"Why are you sitting in the kitchen? Another boggart in the living room?"
Hermione was surprised to find Harry and Ron with Madam Pomfrey in the large headquarters' kitchen. As the rest of the order was out tonight, she had expected the boys to play chess or another one of their silly games. And Madam Pomfrey … well, what was she doing here at all?
"No, it's Professor McGonagall," Harry offered.
Ron took one of the rare chances to lecture his intelligent friend. "She's had a relapse. That is…"
"I know what that is. The reliving of a certain event in the past. But which event and what triggered it?" The news that her mentor was unwell formed a big knot in her stomach.
"It's the stunners. I think your Professor's lack of sleep and relaxation may have triggered it." The mediwitch sounded as displeased as ever when someone did not follow her orders and it was safe to assume that she had ordered Professor McGonagall to rest more.
"But how can a mere memory be painful?" Ron really ought to read more!
"Because the nerves have a memory of their own, if you will. A relapse won't cause real wounds or any other damage, but the nerves remember and reproduce the pain."
The mediwitch was stunned by the vast knowledge of the young woman.
"Who is with her?" Hermione assumed Professor Dumbledore had stayed at home.
Harry looked at her as though she were crazy. Who in his right mind would want to be with the stern transfiguration Mistress when she was in a bad mood? And pain always put people in a bad mood… "Nobody!"
Hermione was outraged. "You mean she is in severe pain and all alone while you are sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee?"
Realizing that she wasn't going to get an answer she'd like, Hermione headed for the door.
That made the mediwitch get up rather quickly. "Miss Granger! I didn't say you could go in there!"
The young witch didn't even slow down, let alone turn around. "I am sorry Madam Pomfrey, but I didn't ask for your permission."
Taking a deep breath, Hermione entered the quiet room. She found the Professor sitting in an armchair with her eyes tightly closed, her fingers clenching the armrest in a death grip.
Hermione thought for a moment about how to proceed, before moving silently to her mentor's side. She knew that the stern woman wouldn't like to be watched in a moment of what she would certainly describe as 'weakness', so she sat on the soft carpet next to the armchair. Resting her head against the armrest, Hermione remembered when her grandmother had an illness that put her through so much pain she couldn't stand any noise or movement around her. She assumed Professor McGonagall felt the same right now.
Having got lost in her thoughts, a light touch on her hair brought the young woman out of her musings. The professor had moved her hand just a tad and let her fingers glide through Hermione's hair in tiny movements. It seemed her Professor was feeling better, but that hope was obviously uncalled for when another wave of pain caused the older woman to grasp the armrest again. It was out of pure desperation that Hermione reached up with one hand, offering it to her Professor. Just when the young witch was about to pull her hand back, she felt it being clutched with bone crushing force.
Hermione pressed her head into the armrest. She wouldn't let the older witch see her face that was twisted in pain. She'd rather let McGonagall break her hand.
Minutes that felt like hours later the Professor let go of Hermione's hand and with a groan let her head fall against the back of the chair, while the young woman took the chance to get some feeling back into her hand. It wouldn't surprise her if she found bruising in the shape of her mentor's hand on it in the morning.
After a while of complete stillness, Hermione dared to look at her Professor. Her eyes were closed, but her breathing was too uneven to indicate sleep. Hermione's heart went out to the proud Professor who looked so marred with pain and exhaustion.
"Professor," she whispered, "would you like me to help you to your rooms? You'd be probably feel better lying down."
She didn't open her eyes when she replied. "Soon," she whispered hoarsely. "I just need another moment."
Hermione resumed her place on the floor with her head resting against the armrest. "Whenever you are ready. Take your time please."
She was surprised when she felt her mentor's fingertips patting her hair again. It was highly unusual for the stern woman to show that kind of affection. Maybe it wasn't really affection after all, but the need to concentrate on something other than the pain. Either way, Hermione didn't mind.
When the fingers left her hair, Hermione knew the older woman was ready or as ready as she could be under the circumstances.
Getting to her feet Hermione stretched her numb limbs. Great. Still in school and she was obviously too old to sit on the floor for longer than a few minutes. She was about to offer her mentor a hand, but seeing that the woman needed both hands on the armrests to push herself up, she waited patiently until the Professor made the first move and reached out for her.
Hermione carefully placed her arm around the woman's waist. She didn't want to hurt her already pained mentor, but it was clear the small walk would be painful, no matter how careful she was.
"Miss Granger, would you get me my walking stick?" Her voice was strained, but at least she was speaking again.
"Of course, Professor." Hermione removed her arm from the slim waist and took hold of a slightly shaking hand. Holding it tight, she bent down to reach for the stick that was lying on the floor.
"Here you go."
"Thank you." Taking a deep breath, the old witch reached around her charge and held on tightly. With her walking aid in her other hand they slowly started moving.
Hermione tried her best to support her Professor, especially when she felt her lean heavily against her with ever step.
Having reached the room the Professor used when she was in headquarters, Hermione helped her to sit on the bed. The young witch felt sick when her mentor groaned with pain.
"Professor, do you need Madam Pomfrey?"
"No. That won't be necessary." She wiped the sweat from her forehead.
"Can I get you anything? A cup of tea perhaps?"
"A cup of tea sounds lovely."
"May I add some pain-relief potion please?" The Professor gave her a look that was normally reserved for Ron when he asked a particularly stupid question.
"Miss Granger, I…
"Please," Hermione cut her off. She was relieved when the older woman nodded.
When Hermione entered the room again with the promised tea, she found her mentor sitting in front of the mirror, a brush sitting on the chest of drawers in front of her. She reached up in an attempt to remove her hairpins and Hermione knew from the reflection she saw in the mirror that the movement was far from painless. The young witch stepped further into the room and stilled the Professor's hand.
"Let me." It was a simple request, but Hermione wasn't sure if that would be too personal. "Here is your tea." She placed the cup on the chest of drawers.
"Thank you, Miss Granger."
Hermione smiled into the mirror and waited for a moment before she slowly started to remove the hairpins. She tried to be very gentle and careful. The woman was in enough pain already, after all. It was unbelievable how many hairpins were needed to keep the long hair in place. Freed of its usual bun it reached down all the way to the older woman's waist in gentle waves. Placing the hairpins on the chest of drawers Hermione shyly reached for the brush. "May I?"
If the Professor was surprised, she didn't show it. "If you wish."
Hermione let the brush glide through the silver hair in long soothing strokes. She smiled when she watched her mentor close her eyes, obviously enjoying the treatment. She still looked very pained, but slightly better. It seemed the potion was starting to work.
Having finished her task, the young witch started braiding the soft hair. She was amused when the Professor opened her eyes. "I didn't know you were entertaining a career in hairdressing."
"I am versatile. Do you think I have talent?"
"If you manage to get my hair back into the bun tomorrow you certainly have."
"I'm sorry. I fear I will have to do something else for a living then. If you need prove just look at my hair."
"Have you ever tried to pin it up?"
"I tried, but I gave up."
"If you remind me I will teach you when I can move again."
Hermione felt her stomach tighten. "Was is as painful as last year?"
The short flash of unmasked emotion in the older woman's face told Hermione just how painful it really was and still is. She rounded the chair in front of her and held her hand out.
"Rest will help."
The professor braced herself for the pain and took the offered hand. "Is that a promise?" She didn't hear the girl's reply. Too intense was the pain as she travelled the few steps over to the bed and sat down. She barely noticed that her student freed her from her dressing gown and made her lie down.
The older witch tried to focus for a moment. "Sorry?" she asked, her voice strained from pain and exhaustion.
"We talk when you feel better. You should try and sleep now, Professor."
"I will try." She replied, her eyes already closed.
Hermione took a deep breath and silently fetched the chair her mentor sat in just a moment ago. She sat and let the quiet and half light of the room soothe her nerves. It wasn't long before the older woman opened her questioning eyes.
"Are you planning on sitting there all evening?"
"I am planing on sitting here the whole night as well."
"Miss Granger, you don't have to…"
"Please, Professor. I wasn't able to be with you when it happened. I didn't even visit you in hospital, because of that goddamn toad. Goodness knows I was looking for a way, but I just couldn't see one that didn't endanger you or the Order or the boys! I am so terribly sorry, Professor. I can only imagine how terrible it was to wake up in hospital in so much pain and all alone. Please let me be there for you at least for tonight."
Hermione couldn't stop the tear rolling down her cheek.
"Come here," the older witch said in an unusual soft way, reaching her hand out to her charge. Hermione sank on the floor and knelt in front of the bed, allowing her mentor to wipe the tears away. "I know, Hermione. I know you would have come if there had been a way and I am so proud that you managed to make it through those rotten days without trying anything foolish."
"Then why do I feel like I failed you?" Hermione sounded as miserable as she felt.
"Because you have a big heart and for some reason that is quite beyond me you seem to like me."
"I do," she whispered. " A lot."
The older witch smiled softly and wiped another set of tears away before resting her hand on Hermione's cheek. "I know, my dear child. And you know that I hold you very close to my heart as well, don't you?"
Hermione looked at her with hopeful and yet questioning eyes.
Seeing the query in her charge's eyes, she stroked the girl's cheek and added, "Never doubt that, Hermione. If it weren't true you wouldn't be here right now."
Seeing the truth behind her Professor's words, Hermione smiled shyly. "Thank you."
A pained moan awoke Hermione during the night. Leaving her small transfigured bed, she switched on the small bedside lamp. "Professor?"
The older woman didn't open her eyes. "Would you mind getting another potion?"
"I'll be right back."
Hermione practically ran to get the pain relief.
"Here, Professor." Seeing that she struggled to lift her arm, Hermione brought the potion to her lips. She knew there was not much else she could do for her mentor than be with her until the pain faded, so she pushed her bed over until the beds touched. After she had found her place under her blanket, she searched for the Professor's hand. Having found it cold and shaking she held on tightly, not saying a word.
The Professor didn't let go of the hand that helped her through the pain until the next morning. One day she would tell Hermione how much her care had helped and meant to her. One day when they had established the close friendship she knew they'd share.
I hope you enjoyed it and yes, I will update my other stories soon.
Many thanks to my brilliant beta!