was something in the look that Professor McGonagall was giving her that made even more tears spill down her cheeks.
Professor McGonagall pulled her back into her arms, and she began to cry even more. Her sobs masked the sound of the door opening again. Even Professor McGonagall didn’t notice that a new person had entered the room.
Albus Dumbledore debated whether or not to leave when the older woman saw him. Hermione still had her face buried in her robes sobbing. Professor McGonagall nodded to him to sit next to Hermione.
Hermione felt a new pair of hands grasping her own. She opened her eyes long enough to see Professor Dumbledore looking at her over those half-moon spectacles with concern and sorrow in his blue eyes.
Neither of the Professors spoke. There was nothing to say at the moment. No words would have been appropriate. Hermione continued to quietly sob into the emerald robes.
It was at this time that Professor Dumbledore spoke. “There is no shame in tears, Hermione.” Hermione gave another loud sob. She couldn’t help it. Her parents were gone. Taken from her. She never even got to say goodbye. She pulled back from Professor McGonagall’s robes enough to be able to stare at the opposite wall.
“What did they want?”
“Who?” McGonagall asked tenderly.
“The D-Death Eaters. What did they want from my parents? What did they want from m-me?” She started to choke up again, and fresh tears built up. Professor McGonagall embraced her again.
“We don’t know, dear,” she answered. Hermione never saw the exchange of looks between the two professors. “We don’t know.” The three of them sat that way for some time before Dumbledore spoke again.
“I know that this is a difficult time for you, Hermione,” he began, “But I must ask you, what is the last thing you remember?”
Hermione lifted her head from Professor McGonagall’s chest. She stared at Dumbledore in disbelief. But as she looked into those all-knowing crystal-blue eyes, she felt compelled to tell him despite how she felt. Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she searched her memory.
“You asked if I felt any pain.” Professor McGonagall looked at Dumbledore in question.
“In France, Minerva,” he answered her unasked question. “Do you remember anything before that?” She didn’t answer him. She didn’t want to remember the details. “That is what I thought,” he stated.
It was another moment before Professor McGonagall spoke. “Your friends have been beside themselves with worry, Hermione,” she began, “I know that they are awake. Would you like to see them?”
The first answer that came to her was “no”. Strangely, she felt quite content to stay here with the two Professors.
She didn’t answer immediately. The door creaked open, and Harry’s messy black hair poked through. She could see his emerald eyes widen in surprise. How could she have been so stupid to even consider wanting to be alone. The sight of his relieved face nearly made her smile.
“Hermione!” he shouted.
“Harry,” Dumbledore began, “I believe it would be best if you kept your voice down.” The Headmaster turned his gaze to Professor McGonagall. “I think, Professor, that we should let Hermione and Harry have some time together.” His eyes were twinkling. This was a good sign. Harry had only seen his eyes twinkle for a brief moment the night before when he told him that Hermione would be fine.
He watched as Professor McGonagall stole a quick glance at Hermione before leaving her side. In that one glance, that one brief moment, Harry realized how much it must have meant to Hermione to have Professor McGonagall there. In the gaze that Professor McGonagall gave Hermione, it was so much clearer how much she really cared about Hermione. But it was so quick, so brief, that Harry could have sworn he was just imagining things.
Hermione gave her Transfiguration Professor a brief smile to assure her that she could leave.
“Wait,” she called to them. The two of them turned rather quickly. Gathering all the strength she had, Hermione slipped off the bed and stood feebly. Her legs felt like jello. They buckled.
Harry quickly caught her before she hit the ground. “Thanks,” she whispered. Steadying herself with Harry’s help, she finally stood her full height. A few struggled steps later, Hermione reached professor Dumbledore.
“Thank you,” she whispered gazing at his face. “Thank you,” she repeated a little louder. The next thing Hermione knew, she had wrapped her arms around the Headmaster of Hogwarts. He returned her gesture.
“You are welcome, Hermione. You are very welcome.” She held the embrace for a moment longer and then released him. The tears that had built up were now gently falling down her already wet cheeks.
Harry’s eyes darted from Hermione to Professor Dumbledore. Dumbledore had been taken off guard for a moment, but Harry could tell that the old headmaster was genuine in his returning embrace. Hermione then embraced Professor McGonagall.
“If you ever need anything, Hermione,” he said grasping her hand after she released McGonagall, “don’t ever hesitate to ask.” A quick glance at Harry and he released her hand and followed Professor McGonagall out the door and into the hall.
Hermione couldn’t stop the tears once they started. Her legs felt like jello again. She felt Harry’s warm arms wrap around her to hold her up again. He led her to the bed and when they sat down she burst into violent sobs.
Harry held her as tight as he could. He could feel her tears seeping through his thin t-shirt. It just made him want to hold her closer.
“Shh…shh…” he whispered into her hair. There were tears starting to force their way to his eyes as well. He could never bear to watch any girl cry, but this was almost worse than waiting to see if she was going to live, and there was still nothing he could do to help.
“Hey…guess what?” he said. “It is almost one in the morning, one in the morning, on my birthday.” She didn’t look up, sobs still racking her body. “And guess what?” His throat was tightening and he shifted his eyes to fix on anything but his distraught best friend. “You are awake and alive, Hermione, and that is the only present I could ever want.”
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