September 19, 1999
Harry, Ron, Ginny, Malfoy, Neville, Luna. Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore, Hagrid. Severus Snape. All the people Hermione had ever known belonged inside of her head.
At least this was the truth doctors and therapists forcefed Hermione with on a daily basis.
They discouraged her thinking for herself, and, if she wasn’t trapped within deep conversations going nowhere with her shrinks, they gave her homework. Mathematical problems to solve, books to read, basically anything that could keep her lofty mind off her world and on theirs. The only time she was allowed to think, to breathe, to be alone, was during the late nocturnal hours before sleep induced her.
Two months had passed since Hermione had woken up in room 337 to be told that she had experienced what the doctors called ‘another vertigo’. It had been two very long months. She was still in room 337, laying in the same bed in which she had lain for eight years of her life.
There was a soft knock on the door.
Hermione was sitting in her bed, reading a fat book of English history. It really couldn’t compare to History of Magic, so she was glad to lay it aside, even if it was for the benefit of Dr. Silver or one of the other doctors at St. Mary’s.
She was surprised, however, when what came through the door was not human at all but a bundle of at least twenty motley balloons followed by cheerful off-key singing.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you...”
The singing, it appeared, came from a somewhat windswept quartet which followed closely after the balloons. Hermione’s parents, Ophelia and Hermione’s ancient and slightly senile grandmother had all walked into the room: three of which were carrying gifts; Hermione’s mother balancing a birthday cake with burning candles in her hands.
“Happy birthday, dear Hermione...”
Hermione quenched a sad, little smile.
Normal people celebrated their departure from their teenage years together with a large group of friends at a nightclub, sipping cocktails, dancing the night away. Celebrating hers at a broken-down old hospital in the company of four family-members had definitely not been Hermione’s idea of an ideal twentieth birthday.
Nevertheless, she had to smile. She wasn’t blind: she could see the effort her family had put into making her birthday the best possible considering the current circumstances. She could see the love reflected through their actions and shining through their eyes.
Five hours later, and a few slices of carrot-cake too many, it was time for the Grangers to leave. Each of them, even Ophelia, hugged Hermione in turn and promised that they would visit again the next day, and the day after that, and the next one, and indeed every day until Hermione was allowed to come home.
They left Hermione to one of those slivers of time in which she could let her mind run free.
'You owe it to them to try and get better. You owe it to them to listen to he doctors and get healthy, so that you can finally go home for good. Look at all the suffering you have put them through, look at the premature wrinkles that line your parents’ faces. You owe it to them to try.'
Hermione stared at the ceiling, knowing that her thoughts were true. She owed them something, and by being stubborn and angry she only made it harder for them to cope.
A soft knocking sound, like the branches of a tree scratching against window glass, blended with the sound of thundering rain and the howling of the wind. Hermione ignored it for a bit, then remembered that there were no trees growing outside the hospital walls: There were only buildings and more buildings, old and gray, as unkempt and dirty as the building she was currently living within.
Her curiosity spurring to life, she slipped out of bed and crossed the dark floor. The teardrops falling from the heavens drowned her footsteps as they continued to drop.
Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip.
Two orange orbs were shining through the dark rain. They blinked once, then continued their relentless staring.
Hermione knew those eyes only too well. How many times had she not been sitting by the Gryffindor table, enduring a pair of almost identical eyes glowering at her as she rummaged through her schoolbag in search of knuts for the owl which delivered the Daily Prophet for breakfast.
She stared at the owl outside of her window.
The owl stared right back.
This wasn’t ordinary owlish behavior, was it? Or, in the Wizarding world it was, but seeing that magic had never, did not and wouldn’t ever exist this was highly unusual on the verge of impossible.
Hermione’s second idea was that she was having another vertigo, that she was imagining this, that she ought to lay back down and hope to wake up the next morning, safe and sound, with no owls or any other oddities close by. Her first thought, the one she acted upon, was to let the owl in.
She unhinged the window and watched the dripping bird soar in and land upon her bedside table, shaking rain from its long wings. It was an eagle owl, the king of all owls, and it was looking around the room with an almost majestic air as though trying to decide wether it would graze the room with its presence any longer or if room 337 was unworthy of its occupancy.
“Hey,” Hermione whispered as she walked over to her bed and sat down next to the large bird, trying to smile, trying to speak softly as to not scare the bird. “I’m Hermione Granger.”
The bird blinked slowly and cooed.
Hermione reached out a hand and stoked the owl’s head. “I used to be a part of your world. But I’m not now. Not anymore.”
Hermione sighed. ‘You’re losing your mind. You’re talking to a bird. A bird.’ But before she could pull herself together and shove the hallucination out the window, she had withdrawn pen and paper, supposedly her homework, and started scribbling a letter of desperation, of hope, of love.
“Dear Ron,” she wrote. “Perhaps we used to be the best of friends, or maybe we never met at all. A few months ago I woke up in a hospital in London, full of memories of a boy the doctors tell me never was. That boy was you. I woke up calling a single name: Ron Weasley.
I need to lay the past behind me, particularly since overwhelming evidence suggests that you’re not there. But how come I remember you then? I remember how you look down to the last freckle, I remember how you smell, how you smile, how you tasted the first time we kissed.
We were going to get married, you know. The day after I woke up we were going to have our wedding; a wedding I never attended. When I woke up from my coma my ring was gone, and so were you. I want to say to you what you and me have never said before, what we were going to say the day we married.
I want to tell you how much I love you.”
Hermione bit down on her lip as she felt tears of desperation and sadness in equal measures well up in her eyes and blur her vision. She flipped the piece of paper over, pressed it down onto her thigh and continued to write the declaration of her love.
“If you get this please write me back and tell me I’m not crazy. Write St. Mary’s and tell them the same. Write my parents and tell them that their daughter was right; that you, Hogwarts and magic are all real and that you’ll be here soon to show them.
If you don’t get this, if this is someone else or none at all, I’m sorry for any inconvenience and don’t bother writing me back. Owls aren’t meant to carry post, after all.
A single drop of salty tears fell to the crisp paper when Hermione put down her name in a swirl. The eagle owl seemed to cock one of it’s long, feathery eyebrows at her, wondering why she was all of a sudden sentimental. Hermione held up the letter to the animal.
“Can you take this to the Burrow?” she asked it, emphasizing each word, willing the bird to understand. Willing it to be more than an owl; to be magical, and to be real and not a hallucination. “Can you take this to Ronald Weasley?”
"And if you do-" Hermione whispered into the night, as she watched the big bird take wing five minutes later, the letter attached to its leg. "If you do deliver it right, I promise I will do my best. I promise I will recover, that I will do what the doctors say. That I will follow their prescriptions and get well, for the sake of my family, for the sake of my future, I will forget all about magic and start over fresh."
She closed her eyes and yet another tear rolled down her cheek as the eagle owl disappeared between rain and darkness. "I promise."
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