“No, Hermione, for the hundredth time, I am absolutely not returning to school to take seventh year,” Ron, red faced and irate, stabbed a sausage off of her plate and glowered at her from across the worn wooden surface of the Weasley’s dining table.
“There are still three weeks of summer, Ronald,” Hermione pleaded, “I’m sure if you just asked Headmistress McGonagall, she’d be willing to-”
Harry, who was sitting next to Ron, sighed and laid down his Daily Prophet . “Look, we’ve been over this loads of times. There’s really no point in us returning to Hogwarts. We have learned so much more this past year than we ever will there. Plus, the Ministry is in shambles, Hermione. They need as many able wands as possible.” He cast her a pointed, guilt inducing look.
She chose to ignore it and press on. “That’s not true, Harry! There are absolute heaps we haven’t learned in practically every subject. Not to mention the N.E.W.T.S! This one over here,” she pointed her fork at Ron, “is severely lacking in Transfiguration. How can you go off into the world to hunt for…for Death Eaters without a proper education, for Merlin’s sake?” Hermione knew her voice had taken on that shrill quality they both teased her over, knew she cheeks were flushed a brilliant crimson and her eyes were wet with tears, but she couldn’t help herself. The Ministry needed properly trained wizards, and she needed her best mates to be there with her for their last true year at Hogwarts. How could they not understand that?
Ron rolled his eyes, oblivious to her anxiety, and still managed to look irritated with half a sausage in his mouth. “Well, when we capture a Death Eater and transfiguring a mouse into a teapot is the only way we’ll get answers from him, we’ll owl you, how about that?” He turned to Harry, a sudden brainwave having struck. “They’re so short staffed, I can’t imagine who’ll they’ll have teach Defense Against the Dark Arts this year. Snape’s portrait?”
While the two boys debated the positives and negatives of a portrait for a professor, “It could work - we did have a ghost professor,” or “he technically couldn’t enforce detention,” Hermione let the issue lie for now and left the table, breakfast untouched.
Out in the garden, summer was making its stalwart presence known. A sweltering heat wave had overcome the countryside at the beginning of August, bringing record breaking temperatures and rolling afternoon thunderstorms that did nothing but add to the intense humidity. Hermione looked upon Molly’s sagging, rain beaten tomato plants in sympathy from her shaded bench.
Left alone with her thoughts, bile began to rise in the back of her throat. Hermione swallowed and tried to refocus her attention to the rustling among the hydrangea bushes to her left, the tiny gnome feet peeking out. Anywhere, but to the growing concern deep in her heart.
It started out with a little niggling at the back of her mind. A stray thought here, a doubt there. She looked down at her somewhat bloated stomach, having before laughed it off as eating too much of Molly’s delicious home cooking. She was losing weight, not gaining, Hermione thought, absently rubbing her temples as another round of nausea struck her. Her monthly had come, not regularly, but a couple of times in the last months, with occasional cramps waking her up in the middle of the night. She would have noticed something sooner after it had happened.
The school year is approaching, and paranoia and loss of sleep are making me delusional , she had concluded last night as she refolded her Gryffindor scarf over and over in her hands until it was a tight rectangle, laying it neatly in her already packed trunk.
Hermione had much preferred to deny that night had ever occurred. To give it her thoughts was to make it real, she liked to think. And except for the occasional, every-other-day nightmare, she felt ignoring the incident at the Manor was the most logical thing to do.
The Dark Lord had been defeated, and the wizarding world, her world, was left in tatters. She was one among many survivors tasked with picking up the pieces Voldemort and his followers had left ruined in their wake. They had all had terrible things happen to them, she reasoned. There was no point in making them bear the burden of her ordeal. They had so much to think about as it was.
Three more weeks and the summer would be over. Three more weeks and life would begin to become normal again. No more horcrux hunting. No more sleepless nights in a dingy tent. No more cackles of laughter and slimy lips on her own…
No, no, no…. she clutched her hands tightly, rubbing them back and forth, back and forth. No, don’t think about that. It’s over and done. You’re safe here. Look at the hydrangeas, Hermione. You’re safe here. But as she forced her eyes upward, the shadows being cast from the eastern sun twisted and transformed, and a man crept slowly towards her, dogged and hungry.
Jus’ a little taste, huh? I bet I can touch ya there an’ you’ll be as slippery as an eel. Oh, ya like that, y a filthy Mudblood slu-
Hermione barely made it to the hydrangeas before she was violently ill. Yellow bile and a bit of last night’s steak and kidney pie coated the cones of pink flowers. The dry heaves that followed didn’t cover up the wails of indignation from the gnomes who ran for cover and cleanup into the surrounding bush.
“Hermio – oh no!” She heard Ginny’s voice call from the back door then grass muffled footsteps as she ran towards her. “Are you ok? Is it your stomach?” Ginny’s warm palm gently massaged her sweat soaked back and she nodded. “That pie last night didn’t settle well with me either.”
“Yeah, too much I suppose,” Hermione looked up from her kneeling position in the dirt at Ginny who was giving her an odd look, brows furrowed in concern.
“Hmm…yes. I was going to ask you if you’d like to accompany Mum and me to Diagon Ally for school supplies seeing as we’re all here. Looks like you could grab a tummy tonic from the Apothecary as well.”
Smiling gently, Ginny helped Hermione to get feet and brushed back a sweaty strand of curly brown hair from her forehead. “Are you sure you’re ok, Hermione?”
Hermione, hand at her mouth to wipe away the imagined spittle, couldn’t meet her friend’s eyes as she nodded an affirmation. “Um, yes, yes, just an upset stomach, I think.”
Even the dreadful summer swelter couldn’t eradicate the cheerful hum of energy all along Diagon Alley. In the nearly four months since the victory of the light, the previously barren, burned, or boarded up shops hastily reopened or made repairs, giving everyone a much needed sense of a return to normality.
Shops were brimming with customers and new products to entice them with, and despite the occasional blasted roof or boarded window that spoke for the troubles these last few years, the Alley burst with laughter and joviality.
Perhaps they want to remind themselves that they are still alive, Hermione pondered, navigating through the overcrowded path behind her two brightly haired companions. Witches and wizards have spent so much time living in fear and uncertainty, they need to know there are still some things that have survived the war.
A tawny owl being toted around in its cage by a lively 11 year old stared at her and hooted morosely. She understood how it felt. While she longed to feel the same joy and excitement the crowd emitted, Hermione felt a chill in her bones that wouldn’t warm and an anxiety that twisted her stomach into coils. The answers to her fears was going to be resolved shortly, and that in itself brought another round of dread.
Steeling herself against the sudden urge to run, Hermione quickened her pace to catch up with the Weasley women.
“The Apothecary is just up this alley; I can pop in then meet you both at Flourish and Blotts, yeah?” Both Molly and Ginny agreed it was best to divide and conquer their supply list as Hermione could purchase Ginny’s potion ingredients there as well. After an exchange of sickles, she quickly darted down the small side lane off the north end of the main alley, and walked into the small, unassuming shop.
The much cooler interior chilled Hermione’s sweat covered skin and made goose pimples rise on her arms. When her eyes finally adjusted to the dark, she looked around at the neat rows of shelves and barrels of ingredients lining the walls, each meticulously labeled and sealed so some of the more difficult items could not escape. The shop was quiet, and besides a pair of older witches measuring the length of bat wings and a stray student picking up his supplies before the rush, it was quite empty. Nabbing some empty vials and pouches near the entrance, Hermione quickly acquired the ingredients needed for seventh year Potions for Ginny and herself.
And now the difficult part, she thought and, bracing herself, made her way to the rear of the shop to speak with the Apothecary.
The back counter where the elderly woman usually waited on customers to pick up their potions was vacant. Hermione drummed her fingers lightly on the oak counter and looked around. She’d never spoken to the apothecary except to ask where a hard to find ingredient was every now and then. She hadn’t much need to purchase tummy tonics or pepper-up potions as she would either make them herself or ask Madame Pomfrey when she was in school. Hermione was rarely ill, in fact. However, this particular concoction was needed with some urgency. A week was too long to wait when she needed the answers today, and what would she tell her friends she was brewing if they were to ask?
Molly would certainly recognize a pregnancy detection potion, of all people.
Having picked up and put down a small plaque reading ‘Sworn by the Vow to Keep Your Private Matters Private’ a few times, Hermione looked up and there, staring at her with a small smile, sat the witch she’d been waiting for. Hermione jumped back, having not heard her at all, and almost dropped the plaque.
“What can I do you for, dear?” Inquired the witch, her dark green eyes twinkling in the low candlelight.
Nerves badly rattled as was, Hermione stammered to answer her after glancing around to see if they were indeed alone, “Um, yes, hello. If-if you could just, ahem, please tell me if you have a…” she paused and lowered her voice further,” a pr-pregnancy detection potion?” She rushed to say the last bit as a deep flush creep from her neck to her cheeks.
“Of course we do, love! Just one moment,” was the witch’s blithe response, and then quite unexpectedly leap from her stool to peruse the back shelves, moving with a speed that was surprising of a woman her age.
“Yes, let’s see here, hmm, no no, not this one. Right, here we are!” She placed a rectangular glass bottle of clear liquid on the countertop. “Freshly brewed by me last week, and quite accurate, if I do say so. Can’t keep ‘em in stock very long; flying off the shelf, they are!”
Hermione couldn’t help but grimace at the witch and her appalling amount of energy. She gripped the bottle, ready to stow it deep within her knapsack, but stopped and set it back down in hesitation.
“Could you…I mean to say…how, precisely, does it work?”
“Ah, it’s as easy as sneezing, love. You just gulp it down and wait an hour. When you make your waters, if it’s blue colored, you’ve got a little one in ya. If it’s normal colored, you’re free and clear. Now, make sure to drink plenty of water and remember once it’s uncorked, you’ve got to use it within a fortnight, or the stinging nettle will separate. I could ring you up here with all your other items, if you’d like.” Giving the little bottle one last reluctant glance, Hermione nodded.
Stepping back into the muggy alley, potion ingredients tucked under her arm and an empty rectangular glass vial carefully hidden in her bag, Hermione emitted a long sigh and turned left toward the bookstore.
“No, no, no, no…” Hermione whispered like a mantra as she hunched against the porcelain sink in her small sea themed bathroom. She had closed the lid on the toilet and flushed, not wishing to see the blue contents any longer, but it wouldn’t make the results disappear.
When she had returned home from Diagon Alley that evening, she had dropped her packages on the floor and rushed upstairs past her parents to the loo. It had been much more than an hour after ingesting the potion, and she had not relieved herself when she was with the Weasleys for fear it hadn’t been long enough.
Blue. Why did it have to be blue? I shouldn’t have waited so long. I should have done something, taken another potion sooner. Hermione Granger, brightest witch of her age, what’re you going to do? The water was blue…
An abrupt knock at the door interrupted her thoughts.
“Hermione,” her mother’s concerned voice carried through the door, “are you alright?”
She cleared her throat and willed her voice to remain calm, “I’m fine, mum. Just a bad reaction to dinner, I think. I’ll be down in a bit.”
“Alright, darling. If you like, there is some Imodium in the medicine cabinet. Take a capful with plenty of water.”
At the sound of her retreating footsteps, Hermione let out a bitter snort and ran her hands through her hair again. I don’t think drinking any more water will make this go away.
After picking herself off of the bathroom floor, and informing her parents that she was turning in for an early night, Hermione resolved herself to owl the only person who would understand, or at the very least should be aware of, her predicament.
Hello! Thanks for reading the first chapter to the sequel of Flowers of Flesh and Blood. Hermione and Draco are just at the beginning of this journey, for better or worse. This fic will probably for 20 to 25 chapters long so please be patient with me. I have the plot and chapters mapped out and the first few finished so I'll be posting every other week from now on.
Please please comment and review even if you have nothing nice to say. Feedback is the kindling to my creative fire.
If anyone out there in a void can spare an hour or two to beta some chapters and spitball minor details with me, I would be truly appreciative!
Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more chapters coming soon!