Hermione had her wand raised and she kept chanting the incantation in her mind, but she couldn't bring herself to say it aloud. Something deep in her gut was holding her back. Her arm was shaking and she could feel a line of sweat running down her forehead and into her eyes. She blinked quickly. She needed to maintain eye contact, even though she hated it.
She stared back into her mum's eyes, the exact shade of brown as hers, but right now, they looked dead. Like fish eyes. Hermione's stomach turned and bile rushed into her mouth.
"No!" declared someone on her right. The next moment, Ron was dragging her to the edge of the room. She tried to dig her heels in but he just pulled harder. She would have used a spell to push him off her but she needed to conserve her magic.
Hermione glanced over her shoulder at her parents. The Calming Draught she'd slipped them a few hours ago was still working. They were both sitting on the couch staring blankly at the television, which was currently turned off. Perhaps Hermione had made the potion too strong. She forgot Muggles couldn't metabolize potions as quickly as wizards. Was that why none of her spells were working?
"You need to stop this," Ron said once they were in the hall.
Hermione's mind was racing. She was trying to remember if she'd ever read anything about Calming Draughts reducing the effectiveness of Memory Charms. They both affected the mind, so it was possible for them to counteract each other. Well, there was a simple solution. She had an antidote in her bag. She'd only given them the Draught an hour ago, so it was the recent spells she'd need to repeat.
"Hermione!" Ron's voice snapped her out of her thoughts.
"I know your opinion on this," she sighed. "You've made it clear, but I haven't expended all my options. If I don't try everything, I'll forever wonder if there was more I could have done."
"Hermione, the spells are getting increasingly more unstable. I can see it in the way they're affecting you. And that last one ricocheted around the room. What if it had hit one of us? Do you even care at this point?"
"If you're so worried, put up a Shield Charm. Or better yet, stay out of the room."
Hermione turned back toward the front room but Ron caught her, placing both hands firmly on her shoulders. "Listen to me. Please, please, stop. I'm not asking for my benefit but for yours. At least rest or take a break."
She tore out of his grasp. "I can't! You know how this works. I have until the end of today if I have any chance of reversing it, since this marks one year after I cast the original spell. This is my family, Ron," she pleaded. "My only family. You have to understand."
"Do you even know what you're doing, Hermione? Be honest. Because I think you exhausted the spells you were comfortable with an hour ago and have moved on to the experimental stuff now."
He grabbed her elbows, keeping his grip gentle and nonthreatening. "I'm worried you're going to hurt yourself," he whispered. "I think you're worried too. I can see the fear in your eyes when you go to cast each new spell."
Hermione dropped her head, unable to look at the raw desperation and fear in his blue eyes any longer. "Please, Ron. One more. I want to give them an antidote for the Calming Draught then try that last spell one more time."
"Hermione, you lost control of-"
"I know," she cut in. "It came out with a lot more force than I was expecting. But I have a feel for it now. If this doesn't work, I'll stop."
Hermione gulped and forced out, "Yes."
The walk back to the front room seemed to take ages. With each step Hermione thought of a new moment her parents would miss if she didn't get this right. Her graduation from Hogwarts. Step. Her wedding. Step. Who would walk her down the aisle? Step. Grandkids. Step. What would she tell her kids? That their grandparents had died? Step.
She was standing in front of her mum and dad again. They'd barely registered her reappearance in the room. She took a long, shaky breath and turned to her bag. She began searching for the antidote but her hands felt heavy and uncoordinated.
Focus! You need to focus!
Her hand closed around a bottle and she fumbled as she picked it up, nearly dropping it. Ron was there now. He caught the bottle with one hand and grabbed her hand tightly with the other. He told her to breathe and to try her best to calm down as he unstoppered the bottle.
"Let's try this on one of your parents first," he said. "Which one?"
"My mum," Hermione said quickly, trying not to overthink the decision. Ron sat on the sofa next to her mum and tilted half the bottle of antidote into her mouth. As Hermione's mum began to come out of her trance, Ron muttered a steady stream of reassurances.
"You're okay. You're safe. Don't be alarmed. This is Hermione and she's going to help you remember."
The woman who thought her name was Monica Wilkins shook her head slowly. "Did I forget?" she asked, confused.
"It's a long story," Ron replied in a low, comforting voice. "But Hermione's nice. I promise. Just sit here with me." He nodded toward Hermione and raised his eyebrows. His message was clear: she needed to do this now, before her mum came completely out of her fog.
Hermione lifted her wand again and her mum's eyes flashed with fear. Hermione's stomach turned and she nearly threw up this time. She was back in her childhood home, the day she'd made this mess. Her mum had been looking at her just like this.
Hermione's wand arm was shaking and she worked hard to steady it. The words from the text where she'd found the spell she was about to cast were echoing in her mind.
Experimental...never tested...sound theory...should reverse the effects of-
"Stop!" a voice shouted in her mind. "Focus and breathe. You promised Ron one more spell, so this is your last shot."
Ron was nodding encouragingly at her while he held her mum's hand. Her mum's eyes were darting nervously around the room. Hermione was running out of time.
She summoned all the magic she could find and focused it at her mum as she spoke the incantation. Her mum yelled out in fear and Hermione faltered at the end. The spell veered off and Hermione noticed with alarm that the jet of light was silver, not gold like it was supposed to be.
The magic collided with something on the side of the room and bounced back, hitting Hermione in the side. Suddenly, she was floating. Everything was moving slowly and the sound in the room had disappeared. She could see Ron shouting her name but couldn't hear his voice. The only sound was the rapid beating of her heart.
There was a thud, then pain - starting at her head and quickly moving to the rest of her body - she was screaming, her throat was raw from it, but she couldn't hear the sound, not even in her mind. She felt hands on her, Ron, it must be Ron. Before she could make sense of anything else, she lost consciousness.
When Hermione woke up, her first thought was, My parents!
She jumped out of the bed. "Ron! Ron!" She looked around frantically but she was alone in the room. That's when she noticed that she wasn't in the hotel room Ron and her had been staying in, in Australia. It was familiar, this room, but it took her several moments to place it. Grimmauld Place.
This was the room she and Ginny used to stay in. But it was different now. The single beds had been replaced by one large bed in the center of the room. There was a desk on the wall near the window - which Hermione noticed had also been updated. The whole room was updated. The fading wallpaper had been replaced by fresh paint and there was clean white molding now. Who had updated this? And when?
She shook her head. Now was not the time to be wondering about home renovations. She needed to find Ron and-
Hermione stopped when she spotted a letter on the bedside table. She approached it carefully. Her name was written on the outside in her own handwriting. She tore it open. As she scanned its contents, her eyes filled with tears. She grabbed her wand, which was on the bedside table next to where the letter had been and cast a spell to check the date: August 1, 2000.
"No," she whispered. She cast the spell two more times, but the date came back the same.
Her knees buckled and she managed to lower herself onto the bed before she fainted. She took deep breaths as she clutched the letter tightly in her hand. She looked back at the lines written in her handwriting but all the words were blurry. She squeezed her eyes shut, tried her best to clear her mind, then started reading it again, slowly this time.
In June 1998, when you went to restore your parents' memories, there was an accident. Your parents are fine, but their memories were never restored. Try not to worry about them. They are happy and safe and that's better than a number of other scenarios that could have played out.
In the accident, your mind was damaged and ever since, you haven't been able to create memories that last longer than a day. Every night when you sleep, your memory resets.
Breathe, Hermione. Inhale...exhale. Inhale...exhale. Don't panic. It's not as bad as it sounds. You have systems in place to make this more manageable.
At first, you tried writing everything down and would study it the next day, determined to remember everything. After several months, it was too much. You'd spend hours each day studying a past you couldn't remember instead of just living your life. The system now sounds a little complicated, but it works.
You still take time to study the countless notes you've taken on the time you lost, but not every day anymore. You do that once a month now. It takes a long time and is always a painful process. You read the histories you've written for all your friends - filling in the gaps from June 1998 to the present, you review everything that happened over the past month, you edit this letter as needed, and you edit the summaries you've written on your friends (you can find those on the desk).
Then at the beginning of every month, you start fresh. As mentioned, there are notes of all the important people in your life. Read those every day. At the end of each day, update any summaries that changed (e.g., new job, girlfriend, etc.) and write down anything notable that happened that you want to remember. Also, make notes for yourself for the next day. There's a calendar where you can keep track of plans, things you'd like to work on, or a conversation you'd like to follow up on.
I know this is a lot. But you can do this, Hermione. I know it's scary to march into each day without a plan, with no idea what you're walking into, but remember, you're not alone. Breathe one more time, read the summaries, and enjoy your day as best you can - if it's bad, oh well, there's always tomorrow.
By the end of the letter, Hermione's heart was in her throat and her eyes were filled with tears again. She pulled at her shirt, at the spot just over the ache in her chest. Was it like this every morning? How did she bear this?
She placed the letter back on the table and took several breaths, as instructed. Then she carefully crossed the room and took a seat at the desk. There was a large calendar on top of the desk for the month of August 2000. In the middle of the calendar was a stack of parchment with the word "Summaries" scribbled across the top page.
Hermione scooted her chair in and bent over the pages. She flipped through the pile and saw there was a page for each of her friends, starting with Luna and ending with Harry, and a final page for her parents. She read that one first.
The Grangers (The Wilkins)
Martha and Paul Granger live in Brisbane, Australia. They still think their names are Wendell and Monica Wilkins and that they never had a daughter. Despite this, they'd made a nice happy life for themselves.
They are both dentists with a shared practice and are currently planning for retirement. They recently purchased a small cottage on the beach which they rent out as a vacation property. Martha enjoys decorating the home and acting as a hostess to their guests. She invites them to tea as soon as they arrive and enjoys hearing about their hometowns. She's making a mental list of all the places she'd like to visit with Paul one day.
Paul and Martha live in a small house five minutes inland from the beach cottage. Every evening they walk along the beach. They've become regular patrons of a number of nearby restaurants, are active members of their community, and once they retire, have plans to travel the world together.
Hermione placed the parchment down and sighed. Her parents were happy. They didn't remember her, but they got everything else they wanted out of life. Living on the beach (which had always been a dream of her dad's), planning to travel the world (her mum's dream). Were they sad they never had children? Did any part of them ache for her?
Hermione flipped back to the beginning of the notes and began to read about her friends. The summaries didn't fill in all the gaps, for example, Ron's summary said they weren't dating anymore, but not why. But she had enough information about her friends to understand the general state of affairs.
She lived in Grimmauld Place with Harry. Harry worked as an Auror, as did Ron. Luna was a magizoologist and had recently started dating Newt Scamander's grandson, Rolf. Ginny played Quidditch professionally and was currently dating a teammate. Neville was doing a Herbology apprenticeship at Hogwarts. Teddy stayed over at Grimmauld Place two nights a week.
Hermione conjured a glass of water and sipped on it as she read the summaries a second time. She was hoping for some sense of familiarity or déjà-vu. In theory, she'd read these pages hundreds of times, but everything felt new. She tried to shake the disappointment that had begun to settle in her gut.
When Hermione was finished, she stacked the pages back into a pile, straightened them, and moved them to the edge of the desk. Now, it was time to study the calendar. The only problem was, it was blank. She tapped the page with her wand to try to reveal hidden spells, but there was nothing there. Was that normal? The letter made it seem like there should be some information for her here.
She leaned over and studied the large piece of paper further, then noticed a line scribbled across the top. It was also in her handwriting, but the scrawl was a lot messier than normal. New challenge for August 2000 - take things one day at a time.
Hermione frowned and pushed back from her desk. Was this a joke? Didn't she always take things one day at a time? Wasn't that her curse?
She rose to her feet and walked into the hall, but stopped, unsure where she was going. That's when she saw something scribbled on the wall in gold letters. These words were in Harry's handwriting. Your Bathroom, with an arrow pointing to the left.
Hermione's heart jolted. Harry.
The words from the letter came to her mind: Remember, you're not alone.
She suddenly had a burning desire to see Harry. She looked around the hall. Where would he be staying? Sirius's old bedroom? Or maybe he'd taken the Master bedroom. Before she could investigate, she heard movement downstairs. That would be him.
Hermione ran down the stairs but stopped in the hall, just short of the kitchen. Was she ready for this? She patted her hair. She probably looked a mess, but who cared? This was Harry, he'd seen her looking worse. Should she read his summary again? She tried to recall what she'd read.
You've been living at Grimmauld Place with Harry for a year and a half...he works in the Auror Office...he insists on teaching you how to fly, despite your constant protestations...he blames himself for not being there to prevent your accident (classic Harry).
Hermione smiled to herself and took a breath. This was Harry. She knew him almost better than she knew herself. She doubted two years had changed much. She took two steps forward but stopped again in the doorway. Harry was there, staring into the open refrigerator.
The kitchen, like the rest of the house, had been updated. She wondered how long it had taken Harry to renovate it. Had she helped? She hoped she had, since she doubted she was paying for rent. It's not like she could hold down a job with her condition. Damn, that was a depressing thought.
Harry was completely still and she got the sense he'd been standing there for a long time. She cleared her throat and said tentatively, "Hi."
Harry jumped and turned, closing the door of the refrigerator behind him. She took in his altered appearance as he slowly crossed the room. The most notable difference was that he had facial hair. She'd describe it as closer to long stubble than a short beard, reminiscent of that time in the tent when he hadn't had a chance to shave as often, but tidier.
His hair was different too. It was shorter on the sides and the top looked just as long as she remembered, but was styled up and out of his face. He didn't seem desperate to hide his scar anymore. Was that a good thing? Had he managed to find peace with the horrors he'd suffered in the war? She desperately hoped so.
Harry had stopped just a few feet away from her and was looking at her strangely. As she looked in his eyes she noticed he had new glasses too. Good. That purchase had been long overdue.
Before she could question her actions, she lifted her hand and ran it along the stubble on his jaw. She moved her fingers up to his scar, which was a faint pink now instead of the angry red from the last memory she had of him. Then Hermione pushed a few strands of hair that had fallen onto his forehead back in place. The whole time, Harry continued to stare at her.
She pulled her hand back. "Sorry," she muttered, suddenly embarrassed.
This must be weird for him. He'd seen her just yesterday. Did she do this every morning? She couldn't help herself. The emptiness that had begun to grow in her chest this morning had finally started to shrink back to a manageable size now that she was with Harry. Even though he looked a little different, this was still, undeniably, Harry, her best friend.
He was still staring at her intently. She thought he was trying to tell her something with his eyes, but she didn't understand. After a few more moments of silence, she altered her original assessment. He wasn't trying to tell her something, he was trying to read something off of her face. But she didn't have the answer like she usually did. He had to know that, right?
"I - uh - I don't remember anything," she stumbled through her words. "I don't know, um, is there something I'm supposed to be doing? Something I missed?" What are you looking for from me, Harry? she added in her mind, but didn't say aloud.
Harry's gaze softened. "You write yourself notes each day. What you want to do that day, plans you've made, books you want to keep reading. Sometimes...things you want to say…" Harry placed a hand on her arm. "Did you miss those this morning?" he added gently.
Hermione shook her head slowly. "Um. Are you talking about the calendar? It was, uh, blank."
Harry frowned and dropped his hand.
"I thought that odd," she added in a rush, "and I guess you're confirming it. There was one note - something about a personal challenge to take things one day at a time for the next month."
"One day at a time?"
Harry laughed darkly and dipped his head down. He took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I don't know the joke," Hermione said slowly. She was reaching around in her mind for something, anything to explain Harry's odd behavior, but it was blank. What was he looking for from her? What had she done?
"I don't see how living one day at a time is a personal challenge," he said bitterly, putting his glasses back on. "You've been living that way with me for a while now."
"Was there some sort of...catalyst?" she asked.
Harry exhaled softly. "Yeah. It happened on January 13th of this year. Check your notes."
"Oh." Hermione looked down at the floor, embarrassed again. He'd thought she was asking why she lived one day at a time with him. That was something she'd have to look into. What notes was he talking about? The ones she was only supposed to review once a month?
"I meant a catalyst for the challenge; the reason my calendar is blank," she clarified.
Harry pursed his lip and his jaw tightened. It was how he looked when he was trying to control his temper. "I don't know, Hermione." He placed a hand on her shoulder and sighed heavily. "I have to go to work. I -" he paused to sigh again. "Have a good day."
Harry brushed past her. She listened to him stomp down the hall and open the front door. Hermione jumped at the sound of the door slamming and wrapped her arms around herself as she tried to keep from bursting into tears.
Hermione stayed in the hall for several moments. She kept seeing Harry's face, twisted in anguish, which she was pretty sure she'd caused, though she had no idea how. This was the first time she could recall not knowing what was wrong with Harry. Even the times she couldn't help him, she'd always known what was going on. This - this was so awful - not knowing where to start to help one of her closest friends. How did she live like this?
Hermione decided to take a very long bath, since that had always made her feel better, but once she was clean and dressed, she felt just as bad as she had before. She sighed and started to explore the house, gripping her wand tightly as she walked around - to guard against what, she had no idea, but it made her feel better. Besides Harry, her wand was the only thing that had felt familiar today.
Hermione decided to explore the house from the top down. She peered into the attic first. It was still unfinished and empty, with the exception of Harry and Hermione's old school trunks, an empty owl cage, and a few boxes. She was tempted to go through her trunk, since it would be nice to see familiar objects that brought up memories from times she could still recall, but she decided to leave it for later. She felt clean after her bath and the attic was dark and dusty.
The fourth floor, which contained Sirius and Regulus's old bedrooms, was almost exactly how Hermione remembered it. Harry wasn't staying in any of these bedrooms and hadn't renovated anything on this floor. Hermione wondered if he'd left it alone out of lack of necessity for the space, or in reverence to Sirius. Likely, a little bit of both.
She continued down to the third floor, which was where her bedroom was. The entire floor had been renovated and the other two bedrooms that used to be on the opposite end of the hall had been combined into one large room that looked like a library. There was a comfy-looking beige sofa in the middle of the room, two plush green chairs next to it, and two of the walls were lined with bookshelves. Hermione almost stopped to investigate but kept going. She'd come back later, figuring once she sat down next to all those books, she'd never leave.
Hermione went down to the second floor, which had also been renovated. This was where the master bedroom was and she could tell Harry slept in there. The bed in his room looked identical to the one in her room but unlike hers, was unmade. Hermione was about to walk inside to investigate further but decided against it as she recalled the cold expression in Harry's eyes from this morning. She shouldn't invade his privacy.
The other bedroom on the floor, where Harry and Ron used to sleep, had been converted into a kids' room with dragons painted on the walls. This must be where Teddy slept when he stayed over. She spotted a photo on the bedside table and crouched down to look at it. Her heart jumped when she saw herself in the picture.
She and Harry were in Diagon Alley, eating at an outdoor table of Florean Fortescue's with Teddy. The last time she'd seen Diagon Alley, most of the shops were still closed. She was glad to see the street back to normal. Teddy, who had a chubby face and green hair, was happily licking his cone as half of it melted, dripping down his hand to his elbow.
The Hermione in the photo looked over at Harry and smiled. Harry leaned in and whispered something in her ear, which caused them both to laugh. Then Hermione picked her wand up, pointed it at Teddy, and cast a cleaning spell before the loop started over.
Hermione smiled to herself. Here was proof that Harry didn't completely hate her. He looked about the same as he had this morning and Teddy looked around two years old, so this must be fairly recent. Hermione closed her eyes and willed herself to recall this moment. In the photo she could tell she'd ordered a chocolate ice cream cone.
She tried to imagine the taste of the ice cream, how Harry must have made fun of her for picking such a boring flavor, like he always did. How she'd probably quipped that at least she hadn't picked vanilla.
There was nothing there. The moment was gone. She wiped her eyes as she rose to her feet and resumed her search of the house, heading to the first floor next.
She walked quickly through the sitting room, which had all new furniture and had also been spruced up with a new coat of paint and bright white molding. She'd figured out by now that Harry had renovated all the parts of the house he was actively using. She was impressed, he'd made this formerly dark house a rather nice place to live. There used to be a bedroom near the sitting room but it had been converted into an office.
There were papers spread across the desk containing Harry's handwriting, so she assumed this was where he worked. She wondered how often he had to bring work home. She was about to leave when she spotted a photo at the edge of the desk. She picked it up and smiled when she recognized it. This was from before her accident. Right before, actually.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione were in formal clothes, smiling a bit excessively for the camera. This was the night they'd received their Order of Merlins. She remembered it was the first time since the end of the war when they'd let loose and allowed themselves to celebrate their victory. They had all had too much to drink and the Hermione in the photo was having trouble standing upright.
She had her arms draped around both Harry and Ron. Ron turned to kiss her on the cheek, then Harry made a fake vomiting motion, causing them all to laugh heartily. Hermione smiled and placed the photo back on the desk. "If you only knew what was going to happen the next week," she whispered.
It occurred to her then that she'd hardly seen any photos on her tour. Was that for her benefit? Did she find it hard to see photos of events she couldn't remember? Just as she thought it, she spotted one more photo, tucked away behind a stack of books. It was a scene featuring her, Harry, and Ron, but this was from after the accident.
Harry looked about the same as he had this morning and Ron looked a little different from how she remembered him. He didn't have facial hair like Harry, but his hair was shorter and styled similarly. She wondered if it was an Auror thing. Or maybe, just an adult thing.
The scene was a little surprising. They were all in their bathing suits, standing at the edge of a lake Hermione didn't recognize. She was happy to note that both of the boys seemed to have gained back the weight they'd lost during their months of camping. Hermione was on Harry's back with her arms around his neck and her legs wrapped tightly around his middle. Ron was standing slightly apart, but leaned in to smile for the photo.
Then, Harry turned to look at Hermione over his shoulder, flashed her a wicked grin, and dropped her into the water behind him. Hermione grabbed Harry by the leg and pulled him in with her, while Ron shot a look of mock exasperation at whoever was behind the camera.
Hermione touched her fingertips to the glass and couldn't help but smile as she watched the scene play out over and over again. They were all having fun. That much was obvious. But it was odd seeing Harry picking her up so casually and not Ron.
She seemed to be closer to Harry than to Ron now, which made sense, since Ron and her were no longer together and Harry was her roommate who she saw every day.
And forgot every night, she added in her mind.
It was strange to think that this scene she was watching had started just like today, with her remembering nothing and reading a letter she'd written to herself. This was proof that not all her days were bad, wasn't it? Or maybe days like the one in this photo were rare. Maybe that's why Harry had this photo on his desk, to remember one of the few good days they'd all spent together since her accident.
Hermione's conversation with Harry from earlier played out in her mind again.
"I don't see how living one day at a time is a personal challenge. You've been living that way with me for a while now."
"Was there some sort of...catalyst?"
"Yeah. It happened on January 13th of this year. Check your notes."
Should she do that? Check her notes? Hermione looked at the clock. It was just after eleven. She had all day to "check her notes," whatever that meant. She'd go ahead and finish her tour of the house, maybe make some lunch for herself, then go back to the library. She could look for notes on why Harry was so upset with her later. She was fine to put it off, since a part of her didn't want to know what she'd done.
On the ground floor she popped her head into the kitchen, which she'd seen earlier, then looked around the entryway. She was glad to see that the portrait of Sirius's mum and that creepy troll leg table were gone. She went to the basement next and found that it was being used as a sort of potions lab. There were two cauldrons on a large table in the middle of the room and a nearby shelf was lined with bottles and vials that were sorted alphabetically.
On closer inspection, she saw all of them had handwritten labels (in her handwriting) with the name of the ingredient and the day she'd purchased or bottled it. Hermione was impressed by her thoroughness, then thought bitterly that that was to be expected, since she had nothing but time on her hands these days. It was clear this room was used often. That made sense, since brewing potions seemed like one of the few things she could do with her handicap.
Just then, her stomach growled and she made her way back up to the kitchen. After eating some leftovers, then wondering if it was okay that she'd eaten them and if this was just something else Harry would be angry about, she walked back up to the library.
It took her a little while to figure out the organization system for the books in the library but once she did, she couldn't help but compliment her cleverness. The first section contained books she'd read before her accident. These were all books she could pick up and start reading from any point.
The next section were books she'd finished reading since her accident. At each chapter, there was a short summary of the book up to that point. So she didn't have to just read the beginning of every book and could in theory start reading from any point.
The last section contained the books that were in progress. There was a stack of parchment, ink, and a quill on the shelf for her to write summaries as she read.
Hermione didn't feel like reading right now and settled back on the sofa. That's when she spotted the book on the bottom shelf. She'd originally thought the shelf was empty, but saw a large tome with lots of pieces of parchment sticking out of it. She picked it up and brought it to the couch. There was a note stuck on the front: Only read when you're in a good mood! I mean it, Hermione!
Well, she was certainly NOT in a good mood now, but was too curious to just put it away. The first page said simply: Hermione's search for the meaning of life.
She teared up and she nearly closed the book, but something made her continue on. She turned it to a random page.
Theory Five: To seek wisdom and knowledge
Platonism – the whole meaning of life is to attain the highest form of knowledge
Legalism – only practical knowledge is valuable
Sikhism – seek to balance moral and spiritual values with a quest for knowledge
Hermione flipped back to the beginning of the book and saw she'd written out a description of all the major philosophies she'd studied. She'd also boiled down her research to six main theories about the meaning of life.
Theory One: To realize one's true potential
Theory Two: To love and improve the lives of others
Theory Three: To leave the world better than you found it
Theory Four: To enjoy the act of living
Theory Five: To seek wisdom and knowledge
Theory Six: Life has no meaning
Hermione turned back to the section about Theory Five. On the page following the initial description, she'd listed out her subjects from school, the ones she'd been planning to go back to Hogwarts and study once it opened back up. Next to each subject she'd either written N.E.W.T. achieved, followed by a date or, not possible with current condition. The latter note was written next to Herbology, Ancient Runes, and Defense Against the Dark Arts.
She was disappointed, but also a little impressed that she'd managed to get a N.E.W.T. in Potions, Charms, Transfiguration, and Arithmancy. Maybe they'd gone easy on her because they felt bad. She sighed and closed the book. So much for seeking wisdom and knowledge. How was she supposed to do that if she couldn't remember anything? Hopefully her research didn't conclude that that was the true meaning of life.
Hermione wished she'd heeded her own warning and never opened that damned book. She put it back on the shelf and stuffed it near the back so it would be hard to find again.
She sat back on the sofa and looked out the window. So, this was it. This was her life. It felt...foreign...empty...lonely. Her mind kept drifting back to her short conversation with Harry from this morning. She figured it went there so easily since there weren't any other memories in her brain taking up space.
Hermione considered going to her room to check the desk for whatever notes he'd been referring to but she couldn't find the energy to get up from the couch. Fatigue, listlessness, sadness. These were all signs of depression. She remembered reading that somewhere. It wasn't surprising. Of course she was depressed, this was the saddest life she could imagine.
She had to leave notes for herself just so she could remember her friends. That was one of the theories she'd just read, "improving the lives of others." There was no way she was doing that. She couldn't bloody remember the lives of others, so how could she possibly improve them?
She thought of Harry again and his pained expression, which she was 100% sure by now she'd caused. Why was he upset? What had she done?
Remember, Hermione! Remember! Harry needs you to remember!
"Remember!" This time she shouted the word aloud. But her mind stayed stubbornly blank.
Hermione thought back to the letter from earlier, the one she'd written herself at some unknown point in time.
I know it's scary to march into each day without a plan, with no idea what you're walking into, but remember, you're not alone.
"Bollocks," she said aloud.
She was alone. She was totally and completely alone.
Hermione didn't move from that spot for the rest of the day. She watched the sky change colors outside the window as she thought about her current life. When that got too depressing, she started listing out runes. She traced them on her leg (as best she could remember) and tried to think of all their meanings and uses.
Several hours later, she heard someone downstairs. Harry. He was back. She wasn't in the mood to see him. She was feeling far too sorry for herself. Unfortunately, he came looking for her. A few minutes later she could feel him standing in the doorway.
She stayed quiet. She realized then her face was wet since she'd been leaking tears for hours. She was embarrassed so she turned her head so she was facing the bookshelf, hoping Harry would just go away now that he'd found her and confirmed she was alive.
He didn't leave and she hadn't really expected him to. He came to sit on the sofa next to her. "Why are you sitting here in the dark?" he asked.
She merely shrugged. It wasn't completely dark. There was still a dull light shining in through the window.
"The potions lab is in the basement," Harry continued. "Did you see?"
"Yeah. I saw." Hermione's voice was rough from disuse.
"Oh, shit. You don't know. You told me your calendar was blank but I didn't put it together. I'm sorry, Hermione. You usually brew potions on Tuesdays and donate them to St. Mungo's. There are instructions on it in the lab but I guess you didn't know to look for them."
Hermione dropped her head. "Oh. That's nice of me," she said slowly, trying to keep her voice from shaking.
Harry shifted closer to her and grabbed one of her hands. "Hermione," he said gently. "How long have you been in here?"
She shrugged again, keeping her gaze down on their clasped hands in her lap. "I've been in here for most of the day. It's a lovely room, by the way."
Harry squeezed her hand. "We made it together. You designed it and picked the paint color and we renovated it over the course of several weeks. Since it's just us here, I certainly didn't need a house with eight bedrooms. So, I took two down to make this library and converted the one on the first floor into an office. There are still five bedrooms, which seems excessive, but is certainly more manageable."
Hermione looked up and finally turned to face Harry. "How many times have you told me that?"
His eyes were sad and swimming with concern. "More than once."
Hermione started crying in earnest then. She tried to remove her hand from Harry's so she could bury her face in her palms but he kept a firm grip on it, then pulled her toward him. He wrapped his arms around her and she dipped her head against his shoulder and cried.
Harry threaded his fingers through her hair as she sobbed and muttered comforting words every so often. "You're okay. I promise you're fine. I know it seems like a lot, but you're going to be okay."
When she had got control of herself again, she leaned back and began wiping her face with her hands. Harry grabbed his wand from the sofa and conjured a handkerchief, then handed it to her. Why hadn't she thought of that? Was she even good at magic anymore? She'd barely used any today.
Hermione remembered her N.E.W.T.s list she'd read earlier. According to that, she'd managed to earn a N.E.W.T. in Charms and Transfiguration, so she must be good at spells. But how was that possible? The list of things she didn't know about herself was endless.
Harry lifted her chin up so she was looking at him. "I shouldn't have left you like that this morning. We've learned over the years that the first few hours of the day are critical. They make the difference between a good, productive day and one where you're depressed and feeling sorry for yourself. I apologize. I was just upset."
Hermione nodded as she continued to pat her eyes with the handkerchief. "You were upset with me. With something I did."
Harry sighed and leaned his head back against the couch. He rubbed his hand along his jaw as he looked up at the ceiling. "Yeah," he admitted after a while. "We – uh – had a disagreement last night."
"And instead of making notes about the fight and facing it this morning, I let myself forget. No wonder you were angry. That's a pretty shitty way to leave an argument. I'm sorry."
Harry nodded, then turned his head to look at her. "I forgive you."
"You're too forgiving."
"You've told me that before," he said with a small smile.
"Yeah," she let out a dark laugh. "I remember that conversation, it was just before my accident. You were supposed to come to Australia but Teddy got sick. Then I-" she cringed at the memory and dropped her head into her hands. "I'm sorry, Harry. I was completely out of line."
"Your argument was logical. And, well, I forgave you," he added with a smile.
"Of course you did."
Harry nudged her side. "We don't need to rehash it."
"Again?" she pressed but he didn't respond.
"What did we fight about yesterday?" she asked.
Harry sighed and shook his head. "I promised myself I wouldn't tell you things you chose to hide from yourself."
Hermione nodded. "So, that's why you said to check my notes. Those are in my desk?"
Harry nodded, then moved to change the subject. "Are you hungry? I went out to eat with some people from work but I brought something back for you."
"I'm not hungry, but thanks. And that reminds me, I ate some leftovers for lunch. Is that okay? Were you saving those or-"
"Of course it's okay," he cut in. "This is your house, help yourself to anything. I'll write that out for you. Anyway, we need to cheer you up. Let's go watch some television."
Harry stood up but Hermione stayed sitting on the couch. Were they really okay? Just like that? It seemed too easy.
Harry looked down at her and grinned. "Come on, we're doing this, since you clearly need it. I'll carry you down there if I have to," he added challengingly.
Hermione's mind flashed to the photo she'd seen of them on the desk. The one where he'd been casually holding her on his back while they'd both been half naked. And because she wanted to feel someone's arms around her after the lonely day she'd had, she stuck out her lip and crossed her arms in defiance.
Harry rolled his eyes, then bent down and scooped her up into his arms. "You're so difficult," he grumbled. She crossed her arms tighter over her chest and tried to maintain her pout, but could feel her smile breaking through.
When Harry got to the stairs, she wrapped her arms around his neck since she didn't want to be dropped. She wondered if getting hit on her head would improve her condition. Had they tried that? What had they tried? She was sure they'd visited St. Mungo's at the beginning. She was about to ask, then decided to leave it. Surely, Harry was annoyed by now at having to constantly answer the same questions for her. She'd find out later when she finally got around to reading her notes.
At the bottom of the second flight of stairs, Hermione caught a whiff of Harry's scent and was overcome with an intense feeling of familiarity. She leaned closer and tried to smell him again, as discreetly as possible. She knew this. She knew him. And this wasn't from before her accident. The smell was some mixture of soap, the outdoors, and something male that she couldn't quite define. It was nice and gave her an overwhelming sense of security.
Harry, being the observant person he was, noticed her smelling him. After he sat her down on the sofa and stepped back, he smirked at her. "You love my very masculine musky scent," he teased. "Can't get enough of it."
She blushed and opened her mouth to protest, but he waved his hand dismissively as he took a seat on the other end of the sofa. Her legs were stretched out in front of her and before she could move them out of his way, he lifted them up, sat down, then pulled them back down onto his lap. "You recognize it, yeah?" he asked.
Hermione nodded absently. She'd momentarily lost the string of the conversation since she was distracted by the way they were sitting with her legs on his lap. Why hadn't he taken a seat on one of the chairs? Or let her move her legs out of the way?
"It's fine. I get it," Harry continued. "You don't have to be embarrassed."
Embarrassed? What was he talking about? Oh, right, how she'd been smelling him. She blushed again.
"The recognition," she explained. "It was a lovely feeling. Is that - uh - common? Me remembering things from after the accident?"
Harry nodded as he pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and tossed it to her. "It's only your mind that doesn't remember the past two years. Your body remembers. Things related to the senses: smells, taste, music, even spells you've learned since. You can remember them as long as you can manage to turn your brain off - which, as you know, is hard for you."
Harry grabbed the remote from the side table and pointed it at the telly. "There's this sitcom with a really annoying song that you can usually hum along to. Let me see if I can find it."
As Harry flipped through the channels, Hermione spread the blanket over her. Harry had one arm draped over her shins and when she pushed the blanket down, he lifted his arm absently and pulled the blanket over the rest of her legs before putting it back down while he continued to focus on the telly. They were close, she concluded. That wasn't surprising, since they were both pretty affectionate people. She used to hug him often and occasionally hold his hand or lie her head on his shoulder.
This closeness just seemed weird, now, because near the end of the war, after Ron had returned, Harry had pulled away from her. She suspected it was because every touch between them was met by a jealous glare from Ron. That was obviously over, which she was glad of, since Ron's jealousy had been exhausting and completely unfounded.
Hermione recalled that photo she'd seen on Harry's desk again. Ron hadn't cared that Harry was holding Hermione. He'd simply looked amused. Was this closeness between Harry and her something she was surprised by every day? Or maybe it was just more pronounced today since they'd started the day with an argument.
Harry wasn't able to find the show he was looking for so put on another sitcom that he said they both loved to hate. Hermione nodded. It was strange having him list off all these truths about her life. And it was even stranger that she just took them at face value. But what other option did she have?
Plus, this was Harry, he wouldn't lie to her. It was good she had someone like this in her life, someone she had trusted so implicitly before the accident. She couldn't see this working any other way.
They joked about the stupid antics of the characters during the commercials and while the show was playing, and Harry was focused back on the television, Hermione snuck looks of him. Whenever he saw her watching him, he gave her a small smile before turning back to the telly. After the third time this happened, he muted the television and turned to her.
"You're looking at me weirdly. What's happening here?"
"I don't know. You're smiling at me. I like it. I'd spent most of the day convinced you hated me."
Harry's face fell. "I really am sorry for starting your day so poorly."
Hermione nudged his leg with her foot. "Knowing you, I'm sure you had a good reason."
Harry shrugged. He lifted the remote but instead of turning the volume back up, he turned the telly off. He pushed Hermione's legs off of his lap and stood up. "Come on. Or are you going to make me carry you again?"
Hermione shook her head and stood up from the couch. She used her wand to fold the blanket and float it back into place. It felt good being able to do that easily. Harry nodded in approval, then cocked his head toward the hall. She followed him up to the third floor and thought they were going to return to the library, but he went toward her bedroom instead. He stopped in the hall and waited for her to walk inside first.
She turned the lights on with a wave of her wand as Harry crossed the room and stopped a few feet away from her desk. "May I?" he asked, motioning toward her desk.
"Sure." It's not like there was anything to see there. The calendar was blank, as she'd said.
Harry took a step closer and bent over to study the calendar. Hermione went to his side and watched him. He was biting his lip and she wondered what he was looking at, since there was only one line written on the page. As if in answer, Harry placed his hand on the calendar. When he lifted it, she noticed a few water spots in the place he'd touched. Those were obviously from tears. She'd missed that before.
So, she'd been crying when she wrote that note about the "personal challenge." Hermione could tell this meant something to Harry.
"Where-?" He started to ask a question but cut off.
"What? Where what?"
Harry shook his head, then took a deep breath and sat down at the desk. As he picked up her quill and dipped it in ink he announced, "I'm acknowledging this personal challenge you've set for yourself, but as it applies to you and not me, I'm going to break it a little bit. Okay?"
Hermione shrugged. "Um, okay."
She watched him write on the spot for August 2nd, Harry's making pancakes (get excited!)
On the following day he wrote, Visiting the animal shelter with Luna.
"Luna?" Hermione asked as she read over his shoulder.
"You go with her to the animal shelter every other Thursday. Now, you have two things to look forward to. There are more plans you've already setup throughout the month but I guess we can leave those for later."
"Sure." Hermione was still thinking about Luna as Harry stood back up. "So, every other Thursday with Luna and I assume the other friends have a recurring spot on the calendar too? And you're stuck with mornings, it seems. It's like a babysitting rotation. Who keeps the master schedule? You?"
Harry sighed and shook his head, then put his hands on her shoulders and said seriously, "No, Hermione. It's nothing like babysitting." His tone was sad and he sounded slightly exasperated, like he'd said this many times before. How did he stand living with her? The repetition would drive her mad.
As if he sensed that she was beating herself up, Harry pulled Hermione into a hug. "I know you had a shitty day, which was primarily my fault. But this is one of those times when it's good to know you're going to forget it."
When he pulled away, he looked thoughtful and it seemed like he wanted to say more, but eventually he decided against it. He dropped her arms and turned back to the door.
"I'm sorry for whatever I did," she said in a rush.
"You're fine. Really. I'll leave you alone." Harry motioned toward her desk.
Hermione shifted in place. He was leaving and she felt like he was taking a large part of her with him. She hadn't felt like herself until the end of the day, when they'd been joking and watching the telly. And now she was going to be alone again.
"Are you okay?" he asked from the doorway.
"Uh, yeah. I just - um - what do I do?" She pointed to the desk.
"Write down things you want to remember about today in your-" He cut off and walked back into the room, looking at her desk curiously. Harry's eyes scanned a shelf above her desk that was lined with books. Hermione hadn't looked through those and made a note to do so later. Harry finally spotted what he was looking for and pulled down a black, leatherbound notebook. He flipped through it quickly before putting it on her desk.
"Usually you write down thoughts from today in this notebook. I'm not sure how that fits into your one day at a time thing, and as you left yourself absolutely no instruction on how to go about this challenge-" Hermione could tell he was trying to keep the bitterness out of his tone, but she could hear it right at the edge of his words, "-I recommend going ahead and writing what happened today in here. You can put it all in the part that disappears, if you want."
That last comment made no sense to Hermione but she nodded along anyway since she hated the feeling of not knowing, which was a feeling that had dominated her entire day. It had probably dominated the entire past two years.
"Okay. Thanks. You mentioned my notes on events from the past earlier. Should I check those? Where are those?"
Harry dropped his head and sighed. He pinched the bridge of his nose as he said, "You don't check your notes until the end of the month. I'm sure you saw that in the letter. Like I said, I was upset, you can ignore all that."
Hermione nodded and took a step closer to her desk, but stopped. Harry seemed to pick up on her unease and walked back into the room. He grabbed her hand and asked softly, "Would you like me to stay? I can keep you company while you work and sit with you until you fall asleep."
She did want that, very badly. The last thing she wanted right now was for the one person making her feel sane to leave the vicinity. But surely, Harry had his own life. He'd just had a long day at work. Perhaps he wanted to watch more television, read, call a friend, check his mail. She couldn't have him sit in bed and rub her back until she fell asleep. She was a grown woman and she needed to handle herself.
Hermione squeezed his hand and dropped it. "I'm okay. Thanks."
Harry looked like he didn't believe her, but still nodded and went back to the door.
"How do you stand it?" she blurted when he'd reached the hall. He looked back at her confused. "The repetition, constantly answering the same questions, tiptoeing around topics from the gap in time that might upset me. That has to be driving you mad."
Harry came back into the room and stopped in front of her. "You're my best friend and I have a lot of fun with you. Is it repetitive? Yes, sometimes. Sometimes we'll have a really great moment and later when I get to live it again, I feel lucky, not irritated, or exhausted, or like I'm going mad."
Hermione could tell from his eyes he was sincere. A tightness in her chest that she hadn't even realized was there eased slightly.
Harry smiled and added conspiratorially, "It's a good answer, isn't it? Kills every time."
She laughed. Of course she'd brought this up before. And yes, his response was perfect. Harry reached up and stroked her cheek. "Tomorrow will be better. I promise."
Hermione nodded and forced a smile on her face as she watched him leave the room, closing the door softly behind him.