The lobby inside St. Mungo's Hospital was relatively quiet that cold, December morning. There wasn't much going on that day, hadn't been much going on except for the usual comings and goings of a few visitors to the long-term care ward. A nurse at the station quietly sniffed at the followers one of the visitors had brought to her, either as a sign of gratitude or as a sign of something more. Either way, they certainly looked nice on her desk.
Quietly she returned to her paperwork, unaware of anything else going on around her…
The shout came suddenly and rather loudly to boot. Not to mention the fact that the door down the hallway and to the left just as quickly shot off its hinges like a rocket, splintering into a thousand pieces when it crashed into the wall a couple of seconds later. Startled, the nurse jumped, causing the vase of flowers to fall, meeting a fate similar to the door.
She watched in stunned awe as she saw the legend of the wizarding world, the Man-Who-Conquered himself, Harry Potter, storm out of the room, a mixture of anger, frustration and sadness on his face. She ducked down behind her desk as he stormed off towards the fireplace, grabbed a rather generous portion of floo powder and shouted "12 GRIMMAULD PLACE!" into the flames. A moment later, and he was gone.
Several more minutes passed before the nurse finally got the gumption to stand up. She turned down the hall, only to see the healer Carl Meadowbrook shaking his head as he examined the door. The more amazing sight was that of Harry's wife, Hermione Potter, shaking her head, and crying silently into her palms.
/ - / - / - /
Harry Potter felt terrible.
Terrible probably wasn't an adequate word to describe the way he felt right now, once he thought about it for a moment. In fact terrible didn't even begin to scratch the surface of the sorrow, disappointment, anger and shame he felt at that moment. It was a gut wrenching feeling, and he was quite certain that if he had actually eaten anything for breakfast that morning, it would no longer be residing in his stomach.
His mind wandered back to that dreadful moment, when the whole world had suddenly stopped and time had begun to linger. He remembered each horrid syllable that the doctor had uttered.
Her condition was terminal.
He still could not, would not allow himself to believe such a thing. There was no possible way that his wife…his Hermione was dying before his very eyes. She was far too young…THEY were far too young. Barely a few months over 26 in her case. He shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts from it as if they could be shaken loose. He breathed deeply, trying to will them away.
He remembered the look on the doctor's face once they had run the indicator test on her magical core. He remembered that, despite that look of dread that he had seen once before in his life as a child, he held out hope that they had found nothing wrong.
He remembered the conversation in brief, as Hermione described her symptoms. Shortness of breath after long-term use of magic, dizzy spells that struck at inopportune times, constant tiredness. She had complained of them before, shortly after she had given birth to James, but now that she was pregnant with their second child, a daughter, the symptoms had become more pronounced and more frequent. Harry had insisted on going to see the healer.
How he wish he hadn't of done that.
And then the healer began to explain. The curse that Antonin Dolohov had used on her during the fight at the Ministry had never fully healed. Since it had been silently cast, no one knew what it really was. The doctor suspected that it was a modified version of the "Mugglatem" curse, an ancient and forbidden curse that utterly destroyed anything of magical origin. Normally that curse simply caused the complete annihilation of a person's magical core, but this version seemed to cause that core to try and burn itself out, taking the person's life along with their magic. To some extent, a more studious and logical part of Harry's mind thought, it was more merciful then the actual curse itself, as the actual curse would cause the person to lose their magic entirely, but continue on.
In his current state, he was quite sure that logical part of his mind was completely off-base with that observation.
Then the healer uttered the words of complete despair and hopelessness. Her condition was terminal. Those words continued to roll around in his head at a rapid fire pace. No, he told himself again, as he had done then. They would find a way, do whatever it took, go wherever they needed to, and see whatever specialists they had to, to get the problem solved. Lost in all his self-talk and thoughts, was the notion that they had no way of knowing how long Hermione had. She could die tomorrow, or a hundred years from now, they had no real indication.
The healer tried to explain that everything they knew had been tried in the past and failed. Harry said they'd try harder. The healer explained it would cost a fortune of new research, and Harry replied that they had the money. Everything the healer said, Harry had a counter for. And all the while in his head were those constant thoughts…those same four words bouncing about like bludgers on Pepper-Up Potion. Her condition was terminal.
He continued to grow more fearful, and angry, something his wife could sense growing within him. She placed a hand on his leg, to try and calm him, but it hadn't of worked. Finally the doctor began to explain certain treatments to ease any symptoms or pain, when Harry finally lost it. He let out an explosion of magic that trashed the room and blew the door off its hinges. When it was all said and done, he stormed out of St. Mungo's to be alone with his thoughts.
He was angry at the fates for continuing to mock him. Here he finally had the life he always wanted…a normal life that he had long since forgotten from his childhood days…a life with the one true love he would ever have, and the fates were going to take that away from him, having already taken so much.
He was angry at the healer, for his constant stubbornness about the…nature…of her condition.
He was angry at Dolohov, though he was long since executed for his crimes.
He was angry at Voldemort again, though he himself had killed the Dark Wanker nearly eight and a half years earlier.
He was not angry with Hermione. He could never be truly angry at her.
But most of all, he was angry at himself. Not just for losing his cool at St. Mungo's, or in front of his wife. No, he was angry at himself for what he had done. He was angry that he had led her down there in the first place. It was his fault that she was going to die. His fault that she would not live to her fullest lifespan.
It was all his fault.
As that began to sink in deeper and deeper, he lowered his head and silently wept, until he heard a sharp knock at the door to his study.
/ - / - / - /
Hermione Potter was never one to be fearful of the unknown. She had, of course, jumped into the wizarding world practically blind (though she had read several books, she constantly reminded herself) at the tender young age of eleven. She had followed along her soulmate Harry Potter towards the various portions of their relationship together…from girlfriend…to lover…to wife….to finally mother of his children. She had tackled every obstacle with logic, and sheer determination, never allowing herself to be very afraid at the unknown.
So it was that now she found herself in a very unrecognizable predicament.
Of course, being told that you were dying would tend to have that effect on someone's bravery or lack thereof.
She knew in the back of her mind, of course, that she would eventually die. Everything had its end. But knowing that in some far off, nebulous future, and having it thrust into your face in such a cold, academic fashion were leagues apart. To be honest, she was afraid, she was terrified.
She was not terrified per se at the prospect of death itself. More to the point, she was terrified at not being with her husband, with her children, with those that she loved and those that loved her. She shook like a babe on a cold winter's night when she thought of such things.
As she stood outside the door to Harry's study, her fist positioned to knock on the solid oak entryway, she paused for untold minutes. She thought back to Harry's outburst at the hospital, thought back to what the healer had said afterwards. It was true that there were things they could do to prolong her life and ease the symptoms so that they could easily be forgotten in the day to day movements of life, the healer had reminded her. She mechanically nodded her head, to overcome by shock, fear, and sorrow to really register the specifics of what he had said. She promised herself that she'd look them up later.
Once she had flooed home, she knew she had to find Harry and talk about this. She knew that if she didn't he'd drown himself in his despair and sorrow, something that she refused to let him to. He'd blame himself for the whole thing, somehow, as was his usual custom…and she'd have to remind him that it was hardly his fault. They'd have to turn to each other for strength, as neither one of them was strong enough to face this alone.
She had stopped at the door, though, because frankly speaking, she didn't know exactly what to say to him. Would she be direct and upfront? Would she try to change the subject? How could she even begin to word all of this?
How could you even begin to tell your one true love that you were dying?
And worse yet, how could you do so when you yourself were a complete maelstrom of conflicting emotions? Hermione stood there, frozen in place, gripped by fear, anger and an all consuming depression at the same time. Once she finally started talking with Harry, she didn't know if she'd melt into his arm while crying or rip into him up one side and down the other for his angry display.
After what seemed to be several minutes, she finally came to her senses. Whatever emotions she was feeling, Harry was probably feeling them as well, probably worse. Sighing, she finally knocked sharply on the door three times, awaiting an answer. After all, Gryffindors charged forward into the unknown, regardless of where it might lead…even if afterwards they shook like an autumn leaf in the breeze.
/ - / - / - /
Harry heard the sharp knocks on the door, and instantly froze in place. He knew that Hermione would be arriving back at home anytime, and was dreading the moment. He couldn't face her now, not like this. Not when he knew the truth, that this was all his fault.
"Harry," came Hermione's concerned voice from across the closed entryway, "I know you're in there Harry. We need to talk."
Harry hung his head in shame, and wordlessly motioned with his wand, a solitary click indicating that the locking charm had been canceled. He kept his back turned to the door, his head staring down at the simple elm desk he used for his paperwork and the like, listening to it open and shut in quick succession. He didn't spare a glance at Hermione as he heard her slowly walk in and scoot a chair from the small end table over to his desk, sitting next to him. Finally, he looked up, and stared into those beautiful chocolate brown eyes of hers. Her face was framed by the same wild brown mane that had been there since the day he first laid eyes on her. This time however, it was accompanied by that loving glow that could only come while being with child. The sight brought the tears to his eyes once again, and he could see the lingering sorrow that lay just beneath the surface of her concerned face.
"Hermione," he whispered hoarsely, "I…I don't…"
Hermione, for her part, saw the sorrowful man before her, and it broke her heart. Exactly as she had thought, he was going to blame himself for this. Deep in her psyche, her raging hormones acted up, and anger overwhelmed her better judgment. Without warning or provocation other than his quiet, tear-stained statement, she reached back and slapped him.
Harry was stunned for a moment, certainly not anticipating that reaction. Automatically he began to assume the worst. She must blame him, he thought, she must now hate him because he was going go be the one responsible for her death. Before he could say another word to that effect, however, he was instantly gripped with a deep kiss, causing his mind to blank out for a moment.
Hermione, having been overcome with rage, was suddenly overcome with a deep longing and fear. Having no other way to express it, she kissed her husband. At first he didn't respond, more than likely to much in shock from having been slapped just a moment earlier. Finally, he began to return the kiss with some degree of passion, and after a moment longer they broke apart. They looked at each other, confusion evident in both of their eyes.
"This isn't your fault," Hermione whispered, beginning to break down from the weight of emotion and the rush of hormones through her system. "Don't you dare blame yourself for this Harry James Potter! I won't let you…I…don't…" she trailed off. Unable to hold back the tide of emotion any longer, she broke down crying, while Harry instinctively cradled her into his arms. They sat there for several minutes, each one of them grieving over what was to come.
Finally, the wails and sobs turned into silent tears. They broke apart, tears staining both of their faces. "I'm sorry," Hermione said first, wiping her eyes. "Ruddy hormones are driving me insane."
Harry let out a small chuckle and caressed her cheek with his thumb, wiping away another tear. "Don't be sorry," Harry replied softly, "I should be after losing my temper like that."
They stayed that way in silence, not knowing what more they could say, finally, Harry broke the ice. "We're going to beat this Hermione, I know we are." She looked into his eyes, and saw steeled resolve and determination. "There's nothing we haven't been able to do once we put our minds to it." Taking her hands into his, he leaned forward, placing his forehead next to hers. "I won't lose you…I won't let you go."
"And I'll do everything I can to make sure you don't," she added, sniffing away the last of her tears. "But Harry…"
Harry quickly stood up, but Hermione placed her hand on his shoulder, trying to quell his angry outburst. "We can do everything we can…but you have to promise me something."
Harry, mollified, sat down. "Anything," he whispered, as they leaned closer in together.
"Make the best of what time we have," she asked in a barely audible voice. "Make every day count, and don't ever linger on what is to come. Let's just focus on the now, and worry about tomorrow another day."
Harry allowed himself to smile and chuckle a bit. "Another day then," he replied, before taking her lips and melding them with his own. Yes another day, both of them thought.
Her condition was terminal.
For the first time since those four words were uttered, both Harry and Hermione allowed themselves to amend that statement. Her condition wasn't terminal; her condition was going to be terminal.
And as far as they were concerned, another day was a very long way off indeed.
A/N: *dodgestomatoes* Yes I know it's been almost a year since my last post of any significance, but real life interfered. I've been away for a large portion of that time, overseas and away from the world of Harry Potter in general. However, my recent return has allowed me some insight into my stories and life in general, and so I hope I can get things returning back to a normal routine.
This particular story is set in the universe of "Rewriting History." So read that for any questions you might have regarding some of the things said.
Anyway, I needed a small one shot to get back into the swing of things, so hopefully I'm not too rusty.