A/N: This started out as a oneshot that got rapidly out of hand. It's going to be three chapters and is just under 15 000 words. I once read a manga where there was a boy who was secretly a rosebush or something... It was forever ago, but that's kind of where this idea came from. Anyway, I hope you like it and don't forget to review!
Neville looked down at his findings, pursed his lips and then sighed. He sent a sympathetic look at the woman waiting and watching him expectantly, and then crossed and uncrossed his arms, trying to find a way to deliver the news. Eventually, he decided there was no mincing around the issue, and that he was just going to have to go for it.
"You're a plant." His declaration was met with silence, so he elaborated. "Obviously not on a physical level, but St. Mungo's sent you to me because on a cellular level, somehow you've been changed into a plant."
Hermione had been confused when her Healer, obviously baffled by her curse, had suggested she visit Neville, one of the country's leading Herbologists. Hermione had been expecting a herbal remedy, not this.
"Neville, what are you talking about?"
He shrugged helplessly. "Normally, I'd suspect something to do with George, but he's been away on business for two months and this has only been going on for two weeks, correct?"
An affirmative sound was her answer. Around two weeks ago, Hermione had woken up to discover that she could no longer eat. No food at all could pass her lips without making her vomit. Even more worrisome was the complete absence of hunger. She'd found that the only thing she could manage to consume was water.
Unconsciously, Hermione shifted herself in her chair so that she was more fully in the patch of sun that had been slowly moving across Neville's office while he spent a disconcerting amount of time staring at the piece of parchment with his findings. She'd found that what had started as a fondness for the sun two weeks ago had become something bordering on obsession for her. This made a whole lot more sense now that she knew she was a plant.
"What does this mean for me? Is there a way to change me back? Can I live as a plant, or will my condition eventually kill me?"
Neville's uncertain expression was not comforting in the least. "I can do some research, and I'm betting you're going to do some of your own," he gave her a wry smile, "But as far as I know, this hasn't happened to anyone before."
Greatly disappointed, Hermione nodded and stood to leave. Normally she would have stayed and visited with her friend, but she was just too downtrodden to bother being social when she had so much on her mind. Neville would understand.
"One more thing!" Neville called after her. "Your Healer sent along a saliva sample and I tested it. You have a number of similarities with deadly nightshade; you're highly poisonous!"
Hermione paused in her retreat. "Does that mean I should quarantine myself away from everyone?"
"Just don't do any kissing and the like."
Hermione curled on the park bench in a ball of misery. Normally if she was in such a despondent mood, she'd be at home on her sofa, buried under a mound of books with a nice cup of wine. Since she was apparently a plant, she couldn't seem to bring herself or waste the sunlight by hiding indoors, and she could no longer ingest anything but water, so the wine was definitely not happening.
She desperately cast her mind back to two weeks ago, right before her condition had started. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to be as thorough as she wanted because she was missing a day. It was just a huge blank spot in her memory. This wasn't the memory loss from the indulgence of too much alcohol, it was more like she'd gone to sleep on Thursday and woken up Saturday morning. There just wasn't anything at all in her mind from Friday, and no amount of memory enhancing potions or recollection spells had been able to reveal what she'd forgotten. She was beginning to suspect that she'd been Obliviated.
Of course, the Healers had come to the same conclusion but were hesitant to attempt something as delicate as returning her memories when they didn't know what else was wrong with her or what had caused her strange condition.
"As much as my vindictive side is pleased by your obvious misery, I have this annoyingly persistent voice that only makes an appearance for you, and it's urging me to ask what the hell is wrong with you before I start berating you."
Hermione had drifted into a near sleeping state in the warmth of the sun, but the venomous voice of her childhood nemesis violently ripped her from the happiest she'd been in two weeks.
"I don't have the energy to deal with you today, Malfoy," she said, barely sparing him a glance over her shoulder. He wasn't as well-groomed as she was used to seeing him; there were dark purple smudges below his eyes, his hair and clothes were in uncharacteristic disarray, and there was a red rash-looking spot on one of his cheeks.
For the briefest of moments, Malfoy actually looked a little hurt by her dismissal before his expression settled into borderline rage. Never had she seem him so angered in the past. "Fine," he spat, "You know where to find me when you deign to grace me with your presence."
He spun around and Apparated away, leaving Hermione completely baffled.
The sun was starting to sink towards the horizon and Hermione's energy levels were beginning to drop with the temperature. She decided it was best to get herself home before it got dark. In the two weeks she'd been dealing with her strange illness, she'd found that after the sun fell, the only thing she wanted to do was curl up and sleep until the sun returned.
She really didn't have the energy to spare to think about what in the world was going on with Malfoy.
The next morning, Hermione was soaking in a mineral bath - something Neville had sent a letter suggesting she try - while she flipped through her day planner, trying to fill some of the holes in her memories. Neville had been right about the warm mineral bath making her feel infinitely better, but it wasn't doing anything for returning her memory.
According to her planner, in the week leading up to the Friday she couldn't remember she'd had a date with a mystery man, dinner with her parents, and tea with Ginny. The fact that she couldn't remember the date with the mystery man but had a perfectly clear recollection of every other event leading up to Friday was immensely suspicious. Unfortunately, Hermione had no idea who this man could have been.
She was going to have to retrace her steps the best she could to try and piece together what had happened on that missing Friday. Hermione would have done it sooner, but she'd been spending all of her time at the hospital and meeting with specialists as they tried to figure out what was wrong with her. Now that she knew, she was going to have to find a solution to her problem on her own, as it was obviously beyond the skills of the medical experts if they didn't have an understanding of how it had happened.
With a sigh, Hermione threw her planner to the other side of the bathroom so it wouldn't be hit by any spare drips and heaved herself from the mineral bath. The first place she would have gone on the missing Friday was work, so that was where she would go first.
"Morning, Hermione!" Daphne chirped when Hermione entered the bookstore. Hermione had initially been a little hesitant about hiring the former Slytherin to work in her store, but it had turned out to be one of her better decisions. Daphne Greengrass, while a little bit of a diva, was also competent, efficient, and surprisingly knowledgeable about books. Daphne was the only reason Hermione was able to get away from the store from time to time. Before Daphne, she'd hovered over every detail and nearly worried herself into ulcers.
"Are you feeling any better?" Daphne asked sympathetically. She headed over to the coffee maker, grabbing the coffee pot before she remembered that Hermione couldn't ingest anything but water.
Hermione sighed. "I'm feeling a little better, but my condition hasn't improved. Right now I'm working on retracing my steps in hopes of finding an explanation."
"I have no problem watching over the store until you've sorted everything."
A weight lifted from Hermione's shoulders. She'd been worried that Daphne would have too much on her plate to be able to take over Hermione's duties in the store for a while. Hermione knew that Daphne had her hands full with her younger sister at the moment. While she didn't know the full story, Hermione knew enough about Daphne's home life to understand that Astoria didn't take well to disappointment and recently something had happened to make the girl dangerously despondent and in need of supervision most of the time.
"Thank you so much!" Hermione had to fight off the urge to give Daphne a tight hug. She knew that the former Slytherin wasn't big on physical contact and wouldn't appreciate the gesture.
Daphne waved off the thanks. "Don't worry about it."
"Is Astoria doing better?" Hermione enquired kindly.
Very briefly, Daphne's eyes narrowed at the mention of her sister and Hermione worried that it was a sensitive topic, but Daphne quickly recovered herself, making Hermione wonder if she'd even seen it in the first place. "Astoria's actually doing a little better. She perked up as soon as she found out that she may just get what she wanted after all."
Hermione smiled. "That's wonderful." She didn't remember what Astoria had been like in school since the girl had been a few years younger and had been in Slytherin, but Hermione pictured the girl as a smaller, less emotionally stable version of her older sister.
"It really is." Daphne smiled teasingly. "Don't you have to get started with your detective work, boss?"
Nodding absently, Hermione pulled out a piece of parchment she'd been using to jot down any ideas she'd had about what could have possibly happened to her. So far, her list was depressingly blank. "You wouldn't happen to know the identity of my date on Saturday three weeks ago, would you?"
Daphne's eyes squinted thoughtfully as she tapped a manicured finger against her lips. "You usually tell me about that kind of thing, but I can't recall you mentioning anything about a date."
That was about what Hermione had expected. She and Daphne usually gossiped about their personal lives while unpacking merchandise and the like, it was how Hermione knew all about the other woman.
Born a Pureblood with all the advantages that entailed, Daphne had intended to be a lovely wife on the arm of some rich Pureblood. With the war, she'd decided that she wanted to be more than a pretty accessory to be admired, and so she had informed her parents that she was going to get a job after school instead of getting married. Surprisingly, her parents had been okay with this, having already arranged the marriage of her younger sister and ensured Pureblooded heirs for the Greengrass family.
Hermione remembered Daphne's entire history, but she couldn't recall a thing about ever mentioning her mystery date to the other woman. Maybe Hermione had known that her date wasn't someone particularly safe and hadn't wanted her friend to worry?
"Be careful, Hermione," Daphne said worriedly.
"I'm always careful."
Hermione's date had been on Saturday, and then the very next day, she'd gone to her parent's house for dinner. She was hoping that she'd mentioned something to her parents about the identity of her date and had just forgotten about it. Even if she hadn't said something directly, it was possible that she'd dropped at least a hint.
"Hermione!" her father greeted her enthusiastically as soon as she knocked on the door. "It's been weeks since we've heard from you; your mother was starting to get worried."
Smiling, Hermione hugged her dad back as he squeezed her. She didn't get the same comfort from his hugs as she used to, Hermione could only assume that this was because she was no longer a mammal and so didn't have the same need for touch.
"I've been a little preoccupied lately," she said once he'd released her.
They wandered into the house and each took seats at the kitchen table. "I didn't tell you and mum sooner because I didn't want to worry you. I've been having health issues for a few weeks and the Healers weren't able to figure out what was wrong with me."
Concerned, her dad's eyes started darting over her, looking for obvious signs of ill health.
"As far as anyone can tell, it's not life-threatening," Hermione assured him quickly, "But it's definitely something that's disrupted my life pretty severely."
"What is it?"
Her nose wrinkled as she tried to think of a way to phrase her diagnosis that wouldn't make her sound inane. Unfortunately, there wasn't one. Her dad was just going to have to accept what she said as possible, just as he'd been doing since she started her education at Hogwarts.
"It seems that I've been turned into a plant."
"Hermione, if you're sick, you shouldn't joke about it."
"I know it's strange, dad, but it's the truth. I still look like myself, but I'm a plant on a cellular level." She paused, giving that a moment to sink in before continuing. "I also seem to be poisonous."
Mr. Granger took his glasses off and rubbed his hand over his wrinkled face and then through his hair like he did when he was under stress.
"How did this happen, and why can't they fix you with magic?"
The first question was easy, but the second one was harder. Her dad had asked her the same question when his sister had been suffering with a heart condition. Hermione had looked into it, consulting multiple Healers and books, but there just wasn't anything magic could do for someone who was that broken. Her dad hadn't spoken to her for days after her aunt's death, needing someone to blame for the loss of his sister. Hermione had understood, but that didn't mean it hadn't hurt her.
"The Healers have no idea how this could have happened, my condition is actually something that no one's ever heard of before. For that reason, the Healers have no idea how to fix me. First I have to find out how this happened."
He nodded, the pained look in his eyes showing that he was also remembering the loss of his sister and the resulting period of tension between him and his daughter. "If there's anything I can do, let me know."
"Actually, there is something you could do. I had a date on Saturday and can't remember who it was. Do you know?"
Mr. Granger pursed his lips and tilted his head in an expression of deep thought that his daughter had inherited. "You have no recollection whatsoever of the entire date?"
"None at all." She refrained from mentioning that she couldn't remember the Friday after her date at all, not wanting to worry her father further.
"Sorry, I can't recall you telling your mother and me that you had a date."
Hermione nodded her thanks, a little disappointed that she was still without clues.
They chatted for a while longer, moving on to lighter topics while they waited for her mum to return from the store. After a whole hour, Hermione was starting to get antsy being out of the sun for so long and was forced to make her excuses and leave.
She spun on the spot, transporting herself back to the park she'd been in the previous day, headed towards the sunny bench that she was starting to think of as hers. Unfortunately, the bench was already occupied by a familiar blond man.
Hermione's approach froze and she was on the verge of turning around and Apparating somewhere else when he happened to look up from his book and catch sight of her. His eyes darkened with anger. "Granger, come here." He pointed to the space beside him on the bench.
There was a moment's pause as she debated whether she should obey his command or not. Something told her that if she didn't at least hear what he had to say, then he was going to relentlessly harass her until he had said his piece.
Very reluctantly, Hermione trudged over and took the seat he had indicated. Despite the presence of Malfoy, her mood immediately lifted in the bright sunlight shining directly at the bench.
Malfoy looked at her expectantly, seemingly waiting for her to say something. She had no idea what it was that he was expecting, so Hermione just stared blankly back at him.
When the silence started getting to her, she blurted the first thing that came to mind. "I thought you were waiting for me to find you."
Apparently that had been the wrong thing to say, since his eyes only darkened further. "My mistake before was assuming that you were Gryffindor enough to come and face me, but I've since realized that you're more childish than I ever thought you could be. Now I'm being the bigger person about this."
Besides a distant and vague memory of Malfoy having come in to her bookstore the previous year for some reason or other, Hermione couldn't recall having any interaction with the man since she'd sat in on his trial.
"Malfoy, I have no idea what you're talking about," she said slowly, enunciating clearly as if he wasn't quite right in the head.
His cheeks reddened and Hermione started to worry that his head might explode if he got any angrier, but then he took a second look at her face. "You really don't have any idea what I'm talking about, do you?"
She shook her head. "The last time I remember talking to you was last year sometime when you came into my shop to buy a book. Is there more I should remember?"
Hermione wasn't stupid, she knew it was possible that Malfoy was part of the problem with her mind and body. However, something about his strong emotional reactions led her to believe otherwise. From what she'd learned about him at school, Malfoy was all about control; he'd rather hiss an insult and then take someone down subtly through other means, rather than lose his temper like he had only moments ago.
She watched, somewhere between fascinated and horrified as the colour drained from Malfoy's face, leaving no trace of his earlier flush. His eyes ran over her looking for injuries, much like her father's had earlier in the day. That more than anything, spoke volumes about his sincerity.
"What's wrong with you?" Draco demanded. His hands clenched and unclenched as he fought off the desire to reach out to her.
Hermione had been examining him just as intently as he had her. "I seem to be missing chunks of my memory, primarily a date three weeks ago and all of the following Friday." She refrained from telling him about being a plant, not sure how much she wanted to reveal. While she believed Malfoy to be genuine in his reactions, she didn't necessarily trust him.
"So you have no idea who it was that you dated that Saturday?" His voice shook slightly with something, but Hermione was having trouble pinpointing what emotion it was exactly.
"None, but I have a feeling that you're going to enlighten me."
This time he gave in to the urge to touch her. Hermione flinched slightly when the blond gently laid a hand on her arm, turning to face her more fully. Unlike before when the hurt he showed had only been a flash, the ache that shone in his eyes was deep and strong. Hermione felt bad for her flinch, but when working with the limited information she had, it had been an involuntary – and understandable - action.
"Hermione, we're dating – or we were before you forgot about it." He watched her for a reaction, and continued when she didn't immediately dismiss his claim. "I thought you were avoiding me because we had a fight on that date you mentioned. You really don't remember anything?"
"I remember everything, just not you."
Hermione, starting to feel bad for continuing to hurt this strange, oddly sensitive Malfoy, had been expecting him to be hurt once again, but instead fury started edging into his eyes. "Someone took all of your memories of me?"
"Then you only have my word that I'm telling the truth." He said this more to himself than Hermione, seeming to already be deep in thought.
While he did this, Hermione glanced worriedly at the sun. It was already getting low in the sky and she could feel herself starting to wilt from tiredness. Whatever conclusions Malfoy was going to reach, he'd have to reach them soon or else she'd be forced to leave him ruminating on her bench.
"You need to go home," he finally said. "Strengthen your wards with the best spells you know, stay home, and only let people in once they've answered a question proving their identity. I'll be around tomorrow afternoon with Veritaserum to prove that what I'm telling you is the truth."
Hermione bristled at being ordered around, but chose to instead focus on sating her curiosity. "What do you know that I don't? Why should I act like there are Voldemort sympathisers out to get me?"
Malfoy put his hands on both of her shoulders, making sure she could see the urgency in his eyes. "I'll explain everything I know tomorrow. We're going to get to the bottom of this."
Since she'd been planning on going home anyway and Malfoy's intensity was starting to make her slightly uncomfortable, Hermione nodded her head.
The next morning, Hermione had a nice, long mineral bath since they seemed to energise her. After she had dressed and drank a large glass of water enriched with a plant food packet that Neville had suggested she try, she searched her entire apartment and even her office in the store for any hint that she had in fact been in a relationship with Malfoy - or anyone for that matter. Of course, she'd already done this as soon as she'd known there was a mystery man, but she hadn't been looking for hints about Malfoy specifically then. There was nothing.
She briefly contemplated doing as Malfoy had suggested and staying in her apartment above her bookstore until he came to see her, but she quickly dismissed that idea. Despite being a plant, there was nothing wrong with her magic, and she was perfectly capable of defending herself. Besides, she still had to pay Ginny a visit. There was a chance that Malfoy had been lying about dating her and it was possible that Ginny could disprove him.
Still on maternity leave from the Harpies after the birth of James, Ginny was usually home in the middle of the day, so Hermione went to visit her right after breakfast time. Malfoy had said he'd be at her apartment in the afternoon, so as long as Hermione didn't linger at Harry and Ginny's house, she should be back with ample time to prepare for Malfoy's visit.
When Ginny opened her door, she looked frazzled and had a screaming James in a sling across her front.
"Hermione!" Her exclamation was more one of desperation than happiness at seeing her friend. "Would you mind taking James for a minute? I've had to go to the loo for the last hour, but I can't get him to stop crying."
Since her friend looked on the verge of bursting into tears and Hermione never turned down a chance to hold James, she was happy to help Ginny. She accepted the baby and shut the front door behind her while Ginny rushed off in search of the bathroom.
"Your mommy needs a vacation," Hermione cooed to the red-faced, screaming baby.
Hermione had managed to get James to stop crying by the time Ginny returned from the loo. While he had stopped crying, James wasn't as cuddly with Hermione as he normally was. She could only assume that he sensed she was a plant instead of a person and had reacted accordingly.
"You're a lifesaver, Hermione. How'd you know I desperately needed a visitor?" Ginny asked, accepting James back from Hermione. Despite her seemingly normal interactions, Hermione sensed an underlying tension in her friend. It was as if Ginny expected Hermione to lash out at her at any moment.
"Honestly, this isn't a purely social visit; I've come with an agenda." Hermione watched her friend closely, noting that Ginny tensed further. "I have this gap in my memories and am trying to fill it in. My planner said I went on a date a few Saturdays ago, and I was wondering if you had any idea who it was with."
Ginny seemed to relax and then started to look worried as Hermione's words sunk in. "You have gaps in your memories?"
Leaving out the plant stuff, Hermione explained to her friend about the gap in her memory and about the missing Friday. Ginny looked increasingly worried as Hermione's story went on.
"It sounds like someone's tampered with your memories," Ginny said when Hermione finished.
"That's why I need to know who I was seeing on that date. I'm hoping he'll have some answers for me."
Ginny looked contemplatively at Hermione and then her expression abruptly switched to sympathy. "I'm sorry, Hermione, but if there was someone you were seeing, you never mentioned it to me."
Immensely disappointed, Hermione cited an afternoon visitor and left Ginny's house feeling disappointed – not because Ginny hadn't had the information she'd wanted, but because Ginny had been lying.