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August 15th...
Two Months Later

    “Fred, would you pass the kippers?” Mr. Weasley called from the far end of the kitchen table one sunny morning in mid-August.

    Breakfast was its usual noisy ordeal. With eleven people crammed around the one worn down wooden table and its surface primarily taken up by upwards of two dozen steaming platters of breakfast foods courtesy of Mrs. Weasley, the kitchen was in a justifiable state of chaos.

    At the Burrow, mealtime was a time for talking just as much as it was a time for eating.  It was a rare sight indeed to find more than four people all engaging in the same subject, more commonly one might find at least four clusters of people all talking over each other about a wide variety of subjects.

    This morning, however, there was one person who wasn’t talking. Hermione sat pressed between Harry and Ginny, a plate of eggs, porridge and buttered toast sitting untouched in front of her. Everyone around her was currently in the midst of an apparently enthralling conversation about Ron’s latest bizarre dream. Hermione however could not take her eyes off the food sitting in front of her.

    Globs of runny mucous,
she thought with disgust, staring down the sunny-side up eggs sitting in front of her. And their friend, the swamp of liquefied vomit, she turned her eyes toward the helping of grey porridge peppered with cinnamon. Her stomach was churning at the thought of the usually delicious breakfast foods that littered the table. She saw toast and butter and thought, burnt cardboard saturated in grease. She saw a jug of milk and couldn’t help but picture it curdled and sour smelling. Nothing was an exception. Even the sweet rolls, which she usually had third helpings of, only made cringe and close her eyes. Taking a look around to make sure that everyone was occupied with either their food or some conversation, she slid her wand out of her pocket and quietly vanished the food on her plate.

    She mumbled something about having to excuse herself, and then rushed out of the kitchen and out the back door and into the Weasley’s deplorable flower garden. Heading straight for the patch of withering petunias, she managed to heave up and inordinate amount of vomit for the miniscule portion of food she had consumed that morning. She coughed and sputtered a final few times, wiping her mouth with the napkin she had brought with her from the table.

    “Third time this week,” she gasped, taking a deep breath.

    You would think, having vomited three times in one week, Hermione would admit to herself that there was indeed something wrong with her; however, this simply was not the case. Hermione was more than certain that this was just a 24-hour thing. Or perhaps it’s 72 hours by now, she thought to herself. But it surely can only last this long. I bet this is the last day it will happen… It’s not like a feel… too terrible after breakfast.

    Of course, this was not entirely true.

    Hermione wandered over to the low garden wall, overlooking the dead lawn where conniving gnomes occasionally peeped about, and started to tally up her symptoms. After the initial morning bout of nausea, she had a whole range of mild discomforts ailing her. There were the headaches – more dizziness than anything, really – the fatigue, overall soreness and a weak feeling she couldn’t quite describe. She felt as if her energy was sapped. The only problem was, she hadn’t a clue what she had done to trigger it.

    After the first day, she had chalked it up to being her womanly time of the month. After all, her stomach had seemed a bit bloated, but usually it didn’t carry on like this. She figured she had been feeling ill for a least a week, and that was uncommonly long for just PMS.

    And with that ruled out, the only option is, I’m ill. 

    The only problem was, Hermione couldn’t exactly think of what her supposed illness could be. She didn’t have a fever, which threw out the flu as an option, but she was still vomiting quite frequently which meant it was more than just a cold.
A horrible thought came to Hermione just then. I must have caught some obscure magical disease that no one knows how to cure! I could die before I even sit my NEWTs!

    But then came the self-assurance that she had put herself through the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, basically ever since she had started retching right after breakfast. Honestly, Hermione knew there was no way she could actually be sick. She just wasn’t one of those people who got sick. Ever. This was sure to pass shortly, probably tomorrow.

    Fully reassured, she got down off the wall and made her way back to the kitchen which she found empty save for a mountain of dirty dishes and Mrs. Weasley working away at the kitchen sink.

    “Oh Hermione dear! Would you mind helping me with these dishes? The rest of those brats ran off on me!” she said good-humoredly.  

    “Oh, of course, no problem,” she said, slightly caught of guard. She had wanted to escape the kitchen and its abundance of nausea-inducing smells as soon as possible, but she supposed it couldn’t hurt to help with a few dishes. Her nausea for the day must have passed already.

    Mrs. Weasley moved from the sink and asked if she could just rinse each plate and then hand it to her for drying.

    Hermione nodded enthusiastically, but her stomach lurched as she looked down at the gobs of runny food remnants stuck to the plates she was supposed to be cleaning. Ok, Ok, Ok, you can do this. It’s just some bits of food- nothing to be afraid of. Just look straight ahead and don’t get sick!

    She managed to wash a few plates that way, looking straight out the window and into the garden, but luckily Ginny came tromping down the stairs just as Mrs. Weasley started to give Hermione funny looks.

    “Oh, Gin!” Hermione called quickly, withdrawing her hands from the sink, “Could you take over here? I really have to use the bathroom!” She was already halfway out the door before Ginny could point out that the bathroom was upstairs, not out in the garden, but Hermione hardly cared. The last thing she wanted to do was vomit all over the floor and then have everybody fussing over her.

    Unfortunately, Hermione wasn’t so lucky as to go without anyone noticing at all. Ginny knew better than assume Hermione would tell her right away when something was going wrong. Hermione was a person who liked to fix her problems by herself, but sometimes she just wasn’t able to do it. Ginny took the liberty of assuming that this must be one of those times and so quickly followed her friend out into the garden, rushing to help her hold her hair when she saw what she was doing.

    “Merlin, Hermione! Are you alright?” Ginny exclaimed in shock as her friend heaved in to the shrubbery.

    “Oh, yeah,” Hermione said weakly, attempting to get to her feet and the stumbling over, white-faced, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

    “You’re clearly not. Here, let me help you.”

    The two walked precariously over towards the garden wall, Hermione’s face so white Ginny thought it likely she would pass out any second.

    “Alright, just sit down and take a breath,” Ginny said calmly, taking a breath herself,
    “Should I go get my mum?”

    “Oh, please don’t!” Hermione whimpered, putting a hand to her head in embarrassment, “I really don’t want anyone to make a fuss.”

    “Make a fuss?” Ginny asked incredulously, “You’ve just been retching in the back-garden and now you’re white as a sheet! How long has this been going on?”

    “Only a couple of days…”

    “A couple of days! Why haven’t you told anyone, you twit!”

    “Hey!” Hermione said, looking up at Ginny angrily, “Don’t chastise me for not telling     anyone! I’ve been in denial!”

    “You’re a bloody fool,” she replied, somewhat meekly. It was no use staying annoyed with her, it was cruel to be angry with a sick person and so she sat herself down and prepared to continue calmly. “Alright, let’s look at this rationally. I know now, so you might as well tell me everything and maybe I can help you. Does that sound reasonable?”

    “I suppose it does…”

    “Ok, so what exactly has been wrong with you?”

    “Well, I believe it was three day ago, I vomited after breakfast and ever since then it’s happened everyday,” Hermione said in a rush. “And it’s not just that, I’ve also felt dizzy, fatigued and sore throughout the daytime. Oh, Ginny, do you think this will last long? I’ll just die if I’m ill for the start of term!”

    “Oh, don’t be dramatic!” Ginny said, slightly annoyed, “This can’t possibly last till the start of term… Of course, it might have been cured a lot quicker if you had just told someone about it three days ago!”

    “Yes, well, I’m sorry about that, but I can’t go back in time and change things… Well, I can, but it would be a lot easier if you just consented to help me now! Please?” Hermione looked at her friend pleadingly and finally Ginny heaved a sigh of compliance.

    “I guess this is my job, as your official best friend and all…So apart from the nausea, dizziness, soreness and fatigue, have you had any other symptoms?”

    “No… that’s pretty much it. But they’re enough, you know!”

    “Yeah,” Ginny replied distractedly, thinking of Hermione’s potential illness. “Do you have a fever at all? That could mean the flu. Or are you stuffed up? It could be a sinus infection.”

    “No to both of those,” Hermione replied with a sigh. She almost wished she were running a fever. At least then she would know what was wrong with her.

    “Well, is it... you know... Your time of the month?” Ginny asked, eyebrows raised.

    “That’s what I thought initially too, because that should have happened a few weeks ago, but it’s just not happening. It’s not the usual symptoms either… I don’t usually get nauseas.”

    “You’re late?” Ginny asked, suddenly amused, “Well, don’t tell me you and my brother have been getting up to the dirty, dirty!”

    Hermione slapped her on the arm.
    “NO! Merlin, Ginny, it always comes around to that, doesn’t it?”

    “Well, I wouldn’t hold it against you if you had… You’ve been together for months now!”

    “We’re not together! I don’t know what Ron’s been telling you, but we are definitely not together.”

    “So I guess that rules out-” she looked around dramatically as if expecting Mrs. Weasley to jump out of the nearest Begonia bush, “pregnant.”

    “How could that even be and option?” Hermione asked, exasperated.

    “Well, I don’t know what you get up to with my brother in dark corners…”

    “I don’t get up to anything! We do not go into dark corners!”
    “Well, I don’t know, but your symptoms seem to point in one direction…”

    “Hate to break it to you, but that just cannot be. That road is blocked; no symptoms of mine can be pointing in that direction.”

    “I’m just trying to make connections!”

    “Well, there HAS to be something else,” Hermione said desperately, “I mean, that cannot be the only option.”

    “Maybe if you let me ask mum…”

    “No!” Hermione cried, “I mean, it’s not necessary yet, is it?

    “We’ve run out of options!” Ginny said, frustration becoming evident in her voice.

    “I don’t know… I’m pretty sure it’s going to go away. I’ll probably be 100% normal by tomorrow!”

    “And what are you going to do if you’re not?” Ginny asked skeptically.

    “Well,” said Hermione, rising to her feet, color restored to her complexion, “We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow morning.”

* * *

    Hermione snuck quietly into the bedroom off the third landing that she shared with Ginny. After coming back inside from the garden, she had been immediately swept into an animated argument concerning Quidditch. Luckily she didn’t have much to say on the subject, and everyone else did, so she was able to slip away unnoticed.
Closing the bedroom door behind her, she breathed a sigh of relief – she hadn’t yet had time by herself to mull over what she had talked about with Ginny.

    Catching a glance at her reflection in the full-length mirror across from the door, she walked closer to get a better look.
    God, I’m pale… she thought morosely, probably from not being able to keep anything down.

    Without really thinking about it, she turned to her side and lifted up her T-shirt to reveal her porcelain-white stomach beneath. She looked at her stomach critically, sticking it out and sucking it in. The odd thing was, it appeared different in a way, although she couldn’t quite put a finger on what that different thing was.

    I’ve just let Ginny get to me! She says the most unbelievable things and yet I still find myself believing her…

    She pulled up her shirt again and had another look.

    I mean, how could I be… There’s no POSSIBLE way I could… I mean, there’s only one way for it to happen… right?

    She lowered her hand down to right below the soft curve of her stomach… Surely it hasn’t always been curved like that! She rubbed her hand around in circles, as if that would tell her the truth.

    God, I’m being ridiculous! She thought suddenly, throwing herself on the bed. Living in this world has made me throw all traces of reason right out the door! I mean, how could I even CONSIDER this? It cannot be possible! Well, at least it can’t be possible in the Muggle world… But could it be possible in this one either? And how am I supposed to find out?

    She lay, absorbed in thought for a few moments, staring at the beamed ceiling. All of a sudden, her brain fogged over and she found herself kneeling on a hard wooden floor in a darkened room, a figure lying below her and a cold sweat running down her brow.

    “Will you promise to save me baby? I can’t die thinking… knowing…”

    The woman’s clear blue eyes stared up at her pleadingly, her white hand held Hermione’s wrist surprisingly tight.

    “I promise.”

    The fog melted away and Hermione lifted her head slowly from the pillow.
She walked purposely towards the writing desk by the window and pulled out one sheaf of parchment and a black quill.

    Carefully she scrawled on the backside of the parchment:
            Albus Dumbledore
            Hogwarts School of
            Witchcraft and Wizardry

    On the front side she frantically wrote much more. Much of it did not make sense, even to her, but she didn’t stop or slow down or check her spelling. She just wrote. Word after word, she scrawled them all down. Finally she folded up the parchment in thirds with the address on the outside and rushed over to Pigwidgeon, who happened to be residing in Ginny’s room, and tied the letter to his leg. The small owl was overcome with excitement, but Hermione held him tight in her hands and said, “You are to get to Hogwarts as fast as your wings can carry you. Deliver this to the Headmaster and no one else. Make sure he writes a reply before you leave. I need a reply tonight.”

    The owl gave a small, shrill hoot and with that Hermione pushed open the window and tossed the feathered bird out and into the sky.  

* * *

    Hermione found dinner that night to be a much higher stress affair than usual. She sat herself in the middle of the table, hoping to have lots of distractions around her to keep her mind off the letter that was sure to be in the Headmaster’s hands that very moment. Unfortunately, none of the plentiful amount of conversations around her distracted her in quite the way she had in mind.
    “Molly dear, you won’t believe who I ran into today,” Mr. Weasley began from his seat at the head of the table, “Do you remember Georgina Haddington from the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad? The one who was always so charming to you at the Ministry Christmas parties?”
    “Of course, she was such a little dear!”
    “ Well you wouldn’t believe – she got married recently and just had a baby!”
    “Oh, how wonderful for her!” Mrs. Weasley began to gush just as Hermione turned her head rapidly away. There was no way she was getting sucked into that one.
    On the other side of the table, the twins were telling tales from their week in the joke shop industry.

    “And so the little thief – couldn’t have been more than eight – gets dragged back by the ear by his very pregnant mother,” Fred said animatedly, grabbing George’s ear for affect, “And she is just in a right state –”

    Hermione turned quickly away again, not believing her extraordinary bad luck. Of course it had to be today that the residents of the Burrow had to unite on one inescapable dinner topic – the very topic Hermione wanted so very much to avoid.

    Turning back to the adult end, she was relieved to see that Fleur was now the one talking. Hopefully they’ve decided to stop torturing me…

    “And so, I guess we have a leetle something zhat we have to say,” Fleur began, demurely.

    Suddenly Bill was clinking his glass with his fork and Hermione’s stomach began to turn itself into a knot. Surely he can’t be about to say…

    “We have some exciting news,” Bill said, beaming from ear to ear, “The Weasley clan is about to get a new member for its ranks – Fleur’s expecting in January!”

    The table erupted in applause, laughter and squeals of excitement and joy. Mrs. Weasley was positively sobbing, clutching the blonde girl she usually despised to her in happiness. Everyone was standing up and hugging, patting Bill on the back and waiting for a chance to rub Fleur’s belly.

    No one noticed Hermione slip away up the stairs, her face not bearing an expression of excitement and delight but rather one of anxiety and fear. She couldn’t tolerate being around all of them anymore. It was just too much. Especially with the reply she was awaiting from Dumbledore…

    Not bothering to be silent on the stairs – knowing that the din from the kitchen was sure to drown it out --– she tromped irritably up to the third floor.

    Upon opening the door, however, all signs of irritation flew quickly away as a hyperactive Pigwidgeon, positively buzzing with the success of delivering the letter, greeted her.

    Hermione snatched the parchment from his leg in one swipe and scrambled to unfurl it. She couldn’t help but sigh disappointedly when she saw the apparent absence of assuring words, however when she did read them, she was once again instilled with a sense of security. 

        It seems necessary for us to meet tonight.
            My office. 10:30.

    Hermione’s stomach fluttered nervously, but she couldn’t help but feel a sense of contentment amongst the butterflies. There was no doubt in her mind: Dumbledore was going to fix everything.

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