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Tell Us Again, Please! by taylorj828

Format: Novella
Chapters: 9
Word Count: 23,232
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Mystery, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Arthur, Molly, Neville, Luna, Ginny
Pairings: Ron/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, Harry/Hermione

First Published: 04/09/2007
Last Chapter: 06/26/2007
Last Updated: 06/26/2007

Summary:

 Some stories are worth hearing again and again, be it a story of love, a story of war, a story of death, or a story of life.  But a truly good story – you can never be content to hear it only once. ..::.. “The young lady lay in the hospital bed at St. Mungo’s, confused and alone.  She, in fact, didn’t know that she was in the hospital at all.  All she knew was darkness.”  Book 7 Void  ..::banner:dim at best::...::beta KML::..


Chapter 1: The Story
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Tell Us Again Please
The Story

Every story has to begin somewhere







“Tell us again please!”



“Tell us, tells us!”



“Pwease, jus won tahm!”



“It is already past time for you lot to be in bed!” said a stern but kind voice.



“Pwease jus tewl us da storwee!” little Luka begged, eager to help his sisters win the battle.



“Again, again!” Adele echoed, jumping up and down, imitating as rabbit as she was often accustomed to doing.  Her eyes were wide, her hair was bouncing, and her little teeth were all bared in the widest smile possible.  Her childlike expression was the epitome of eagerness and joy, and that expression often held melting powers over the hearts of adults enforcing strict rules. 



Indeed, the kind voice became even kinder at the pleaded requests.  Her eyes softened, her head tilted, and if the children had been properly experienced in body language, they would have known that they had won.



“All right.  I’ll tell you the story tonight, but then it’s straight off to bed!” she insisted.



“Yay!” A chorus of cheers erupted in the living room as the three children began to dance around and rush to get the best seat for story time.  The kind voiced woman smiled all the more, put away her dish towel, and led the children toward the sofa. 



The fire crackled warmly, warding off the winter’s cold bite.  The children were in their pajamas, and the middle of the three, Adele, tightly clutched her precious teddy bear.  The two girls, Corrie and Adele, who happened to be the two oldest of the three children, climbed into the large, overstuffed arm chair and settled down happily together with a blanket and the teddy bear.  Their baby brother, Luka, though no longer a baby, climbed merrily into the lap awaiting him and the arms that wrapped around him.



“All right, where shall I begin…?  The young lady lay in the hospital bed at St. Mungo’s, confused and alone-”



“Wha’ abou’ duh fy?” Luka asked from her lap.



“Yeah, what about the fight?  The war?” Corrie repeated the inquiry.



“Tell da whole story!” Adele echoed her older sister’s plea.



“Now, children, it’s much too late.  You know about the fight, and I’m not going to fill your minds with wars and fighting and battles right before you go to sleep!  I’ll begin in the hospital, or I won’t begin at all!” she said firmly.



“Aw wite!”



“Okay, okay!” The children agreed that part of the story was better than no story.



“Okay,” she sighed, beginning again.  “The young lady lay in the hospital bed at St. Mungo’s, confused and alone.  She, in fact, didn’t know that she was in the hospital at all.  All she knew was darkness.”



..:..




She had been in the hospital bed for the better part of a week.  She, however, was unaware of the time, the days, or what had elapsed since her last memory.  But she was lucky – lucky to have made it out of the final war, the war to end all wars.  The was the Wizarding world hoped was the war to end all wars.  But now, finally, she was beginning to awake from her inert unconsciousness. 



To describe what it felt like to transcend from unconsciousness to consciousness was never something she ever learned to do.  Simply put, she was aware that she was.  She was existing.  She was breathing, and she could hear and feel.  Beneath her she felt a soft cushioning – what she had always associated with a mattress.  She was in a bed.  Atop her was scratchy, stiff material.  She was covered with sheets.  She could hear tapping and shuffling somewhere in the distance, muffled by some obstructive presence.  She tried opening her eyes, but found it rather difficult.  Something wasn’t right.  Where was she?  What had happened?



A vision of a dark forest appeared in her mind.  It was eerie and silent.  A smell came flooding into her memories – the smell of still trees, and the smell of death.  Only one who had seen Death could know the smell.  Seeing a funeral or knowing a relative who had died did not in any way truly acquaint a person with Death.  Death was an obtrusive, malodorous, finality that sunk to the core of one’s being.  But now, the smell of death had vanished and in its place lingered a snake-like face, leering masks, and a lightning bolt scar. The images flashed in rapid succession across her mind’s eye.  She gave a start and felt her whole body shake.  A cold sweat was beginning to form on her skin.



“Hermione?  Hermione, dear?”  A familiar voice jarred her even more.  She knew that voice.



“Mrs. Weasley?” Hermione heard her own voice erupt into the air, but it sounded distinctly separate from her internal consciousness.  Her voice sounded confused and scratchy, as though it hadn’t been used recently.



“Oh, Hermione, you’re awake!  You’re back with us!  Oh I’m so relieved!” Mrs. Weasley did in fact sound filled with relief.  She was gushing with happiness, and Hermione could hear sounds that indicated she was coming closer to her.  Yet hearing Mrs. Weasley’s voice did not quell Hermione’s confusion.  She was glad to hear a familiar voice, especially one belonging to a most beloved mother-figure, but Mrs. Weasley’s reasoning for being so relieved at Hermione’s waking caused a tremor of apprehension inside Hermione.



“What’s happened?  Where am I?” Hermione asked unsteadily.  She was struggling to place herself.  She had no idea where she was, and her attempts to open her eyes and focus on something all ended in darkness.



“The battle’s over, dear.  Voldemort’s been destroyed, thanks mainly to Dumbledore’s Army.  You kids were amazing!  And now you’re in St. Mungo’s getting some much needed rest and healing.” Mrs. Weasley sounded cheerful.  Hermione worried that Mrs. Weasley sounded too cheerful.  Was she hiding something?  Was she trying to protect Hermione from some piece of bad news?



“What’s wrong with me?” Hermione questioned, fighting to keep her voice emotionless. 



“Well, dear, I think you’re going to be just fine.  Everyone got some bumps and bangs, but you came out alive.  And you’ve even got all your limbs!” Mrs. Weasley chuckled.  She sounded overly merry.



“Am I hurt?  Was I unconscious?  And why can’t I see properly?”  Hermione tried to sit herself up, but settled for merely scooting further up the bed.



“You’ve got some cuts and scars, but nothing the Healers can’t close up.  You should be just fine, for the most part.  You were unconscious nearly a week, but now I see you’ve decided to rejoin us.”  Mrs. Weasley’s repeated attempts at lightheartedness were not fooling Hermione.



“But why can’t I see you?” Hermione was becoming frustrated and perhaps a little frightened due to Mrs. Weasley’s avoidance of her question.



“Hermione…  well, I’m not sure how to say this.”  Mrs. Weasley paused, inadvertently increasing the suspese.  “I’m afraid the Healers haven’t found a way to restore your vision yet.”  Mrs. Weasley sounded as though she was unsure of, or perhaps didn’t want to be, sharing this information.



“My vision…  You mean I’m blind?  I just thought I had some kind of covering on my eyes.  I’m blind?  What happened?  They can fix it, right?”  Suddenly panic was rising.  Hermione thought perhaps she should be happy to be alive, but lacking her vision was a bit scary.  The prospect of never regaining her vision flashed through Hermione’s mind in a brief and much unwanted glimpse.



“Well, dear,” Mrs. Weasley began trying to explain.  “The curse used on you wasn’t a normal or known curse.  The Healers are experienced with many of the vision-obstructing curses, but it seems the Death Eater who attacked you had developed his own spell for blinding his enemy.  The Healers said that nothing they try has worked.  But they haven’t given up hope yet.”  Hermione  couldn’t help hearing the weakness in Mrs. Weasley’s voice.  She could not get her own hopes up; it didn’t sound likely that the Healers would find a cure, based on the doubt hidden in Mrs. Weasley’s hopeful explanation.



“Oh…” Hermione sighed, instantly becoming lost in her own thoughts.  What else was there to say or do about it?  A blind witch, who ever heard of such a thing?  Surely they could find some counter-curse or something to help her.  Suddenly Hermione felt a touch on her hand - Mrs. Weasley had placed her hand on Hermione’s.  Her hand was slightly cold, but it made Hermione feel less alone.



“What about Ron and Harry?” Hermione suddenly remembered her senses.  What could she be thinking?  She should have asked about them as soon as she had woken up!  Here she had been so confused about where she was and so worried about losing her vision, when she should have been thinking about her two best friends!  Try as she might, she could conjure no memory or final glance to help her remember what had happened to them.  Were they alive?  Where they hurt?  She had to believe that they were okay.  Surely, if they weren’t, Mrs. Weasley could never pretend to be so cheerful.  She would certainly be weeping.  No, Ron and Harry were okay.  They would come visit her soon!



Hermione listened as seconds ticked by.  She could hear her own breathing and heart beat.  She could hear a rattling noise outside and a ticking clock.  But she didn’t hear anything from Mrs. Weasley.



“Mrs. Weasley?  Ron and Harry?” Hermione asked this question now with intense fear.  She squeezed Mrs. Weasley’s hand, refusing to jump to any conclusions before she had been answered.  They had to be okay.  She couldn’t even let the thought enter her mind.  She would have no life without them.  No, she couldn’t think of anything without them.



“Well, dear,” Mrs. Weasley sniffed, “they’re both still with us… for now.”  Hermione’s breath caught in her throat.  Her mind was deluged with terrible images.  She saw mangled bodies and bleeding wounds, unconscious figures with bandaged heads and loads of potions and Healing Draughts.  She imagined Healers flocking around their bodies, administering potions, checking for progress, and muttering counter curses.



“For now?” Hermione’s voice came out feeble and shaky.



“Yes.  We think Harry might recover soon.  He hung on for his life, and now he’s even talking to us and sitting up.  But the Healers say there’s something else unknown going on inside him that they can’t quite uncover.  They’re puzzled.  It might be another curse invented by one of the Death Eaters or even Lord Voldemort himself.  No one’s sure how it happened, because no one saw, and he’s not speaking about that yet.”  Mrs. Weasley’s voice had taken on a noticeably more somber tone.



“And Ron?” Hermione pushed out squeakily.



“They pulled Ron out of the forest unconscious, and he hasn’t regained consciousness yet.  The Healers say he might have suffered what the Muggles call a concussion.  And he’s also afflicted with an unknown curse, also probably developed by one of the Death Eaters.  It seems they were determined to take down as many Wizards with them as they could.  You three have certainly got the Healers quite perplexed now.  They’ve even been talking with Arthur about some Muggle techniques, but I keep telling him, ‘Don’t you even think about it!’” Mrs. Weasley tried to lighten Hermione’s burden, as though the prognosis wasn’t really quite so bleak.  Hermione wondered if Mrs. Weasley’s attempt at softening the conversation was a ploy to keep her own worries and emotions in check.



“Can I see them?” Hermione asked quietly.  “I mean, visit them?” she corrected herself.  Would she ever see again?



“Well, the Healers need to attend to you, now that you’re awake.  But I’m sure something can be arranged.”  From the sound of her voice, Hermione thought that Mrs. Weasley must be smiling down at her.



“Anyway, I think I’ll get the Healers and have them look you over.  Then I’ll run up and get the family to come see you.” Hermione guessed that Mrs. Weasley was still smiling.  Hermione nodded and promptly became lost in her own thoughts.  Pulled out of the forest.  Unknown curses.  Harry and Ron both hanging on for dear life.  What if they both died?  And yet she seemed to be living. 



She made the deepest wish inside of her, willing her two friends to live.  They had finally given wizards, witches, and Muggles alike a safe world to enjoy.  It would be so unfair if they were not allowed to enjoy it themselves.



Chapter 2: Being Back
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Being Back
It’s not always all it’s cracked up to be






Hermione woke with a start as she heard her named being exclaimed from across her hospital room.


“Ginny?” Hermione ventured a guess.  She wasn’t sure what other girl would be calling out her name, and it did sound very much like a Weasley, very much like Ginny.



“Yes, it’s me!  You’re awake!  I was so worried!” she exclaimed, her voice indicating that she had made a beeline for Hermione’s bed.  Hermione felt Ginny’s hand grab onto her arm.  Now that she lacked her vision, Hermione found that she very much liked feeling a touch.  It made her feel not so completely alone, like she wasn’t merely drifting along in her own dark world, as it sometimes felt.



“I’m glad you’re here.” Hermione smiled faintly.  She was glad that Ginny was visiting her, but she couldn’t forget that her two dearest friends lingered between life and death.  As much as she enjoyed having anyone come to see her, more than anything she just wanted Ron and Harry to visit.  She wanted to know that they were okay.



“I was afraid you wouldn’t wake up.  I’m so glad you did.  I can’t believe you guys made it out, and you destroyed Voldemort!  The whole Wizarding world is in an uproar.  It’s like they’ve declared a brand new holiday or something!” Ginny was talking quite excitedly and quite quickly.



“Guess I’ve missed out on a few days, huh?” Hermione breathed a small, what she hoped was convincing, laugh.



“Well, you haven’t really missed anything.  Just that Voldemort is gone and the whole world is rejoicing!  What was it like being unconscious?” Ginny asked, but laughed at her own insincerity.  “I’m only kidding.”



“How are Ron and Harry?” Hermione asked her, suddenly blurting out the question.  She couldn’t be sure if it had been hours or days since she had spoken with Mrs. Weasley.  She had to judge the passing of time on taking naps and being forced to eat.  She hadn’t mastered the art yet.



“They’re the same,” Ginny said quietly.  Her voice had changed, indicating what Hermione suspected was an entire change in her demeanor.  Even the air around her felt a little different.  Hermione wondered if Ginny had actually been avoiding that question.



“Oh.  What about everyone else?  Our friends?  Your brothers?” Hermione ventured, hoping it wasn’t more terrible news.



“Well, most of the DA survived.  They’re all beat up pretty bad, but they’ll make it.  Neville’s got a curse on him, too, but it’s nothing life threatening.  Justin was killed, though.  No reason, he was just in the way.  Fred, George, Charlie, and Bill are all just fine, oh and Mum and Dad, too.  Charlie’s also in St. Mungo’s ‘cos they’re regrowing some bones and patching him up, but he’ll be good as new.  Seems you three got the worst of it.  I ‘spose Voldemort had it out for you.  But I’m really surprised we’re not off a lot worse,” Ginny concluded.  Hermione sighed and nodded.  She was glad they hadn’t suffered too badly, but that just left her thoughts resting on Ron and Harry.  She wanted to see them.



“When can I visit Harry and Ron?” she asked Ginny.



“I dunno.  It’s up to the Healers…  I’ll try to ask them, but Mum keeps shooing me away.  I know Harry would like to see you.  And Ron, well, maybe he would wake up if you could visit him.”  Hermione wasn’t sure if Ginny was sad or teasing.  The two girls talked for awhile longer, trying to stay away from the more cumbersome subjects of conversation.  At last Hermione became too sleepy to keep her mind on Ginny’s words.



“I think I need some rest, Ginny.” Hermione sighed, and then was overcome with a yawn.



“Yeah, I guess you do.  I just wanted to see you.  Fred and George want to come down too, but I’ll tell them to wait a bit.  Well, rest up and get healed so you can get out of here!” Ginny insisted.



“I’ll try.” Hermione smiled weakly in what she thought was the direction of Ginny’s face.  Hermione felt Ginny’s hands squeeze her forearm and hand, and then slowly, her skin brushed down Hermione’s and left her feeling alone again.  She listened to the footsteps until they disappeared.  Other footsteps echoed in the distance.  There were distant pops, the ticking of clocks, and a muffled conversation.  Hermione wasn’t sure if her eyes were open or closed, but supposed it didn’t matter any more.  She turned over and allowed her mind to wander until she was overcome with sleep.



..:..




It had been three days since Hermione had regained consciousness, or so she had been told.  They had still not found any counter-curse or healing solution for the Blinding Curse or whatever it was exactly.  And still Hermione had not been allowed to see Harry or Ron.  This frustrated her, but there was little she could do.  She was tempted to climb out of her bed and find them herself, but she had no practice wandering around as a blind person, and it was simply lost on her as to how to avoid being seen when she didn’t know who was looking at her! 



So she had to wait and wait, hoping for the moment in which she could see her friends.  Sometimes it worried her, and she was afraid that they just might not survive, and she would miss getting to see them, or at least speak to them or touch them or hear them one last time.  This thought brought her to tears she hadn’t planned on, and she quickly forced herself to stop them and wiped away the remnants.  She didn’t like being weak or tearful, and she didn’t know who was watching her.  This thought constantly unnerved her.



She had been dozing on and off throughout this particular day, sometimes plagued by fears or memories, other times merely lost in a dazed world of darkness.  As she awoke from an apparent nap, she sensed that someone was in the room with her.  She opened her eyes, but still was met only with darkness.  She hadn’t heard footsteps entering the room nor anything else.  She tried to quiet her breathing and the sound of her own heart beating enough to try and detect someone else’s breathing.  Perhaps she could faintly hear it…



“Hey.” A voice called out quietly, gently, and almost gruffly.  She knew the voice.  Before she could answer, she felt warm skin on her right hand.  His hand had grabbed a hold of hers.  The skin was rough, but warm and gentle.  She forgot about answering him, and instead concentrated on the feel of his skin, his fingers, and his palm.  Was he really standing there next to her? 



She wanted to see him. 



She let her head fall back as her mind put together the image – the dark messy hair, the piercing green eyes, the rounded glasses, the scar, the skinny face, the mischievous smile.  She breathed deeply and could even smell him – he smelled like earth, with a hint of musky sweetness.  He normally had a certain clean smell also mixed in, but she noticed it was missing.  It had probably been his normal soap or shampoo. 



And then she felt a touch on her forehead.  It was the first touch she had felt in a place other than her hand or arm since she had awoken in this blank world at St. Mungo’s.  His left hand had softly and slowly lowered onto her forehead, and the rough but warm skin brushed along her brow and smoothed her hair back.  His other hand still held onto hers.  She swallowed and nuzzled into his hand, as an affection-starved pet dog might.  Her head pushed into his palm as it brushed smoothly down the side of her face and rested affectionately on her cheek.  His thumb brushed what she guessed was absentmindedly against her skin.  Again Hermione tried to open her eyes, as she had been doing every day, only to discover that they were already open.  She longed to see his face.  She wasn’t sure if she could get used to living in the darkness.



“Are you okay?” Harry whispered tenderly.  His thumb still brushed her cheek and his other hand caressed hers.



“Yeah,” she finally answered him.  “You?”  Hermione whispered too, although she was unsure why.



“I’ve been better.” Hermione imagined half a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.  His voice hadn’t been depressed, but rather a little amused.  It also sounded weak.



“I wanted to see you,” she confessed.



“I know.  They told me.  So I decided to come down,” he replied.



“They let you?” she asked.



“Well, yeah.  They couldn’t stop me, but I promised to go back.” Hermione imagined a smile again, another one that didn’t quite reach his eyes.  There was a strange quality in his voice that sounded unusual, like a mixture of both happiness and sadness.



“I wish I could see you,” Hermione whispered remorsefully.



“What can you see?”



“Darkness.”  She lowered her head a little, though she no longer had to worry about meeting or not meeting someone’s eyes.  She had no choice now.



“There’s not much to see,” Harry insisted.  She could feel him moving closer to her.  It was funny how she had never felt so much before these days.  There was a warmth that radiated from a person’s presence.  She could tell he was leaning over her.  She felt a tender satiny touch on her forehead, but it wasn’t his hand.  Both hands were still in their places, one on her hand and the other resting against her cheek.  This touch on her forehead was soft and smooth, even delicate.  Then she heard a small noise that gave her a clear indication.  He had kissed her on the forehead.



“I’m glad you’re alive, Hermione,” he whispered, but now his voice sounded very close to her ear.



“I’m glad you are too,” she said, struggling to keep her voice even.  She had spent the last few days being tormented by images of Harry’s and Ron’s deaths.  Even as Harry stood with her, the images still flashed through her mind.  She shuddered, hating them.  But Harry didn’t say anything.  She wondered how serious a condition he could be in if the Healers had let him come down and see her.  He must be doing better than she, and she wasn’t all that bad off.  She took a little comfort in this thought, but her worries for Ron still stubbornly refused to be placated.



“Well, I had better get back,” Harry whispered.  He had pulled a little farther back from her, but his voice still sounded nearer than where he had originally positioned himself.  She wondered if he was looking at her, and what he was looking at and what he saw.  She hadn’t a clue how she looked.  What if she had been scarred and was now horridly ugly and would be for the rest of her life?  And no one had told her! 



“Do you have to go?” she asked.



“Yeah, I promised.” She thought he sounded a bit amused again.  But she couldn’t ignore the hint of sadness that laced his words.  It worried her.  Shouldn’t he be happy?  They had survived and destroyed Voldemort.  What more could they ask for?  She felt Harry’s hand slide out of contact with her face, and instantly she missed its warmth.  Then she felt his palm slide over the back of her hand and pause as he intertwined his fingers over the top of hers.  He gave a little squeeze, and then she felt his skin brushing away, past hers.



“Will you come back?” she asked, suddenly afraid that he wouldn’t.  She didn’t like being left alone and being so far from him and Ron.



“Yeah,” he breathed.  She listened as his footsteps fell across the room until they faded into a hallway.  What about Ron?  She still wanted to see him, talk to him, hear his voice, be near him, know that he was going to be okay too. 



Chapter 3: Broken Monotony
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Broken Monotony 
How much of St. Mungo’s can one person take?





 



The seconds ticked by slowly and monotonously.  A popping sound from the hall would not cease.  Footsteps padded in different directions down a corridor, but it was a distant noise.  A child was crying somewhere even further away.  Something mysterious was tapping at a steady pace.  The seconds that ticked by indicated that the mysterious tapping happened at intervals of eight seconds.  The air felt stale and stuffy in the room, as though the room was dying for a window to be opened.  It wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t cold either.  Somewhere in the hallway a Healer was firmly reprimanding another.  The sound became muffled and it was apparent that someone had stepped into the room’s doorway, blocking the sound from being clear.  The obstruction moved.  A strange sound rang out.  In the far distance a door shut.  Something gave a loud CRACK!  And somewhere in the air the smell of the wonderful flowers that Fred and George had brought were producing their insistent pleasant and intoxicating fragrance. 



Hermione listened to everything she could.  She tried to hone her senses and pick up on every detail, just in case the Healers never did find a way to heal her.  She wanted to see again, but the longer the Healers delayed, the less likely it seemed.  Instead, Hermione tried to figure out everything about her surroundings just by listening, feeling, and smelling.  She knew there were Muggles who lived blind their whole lives.  But how could a witch?  Would she be a useless witch if she remained a blind witch?  The thought nagged at her no matter how many times she pushed it away.



Fred and George had been around to visit Hermione not too long after Ginny had seen her.  At least they were good for a laugh, even if their own brother was lying in St. Mungo’s with a big question mark over his fate.  Fred and George had been successful as always at making Hermione both laugh and scowl.  She did appreciate them, no matter how many differences of opinions they had over the years.



Mr. Weasley had also come down to visit.  He had tried to help fill Hermione in on the news, but there didn’t seem to be much.  Harry and Ron were both still in critical condition, and they still weren’t allowing hardly anyone near them.  St. Mungo’s Healers dealt with many incurable jinxes, lots of spell damage, and even some things no one had never seen before, but when it came to unknown hexes and curses care of You-Know-Who, well, they weren’t taking any chances.  The Healers were worried that the hexes could have problematic side effects, and even contagious tendencies.  They couldn’t explain what exactly the spells had done, so they wanted to keep everyone on the safe side.



Hermione didn’t understand, then, why everyone was being allowed to visit her.  When she asked Mr. Weasley, he had said that the Healers were nearly ninety percent certain that the hex she sustained was not contagious, but it could perhaps be incurable.  They were keeping Hermione, Harry, and Ron apart until they were more certain what the spells were doing to their bodies. 



Hermione asked Mr. Weasley if he thought the Healers would find a way to heal her.  She had always trusted him and his advice.  He didn’t answer for a moment, but finally was honest with Hermione and said that he was doubtful.  He admitted to having researched blindness in the Muggle medical field, but it seemed that even Muggles didn’t have a technique to completely cure blindness.  That was exactly what Hermione had thought, but she wondered why Mr. Weasley had been looking up information on blind Muggles.  Sure, he was intrigued by Muggles, but half the information he had was faulty.  Maybe he could be wrong on this, too.  However, Hermione had to admit to herself that she wasn’t all that hopeful either.



She began to wonder if anyone had told her parents.  Mrs. Weasley was talking with Hermione one day and discussed with her the problems of telling her parents.  It wasn’t a good idea to bring her Muggle parents to St. Mungo’s.  There were simply too many potential problems, and it was too much of a liability.  Hermione was relieved, however, to know that Mrs. Weasley had already owled them and was attempting to continue with updates.



Hermione had started to suggest that she could take over that responsibility but the reality hit her before the words had completely left her mouth.  She couldn’t write any more.  All her writing and reading, all those wonderful words – they were all gone.  She felt like the biggest nerd of all time as she found herself depressed at the thought of losing all the marvelous words.  Never again could she smooth back the dusty pages of Hogwarts, A History, smell its old book smell, and let her eyes caress the midnight black ink that had so carefully and delicately put down the words that held the history of the most wonderful place on earth.  A nerd, a bookworm, ridiculous.  Maybe she was those things, but her heart ached.  Gone was one of her favorite, most beloved past times. 



When she brought the idea up to Ginny, Ginny had laughed and told Hermione how lucky she was.  She would never be forced to do book reports or essays ever again!  Hermione had scowled and reminded Ginny that she was finished with schooling, anyway.  Ginny had tried to take Hermione’s complaint more seriously and had asked Hermione if blind Muggles did any reading or writing.  Hermione searched the crevices of her mind looking for some ancient piece of knowledge.  Yes, she thought that blind Muggles did read.  Hermione furrowed her brow by old habit, thinking that she remembered some language or special writing they had.  She determined to search this out whenever she was free of St. Mungo’s.



Professor Lupin had come by later in the week, and Hermione had enjoyed a wonderful private chat with him.  He had come by to check on everyone, and fancied a talk with Hermione.  He had been a true friend to she, Ron and Harry.  In the past year they had worked very closely with Lupin, and had depended on him in several ways.  Yet Lupin hadn’t treated them like children, but he had almost accepted them as his peers, his equals.  Hermione thought he was a very humble man.  In all this time, she had never felt like a ‘mere child’ to him.  He had respected them when he was their professor, and ever since then, he had respected them as a witch and wizards.  In the last year, Hermione often had grown to think of him as an older brother.



Spending an afternoon talking with him had made it one of Hermione’s better afternoons in St. Mungo’s.  He filled her in on updates from the Order and changes in the Ministry.  He brought a few Daily Prophet articles that talked about the battle and about the survivors.  Hermione was delighted as Lupin proceeded to read them out loud to her.  His voice had been so warm and soothing, it had almost lulled her to sleep.  But Hermione fought the desire and relished the hearing of written language.



But now the seconds ticked by.  Fred and George had gone to check on their shop.  Ginny had gone home to the Burrow to spend the night and had promised to be back the next day.  Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were probably with Harry or Ron.  Hermione envied them while she lay in bed listening to the world in motion around her.  The mystery tapping was still present.  A door opened and shut.  Shoes padded down the hallway.  They sounded like they stopped at her doorway.  Something was definitely obstructing the normal sounds that came so easily into her room.  The shoes were slowly walking across the floor in her room.  Someone was coming to see her.



“Hey.” A soft, slightly gruff voice called out.  It belonged to the person nearing Hermione’s bed, and that voice could only belong to one.



“Hey, Harry.” Hermione grinned, pushing herself up into a sitting position.



“What’re you doing?” he asked. 



“Listening,” she answered.  She didn’t really think there was much else to do.



“What do you hear?”  Harry asked.  Hermione described the muffled pops, the tapping, the feet, the door, and the voices.  She paused and stilled herself as she had been training herself to do.  She listened.



“I hear you breathing.” She smiled in what she thought was Harry’s direction.



“You can hear me breathing?” Harry seemed surprised.



“Yes!  I’ve been practicing all day!”



“Practicing hearing me breathing?” Harry seemed skeptical.



“No!  Practicing listening to everything.  I have to learn to use all my senses,” she told him, but the idea of never seeing again and how depressed it made her, hit her as an after thought.



“Well, speaking of your senses, I brought something for you,” he said.



“What?” Hermione felt her eyes go wide.  She wanted to laugh cruelly at herself.  It was useless.  Maybe her expressions would mean something to someone watching her, but it was pointless to her.



“Hold out your hands,” Harry instructed.  Hermione immediately pushed her hands out toward Harry’s voice.  The thought didn’t even cross her mind not to trust Harry.  She waited only a couple of seconds before she felt something solid drop into her hands.  Her brow instantly furrowed as she tried to figure out what it was.



“What is it?” she asked.



“You tell me.” Harry spoke.  Hermione could hear the grin in his voice.  She moved her hands over the object, straining to make a picture of it in her mind.  It was round.  It had some sticks on it.  And something bumpy on the edges, but it was some kind of pattern.  Hermione worked for a good five minutes before she thought she had it.



“It’s a clock!” she called out confidently.  Harry chuckled in reply, but before he could say anything the clock in Hermione’s hands suddenly shook and felt like something rapidly changing shapes.  At last it stopped, but it felt nothing like a clock.  Harry was laughing.



“What’s so funny?” she asked, confused and scowling.



“That look on your face!  You look so…” But he was laughing too hard and never finished.



“Please tell me what this is, Harry!” she begged.  Finally Harry recovered his breath and answered her.



“It’s something I picked out just for you.  Actually I got Fred and George to get it for me.  It’s a shape-shifter, like those trick wands they sell?  But Fred and George worked on this one and made it special.  It’s some object that you’re holding, like the clock.  You can feel it and try to guess what it is.  When you finally say the right thing, it’ll change shape into something else.  I thought it might be something entertaining, at least while you’re here.”  Harry sounded pleased with himself, and Hermione could almost envision him shrugging, as though it was nothing really.



“Thanks, Harry.  It’ll be more exciting than listening to doors and ticking,” she laughed.  There was a pause in their conversation and Hermione thoughtfully felt over the new item, wondering what it could be.



“Well, I can’t stay long…” Harry began.



“You don’t have to go already, do you?” Hermione asked.  He had hardly been there long at all.



“Just a few more minutes,” he offered, then continued, “Do you know when you’ll get to go home?”



“I think I have to stay a bit longer,” Hermione answered. “They really want to find some cure.  But…  I don’t know, Harry.  I think whoever hexed me, got me good.” She thought she sounded a bit depressed, but truthfully it did bother her a lot.  She was supposed to be a good witch, the ‘brightest witch of her age,’ so how had she gotten hexed incurably?  Now she could never be a decent witch.



“They got us all.  You, me, Ron.  It might have even been personal.”  Harry’s voice sounded grave.  It was more serious and somber than it had been the entire time he had been visiting that day.



“I guess if it had to be someone, it might as well have been us.” Hermione sighed.  After all, it was their battle.  Better that everyone else live, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione take the heat of it all.



“Yeah.  I just wish I could have protected you two.” Harry’s voice was regretful, and Hermione tried to imagine his face.  She felt a cold drop of water land on her hand and wondered where it had come from. She furrowed her brow but then heard Harry sniff and heard the material of his clothes moving.



“Harry?  It’s okay.  We’re all fine, right?” Hermione tried to smile, but it wasn’t coming to her.  “Look, everything’s going to be fine.  We’re going to get out of here and life is going to be great with no more Voldemort hanging over our heads.  It was our choice to come with you, Harry.  And besides, what’s a little discomfort for the three of us, if we can know that you defeated him?”  She was trying her best to keep Harry from laying so much guilt upon himself, but she didn’t know if it was working.  Harry was always hard on himself, taking more responsibility than was really his.  Hermione was never sure how to help him or what to say.



“I should have been able to protect you.  This was my battle; it was something I had to do….” Harry’s voice trailed off into silence.  Hermione squeezed his hand and wished she could look at him, shake him, and tell him that it wasn’t his fault.



“Well,” Harry sniffed, “anyway, I have to go.  I’m sorry, Hermione.”



“Will you come back again?” she asked.



“Of course,” Harry answered, and Hermione was glad to hear his voice sounding less serious and distraught.



“Harry?”



“Yeah?”



“If you ever… um…  if you ever do get to see Ron, will you tell him that I asked about him?  That I want to see him?”



“Yeah, Hermione.  But…  I’m sure the moment he can have visitors, they’ll have you there to see him.  You’ll probably see him before I do,” Harry almost laughed.  Hermione knew he was probably grinning, and she couldn’t help blushing a little.



“I’ll see you,” Harry replied, pulling his hand away from hers.

“I’ll…  I’ll be here.” Hermione spoke feebly.  She wanted to see him.



Chapter 4: The Visitor
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The Visitor 
The one who makes the darkness a little brighter





 



It was after dinner time a few days later when Harry came again.  Fred and George had visited Hermione in the afternoon and had even stayed to eat dinner with her.  Hermione had nearly fallen out of her bed after a fit of laughter over the funny noises they kept causing her food to make.  They had magicked her potatoes and the gooey dessert somehow.  It sounded rather disgusting.  Fred had also brought in some of the candies they always bought in Hogsmead or on the Hogwarts Express.  Where they had found the candies, Hermione wasn’t sure, but they had also been a laugh.  Each flavour would turn either Fred or George into a different animal and Hermione had to correctly guess which animal based upon the sound Fred or George emitted.  She had again been dissolved into a fit of un-Hermione-like giggles.  And once George really had fallen out of his chair in laughter.



One thing was certain: they knew how to lighten the mood and help things not seem so serious all the time.  But they had left and now Hermione was alone again.  She knew the Weasleys couldn’t always be in her room, but she still hated being left alone.  She felt so far away from everyone.  She had never been alone, without Ron and Harry, for quite so long.  Sure, they were separated during summers between years at school, but they always owled one another.  She was never left fearing for their lives and well being while also unable to communicate with them.  She missed them.  She worried about them.  And each moment alone only gave her more time to worry.



She had been running her hands over a textured children’s book that one of the Healers had given her when she heard footsteps.  She listened carefully to see if the footsteps were coming toward her.  They were.  She stilled herself as much as possible and tried to use her senses.  She thought the footsteps didn’t sound like a Weasley, at least not the ones she was familiar with.  It wasn’t Mr. or Mrs. Weasley, nor Ginny, Fred, or George.  It wasn’t a Healer, because they always announced themselves.  Hermione tried to be patient and wait for the person to speak.



“Hey.” It was the familiar, quiet, gentle, gruff voice.  She felt herself smile.



“Hey, Harry.”  She tried to imagine him again in her mind.  She was glad when he came to visit.



“How are you?” he asked.  He was much closer now, almost to her bed.



“I’m fine, I guess,” she told him.  She felt Harry’s hand slide over hers.  She loved that he would touch her when he spoke to her.  Sometimes when people would visit, Fred and George for example, they were just voices in the room.  Hermione felt so distant and alone, like she was miles away.  But Harry, he would touch her hand, or some part of her, so she knew he was close.  She found that lacking her vision made her really appreciate touch where she hadn’t before. 



Harry and Hermione began to talk for awhile, but Harry had no new news on Ron.  Hermione was still quite frustrated, but Harry told her she wasn’t missing anything.  Harry grew tired of standing by her bed, and instead climbed up onto the bed, and they both sat crossed-legged facing each other, talking, Harry always resting a hand on her somewhere to constantly remind her of his presence.  It became quiet for a moment as Hermione was thinking.  She wondered what Harry was looking at.  Did he look at her when he spoke?  Or did he look around the room?  Did her eyes look different, since she couldn’t see out of them?



“Harry?”



“Yeah?” he answered.  He sounded as though he was looking at her, like he normally would.



“Do I look any different?” she started slowly, but fumbled as her self-consciousness rose, and her speech quickened.  “I asked Ginny, but she said I look the same as always and she wouldn’t really answer me.  Do my eyes look funny?  Do I have any scars?  Am I horribly disfigured and no one is telling me?  Can you tell that I can’t see?”  Hermione envisioned herself looking into Harry’s eyes, but really had no precise idea as to where to pretend to look.  After all, she wasn’t really looking, just moving her eyes.  Just pretending.



There was only a split second of silence, but the small portion of a second seemed like long, agonising minutes in which Hermione continued to berate herself for sounding so vain.



“You look like you, Hermione,” Harry began in a soft and tender voice.  She loved hearing his calming voice and the reassurance that came with it.  She felt him stir and was momentarily alarmed.  She felt the warmth around her changing.  Was he leaning closer to her?



“You have a new scar here,” Harry said quietly, and Hermione felt the fingers of Harry’s right hand trace a line from her chin all the way along her jawline, almost back to her left ear.  The skin was tender, but tingled slightly at Harry’s touch.  Rarely did anyone touch her face.  Healers kept their work mostly to her arms, and on occasion they poked and prodded her eyes.  But this gentle grazing of Harry’s finger sent soothing chills through her body in a way she hadn’t felt before.



“And, you have a cut up here.” Harry moved his hand from her jaw to her right eyebrow, and traced a small line.  “You’ll probably always have a scar there, a line in the middle of your eyebrow,” he laughed gently.  Hermione tried to imagine herself with a bald line through her eyebrow.  She wasn’t sure if she was glad she couldn’t see it, or not.



“You have a burn, here.” Harry grazed a spot on her neck, and Hermione winced slightly.  Yet the small pain on her neck didn’t hide the tingling in places on her face that seemed to dance with feeling as after effects of Harry’s fingers touching her skin. 



“Also, there’s a bandage on this arm.” Harry took a hold of her left arm.  She had felt the bandage, but didn’t know what was under it.  Now she felt his grasp along her forearm, gentle yet firm.



“Can you see what it looks like underneath?” she asked him softly.  She felt tape begin to tear away from her skin and suddenly thought maybe she didn’t want the bandage to come off.  Harry opened the bandage as gently as he could and described to her what was underneath.



“It’s a really bad burn, but the Healers have something working on it to close it up.  I think it’ll be fine, but you’ll always have a mark there.” He tenderly ran his fingers along the skin of her arm, then replaced the bandage and tape.



“And you have lots of cuts and scars just here, and here, and here.” Harry began to trace small lines all over Hermione’s fingers and the tops of her hands.  The brushing of his fingertips along her skin was soothing and placid.  Then he held her hands in his.



“And no, you can not tell that you can’t see.  In fact, sometimes when you look at me, I think you really can see me.  I forget, sometimes.  You’re not disfigured, nor anything else.  You look just as beautiful as always.”  Hermione felt herself blush at Harry’s words.  He had never called her beautiful before.  She felt vain and stupid for caring how she looked now. 


 


It was quiet as Hermione sat thinking for a moment.  She so desperately wanted to see, but all the wishing in the world wouldn’t help her, she supposed.  She felt Harry’s hands still holdings hers.  Did he look different?  Did he have scars or burns? 



She gently slid her hands out of Harry’s and began slowly edging them up his arms.  She felt the hair on his forearms and then felt the sleeves of a St. Mungo’s shirt.  It was stiff and scratchy, so she knew it wasn’t his own clothing.  Her hands came to his shoulders.  He felt just like Harry.  Then her fingers came into contact with the skin of his neck.  It was soft skin, but she could feel a couple of lines, perhaps cuts or scrapes.  Slowly her hands crept upward, while Harry neither moved nor spoke.  Her thumbs grazed a wide cut on the under side of his chin.  Gently she let her fingertips glide over the skin of his face.  It was smooth, but not smooth like a girl’s face.  It felt very much like a boy’s face, or rather a man’s face.  She could even feel the trace of facial hair beginning to grow since the last time he had shaved.  She had never really thought about Harry shaving before. 



Her thumbs touched his lips, and she felt the soft skin there.  As an after thought it occurred to her that touching Harry’s lips could be awkward, but his was her way of seeing now.  He was remaining very still as her thumbs glided over the delicate skin so packed full of nerve endings.  His lips were soft and smooth, and a strange feeling of intimacy shocked through her as she envisioned herself touching his lips.  She felt his lips part slightly, perhaps accidentally, and a small breath fell onto her fingers. 



Continuing on, her fingertips moved on to graze the skin of his cheeks.  Her hands bumped his glasses and she smiled.  Harry reached up and pulled his glasses off.  Her hands continued their progress up his face, her fingertips feeling his closed eyelids and his eyebrows.  She imagined his striking green eyes peering out from under his eyelids.  Her palms brushed along his cheeks and temples.  Then her left thumb slid over the familiar scar on his forehead.  She traced it with her fingers, not realising she was smiling again.  His forehead was void of any new scars. 



Her fingertips felt the edge of his hairline, and she couldn’t resist feeling of his hair. She was still smiling as his impossibly messy hair tickled her palms.  Then her right hand felt a patch of missing hair.  She ran her fingers over his scalp and could tell the hair had been shaved there.  She felt a line, or a bump, a gash or some blemish.  She heard Harry breathe in a painful hiss as he pulled slightly away from her touch.



“What happened?” Hermione asked, alarmed.  Her hands were still frozen in mid-air where Harry had pulled away.



“Just a wound that hasn’t closed up yet,” Harry answered nonchalantly in a quiet voice.  Hermione thought about this and let her hands trail down the sides of his face, down his neck, and finally she dropped them into her lap.  Harry replaced his hands over hers again.  She wondered what he was thinking.



“Well, I’m afraid I have to go,” Harry almost whispered.



“You do?” Hermione asked, hoping he wasn’t serious.



“Yeah.”



“Will you come back?” she asked.



“Of course.” Hermione imagined him smiling at her.  She felt his weight shift and could tell he was climbing down off her bed.  The bed shook for a moment, but then felt empty.  She didn’t understand why he couldn’t stay with her longer if he was well enough to travel about the hospital.  Or, why couldn’t she go with him?  It didn’t make any sense.



“Goodnight, Hermione,” Harry spoke, squeezing her hand.



“G’night Harry,” she answered.  She felt his hand slowly slide off of hers and listened as his footsteps faded into nothingness.



Chapter 5: The Seeing Blind
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The Seeing Blind  
Seeing through someone else’s eyes





 



“Hello, Hermione.” A dreamy voice called out from nowhere.  It was clearly a girl’s voice, and Hermione knew no other person in the world who had that voice, besides one.



“Luna?” Hermione questioned.



“Yes, it’s me.  And Neville, too,” Luna’s soft, aloof voice replied.



“Hey, Hermione,” Neville’s familiar and awkward voice echoed.  Hermione could visualize Neville’s clumsy, uncertain stance, hands in his pocket, hair disheveled.



“Hey, Neville.  Wow, I’m surprised you’re here!” Hermione sat up in her bed.  She was really getting sick of the St. Mungo’s bed.



“It’s good to see you, but we know you can’t see us,” Luna’s dreamy voice stated the obvious and awkward.  Hermione tried not to scowl.  Even if conversing with Luna wasn’t her favorite thing in the world, it was better than listening to random noises.  And, of course, Luna had repeatedly fought Voldemort and Death Eaters, right beside her.  She was trustworthy and loyal, even if she was a Ravenclaw, which somehow must have meant she was smart.  Hermione still had doubts about that.



“How are you both?” Hermione asked, addressing her words in their direction.



“We’re okay,” Neville slowly responded.



“I didn’t have to stay in St. Mungo’s, but Neville has.  He’s now in rehab,” Luna supplied.



“What are you in rehab for, Neville?” Hermione asked, surprised.



“Well, for my arm.  I had a Death Eater’s curse on me, but they cleared that up easily.  Said it wasn’t done very well,” Neville told her feebly.



“But now he’s in rehab for his arm.  The only damage left from the curse was to his wand hand.  He can’t use it at all now,” Luna stated in an aloof voice, sounding as though she was speaking to the air.



“I’m sorry, Neville,” Hermione offered.



“It’s all right.  They’re teaching me how to use my left hand now.  But I’m worse than ever,” he chuckled at his own ineptness. 



“Well, you were getting really great at your spells, especially Defence work.  You just have to train your left hand now,” Hermione encouraged him.



“I’ve tried telling him that.  He’s very unsure of himself,” Luna stated, as though Neville wasn’t there.  Hermione imagined Neville was probably blushing.



“So what’re you doing here?” Hermione asked inquisitively.



“Well, we wanted to check on everyone, and we thought we might take you for a walk,” Neville offered.



“A walk?” Hermione repeated.



“Yes.  I think it’s difficult to learn how to walk without being able to see.  We wanted to walk you around the hallways and just talk.  After all, I would hate to see you lose your functions and turn into a Himphlelark.  That can be terrible,” Luna answered.



“Oh, right,” Hermione stopped herself from ranting to Luna about her ridiculous, made-up creatures.



Neville and Luna proceeded to help Hermione down from her bed, and each grabbed an arm, guiding her along the room.  Hermione’s ears were filled with even more sounds than usual, all coming in varying intensities.  She tried to focus but was having trouble.



“We’re going towards the door to exit your room,” Luna offered, “and now your feet will feel the carpet of the hallway floor.  It’s blue carpet, like the deep blue of the darkest part of the ocean.”  Hermione could tell the sounds changed because of the carpeted floor.  The sounds were no longer so echo-like.



“The hallway is wide enough for about four people to walk together.  There are several carts sitting against the walls holding different potions and various Healing devices.  There are four Healers at the end of the hall.  You can probably hear them talking.” Hermione could hear them talking.  She, Luna, and Neville kept moving.



“On the wall are some paintings, moving ones of course.  There’s an old hairy man waving at you in one of them.  Now we’re nearing the central Healer’s station.  You can probably hear lots of noises.  There are two Healers here, but neither one is talking.  One has dark brown hair, the other dirty blond hair.  The one with brown hair is heavy set, and sitting at the desk, doing paper work.  The blond headed one is eyeing us suspiciously.”  Hermione laughed.



“We’re taking you down the hallway across the way.  At the end is a little sitting room, which is where we’re going.”  Luna continued to describe nearly everything and everyone they walked past.  Hermione was quite surprised to hear the extent of detail Luna used to illustrate their surroundings.  Hermione felt like she could picture everything, like she was almost seeing it.  Finally they came to the sitting room and sat down together to take a break and chat.



“It’s so great to be out of my room.” Hermione smiled, breathing in air that felt so different.  She could hear Neville’s shoelace knocking against something repeatedly. 



“Maybe you’ll go home soon,” Luna replied dreamily.



“When are you getting to leave?” Hermione asked in what she thought was Neville’s direction.



“Actually, they released me today.  I wanted to visit before I went home.  But I’ll be back every week or so for rehab.”



“Oh.” Hermione sighed.  He was released.  When would it be her turn?  When would it be Ron or Harry’s turn?



“Have you visited Harry or Ron?” Hermione asked.



“They wouldn’t let us,” Luna answered.



“I think they’ll be okay.  Just need some time…” Neville’s voice seemed unsure.
“I don’t think so,” Luna stated in a resigned way.  Hemione felt herself still.  Did Luna really think Harry and Ron wouldn’t be okay?



“You don’t think so?” Hermione repeated.



“We don’t know, Hermione,” Neville cut in before Luna could speak.  “They won’t let us see them.  Luna doesn’t know.” Neville’s voice came out more convincing than it had been before.  The room was quiet for awhile as none of them said anything.  Luna was often wrong about things, and Neville didn’t seem as concerned.  Hermione tried to relax her worries.  They sat for awhile, and eventually spoke of lighter topics and tried to fill in details from the battle.  Hermione was still a bit hazy from when she had blacked out or gone into a coma or whatever had happened to her. 



Finally, Luna and Neville walked Hermione back to her room and said goodbye.  Hermione was glad to have had something to occupy her for a time.  She was tiring of all the time she had in St. Mungo’s.  She felt helpless and was ready to leave and learn how to live as a blind person, if they were never going to cure her.



And she was ready to see Ron and Harry, but she had been since she had woken up.  It seemed like a lost cause.



..:..




It had been another long day of lying in the bed at St. Mungo’s, listening to repetitious ticking, shuffling feet, and the occasional conversation.  However today Hermione had been taken on a brief walk with one of the Healers, and later again with Mrs. Weasley, so that was something.  She was thankful for the company, but more than anything she was tired of being alone, tired of being in the hospital when nothing could be done for her, and tired of being kept away from Ron and Harry.  It was frustrating to no end. 



She had asked Mrs. Weasley about it.  All she received was another excuse.  She had asked Mr. Weasley.  He seemed to feel sorry for her and merely promised that he was working his hardest to get her cleared to go see her friends. 



Hermione had been through so much – helping find and destroy Horcruxes, battling Death Eaters, winning the final battle against Voldemort, even if she had been blinded and knocked unconscious in the process.  Now it felt like she couldn’t be trusted, or as though telling her the truth about Ron and Harry would be too much for her.  She felt like she was purposely being kept in the dark, and that highly angered her.  Maybe she was wrong – maybe no one knew more than what they were letting on to, but she felt like they did.  She felt like they were hiding something.  Did they think there was something she couldn’t handle?



She had asked Ginny, Fred, and George.  But they were all dead ends.



Instead she had spent another day wondering about the fate of her friends, longing to see them, to speak to them, to touch them.  Finally the dreadfully long day had slipped away, like all the others before it, and Hermione knew she was falling asleep.  She dreamed of something, but upon awaking, it was completely forgotten.



“Hey.” She heard a voice as she awoke.  The room was dark, but Hermione reminded herself that that was no different from usual.



“Harry?” she whispered.  Even if it was always dark for her, Hermione knew it was the middle of the night some time.  She had finally learned to gauge these things based on the appearance or disappearance of the Healers.



“Yeah, it’s me,” Harry’s voice came out in a steady whisper.  He was right beside her bed and before he had finished speaking his hand had found hers.  She loved feeling his touch, feeling connected in some way to the voice in the darkness.



“It’s late.  Is something wrong?” she asked.



“No…” Harry responded, his fingers playing with her hand.



“Why are you here?” she asked softly, but as an after thought she hoped it hadn’t sounded like she didn’t want him there.  Truthfully she did.  She always wanted him around.  And Ron too.  That was the trouble these days. 



“I just wanted to see you.” Harry’s voice sounded unconcerned, but Hermione thought she knew better.  Harry never appeared to someone in the middle of the night for no reason.



“Really?” she pushed.  Harry didn’t respond.  Now both of his hands were toying with her right hand, tracing lines and drawing circles.  Hermione took in the sensation, and allowed him his silence.  She didn’t know why exactly he was there, but she was glad he was.  She hated feeling so far away from her boys.  Her boys – that’s what they were.  She leaned her head back, thinking.  Her hand closed over one of Harry’s and she held his hand firmly for a moment.  Something was bothering him, she knew it.  And that was bothering her.



“Harry, what’s wrong?” Hermione asked in a more pleading whisper.  She still held onto one of his hands, but his other hand began to graze along her arm.  She could feel his fingertips dancing playfully at her wrist.  They brushed along her skin in a tickling yet soothing manner from her wrist all the way to her upper arm, and then his fingertips danced back down her skin to her wrist.  He was repeating this motion over and over again.



“Nothing’s wrong,” Harry insisted in a light whisper.  His fingertips continued to graze the skin of Hermione’s arm.  The gentle brushing and constant rhythm was tranquillising and she thought she could feel the tension leaving her body.  At some places, his fingertips tickled in a strange way, but it felt nice.  Mostly the sensation was sending her into an extremely sedated and peaceful trance.  He could pet her arm like that forever and she would never tire of it.  In fact, she thought it might just put her to sleep.



Some minutes later, Hermione guessed, it really had put her to sleep.  She was roused by hair that was tickling her face – Harry’s unruly, course hairs.  She felt warmth very close to her and then a soft touch on her cheek.  Harry kissed her and lingered for a moment, breathing gently and still holding her hand.  He whispered something into her ear, something that sounded like ‘Goodnight,’ and then she felt the warmth pull away.  She knew he was leaving and suddenly she didn’t want him to.  She tightened her hand on his, attempting to keep him there beside her.



“I can’t stay, Hermione,” Harry whispered.  Hermione mumbled some response, though she couldn’t remember later what it had been.



“I’ve got to go back.  I just couldn’t sleep and wanted to see you.”  Hermione couldn’t figure out why his voice sounded so unlike him.  In her grogginess, it gave her a vague creepy feeling.



“I’ll see you next time?” Hermione murmured.  There was silence for a moment.



“Yeah,” Harry agreed.  She felt him lift her hand off the bed, and next felt a soft and delicate touch – his lips against the back of her hand.  He had kissed her hand.  Hermione didn’t know why this made her feel happy and sad at the same time.  Sometimes she hated the emotions that came with being a girl.



“Good night,” Harry whispered, replacing her hand next to her.



“Good night,” she replied.  Harry’s fingers slid away from her hand, and she fell asleep to the sound of his feet retreating.



Chapter 6: Leaving St. Mungo's
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Leaving St. Mungo’s  
Both wanted and unwanted





 



Though Hermione wanted to see her parents and reassure them that she was alive and well, she also wasn’t anxious to leave the magical world yet and seclude herself among Muggles.  Thus, she found herself being escorted home to the Burrow as she still waited for word on Harry and Ron.  She hated leaving St. Mungo’s and furthering the distance between herself and them, but she was glad to be rid of everything else, to finally be at home, and to finally try to return to living.  Yet she wondered how she could even try to go back to living her life, without Ron and Harry; the idea plagued her.  And so it was a vicious cycle.



“Come on, Hermione, this isn’t a hotel!” Fred joked, as he and his other family members were officially checking Hermione out of St. Mungo’s and leading her to the exit.  Hermione continued to protest, not wanting to be so far away from Ron and Harry.  If only she could go up and see them…



“You could try some Skiving Snack Boxes and see if they’ll let you stay,” George continued from Fred’s thought.  His tone was light and teasing, as though they were all attempting to keep Hermione positive.  But even Fred and George’s teasing didn’t completely mask the family’s concern for their brother.



“I just want to see Ron and Harry.” Hermione spoke quietly, but firmly.



“They’ll be all right, Hermione,” George insisted.  He was always trying to reassure her.



“How do you know?  Have you seen them?  Why won’t they let me go visit them?” she asked painfully.  She tried to direct her words toward them, but was having difficulty as they were on either side of her.  Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were walking a few steps ahead.



“Well, actually only Mum and Dad have been allowed to visit them,” Fred confessed thoughtfully.



“What?” Hermioned asked, surprised.  She had been under the presumption that every one of the Weasley family members had been allowed to see Ron.  She thought they had all been visiting, seeing him, holding his hand…  She thought they had all been to sit in Harry’s room, and they had all had nice long chats with him.  Those were the pictures that had played in her mind, anyway.



“They’re in quarantine, actually,” Fred continued on from his previous thought.



“Why?  You mean you haven’t been see to Ron?”  Hermione’s world was becoming shaky underneath her.  Perhaps no one ever had any news because none of them had been able to see their brother and Harry.



“They won’t let us in,” Fred shrugged.



“They say it’s too much of a risk, since they don’t know exactly what the spells did to them, they’re quarantined off, but Dad managed to get he and Mum in there.  Being from the Ministry, he was pretty persuasive.”  Hermione didn’t miss the shift Fred and George’s teasing voices had made into more serious and thoughtful tones.



“So, they decided it was parents only.  They have to go through this whole protective-what-not to get into the rooms, and then to get out again…”



“But Harry’s come to-” Hermione was about to ask, but was interrupted by a delighted Mrs. Weasley.



“Oh, come dear, it’s time to go to the Burrow, a comfy bed of your own at last,” she was grinning happily.  Naturally Hermione didn’t see the grin, but she knew it was there.  Hermione could tell that Mrs. Weasley was trying her very best to make Hermione’s going home a positive event.  While her son’s fate was hanging in the air, Mrs. Weasley was still putting forth intense effort to welcome Hermione home.  Perhaps it was something that could take her mind off Ron’s state.  Or, perhaps, Ron and Harry weren’t so bad off after all.



Upon arriving at the Burrow, Herimone promptly stubbed her toe, bruised her shins, and fell over an armchair, lost her balance and landed sprawled out on her face, arms and legs splayed in different directions.  Perhaps she was taking things too quickly.  Ginny ran to help, and Mr. Weasley was quick behind her, easily taking hold of Hermione by the arms and righting her again. 



Fred and George volunteered to lead Hermione around the Burrow to help familiarize her while Mrs. Weasley and Ginny started preparing dinner.  Half an hour later, and four stubbed toes and two bruises from Fred and George’s grips catching her under the arms before she fell again, they finally relinquished the task to Ginny.  But she didn’t fair much better.  Twenty minutes, three run-ins with the walls, and one near trip up the stairs later, and Ginny was sacked.



Mr. Weasley finally came to Hermione’s rescue.



“All right, Hermione, let’s do this properly.  Take hold of my elbow, then follow and mimic me.  But, let’s start at the front door.”  Mr. Weasley positioned Hermione just in front of the Burrow’s front door, and proceeded to walk around the bottom floor, Hermione in tow, counting her steps and struggling to accurately picture the Burrow’s bottom floor.  After five rounds around the entire ground floor, Hermione finally had memorized sixteen steps through the kitchen, twelve steps across the sitting room, plus two side steps, and finally twenty three steps to circle around the extra rooms where the family rarely gathered, before she made it to the stairs, back near the kitchen.  She could usually successfully guess which furniture pieces were where, her hands finding them as she walked and grazed their surfaces.



“Mr. Weasley, how do you know how to do this?  Lead a blind person?” Hermione asked thoughtfully on their last trip around the bottom floor.



“I read about,” he answered easily.



“You read about blindness and blind people?” Hermione questioned in disbelief.



“I did,” he responded lightly.



“But, why?”  Hermione was greatly confused.  She knew Mr. Weasley had some quirky interests, but he had never spoken about blindness.  She learned as he cleared his throat, sounding a bit off guard.



“Well, for you, dear,” Mr. Weasley answered warmly.  Hermione was shocked and didn’t know what to say.  He had read about blindness just to be able to help her. 



Before Hermione could express proper gratitude, Mr. Weasley told Hermione it was time to progress upstairs.  She counted the stairs and the landings, even working to memorize the squeaky steps.  Maybe she could do this after all. 



Of course she could!  Hailed the brightest witch of her age, she wasn’t going to let this get her down! 



..:..




A few days later Mr. Weasley had come off his shift at St. Mungo’s with Ron and Harry, and had achieved a few hours of sleep before he was off to the Ministry.  By the time Herimone had woken up, the Burrow was silent.  She got dressed in her world of darkness, not quite certain what to wear because she didn’t know the colors.  Finally she decided that she couldn’t go wrong with robes.  At last she counted her steps coming downstairs and was met with an unexpected voice.



“Hermione!”  Hermione willed herself at the bottom of the stairs not to get disoriented as she worked to put a face with the voice.  She knew the voice, but it wasn’t a Weasley.  It was a soft and dreamy kind of voice.



“Luna?  What’re you doing here?”  Hermione asked kindly, though confused.



“I came to take you out,” her dreamy voice stated matter-of-factly.



“What?  Where?  And where are the Weasleys?”



“They left a note for you.”



“Where?”



“In the kitchen.”  Hermione made her way there and her fingers found the parchment.  She was crestfallen.  She couldn’t read it!  Why had they bothered to write her a note?  Didn’t they remember she couldn’t see?!



“Can you read it to me?” Hermione grumbled, carefully making her way over to the sofa where she thought Luna was sitting.  Hermione unhappily plopped herself down, suddenly in a very unpleasant mood, and held the parchment out towards Luna’s voice.  She felt Luna’s fingers brush hers as she took the note.



“Hermione,” Luna began reading, “Mr. Weasley’s gone into the office today, and I’ve taken the twins and Ginny to visit Ron.  Ginny and I’ll be home for dinner, but then I’ll be staying the night with Ron.  Sorry we didn’t wake you up to come with us.  I thought you could use the rest.  Luna Lovegood owled to say she wanted to take you out today.  We’ll bring home any news at dinner.  Love, Mrs. Weasley.”



Hermione sat silently grumpy, stewing in her frustration.  Luna kindly allowed her a few minutes before she spoke.



“So, I’ve got a wonderful place to take you today!” She spoke dreamily, quite as though it was a dream come true, whatever she had planned.



“Luna, I don’t really want to see any of your odd, afarce creatures that you father’s always printing articles about,” Hermione implored miserably, still upset over the note she couldn’t read, and about being left behind.



“Of course not,” Luna replied, ignoring what easily could have been taken as an insult.  “I’ve got something better.  I think you’ll really like it.”



“What is it?”



“A surprise.”



Hermione had nothing else to do, and facing the alternative of a long and lonely day in the Burrow by herself, Hermione finally agreed to go with Luna.



“But first, you can’t wear witch’s robes where we’re going.  You’ll need Muggle clothing,” Luna informed her.  Hermione sat thinking for a moment.  She envisioned herself coming down the stairs in the most hideously mismatch clothes she owned.  This could be a disaster.



“Luna?” Hermione asked timidly, slightly disbelieving she was going to ask her for help.



“Yes?” Luna replied in her usual whimsical voice.



“Uh, can you help me pick out some Muggle clothes?  I can’t see them…” Hermione trailed off.



“Of course you can’t see them.  Come on, take me to your room, and I’ll help you,” Luna answered.  Sometimes it surprised Hermione how nothing seemed odd or awkward to Luna.  They weren’t the best of friends, and perhaps Hermione should be asking Ginny for help instead, but Luna was there and willing to help.  The girls stood and Hermione began making her way back to the stairs and up to hers and Ginny’s room as Luna followed.



“Okay, Hermione,” Luna began, scanning over the clothes in the wardrobe, “How about jeans and a sweater?”  Hermione heard the jeans and the sweater on its hanger being tossed onto her bed.



“Sure…  Erm, do I need matching socks or anything?”  Hermione asked tentatively.



“Here, these match,” Luna answered, tossing those on the bed as well.



“But, you really need to code your clothes, Hermione.” Luna spoke in a thoughtful tone.



“What do you mean?” Hermione asked, turning her back to Luna’s voice and starting to change into the sweater.  She had to find the tag to make sure she put it on correctly.



“I mean, you need to label the colors in a way that will help you dress yourself.  I can’t come over every day and help you,” Luna stated, as though it would be the most normal thing for Hermione to do, to call Luna over every day to help her dress.



“How can I code them?  I can’t see them.” Hermione mumbled.



“You need something you can feel.  Say, a circle tag for something that’s blue, a triangle for something green.  Maybe some wavy shape for something with stripes.  You can code all the colors, and since you used to be able to see, you’ll probably remember what they looked like in your mind.  And then, that way, you can pick out your own clothes.”  Hermione stood, now facing Luna and tilting her head in consideration.  The idea actually seemed like a good one.  How did Luna know these kinds of things?  If Hermione could label her clothes in some tags she could feel, then she could definitely remember what clothes she owned and how they looked.  Maybe later she could find some spell to put magical labels or speaking labels onto the clothes.  Hermione smiled.  Luna had such a great idea.



“Will you help me?” Hermione asked.  “I mean, if we did it now.  Would it make us late for the surprise?”



“We can label your clothes.  We won’t be late,” Luna replied, and Hermione thought she heard a vague smile in Luna’s voice.



It occurred to Hermione that Luna might not often feel needed.



An hour later, Luna was replacing labeled clothes back into the wardrobe while Hermione was still labeling the last few.  They had sat together working, labeling, and talking.  It had been difficult to label some colors that were so close in hue, but would be ghastly if mismatched.  Finally, everything had been labeled and Hermione had a wonderful sense of achievement.  Luna even tested her a few times, making Hermione pick out clothes for the next day, and the next week, and what she would wear out to a nice dinner with the Weasleys, or what she would wear if she went to Diagon Alley.  When Hermione had passed all of Luna’s tests, they finally tramped back down the stairs and prepared themselves to leave for Luna’s surprise.



“So how are we getting there?” Hermione asked curiously.



“I thought we’d Apparate,” Luna answered.



“But it’s a surprise, how can I?  I don’t know where we’re going,” Hermione questioned back.



“You can side-Apparate with me.  I’ll take us there,” Luna answered as though it were quite natural.



“Can you…  Can you do that?” Hermione asked doubtfully.  She wasn’t sure she trusted Luna to get them both there.  Had Luna even taken the Apparation test yet?
“Of course I can do that.  I learned how to Apparate last year, and I have my license.  I’ve taken someone on side-Apparation before.  It’s a bit difficult, actually.  But I think you’d rather do that, than ride a broom,” Luna said.  Hermione thought hard for a moment.  What would be worse, riding a broom, or side-Apparating with someone she wasn’t even completely sure could Apparate properly?  She sighed.  What a choice.



“All right, let’s just go.” Hermione nodded, willing to place her life into Luna’s hands.  She could only hope that any serious splinching could easily be cleared up by the Ministry, and, after all, she consoled herself, she wouldn’t be able to see it, anyway.



“Well, are you ready?” Luna asked.  Hermione gulped.



“Sure.”  Hermione felt Luna at her side and grabbed onto Luna’s arm rather tightly.



“Just concentrate on staying with me.  I’ll get us there, okay?” Luna said happily.  Hermione nodded nervously.



The familiar feeling of Apparation squeezed against Hermione’s body.  It felt so odd to be Apparating without her sight.  She focused on keeping ahold of Luna, suddenly envisioning herself splinched in the middle of nowhere.  At last her feet fell to the hard ground.  She was still with Luna.  They had made it safely, at least, she thought they had.



“Where are we?” Hermione asked, letting go of Luna and turning her head about as though something might magically appear in her sight.  It never did.



“I told you, it’s a surprise!” Luna said in a happy and dreamy voice.  Hermione rolled her useless eyes.  Everything was a surprise when you were blind.



Chapter 7: The Surprise
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The Surprise  
Luna’s secret, one of them, anyway





“Okay, Hermione, take hold of my arm again,” Luna’s hand took Hermione’s right hand and placed it on Luna’s left elbow.  Then Hermione listened as Luna began to explain.

“We’ve just Apparated inside the front gate in the front yard at the home of my friend I want you to meet-“

“Friend?  What?”  Hermione asked anxiously.  Luna had said nothing about Hermione having to meet someone.

“Relax, Hermione.  It’ll be fine.  Now, listen.  This is a new place for you, so try to make a mental image.  We’re standing on a stone walkway facing the house.  Just behind us is a short iron gate, waist high.”  Luna took Hermione’s hand and led it to feel the gate, then led her hand down to the stone walkway, forcing her to bend down.  Hermione felt the textured path briefly before they stood up again.

“Okay, now, use your feet to find the width of the walkway.”  Hermione shuffled around her feet, finally feeling a difference in levels, which she guessed indicated grass.  The path was about three feet across.

“On either side of the path is lush green grass.  On the left are tall, towering trees, but not like Christmas trees.  All around their base are bright colored flowers, every kind you can imagine.  They weave a curved garden around the side of the yard, across the front of the house, and continue along the other side of the yard.  There’s a bird bath on the right side with two birds splashing and chirping away.”

“Yeah, I can hear them!”

“The house in front of us is rather small, but it looks like a Muggle version of the Burrow; it’s not outlandish enough for neighbours to think much, other than it being odd.  There’s a front porch, and two steps leading up to it.  The front door is on the right side of the porch, near the middle of the house, but it’s not facing us.  There are two windows on either side of the house, both with very large shutters.  Oh, and a crooked stone chimney is coming out of the roof.  All right, now we’re going to go up to the house.  Don’t forget to count steps.  Always count.” 

Hermione was in awe, but tried not to let it distract her from counting.  Fourteen steps later, they heard a new voice.

“Who’s there?!”  It sounded agitated and suspicious, but it no doubt belonged to a woman, probably in her middle ages.

“It’s me, Ms. Trillhuckle!” Luna happily called out.

“Luna, dear!” The voice immediately became soft and warm.  “You’ve come to see me!”

“Yes, Ms. Trillhuckle, and I’ve also brought a friend.”

“A friend?” The suspicion was back. Hermione heard the door open and two steps sound on the porch.  Luna guided Hermione up the first step to the porch.

“Ms. Trillhuckle, I’d like you to meet Hermione Granger.  Hermione, meet Ms. Trillhuckle.”

“Hi,” Hermione offered weakly, somewhat intimidated by this new person.  She was surprised as she felt Luna’s hand grab her wrist and guide it to shake Ms. Trillhuckle’s hand.

“Ah, Hermione’s blind.” Ms. Trillhuckle’s voice was softer again, but kindly in its matter of fact-ness.  

So she could tell.  The whole world must be able to see that Hermione couldn’t.

“Yes. Ms. Trillhuckle’s blind, too.” Luna stated in her odd and usual way she had in saying things that were often awkwardly true.

“You’re blind, too?  But… how could you tell I was blind?”  Hermione asked in surprise.

“Well, dear, normally the person I shake hands with can see my hand, and take it.  It’s only necessary for Luna to guide our hands if we’re both blind,” Ms. Trillhuckle stated kindly.

“Hermione’s only been blind for a few weeks.” Luna stated the awkward truth.  It would normally be Hermione’s story to tell, but Luna had a way of saying things which others might hide, delay, or diminish.  Hermione didn’t mind at the moment.

“Ah, there’s still a lot for you to learn.  And am I right in thinking you are a witch?”  Hermione was a little surprised at the question.

“Yes, ma’am,” she answered.

“She was the top of her class at Hogwarts,” Luna interjected.

“Well, come in, come in!  Have a spot of tea!”

Probably for the first time in her life, Hermione was overjoyed that Luna was sticking by Hermione’s side.  While Ms. Trillhuckle seemed kind enough, Hermione wasn’t keen on being set alone with a new stranger whom she knew nothing about.  However, already a million questions were racing through her head to ask.  Could it really be - another blind witch?

“All right, dear, tell me your story,” Ms. Trillhuckle requested cordially, after she had poured them all some hot tea.  Luna had to help direct Hermione’s hands to the teacup.  After a small sip of tea, Hermione relayed her entire story, at least what she knew of it, and Ms. Trillhuckle listened silently.  Hermione mentioned fighting in the battle, but conveniently left out the prominent positions she, Ron, and Harry had held in the ending of Voldemort’s reign.  

“Well, Hermione, dear, you must have so many questions!” Ms. Trillhuckle stated.

“How did you become blind, Ms. Trillhuckle?” Hermione asked.  

“Ah, it happened in no spectacular way.  I’m afraid I can’t claim such a noble or valorous catastrophe that blinded me.  In fact, it was a Muggle accident.  You see, I’m Muggleborn.  And, Muggles drive cars all the time, you know that of course, dear?”  Ms. Trillhuckle paused.

“Yes, I’m Muggleborn, too,” Hermione confessed, though she had said it with pride.

“Well, it seems we have many things in common,” Ms. Trillhuckle sounded like she was smiling, though Hermione couldn’t be certain because she had never seen Ms. Trillhuckle, so she didn’t entirely know which tone of voice went with her smile.  But Hermione guessed that the smile was there.

“Anyway, one summer I went home to take a holiday with my family.  I had been out of school for awhile.  We were going to drive up to the coast and enjoy a weekend.  On the way back, my entire life changed.  To make a terrible story shorter, before we could be rescued from the car, which had rolled several times, the gas line and tank had cracked, and I received eye-fulls of the blinding substance.  It couldn’t be helped though.  We were trapped for awhile.  Ah, but as you can tell, they did finally get us out of the car, and there were no other major problems, besides my losing my eyesight.  But can you really call that a terrible problem?”  Hermione heard Ms. Trillhuckle take a sip of her tea.  Hermione wondered if she had purposely let the silent moment pass in order to let her last statement sink in. 

Can you really call blindness a terrible problem?  Hermione frowned at the question.  Could she?  Of course she could.  Could she really?

“What’s gas, and the gas line, and tank?” Luna asked out of the blue.

“It’s part of what makes a Muggle car run,” Hermione answered without thinking.  Any Muggle would know something like that.  

“Ms. Trillhuckle, can you still do magic?” Hermione bluntly asked the question that had been bothering her for weeks.  Would she have to give up being a witch?  Would she have to return to the Muggle world, and forget her entire magical existence?

“Of course!” Ms. Trillhuckle instantly answered as though it were obvious.

“But, how?” Hermione instantly returned.  “I can’t see people who attack me, and I can’t tell where to aim my spells.  I can’t see places to Apparate to, or see the colour of potions I’m making.  So much of it all depends on sight!”  Hermione had passionately built her case for why a blind witch couldn’t do magic any more. 

“My dear, so much of it all depends on sight because we let it depend on sight.  Because we depend on sight.  But not you and I.  And so, you will learn magic without needing vision.  There are few witches or wizards in the world who can do magic without their eyesight.  Quite frankly, I believe it makes you an even greater witch.  If you can manage magic, there will be little you can not do.”  Hermione sat dumbfounded.  If she had her vision, she was sure she would have been staring.

“But… but how?” she questioned feebly.

“It’s easy, dear!  Or at least, it will be easy.  First, let’s begin with how you can fight.  I think the world is quite safe now that some very brave souls conquered You-Know-Who, but even so, there are still dark witches and wizards.  Suppose you are attacked.  How are you going to know you’re being attacked?”  

Hermione thought for a moment.

“I don’t know!  That’s the problem!”

“Think, girl!” Ms. Trillhuckle commanded, but her voice was demanding and strong.  Hermione was taken aback at the change.  She had sounded so kind and gentle, but suddenly the voice was commanding, as though telling Hermione that she was not trying hard enough and there was a lot more expected of her.

“How did you know I was coming out to meet you today?” Ms. Trillhuckle asked, impatiently prompting Hermione.

“I, er..” Hermione paused, recalling the scenario of her mind when she had first known Ms. Trillhuckle was there.  “I heard you.  A door opened, and there were two footsteps.  And then speaking.”

“Good,” Ms. Trillhuckle’s voice softened again. “Now, it’s really quite simple.  Don’t make it harder than it should be.  You will fight and cast spells mostly by sound, now.  All of your senses will begin to make up for the one you have lost, and in time you will see that you have hardly lost anything.  I am not suggesting that if you started casing spells right now that they would magically find their mark without you doing anything to aim.  This would be wonderful magic to have, whether blind or seeing.  But I am saying that with practice, training, and concentration, you will be able to see everything you need to, without needing eyesight.  Your ears, your sense of smell, even your sense of touch – they will all begin to fill in the gaps.  You will hear your attacker coming long before your seeing friend can see them.  You will smell the attacker, before others notice their presence.  And you will most likely learn to feel them.  You will sense changes in warmth, in proximity, and in atmosphere.  What you must do now is sharpen your senses.  Pay attention and soon enough your skills will be better than they ever were when you could see.”

Hermione sat silent.  This couldn’t be real.  She never thought being blind would make her a better witch.  

“What about Apparating?” Hermione asked.

“Too simple, dear.  If you’d like to Apparate to any place you’ve been before, you simply envision it just like you always have, and you’ll get there just fine!  If you come to a new place, it is not much more difficult.  You must construct a mental image of this new place.  This is important, so don’t forget to do it.  And then, envision the place when you want to Apparate there.”  Ms. Trillhuckle had spoken as though it were the easiest thing in the world.

“But, but I can’t see the new places I visit.  How do I know I’ve got the right… mental images?”  Hermione was still confused.

“Didn’t I say not to make it harder than it is?  Your mental image need not be an accurate depiction.  It simply must be an image you’ve put together, either from your senses and your experience, or from someone’s description.  And, obviously, it can certainly be a combination of the two.”  

That doesn’t seem very difficult, Hermione thought.

“Now, I’m guessing that Luna gave you a wonderful idea of what my front yard looks like?” 

“Y-yes,” Hermione stuttered, struggling to put the image back together again.

“Well, then, simply imagine your mental image of my front yard next time you want to pop over for a visit.”  Ms. Trillhuckle sounded like she was smiling again.  Hermione heard tea being sipped next to her, and was reminded that Luna was there.  Luna had remained quiet during most of the conversation.  

“And… and potions?”  Hermione figured there was as easy an explanation for potions as there had been for everything else.

“My dear, we rely upon colours of potions because we let ourselves be so dependent upon our vision.  Most potions can be learned by smell, or simply confidence in potion-making.  You’ll soon enough learn to tell what any potion is solely from its smell.  And naturally if you taste it, you’ll know also, but I’d suggest knowing the smells first, so you don’t have to taste them!”  Ms. Trillhuckle laughed.  Hermione did not want to have to taste potions to be able to differentiate between them.  She could only imagine the disasters!

“I know you’re worried my dear, but try not to worry.  It may seem frustrating at first, but you’ll learn to live just fine.  And you’ll be a sufficient witch yet.”  Hermione imagined Ms. Trillhuckle winking at her, if both of them could actually see.  

“Find yourself some witches and wizards to help you as you begin your new life as a blind witch.  They can help you practice.  You can brew potions together, practice Apparating, and a few duels would do you some good too.  Trust in yourself and your ability, and do not let your blindness bring doubt to what you can do.  Truly, if you become skilled at this, your spells will not easily miss.”

Hermione let the thoughts sink in. 

“Oh dear, we’re out of tea….  Would you girls like some more?”  Ms. Trillhuckle’s voice was warmly pleasant.

“Just a little, thank you.” Luna spoke up, nearly shocking Hermione.  She kept forgetting that Luna was still there.

“Thank you,” Hermione accepted the tea and sipped at the hot liquid.  

“Ms. Trillhuckle?”  Hermione asked.

“Hm?” she responded over the sound of tea pouring into her teacup.

“Were you ever married?  Do you have any children or a family?”  Hermione was very curious about this blind witch and could envision herself sitting and having tea, talking with her for hours and still wanting to come back for more.

“That is a sad tale,” Ms. Trillhuckle began, “I’m not sure you want to hear it.”  Hermione was thoughtful for a moment.

“I would.”

“Me. too,” Luna echoed.  Hermione heard Ms. Trillhuckle let a calming breath out.

“I was in love once,” Ms. Trillhuckle began.  Her voice was soft and slow, and sounded very much like a story teller’s voice.  “He was a handsome boy, and I never thought that one day he would return my love for him.  But he did.  We were happy and in love for many months.  He was a talented wizard.  He had been successful at school and in finding a good job.  He was daring and brave, even reckless at times.  But he loved to laugh, and he loved to make mischief.  And I loved laughing with him and sitting together on cool evenings, gazing into each other’s eyes.  I knew him before I was blind, you see.  I truly loved him, and I believed he loved me.  The months turned into years.  He was planning to come on holiday with me to visit my family.  I really had it in my mind that he meant to propose marriage.  But something came up at work, and he had to stay behind while I went to spend the weekend with my family.

“That was the weekend of the car accident.  The next time he saw me, I could no longer see him.  I was terrified that he wouldn’t be able to love a blind girl, but he assured me that it didn’t matter if I was blind.  He said nothing would change his love for me.  But I suppose he was wrong.  It was only a couple of months before he broke off the relationship.  Less than a year later he was getting married to a beautiful girl we had both gone to school with.  She was not blind, of course.  

“And so, ever since then, I’ve been on my own.  I never did get married, and I never had children.  My family comes to visit at times, but mostly I keep to myself.  But I do have wonderful, dear people in my life like Luna here, who come by and visit me, and make my days a little brighter.”  Hermione knew without a doubt that she heard a smile in Ms. Trillhuckle’s voice as she spoke the last sentence.  But Hermione was not smiling.

Luna and Ms. Trillhuckle were talking now, but it faded into the background of Hermione’s mind as she thought about Ms. Trillhuckle’s story.  The boy she loved had left her because she was blind.  She had been alone for the rest of her life.  How could anyone be so low as to stop loving someone because they were blind?  But it had happened.  Fear, doubt, and dismay filled Hermione’s mind.  Hermione was now blind just like Ms. Trillhuckle.  Would she have the same fate?  Would Hermione ever be loved, now that she was so different?  More importantly, would the boy she had loved for years now still return her love, even though she might never learn to see again? Would he want something or someone better?

Chapter 8: A Seer?
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A Seer? 

 Could she be a blind Seer, or is it nothing…?



For two weeks Hermione had been home in the Burrow, and for two weeks there had still been no new developments, no news, no word from St. Mungo’s.  

Hermione was surprised to find herself at St. Mungo’s.  She felt odd, as though something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t figure out what it was.  She passed through the corridors, searching, and searching.  It occurred to her, as if she should have known all along, that now was her chance to find Ron!  She hadn’t seen or heard from him in so long; she just wanted some assurance.  

She ran from door to door down one corridor, then another.  There was no sign of Ron.  She ran up the stairs and checked the entire floor, but still found no Ron.  She was running out of hope as she ascended the next flight of stairs.  Maybe he had been sent home, or maybe… maybe…  

She pushed the thought from her mind as she banged through the stairwell door out onto a corridor identical to all the others.  It seemed to be getting dark outside, and the hospital was being lit with candles instead of normal lights.  Hermione found this odd but continued her search.  At the end of the corridor she found a Critical Healing Room, similar to the operating rooms in Muggle hospitals.  For some reason, it didn’t seem strange to her that this room was located on what would normally be a floor solely for recovering wizards and witches.  

Regardless, she pushed her way through a set of double doors and found another set.  She forced them open as a Healer passed in the opposite direction.  The Healer seemed to realize that Hermione shouldn’t be there and started shouting for her to leave.  Hermione ignored his demands, for her eyes had spotted something.  

There was a table in the room sounded by Healers in uniform outfits.  And then, she spotted the red hair.  She saw the backsides of Mr. and Mrs. Wealsey, whose gazes were fixed on the table before them.  The room was getting ever darker and darker, but her eyes were locked on the red hair, and somewhere, a patch of black, messy hair.  It was Ron, Harry, and the Weasleys!  

Just as her mind filled with delight for finally finding Ron and Harry, she felt arms close around her, forcing her out of the room.  She struggled and screamed, determined not to be dragged away when she was so close.  The room was so dark, and she was too far away to see clearly what was happening.  If she could just talk to them, or see them closer…  But the Healers who had ahold of her were successfully forcing her from the room.

“I’m sorry,” she heard an unfamiliar but sympathetic voice speak in the distance, “but, he’s dead.”  Hermione’s heart dropped, the wind was forced out of her, and her body fell limp in the arms of the St. Mungo’s staff.  

Dead.  Dead.  He can’t be dead.  But the sobs hidden behind the closed double doors confirmed her worst fears.  He was dead.

“NO!  No, it can’t be!  He can’t be dead!  He’s not dead!  No!”  Hermione didn’t realize she had been audibly crying out in her sleep until she felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking her.  Suddenly the vision of St. Mungo’s disappeared from her mind’s eye.  It now seemed odd to her that she had been seeing, or at least, she felt like she was seeing, everything.  Her world was dark again, but she was not calmed by this.  Her body was still racing with emotion, and even her mind struggled to push the thoughts away.  Something wasn’t right.  She never dreamed things like this.  Something was wrong.  Something bad had happened.  Maybe Ron really had…

“Hermione,” a soft voice whispered.  It was Ginny’s voice, and her voice was thick with sleep, but gentle in sympathy.

“It was just a dream,” Ginny’s voice was the kindest and most compassionate Hermione thought she had ever heard.  It soothed her, just a little bit, but still she felt that something was wrong.

“It wasn’t just a dream, something’s happened,” Hermione insisted.  Her voice sounded more panicked than Hermione thought it could.

“Everything’s okay.  You’re here in the Burrow,” Ginny tried to reassure her.  Hermione felt Ginny’s hand brushing her hair off her face and wiping the sweat from Hermione’s brow.  Ginny’s other hand had taken a hold of Hermione’s. 

“It’s okay, Hermione.  Nothing’s happened, we’re all okay,” Ginny insisted.

“No, we’re not.  What about Ron?  Something’s happened, I have to check on him!” Hermione was forcing herself not to go into hysterics, but she really didn’t feel okay.  She sat up, trying to figure out what she should do.

“Please, everything’s okay.  Someone would tell us if something had happened.  Listen to me, Hermione.” Ginny’s voice became demanding, “You’re okay.  Everyone’s okay.  It was just a dream.  Everything’s fine.”  Ginny gently forced Hermione to lay back down, but still tenderly held her hand.  She began stroking Hermione’s hair.

“He’s fine, it’s okay, Ron’s just fine-” Ginny spoke softly, but was interrupted.

“How do you know that?  Have you seen him?” Hermione asked Ginny desperately.

“Well, no, but Mum and Dad have seen him-”

“Then you don’t know that he’s okay!  He could be…” Hermione’s voice trailed off, afraid to say it.

“It’s okay, really, everything’s okay.” Ginny tried again.

“But my dream…” Hermione began again, feebly.

“It was just a dream,” Ginny whispered.  Hermione couldn’t help herself as tears began to fall from her eyes.  Her body had raced through so many emotions and trying to calm herself down again was nearly impossible.  She sniffled and the tears slid silently down her face.  Ginny began brushing a few of them away, and then she wrapped her arm around Hermione and began talking quietly. Hermione’s mind was still racing, so she hadn’t realized or noted what Ginny was talking about, nonetheless her voice had the desired effect, and eventually Hermione felt her eyes becoming heavy again.  It had all been a dream, just a dream…


Hermione woke up and was greeted by darkness, as she was every morning.  She had no indication as to what time it was, but she knew she was awake and there was no going back to sleep for her.  Her body woke when it wanted to and slept when it wanted to; there was no forcing it.  

She stretched, yawned, and her hand felt something out of place.  She felt something warm, something like soft skin.  Someone was in her bed.  A gentle sniff of the air informed Hermione that it was Ginny – her shampoo was unmistakable.  Hermione only wondered at Ginny sharing her bed for a moment, before she remembered her dream and her middle-of-the-night hysteria.  Her fears came flooding back, and she crawled over Ginny with new determination.  She had to find out if someone had seen Ron or if there was any news.  Hermione hastily threw on some jeans and an old sweatshirt and exited Ginny’s room as quietly as she could.

As she was descending the stairs, she heard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s voices coming from the kitchen.  Their voices were soft and low, and their speech indecipherable.  The pleasant smell of Mrs. Weasley’s breakfast cooking also wafted through the air. 

“Good morning, dear,” Mrs. Weasley called out to her.  She must have been seen.  Hermione couldn’t help thinking that Mrs. Weasley’s voice sounded either tired or sad.  Perhaps they had been at St. Mungo’s that night or perhaps they had news.

“Do you want some breakfast, dear?  It’ll be ready in a little while,” Mrs. Weasley’s tired voice continued kindly.

“Have you been to St. Mungo’s?” Hermione asked, coming straight to her desired topic of conversation.  The kitchen was silent, and Hermione knew the answer.

“Something’s happened,” Hermione asserted.

“Now, Hermione…” Mr. Weasley’s gentle voice began.

“What’s happened to Ron?  Is he okay?” Hemione asked, noticing the fear and desperation in her own voice.

“Hermione, we… we…” Mrs. Weasley began to answer

“Tell me the truth!” Hermione demanded angrily, fighting the urge to stomp her foot down as a child might do.  She was tired of being led on; she wanted someone to be honest with her.

“I think it might be better if we talked to everyone all together,” Mr. Weasley tried again.
“Something has happened!  I knew it!” Hermione’s heart sank.  She didn’t want to believe it.  She wanted the truth, but she didn’t want to believe what she had seen in her dream.

“Hermione, dear, you need to-” Mrs. Weasley began again.

“No!  I don’t want to hear it!  Don’t say it!” Hermione interrupted severely, bordering once again on hysteria. 

“You need to know-” Mr. Weasley replied.

“No!  Don’t!  And don’t lie to me or pretend… or pretend…  Don’t!” Hermione yelled, becoming confused as to what she wanted.  Hermione punctuated her desire to end the discussion by turning on her heel and bolting toward the front door.  She had wandered through the Burrow enough now that she could easily make her way through the rooms, as long as nothing was lying out of place.

“Where are you going?!” Mrs. Weasley called after her, sounding nervous and worried.

“What are you going to do?” Mr. Weasley echoed, but his voice seemed less worried.  

Hermione ignored them both, yanked the front door open and continued out the door.  Her pace quickly turned into a flat-out run, which she thought was probably a little reckless, seeing as how she couldn’t see where she was going, but she thought she had a pretty good idea.  She was angry, frustrated, and what was she going to do?  What could she do?  Then, the thought hit her.  She would Apparate to St. Mungo’s and find out the truth for herself.  She would demand that they let her see Ron and Harry, and then she would know everything.  Now she merely needed to remember and visualize St. Mungo’s…

But the image never came.  Instead, Hermione found herself suddenly pitching forward, then rolling and tumbling down the hill that bordered the Weasley’s home.  She felt herself turning and turning, slamming into the hard ground, and falling even further down the hill.  She began to wonder if it would never stop, when she put her arms and legs out and tried to slow the motion.  In the end, she found herself sprawled out at the bottom of the hill, aching, and trying to catch her breath.
 

Hermione lay in the grass, moaning and clutching her ankle.  Why had she been so stupid, running off across the whole wide world when she couldn’t even see it?  She wanted to swear, but something always kept her from doing so.  Instead she tried to stop the tears that had sprung to her eyes, as she rocked herself and waited for the pain to subside.  Her ankle was probably broken.  Whatever was broken, it hurt.  Now she had to figure out how to get back to the Burrow with a hurting ankle and her missing eyesight.  

Hermione tossed her head back, still clutching her ankle but lost in thought.  Why was everything so difficult?  She couldn’t even go for an angry walk without having some problem.  Why couldn’t she be with Harry and Ron?  What if something really had happened?  She felt so trapped.

Finally, she tried to stand on her own, but cried out in pain and collapsed to the ground.  She heard a booming noise that made her literally jump, and she attempted to look around before she could stop herself.  She knew the noise.  Thunder.  It would be raining soon.

And big rain drops did begin to fall, soaking the grass around her and pelting out a song in the forming mud puddles.  Without the effort to fight, Hermione simply allowed herself to fall apart.  She sat in her grassy mud puddle, crying like a lost and lonely little child.  She had probably broken her ankle, which was easy enough to fix, except she had lost her wand in the tumble.  She had no clue where she was, or how exactly to get back.  She was alone, and now it was raining.  And she had not seen Harry or Ron in nearly a month.  She didn’t even know if they were alive now.  She cried, allowing the rain to wash over her and mix with her tears.  Her exhausted body was shaking, and she started rocking herself for comfort.  

She felt so alone.

How she missed hearing footsteps, Hermione never knew.  Perhaps she had missed them because she was lost in her crying fit.  Nonetheless, she was taken quite by surprise when she felt two strong arms wrap around her and lift her from the ground.  

Instantly her body became tense, her cries stopped producing fresh tears, and her mind raced, trying to figure out what was happening.  Who was carrying her?  She stilled herself and paid attention to her senses.  She couldn’t smell the person, but she could easily guess that it wasn’t a girl.  She didn’t know a female who could carry her so effortlessly, nor whose arms felt so sturdy.  It was a man.  But, who?  He wasn’t speaking to her, she couldn’t smell him, and obviously she couldn’t taste him.  She listened to the breathing.  No clues.  Maybe it was Mr. Weasley.  He was such a great fatherly figure.  It could be him.  

Hermione pulled her arms around the man’s shoulders and neck.  She didn’t know what Mr. Weasley’s shoulders or neck felt like, but something told her he wouldn’t feel like this.

“Who are you?” Hermione asked tentatively.  A seeing person could probably not properly understand her predicament.  It was downright rude to not let a blind person know who you were, or that you were there.  

But the man simply held her, wordlessly, and continued walking on in the pouring rain.  Gradually the rain was beginning to slow, and it seemed not so threatening now.  He was walking at a steady pace, and seemed to be holding her protectively against his chest.

“Harry?” Hermione ventured a guess.  She hoped it was him; she wanted it to be him.  She so dearly wanted to hear from him, to know that he was okay, and to know the honest truth about Ron.  But this thought scared her too.

“Why won’t you speak to me?” Hermione begged.  Fear began to tease at her.  Maybe something was wrong with him.  Maybe Ron really had died.  Hermione’s heart almost stopped as that thought ran through her mind.  But maybe he was angry or hurt or…  Something was wrong, she knew it.

“Are you all right, Harry?  What about Ron?  Please talk to me,” she pleaded.  Tears were fighting at her eyes again.  Her hands began to make their way up to Harry’s face, wanting to see him.  But he jerked his face away from her touch, and Hermione’s hands recoiled, feeling rejected.

“Stop!  Stop moving!  Put me down!” Hermione spoke loudly and frantically.  They were still moving.

Put me down!” she screamed, slapping his chest.  He stopped and began to let her down to her feet.  Hermione’s frustration prevented her memory from recalling her broken ankle.  She collapsed under her own weight, but he easily caught her. 

He cared for her; that was evident.

“Please tell me,” she begged again, almost tearfully this time.  “Who are you?”

“It’s me, Hermione.”

Chapter 9: Him.
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Him.   

“It’s me, Hermione.”


 

“It’s me, Hermione.”  

The voice finally spoke.  Hermione’s breath caught in her throat.  Seconds ticked by as she stood there, leaning on him and taking labored breaths.  Was it really him?  She had ached to hear this voice.  It had been a long time now, but she knew this voice; she loved this voice.

Hermione’s hands instinctively went to his face, again.  She longed to see him.  Only moments ago she had been imaging her rescuer with his dark, unruly hair, striking green eyes, zig-zig scar, and angular, skinny face with a bold look of courage.  Now the image had been erased, and in its place, her fingertips filled in a new picture.  

Caressing his skin, she felt a much less angular face, eyebrows that were slightly thicker, a nose with a different shape, and soft, delicate skin on his lips revealing a wider, fuller mouth.  Even his eyelashes were longer, and they tickled against her skin.  And he certainly seemed taller now.  

Her hands found their way to his hair, but her mind struggled to make a picture.  Her hands froze in shock.  His hair was different.  Hermione remembered previously feeling Harry’s hair at St. Mungos, but this hair was even shorter than Harry’s, and it was softer.  In fact, it was so soft to the touch, Hermione thought she could continue to pet this hair for hours on end.  She liked the feeling of it, but struggled to match it up with her old mental images.  

Yet, not wanting to waste another moment, and feeling like the happiness inside her just might burst out if she didn’t release, she finally called out to him.

“Ron!” she cried, and fell onto him.  He warmly received her, hugging her body close to his.  She had the hardest time envisioning him with short hair now and wondered why he had cut it.  Suddenly a hundred other questions came to her mind and forced their way out into the air.

“What’s happened?  Are you okay?  Are you home?  Where’s Harry?  Where have you been?  Why did you cut your hair?  Why didn’t you tell me it was you?  I’ve missed you.  I’ve wanted to see you.  I tried; I asked, but they wouldn’t let me.  I was so afraid.  But you’re okay.  Oh, Ron!”  She knew the words were falling from her mouth in an out-pouring that rivalled Niagara Falls.  She was just so happy to finally be with Ron again, to know that he was okay.

“Slow down, Hermione.  We’ve got all the time in the world,” he spoke softly and slowly.  This tone of voice was different for him.  Hermione didn’t want to think about that; she temporarily pushed that thought away, overjoyed that finally she was with Ron again.  All those nights of wondering and waiting, longing to be near him, dreading the day when she would never have a chance to tell him everything she had always wanted to. 

Before Ron had a chance to even begin answering any of her questions, Hermione followed her hands to Ron’s face and planted a bold kiss right on his lips.  She sensed shock in Ron’s body, but she wouldn’t be deterred.  She held Ron’s face to her own and kissed him for all she was worth.  She wanted to leave no doubt in his mind that she cared for him – that she loved him, in fact.  Ron finally regained his composure from the initial shock and began kissing her back.  She could feel the pressure of his lips and the tickling of his tongue.  Hermione felt herself smiling at the pleasure.  Her arms encircled his neck and she felt her body lift off the ground slightly, as his arms encompassed her.  

Ron was alive.  She was in his arms, and she was kissing him.  Could it get any more perfect?  Hermione pulled away.

“Ron?” she asked nervously and slightly breathlessly.  She knew her face was still only inches from his.  She wished she could be staring into his beautiful blue eyes.  She tried to steady her gaze where she thought his eyes might be.

“What is it?” he asked slowly, a little startled, and also catching his breath.

“Ron, I…  I can’t see,” Hemione stated pathetically.

“I know.” Ron breathed what sounded like an amused breath.  She thought she could tell he was nodding his head, too, but it could have been a fluke.

“I mean…  Ron…  I… well…  what if I never see again?  Would you… I mean…”  Hermione didn’t know how to say what she was thinking.  She felt presumptuous.  She knew Ron cared about her, and in the last year they had come dangerously close to confessing feelings or defining a new relationship, but still the war had been hanging over their heads, and things had been progressing painfully slow.

“Hermione, I love you.”

Ron spoke with a voice braver and bolder than Hermione had ever heard.

“And whether you can see or not, I’ll still love you.  And whether you ever see again, I’ll still love you.  You’re beautiful to me, and you will always be beautiful, perfect, and flawless in my eyes.”  Hermione thought she might faint, or hyperventilate, or collapse.  Ron had never been so forthcoming with his feelings.  She wondered if coming so close to death had changed him. 

“I love you, too,” Hermione breathed, and she moved in, hoping to win herself another kiss.  Ron seemed more than happy to oblige, and they kissed for some time, unaware that the rain had finally completely stopped falling, and unaware that the dark clouds still hung in the air.  They were only aware of one another and this moment of joy, relief, love, and bliss.  Hermione had thought she would lose him, and now he was here with her.  

Ron easily lifted her up, and Hermione pulled her legs around his waist, balancing precariously as she showered his face with kisses and hugged her body against his.  Her emotions were flying in every direction, but this by far was the best she had felt in a long, long time.  

She greeted his lips again with her own, pushing her way inside his mouth and attempting to get lost in the happiest moment of her life.  Her hands flew to his soft hair, and over and over again she ran her fingers along this unexplainable short hair.  Her nails grazed his scalp and she felt him groan lightly inside her mouth.  

While one of Ron’s arms was securely wrapped around her, the other hand made its way into her hair, and to the back of her neck, holding her close for his long and passionate kisses.  Hermione’s heart was racing and she could barely breathe, but she wanted nothing more than to be held by Ron, to be kissing him forever and ever.

But still something seemed wrong.  Something was missing.  His voice sounded different.  He was changed.  He wasn’t nearly happy enough.  Whatever it was, Hermione couldn’t put her finger on it, nor could she rid herself of the nagging thought.  Finally, she pried herself away from Ron, took a breath, and again tried to focus her eyes in the direction where she thought Ron’s gaze would be.

“Something’s wrong,” Hermione stated, but he didn’t answer.  Instead, he let he down, and Hermione stood directly in front of him, gingerly balancing on her good ankle.

“Where’s Harry?” Hermione instinctively asked.  She had the same feeling, standing there with Ron, as she’d had when Harry had visited her room in St. Mungo’s.  Back then, if Harry had truly been all right, then why had he still seemed sad?  Because Ron had not been all right.  Hermione knew that now.  But, with Ron standing before her, if he did not seem so happy, she knew Harry could not be all right.  Why did things happen this way?

“Ron, tell me.  What’s happened?!” she demanded.

“Harry’s gone.” 
 

The words hung in the air, heavy and burdensome.  And they refused to vanish.  Instead the utterance sat thick and dense, permeating the entire atmosphere.  The words sunk to the core of Hermione’s soul.  The fresh outdoor air suddenly seemed toxic and suffocating.  The rain clouds seemed to be mocking them.  What did he mean, ‘he’s gone’?
 

“He’s gone?  Gone where?” Hermione asked hopefully, but her voice had betrayed her.

“He’s dead,” Ron whispered.
 

And the world stood still.  

 
“No, no, he can’t be dead.  He can’t be, he’s not!” Hermione argued, her voice rising and her head shaking ‘no’ quite fiercely.

“Hermione–” Ron began in a tender and sorrowful whisper.

“No!” she screamed.  “He was just talking to me a couple weeks ago!  He’s fine!  We were talking and he was just fine!  He can’t be dead!” she yelled at Ron.  

“There’s nothing-”

“NO!!  He is NOT dead!” she screamed and then began slapping at Ron’s shoulders and arms before she progressed to small fisted punches.  But Ron did not grab her hands, or walk away, or stop her.  He didn’t yell, or growl, or even speak.  He let her flail away at him until her senses took a little control and allowed her tears to take the place of her angry abuse.  Her hands stopped their aggressive attacks, dropped to her sides, and Hermione’s face became the most heart-wrenching expression of grief, unbeknownst to herself.  Fresh tears were pouring from her eyes.  

Ron’s strong and protective arms wrapped around her and pulled her into his body.  She cried and sniffled, and cried some more.  He pet her hair, rubbed her back, and let her weep.  Hermione stayed safely in his arms, unmoving as she listened to his gentle voice recall the days that had gone by.

“Mum told me I’d been in a coma.  The Healers couldn’t do anything for me, and everyone thought I was going to die.  They said I had a Death Eater’s curse on me, and it was unknown, probably didn’t even have a counter curse, and if it did, they’d have to find a Death Eater to do it.  And they were afraid the curse had something contagious in it, some evil the Death Eaters had developed to cause harm even after they were defeated…  Mum said I laid there for weeks, not moving, or talking, or anything.”  Ron gently pet Hermione’s hair and nuzzled his chin against the side of her head.

“Dad told me about Harry.  The curse on him appeared to be less serious from the outside, but the Healers were trying to use potions and antidotes and counter curses to fight against what was happening on the inside.  Dad said they called it ‘Segnis Visceris Necare’ or ‘Viscus Segne Necare.’  Well, I can’t remember, you’ll have to ask Dad.  The Healers told Dad that it was a different kind of Killing Curse, and it was something they hadn’t seen yet.  It was supposed to slowly kill from the inside, leaving no obvious traces on the outside until it was too late.  Dad said it was unlikely that this Killing Curse had a cure, either, but it could be possible, since it works slowly while the other is instant.  The Healers also told him it was likely a nonverbal spell only, designed that way so the murderer would be undetectable.”  

Ron paused for a moment, and Hermione’s arms moved from their squished location between her body and his, and instead pulled around Ron’s back, holding onto him as through the information might be too much for her.

“Harry seemed fine on the outside, but Mum and Dad knew otherwise.  He was supposed to stay in isolation, like me, but I guess he came to visit you…  Dad did mention something about his Invisibility Cloak being left there…  Anyway, Mum and Dad had told Harry about the curse on me, which the Healers were slowly learning more about it.  It was affecting my heart, but its reaction to the blocking spell I used forced me to go into a coma, which the Healers said might have actually helped keep me alive.  Dad started talking to the Healers about Muggle techniques.  Mum didn’t sound happy about that bit, but they found a Squib doctor who offered to try and help or work with the Healers.

“The doctor couldn’t find any way to heal Harry.  He told Dad something about Harry’s insides shutting down slowly.  The Healers would give him some potions, and it would help for awhile, but it never lasted for long.  He was getting worse and worse on the inside.  And the curse was affecting his brain, too.  The doctor had taken him in to do some Muggle exams on his head, but said there was nothing for it once something attacked a person’s brain.  Mum and Dad said they kept hoping the Healers would come through with something.

“Then Dad had the doctor examine me.  Mum had left for the day and was furious once Dad had told her.  He couldn’t keep it a secret because the doctor had been forced to shave off my hair in order to do some sort of exam or procedure.  The doctor told Dad that he thought I was actually doing much better than Harry.  He said that my heart was the main problem, and that there was some sort of Muggle procedure that could change a person’s heart.  They needed some kind of donner, or downer, I can’t remember.  The doctor thought that after that procedure, the spell might be broken and lifted, and I’d be released from the coma.’  

Hermione turned her head and rested her ear and the side of her face against Ron’s chest.  She could hear him taking breaths as he continued to speak, and she could hear his heart beating.  Unheeded tears were streaming down her face in a constant, silent flow, wetting her face, chin, neck, and clothing.  Her ear felt a wet patch on Ron’s shirt, and she knew it must have come from her tears.

“So, then, Dad talked with Harry one day when Mum wasn’t there.  She always tried to protect Harry, you know.  Harry wouldn’t let Dad leave until he told Harry everything the doctor had said.  Dad hated doing it, but, you know, he’s always pretty honest with us.  Harry’s trusted him a lot in the past.  Harry’s a man; he’d defeated Voldemort.  Dad didn’t feel right keeping truth from him, especially about his own condition and… 

“Dad said Harry began thinking and planning immediately.  Dad kept it a secret while Harry figured out what he wanted to do, and got Dad to help him.  Harry was convinced that no counter curse or potion would help him.  He knew he was getting worse, too.  He was finding it more difficult to breath sometimes; other times he would get these intense pains that sometimes made him pass out.  Dad told me all this…  

“So, Harry told Dad that he wanted me to live, and that he had the power to help, and if he didn’t help, then he would die, and for all he knew, I would die, too.  He wanted to give his heart to replace mine.  Dad said it was no good because Harry’s organs were being attacked from the inside, but when the doctor checked his heart, they found it untouched.  The spell was attacking a lot of other organs, and his brain, which would cause enough problems even if the heart continued to work….”

“He didn’t,” Hermione whispered against Ron’s chest.  He paused in his telling and rubbed Hermione’s back.

“Harry and Dad arranged the whole thing.  Dad managed to get Mum and the others out of St. Mungo’s, then the Squib doctor came, and they did the procedure.  It was just in time, too, because Harry had passed out four times that morning and wasn’t getting enough air to his brain, Dad said.  So, they…  the procedure, and…”  

Hermione was listening to his voice as it trailed off and broke, but she was also feeling his body shake against her.  A drop of wetness fell against her nose.  Ron was crying.  Her hands pulled away from his back and crept up to his face, feeling wet skin bathed in salty tears.  She began wiping away at them, her own tears increasing as she did so.  Ron leaned into her hands, nuzzling his wet face against her palms.  He sniffed and cleared his throat, and Hermione lowered her hands, leaning into him again.

“Harry knew the procedure would be the end,” Ron whispered.  “I was the only one who came out of that room.  Mum was so furious and so sad at the same time.  I…  I can’t believe he did that, Hermione.  Maybe a couple more days and they would have found something; he didn’t know….  Dad said he was the only one Harry talked to about this.  Harry didn’t tell you, I guess.  Ginny didn’t know; I don’t think she ever got to visit him at St. Mungo’s, unless he went sneaking around to see her, like he did you.”  Hermione thought she could hear a sad smile on Ron’s voice.

“But he didn’t even say goodbye,” Hermione said pitifully, sniffling as fresh tears formed in her eyes.

“He didn’t want to, I think.  You know Harry.” She felt Ron shrug.  His voice was so quiet and sombre.  She hated this voice; she hated these words.  He couldn’t really be gone.  This couldn’t be real.

“But the last time he came to see me,” Hermione began, “he came in the middle of the night.  He didn’t say anything much, he just wanted to see me.  Why couldn’t he have told me?” she questioned miserably.  

She wondered what she would have said to him.  She probably couldn’t have stopped him, but maybe she could have said goodbye.  But she couldn’t have; it would have been horrible thinking it.  She supposed Harry wouldn’t have wanted to see her cry, and she undoubtedly would have cried like a baby.  But he could have stayed longer; they could have talked longer.  She could have hugged him, and held onto him, and forced every smell and touch and sound about him to imprint themselves even harder upon her mind.

“Maybe that was his way of saying good bye,” Ron suggested softly, rubbing a hand along her back.  Hermione could feel his body sigh underneath her.  Then Ron was silent, and Hermione’s mind began to think of her raven-haired friend, of everything he meant to her, and of his devastating absence.  Tears continued to pour out of her eyes, and she clung to Ron, afraid that she would collapse under the heavy sorrow.
 

Harry was dead.

This whole time she had been afraid of finding out that Ron had died.  Harry had seemed perfectly fine.

But now, it was Harry who was gone.
 

Hermione didn’t remember anything else, except the vague feeling of being carried across the lawn back inside the Burrow.  Even if she hadn’t been blind, her tears would have blinded her.  Her best friend, her childhood companion, her rescuer, her leader, her hero…  He was gone.
 

The war was over.
Voldemort was defeated.
Harry was dead.

 
But Hermione was alive.
Ron was alive.
And they loved each other.
 

It didn’t seem fair.
But that was life.
And not all stories end, “Happily Ever After.”

..:..

 
“But this one does end happilyeverafter!” Corrie’s sweet childlike voice insisted.

“Oh, why do you say that?” A gentle, but amused voice inquired.

“Beco’s Nana, we are here!” Adele answered, smiling giddily.

“Well, I think you’re right!” Molly Weasley smiled to the beautiful grandchildren gathered around her.  She watched as the youngest of the three, Luka, yawned a big yawn.  His red hair was falling in his big brown eyes that he could hardly keep open.

“Well, I think it’s time for you lot to get to bed!” Mrs. Weasley insisted.

“Aw, Nana, do we have to?” Corrie whined.

“Tell us again, pwease!” Adele begged.

“Tell you what again?” came a voice from the front door that startled all of the sitting room occupants.  The front door closed and in walked Ron and Hermione Weasley, meeting the sight of four sheepish-looking faces.

“Were you telling our story again?” Ron asked, trying to hide his amused grin.

“I thought you lot would be asleep by now.” Hermione’s voice was a little stern.

“We just wanted to hear the story…” Corrie spoke in her best innocent voice, a voice that often won her Daddy over in whatever the situation was.

“What story is that?” Ron asked, crouching down to make himself eye-level with his two girls, who were still sitting in the large, over-stuffed chair.

“Da one about you and Mum,” Adele beamed, smiling a smile that proudly displayed her missing teeth.

“Is that so?” Ron grinned, unable to stop himself.  Sometimes it was hard to have to be the parent, and not simply be amused and want to get in on the mischief.

“Well, I think it’s time for bed now,” Hermione spoke, but her voice was losing its sternness.  Their children loved hearing their story and always coaxed someone into telling it to them any chance they could.  But Hermione always thought Mrs. Weasley told it best. 

“Well, Nana’s heading straight off to bed, that’s for sure.” Mrs. Weasley smiled to Ron.  She stood and handed a sleeping Luka over to Hermione, who easily nestled him in her arm, his head resting on her shoulder.  Mrs. Weasley disappeared as Ron and Hermione began to herd their children upstairs.  Adele had a hold of Ron’s pinky finger, while Corrie was holding his other hand.  They were Daddy’s girls; that was certain.  Ron led the way up stairs, all of his girls in tow, including Hermione, whose hand rested against his back, allowing him to guide her.

Finally all the children were in bed, in the room they used whenever they stayed the night at Nana and Papa’s.  Luka had not woken from his sleep, and Hermione laid him in the crib, kissing him and making her way over to the girls.

“Did you never see Harry again?” Corrie was asking Ron, who was sitting on her bed. Both girls were still trying to get more information from their Daddy, much as they always did after hearing the story.  They were both tucked in bed under their blankets but were delaying going to sleep as long as possible.

“Nope,” Ron answered. Often the story was told in such a way that simply stated Harry was gone.  The children hadn’t yet fully grasped the idea of death and its finality.  

Listening knowingly, Hermione heard a sigh in Ron’s voice that the girls never would have picked up on.

“He was yo’r bes friend, Mum?” Adele asked.

“He was.  The three of us were best friends.” Hermione smiled gently.

“Do you think we’ll ever have best friends, and we’ll get to do all the things you did?” Corrie asked.  Ron tried to hide a laugh.  He could only imagine his children making mischief at Hogwarts just like they had.

“I think you will.  But you better study, too,” Hermione said.

“Of course!” Adele beamed.  Adele, truly, was a ‘chip off the old block.’  She looked and often acted, just like her mum when Hermione was her age.  She was also undeniably intelligent.  And the bushy brown hair and brown eyes didn’t hurt the resemblance, either.

“Maybe you’ll have some wild adventures,” Ron spoke excitedly in his story-telling and mischief-making voice.  “Maybe someday we’ll talk about Corrie Weasley and the Wild Hippogriff.”

“Ooh, yeah.  Or Corrie Weasley and the Friendly Centaurs!” Corrie said in wonderment.

“What abou’ Adele Weasley and the Angwy Howse Elves?” Adele spoke in a giddy voice.

“You mean Adelaide Weasley!” Corrie called over, never missing an opportunity to harass her little sister.

“Adele.” Adele spoke her name grumpily.  Ron could swear he had seen that face Adele was making before, only it had been on Hermione, probably right before she had blasted someone with a hex.

“All right girls, it’s time you get to sleep.  We’ll see you in the morning,” Hermione said firmly, and there was no moving that voice when it spoke.  Ron and Hermione kissed the girls and tucked them in again.  Then Ron took Hermione’s hand and led her out of the room, turning off the lights and shutting the door.

“They’re wonderful kids, aren’t they?” Hermione asked as they stood in the hallway.  Her voice was proud, but also sincerely asking for Ron’s assurance.

“They are.  I wish you could see them,” Ron spoke softly and seriously.  Gently his thumb caressed her cheek as they spoke, and Hermione couldn’t help feeling the tingles.  After all these years he still gave her the tingles.

“Me, too.  But I think they must be beautiful,” she smiled.

“They are.  I’m telling you, Adele is you, through and through,” Ron insisted.

“And Corrie?”

“She’s got some of both of us.  And maybe a spirit a bit like Harry’s.  Not sure where that came from.  Maybe we’ve carried him on in us, some how.” Ron’s voice had become thoughtful.

“And Luka, he looks just like you, doesn’t he?” Hermione asked knowingly.  Though she had often been told what her children looked like, she never tired of hearing Ron speak of them to her.

“Everything but the eyes.  They’re yours.” Ron was smiling tenderly at her, even if she couldn’t see him.  He couldn’t help it.  He had never stopped adoring Hermione, and he knew he never could.  His eyes traced Hermione’s face, and he watched her gleaming brown eyes, sometimes duped into thinking she could see, after all.  She still gave wonderful looks and expressions.  It was habit to her.  She was doing it now.

“I wish you knew some of the looks you gave me,” Ron spoke with a mischievous hint in his voice.  His voice was dangerously close to her face, and his hand was finding it’s way into her hair.

“What look am I giving you now?” Hermione looked up to him with her big brown eyes dancing in the direction of where she thought his eyes were.  She was subconsciously biting her lower lip.  Ron felt a shiver pass through his body.

His voice came out thick and gruff, layered with pure desire. “You’re giving me the look that makes me want to haul you off to our bedroom and see if we can bring any more Weasleys into the world…”  

Hermione’s eyes grew wide with shock as she exclaimed in hushed astonishment, “Ron!” 

 

THE END.




-=-=-
Author's Note:
  This is the end.  It really is.  I think, for some, it might have come abruptly, but this was the story to be told.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask away and I will do my best to answer.  You can leave a review, PM me, or ask questions on my Author's Topic in the forums.  

Thanks to all my faithful readers.  It has been so fun to share this story with you, and I hope that no one was disappointed.  I tell the story as it comes, and this was the story.

Thanks, 
JT

http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com