Chapter 2 : When Sky Falls Down
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Slow, steady, and heavy. It seemed as though each throb required a massive amount of the strength still left in her broken body. A pained sound that never reached her own senses escaped her dry lips. The heartbeats were like a thunderstorm through her head, and her fingers curled around soft fabric...
Her body seemed numb and cold, and she was hurting; the pain seemingly radiating from just above her left collarbone. She felt like she had done when she awakened after the Great War; broken under the knowledge that someone she loved would never open their eyes again.
Strong sunlight was burning red imprints before her closed eyes, leaving her with the choice to either shut her eyelids more tightly to block out the brightness or else open her eyes and allow the light to touch her honey orbs. Before she could decide, however, she felt something else touch her.
Warm fingers were moving up and down the exposed skin on her arms, a warm feeling spreading from the touch and through her entire body. It seemed to have the same effect as butterbeer, only a million times better, a million times stronger.
Hermione's eyes fluttered open.
Her vision was blurred and unfocused as she tried to adjust to the unfamiliar light. After an eternity in darkness she saw light, and she could hardly recognize the dull colors her eyes fell upon as rays of pure sunlight penetrated her brown eyes and stung like needles.
"She's awake!" a feminine voice spoke, quivering with emotions as it stirred something in Hermione's still blurred memory.
Hermione blinked, tears she had not even noticed trickling down her pale cheeks as she felt happiness wracking her numb insides. Because she recognized that voice.
"I think we lost her again." Another voice said quietly, this one belonging to a male.
"No. Her lips are moving." Yet another voice sounded through the room, a voice which made Hermione's slow heart rate sped up with sheer ecstasy. "I think she's trying to say something."
"Ron." Hermione breathed, her voice below a whisper as her eyes fluttered open once more. She wanted nothing more than to lay her eyes upon the boy that had just spoken, but all she saw was the soft green color of the blocked heavens above. She wanted to see the people she loved, but her body refused to obey her. So instead of moving she just lay there, chocolate-brown eyes fixed upon the ceiling as she managed to let two more words out in the open; "Harry. Ginny."
Hermione Granger had been dead, broken and alone, but that seemed so far away now.
Because right now she was alive, surrounded by the people she loved; surrounded by the people that mattered the most.
Her mind filled with tender memories of the times she had shared with the people now by her side. It was hard to grasp anything specific as pictures of perfection flashed past her inner eye, dimmed by her aching head and her throbbing heart. The last memory, the last thing she could remember, was the three of them sitting upon the sunny porch outside of her grandparents' house. They were laughing and celebrating in their own way, far from the rest of the Wizarding civilization. She could recall the taste of sweet lemonade and her Grandmother's best marzipan cake, but clearer than everything she could remember the butterflies filling her stomach each time she caught Ron's eyes from across the table.
Warm fingertips continued to brush against the cold skin on her arms, making soft comfort spread within her tense body as the fingers danced over her limbs. In her mind it was Ron touching her with such loving caress, filling her with the wonderful feeling of not being alone, of being safe and certain in her place.
She had to see him, the butterflies in her stomach fluttering madly in her stomach and making the weaknesses seem small and unimportant. Nothing but the desire to see the boy touching her could have given her the strength to push herself up on the sickbed.
Hermione was one of the brightest witches at her age, as many had pointed out for her over the years on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from whence she had graduated with top marks mere weeks ago. She was a bright girl, and the smell of dried blood and detergent combined with mint-green walls and a heavy air of sickness meant nothing short of hospital.
As Hermione pushed herself slightly up she could, for the first time, lay her eyes upon the setting.
The room was average sized and strikingly unadorned at first glance. Four plain, mint-green walls surrounded her bed and a sole window framed by yellowing curtains was the only thing that contrasted to the everlasting stretch of green walls. There was a small bedside table beside Hermione's bed, and except for that what seemed to be half a dozen of people standing around her bed.
Hermione's brown eyes flickered down towards her arm where fingers continued to touch her, and a jolt of disappointment went through her as she caught sight of the long, red nails attached to the fingertips running up and down the stretch of skin. Hermione wanted to wrench the arm away, although she was cut short of acting when she noticed the small, bluish sparks that danced over her arm cast it in an odd, silvery light.
Hermione knew that it was healing magic. Basic healing like it did not even require a wand; it was a branch of magic that existed within all witches and wizards from birth. The kind of magic that could stop minor bleedings and cure small bruises and shallow cuts, and parts of the Healer training taught how to control the magic and channel it to other people through touch.
Hermione lifted her gaze and her eyes fell upon the stunning owner of the red-nailed hands. The girl seemed to be in her early twenties, long golden hair falling down the front of her white shirt and a hat with the logo of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries balancing on top of her beautiful head.
Hermione tore her eyes away from the nurse and instead searched the room for the boy she had expected to lay her gaze upon when she pushed herself up.
Harry was looking at her, a sad smile upon his lips as Hermione's eyes caught his emerald ones.
By his side stood a pretty girl with long, flaming red hair. Ginny Weasley, her usually rosy cheeks deprived of color as she, seemingly with a great effort, smiled. Mrs. Weasley, stood next to her and sobbed into a lacy handkerchief.
Hermione barely noticed the puffy eyes of her spectators as she searched the room for Ron, her temper rising as she inwardly cursed him for not being the one to touch her so tenderly.
Instead of seeing Ron her eyes fell upon a tall man dressed in white Healer robes. The man looked as though he was in his early sixties, his short-cut hair the color of granite and his eyes cold and steely as they moved over the pile of parchment in his rough, large fingers. There was something about him emitting an aura of authority, and the words 'Head Healer' was sown across his chest just above the same logo that decorated the nurse's hat.
But Hermione had no time to ponder upon what business the head healer could possibly have inside her room, as her mind was blank for anything but Ron. She longed to lay her eyes upon his freckled face, to see the frolicsome eyes twinkling at her, blue as the ocean, sparkling with life. His red hair fell perfectly around his carved face, now having become so long that Hermione wondered whether or not Ron was planning to wear it in a ponytail similar to that of his eldest brother. His once lanky, downright skinny, frame had now achieved a fine layers of muscles; the last couple of years with regular Quidditch trainings had undoubtedly done the youth good. And all of this added to Hermione's affection towards him, the affection that had only grown from years of being kept in the shadows of her heart as she waited for the boy to mature enough to be capable of handling love.
And finally she found him.
He was leaning against the wall just beside the window, his long hair falling into his face as his frame was enveloped in shadows.
Hermione examined him over the distance, a peaceful smile spreading across her dry lips .
But a second later the smile was wiped off her face, to be replaced by an expression of the utmost horror. Her eyes widened and was instantly glazed with tears that blurred her vision and forced her to blink.
Ron was crying.
Tears were flowing steadily down his ashen cheeks as he stood against the mint wall, not even bothering to cover up the fact that he was crying. Once or twice his shoulders shook in silent sobs.
And Hermione's heart broke for him as she watched the scene unfolding in front of her eyes.
She wanted to get up from the bed, to stride over to him and hold him close, to tell him that it was all right. But she was too weak to do any of it. For the first time since she had realized that she was alive she felt the true rush of pain hitting her, forcing her to fall back down onto the mattress of her bed. She had been so excited by the prospect of seeing Ron that she had not noticed the headache, the stiffness in her limbs and the lingering pain that now forced her into the belief that some of her ribs were broken. And none of this even compared to the stabbing pain in her back.
As she stared up at the unclear stretch of ceiling above her it seemed an achievement that she had even managed to not notice the pain that was tearing her down. Right then it felt like she desired nothing more than to just fall into happy daydreams once more, to flee from the current state and escape into a world where there were no room for pain and tears. To flee into a world where she and Ron could run through the meadows underneath the warm summer sun, blowing dandelions and making wishes as they watched the silvery seeds dance in the fresh breeze.
Ron was crying, and Hermione didn't think she had ever seen him cry before.
Something was wrong.
This voice that spoke was loud and hard, making Hermione cringe in her bed as it penetrated her mind like a hammer. The voice that sent an echo through the room was filled with authority and formality, the strength of it shattering the peacefulness that had been there a second before. The fingers that had sent sparks of healing magic on Hermione's arm left her, making her feel cold and lonely once more as her eyes closed to prevent more tears from falling.
Someone, it had to be the Head Healer, coughed to gather her attention.
"Miss Granger, I have urgent matters which I need to inform you of, and I am in rather a hurry, so let's just cut it short. It is my unfortunate duty yo inform you that-"
The shrilly shriek cut through the air like a razor, splitting the peacefulness and shattering all pretenses, confirming Hermione's theory that something was seriously wrong. Normally she would have smiled at Molly's motherly protectiveness, although there was nothing smile-able in the current situation.
Managing with the gathered efforts of her hurting body Hermione lifted her head from the pillow just enough to see Mrs. Weasley's tear stained face contorted in desperation as she glared towards the tall Healer, who raged about two feet above the round woman.
The man raised an eyebrow at Mrs. Weasley's interruption, and it was clear that he found her below him in status as his gray eyes fell upon her. "Pardon me, Mrs. Weasley," His voice was icy and dead, clearly bearing witness to the impatience he had to get this over and done with. "But it is my duty to do this."
"But couldn't you at least try to do it more discreetly?" Mrs. Weasley said, a plea distinguishable in her unsteady voice and her tear filled eyes as she stared up at the doctor. "The poor girl-"
The Healer turned his head towards Hermione's bed, clearly not listening to Mrs. Weasley's arguments. Mrs. Weasley seemed to realize so as well, and her high-pitched voice died away and left the room in an unnerving silence. The healer looked back down at the file in his hands. Hermione caught sight of the front and a sickening feeling resided in her stomach, killing the last butterfly that had managed to survive the shock of seeing Ron crying.
The Healer was looking through her medical files.
"Ah, yes, Miss Granger..." he said, glancing back up at her, his glasses flashing in the sunlight as he surveyed her over the top of the silver rim. "It is my unfortunate duty that to inform you that on the night of the 28th of July you were bitten by a werewolf, and henceforth inflicted with lycanthropy."
The sentence came quickly and simply, but the silent aftermath left Hermione with the feeling that the sky had just fallen and the earth crumbled beneath her bed.
Her chocolate eyes once again filled up with tears of confusion and despair, and as she sank lower into the sheets memories started to shape like dark silhouettes inside of her mind. The forest, the fear, and the feeling of loneliness seemed to render her weak and she wanted nothing more than for someone to hold her close and tell her that everything would be alright.
No one came.
Instead, before the latest newsflash had the time to truly sink in, the Healer's monotone voice once again shattered the silence.
"This is only a temporary state. While you are not in your bestial state you will be able to lead a normal life, that is to say, as normal as a life can be for a werewolf. You will properly notice already that your body and mind are altered, that your senses are sharpened and that you might develop certain... traits. This is completely normal, and it is something you will have to learn to live with. You will also need to take extra caution around people and animals, and you are required to come here to the hospital once a month to get your Wolfsbane potion and afterwards an appointed healer here at the St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries will escort you to a chamber where you can stay while you are transformed. We have a ward for the permanently damaged and potentially dangerous patients."
Hermione's breath was so shallow it was barely more than a tremor of air. Few words had been registered within her mind, those including werewolf, altered, permanently damaged and potentially dangerous. Her hands started shaking and she felt dizzy, her eyes closing as warm tears trickled down her bruised skin.
"My parents..." she whispered finally, her voice breakable as the words escaped her lips and fluttered into the silence.
"Your parents?" the Healer repeated, his voice cold and unfeeling. Hermione could hear him fiddling with her file. "They are muggles, it says here."
"What does it matter?" Ginny interrupted angrily, glaring at the Healer with evident distaste etched upon every freckled feature.
The Healer turned his attention towards the petite red-head by the window, his eyes flashing behind the glasses. "It matters very much." he stated callously before turning back to Hermione again and continuing. "This Hospital is induced with Muggle-Repelling charms to keep the Muggles away. The Muggles don't see this building at all, just like they are unable to see the Leaky Cauldron. To lift this charm would not only require the gathered strength of at least half a dozen Ministry of Magic approved and trained wizards, but it would also mean that we put our kind at the risk of being exposed. However, I can assure you Miss Granger that as soon as your spine is healed and your first transformation is over you are free to visit your relatives and anyone else you would like to."
He gave a stiff twitch of his mouth, a gesture that might have been a rather dismal attempt on a smile, before he turned and waved the pretty nurse towards himself. The nurse was a head shorter than him even in her high-heels and the Healer bent down to whisper something in her ear.
"There have been many accidents this year... We will need reinforcements... Contact the trainees and ask if they can step in on their Healer training a couple of months early... Be sure to assure them that they will be given extra credit and loads of galleons if they do so..."
The nurse nodded curtly and departed the room in silence, leaving Hermione, Ron, Harry, Ginny and Mrs Weasley alone with the Healer again.
"If there are no more questions..." the latter announced coolly and glanced down at his heavily bejeweled watch, clearly just to underline the fact that he was a very busy and important person with no time for such things as ruined lives and his own duties. When he heard no objections he gave another very stiff smile that never even came close to reaching his gray eyes and turned, his white frock fluttering as he swiftly left the room and closed the door after himself with a menacing slam that made Hermione cringe and close her eyes against the banging headache.
An awkward silence fell, Hermione being able to hear the breathing of every person in the room even if she could sense that they were trying to breath as shallow as possible as to not disturb her.
She opened her eyes again as she heard someone moving, her heart for a moment racing as though it had woken up from a long and heavy sleep.
Then her eyes fell upon Mrs. Weasley's broad frame coming increasingly closer by the second, and her heart sank in disappointment. Before Hermione had the time to act Mrs. Weasley had embraced her, hugging her tightly towards her soft torso.
Hermione whimpered against the pain, biting her tongue to keep a moan from escaping her lips as her face was half-buried in Mrs. Weasley's woolly cardigan. Hermione cursed herself for silently wishing that it was Ron hugging her like this, tightly and affectionately, showing her that he was by her side instead of merely standing beside the window as though unsure about what else to do.
Hermione had yet to see the damage done by the beast she had encountered, and she dreaded the moment she would have to face what it had done to her, had to look at the cursed bite that hurt so much just above her collarbone.
But most of all she dreaded the moment when she was forced to face what she had become, forced to lay her eyes upon the animal within.
A/N: I hate this chapter; it turned out so long and boring. A rapt return to the uneventful reality after the angsty prologue. Still, I love if you pay me a review ^^
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