The Life and Death of Hermione Granger
I'll die when you die. We will die together. That way, there is no escape.
"Harry!" Ginny's arms wrapped around him tightly. "It's been a long time."
Harry nodded, pushing away. "A few months. How have you been?"
Now it was Ginny who stepped back.
"What? Do I have something in my teeth? I swear, I really should stay away from the poppy seed muffins."
Ginny didn't laugh. Instead, she closed the space between them again, her hand reaching for him. "Don't you know?"
Harry scratched his head. "Uh…I did just get back to the country." He could never tell with Ginny. News from her could be anything. And it was rarely of interest him. "Did I miss something?"
"You could say that again."
Hermione Granger woke alone. She made her bed and went downstairs for coffee. Her long hair pulled back from her face, her eyes sleepy.
Catching her reflection in the mirror, Hermione looked away. She set the water to boil, removed a mug from the cabinet, set out a spoon.
The same routine—always. Since she'd left Hogwarts. Since she fractured.
Back upstairs she continued to move through the motions. Smoothing away wrinkles in the bed sheets and setting out her work clothes. These too she smoothed. No wrinkles, nothing as imperfect as herself.
She couldn't jump over obstacles. Hadn't been able to for a long time. So she smoothed them away.
Her shower was lukewarm, like her life. There, but not to par. Whatever she'd imagined as a youth...well, even she couldn't remember what that had been.
She dressed. Plain, boring, simple, dull—all the words that could be used to describe her. Failure, too, was a word she could use. And did use. She was a failure.
Pale hands twisted her hair tightly, securing it in place. Hermione picked up her ID and went to the stairs. She needed her briefcase, she could see it on the table by the door. Her coat was there as well, and in the left pocket, the keys to her office.
But she never made it.
Lukewarm. Disappointing. Dull. That may have been her life.
But there was only one word to describe her death.
Hermione Granger was no more.
The tears had dried by the time Ginny finished, shaking her head. "Ron found her. She'd missed work."
Harry found a chair and sat with a thud. "You're serious?"
"Would I joke about something like that? Like this?"
"But..." Harry's dropped his head into his hands and rubbed his eyes. "No," He looked up at Ginny. "No. I just talked to her. She was fine."
"Harry…" Ginny took a deep breath. "We don't always see what is going on. We can't know what people think and feel. She..."
"I just can't believe this. Not Hermione."
Ginny gave him a half smile. The sort of smile that said she was only just tolerating him. "I'm glad you're back Harry. We…we have to go through Hermione's things. The landlord…he wants everything out."
"What? She just died!"
"Shh." Ginny put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It's okay. Ron and I talked to him. He was going to just throw it out, her stuff. He's given us a few days to go through it."
Harry shook his head, standing suddenly. Ginny's hand dropped to her side. "Hermione wouldn't do that."
"That?" Ginny frowned. "It has a name, Harry. Suicide. And I know it's hard, but there is no other explanation."
"There's always another explanation." Harry shouted, all semblance of calm falling away. "Hermione wouldn't kill herself. And you should know that!"
Ginny felt tears stinging her eyes. Damn it! She'd been crying for days now. What right did he have! She watched him storm away and wished for nothing more than to turn back time.
He was right, after all. She'd been one of the few people Hermione had been in constant contact with after leaving Hogwarts. Harry traveled and was notorious for forgetting to give his location. Hermione would call Ron occasionally, but not so much after he married. But they'd remained close. Close enough for Ron to name Hermione godmother to his daughter.
Ginny remembered how Hermione's face lit up, always bright and shining, when she saw the now three-year-old girl. Hermione would grab her by the arms and swing her around, their joyful shrieks and laughter a special kind of music.
The memory faded and Ginny fell to her knees. It was cold, Harry's apparition point on a grassy knoll far from prying eyes. "Why!" she screamed at the starless sky. The heavens did not answer her.
"Hey, Ginny!" Hermione rushed into her office. "I've had the most spectacular of ideas. You must guess!"
Ginny laughed, spinning around to face her friend. Merlin, she loved her swivel chair. "You..." she paused for dramatic effect. "are going to finally publish that manuscript you finished years ago?"
"Don't be silly!"
"Okay, okay…hmm…you've decided to have progeny?"
Hermione laughed heartily and flopped into the stiff chair across from Ginny.
"Not at all, my dear."
"I…" Hermione took a deep breath. "Am going to have a yard sale."
"A yard sale. It's a muggle tradition. You give things away. Or, actually, you sell them for very low prices."
Ginny's brows shot together. "But Hermione, what are you going to give away?"
Hermione turned thoughtful. "I don't know." But her smile returned and she jumped up. "Well, I must be going. I'm just on lunch. But I couldn't eat anything, I'm such a blimp."
Ginny groaned. "You're a scarecrow, Hermione. I really want to hold you down and shove your face full of fish and chips."
"Oh please," Hermione buttoned up her winter coat with frail hands.
Ginny took the moment to observe her friend. Hermione's hair was pulled back in a ponytail, unkept and definitely in need of some deep conditioning treatments. Hermione never bothered to put on makeup, which would be beneficial, with the large crescents beneath her eyes. Lack of sleep, Ginny decided.
"You work too hard, Hermione. We should take a holiday."
Hermione looked up. "You mean leave?"
Ginny laughed. "To wherever you want, my treat."
Hermione fidgeted with the cuff of her coat. "Uh, well, maybe some other time, I'm much too busy."
"Oh come on! You hardly leave your apartment, aside from work and when I physically drag you away!" Ginny threw her hands up in exasperation.
"I know." Hermione said simply.
Ginny was ready to spell away her tear-ducts if they did not stop the liquid tirade. She was tired of crying. But every memory, every haunting thought was clouded with Hermione. And all the signs that Ginny had missed.
Right now she needed to pull herself together. She was supposed to be at Hermione's apartment soon. Ginny stood, her whole body shaking from exhaustion. Apparating would be a horrible mistake, she decided. She called the cab company, muggle transportation would be safer.
Harry had already arrived, as had Ron, by the time Ginny got to Number 13 Horace Lane.
"Sis." Ron greeted her with a hug.
The house had little in decoration. Hermione had never seen the point. Thinking back, Ginny found that a bit odd. Had Hermione been planning to live elsewhere?
She glanced at the few things Hermione had left on her table. Two cans of diet coke and a few weeks worth of newspapers, neatly stacked.
"Why was she keeping these?" Ginny asked leafing through the stack. The dates were from June of two years ago through this September. "Strange."
Harry leaned over her. "Maybe she wasn't really thinking about it as keeping. You know how Hermione is…was, she probably recycled them or something."
"Possibly." Ron said, looking at the pictures on the mantle. "Do you think it's strange she doesn't have any pictures of us?" he asked. "Or anyone we know?" he added peering at the unfamiliar faces.
Ginny came over to take a look. "Their muggle photos. Why?"
Harry shrugged. "She preferred them."
"Oh. Sorry." Ginny wished Harry wasn't so on edge. Everything she did seemed to offend him.
"Where'd you find her Ron?"
Ron knocked over the row of books he'd been looking at. "H—Harry…c'mon. You don't really want to know, do you?"
Harry nodded and Ron reluctantly led the way. "I found her here." He said as they reached the base of the stairs.
"And they think she, what, intentionally threw herself down the stairs to break her neck?"
Ron shifted uncomfortably. "That's what the muggle police decided."
Harry spun around. "How? Just tell me how?" he asked angrily.
"C'mon Harry, you didn't see her…I don't want to think about it." And he really didn't. Ron could still see every detail of what he had found, it was never going to leave him.
"Hermione?" Ron knocked again. "You home?" Getting no answer, Ron pulled out the copy Hermione had given him. He turned the lock, opened the door.
The apartment smelled of burnt coffee.
"Hermione?" Ron called once more. Closing the door he made his way into the kitchen. A pot sat on the burners, obviously the source of the burnt smell. "Aw, damn Hermione you could have burned the house down." There was an unused coffee mug and spoon out.
"Hermione!" He called loudly as he picked up the spoon. There was no answer. Maybe she was ill, he thought, making his way to the stairs.
Her back was to him when he saw her. Hermione's back to him…but her face looking right at him, her eyes open and glassy…one lid half closed. A trail of dried, flacking, blood ran from the top of her head to her neck where it disappeared from his sight.
Ron couldn't swallow. His heart beat too hard. His body was frozen and the wall behind him was his only support.
She had fallen, that was his first thought. His second that there must be something he could do to help her…but his body wouldn't move. And he knew she was dead.
Slowly Ron walked over to her, kneeling…his fingers shaking as he closed her blank and lifeless eyes.
Then, he'd broken down and cried. He'd grabbed her to him and cried over her dead body. Cried until there wasn't anything left in him.
Afterward, he'd called the police.
Ron slid down that same wall, his head in his hands. "It was horrible, Harry. Her staring at me, gone." Ron shoved his hands into his pockets, feeling the plastic in one, he withdrew it. "I picked up her personal affects. From the morgue." He stood, wiping at swollen eyes. Turning from his worst nightmare he went back to the kitchen and dumped the contents on the table.
"There's her ID," he said as he sorted through the pile. "a ring and a necklace." Ron stepped back as Ginny and Harry picked up the items.
"Jewelry?" Ginny asked, turning the simple jade ring over in her hands.
"What is it?"
Ginny shook her head. "Hermione doesn't wear jewelry."
"Well, obviously she does." Harry said picking up the necklace. "You know, this looks oddly familiar." He said, turning it over.
Ginny glanced up from the ring. "Oh my."
"What?" Harry turned to her. "Something wrong?"
"That's a promise necklace." She took it gingerly from Harry. Then shook her head. "Whatever it was, Hermione fulfilled her promise. The magic binding it to her is gone." Ginny looked at it curiously now.
"What do you mean?"
"Well…this type of promise necklace has a—a"
Ron sat down. "Please just spit it out."
"There are always two."
"So you mean that someone has one just like this?" Harry asked. "Can you tell what the promise was?"
Ginny shook her head. "But if Hermione has died, and the promise the other person made to her wasn't fulfilled, that person is cursed."
Harry looked at Ginny and rolled his eyes. "Who would Hermione make a promise to that isn't in this room? You said she hardly ever left the apartment."
"She never left. Only for work. She stopped going out with me a few months ago." Ginny replied.
"Can you find out who the other person is, maybe they know what happened. Maybe they're responsible."
"Oh Harry, give it up. This isn't another Hogwarts adventure where you save the day and everyone turns out okay. She'd dead. Hermione committed suicide."
"I don't believe that."
"You don't, or you can't?" Ron screamed.
Ginny pushed the two apart. "Let's go upstairs, Harry. We'll look for Hermione's wand."
Harry nodded, glaring at Ron. "Just because you've given up on her doesn't mean I will."
Ron watched Harry's retreating back. "I didn't give up on her, she died on me."