Chapter 8 : London
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The metal was could underneath my thighs, distracting my focus.
“Have you been experiencing any more headaches or dizziness?”
“Only when I’m tired or stressed, Healer McDonald,” I said, blinking against the light being shone in my eyes.
“Have you noticed a significant increase in your thinking?”
“Yes, my mind is processing things much faster now. I’m nearly finished with my fifth year course work, and I’m halfway through my sixth year. Professor McGonagall says I’m nearly ready to start seventh year again.”
I couldn’t help but let a note of pride creep into my voice, and Healer McDonald beamed at me. I was at my scheduled Mungo’s check-up, ensuring my healer that no harm had come of me because of my trip to Australia.
“That’s great to hear, Hermione. Now the most important question, how are your memories?”
“Still under lock and key,” I sighed, shifting cold metal. McDonald lowered his wand and the light went out, giving me the opportunity to clear my vision. “But I had an incident on Thursday, when I got back to Hogwarts from Australia.”
“Yes?” he prompted.
“Well I erm… I may have gotten into a fight,” I blushed, feeling like my fourth-year self. “It got to the point where wands were drawn, and I was able to defend myself with a nonverbal spell. Even now I don’t know what the spell was.”
“Merlin, who was the fight with, to incite such a reaction? You may discover that the happier, angrier or sadder you are, the better you will be able to access your memories.”
“It was definitely anger this time around. Draco Malfoy.”
“Healer, is there something I should know about the Malfoys? All of my friends, and Malfoy himself, have been dancing around my questions for the last two days.”
Healer McDonald shifted uncomfortably, and I recognised the same look of pity that I’d noticed in the eyes of everyone else. “Honestly, Hermione? You should be asking someone close to you. All of your dearest friends know, and I feel that they’re better equipped to help you through your reaction.”
I sighed and rubbed my head where a stabbing pain was building. Why was everyone constantly avoiding my questions? My frustration must have shown plainly on my face, because my healer smiled sympathetically at me.
“Look, I know it’s hard,” he said, “You’re not the first patient I’ve dealt with who has amnesia. You’re handling everything so calmly – myself and my colleagues are more than impressed by your attitude. Are you applying the steps that I taught you?”
“Receive, process and store,” I said automatically, and we shared a laugh over my robotic reply.
“Well, that’ll be all for today Hermione. I’ll be seeing you again for your three month check-up in March. For now, everything seems to be fine apart from your lack of memory. And as always, never hesitate to contact myself or another healer if you have even the smallest question.”
Healer McDonald always made me feel so welcome, and I smiled warmly at him as he shook my hand firmly.
“Thank you, Healer.”
“Not at all.”
I left the examination room and wandered down the hall towards the floo-ing fireplaces. I kept my eyes on the ground to avoid the stares I was receiving, not enjoying catching the attention of strangers.
“Is that Hermione Granger?”
“Don’t stare, Emily, she’s sick,” the mother hushed her daughter as they hurried past, and my cheeks flamed red. Was that truly how people viewed me? I wasn’t sick, only … lost.
Suddenly unexplainable feelings of pressure and anger rose through my body, and I spun away from the fireplaces and Hogwarts and staring, judgmental eyes.
“What do you know about my scars, Malfoy?”
“More than you, apparently. They didn’t tell you?”
Malfoy’s deep voice rose in my head, and I almost screamed in frustration as I half ran down the corridor.
“Miss Granger, you’re not supposed to go that way!” a hospital worker hurried after me, but I rudely slammed a door in his face and strode out of St Mungo’s and onto the bustling muggle street.
Where Malfoy thinks I belong, I fumed. I quickly lost myself in the crowd, successfully shaking off the Mungo’s worker. No doubt McGonagall was going to be owled, but I was nineteen, and seriously in need of some space to think.
Vaguely thankful that I wasn’t wearing my school uniform, I ducked into a small café and sat down at a window table. Waitresses bustled around me, and the faint scream of milk being steamed filled my ears.
I glanced up to see a girl of about my own age, with pink hair and piercings in her ears and nose.
“Yes please. A cappuccino, thank you.”
It was brought over quickly, and I stirred a sugar into the brown liquid once I’d spooned the chocolaty froth into my mouth. It was mid-stir that I noticed an unmistakable head of short blonde hair among the crowd outside, and my spoon fell on the table with a loud clank. Malfoy, in muggle London?
“You alright?” a waitress asked as I pushed my chair back, and I barely spared her a look as I pressed muggle money into her hand and ran out of the door. I forgot about my previous frustration as I was swallowed by the people outside; it seemed that I wasn’t the only Hogwarts student out of school that day.
I almost lost him in the crowd, too intent on staying unnoticed to focus properly on where he was going. But the amount of people in muggle London was enough to render me into a nobody, and I began to keep up comfortably.
I briefly wondered why I was following him, but repressed any confused thoughts. It was Malfoy, and I didn’t trust him, or trust that he was out of school when he should have been at school under the watchful eyes of our professors. From the stories I’d been told, he may have still been heavily involved in Voldemort and everything he stood for.
He didn’t walk for long, turning a corner and disappearing into a generic London tower. I stopped outside and looked up at the plaque next to the door – Mayflower Hospice.
Frowning, I pushed the heavy door open to find that he wasn’t anywhere in sight. Why would Malfoy be visiting a muggle hospice in London? It was doubtful that former Deatheaters would choose it as a meeting place.
“Excuse me,” I said clearly, approaching the man sitting at the reception desk, “My friend didn’t wait for me. Can you tell me which room he went to?”
He looked at me suspiciously, and I wondered again what I was doing and when I had learnt to lie so well. Malfoy wasn’t any of my business anymore, the war was over. I had to focus on getting better, and that didn’t include traipsing around muggle London and ignoring my school work.
“Malfoy,” I said, ignoring the rational voice in the back of my head and hoping that Malfoy hadn’t given a fake name. Thankfully the man’s face cleared of any suspicions and he smiled at me.
“Floor six, room B,” he said, and I quickly thanked him before running to the elevator. It shot upwards, stopping all too soon. I swallowed nervously as I stepped out, but he was nowhere in sight.
“Hello, miss. Is everything okay?” a woman, clearly a doctor by her attire, asked.
“I’m looking for room B,” I said, and a sad smile graced her face.
“Down the hall and to the left. There’s a young man in there at the moment. I must say, I’m surprised she has another visitor. She doesn’t get many.”
“Oh, well…” I trailed off nervously, “I’m not in town very often.”
I made my escape after that, following the doctor’s directions down the hall. Voices drifted out of room B, and I stopped at the door.
“How are you?” Draco Malfoy was asking. I peered around the door and was surprised at what I saw. Narcissa Malfoy was lying in bed, with her hand pressed between Malfoy’s own two.
“Fine, Draco, I’m fine. I wish you’d stop visiting.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Malfoy sounded strained, his eyes focussed on his mother. I started at the formerly stunning Narcissa Malfoy. Her skin was paper white, her eyes tired and sad. She was incredibly thin, and the smile she summoned for her son wasn’t a true one.
“How is school?”
“Tolerable,” Malfoy replied, the haughty look on his face gone as he spoke.
“Are they treating you awfully?” Narcissa asked, sounding strained.
“I’d be lying if I said no.”
“We knew it would be hard.”
“I know, Mother. After what we did, I’m surprised I was even allowed back.”
“Yes, well,” Narcissa said, closing her eyes and sighing, “You’re a strong boy. You’ll do great things one day.”
Anger welled in my chest as I listened. Great things? Voldemort was dead, there was no room for Malfoy to do ‘great things’. To my surprise, he seemed to be thinking along the same lines as me.
“Great things, mother? The war is over, stop talking it. Especially here,” he said, glancing around at the muggle instruments surrounding his remaining parent.
“I wasn’t speaking of the Dark Lord, son. You’re an intelligent boy, I do wish you’d expand your horizons a bit. Realise that you’re capable of more than just death and destruction.”
“Yes, Mother,” he said tonelessly. Narcissa seemed to sink even further into her pillows, another sigh escaping her colourless lips.
“Leave me now, I must rest.”
“Yes, Mother,” he said again, and I ran down the hall and caught the elevator down to the bottom floor before I could be seen.
“Miss Granger! Are you quite alright?” McGonagall asked sternly as I stumbled out of the fireplace.
“I’m fine, Professor. Sorry to have caused any trouble.”
I brushed off my skirt and avoided the piercing gaze of my teacher. After running from the hospice, I’d wandered the streets for a few hours before going back to Mungo’s and then Hogwarts.
There was a pause, and I was waiting for my detention orders, but all Professor McGonagall said was, “Did your appointment go well?”
“Yes, everything is fine. Thank you for checking,” I said, touched by her concern. She squeezed my shoulder briefly, and I knew I had been dismissed. I was surprised by her lack of questions (an owl bearing the Mungo’s crest sitting on the back of an armchair stared at me reproachfully) and made my exit.
My thoughts ran quicker than usual as I walked through the corridors towards the Gryffindor common room. Today’s outing had brought my mind some much needed clarity, as if fresh air was all that I needed. I sorted through my thoughts and began to categorise them as I had once done, before everything was ruined because of a stupid quiddich game. Healer McDonald had said that I was doing okay, and that moments of strong emotion might bring back some of my memories. Narcissa Malfoy was dying in a muggle hospice and Draco Malfoy was visiting her. Something happened to me during the war that no one would tell me about.
They were all high-priority thoughts, and I was determined to find answers each one.
“Nitwit,” I said to the fat lady as I arrived at the portrait hole.
“Right you are, dear,” she said, swinging open. I stepped through, determination filling my chest as I straightened. The moment I spotted Ron and Harry sitting in front of the fire, I marched up to them and planted my hands on my hips. It was time to find answers to my most pressing worry.
“Uh oh, I know that look. What did we do wrong?” Ron asked pathetically, and I narrowed my eyes.
“What did you do wrong? You have been avoiding me and my questions for the last three weeks, and I’m done. I’m completely fed up. I want answers, or I’ll make your life miserable. Tell me what happened at Malfoy Manor and what scars I had removed. Now.”
“Erm,” Ron gulped, sharing a look with Harry.
“Well, we actually have this essay to do before Monday, so maybe we should just-“
“I swear to Merlin,” I hissed, stepping closer and grabbing their hair, “If you don’t tell me now, I won’t ever talk to you again.”
“Ouch, Hermione! Let go!” Ron whined, and I pulled harder. “Okay okay, bloody hell. Sit down, will you?”
“It isn’t easy for us to talk about, you know,” Harry said, rubbing his head once I let go.
“Then get it over and done with,” I replied.
"Sit down, then," Harry said with a resigned sigh, and the two boys shared a look of trepidation that I wished I hadn't seen.
"It happened like this..." Ron said slowly, trailing off. I took a deep breath and sat forward to hear properly. The truth, at last.