On this day in 1980, the saviour of the wizarding world was born.
Until the very end.
a/n: As promised. Quote at the beginning by Anne Rice.
Wherever you are right now, I'm sending you love.
"Keep your secrets, keep your silence.
It is a better gift than the truth."
A hush descends.
It feels like an eternity but it only lasts a breath.
"NO!" Hermione cries and her voice cracks. "No — Harry — Harry, we have to tell her!"
Ron's struggling, panicking, trying to yell at her through his gag as the High Inquisitor spiels her triumph at Hermione's weakness. He chokes her name, muffled, begs her not to.
"I'm — I'm sorry everyone," she apologizes to him, to all of them. "But — I can't stand it."
The toad-faced woman urges her on and she sees Harry in her peripheral - horrified, confused - but then they lock eyes.
There are no tears with her sobs, no fear behind her quaking.
"Well," she says, shameful and doe-eyed, "well, he was trying to speak to Professor Dumbledore."
A still befalls her friends.
In that moment, they begin to realize what she's capable of.
"What won't I believe, Hermione?" the Head Healer's voice is gentle, soothing. "Don't be afraid. I'll keep you safe."
He says that last part with conviction; a strength in his tone that echoes the voice of someone long-forgotten. That shell of a man she knew, once. That walking corpse with the handsome face; that broken mind with the best intentions.
His uncle is different — whole. She believes him all the same.
Robert and Ivy watch on; worried for what she'll say. Their emotions are etched on their faces like scrawls from Umbridge's quill.
It's Alphard she looks to. Their eyes meet, and how she longs to confess, to share the weight of this burden. What a relief it would be, to be free.
But this is her cross to bear.
"I see things," she says.
There is a slight knit of his brows. "Do you see people? Or monsters?"
"The monsters I've seen are always people."
Her parents turn to face the Head Healer for answers, for help, but he does not glance their way, doesn't offer them the comfort they seek. His focus remains solely on her — watches her for signs of lies, of truth. But the weariness in her voice is real and her jaded answers are not a farce. There is candor in this charade.
"You see these things when you're dreaming? What about when you're awake?"
"Sometimes I dream while I'm awake."
Healer Black is quiet, then. Psychiatrists do the same — forcing out details by saying nothing at all. People feel compelled to fill the silence.
"Sometimes the things I dream end up happening," she casts out; baits.
His eyes widen.
That's when she knows he's hooked.
"What was she like," the Head Healer asks, "as an infant?"
"The same," Ivy says after a thoughtful pause. "Her sleep has always been fitful. Since the day she was born."
"What about in utero? Were there any complications or abnormalities?"
"Pain — once," Ivy tells him, far away as she recalls. "Burning. Like fire. And then it was gone."
"What do you think is happening to our daughter?" Robert questions, glancing from Hermione to the man across from him. Robert is keen, knows there's something Alphard's holding back. "What is causing this — this syndrome? And what does she mean, she sees things? Is that common?"
"I cannot answer that yet. It's still unclear, Mr. Evans," Healer Black responds diplomatically. He ignores the last two questions completely. "I'm sorry to inform you that Hermione must stay here at St. Mungo's for further observation and evaluation."
"No!" Ivy snaps. "She's coming home. You can't take our daughters from us!"
"Your other daughters will stay with you until further notice — I recant my former recommendation. Hermione, however," he says, solemnly, "Hermione must stay."
Robert's fists are clenched as he fights to stay calm. "You can't just take her. We're her parents. We have rights. We'll hire a solicitor, we'll fight this, we'll—"
"Our government," Alphard interjects, "prioritizes the needs of magical children over the wishes of their non-magical guardians. And this is for Hermione's well being, as well as the safety of your family." Her father is about to speak when the the hammer falls. "What will you tell your solicitor? Wizards have your daughter?"
It stuns Robert and Ivy into silence. Tension is thick and the air is heavy with the weight of the Head Healer's words. The bomb has been dropped; the one every Muggle parent has to learn eventually: they are inconsequential in the eyes of the Ministry of Magic.
"How can this be?" her mother asks, dejectedly. "This is discrimination."
Alphard does not attempt to deny it. Her parents' disquiet lingers.
"Why, then?" her father probes, disconsolately. "Why is it so 'unsafe' for her to come home?"
"Mr. Evans, Mrs. Evans," the man across the desk addresses the pair. "This syndrome is rare, but it is dangerous. People have died. There was once a case of a wizarding family who refused to commit their daughter for fear of shame from other families. That little girl had a magical outburst so large it created an explosion that collapsed her house and killed her mother."
A chill creeps up her spine. Hermione knows who that little girl is — she has seen her sway dreamily throughout her portrait at The Hog's Head. The same little girl who haunts the memory of the wizards who loved her.
Ivy shares a look with Robert. They've caught glimpses of such powerful instability before, and that thing Hermione knows has been on their minds — that what if, what if it's very bad next time — startles them both with a resurgence. Their daughter would not willingly hurt them — no, not willingly.
"How long is the recovery process?" Ivy inquires, shoulders back and chin high, though tears still linger in her eyes. She is strong - like Lily was, Hermione thinks. Like Lily will be.
"The recovery process," Alphard repeats, despondent. Worry winds tight in her chest as the man, so like Sirius, frowns. Over to her side, her father reaches over, holds Hermione's hand, squeezes it reassuringly. The knife is thrust deeper. "There are no known cases of recovery."
There's a ringing in her ears; the other three are speaking but she cannot hear them any longer. How long she sits there, she cannot say.
"I think it's best," Hermione agrees, finally, and they all quiet, "if I stay."
Ivy looks torn, Robert irresolute.
"I'll find a way to control it." Alphard considers her in an endeared way, admires her bravery — but he doesn't understand the credence in her words. "If anyone can do it, I can."
They reluctantly agree, but it isn't them she's reminding.
We will fight, she told Harry, once. We're the only ones who can end it.
But she's on her own now; bereft. There is no more we to speak of. She stands alone now, the only one who can end it.
So I will fight.
I will fight.
The closed ward is calmer than she imagined.
There are only two other children here, she's told, but Hermione has yet to see them. She has a room to herself - safety precautions. The healers are kind, all but one, but Healer Carrow is never assigned to her. Hermione thinks Alphard Black has something to do with this.
The adult patients are on another floor of the ward — the fourth, she recalls. The bed where Arthur Weasley lay for months, near where Neville's mother — vacant, with her nightgown draped over skeletal limbs — handed him a Drooble's wrapper.
She remembers because she can't forget.
"Tell me about the things you see, Hermione. The things that come true sometimes."
They've done this every day for the last fortnight - sat in his office after her reading lessons, after lunch. They have a dialogue. That's what he calls it. Like friends, he tells her.
Questions, that's all this dialogue is. A constant stream of them, wrapped in pretty bows. He's trying to dissect, to understand. She cannot fault him for it.
Sunlight is painted across his desk. The Daily Prophet is folded in half beside him, next to a half-drunk cup of tea. She stares at the headline, sees two familiar faces bobbing up and down, yelling heatedly at one another as light bulbs flash around them.
Every time they meet, all roads lead to this. He veils it well in his charming way, distracts her with laughter. And she lets him think he loosens her tongue; hides the calculation from her voice.
"What do you want to know?"
"Can you tell me anything about me?" he asks, lightly. "Tell me something that nobody else would know."
"It doesn't work like that."
"Then tell me," he requests, interested — she detects a hint of eagerness beneath his level tone. "How does it work?"
"Sometimes I know things," she says, innocent and unsure, "sometimes I don't."
Alphard's eyes fall to her hands as she reaches across the desk and drags the Prophet towards her. The headline is bold and large. MUGGLE RIGHTS SET FLINT IN FLAMES!
"Do you know who that is?" he asks, kindly.
The question hangs unanswered.
"That's Philip Flint," he informs her, pointing to one man, "and that's Joseph Flume," he motions to the other. "They are the candidates for our election. In one week's time, one of these men will be our next Minister for Magic."
A smile pulls at the corners of her mouth.
Curiosity piqued, Alphard cocks his head in a doggish way.
This is it — the moment they've both been waiting for.
"Neither of those men are the next Minister for Magic," she tells him, slowly; holds his gaze. "Flume won't wrangle in the pureblood vote and Flint will have a scandal with a Muggle woman. Byron Ross will replace him."
She folds the paper, slides it back towards him.
"He'll be the next Minister for Magic."
That's what he tells her parents when Minister Ross is appointed.