Chapter 8: A Miraculous Healing Ability
"Oh you have got to be kidding me." Ron whispered to himself as he looked upon his two best friends entangled in Hermione's bed sheets.
When Remus cursed loudly that Harry was missing from his bedchambers that morning at breakfast, the castle had almost erupted into a frenzy. The maids began bristling with worried whispers, the cooks ceased in their meal preparations, and even the gardeners stopped trimming the hedges to exchange hushed theories on where he had gone. But, being the kind and eloquent friend that he was, Ron decided to interject by suggesting he look around for the missing prince. After all, he did know him best. He was granted permission by both Remus and the king to roam the grounds and scout for as long as it took to locate Harry. But he didn't need more than the five minutes it took to go upstairs to Hermione's bedchambers. The sight that awaited him came as no surprise.
After all, he did know them best.
"Wake up." He said hardly.
Neither of them budged.
He sighed and raised his voice. "Wake up you cads!"
Hermione moaned and shifted in Harry's arms. Her eyes opened drearily and as soon they focused on Ron standing with his arms crossed at the edge of the bed, they became wide.
"Harry. Harry get up!" She elbowed him in the chest as she shrugged out of his embrace.
He made a noise of protest and opened his eyes, clearly peeved at being woken up in such a distasteful manner. But when he realized they were not alone in the room, his expression soon turned meek as he attempted to avoid Ron's gaze.
"Good morning, sunshine." Ron said mockingly.
"Ron I can—ˮ Hermione started.
"Save it, Hermione." Ron interjected. He looked at the two of them accusingly and made a gesture in the rapidly growing space between their bodies. "I thought you two were finished with this."
Hermione bit her lip and shifted her attention to the bedspread gathered at her waist.
"Oh let it be, Ron." Harry said. "Hermione's been having some rough nights and I wanted to—ˮ
"To help, yeah." Ron finished. He had heard the story before. "But we're not at war anymore. If someone other than me walked in on the two of you like this, you'd be in some serious shit."
"I know," Harry said morosely. "But she… she needed me Ron. The circles under her eyes are huge, just look!"
Ron took a few steps forward and knelt by the side of the bed. He grasped Hermione's chin in-between his thumb and forefinger and tilted it left and right, paying special attention to her eyes. His brow furrowed as he looked over at Harry, who had scooted closer to Hermione as Ron began studying her face.
"What cir—? Ron they're right there, under her eyes."
Ron removed his hand from her skin and shook his head. "No, they're not."
"Yes, they are." He said adamantly. "Here, let me see."
He reached his hand over and tilted her head towards him. He let his eyes travel to the skin beneath her eyelids and felt his eyes narrow much as Ron's had. The dark circles had completely vanished. He let his thumbs trace the patches of skin lightly as her eyes fluttered shut. What had once looked like bruises were now a milky white shade that matched the rest of her skin perfectly.
"You're right." He whispered as he removed his hands. "They're gone."
"Gone?" Hermione asked, opening her eyes. "What do you mean gone?"
"It's like they've disappeared overnight." Harry said.
"But that's impossible." Hermione said, looking at Harry and Ron with wide eyes. "Dark circles don't just go away after one night of sleeping."
"Especially the bruises you had." Harry said.
Hermione gave him an annoyed look and he pressed his lips together, taking the hint to stop talking.
"Regardless," Ron spoke up, gaining both of their attentions. "You need to show your face at breakfast before Remus sends a search party to find you. We can worry about Hermione's disappearing sleep circles later."
"He's right." Hermione said. "We have more pressing matters at hand than my miraculous healing abilities. As far as I'm concerned, whatever happened to them was for the best and since I remain unharmed, I don't think it's anything to worry about."
"But don't you want to know how it happened?" Harry asked.
"Of course I do." She answered matter-of-factly. "But we have plenty of time to figure it out later. For now, let's get dressed and go downstairs before the rumor mill stirs something unflattering for your rapidly waning reputation."
She ended with a bite in her tone and Harry recoiled. But before he could muster a response, she threw the covers off of herself and went over to her wardrobe. Both boys took it as a sign to leave and Harry, albeit grumpily, got out of bed and followed Ron into the hallway. Hermione waited for them to shut the door behind them and as she heard the soft click that signified her solitude, she let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding.
She walked over to the floor-length mirror against a nearby wall and examined her eyes, still skeptical to believe what Harry and Ron said to be true. They were men, after all. Programmed to tell women whatever they wanted to hear in order to make them feel good. But, surprisingly, as she leaned in to carefully examine the place where her dark circles had been extremely present the night before, she saw that they were right. There was nothing there but pale strips of skin to match her natural complexion.
She pursed her lips. Something definitely happened over the course of the night to cause this. She repressed her natural urge to research it back and took a step away from the mirror. She needed to follow her own words – they had plenty of time to dwell upon this later. For now, there were more important things to attend to such as the ball that was fast approaching. So, with her head held high, she walked back over to her wardrobe and started fingering through her many gowns, randomly choosing one for the day. As she pulled the green material off of its hanger, she caught a glimpse of shining white fabric that had been previously hidden. She smiled as she looked upon the gown she was to wear at the ball. She had put it in her wardrobe so neither Harry or Ron wouldn't see it. She wanted to surprise them. Smiling softly to herself, she pulled a few more dresses over to the side to cover it up and shut the door.
Maybe this ball had some perks after all.
She walked into the grand dining room and saw that not many people were left at the long table. Not that she expected anything to the contrary – it was nearly noon.
"Hermione, where have you been?" Remus asked as she took a seat next to Harry and across from Ron.
"Oh, I just slept in a few extra hours is all." She said nonchalantly as she reached for the kippers.
"Hm." Remus said while looking at her oddly. "Did you share a sleeping draft with Harry? He was late to rise this morning as well."
"Was he?" She asked innocently before shrugging. "I suppose we must have."
She saw Ron roll his eyes and quickly reached her leg underneath the table to kick him lightly. He jumped when he felt her foot collide with his shin and glared at her. She gave him a pointed look and turned back to her meal.
"Well, as I'm sure you've noticed, we have a guest with us today who has been patiently awaiting a presence with the three of you."
Hermione looked over to Remus and saw Dumbledore seated at his right. Her eyes widened. "No, no I'm sorry I didn't. Good morning, sir."
"Good morning," He replied, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
Hermione held back a shiver. Albus Dumbledore always gave off the air that he knew more than others. There was no use keeping secrets from him. And because of this, there was a very high chance he saw right through her white lie a moment ago. Or she was just paranoid and he was simply reminiscing about something else entirely. Regardless, she kept a straight face and managed a small smile at the elder wizard.
"What did you want to discuss with us this morning, sir?" Harry asked, breaking the thin fog of tension that was looming over their heads.
"Oh just a few light subjects." Dumbledore said, waving his hand around as though he was swatting an invisible bee away from his face. "First, I am eager to know how the preparations for the ball are coming."
Harry and Hermione answered at the same moment and Hermione felt her face color as her answer was spoken in a more bitter tone. Harry ignored her and continued speaking. "The preparations are going very smoothly, sir."
"And the Fowl's?" Dumbledore inquired.
"As helpful and efficient as ever." He replied smoothly.
"Good." Dumbledore said as he leaned back in his seat and scratched his chin. He looked at Hermione and then to her right where Harry was sitting. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, feeling like he was staring right into her soul. But, to her great relief he said nothing and turned to Ron.
"My other inquiry is about your father, Mister Weasley. Do you know if he plans…?"
Hermione tuned out after his attention was drawn away from her. She couldn't help but feel incredibly vulnerable whenever Dumbledore was around. He was looking at her and Harry as if he knew that they slept in the same bed last night. It scared her half to death. If anyone other than Ron was to know about that, they could get the wrong idea and the news would spread like wildfire. But Dumbledore wouldn't do such a thing. He was a man of a certain stature and was well above the gossip mill. Even if that wasn't the case, he still may know more than Hermione was comfortable with and that bothered her.
She fiddled with the hem of her dress nervously, feeling her appetite waning. She stopped after a moment when a thought struck her: Perhaps Dumbledore, with his vast knowledge, may know something of how the dark circles under her eyes disappeared. Asking him would certainly save her countless hours in the library. She let herself focus back in on the conversation only to find him speaking in hushed tones with Remus. She sighed. She would have to ask later.
Finishing up her breakfast quickly, she excused herself from the table and began walking in the direction of the library. Dumbledore may have the answer she was looking for, but it still didn't hurt to do a little research before she approached him. She passed a few staff members on her way to the largest room in the castle and was relieved when they simply smiled and nodded at her. If anyone was the least bit suspicious of her and Harry sleeping in today she would know it. People in this castle were never subtle when they began to gossip. Thankfully, she saw no signs of it and felt a weight lift off of her shoulders.
With a newly determined state of mind, Hermione entered the library and began searching for any overnight healing spells. She first gathered a fair amount of books on the subject before retracing her steps to where she had been yesterday in the Potions section. Another plausible option of her miraculous recovery may have been that it was a side effect of the potion she had drank.
When she came to sit at her regular table, she had two stacks of books to go through. She blew a stray piece of hair out of her eyes and set off to work, knowing she had a full day of researching ahead of her. Looks like countless hours of researching weren't out of her sight just yet.
"I thought you said not to worry about it." An accusing voice sounded from the other side of her book pile.
She looked up and saw Harry watching her with a raised brow. She stared at him deliberately and pointed a finger at him. "I never said those exact words. I said we had more pressing matters to attend to."
"We do." Harry responded, nodding. "But if that's the case than why are you in here, hiding behind a tall pile of books?"
Hermione felt her cheeks color. "I have an unnatural thirst for knowledge?"
He pursed his lips and sat opposite her. "At least let me help you so your brain doesn't explode."
She shook her head. "I am perfectly capable of doing this on my own. Besides, don't you have preparations to oversee?"
He scrunched up his nose in disgust and Hermione giggled. "The Fowls have everything under control, I'm sure."
Hermione shrugged. "Perhaps. But the ball is two days away. Surely they need the prince's approval on the incoming floral arrangements or something."
He narrowed his eyes. "You're trying to get rid of me, aren't you?"
"Of course not," Hermione said, feigning insult. "Why would I ever do that?"
Harry snorted. "I have no idea."
Hermione shot him a winning smile and went back to flipping through the pages of "Healing Spells for Everyday Uses." Harry took her silence as an invitation to join and reached for the next book in the pile. But just as he pulled it down a voice sounded behind him that made him stop mid-movement.
"Harry! Oh there you are. Mother and I had been wondering where you'd wandered off to."
Hermione clenched her teeth at Clara's sickeningly sweet tone and let her eyes flicker over the top of her book. She was smiling widely at Harry and he was returning it wholeheartedly, making her stomach twist in uncomfortable knots.
"I was just helping Hermione with some research." He explained, gesturing to the vast amount of books gathered on the table.
"Oh," Clara said, looking at Hermione as if she just realized she was there. "I'm sorry to have interrupted."
"You didn't interrupt anything." Hermione said, keeping her annoyed demeanor in check as she looked back at Harry. "Harry was just about to leave."
"But I just started." Harry countered.
Hermione looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "I told you I could handle it by myself."
"But nothing." Hermione cut him off. "I'm sure Clara needs your approval on something for the upcoming ball, right Clara?"
The blonde witch looked slightly befuddled but nodded despite herself. "Yes, actually. A new shipment of place settings just arrived and we needed your opinion on some of the designs."
Hermione smiled softly. "Well there you have it. Go on, Harry, I'll be fine."
"I'll be fine." She repeated.
Harry held her gaze for a few moments and nodded. He let Clara lead him out of the library, her arm linked with his. Hermione watched the pair depart with frown. Why did she just push him away? He had been more than willing to stay with her in the library and help figure out what had happened last night. What made her reject him? What compelled her to shove him into Clara's awaiting arms?
She shook her head and tried to re-focus on the task at hand. She could worry about her bizarre mood swings later. For now, she wanted to get to the bottom of her mysterious disappearing circles and fatigue.
She wasn't tired! For the first time in days she didn't feel an ounce of fatigue weighing her down. It seemed that the dark circles weren't the only thing that disappeared. With newfound determination and energy, Hermione set herself to research mode, eager to find out how just one night of sleep could wash away a week's worth of sleepless nights.
Hours passed by in a flurry and soon, the candle she had fetched for her work station was burned down to a nub. She had read each book twice and hadn't found a single thing that gave her a hint of an answer. She looked over to the clock and saw that it was three in the morning – well past her normal bedtime. She hadn't stayed up this late since her final exams. Sighing, she knew that it was best to turn in before the sun came up. Carefully, she put each of the books back and carried the candle with her to the library's doors. As she exited her haven, she blew out the flame and placed the holster on a nearby table.
She traveled the dark hallways with a deep frown. It was incredibly frustrating to spend an entire day researching and not finding a scrap of information relevant to your predicament. What had happened last night was either a miracle or she had been reading all the wrong books. But what were the right books then, if not the ones about healing spells and potion aftereffects?
She came to the grand staircase and ascended it quietly, mindful to not cause any loud disturbances. When she came to the first fork where the hallway was split to the left and right wings she stopped. To the right was her bedchamber where her second sleeping drought and warm bed awaited her. She turned and faced the other direction, the path that led to the royal suits – where Harry's room was. She bit her lip. Last night had been such a peaceful reprieve from her usual nightmares, which had been growing worse and worse each night. If Harry hadn't been with her she was sure that she would have woken up half the castle by midnight.
But could she really ask this of him again? She couldn't rely on Harry to be her nightmare block forever. One day he would have another woman in his bed and she couldn't come crawling to him whenever she had a bad dream. She would have to suck it up and find another way to cope. And though she didn't like to admit it; that scared her more than anything. Not only because she would be completely susceptible to nightmares but she would never share a bed with Harry again. She would never have his hands wrapped around her, hugging her body to him as if she was the only thing in his world. Never wake up to his smiling face. Never…
She clenched her fists together and stopped herself. That may be in the future but the future wasn't now! She was going to soak in every moment she had left with Harry, even if she just unconsciously pushed him away a few hours ago. She wouldn't suffer night terrors unless absolutely necessary. So, with newfound determination, she pivoted on her heel and turned left, following the long hallway into the royal west wing.
Harry's room was two more flights in the tower directly opposite hers. The door was closed but not locked. She knew of the many safety charms that protected him at night but was one of the few people who could walk through them without getting fried. She pushed open the doors and felt a light tingling sensation wash over her body as she crossed the threshold. Making sure to shut the doors quietly behind her, she tiptoed past the lounge area and over to where Harry's large canopy rested in front of the window. All of the curtains were drawn back, letting moonlight wash over the room and give Hermione a few of Harry's sleeping form on the bed. She smiled at the serine scene and proceeded to pull off her dress and shoes, placing them in a nearby crevice.
As she approached, she could hear his steady breathing become louder, letting her know that he was already sound asleep. Being careful not to disturb him, she pulled back the covers and slipped in silently next to him. She let her head fall onto one of his fluffy pillows and felt exhaustion overwhelm her senses and drag her into unconsciousness.
Sometime during the night Harry's arm had found its way around Hermione's waist and when she woke up, she was pressed against his chest like the night before. She smiled and opened her eyes. The miniature clock on Harry's nightstand read nine in the morning but it felt like she had been asleep for days. She had made the right decision in coming here last night. Even if she may regret becoming so dependent on Harry in the future, it was moments like these that reminded her of what she was so reluctant to give up on.
As her eyes focused she saw a slight movement by the window. She furrowed her brow and looked closely to see that one of the castle's owls was perched outside on the balcony. It was staring right at her and she contemplated whether to let it in. Harry was still sound asleep beside her and she didn't have the heart to wake him up just yet.
The owl cocked its head to the side, silently questioning her. Owls were smart animals – especially ones that the castle has in their personal Owlery. Now that the creature saw she was awake, it wouldn't take long for it to become annoyed and peck at the glass.
She sighed and began to slide out of Harry's embrace. It was better to risk waking him up this way than have the owl's incessant pecking do the job. She managed to roll him over onto his back, his breathing still as heavy and relaxed as ever. Smiling to herself, she padded over to the window and opened it, inviting the owl inside. But instead of flying into the room, it simply stuck out its leg where it had been clutching a folded envelope. She took the letter and whispered thanks to the animal. It inclined its head in response and turned to fly away. She watched it retreat fondly, observing its vast wings propelling it further and further into the sky. She had always wished that she could fly but a childhood fear of heights had prevented her from using a broom or strong levitating charm on herself.
She closed the window when the owl became only a speck in the distance and flipped the envelope over. She saw that Harry's name was written with pristine handwriting in purple ink on its surface and frowned. Who would use purple ink? Surely no one of great importance as the bright color took away any formality that a letter may hold.
As she thought upon it for a moment she formed an idea of who it was from, though she couldn't be sure. An overwhelming urge to unfold it and check washed over her and she bit her lip. It wasn't right to go through Harry's things. Sure, she had done it plenty of times before, but that was during the war when privacy was the least of their worries. Now it was a completely different story. Even though it wasn't properly sealed and practically begged to be unfolded.
I would only look at it for a moment, she thought to herself. Just to make sure it's not jinxed.
Oh, who are you kidding? It's not jinxed. The voice of reason sounded in her mind.
It could be. She countered.
Of course it could be, but the chances of that being true are slim to none. You just want to see if Clara wrote it.
So what if I do? It's a perfectly reasonable inquiry.
It's Harry's business, not yours.
Harry's business is my business.
Not anymore it's not.
She clenched her teeth as the battle raged on in her mind. To leave it be would cause the least amount of harm. She would only remain deathly curious. But if she opened it she may not like what's inside. Or worse, Harry would somehow find out and she would never hear the end of how she went through his things without his permission.
She looked back just as Harry turned over to his side and clutched his pillow. His was still asleep. She looked at the letter and ground her teeth together. The pressure to open it was maddening even though the risks outweighed the benefits. But, as she had said before, she had an unnatural thirst for knowledge and it was pleading with her to open the letter.
"Oh, hell, she wrote with purple ink. It's begging to be opened." She muttered to herself just as she hastily unfolded the letter and began reading.
I can't express how delighted I am that you accepted my invitation to accompany me to the ball. I know that you had your doubts because it was last minute but I assure you that I won't be a terrible bore! Meet me in my chambers no later than seven so we can arrive together. I cannot wait for what is sure to be a truly magical night.
Hermione's stomach was an intricate series of knots by the time she finished. She looked over to where Harry was sleeping with a peaceful smile on his face. Sometime last night after she had pushed him away, he had agreed to go to the ball with Clara on his arm. She felt tears prickle behind her eyes as it sunk in.
It was all her fault. She had shoved him right into Clara's grasp and without knowing it, began releasing him from her own. It was the first step away from her that he needed to leave her behind. And for Clara. Clara, the Ravenclaw beauty that had so gracefully entered their lives when least needed. Clara, the flawless woman with no real faults but what Hermione chose to dub her with.
She pressed her lips together and walked the letter to his bedside table, carefully refolding it before setting it down. She looked down at Harry's sleeping form as she felt a single tear cascade down her cheek. She lent down and ran a gentle hand through his hair, placing a delicate kiss upon it as a goodbye of sorts. A farewell to their intimate closeness that she had always taken for granted until now.
Even if he and Clara didn't last, their blooming relationship was sure to cause a dent to mornings like this. Simply the fact that he accepted another woman's invitation to the ball was enough to tell Hermione that he could easily leave her. It was silly of her to think otherwise. He was never hers. Not even at night when he fought away her nightmares. Not even on rainy days when she thanked him for staying.
No, Harry Potter didn't belong to her. But she belonged to him.
She removed herself from his side and went to the crevice where she left her clothes. Silently, she pulled them back on and walked to his door to let herself out. But before she reached the lounge, she looked back at Harry one last time as she wiped her teary eyes.
"Goodbye, my prince."
A/N: Hello again! Thank you all for reading and reviewing this story even though my updating habits have been a bit screwey these past few weeks. If you're still with me on this, I applaud and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you enjoyed the chapter and I hope to be back on track with my writing soon!