His aristocratic features, perfect down to every pale detail, were somewhat tainted by the look of shock, outrage and, was it possible, fear.
He took several steps away from Hermione, looking as though he was thinking hard and fast. She could almost see the wheels inside of his blond head turning as he continued to stare at her. There was not a single sign of recognition in his silver eyes.
Then his gaze shifted, focusing on something over Hermione’s left shoulder, and he lifted a shivering hand to point at something behind her.
Hermione turned to look, her curiousity getting the best of her, and a second later she was struck in the back by something warm that knocked her out cold and left her an unconscious mass upon the cobblestone street...
Janice Granger stood over the stove, scrambling eggs, listening with half an ear to the sound of Ophelia’s cartoons coming from the living room, a soft smile upon her kind face. Her daughter, both her daughters, were alive and well. There was no glee such as that of a mother getting her lost child back.
The ringing of a phone interrupted the serenity of the kitchen and Mrs. Granger peeked over her shoulder at Mr. Granger, who was sitting by the table, half-hidden behind today’s newspaper. “Can you get it, honey?” Mrs. Granger chirped. “I don’t want the eggs to burn.”
Mr. Granger lowered the newspaper and revealed a smile to match that of his wife. He walked out of the room, into the living room, towards the ringing sound.
Mrs. Granger returned to her eggs, poking them and turning the pieces of egg over in the frying pan. Her bright blue eyes matched the color of the sky outside, and, as though to make a point of it, she looked out the kitchen window. She often did this while she was cooking, and more than once it had reduced her to tears.
She used to be quite fond of the view. She would much rather have a view of the old oak tree growing in the backyard, than she would have of the driveway and the cracked asphalt of the street in the front. It was through this window she had watched Hermione brushing the hair of her dolls, spinning like an ungraceful ballerina and playing tag with invisible friends. But it was also through this window that she had watched Hermione swinging; her favorite childhood pastime. Mr. and Mrs. Granger had never had to worry where their daughter was; she was always on the swing, swinging higher and higher, squealing with excitement.
During one quite normal summer day, the first of the year, as a matter of fact, Mrs. Granger had stood in the very same kitchen, frying what had looked like the exact portion of scrambled eggs that she was stirring at the current. She had been humming along to the tunes of the radio, closing her eyes, remembering her youthful days. When her eyes were shut she could recall her reflection; she had been beautiful then, dressed in a poofy skirt and a modest shirt, her face layered with make-up. Beautiful.
She looked down at the mass of yellow in the frying pan, and a smile graced her fine features. No matter what she had back then, what she had now was better. She had a family, a purpose, and with that she was content.
As though to underline the latter she looked up, still smiling, and gazed out of the window at the old oak tree. The swing was swinging back and forth, but something was wrong.
Something was terribly wrong.
Mrs. Granger had let out a terrible yelp. “Micheal!” she had called, and then she had abandoned both eggs and hot stove, running out into the garden and towards the ancient oak.
Outside, underneath the swing, upon a soft carpet of grass she had lain: sweet as an angel; still as a corpse.
The fact that Hermione had now been deemed demented, that she was rambling of a world in which magic was real, did not matter to Hermione’s mother. As long as Hermione was breathing, talking, smiling, laughing and living, the world was at peace once more.
The sound of her name awoke Mrs. Granger from her reminiscence and she looked down to see that she had done what she had been trying to avoid: the eggs had attained a golden brown color, a few points past what would have been the ideal shading of the dish.
“Oh,” Mrs. Granger exclaimed, yet it could hardly have been clearer that nothing could fog over her silver lining. She lifted the frying pan off the stove and started shoveling onto three plates while humming merrily along to the tunes of Ophelia’s favorite TV-show.
“Janice,” Mr. Granger said again and when Mrs. Granger did not stop humming and bustling about the kitchen, he lay a heavy hand upon his wife’s shoulder.
He leaned closer and whispered something into her ear.
The frying pan fell to the tiled floor with an ear-shattering crash.
Hermione’s eyelids fluttered.
She wondered where she was, what had happened, who she was. Was she Hermione Jean Granger: witch prodigy and the future Mrs. Weasley or was she, as everyone seemed to think, Hermione Jean Granger: demented teenager stuck in a comatose reality which never existed?
The memories seemed to flood her; Dr. Holsted’s office, the escape, the empty spot where the Leaky Cauldron had stood, Draco Malfoy...
This was Draco Malfoy’s doing; her aching back, her distorted thoughts, her inability to remember precisely what had happened when she had last been alert. He had tricked her, made her believe there was something awe-inspiring behind her back, and in the instant she had turned he had shot a stunning spell at her and left her in blackness.
Yes, that was what had happened.
A triumphant smile spread upon Hermione’s lips.
Wizards were real.
“She’s awake,” a hushed voice echoed through a space in which a dozen people seemed to have a competition of who could breathe the most shallowly. Hermione opened her eyes to find that the contestants were the doctors and nurses of St. Mary’s, as well as her parents, all hovering over her bed back in room 337.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Her mother said before falling to her knees, pressing her lips against Hermione’s hand, muttering and mumbling against the pale skin draped over her knuckles; “She’s awake, oh, thank God she’s awake...”
Hermione ignored her mother completely and looked at her father and the team of doctors behind him instead. “What’s going on?” she asked, a frown creasing her brow. “Why am I back here again? What’s happening?”
Dr. Silver stepped into the limelight, giving a slight cough to gain her utmost attention before he talked.
“You had a relapse.”
“A relapse?” Hermione repeated subconsciously, her mind racing, her heart thumping in her chest.
“Yes, a relapse,” Dr. Silver said again, seemingly satisfied that Hermione was following along. “You had another vertigo a day and a half ago.”
A choked sob came from Mrs. Granger, still on the floor by Hermione's bed.
“No,” Hermione said, shaking her head into the pillow. “No, I didn’t. It was Draco Malfoy: He hexed me. Stunned me - Don’t shake your heads that way; I’m telling the truth!
The doctors and nurses quit shaking their heads sympathetically, but the looks of disbelief and pity were not wiped off their faces as they looked continued to gaze down upon her: ten pairs of twinkling, unbelieving eyes.
“It’s normal,” Dr. Silver said, in a low, mellow voice, taking a step closer and touching Hermione’s shoulder in what he evidently believed to be normal bedside manner. “to be confused after suffering a vertigo. I’m sure this is all very confusing to you. Many people start hallucinating before they actually faint, the borders separating reality and fantasy become blurry, and sometimes-”
“Don’t touch me!” Hermione snarled, bucking in the bed to get away from Dr. Silver’s rough hands, which she just now noticed were covered in a silvery film of long, cobwebby hairs. “I know what I saw, I know what happened! You weren’t there, you don’t know, you- you don’t know anything!”
The imaginative Harry and Ron would probably have been awestruck if they could have seen her now; no one in their living memory could remember Hermione ever raising her voice to an authority figure.
Hermione’s parents looked rather dumbfounded as well; a scared hiccough escaped her mother into the ringing silence of room 337. Yet Dr. Silver looked quite untouched by her rudeness. “Very well, Miss Granger,” he said, in the same calm, leveled voice. “But remember: we have your best interests at heart. You won’t get anywhere unless you cooperate and let us help you.”
Mrs. Granger let out another heartbreaking sob from the floor.
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