Bright, bubbling happiness.
The reverberation of a shockwave tinkling down the notches of her spine.
The aching in her head was a fact she knew to be true from the very second she started the gentle drift back into consciousness. It felt like she was floating idly on the water in a little dingy, close enough to shore that she could hear people on the beach except the fog was too thick to see through.
Gradually it cleared but the throbbing in her temple and the soreness behind her eyes didn't.
Breathing made her ache in weird places like between her shoulder blades and behind her knees.
Her eyelids were still cemented shut, and trying to pry them open was taking a considerable effort.
Where was she?
It was warm. It smelled clean. It felt soft.
A blurry sliver of light appeared as she managed to crack her eyes for a moment before they closed again.
Maybe something simpler.
She wiggled her toes jerkily, and felt a flood of relief at the simple accomplishment.
Her ears felt like she was underwater, sound muffled and strobing in and out, clarity somewhat like muddy water.
Concentrating too hard on trying to understand her surroundings immediately made her head throb painfully, a flash of light playing behind her eyelids like a sharp lightning bolt.
Things were clearer, her head felt like the mud had been rinsed from the inside of her cranium and cracking her eyes didn't feel quite so much like she was rubbing her entire face in her childhood sandbox.
The blinking started slow and gradual, and after a few minutes the fuzzy outlines of her surroundings started to come into focus. The room was light and airy, and to her left was Ron's blurry shock of ginger hair down near her hand and to her right was a dark blob of hair which she knew instinctively to be Harry's.
Hermione swallowed and grimaced at the gritty feeling on her tongue and the unclean feeling of her teeth. She had brushed and flossed just that morning.
"Ha-" she started before her throat caught, her voice rasping and catching. "Harry?"
Her voice was weak and faint, reminding her of trying to scream into a strong wind, the air carrying a voice away and erasing its imprint on the world around it in a single gust.
The blob shifted and Hermione could tell the moment Harry realized she was awake. Even foggy and unclear, she could see his seeker reflexes automatically engage.
"Hermione!" he whispered sharply. "Are you alright? Are you okay? I'll go get a Healer – you're alright? Do you feel okay?"
"My head…" Her hand twitched as she tried to lift it and place her palm on her temple like a stuttering start from an old car that had sat idly at the curb for too long.
"Hold on," Harry whispered back, the weight of his hand on her shin disappearing as he rose and moved in the direction of the door. Hermione saw his blurry outline merge with Ron's for a moment and the ginger head jerked awake.
The movement was enough to make her close her eyes, her vision floating and drifting at the sudden movements.
"Hermione!" Ron whispered, hoarse.
"Hi," she scratched out.
Harry returned a moment later from the hall with a figure in official looking robes, crisp and professional even to Hermione's adjusting eyes.
"Ms. Granger, hello. How do you feel?"
"My head feels like the… the Whomping Willow had a grand old time." She shut her eyes again to try and blur away some of the ache.
"I'll be right back with something for that, and we can assess from there."
Soles on linoleum, a door latch catching.
"Where am I?" she whispered, and felt the boys shift around her briefly, realizing for the first time that Ron was holding her hand in his, the warmth from him penetrating her skin and flesh and bones and bringing tears to her eyes.
Where was she, how did she get here and why did everything hurt? Why did her joints feel stiff and frozen, why did her muscles ache and tug and why did her ligaments feel like they were about to snap, and –
"St. Mungo's," Harry responded, closer. She felt his hand settle on her other wrist and a warm thumb smoothed over her skin, wiping away the salt tracks of her tears.
Hermione inhaled, letting the oxygen permeate her blood and circulate, serving to calm her nervous system as she felt panic start to creep into her mind.
None of this made sense.
"Here we are," the Healer returned, the tinkling of glass vials accompanying him.
That didn't make sense either.
"Thank you," she tossed back the vials that were pressed gently into her palm one at a time.
"This one is for your head, it'll help clear it and dull the ache. This one is for the soreness and tightness," he explained as he handed them to her.
Immediately, Hermione felt her head clear. It was like window wipers on the windshield of her father's old car, clearing away the torrential downpour obscuring her vision. The next potions helped seem warmth back into her extremities and made them respond less jerkily to her trying to move them. The pains melted away and the room came back into focus and Hermione blinked the fog away.
The Healer was young, just a few years older than the trio and he looked genuinely pleased to see her eyes focus on him and grinned.
"Hello, there. Do you know where you are?" he asked delicately.
"St. Mungo's," Hermione responded, refraining from bombarding the man with questions she wanted answers to that moment.
"Lovely," he nodded. "These questions might seem odd but please answer them anyhow, okay?"
Hermione nodded, squeezing Ron's hand and receiving a tightening of his grip in return.
"Alright, do you know your name?"
"Hermione Granger," she stated with a huff of breath.
"And do you recall your birthdate?"
"September 19th, 1979."
"And the year?"
The room fell deadly silent as both boys on either side of her held their breath and Hermione's heart rate spiked.
"Oh, no, sorry," she shook her head in bashful confusion and she felt them relax instantly. "1999," she finished with a smile, but…
"Don't be sorry," the Healer smiled. "I don't want you to panic, Ms. Granger, everything is alright. But it's actually 2003. These lapses are quite common in cases like yours…"
Hermione's heart stopped.
There was a vacuum somewhere, sucking all the oxygen from the room and creating a void through which reason and sound could not be heard. The beating pounding rushing of her heart was loud in her ears like the rhythm of a taut drum. She could feel her body pulling air into and pushing air out of her lungs but she was woozy, dizzy, spinning anyhow and –
"It's what? It can't be – 2003? What do you mean two thous – no, you… you must have it wrong, it's 1999," Hermione interrupted the Healer's voice, words forming on his lips that she was no longer absorbing. "It's 1999."
She was sure.
She was about to graduate Hogwarts, she was in the middle of her revision schedules for her NEWTs, this was preposterous. Her Charms Practical was the day after next and –
How long had she been here? Had she missed the exam entirely?
"Ms. Granger, it's quite alright -"
"It's not alright, how long have I been here? Harry, why am I in the hospital? Have I missed than many exams?" her voice was taking on the shrill tone, high enough that she could feel the tightness in the back of her throat as it constricted tightly, worrisomely.
"Hermione -" Ron spoke up, squeezing her hand. Harry was frozen in his chair at her side and his lips were opening and closing soundlessly.
"What's going on? Ron, why am I here?" she turned to her other friend before gasping and recoiling slightly. "I'm so sorry George, I thought you were Ron."
"It's – It's okay. Shall I get him for you?"
George's face was drawn, his skin pale. The bags under his eyes were sallow and he looked like he hadn't slept in a week, easily.
"Please, I – I… What's going on?" Hermione turned back to Harry who was staring at her in disbelief. "Harry, why are you looking at me like that?"
"Ms. Granger," the Healer spoke up louder. "You were in an unfortunate accident and it seems as though your memory has not come back to you just yet."
Hermione stared at him silently, at a loss.
"I… What sort of accident? Where was I?" Hermione demanded.
"In Diagon Alley, at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes," the Healer informed her.
"What was I doing there?!"
"Hermione, calm down – this will all make sense soon," George suggested, reaching for and squeezing her hand again. His voice was tight in his throat and he looked pained.
"Why was I at your shop? What did you do to me?" Hermione gasped out. As she was saying it, she knew it was hardly fair but –
Nothing made sense and –
Things always made sense to her –
She couldn't find reason in these new facts –
"I asked you to marry me," George choked out, his voice hitching and catching and shredding him on the way out. "And you don't remember."
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