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June 16, 1999

Hermione’s pale cheek was pressed against the window of her door. On the outside raindrops were falling, but inside the car she was warm and safe from both the stormy weather and the cold.

She felt oddly weak and drained, no doubt due to the dizziness she had experienced. Her parents were acting weird in the front seat, exchanging wordless, worried glances. And to top it all, they had adopted a little girl, Ophelia, without even calling Hermione to warn her of this new addition to the Granger household.

“Hermione,” Ophelia said curiously. Her round, blue eyes had not left Hermione since the family had gotten into their car and started the long drive home. “Do you have any Barbie dolls?

Mr. and Mrs. Granger exchanged another curious glance in the front seat. Their eyes betrayed mingled horror, worry and adoration for their youngest daughter’s innocence in the situation.

“No, Ophelia,” Mrs. Granger said with a voice draped in silk, before Hermione had time to answer. “We already gave you all of Hermione’s old dolls. They're the ones you have that look used, remember? The ones with frizzy hair.”

“Oh,” Ophelia nodded and fell silent once more.

The atmosphere in the car was awkward.

Mr. Granger glanced at Hermione in his mirror. “How are you feeling, Hermione?” he asked her carefully before returning his eyes to the wet road.

At the hospital Hermione had insisted that she was fine and refused to answer the doctors’ questions as they tried to determine wether they needed to keep her at the hospital or not. Infuriated, they had had to let her go, disappointed that they had not managed to squeeze some more money out of the Grangers’ wallets. As though they hadn’t acquired enough over the past eight years of extending Hermione’s lifeline.

However, even though Hermione had insisted back then that she was fine, her parents could tell that she was lying. Her pale complexion, the confused look in her eyes, the way she kept looking down at her trembling hands... Everything suggested that she was far from fine.

“I’m so confused...” Hermione admitted, and her mother smiled at her words. She was about to turn around and offer the teenager an explanation, but Hermione continued ruthlessly: “I mean, why isn’t Ron here? And where did my ring go? Did they have to take it off at the hospital or something? Oh no, please say I didn’t sleep over the wedding! How long was I out, mum?”

Now there was almost a wild look about her, and Mrs. Granger’s mild smile was gone to be replaced with a look of horror. She had thought that the truth had finally started to dawn on Hermione, but apparently the girl was still caught up in her own little dreamworld.

“Honey, stop the car,” Mrs. Granger sighed, and Mr. Granger obediently drove to the side of the road before killing the engine. Mrs. Granger turned to Hermione. “Okay... Hermione, this might come as a slight shock, but... I don’t even know how to say it.”

“You’ve been in a coma,” Mr. Granger said, and he, too, turned to look at his daughter. His kind eyes looked oddly wet behind his square glasses. “For eight years.”

A few seconds ticked by as the rain pounded against the roof of their minivan.

Hermione shook her head, and her expression was strained. “No...” she murmured. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no-”

“But it’s gonna be okay, sweetie,” Her mother tried desperately, and leaned across to cup her daughter’s chin in her hand. The last time she had done it Hermione had been nearly twelve.

“No!” Hermione yelled, shaking her head and pressing her back against the hard carseat. “Don’t you see? It won’t be okay! It will never be okay! Poor Ron, I’ve kept him waiting for too long... Oh no! Did he give up on me? I... Ron...” and her outburst of anger subsided into furious sobs. Her world seemed to spin around her, even though she was quite isolated from it inside the little car.

Her parents exchanged yet another, this one horrorstricken, look. Ophelia continued to stare shamelessly at her sobbing sister. She had never seen this many adults cry in such a short amount of time.

“Hermione, dear... Don’t cry...” Mrs. Granger said as she awkwardly attempted to come closer to her sobbing daughter though the opening between the front seats.

But Hermione seemed oblivious to Mrs. Granger’s soft voice and kind manner as she wrapped her arms around her legs and cried into her knees. Her parents thought they could hear her mutter the name “Ron” through her sobs, along with other words they were unable to hear.

The rain seemed to intensify around them, and perhaps it was hailing, because it sounded as though they were being fired at with relentless, unstoppable bullets.

Mr. and Mrs. Granger looked pained, and unsure of what to do. Perhaps it would be best just to let her cry it out and get it over with? But before they could let her do just that, Hermione had forced herself to calm down enough to speak again.

“So did he? Get married, I mean.”

“Hermione...” Mr. Granger said in a calm, controlled voice. Hermione knew that voice as his serious voice; the voice he only used if he was reprimanding her or telling her something extremely important. “Ron never existed.”

“What the hell do you mean by that?” Hermione shrieked, and she looked outraged. Her cheeks had, for the first time in eight years, developed red roses of anger, and she directed a glare at both her parents. Then she turned to Ophelia, who was still staring, and a look of comprehension dawned upon her face.

“Ah!” Hermione turned back to her parents. “I understand that you didn’t want to talk about my world at the hospital, but you can’t keep this a secret forever, you know. Not if she is a part of our family now.”

“Keep what a secret, dear?” Mrs. Granger asked in a low voice.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Magic,” she said simply, and that one single word was enough to make her both her parents cringe; the same reaction Harry had told Hermione that his aunt and uncle responded with whenever any peculiarity was mentioned.

“There is no such thing like magic,” Mr. Granger said softly, and Hermione could hear the faintest trace of impatience in his deep, mellow voice.

“How can you be so stupid?!” Hermione practically yelled, and she sounded like the outraged teenager she never got the chance to be. “You know as well as I do! I showed you my spells, my magic, my bloody wand!” After the little outburst she sank down in her seat, trying to maintain control of her temper. Whenever she had lost her temper like this when she was a child it would start raining, the TV would break or something else that they didn’t recognize as magic happened.

Now, instead, she just felt dizzy.

~




“Dear God,” Mrs. Granger said, as she paced the length of the Grangers’ living room. Ophelia was already in bed, and Hermione was lying, unconscious, on the couch. Her face was pale as snow, and she looked dead except for the small rising and sinking of her chest, indicating that she was breathing.

It wasn’t as though the Grangers’ weren’t familiar with this; whenever Hermione had gotten worked up as a child, she would faint. 'Vertigo', the doctors had deemed her condition, and the best and only medicine was rest. It had been a curse, sometimes, yet with her intelligent manner and her puerile beauty Hermione had been a blessing nevertheless.

Still, Mrs. Granger couldn’t help but fear the worst as she looked at her immobile daughter.

“What if she has fallen into another coma?” she asked her husband, who was sitting in the armchair, rubbing his temples. His glasses were laying on the wooden coffee table.

Mr. Granger sighed. “I don’t think so,” he said vaguely, although he wasn’t sure. But somehow it seemed to be his job to comfort his wife in whatever cause she was worried about. “She’ll wake up soon.”

And, as though she had heard her father, Hermione groaned.

“Hermione, darling!” Mrs. Granger exclaimed and rushed to her side.

Hermione sat up straight and gave a small sob. She sounded like an overgrown toddler that had been rudely awaken from its nap.

Mrs. Granger wrapped a consoling, comforting arm around her daughter. Oh, how she had longed to be able to do just that, all the times she had watched Hermione laying motionless with her chocolate eyes closed against the real word. “Sssh, darling, it’s alright...”

“It’s not alright...” Hermione muttered. “I’m twenty-seven years old, my life has passed on without me....”

Mr. Granger frowned from his spot in the middle of the floor. “You’re not twenty-seven, Hermione. You just turned nineteen.”

Hermione looked up from her misery suddenly, appearantly forgetting to sob as she stared from her father to her mother and then back. She looked both accusing and relieved. “But you said I had been in a coma for eight years.”

“You have,” her father replied gravely, nodding. “You fell into a coma just before your twelfth birthday-”

“No I didn’t!” Hermione snapped, shaking her mother’s arm off her and standing up. “Just before my twelfth birthday I got my Hogwarts letter, and I went off to school!”

Both her parents knew that they shouldn’t contradict her, that they shouldn’t upset her any further, and that doing so could cause a new vertigo. Still, they could not help sharing another helpless glance.

The glance did not pass by Hermione without notice. She gaped at them for a moment, before she fell to the ground as though she had been knocked off her feet.

Mr. and Mrs. Granger thought for a horrifying, split second that she had had another seizure, although the sobs that rang through the living room quickly proved them wrong.

“But, Hermione...” Mrs. Granger said, stroking a hand through Hermione’s long, greasy hair. It had been through both sweat and rain that day, which was more than it had been through for eight years.

Hermione inched closer to her mother’s feet, resting her cheek against her skirt and crying uncontrollably. The tears seemed to fall just as hard and fast as the rain they had witnessed earlier that day. Mrs. Granger continued to stroke her daughter’s hair, gently and calmly, until the sobs and whimpers eventually subsided into silence. Mr. Granger stood by their side, wordlessly, simply watching the two women while losing track of time.

“You’re not lying, after all,” Hermione whispered from Mrs. Granger’s knee, because the one glance she had seen been exchanged was enough to tell her the whole, undisguised and heartbreaking truth of her past.

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