Originally written for Dramione Fanfiction Writers' Troping Thursday theme of Amnesia, but then spiraled way beyond the word count limit. This will be a short, three chapter fic, with updates on the next two Fridays.
Special thanks as always to CourtingInsanity for being my beta even when real life is currently kicking her butt!
Hermione rubbed her eyes, her head dizzy as the morning light crept its way closer. She threw a pillow over her head, trying to salvage a few more minutes of shuteye before she would have to get up and continue her research. She only had a day left before she had to return to the Ministry, so she would need to take full advantage of the daylight - in five more minutes, that is.
Although come to think of it, she couldn't recall how or when she had fallen asleep. Last she remembered, she had been in the middle of the forest, tracking thestral mating habits. But hadn't she been camping? It felt like a bed under her, and this was a fluffier pillow than the one that she had packed.
Hermione sat up with a startle and looked around. She most certainly was no longer in a tent. The room was foreign but still somehow familiar. There were small trinkets that she recognised from her flat; the framed painting of two ballerinas that her parents had purchased from the art museum, the handheld mirror that her grandmother had given her on her fifteen birthday, the embroidered throw blanket that her mother had quilted together using pieces of her childhood clothing. These were all things that she knew to be hers and hers alone, yet that didn't explain how they, or she for that matter, had arrived at this unknown location.
Her fingers threaded through the typical mess that was her hair in the morning hours and settled on a bump just above her right ear.
That was new.
She patted around the protrusion, trying her best to recount the events of the day before. She had been out in the Kielder Forest and had spotted thestral tracks - that much she was sure. Everything after that was fuzzy.
Maybe she had tripped and fallen and needed medical attention. But this wasn't St. Mungos, and it wasn't a Muggle hospital either. It was clearly a bedroom. Only it wasn't her bedroom. And none of this explained how some of her most cherished belongings were there.
Perhaps if she got out of bed, she would find answers. Her feet met the wood flooring, but before she properly arose, her attention was drawn to a series of clear vials resting on the nightstand. Each one was labelled with a number, all filled with swirling silvery wisps that she recognised to be memories. Next to the vials, there was a card.
Pensieve is located next to the closet. Come downstairs when you are ready.
There was something oddly familiar about the handwriting, but it wasn't Ron or Harry's. She had reviewed their homework enough times to have their handwriting forever imprinted in her mind. Whoever's handwriting it was, she was confident she had seen it before. Yet that was hardly the main question in her mind right now.
Memories? A Pensieve? Why did she need either of those things?
Her hand returned to the bump on the side of her head. She strained to remember any more details of how she had gotten into this position, but her memory continued to fail her.
There was a sharp pull in her stomach. Maybe if she watched the contents of the vials, she would have some answers. She picked up the glass vials and found the Pensieve on the opposite side of the room. She selected the vial with the number one written on top and poured the contents into the stone basin. After securing her hair in a low ponytail and taking a deep breath, she plunged her head inside.
Suddenly, Hermione was falling through the darkness until she crashed onto tiled floor. When the surroundings came into focus, she immediately recognised Harry's office. For a second, Hermione was relieved to see her old friend and poised herself to ask him what was going on, but quickly remembered that this was a memory - probably his. He sat alone at his desk, filling out some Auror reports when Ron came in.
"Have you seen Hermione? She was supposed to be back yesterday, but no one from her department has heard from her."
Harry's head lifted up. "What? She didn't owl?"
Ron shook his head, and a worried expression appeared.
Harry pushed his work aside. "Where was it that she said she was going?"
Harry gathered the parchments. "I'll grab my cloak."
Hermione ran after Harry and Ron. As they pushed their way through the other witches and wizards crowding their path, her mind started to turn. She wasn't supposed to return until tomorrow! But if this was a memory, and they were looking for her, then…
Harry made a stop at one of the offices and stepped inside.
"You're going to have to finish these reports for me, Malfoy."
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Trying to skive off early, Potter? You know you're a terrible partner."
Harry dropped the parchments onto his desk. "Whatever, Malfoy. Just make sure they're turned into Robards by the end of the day."
Harry marched out of Malfoy's office, but Malfoy followed closely behind. "So what? I'm stuck doing the boring paperwork because the almighty Harry Potter wants to take the afternoon off?" Malfoy scoffed when he noticed Ron waiting outside. "I should have guessed. The Dunderhead Duo is off on another grand adventure!"
"Shove off, Malfoy," Ron snapped. "We have to get to the Kielder Forest."
Malfoy's annoyed expression faded. "Kielder Forest? Isn't that where Granger just was?"
Harry and Ron exchanged a nervous glance. "Or still is. We don't know. She never reported back."
Malfoy dipped back inside his office and grabbed his cloak, much to Ron's dismay.
"And just what exactly do you think you're doing?" Ron snarled.
Malfoy fastened the cloak over his robes, the sneer on his face back in full force. "It's my job to make sure that Potter doesn't get killed, and Merlin knows I can't trust you to do that for me."
"We'll be fine," Ron defended, a slight flare reddening his cheeks. "I'm sure Hermione just lost count of the days and needs a reminder to come back."
Hermione immediately recognised the concern in Ron's eyes. He may be trying to assure Malfoy that nothing was too far out of the ordinary, but they all knew better. Hermione would never forget to send an owl if she was going to extend her research.
"Don't bother," Malfoy dismissed, not falling for Ron's obvious lie. "It's a big forest, and you'll need help searching for her."
Harry cocked his head to the side and shrugged, and Ron responded with a groan. "Fine. But only if you promise not to complain about anything. I heard what a scaredy-cat you were when you had to go into the Forbidden Forest first year."
Harry and Ron resumed their path down the corridor, and Malfoy shouted after them, "That was fifteen years ago! Get over it, you dimwit!"
The surroundings began to blur, and Hermione pulled her head from the memory, her heart and mind racing in tandem, both confused and alarmed by what she had witnessed.
Harry said that she hadn't reported back from her mission, yet to the best of her knowledge, she wasn't supposed to return yet. She clamped onto the side of her head where the bump was located. Something must have gone wrong after she started following those thestral footprints. She just wished she could remember! If Harry, Ron, and Malfoy had gone searching for her the day after her scheduled return, then she must have been passed out for almost two days.
She needed more information, and thankfully, whoever had laid out the vials must have figured that would be the case. She ushered the first memory back into its container and refilled the Pensieve with the contents of the second vial. Hermione dunked her head into the stone basin and was transported into a new memory, this time, leaves and dirt padding her fall.
The Kielder Forest was just as Hermione remembered it. The late autumn leaves covered the ground, and the creek not too far in the distance babbled through the forest. The only other disturbance was that of Harry, Ron, and Malfoy's footsteps crunching the fallen leaves, their cries out for Hermione echoing through the trees unanswered.
"We better split up," Harry eventually suggested. "Send up red sparks if you find her."
After a short debate about who would cover which area of the forest, Harry, Ron, and Malfoy went their separate ways. Hermione started to follow Harry until the memory pulled her in a different direction; instead of following the raven black hair, or even the red locks, she was dragged towards the white-blonde ones. Hermione didn't bother to stop and wonder why she was now in Malfoy's memory, much too curious about her own state to ask any questions.
Malfoy pushed his way through the shrubs and branches until he spotted thestral footprints. Pulling out his wand and gripping it tightly, he tracked them deeper into the forest. The farther they travelled, the more Hermione noticed that not all of the trees were still intact. Branches were scattered across the ground in every direction, and several trees were knocked out of the earth, their roots exposed to the open breeze. She didn't recall seeing anything like that the other day.
Suddenly, panic washed over Malfoy's features, and he picked up his pace, jumping over fallen branches as he broke into a run. Hermione struggled to keep pace with his long legs, not thrilled at his newfound speed, but then she saw what he must have spotted. Off in a clearing was Hermione's passed out body, an uprooted tree right beside her.
"Granger!" Malfoy called, but there was no response. He scrambled to the ground next to her and cradled her unresponsive head into his lap. "C'mon, Granger," he said, tapping her cheek. "Wake up."
Yet, the Hermione in the memory laid there, completely unaware of Malfoy's presence.
Malfoy checked her pulse, and a wave of relief seemed to flood over him when he realised that she was still breathing. He propped her head up with one hand and tested her forehead with the other, frowning at the touch. He transfigured a nearby rock into a makeshift cup and used his wand to fill it with water. He gently pried her mouth open and forced her to drink. If she had been out there alone and unconscious for two days, she was most likely dangerously dehydrated. At least Malfoy was smart enough to realise that.
Despite these efforts, however, Hermione remained unresponsive. The panic in Malfoy's eyes returned as he shook her more urgently and the slaps on her cheeks increased in concern. "Stay with me, Granger," he pleaded.
Since when did Malfoy give two Knuts about her well-being? Sure, he was more tolerable nowadays, but it wasn't as if they were anywhere close to friends - maybe acquaintances. Although, she supposed it would give her quite the startle to see a passed out body regardless of whose it was.
The worried shouts of Harry made their way through the trees, and both her and Malfoy's heads snapped up at the sound. He returned Hermione's body to the ground and lifted his wand into the air, shooting red sparks into the late afternoon sky.
As they waited for Harry to find them, Malfoy began to inspect the surrounding area, but Hermione settled next to her own unconscious body. She just laid there, pale, weak, and covered with scratches. Hermione tried to place her hand on her forehead to determine if it was a fever or chills that Malfoy had detected, but her hand passed right through her own body, unable to feel a thing. A nervous pit settled in Hermione's gut. She knew she would ultimately be fine - after all, she did wake up this morning - but it was unnerving to see oneself in such a vulnerable state.
She didn't have long to wallow in self-pity. Within seconds, Harry came bounding out from the thick of trees, heavy breaths panting out of him.
"Did you find -"
Harry's question was answered when his eyes settled on Hermione.
Malfoy pointed to something on the other side of the clearing. "There are giant footsteps over there. Must have come through and knocked down a bunch of trees, one of them taking her by surprise."
Giant footsteps? There weren't supposed to be any giants in the Kielder Forest!
Harry seemed just as confused. "What were giants doing here?"
Malfoy knocked his head back and groaned. "I know Granger typically explains everything to you, but would it kill you to try to figure something out yourself for once?"
Harry ignored Malfoy's retort, much too focused on the sight of Hermione.
Malfoy appeared perturbed at first, but then his shoulders relaxed and he stepped next to Harry. "Fine. I'll give you a free pass today. I can't be certain, but my theory is that the giants that managed to survive the final battle travelled south and made a new home here."
Harry nodded, only half-listening to what Malfoy said. "But is she…" His words trailed away. Harry carefully stepped closer to Hermione and knelt beside to her.
"She's breathing if that's what you're asking." Malfoy looked down at Hermione. "Although I noticed a bump right above her ear. We're going to have to take her to St. Mungo's and have her checked out."
Harry observed his best friend's still unconscious body, and after several silent seconds, stood back up. "I'll take her there now. You wait for Ron and tell him what happened. Then he can meet me there, and you can go back to the office."
Malfoy glared at Harry. "And what if I want to go to St. Mungo's, too?"
Harry shook his head. "Thanks for helping, but we both know you only came along so you could get out of work, so we'll take it from here."
The surroundings faded away, and Hermione was transported back to the present day, breathing more heavily than she had been before the second memory, but nothing to be too concerned about. So she had bumped her head and had been passed out for a few days. While that was mildly alarming to learn, it was far from the worst thing that had ever happened to her. After all, she had been petrified for several weeks back in second year.
Yet there were still several more vials for her to go through, meaning that there was still much more that she had missed.
She followed the same routine and dove into a new memory, now landing outside one of the St. Mungo's rooms. Ron and Malfoy stood in the middle of the corridor, an exasperated look on the blonde's face. The memories must be cycling through each one of the boys, and it was now Ron's turn to be the narrator. Hermione stood between the former adversaries, both of them oblivious to her presence, but noticeably frustrated.
"What do you mean they don't know how long it will be until she wakes up?
"How the hell am I supposed to know, Malfoy? I'm not a healer either!"
"Have you at least spoken to one?"
"No, not at all. I've been here for six hours twiddling my thumbs while one of my best friends just lies there. Of course we've spoken with a bloody healer!"
Malfoy sneered, dismayed by Ron's snippy reaction. "Go take a break, Weasley. You've been here for too long."
Ron rolled his eyes. "And what exactly would you prefer that I do?"
"Eat something, take a nap, paint the Mona Lisa, I don't care. But you being here isn't doing Granger or me any favours."
Ron's lips curled into a frown. "I don't know why you bothered coming. Harry and I had this sufficiently covered."
"Someone needed to make sure you two didn't do something to piss off half the healing staff," he quickly retorted. "Now take a page out of Potter's book and get some food in you. You can trust me with her for fifteen minutes."
Ron seemed hesitant to leave, only moving once Malfoy shoved him into motion.
"Fine. But if I find out that you did something to her while we're gone, I'll -"
"Oh, grow up, Weasley! The only thing you need to be concerned about hurting her is another fallen tree. Now get out of my sight and don't come back until you've calmed down."
Hermione turned to follow Ron, but once again felt the memory pulling her back, forcing her to stay in place as Ron disappeared down the corridor. She looked back at Malfoy, confused. Why was she in another one of Malfoy's memories?
The man in question checked his surroundings and deeming the coast clear, dipped inside her hospital room, Hermione closely following him.
The Hermione in the memory laid in the bed, her eyes closed and a series of empty potion bottles sitting on her bedside. In the bright lighting of the room, Hermione could see the visible cuts that adorned her features. Scratches were scattered up and down her arms, and there was a ghastly gash that spanned halfway up her cheekbone.
"Fucking hell, Granger," Malfoy said, scanning his eyes over her body. "You look terrible."
Hermione scoffed. Leave it to Malfoy to insult her even when she was unconscious.
But there was something different in the way that he said it this time. She had endured his unwarranted insults for over half her life, yet this one didn't hold nearly as much bite as they did typically. Perhaps there was an actual heart inside his cruel exterior that felt some sympathy for her comatose state.
He dragged one of the nearby chairs next to her bedside and took a seat, still examining her, and sat there in silence for several minutes.
Hermione kept waiting for something more to happen, but Malfoy remained in his spot, not once letting his eyes wander away from her. Staying in this memory was starting to feel like a waste of time, especially when there were still several more vials left for her perusal, but there had to be a reason why it was included.
She waited and waited, about to give up and move onto memory number four, when Malfoy's head fell into his hands and she thought she heard something that sounded oddly like a whimper. Hermione took a step closer, not convinced that she had heard correctly, but it was true - Draco Malfoy was crying.
Hermione pulled back and stared at his slumped-over form. Why on Earth was he crying? It wasn't as if he was the one who was injured!
The tears subsided, and he sat up in his chair, wiping away any evidence of moisture that glistened on his cheeks. "We need you to wake up, Granger," he said, a mild choke in his voice. "I don't think any of us can bear any more losses."