It took some time and Sirius Black's help to find a magical public library but when Ducky snuck in, he was a bit overwhelmed as he looked at the simply immeasurable room. It didn't seem possible that there could be so many volumes …
"Muggles aren't usually allowed in here," said an older woman as she approached Ducky with a wary expression.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Ducky said as cordially as he could. "I'm actually looking for someone."
"Who?" The woman asked, suspiciously.
"A Miss Hermione Granger," Ducky replied, hoping that Hermione wouldn't be too hard to find in this place. "Young woman about 15 years old… rather frizzy brown hair…"
But the woman nodded and pointed to a winding staircase. "Top of the stairs to the right."
At the top of the moving staircase, Ducky found Hermione at a table surrounded by books of various sizes and scribbling hastily in a notebook. "Miss Granger…" Ducky said, quietly as he approached the teenager.
"Dr. Mallard." Hermione said, looking up from her books. "Sorry, I was just…" Gathering up her notes, she sighed. Ducky sat opposite Hermione and waited until she said, "Harry's been doing better… the doctors say his bloodwork is good… And because of Harry being a wizard, he's not getting the severe side affects you usually get with chemotherapy…" Burying her head in her hands, she let out a long sigh. Hermione was used to studying long hours but reading all these books on Harry's illness… seeing the effects chemotherapy had on the human body… it was emotionally draining.
"How long have you been here?" Ducky asked, looking at the young woman with the eye of a friend as well as a physician.
"Few hours," Hermione replied, as she started to organize her books and research. Holding out a few pages, she said, "For Agent Gibbs. It's a… a summary of what I've found so far."
"When was the last time you had a proper meal?" Ducky asked as he continued to study Hermione. "Or a good night's sleep?"
Hermione shook her head as she packed up her things. "I can't remember," she admitted, standing and shouldering her bag. "But I'm fine, really."
"Why don't the two of us go and grab some supper and we'll talk?" Ducky suggested. Hermione certainly didn't look fine. Standing as well and following Hermione down the stairs, he made a mental note to make sure that Sirius and Lupin kept an eye on Hermione.
"Alright," Hermione agreed as she followed the M.E. to his car. As she and Ducky headed down the road, Hermione asked, "How did you find me?"
"There aren't many wizard libraries in DC," Ducky said with a smile. "Although I was afraid that they wouldn't let me in."
"The wizarding world…" Hermione thought for a moment before trying to explain. "We try to… keep too many non-related muggles from finding out about us."
"I can imagine it would create quite a frenzy," Ducky replied, pulling into the parking lot of a local café. But once inside, Ducky waited until he and Hermione were sitting down before asking, "How long were you at the library?"
"A few hours," Hermione said, quickly. But seeing that Ducky wasn't about to believe that, she sighed. "Since last night after I left Harry at the hospital." After ordering lunch and a large soda, Hermione said, "Harry's been my best friend since our first year. There's hardly been a problem or… or a crisis I haven't helped him with."
"I understand you wanting to help Harry," Ducky replied, knowingly. "But you can't help him if you're risking your own health. You need to take better care of yourself, Miss Granger."
Hermione nodded. Her parents had been telling her the same for the past year. That she took on too much… that the Time Turner was a bad idea… All Hermione wanted was to be a great witch… To be even half as powerful as Dumbledore… But as she ate her burger and fries, she started to wonder. At what sacrifice comes greatness?
Harry's second use of the forearm crutches went much better and he was even able to hobble around the room for about five minutes with Dr. Willis following him with the IV stand.
Sitting down on the bed again, Harry looked away as Dr. Willis undid the bandages around what was left of his leg. Looking at the IV, Harry sighed.
"Any pain?" Dr. Willis asked, looking at Harry shrewdly.
"I'm fine," Harry muttered, finally looking at the stump as the doctor redid the bandage.
"Harry, if you're in pain we can give you something," Dr. Willis replied, looking at Harry.
"It's not bad," Harry insisted. "I was just wondering…" Seeing the oncologist's look, Harry said, "Am I going to, you know… be able to walk without the crutches?"
Dr. Willis studied Harry's leg for a few moments before replying. "There are a lot of new advances in prosthetics, Harry."
"But?" Harry asked, hearing the word in the doctor's voice.
Dr. Willis sighed. "But they had to take a good bit of your leg. Even with a top of the line prosthetic, you might still have some problems."
Harry sighed as he thought about that. It was just what he'd been worried about in the first place. If he was stuck with using crutches, how in the world would he be able to get up all the staircases at Hogwarts? Not to mention that he still had about a month of chemotherapy treatments. What if he needed further treatments once the new term started? Hearing a knock at the door, Harry looked up to see a woman with green eyes and light brown hair standing there.
"Can I help you?" Dr. Willis asked looking at the mystery woman, although she did seem to recognize the woman as being with Agent Gibbs before.
"Could I talk with Harry for a while?" The woman asked, looking at Harry with interest. "Alone?"
Dr. Willis nodded and stood, giving Harry a smile as she left the room, closing the door behind her.
As the woman sat down facing Harry, she seemed to study him. "You have Shannon's eyes," she said, with a sad smile. When she saw that Harry was confused, she laughed. "My name is Claire Hyden. I'm an old friend of Jethro's. And I was Shannon's best friend."
"So… What did you want to talk to me about?" Harry asked, still puzzled.
"Jethro told me about the whole magic thing…" Claire replied. "I have to say… It's… pretty incredible." Harry didn't reply as he scooted back on his bed and lay down. Claire wasn't put off by this, however, and said, "My son died of cancer when he was 14. He'd been sick since he was 6. When Jethro told me that you were sick… I just want to say, I know what you're going through."
"Sometimes I wish it all would just stop," Harry said, quietly. "If it's not evil wizards trying to kill me, then it's my own body trying to do the deed." Looking at Claire, he sat up straighter and said, "I-I'm not saying I want to… you know."
"Kill yourself?" Claire supplied, grateful that Harry wasn't contemplating suicide.
"I just wish everything would stop happening to me," Harry sighed, lying back.
"I know," Claire replied, sympathetically, as she leaned forward to take Harry's hand. "I know."
Ducky dropped Hermione off at Gibbs' house and when Hermione went to the basement, she saw the NCIS agent working on the boat frame. Walking down the steps, Hermione's eye was caught by a framed photo on the workbench to the left. Walking over, she picked up the picture of Gibbs with a woman who looked a bit like Lily Potter and a young girl about 8 years old. Was this Gibbs' family? What had happened to them?
"That's my first wife, Shannon," Gibbs said, glancing at Hermione for the briefest of moments. "And our daughter, Kelly."
"Kelly looks like you, a bit," Hermione said, putting the picture back before turning to Gibbs. "Agent DiNozzo told me they were killed."
Gibbs stopped working on the boat and looked up at Hermione before walking over and picking up the picture. "This was taken in Mexico while I was on leave from the Marines. It was a year before…" Picking up his tools again, Gibbs resumed working as he asked, "Can I help you with something, Miss Granger?"
Hermione sat down by the workbench, pulling a few pieces of notebook paper out of her pocket as she said, "I did some additional research. It looks like Harry's magic is acting like a protection against some of the nastier side effects from the chemotherapy. But his hair is starting to fall out. Harry's doing better, but his immune system is weak. He can't eat much… he has no appetite." Standing and pacing, Hermione went on. "Harry's tired, but he can't sleep…"
Seeing that Hermione was anxious, Gibbs grabbed a sander and said, "Come here a sec." Puzzled, Hermione did as told and Gibbs took her hand, placing a sander in it and then turning her so she faced the boat. "Sand with the grain of the wood," Gibbs said, smiling a bit at Hermione confused expression. But at the teenager started sanding, Gibbs could see her start to relax slightly. Going back to his work, Gibbs asked, "How are you doing?"
"I don't know," Hermione replied, honestly. What was it about the simple act of sanding that seemed so… calming? "I just feel helpless. Like I'm just standing on the sidelines watching my best friend go through Hell and I can't do anything to help."
"You are helping," Gibbs assured her. "You're being there for him."
"Doesn't feel like enough," Hermione muttered, dejectedly as she sanded the sides of the boat.
Changing the subject, Gibbs said, "So have you thought about that internship Karen Sutherland offered you?"
Hermione let out a laugh and said, "Between her, Dr. Mallard, Director Sheppard, and Professor McGonagall I'm swimming in job offers and I haven't even graduated Hogwarts yet."
Gibbs smiled at that although he was curious as to what kind of job Jenny had offered Hermione. "You have a lot of potential." Pausing in the woodwork, he asked, "What do you want to do?"
Hermione paused in her sanding, thinking about the question for a while. "I don't know."
Going back to work, Gibbs said, "Well, you've got time to think about it yet."
Hermione nodded, but she couldn't help thinking that it was so strange how easy it was to talk to Gibbs.