Helen had always been a light sleeper, so when she heard the door to her bedroom creak open, she woke up almost immediately. “Mummy?” It was her daughter, Hermione. “Mummy?” Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper, as though she was afraid to ask for help.
Helen sat up in the bed, sliding to the end so she could see Hermione better. “What is it, sweetheart?” She clicked on the lamp.
Her five-year-old squinted at the sudden light. “I don’t feel so good.”
Helen beckoned her daughter closer, kneeling before her to check her temperature. Her forehead was unusually warm. “Do you feel sick?”
Little Hermione nodded miserably. “My tummy hurts.”
Helen supposed it was the curse of being a mother, but whenever Hermione was in pain, she felt her heart twist a little bit. “Okay, sweetheart, I’ll get you some medicine. Now, come here.” She scooped Hermione into her arms, and her little girl buried her head into the warmth of her mother. “Let’s go back to bed, okay? Let Daddy sleep a little more.” She twisted her fingers through her daughter’s bushy hair. “I’ll make you a cup of tea, okay?”
“Yes, sweetheart, with honey, too.”
“Okay,” Hermione mumbled into her mother’s shirt.
“Mummy?” Even over the phone, Hermione’s eight-year-old voice was crackly and weak. “Mummy, my throat hurts.”
Helen’s worry intensified. She hadn’t sounded like that this morning. “Okay, sweetheart, I’ll come to the school and pick you up. Does your head hurt? Do you feel like throwing up?”
Hermione sighed heavily into the mouthpiece of her phone; her exhaustion was crystal clear. “Yeah.”
Although they’d barely been speaking on the phone for twenty seconds, Helen had already signed out of her office and left the building. Now, she was starting the car, phone pinned between her ear and her shoulder. “Is there a bed in the nurse’s office, sweetheart? Can you lie down?”
There was a pattern of shuffling noises, followed by another “yeah.”
“Okay, can you close your eyes for me? I want you to just try to lay down until I get there. I’ll only be fifteen minutes.”
“And when we get home, I’ll make you some tea, yeah? Honey and lemon, just the way you like it.”
Can you… Can you stay on the phone with me?”
Helen smiled. “Of course, sweetheart.”
It was Hermione’s second year at Hogwarts, yet still Helen was not used to the unusual quiet around the house. Every Tuesday and Friday, Hermione would send them an owl, so Helen and Grant had the pleasure of receiving a squawking, screeching bird on their front porch twice a week. On one Friday in December, Helen received two owls instead of one. It would have been a pleasant surprise, had the unknown owl not flown into the fireplace and flown around the house with one wing on fire until it flew into the sink to put it out.
The first letter was from Hermione. It was a usual explanation of her day-to-day activities, an update of her grades, and a couple of hysterical anecdotes about her friends Harry and Ron.
The second letter was from one of her friends, Ronald Weasley. She knew of him through Hermione’s stories, but she’d never actually spoken to the boy. The letter, scrawled in messy handwriting, read:
Dear Mrs. Granger,
My name’s Ron Weasley, and I’m Hermione’s friend at Hogwarts. I dunno how much I can tell you because you’re a Muggle and all, but I wanted to let you know something because
Hermione’s being a bloody idiot
Hermione refuses to tell you.
Nothing’s wrong, really, just Hermione’s been sick for a few days. It’s a magical disease, and you can’t catch it over owl, so don’t worry. It’s like a bad cold for wizards, but Hermione’s been pretty miserable the whole time, especially since she can’t do any homework.
She mentioned you and some tea? I was just wondering if you could send some tea bags in a care package or something for her. She’s been having a
pretty awful week, and it would really make her smile.
I miss her smile
. I’d like to see her on her feet again and doing homework again.
Helen turned the letter over in her hands. Hermione was sick and didn’t tell her? She wrote a letter of thanks to the boy, and sent Hermione a care package that evening, containing dozens of tea bags, with extra lemon and honey.
Helen spun her mug in her hands, running her fingertips over the edge. “Hermione’s still upstairs,” she told Grant. “I’m worried about her.”
Grant gave her a small shrug. “She’s almost seventeen,” he reminder her. “She’s allowed to have some time to herself.”
“But it’s so unlike her.” Helen frowned. “She’s usually downstairs for breakfast by eight. Now, it’s…” She checked her watch again. “Almost eleven.”
Grant placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Helen, sweetheart, don’t worry. If something’s wrong, she’ll tell us. This is Hermione , we’re talking about. Our Hermione.”
“But with everything that’s been going on… With You-Know Who?” Even though she wasn’t a witch like her daughter, Hermione had informed her that there was a madman at the same vicious level as Hitler roaming the Wizarding World, so she knew about You-Know-Who. “It’s a lot for everyone.”
Grant leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “Helen, don’t worry. I’m sure she’ll talk to us if she needs anything. She always does.”
Helen wasn’t as confident in her daughter’s communication skills as her husband; after all, she had received countless letters throughout Hermione’s years at Hogwarts from Mr. Ronald Weasley concerning her daughter’s health.
She sat up straight. Quickly, she rustled through the kitchen, picking out the ingredients to make Hermione’s favorite comfort drink: tea with lemon and honey. She poured some into Hermione’s favorite mug (one depicting a girl surrounded by stacks of books) and climbed the stairs with the mug in hand. God, she hoped Hermione was okay. She knew how incredibly strong her daughter was, but even the looming threat of a madman and his followers coming after her and her friends was enough to distress anyone. She pushed the door open, finding Hermione fast asleep on her bed, fully dressed, clutching one of those Wizarding newspapers with the moving pictures.
She placed the mug on Hermione’s dresser and watched her daughter for a few seconds. Hermione’s face was scrunched with anxiety, the wrinkles between her eyebrows unusual for someone so young. It almost seemed like she was in pain. After a moment of hesitation (Hermione was sixteen, after all, and too old, perhaps, for a mother’s kisses), Helen brushed Hermione’s hair from her eyes and kissed her forehead.
She wished she could comfort Hermione as easily as she could when her daughter was little. Back then, everything was solved with a kiss and a mug of tea. Now…
Helen closed Hermione’s door and went back downstairs to watch the news with Grant. Perhaps they could discover what was bothering Hermione so much.
“Look,” said Grant, pointing at the television. Now, there was a picture of a middle-aged couple flickering across the screen, and the reporter claimed that they were both found dead in their home, with no signs of struggle and no apparent causes of death.
Helen’s heart sank inside of her chest, and she looked fearfully at her husband. What could this mean? As she sipped her tea, worrying about Hermione, Grant told her that everything was going to be okay, but she wasn’t so sure.
She heard a pattern of muffled footsteps behind her. “Obliviate ,” she heard, and suddenly everything washed away in a tidal wave of white.