A/N Everything you recognise, except for the plot and a few characters, belongs to the magnificent J. K. Rowling. :)
“Move!” roared Harry as he was pushing past the crowd that formed around Hermione. I followed him and felt the tension in the air. Hermione was laying on the floor unconscious, a mass of blood around her head, while everyone else was looking horror struck, unable to do anything.
The mood in the hospital wing was very heavy and sombre, as Madam Pomfrey was pouring some potions down Hermione’s throat. Harry and I were sitting on an empty bed, next to her, while McGonagall and Dumbledore were murmuring something and looking at her from time to time. I wondered what had happened to her...where she had been...how she managed to escape and most of all where was Ron! But sitting there, looking at her bandaged head and those scars all over her face...barely able to recognise her...some of her hair being red from the blood, I just thanked God that she was alive and hopefully will get well soon. Madam Pomfrey did say she will get well, didn’t she? Or was it just my imagination reassuring my pain?
I looked at Harry. His face was pale and his eyes were watery. I knew what he was thinking and I knew that he was blaming himself for taking Ron and Hermione to Sirius’ house over Easter. Yet I didn’t place my hand over his and whispered that everything will be okay, because we had separate lives now and as Lily said, I had to separate myself away from him as much as possible if I wanted the plan to work. Well...it wasn’t as if I had a choice in the matter anyway.
I took a glimpse at Dumbledore and he made eye contact with me. He looked from me to Harry and then back to me again, and gave me an encouraging look. How was it that he read me so well? Was I such an open book? But I knew what had to be done and I didn’t need Dumbledore to remind me. I slowly moved further away from where Harry was sitting, until I reached the other end of the bed. I did not care what anyone said...Hermione was my friend too and I would refuse to leave the hospital wing just because Harry was there. They would have to drag me out.
All of our eyes went on Hermione as she made a slight movement with her head, but then the disappointment hit us when nothing else happened. I looked at Harry and saw a small tear fall from his eye to his cheek and then down on his top. Dumbledore seemed to have noticed this too, because he came closer to Harry, placed an arm on his shoulder and said: “How about some lemon tart Harry?”
Harry looked up at him and grunted: “No....I’m staying here.”
“I’ll stay here. You can go.” I said seeing past Dumbledore’s invitation.
He wanted to speak to Harry about where Hermione was. He knew something....he must. Harry hesitated for a moment, but then stood up and not taking his eyes off Hermione, walked out of the Hospital Wing with Dumbledore.
I stood up as well and moved closer to Hermione’s bed, for the first time taking a proper look at the marks the Death Eaters left on her. Her top head was bandaged and her cheeks were covered in small and big scratches, as if someone smashed her across the face with long nails. Her hair seemed straighter and thinner....as if it had been pulled out by someone. Her nails were dirty with blood and dirt; maybe she scratched someone when she tried to pull free of someone else’s grip. Her muscles tightened and relaxed and tightened and relaxed again: the aftermath of long spells of the Cruciatus curse over and over again. That was something I did know for certain. Her skin was so pale...all the life seemed to have been drained out of her. For a moment I thought she might have been....dead, but when I touched her hand with mine, it was hot...feverish hot. Too hot.
How could they have done this to her? She was my best friend, ever since our first year; we shared a train compartment together before we met Harry and Ron. We did our Transfigurations homework together and planned a Potions project for weeks, only to find out we would not have Potions that day due to a student being killed by a Death Eater and having a ceremonial remembrance instead. We picked our Yule Ball dresses together from Diagon Alley...she was going to be fine...she was going to be okay.
It wasn’t until I felt McGonagall’s hand on my shoulder that I realised I was crying. My shoulders were shaking slightly and the tears fell on Hermione’s hand and evaporated as soon as they made contact with the skin. I turned to face Madam Pomfrey who looked at Hermione in a pitiful way and I almost snapped at her: “She’ll be okay, right?”
Madam Pomfrey hesitated, but then answered me: “It is too early to know. Time will tell.”
“Your friend is going to be fine, Anna.” Said Edwin as we were sitting down on the stone floor of the book cupboard. “If you say she’s so strong, then she’ll be okay.”
“I didn’t say she was strong, I said she was smart.” I replied, feeling my voice break. I had spent the entire day avoiding Harry and reassuring Ginny that Hermione was going to be okay ( a thing I said more than I believed), that when it came to the night, I couldn’t sleep with worry and I needed someone to talk to in order not to break up again. I had to become stronger. That was my goal for the year.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. I could hear Edwin breathing, in and out, the same way I did. He was human. He was really human. I didn’t know why I went to him...maybe it was the fact that he reminded me so much of Jack; the same confidence and the same way to make me laugh. Maybe it was something more which I couldn’t understand right then. I expected to see him in a different light since I had found out that Snape was his dad. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t think of Snape when I was around Edwin. It was as if he made me feel better...made me fly away from my problems and make me be the Anna that I was before the 6th June happened.
“Let’s go for a walk.” He whispered and I saw the light grow n his eyes in the dim lumos light.
“Can you do that?”I asked in awe.
“I do have legs.” He said mockingly.
I rolled my eyes and punched him lightly in the arm. “You know what I mean.” I whispered.
“Okay...Yes I can go out, but only at night when the danger that people will see me is smaller.” He said going back to his serious tone.
“But what about Snape?” I asked, not sure of whether I should call him “your dad” or simply Snape.
“Snape, will not know. In fact, Snape will not even dream that a student of his might have released me with the spell that only he knows. Not even Dumbledore knows that spell. But I take that night when you overheard us, as a very big advantage for me since I get to come out of that painting more.” Said Edwin giving me a small smile of gratitude.
I almost forgot that it was the second time I actually had a proper conversation with him and yet we were so open towards each other. It was magical; it was truly magical that I had this painting guy to make me be my old self again. It was as if my problems were made for his needs and his problems were made for my needs. He wanted freedom, which I could give him and he was desperate for company that he would be interested in anything I said to him, which made me feel better.
“So do you want to go or not?” he asked me when he realised I was daydreaming.
“Yes...yes I do.”I said standing up and picking up my brown coat from the floor. I mentally blessed myself for the mere fact that I took proper clothes with me this time; otherwise I would have been stuck outside in my pyjamas and slippers or something like that.
The moon was reflected on the shiny surface of the Dark Lake and the breeze was making my hair fly everywhere. Everything was so quiet and calm and I felt somewhat more relaxed and at ease. Maybe it was the fresh spring air or simply the fact that I was walking and my mind was empty of all the worries. Or maybe it was because Edwin was walking by my side, making me feel less alone.
I looked at the tall young man next to me. His skin was glowing in the dim moon light and his hair was messy from the wind. His dark coat made it almost impossible see the outline of his body and his green eyes were bright and luminous...like I had never seen them before. Edwin probably sensed that I was staring at him, because he looked down at me and gave me a small smile. I was glad it was dark, because I felt my cheeks start to burn and I slapped myself in my head for feeling this way.
We found a big boulder by the banks of the Dark Lake and sat on it. We stared at the water for a while and listened to the small waves moving the little pebbles around. It felt so relaxing and I wondered if Edwin felt at ease too. The stars above our heads were bright and shiny. Maybe there was some hope left in all of this mess. Maybe the Dark Lord would eventually fall and we would succeed. My brother and my mother would be revenged and I would be able to live my life
again. The stranger that I had become started feeling more familiar than my old self. I didn’t know where that happy girl who always smiled went....I didn’t know what happened to all her self confidence and her happiness. The girl that replaced her was so much more mature....unwontedly mature and she didn’t smile very much.
“Thank you.” Said Edwin, who interrupted me from my thoughts. I looked at him quite confused.
“For what?” I asked.
“For discovering me.” He said simply, looking at the far end of the Dark Lake. “You have no idea how amazing it feels to be able to feel the ground...real ground beneath your feet. To feel the wind wash your face and your hair....to be able to pick up stones (he picked up a stone) and throw them in the water.” The small boulder that he picked up landed in the water with a gulp and sank to the bottom.
I just smiled at him, but he was not looking at me. He stood up quite abruptly and headed towards the shore of the lake, lingered there for a moment and then took off his shoes. Then his coat. Then his shirt, until he was just in his black trousers.
“What are you doing?!” I asked coming towards him a bit shocked.
He turned to face me and I tried so hard to just look at his face and not his chest. Although he was slim, you could trace the outline of some firm muscles on his chest and on his arms. The little bit of dark hair chest was standing out from the pale skin and although the breeze was quite cold, he seemed to feel warm.
“Going for a swim. You should join me.” He said giving me a small smirk.
“Are you mad? You are going to freeze to death!” I said looking at him as if he just escaped from St Mungo’s.
He laughed and then looked into my eyes, all the way to the depths of them. He held out his hand and I placed mine in his almost as if he had placed the Imperius curse upon me. “You only get to live once...and with these times that are going on at the moment, you don’t know how much you have any more. Live your life, Anna...just let go for a few minutes.” He said not taking his eyes out of mine for the entire time he spoke.
I didn’t reply to his comment, but something about those green eyes of his, made me reach down and unlace my sneakers....then take of my jumper until I was left with my jeans and a white T-shirt. The ground was cold beneath my feet, but I somehow couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything, only his hand holding mine and taking me towards the lake.
The water was freezing. It was so cold that my skin was feebly protesting against the stupid actions of my brain. But for once, I just didn’t care. I just followed Edwin until the water reached his chest and my neck. In fact, I was tiptoeing in order for the water to reach my neck, which didn’t make it very comfortable.
“You okay?” asked Edwin holding out his hand for me to take it, which
I obviously did as soon as I found it in the water.
“C-cold.” I said, my teeth clenching and unclenching in my mouth.
He let out a small laugh and started swimming around, then dived under water and came out again. He was so happy....I could see it so clearly on his face; the liberty of swimming and feeling the wind and just not have all his actions controlled by a paint brush.
He held out his hands for me to go and join him into the deeper water and I swam towards him, not caring how cold it was, since my muscles were sort dead any way. When I finally did reach his hands, he pushed me under water and tickled me. I came out gasping for air and he was laughing so I started laughing as well and went to get him, but of course he was a much faster swimmer than I was.
“You are so going to pay for this!” I huffed as I was swimming towards him as fast as I could. My hair was heavy and cold behind me and my eye lashes were full of water that ran down my cheeks as if I was crying. But I wasn’t crying....in fact I didn’t remember feeling so happy and so young in such a long time.
In the end, Edwin let himself get caught by me and I pushed him under the water with a huge amount of effort. When he came out, he lifted me up with him, and for a few seconds I was just up in his arms, looking down at his face, and his green eyes looking into my blue ones as droplets of water were falling from my face on to his like rain.
“We...we should go.” I said looking into his eyes as if hypnotised.
“Yes...” he murmured and put me back down into the water, so that it was reaching my chest.
We swam back to the shore in silence and came out of the water shaking hard. I was cold...I was so cold and my feet were white. I searched for my wand and found it lying on the floor, next to my green jumper. As soon as I placed a warming up charm on me and Edwin I bothered to remember the drying charm.
I stared at the painting for a while. Edwin was in the same position, looking exactly the same, except for his eyes. They were no longer looking down at the floor, but up at me and they were twinkling with happiness. I gave him a small smile and headed for the door of the small cupboard.
I turned a corner and saw the stairs that led me out of the dungeons. I quickly made my way up the stairs and was about to turn another corner, so that I can go towards the Gryffindor tower, when I nearly bumped into the tall and dark silhouette of Severus Snape.
“Rider! What are you doing on the corridors at these early hours?” he snapped at me, pointing his lumosed wand at my face.
“I...err...forgot the password for my common room.” I lied lamely.
“The last time I checked, the Gryffindor common room was in the Gryffindor tower, not in the dungeons.” He said sourly and his eyebrows went up.
“Yes, well...I...err...hoped to find....”
“Don’t lie to me!” he snapped in a slow voice, which sent chills down my spine. I wondered how he could possibly have a child as amiable as Edwin when he was the way he was. Unless Edwin lied, and Snape was not really his father. “Why are you down here?”
“I sleep walk.” I lied again, sensing the anger starting to boil in him. Why was it that I always ended up in trouble with Snape?
“Rider, you have five seconds to tell me ....”
“I was in the hospital wing.” I said looking down. I couldn’t lie to people by looking in their eyes; it was better if I looked down. “I know you’re not supposed to be in there after curfew, but I needed to see how Hermione was.”
“You still didn’t answer my question.” Grunted Snape in a deep, silky voice.
“I came through the dungeons because I wanted to avoid Peeves.” I lied, not knowing a better reason. “So, when should I come for detention?” I murmured .
“Rider, I really do have better things to do than just issue you detentions every week. I want two parchments on why you should not wonder the corridors at night by the day after tomorrow.” He said and gave me a patronising glare.
“Okay.” I said grumpily and headed towards the Gryffindor tower, but not before hearing him say: "50 pints from Gryffindor!" I groaned and stamped my feet harder with every step.
Hermione was no better the following day. Or the next week. And I had not seen Edwin since our little swim together, either, because every time I wanted to go out at night, Snape was patrolling the Gryffindor corridors. I knew he sensed I was up to something, so I decided to let him cool first. It was too risky trying to go see Edwin some other way, since he didn’t want his father to find out about his liberty.
The day after Dumbledore spoke to Harry in his office, I received a note to go see him as well and thus I found out that no one knew where Hermione had been or where Ron was or how in the name of Merlin Hermione managed to escape and arrive back at Hogwarts. Now everyone was waiting for her to wake up and tell the story, but weeks had passed without her condition bettering up to one rainy Thursday, when Ginny and I were bringing a fresh bouquet of Butterfly flowers from Hagrid. They were found in a special clearing from the forbidden forest, and once they developed from their blossom form, they would transfigurate themselves into huge, colourful butterflies that made the room smell of whatever a person liked the most. Hagrid hoped that maybe Hermione will wake up from her state when she smelled the butterflies, but it was already the 7th bouquet and Hermione was still in the same comatose state.
“Aguamenti!” The tip of Ginny’s wand filled the flower glass with fresh water, as I placed the blossomed flowers in it, carefully, as if afraid to disturb the growing insects.
We sat at Hermione’s side for a few moments, in silence; me on the right, Ginny on the left avoiding to look at her, but not looking at each other either. I could hear her breathing slowly and rithmatically next to me, but apart from that, there was no sign that she was still alive.
“She will make it, won’t she?” Ginny’s voice was weak and her eyes were coated by heavy bags of purple. I didn’t need to look at her in order to know that she was missing sleep, because of Ron. But I tried to move my thoughts away from Ron for a while.
“I don’t know.” I replied, as honestly as I could. Ginny was not a person to be lied to...she could see past my veil of self comfort more than anyone else could.
She nodded and looked out the window behind Hermione’s bed absently. I let out a small sight and looked down at my watch that Harry gave me as a present a few years ago. I had to get a new one. But I didn’t get to see the time, because my eyes were focused on Hermione’s right thumb. It moved. I swear, it moved! I said to myself not taking my eyes of Hermione’s hand. And then it happened again. Her thumb moved and then it was followed by her index finger as if in shock.
“Ginny!” I said standing up. “Go get Madam Pomfrey!”
“What...why?” she asked a bit shocked as if I just brought her back from her daydream too abruptly.
“She moved her fingers!” I muttered inaudibly, as if talking too loud might stop Hermione from waking up. At least that was what I hoped she was doing.
Ginny nodded and then ran towards Madam Pomfrey’s office, with sprinting steps.
They returned together, Madam Pomfrey’s eyes severe and twinkling, while I stepped out of the way in a heartbeat.
“I’ll go get Harry.” She said and ran out of the hospital wing before I could tell her not to tell him anything yet. What if it was a false alarm? I didn’t know who I was worried for, myself or Harry’s reaction.
I forcefully returned my attention back to Hermione as I caught a glance of Madam Pomfrey slipping a lemon yellow potion down Hermione’s throat. She choked. Blood came out of her mouth. She choked again and then she finally opened her eyes.
“That’s it...that’s a good girl.” Said Pomfrey as she adjusted the pillows behind Hermione‘s back to make her stay in something that resembled a painful sitting position. After the medi- withc ran her wand around Hermione from head to toe and forced her to swallow a few more potions, she turned to me and whispered: “Not too many questions...she is weak and her memory is partly erased. And only two visitors at a time.” With that, she turned around and went to her office to fire call Dumbledore.
“Oh, Hermione...” I whispered and embraced her lightly as to not crush her bones. She hugged me back, hard and started crying. “You’re okay...you’re safe now.” I said trying to make her feel better, but failing miserably.
“It was horrible...oh Ron!” she cried.
“Where’s Ron?” I asked softly, breaking out embrace. Her eyes were puffy and red, and her scars were reddened by the flow of blood in her cheeks.
“They have him...!” she cried but tried to get a grip on herself. “He helped me get out, but he didn’t make it!” she said, breaking into sobs
“Is he alive?” I asked, not sure whether I wanted to know the answer.
“He was when I escaped.” Murmured Hermione. “We need to go after him...”
“Where did they keep you?” I asked placing my hand on her shaking one.
At that question, she started crying even harder. “I...don’t know. We were blindfolded the entire time and when we weren’t....it was too dark to see anything.”
I didn’t get to say another word, because Harry and Ginny came back into the hospital wing, but Madam Pomfrey sensed too many voices and she shouted from her office: “Two at a time!”
Both Ginny and Harry looked at me. “I’ll go.” I said. I embraced Hermione one last time and whispered I’ll be back soon, then headed out of the hospital wing thinking about Ron and if he were still alive Thinking about how much I missed Edwin’s company even if I denied that to myself. Thinking, just thinking if this will get any better or any worse. I turned a corner, and I almost didn’t see Draco Malfoy walking behind me. Almost.
A/N Here is chapter 12 for you. I hope you liked the little swim...(if it wasn't too strange :P ) Anyway, what did you think about Hermione getting better? What about the ending?
I noticed that many people are reading this story, but there's only about 3 people reviewing (thank you Cathy, Born Under A Bad Sign and Shana, for sticking up with my story so far :)). If you like my story, please let me know what you think:)...it really, really does help with future chapters. Thanks:)
Merope (I will update soon)