Chapter 10 : Separation Anxiety
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Note- this stories rating has changed from 15+ to mature, I did this just in case so they don't reject it because it's mature, the content is not really any different in intensity, just thought I'd let you know!
AN: Please read and review. Warning- this is a sad chapter. I cried while writing it. I thought I should warn you in case any of you are overly sensitive to this stuff, it’s ok. If you want to skip this chapter for some reason, I suggest you read through when Hermione goes home from the hospital. The rest is sad. I’m sorry.
Thanks so much for the chocolate and Oreos. I will admit, Oreos are good. I tried them dipped in milk as you suggested. You should have warned me about them melting! I left it in the milk too long and it suddenly disintegrated and I had to start all over with a new one.
Draco paused while writing a letter to Grace. He had written a fair few that break, even knowing that they would go unanswered for the most part. He couldn’t help it. Hermione was at home with her family, so he had no one to really talk to. He talked to Pansy and Blaise often enough, but it wasn’t the same.
Hermione had taught him, slowly and subtly, how to have real conversations. He had grown to really enjoy talking about everything, explaining his day, discussing what was most recently in the paper, everything. He had even, very slightly, started talking about feelings and stuff, though not too much. With Hermione gone he needed someone to talk to. If he was completely honest with himself, he was lonely. But he was rarely honest with himself, so it was ok.
In any event, Draco had grown to depend on communication on a deeper and more sophisticated level. In order to fill this need he sent a letter to Grace nearly every other day. He sincerely hoped she wasn’t going to start thinking of him as clingy and needy. He wasn’t. He was just bored. So he told himself. He didn’t write much, just often.
Hermione sat in the chair closest to her mother hospital bed. Her mother was sleeping, so she decided to read the latest letter she had gotten from Damien. He certainly wrote her often enough. She liked it though; it kept her grounded. She knew that there would be a new letter every other day. It was almost like clockwork. In a time of such uncertainties, not knowing if her mother would be ok or not, she appreciated any little hint of a routine, and without her daily chats with Draco, she needed some form of conversation that didn’t revolve around treatments and medicine. She admitted, it wasn’t really a conversation, since it was entirely one sided, but she would take what she could get and she really didn’t have the time nor the energy to reply to all of Damien’s letters.
Plus, the more he wrote to her, the more his ‘voice’ seemed familiar. The way he wrote, his word choice and sentence composition, it rang a bell. She knew it sounded stupid, analyzing the grammar and sentence structure of her pen-pal’s letters, but they just sounded so much like someone she knew. She couldn’t put her finger on though. She had her suspicions however. She was nearly positive that he was a Slytherin. His attitude and preferences just felt like a Slytherin. She didn’t mean that in a derogatory way, merely that she knew many Slytherins and his attitude was reminiscent of them.
Besides, he had to be friends with Draco Malfoy. She knew it couldn’t be a coincidence that Oreo Pie was served for the first time at Hogwarts shortly after she told her pen-pal that it was her favorite desert. Draco had been in charge of food, so her pen-pal must have approached him about it.
She was brought back out of her thoughts by her mother’s doctor entering the room.
“And how are you feeling today Mrs. Granger?”
Hermione listened as her mother answered the daily questions about pain level and what-not. It didn’t sound good.
“Well, I think we are going to take you in for some tests, just to see if the treatment is helping you at all.”
With that a few nurses came in and helped her mom into a wheelchair and took her away. Hermione hadn’t moved the entire time. She just sat in her chair, letter held loosely in her limp grip, staring at the empty bed.
Draco was sick of moping around. He was willing to admit that he missed both Hermione, and a pen-pal that could respond. He had isolated himself in the Heads’ common room for too long. He made his way down to the Slytherin common room.
“Hey Draco, very long time no see. What in the world have you been up to? Got a secret girl you want to tell me about?” Blaise wiggled his eyebrows suggestively as he looked at Draco over the back of the sofa.
Draco frowned at him and gave him no response. He took a seat in one of the armchairs by the fire, looking over at Pansy and Blaise as they sat on the couch.
“I’ve been reading and doing homework. It’s NEWTS this year you know, so I have a lot to do. Plus, head’s duties. What have you two been doing?”
Pansy grinned and Blaise just snorted.
“I have been sending letters to my pen-pal almost every day!” Pansy was uncharacteristically bouncy where she sat, unable to stop herself from smiling in pure joy. “He even sent me a Christmas present! I mean, I sent him one too, chocolate. All guys like chocolate. He sent me a homemade scarf! And there were matching handmade mittens and a hat to match. They are all maroon and super cute!”
“That great for you Pansy, glad you like your guy.” Draco couldn’t imagine being glad to get a homemade scarf; then again, he couldn’t imagine Pansy being excited about getting a handmade scarf. “Wait, why are you happy about that? Don’t you want labels and brand names? That’s what you always told me to get you for Christmas.”
“Well,” her forehead scrunched up a bit in thought, “I guess it doesn’t matter to me as much anymore. I know, from writing to him, that he can’t afford all that much. I’m ok with that because he still thought of me and got me a present. Any present counts.”
Draco was stunned speechless by this Pansy-transformation. “Well good for you. My pen-pal got me raspberry chocolate and Oreos.” Both of his friends looked at him like he was crazy. Blaise spoke first.
“Mate, what are Oreos?”
Draco smiled at this. “I asked the same thing. She had mentioned them once. They are this Muggle cookie. Two chocolate cookies with a white cream in the middle. They are really good, now that I’ve tried them. They are even better when you dip them in milk, but you have to watch out or they dissolve too quickly for you to eat them.” This explanation did not have any effect on the looks he was getting. Pansy spoke for both of them this time.
“You like something Muggle?”
This time Draco frowned. “You know, I’m not as bad as I used to be. I like Muggle things, or, at least, I’m learning to like Muggle things. I don’t dislike things just because they are Muggle made. I’m pretty sure my pen-pal is half-blood or Muggle-born, and since I really like her, I have to give Muggle stuff a try.”
They seemed to accept this explanation and the three of them spent the day hanging out and goofing off like they used to.
Hermione had had to go home. Sitting in the tub, water up to her chin, Hermione couldn’t bring herself to get up and dry off. She was clean. She was numb.
The tests hadn’t been good.
The results showed that the Chemo wasn’t hurting her mother, but it wasn’t helping either. The hospital couldn’t afford, and neither could her family, to waste money on Chemo for someone that wasn’t gaining anything from it.
They were stopping the treatment.
In books and movies Hermione remembers when, if someone is inevitably going to die, the authority in the movies always promises to do everything in their power to ‘make them more comfortable’ while they waited.
Waited to die.
The hospital hadn’t said those words per say. They had advised her father and mother that there really wasn’t much they could do for her anymore and that they were welcome to stay, but it was just as easy to set her up, with everything she needed, in her own home. They had agreed to wait until the next day and then they were going to bring her mother home. It just wasn’t how Hermione had pictured her mother leaving the hospital, still sick, still dying.
Hermione let herself sink below the water’s surface. With just the length of her hair touching the surface she waited. Holding her breath she opened her eyes. She closed them again. Nothing. She felt nothing. She should feel. She should be having trouble, wanting to reach the surface, wanting to breath in air, proof that she’s alive. She didn’t. Want all that, that is. She did rise to the surface again and take a deep breath. She finally got out of the tub, toweled herself off, and drained the tub. She sat on the edge of the large, white tub, watching the water as it sank lower and lower. She watched it reach the bottom, swirling like a tornado or a cyclone until it was gone.
With the tub empty she returned to her room and put on her pajamas. She didn’t have the will to wear anything more clothes-like. She did nothing for hours. Finally, exhausted and yet unwilling to sleep, she fell asleep where she sat, her head lolling down onto her desk.
Her mother came home the next day. They moved her in to the guest room, since it was on the ground floor. Hermione had rarely left her mother’s side when they were at the hospital. She had been constantly holding her mother’s hand, sleeping in the chair next to her bed, head resting on the edge of her mother’s hospital bed. Conversely, with her mother home again, Hermione could barely stand to be in the room with her for more than an hour. Seeing her mom, sitting upright in that bed, covered with the familiar pink floral comforter Hermione had always seen on that bed, Hermione couldn’t deal with it.
In a hospital there is the assumption that the sick person there is getting help and will get better. At home, the scene was eerily reminiscent of when Hermione was nine and her great Uncle had gotten sick over Christmas. He had told them not to bother taking him to the hospital, since he was ninety-four. He stayed in the guest room. He was in a cemetery now.
Even with her aversion to that room and her strong desire not to watch her mother die, Hermione knew what she had to do. It was like that album she had given her mom for Christmas, they needed to make all the memories they could before they couldn’t make any anymore. So she stayed by her mother’s side, painfully aware that she was truly practicing ‘bedside manner’ at what was literally going to be her mother’s ‘deathbed’.
Hermione was supposed to go back to Hogwarts in three days. She didn’t know what to do.
“Hermione dearest,” her father drew her attention away from staring at her bowl of cereal up towards his face as they sat together at the breakfast table. “I was wondering if you would be able to sent a letter to your Headmistress asking to stay home until…until…” He seemed to be unable to finish that sentence. Hermione interrupted so he wouldn’t have to.
“Of course, I was planning on doing that soon anyway. I’ll just go do that right now.” She quickly rinsed her bowl, put it in the dishwasher, kissed her father on his forehead, and went up to her room.
Thank you so much for allowing me to leave school early. This extra time with my mother has been great. However, her condition is quickly deteriorating. I am writing to ask you if I could potentially have some more time off. I was hoping to stay with my parents until such time as I am no longer needed. I am confident that I can make up the work in no time and if I am gone too long I can always repeat the year. However, I really feel my time is best spent here while my mother is still with us.
Professor McGonagall sent back a reply nearly immediately, granting her as much time as she needed and telling her how very sorry she was that Hermione had to go through all this.
Hermione couldn’t take her mind off of the phrase, ‘go through all this’. She wasn’t convinced that that was what she was doing. ‘Go’ implies movement. ‘Through’ implies coming out the other side. ‘All this’, like it was a stack of annoying paperwork or a messy bedroom in serious need of cleaning. Hermione felt more like she was sitting in hell. She was watching on the sideline as her mother went through hell. With her mother there was movement, a destination. It was a pretty crappy destination and Hermione didn’t want her to get there, but she was going to come out the other side, the side Hermione wasn’t on.
But Hermione certainly wasn’t ‘going through all this.’
Hogwarts started again. On the worst day of Hermione’s life her friends and classmates were rushing to Platform 9 ¾ to get on the train and head back to school. They were probably chatting happily, relaying all the fun that Christmas break always brings. They were probably showing off their favorite presents, buying snacks off the trolley for the ride to school. Those who had never left school were probably groaning, quickly doing whatever homework they had left until the last possible day.
Hermione hadn't been with them. She'd been clutching a horribly cold hand, hoping beyond hope that if she held it long enough it would be warm again.
Days later, Hermione sat on her bed, staring at her shoes, waiting. She heard what she was waiting for, her father’s voice, calling to her from the floor below.
“Hermione, honey, we have to go.”
There was that word again. ‘Go.’ Movement. But Hermione wasn’t moving. Her legs might have been, her body was, she physically left her room and went downstairs to get in the car. But Hermione wasn’t there. Hermione was back in her tub, under the water, hoping to feel something, hoping to feel anything other than numb.
Hermione smoothed her hands down over her simple black dress. It had a swoop neckline that reached just up to her collarbone. It didn’t have sleeves, but she wore a light sweater over it. It came down to just past her knees and she was wearing flesh colored nylons and a pair a black flats. She looked appropriate for the church, and for the occasion.
Taking her seat in the front row Hermione turned to see who all had come. She recognized some of her mom’s friends from the dental practice. She saw all of her family. She saw family friends. Looking at their faces, she couldn’t take it. She turned her head back to the front and squeezed her dad’s hand.
Everyone stood as the pallbearers brought in her mother’s casket. They set it up on the altar and took their seats. The priest stood and addressed everyone.
“We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of an amazing woman.” Normally Hermione thought it was dumb for priests to talk like that, like they knew who they were talking about, but her mother had always been involved in the church. She and her mother sang in the church choir together up until Hermione went to Hogwarts. So, he knew whose life he was talking about. “Jean Granger was a great dentist, devoted member of the church, loving mother and wife, and so much more.”
Hermione tuned out most of the priest’s speech. She didn’t want to hear it. Eventually the organist started to play ‘Amazing Grace’, her mom’s favorite song. Everyone sang along.
Hermione tried to sing along. She only knew the first two verses by heart, so she had the hymnal open to the proper page. But words got fuzzy. She blinked, trying to clear her vision. It partially worked, as the tears that had been blocking her eyes cascaded down her cheeks. But more just filled their place. Then, not only couldn’t she read the words, she couldn’t sing. She had always had a pretty nice singing voice, but she couldn’t force out any sound. She had never really understood the phrase ‘choked up’ before, but she suddenly had a very personal understanding of it.
She stopped trying to sing and just stood there crying, listening to everyone else finish the song without her. She took that time to send a prayer up to her mom.
The service went by quickly after that. They stood again as the pallbearers carried the casket out to the hearse again. Then they all bundled up against the winter weather and filed into their various cares to form the funeral procession as they followed the hearse to the cemetery.
If anything was said as her mother’s casket was lowered into the ground, Hermione didn’t hear it. She was just staring at the headstone, mesmerized by the clean, clear writing that stood out on the stone. She shivered, but she wasn’t cold; she couldn’t be cold; she didn’t feel.
But then, she did feel. She felt a hand slip into hers, gripping her tight. She didn’t bother turning to look at her father, opting to stand there, staring at the ground as it swallowed up her mother. Everyone else left. Soon it was just her and her father. He hadn’t even tried to get her to leave, or turn to him, or talk to him. She was eternally grateful. She just needed quite, peace, time to think, to absorb the enormity of what she had just witnessed. She just needed someone to hold on to.
She finally turned towards her dad, about to ask him for a hug. It wasn’t her dad. She briefly caught a glimpse of her dad as he got in his car, waved at her sadly, and drove off. She looked back up at the blonde savior of man who stood in front of her, looking at her calmly with his icy eyes. But they weren’t cold; they were sad; they were compassionate; they were understanding. She had never expected to see those emotions in his eyes, of all people, but she was so glad he was there.
She didn’t ask him why he was there. She didn’t ask him how he knew to be there. She didn’t ask him why it was him and not Harry or Ron or Ginny. She didn’t need Harry or Ron or Ginny. She had him, and she needed him. So, for once in her life she was selfish. She took what she wanted, what she needed. She just looked up at him momentarily before wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and burying her face in his shoulder.
Like when she had gotten her letter telling her that her mother was sick, he just held her, letting her cry all over him.
In the middle of the cemetery, standing at the foot of her mother’s grave, they stood, him holding her just as much as she held him. Temporarily wrapped up in their own world where nothing mattered other than the fact that she was hurting and he could help.
AN: Thanks to all who keep reviewing; they keep me going. Thanks especially to ewsoucf7, whose reviews reminded me that I should get my act together and finish this chapter. I hope you all liked this chapter, even though it was sad. Please leave a review. I’m sorry this was such a downer, but it’ll get better. I cried writing this chapter; it was just so hard for me to write it. I really didn’t want to kill her, but I knew that the story needed it. Hope you liked Draco’s appearance at the end, that was a surprise for me when I wrote it, that wasn’t planned. Anyways, I’m rambling.
Just a side note, totally unrelated, but I had an epiphany and now know what story I’ll be writing after this is done, which is nowhere near just yet, but it’s going to be a Rose/Scorpius probably called “The Story of Eden”, I’m excited!
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