Hermione let her head drop to the rim of the cold porcelain toilet and she heaved an exhausted sigh. This would be the fifth night running that she had spent half her evening kneeling in this very same spot. Her knees were beginning to bruise and her throat was raw from her night activities. It was getting more difficult to stay awake during the day while working and her body just ached all over when she wasn't able to nap.
Groaning, Hermione turned her head over to peer at the digital clock resting by the bathroom sink.
Hermione rocked her body back onto her heels and got to her feet. She was going to need at least three cups of coffee to make it through the day today. After taking a steaming hot shower to relieve her tense and tired muscles, Hermione picked through her closet, shifting odd tops to the side in order to find an appropriate shirt for the day. When she finished dressing she padded out her door and down the dark steps of Grimwauld place.
The trio had taken up residence at Grimwauld place after the fall of You-Know-Who. Mrs. Weasley insisted that they stay at the Burrow, but they had all still felt the losses and needed the space. They had all applied to take their NEWT's and spent the month they had prior to taking the exam to study and escape the wizarding population. Hermione, of course, got the highest score with a perfect in each category. Harry had done very well in all topics but it seemed his weak spot would always be potions. He still got the required grades to enter into the Auror training program. He decided to wait, however, and recover. Ron did mediocre but excelled in dark arts and charms. Ron never had the choice to delay employment and headed up WWW while George grieved for the loss of his twin and Ron now ran the store seven days a week. Hermione waited a couple weeks before deciding on a job but finally settled on the junior minister position thinking that she could do the most good there. Kingsly Shacklebolt was still the minister, a very good one, and the wizarding world was beginning to heal properly.
The dining room was empty but for the piles of delicious food Kreacher had left the trio for the morning. The smell made Hermione's stomach growl and turn at the same time, so she nipped a piece of dry toast and had a glass of orange juice in hopes that it would settle her stomach. Wanting to escape the confines of the house she slipped out with out thanking Kreacher for the breakfast (which she normally did) and aparated to a safe zone with in walking distance of the Ministry of Magic.
It seemed like the minute she had arrived, despite being so early, her morning just flew past her in a pile of flying memos and neatly organized piles of paperwork that seemed to be losing it's prearranged order as the morning went on. The only time she had gotten up that morning was for the coffee and the short meeting Kingsly had her sit in to help take notes.
Hermione heard the chair across from her desk lightly scrape across the floor towards her desk and looked up to the undisguised concern in one Harry Potter's eyes as he pinned her down with his gaze.
"I'm taking you to lunch," he said.
"Harry, I'm not so sure I have time today."
"Yes you do, I already talked to Kingsly."
Damn Harry Potter and his bloody sway on the magical world. Hermione cursed silently. She grimaced at him but didn't argue as she got up and grabbed her purse. With a hand on the small of her back he directed her towards the exit and out to a safety point where they aparated to Diagon Alley. After deciding on a small café that was relatively new they took their seats and ordered their food. Harry was still looking at her with that penetrating stare five minutes later and feeling a bit snippy Hermione took the bait.
"Why are you staring at me like that, Harry?" Her voice was crisp and cool.
Harry ignored her tone.
"I heard you up again this morning," he said simply, holding his butterbeer between two hands but still gazing at her.
Hermione paled noticeably and forced down the lump in her throat. She didn't want either of her best friend's concern. She just wanted some space.
"Kingsly flooed last night when you went to bed and expressed a concern for how you've been lately and Ron and I agree that something is definitely wrong that you're not telling us."
Hermione wanted to be upset with him, but found herself fighting tears. If she knew what it was she would've told them – they were her best mates.
Fighting a sob she finally spoke up, "I don't know Harry. I wish I did. I thought it was just part of the grieving process and all the nightmares, but I'm not so sure anymore."
Harry reached across the table and cupped her hands in his while drawing small circles on the back of her hand.
"I think you should maybe pay a visit to St. Mungo's tomorrow. I'll come with if you'd like and we can figure this out together."
Hermione was truly touched by what he was saying and a tear finally escaped and she rushed to swipe away the evidence but Harry beat her to it. When his hand was retreating he lightly tugged at a stray curl that had escaped it's confines.
"Promise me you'll go, even if you don't want me to go with," he was pleading with his eyes and Hermione couldn't deny him this simple thing if she wanted and nodded.
"Only if you come with," she smiled feebly.
"Of course," his smile actually reached his eyes this time. "So you're coming to the Burrow tonight for dinner right? Mrs. Weasley was so worried about you last time when you didn't come that she spent the entire night fussing over you."
Hermione's stomach plummeted at the thought, but she was going to need to do this sooner or later. She nodded again making him smile even brighter.
Their food had finally arrived and Hermione struggled to digest as much as possible since Harry was watching her expectantly and in the end felt better for it as they left the establishment.
"Thanks again Harry for lunch," she smiled.
Harry walked her to the safety point before apparating back to Grimwauld Place while Hermione apparated back to the Ministry. When Hermione arrived she promptly felt sick to her stomach and spent the next twenty minutes in the bathroom purging her belly of the most recent meal. When she got back to her desk she was prepared to work until her piles had disappeared from her desk but her forehead made contact with her desk and she was lost in a world of sleep.
When she woke up, groggy and lost, she first noticed that the sun was quickly retreating in her charmed window and then secondly she noticed the inter-office memo stuck to her cheek. Letting out a squeak, Hermione pealed the paper of her face and hastened to grab her bag and rushed off to the safety point so she could apparate to Grimwauld Place and then off to the Burrow after changing and attempting to tame the wild curls.
She arrived directly into the backyard amongst a bustle of red heads catching up and carrying platters of food out to a picnic table for the last fall picnic of the year. Hermione dodged in and out of people trying to avoid conversation, as she wasn't in the mood, and ducked into the kitchen to help carry food out. Mrs. Weasley spotted her immediately and rushed over to crush her in a hug.
"Hermione, dear!" She near-gushed, "you look as thin as a wafe!"
"It's good to see you too Mrs. Weasley."
"How many times must I tell you to just call me Molly?"
"I guess just once more," Hermione smiled wanely.
"Never you mind, dinner is about to begin." She turned away from Hermione and when she turned back she was holding a giant turkey. "Could you carry this out? I charmed it to be lighter so it isn't so bad."
Hermione nodded before taking the platter from her and making her way outside. Everyone was beginning to take seats around the table as she made balanced her burden closer to the congregated area. She was about five meters away when the ground below her feet began to spin and the sky was quickly becoming all she could see and everything went black.
Harry watched her fall as if in slow motion but it seemed he was moving even slower because Ron, who was closer, got to her first and made quick work of stretching her out and running his wand over her body mumbling incantations to find out if anything was broken or seriously wrong. Everyone else was beginning to crowd around but Harry kept them at bay.
"We should get her to St. Mungo's."
Ron paced anxiously from the head of Hermione's hospital bed to a foot past the end.
"We should have dragged her to St. Mungo's the second Kingsly mentioned something." Ron whispered loudly.
Harry had already reprimanded him several times for being too loud.
"We had no idea this would happen. We've just got to make sure she get's better."
Hermione groaned and began to shift in her sleep. Her body suddenly tensed and her body jolted off the bed and was wide awake. Ron and Harry were rushed to either side of her and took a hand.
"Hermione," Harry said her name to catch her attention from looking everywhere else. "We're at St. Mungo's. You fainted while at the Burrow, do you remember?"
Hermione's eyes went from hazy to and out of focused to sharp in a matter of seconds.
"Oh the turkey!" She gasped.
Ron chuckled slightly on the other side of her, drawing her attention to him.
"Mum wasn't very concerned about the turkey; just you." Ron tucked a large curl behind her ear. "Don't worry about it."
"But I ruined the last picnic of the year!"
A knock sounded through the room coming from the only door in the room. The door slowly opened and a curtain of copper hair poked into the room followed by a very worried face.
"Can I come in?" Ginny asked.
Hermione nodded and Ginny quickly crossed over to her and sat on the edge of the bed.
"How are you feeling?" Ginny asked, her eye brows knit together closely in worry.
"Just a little weak," Hermione sighed.
"As you should be," the healer walked into the room while reviewing the papers on his clip board. "I'm your healer, Hugh Pavalon."
The healer appeared to be in his early fifties with fine streaks of gray in his otherwise blonde hair.
"Would you like to hear your diagnosis with your visitors in the room?"
Hermione glanced at each of her friends and vowed not to lie to them anymore.
"Why do you lie to them?"
His voice was deeper than normal. She turned to see one Fred Weasley gazing at her from under the tree she was currently perched in.
"Who says I was lying?" Her voice wavered just a little.
"You told them you'd be reading and I don't even see a book." His left eye brow arched as if he could read her mind. If he was truly reading her mind he'd see her mentally rolling her eyes at her slip up of forgetting her book.
She did her best, instead to glare at him, although it was rather half heartedly. He grinned up at her and her breath caught in her chest for only a moment. The sinking sun set his hair aglo making him look like he had a halo of fire. His eyes, darker with the light behind him, looked almost black but she saw a hint of midnight blue in them. Merlin save her, if she could only get rid of that fetish for red hair! That's what she found appealing about Ron anyways. His dark copper waves that she could envision running her hands though made her mentally melt.
"Can I help you with something?" Hermione leveled coldly. She wasn't in the mood for company – hence her horrible lying to the boys and Ginny to escape.
Fred's smirk faltered. "Actually, I think we're at this tree for the same reason. I needed some air away from the crowd that is gathered in Burrow so I could think clearly." He was staring straight ahead at the glistening pond.
"Needed space to scheme up a new invention?" Hermione half joked.
Fred's eyes softened and he turned to leave but Hermione was faster and leapt out of the tree in front of him.
"I'm sorry, that was uncalled for." She tried to catch his gaze but he kept looking away. "I've just been so worried about my parents. Being who I am and them being only muggles makes this war very high risk for them and I can't be there to protect them." Her eyes began to shine with unshed tears but she held them back. She did not want to be weak.
Fred was now looking at her and it was her turn to avoid his gaze. "Hermione, I'm sorry." He lifted her chin up so they could see each other's faces and a tear finally escaped down her cheek and he deftly caught it before it fell past her lips.
"No, it's okay. I understood the price I would have to someday pay to be Harry's friend and to help bring down Voldemort. The time just seemed to have flown by and we're no longer children worrying about exams; but instead worrying about whether or not we'll survive." The tears were falling freely down her cheeks and instead of Fred laughing at her like she thought he would he pulled her body tight against his and she rested her head on his chest. He rubbed small circled on her back with his thumb and let his other hand pet down the mass of curls threatening to suffocate him. "That's why before I came here I took my parents to Australia and – and obliviated them. I gave them new names and no – no recollection of ever having a daughter."
Sharply he pushed her out to an arm's distance from him and stared at her in shock. Was this girl so selfless that she would give her parents up to save a world that she had only known for six years? She looked so confused and scared; like she was lost in a storm trying to find something to anchor herself to.
"Hermione, you must be the bravest and most selfless person I know," he said in all earnesty.
She blushed in response, having not been looking for a reward.
He shook her lightly so she would look back at him. "No Hermione, you are truly a Gryffindor." And he pulled her back into his chest and held her there until they were both too tired to stand.
"Ms. Granger, you're pregnant."