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When Hermione awoke, her world was dark.

Her head was buzzing and she felt weak and groggy as she slowly, she raised her head, taking in her surroundings. She was lying on a saggy mattress atop an iron frame. The only view she had was starched white bed-curtains pulled around the cot tightly, cutting out any light.

The hospital wing, Hermione thought slowly, putting the mismatched thoughts into her head. But why am I here? 

Then all the events came back to her in one horrible swoosh. My parents are dead, I tried to attack Draco Malfoy, and I’m in the hospital. She bit her lip hard and sat up. The curtains spun dizzily for a moment, then slid back into focus.

“Hello?” She called out hoarsely, her throat raw and tender. Hermione heard a gentle swishing of robes, and the bed curtains were pushed open. Madame Pomfrey stood in from of her, pitying air perfected. Her graying brown hair was tightly pulled back into an old-fashioned wimple, and her robes were a bright white that hurt Hermione’s eyes.

“Oh, you’ve finally awakened.” The normally dour nurse patted Hermione’s hand fondly and sat down on the edge of her bed. It creaked, annoyed. “How are you feeling?”

How was she feeling? Hermione closed her eyes tightly, ignoring the question. How was she feeling? A bit like her world had been torn apart at the seams, thanks for asking. She decided to spare the matronly nurse her anguish and despair, and instead moved on to a mundane, simple question. “Why am I here?”

The nurse’s small eyes widened slightly. “You don’t remember?” Her thin hands went to her neck, alarmed fluttering doves. “My dear, I’m sorry to tell you, but your parents, your parents…” She paused and tried to regain her composure.

Hermione felt her throat contract as stinging tears threatened to fall. She didn’t want to hear it twice. “No, you see, I meant why am I here. In the hospital wing.”

Madame Pomfrey looked relieved. “You collapsed right after you heard the, um, news. Derek, no, Draco Malfoy brought you here looking quite panicked. Such a thoughtful boy. He found you in one of the courtyards.” She patted her hand again, while her face became a mask of pity that Hermione couldn’t bear to look at.

Instead of wondering why Malfoy had been helpful verging on kind, Hermione felt hollow. She really couldn’t care less. What did it matter? It didn’t matter at all. She wished Madame Pomfrey would go away.

“Has anyone been to see me?” she asked disinterestedly. Her gaze became attached to the nondescript yellow bed sheet. She picked at a small tear, enlarging it. Just get out.

“My, all of Gryffindor has been in to see you. Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley have been in every twenty minutes, it seems.” Her face became disapproving. “I’ve told them you need time to recover from your shock. Would you like to see them?”

Hermione shrugged. No, I would not like to see them, thank you very much. But the nurse was already moving to the door, glad to have a purpose.

“I’ll tell them they can come it.” On her way out, she turned back one last time. “And Hermione?” Hermione looked up from her bedspread. “I’m very sorry.”

As the nurse left to summon Harry and Ron, Hermione started down at her quilt intensely. Whatever happens, she promised herself, I’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. She heard soft footsteps, and then Harry and Ron appeared. 

They both looked at her quietly. They wore their black school robes, their hair matted and their expressions sympathetic and solemn.

They had been worrying, Hermione realized without a shred of compassion. She wished they would say something. They weren’t very much help, standing there silently like she was some sort of carnival freak show. Why were they just standing there stupidly?

Harry and Ron shuffled their feet and came foreword hesitantly, unsure of what to do or say. Hermione focused on Harry, who was beginning to speak.

“I’m so sorry,” he said quietly.

“I’m really sorry,” Ron echoed, his freckles huge against his pale skin. “Is there anything we can do, Hermione?”

Hermione felt a spurt of irrational anger as she looked at them. No, there was nothing they could do. Why did everyone keep saying that? At least Harry had an inkling of what was going on, but Ron? He had never lost anyone. He had no idea. She just wanted them to get out; she wanted everyone to get out.

They felt so far away, but Hermione couldn’t find the strength to bring them closer. She looked back at her pillow. It would be nice to fall asleep. Sleep was easy—there was no pain when she lost consciousness. Sleep was hollow and dead, a comfortable abyss.

“I think I’m going to sleep,” she announced to Harry and Ron. Just fall asleep, good night. Good bye.

Madame Pomfrey, who had been hovering at the edge of the uncomfortable scene, bustled over and gave Hermione her sleep tonic. She drank the potion and wrapped her covers over her, shutting her eyes tightly and feeling only the warm, potion-induced comfort and scratchy sheets below her. Before she surrendered to sleep, she saw Ron and Harry exchange worried looks.


~ * * * ~




Orphan was a terrible word, Hermione decided. Orphan, orphan, orphan. Who came up with that, anyway? There were cute little orphan birds, and orphan kittens you adopted, but there shouldn’t be orphan children. There just shouldn’t be.

Orphan was the first word her aunt flung at her when she stepped onto her aunt Margaret’s posh foyer. The stay at her aunt’s house had started badly and ended worse.

The minute Hermione had woken up at Hogwarts, Madame Pomfrey had bustled her off using side-by-side Apparation, sending her “in a car” to her Muggle aunt’s house. Madame Pomfrey had insisted it would be best for her, and whenever Hermione was ready she could come back to Hogwarts.

 “My poor orphan!” Hermione’s aunt had cried, wrapping her into a perfumed hug the moment she had seen her. “How simply terrible! Your life is destroyed at such a young age, only fifteen…”

Sixteen, Hermione had silently corrected her, resigning herself to a long stay.

All Hermione did for the first two weeks at her aunt’s home was hide in the guest room and sob. By the third week, Margaret had had enough. “Keep your mind off the grief dear,” she had trilled. “Now wouldn’t this blouse look lovely on you? If only we could do something with your hair…” Hermione had learned that although Margaret was emotional, her capacity to comprehend feeling was limited. As a wealthy widow (“I think of your dear Uncle Bobby everyday,” Margaret sniffed tearfully, clutching a 300£ purse, “But what he’s left me is such a comfort.”), she seemed to unable, or unwilling, to understand that spending massive amounts of money didn’t heal everything.

A month after her parent’s quiet funeral, Hermione was heading back to Hogwarts. She hadn’t had any contact with Harry or Ron, other than various owl post she had ignored. Special arrangements had been made for her to travel back to Hogwarts on a Muggle train, so she was waiting at King’s Cross Station, since both unchaperoned Apparation and Flooing were out of the question, and no one was able to pick her up.

“Want me to put your trunk on the choo, miss?”

A spotty porter in a frayed blue worker’s uniform with his cap pulled low peered up at her questioningly. Hermione nodded quietly, fiddling in her newly purchased bag for a note. Margaret has insisted she buy it. The brand had a funny name, carriage or something. She handed the pound to the grateful porter, who slowly dragged her trunk to the train.

Hermione gave an inaudible sigh as she sank down onto a bench, carefully avoiding a splatter of spilled chips. Her new clothes, courtesy of Aunt Margaret, made her self-conscious. The Muggle clothes were too loud, the red coat and dark blue tapered jeans showed a girl who cared about fashion, a girl who wasn't Hermione. Hermione didn’t have enough energy to hate them, but plain black robes were among the many things Hermione missed.

As she waited for the train to board, Hermione observed her fellow passengers. A fail woman sat on a bench, holding a flowered carpetbag. A little girl skipped beside her mother, laughing as she pulled her hair bow loose. The mother scolded her daughter in a way that suggested she didn’t really mind. Hermione remembered, with a pang, how her own mother used to try to brush Hermione’s bushy hair, pretending she was the prince and Hermione’s hair was the dragon. She felt hot tears behind her lids, threatening to explode. Oh perfect, she thought. I’m about to start sobbing at a train station. She hurried off to a bathroom, leaving her trunk with the porter.

She stepped inside the bathroom, dimly lit to cover the grime, and locked the metal door behind her. She cried quietly for a moment, then wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Hermione wondered if she would ever be able to think of her parents without crying. Yes, she decided firmly, I will. One day, at least.  She moped around in the gray bathroom for a minute before steeling herself to reenter the world.

Hermione walked calmly back out to the train station, resolutions in place, but there wasn’t a train in sight. The rusty tracks were void of any sort of transportation, revealing only red age-spotted bricks. She looked around, confused. She couldn’t have been in the bathroom that long. She saw the same spotty porter hovering near a young unsuspecting couple and hurried over to him.

“Excuse me,” she began. He looked up at her, bug eyed. She looked back at him, bemused, and continued. “Excuse me, but where’s the 3:15 train?”

“You missed it, miss!” he gasped. “It just left two minutes ago with your luggage on it!”

Hermione stared at the porter, oddly relieved. The porter misunderstood her expression, and hurried on, “The train station innit responsible for lost luggage. It wasn’t my fault, see. You won’t tell Mr. Jenkins, will you?” The teenager looked petrified at the thought. She shook her head, wondering how severe the dreaded Mr. Jenkins was.

“No,” she said. “Of course not. It wasn’t your fault. I’m the one who missed it, after all. When is the next train?”

“8:00 tonight.”

He hesitated. “Do you want me to go ask,” he gulped, his Adam’s apple bobbing, “Mr. Jenkins how to get your bag back?”

“No,” answered Hermione. “But thank you.” Hermione wandered off, leaving the perplexed porter behind her.


~ * * * ~




Almost five hours, Hermione rejoiced. She didn’t relish going back to Hogwarts, where everyone would look at her and whisper. The strangers were the worst, Hermione decided. As if they really cared! Of course they didn’t, she sneered.

Lost in her thoughts, Hermione barely noticed where her feet were taking her. When she looked up, she was at the entrance of Diagon Alley. Feeling like a fugitive, she covertly took out her wand and tapped the bricks.

Hermione swiftly stepped into Diagon Alley, nearly knocking someone over in the process. She stopped to apologize, then froze in surprise.

“What are you doing here?” she gasped, shocked.

“I could ask you the same thing,” sneered a surprised Draco Malfoy. 

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