Life is comprised of moments. Some good, some bad, some merely time moving forward. My life, in particular, has seen its fair share of instant change. Instant. That's a funny little word, isn't it? No more than two syllables but it has such a huge impact. I have studied the word recently, my mind dwelling on what was said when I woke up at St. Mungos two months ago.
I We are very sorry, Miss Granger. There is nothing we can do to reverse the curse. It was instantaneous and permanent. /I
Instant. An adverb meaning 'at once'. An adjective meaning 'immediate'. It also means 'imperative, an urgent need'. This definition means nothing in my case. It was not imperative for this to happen to me. I had no urgent need to have my life changed in the amount of time it took to speak a curse on the battle field that evening.
I We shall see how bright your future is now, Mudblood whore. Infecunditas! /I
Even now, sitting in my loo two months later, I can feel the pain the curse caused. A burning sensation in my abdomen that quickly spread throughout my body. I remember seeing a flash of red hair, a concerned look, and then my world went black as I feel to the ground. When I woke, the War was over. Voldemort was dead, Harry was injured but alive, many of my friends had moved on from this world or were also in the hospital, and my lover had killed the woman who cursed me. Narcissa Malfoy would not have a chance to enjoy the future she gave me; that thought providing very little comfort after learning what she had done.
Death was expected. I'm twenty-two years old and have been imagining my death at the hands of Voldemort or his Death Eaters since I was fifteen. It was a consequence of being friends with Harry, being a Mudblood, being a woman. Malfoy hated me because of my blood but he also hated the fact that a mere worthless girl bested him in his classes. I had endured that prejudice since I was a child. My parents were proud of me, encouraging me to learn when I expressed the desire for knowledge at an early age. In my Muggle school, the boys loathed me because I made them look silly when I knew answers and they did not. The girls disliked me because I had no interest in giggling or playing with dolls when there was a book left that I had not read.
My life changed in an instant when I received the owl from Hogwarts. I was no longer the nerdy bookworm. No, I was a budding witch. It was an entire new world for me to learn about, eagerly devouring books and gaining knowledge. Then I arrived at Hogwarts and found the same prejudices I had always faced but even more biased. Now I was no longer just a studious girl. I was Muggleborn, which I soon learned many saw as inferior to house elves. I tried desperately, answering the questions, proving my ability, but it meant nothing. I was seen as a know-it-all, my inability to hold my tongue when I knew an answer proving my downfall yet again.
But, in an instant, my life changed. Harry and Ron became my friends. They did not see me as the others did, believed I had worth, and my knowledge helped them. Over the years, my life has continued to be comprised of instant change as well as small moments that have shaped the woman I have become. With the threat of Voldemort, I have never given much thought to my future beyond surviving the War. When my life changed, once again, the summer after my sixth year at Hogwarts, it became more difficult to not think of a future.
It had happened in an instant. Unexpected, confusing, not at all planned. A prank by the Twins during our stay at the Burrow following a Death Eater attack that left several of our classmates dead. I know now they intended to lighten up the situation in the only way they knew how, but it had been the wrong thing to do at the time. I had been unable to hold my tongue, lashing out at them for being inconsiderate and never taking anything seriously. In the midst of my tirade, full lips had suddenly covered mine. The kiss had been brief, startling both of us, and George had quickly apologized before going outside to avoid me.
In that split second, things changed once more. From that one kiss, I knew. By the end of the summer, we were involved. By the time I left Hogwarts the following year, we were sharing a bed and so much more. George would hold me at night, telling me about the future we might have once the War was over. I would relax in his embrace, letting the real world drift away during those moments of peaceful contentment. In his arms, I found escape from the faces of the dead, from the fear that I would not live to see the next moon, that everyone I loved would die.
I When this war is over, Hermione, we'll find us a nice flat and settle down. You can make an honest man out of me and, in a few years, we can start a family of our own. With my wit and personality and your beauty and brains, they'll be utterly perfect. I'll make you happy, love. Just wait. Soon, the future will be ours. /I
Those words that had provided comfort during those horrible times, that had given me a reason to stay strong and live even in the direst of circumstances, now haunted me. They echo in my mind as I sit here thinking about how everything changes so quickly. Narcissa Malfoy did not bother to kill me during the final battle. Oh no, she did something far worse. She took away my future with the man I love.
It has been two months. Two months of lying, claiming there is nothing wrong, ignoring his concerned questions, fighting and yelling when he demands answers. Our relationship is deteriorating with every passing day and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I don't want to stop it. I can't give him what he wants, what he needs, and I know I will soon lose him. My future gone in the time it takes to utter a word and wave a wand.
Standing up, I wipe the tears from my face with the back of my hand. This is becoming routine. Spending my evenings in the loo, sitting on the toilet crying as I think about my life and the uncertain future that awaits me. I am a selfish person. I love George more than I ever imagined loving another person. He completes me. We balance each other in a way that no one understands yet everyone can see that we make sense together. I don't want to be alone.
When I was younger, I always said that I would focus on my career. Silly things like getting married and having children were the dreams of other girls. I wanted to be a doctor. When I discovered I was a witch, I had new dreams to consider before Voldemort came back. They faded as I worked with Harry and Ron, as I risked my life to help the people who became my friends when my world was bleak and horrid. After becoming involved with George, my dreams came back but they developed as I discovered my femininity and became a woman. I wanted it all. A career as a mediwitch, a marriage to a man whom I love and loves me, children with his red hair, freckles, and mischievous smile. Those thoughts gave me the courage to face battle, to kill to survive. And now the War is over, my dreams lying shattered around my feet.
I turn on the shower, letting the water get hot enough for steam to fill the room, and then I remove my robe. Stepping beneath the spray, I feel it scald my body. It has been two months since George has touched me. He's tried but I refuse to let him. It's another reason we've been fighting. He doesn't understand why I won't let him make love to me, can't understand what it is like to feel like this.
I Hermione, being a woman means many things. To me, being a woman is embracing who you are, loving yourself. It is being a good wife and a loving Mum. You are the greatest gift I've ever received. A product of the love your father and I share, such a beautiful and smart girl. My proudest moment was giving birth to you, but don't tell your father because he still believes it's when I married him. One day, you'll have a husband and children and then you'll understand. /I
"Oh Mum," I whisper as the water burns my skin, missing her even more these last two months, wishing she were alive so she could hug me and make everything better with a kiss on my forehead.
My hands move between my legs, my fingernails scratching at my upper thighs as tears silently fall down my face. I hate Narcissa Malfoy for doing this to me. She knew what she had done. She knew this was far worse than simply killing me. She stole my choice with a curse. She took away my ability to produce life, to be a mother, to give birth. I will never know what it is like to hold the child of the man I love. I will never know what it is like to feel another growing inside me. I will never know what women mean when they smile tenderly as they watch their children play and say 'a mother's always knows'.
I ignore the exclamation from the doorway as I continue to scratch my upper thighs and the area between my legs. I see blood dripping from the wounds my nails have made as I tear at the symbol of womanhood, of motherhood, a constant reminder that I am incomplete, that I am no longer truly a woman. I'm barren, sterile, and I can't think beyond that inadequacy no matter how badly I try. I wish she had just killed me instantly because this is slowly tearing me apart. I see the large hand grip my wrists and pull my hands away from my now bleeding and swollen vagina.
"Hermione," his voice is soft, gentle, so tired.
A sob escapes my lips as I turn my head, burying my face against his dampening shirt. The water stops, no longer scouring my flesh, his arms holding me as I cry. "I'm so sorry," I whisper, gripping him as tightly as I can. "I wanted to tell you but I was scared, George. I don't want to lose you."
"You'll never lose me, Hermione," he sounds shocked and a bit worried. "Tell me what, love?"
Oh God. He's going to leave me. He wants to have at least three children, is hoping we have twins, wants a pretty little girl with my hair and eyes. He deserves a real woman, someone who can give him children. If I love him, I should let him go. I know this. It won't take an instant to tell him, to ask him to leave, to free him so he has a chance to find happiness with someone who can give him what he wants. "I can't," my voice breaks, all of my bravery and courage hiding as he holds my naked body against him. I feel the heat on my skin from the burning water, my upper thighs scratched and bloody, chestnut curls a shade or two darker than those on my head near my feet from where I had pulled them during my attack on myself.
"Tell me, Hermione," he says quietly, and I know I must give him this much.
No more lies. No more hiding. "I can't have children."
He stiffens, his arms tightening around me, his voice a breathless whisper. "The curse that Malfoy bitch sent at you. Why didn't you tell me? Oh God, baby. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I couldn't," I admit as fresh tears run down my cheeks. "I can't give you what you want, George. I'm worthless as a woman and I didn't want to lose you."
"You are I not /I worthless!" His voice was sharp but loving. His fingers move along my cheek and hair, touching me in a way I'd not let him for months. "You're the bravest, most brilliant and beautiful woman I've ever met. Never let me hear you say that again. God, Hermione. Why? These last few weeks, I knew something was wrong but you kept pushing me away and it was driving me nutters, not knowing, not being able to figure it out. I love you so bloody much. How could you even I think /I I'd leave you?"
"I'm sorry. So very sorry," I keep saying, knowing he can't understand. No man could every really understand what it's like to have the ability to give birth, the choice of being a mother or not, taken away so brutally. I wonder if he has heard what I said, if he realizes that I can't have his children. I need him to know, to see that he still wants me even if I can't give him babies. I can't let myself hope only to lose him when reality sets in. Pulling back, my wet hair hangs in a disarray around my face as I look into his light blue eyes. My heart beats rapidly at the emotions I see in their depths, my hand tracing the outline of his cheek as I softly say, "George, I can never be the mother of your children. We." I have to take a breath, my voice trembling as I finally say what I have only dared whisper in my mind. "We can never have a family together."
"I'm not stupid, Hermione. I know what you said," his lips curved into a crooked smile. "Being a mother, having a family, that isn't something you've lost."
"Damn it, George," I curse, hating him for being so obstinate and refusing to listen. "I'm barren! The curse she used made me sterile."
"Don't cry, Hermione. God, please, just don't cry. I love you so much, Hermione. Don't cry. We can deal with this," he whispers as his thumbs brush away my tears. "I know I'm not a woman and it means different things to you, but we can still have a family. There are so many children left orphaned by the War. We can make our own family and you'll be the best bloody Mum in the world because your heart is so huge and you love so…"
I stare at him as he chokes up, noticing the tears in his eyes as he runs a hand through his thick red hair. I've been so selfish, but not for the reasons I first thought. I was so focused on my loss, on my pain, that I pushed him away and never gave him a chance. Standing here now, in our small shower with his clothes wet and my body still red from the hot water and blood on my upper thighs, I know that I was wrong. Narcissa Malfoy did not ruin my future that night. My future is what I make of it. Standing on my tiptoes, I brush my lips against his, the two of us crying, holding each other tight, love in my eyes as I look at him, his arms holding me close. For the first time in two months, I relax, I love, I dream, I hope. And my world changes in an instant.