A/N: This is just something I wrote as a form of coping with and digesting book 5
A/N: This is just something I wrote as a form of coping with and digesting book 5. It started out as the Forbidden Forest Sugar Quill Challenge, but it’s a *tad * longer than a thousand words, so… ^^;;. I found it the other day, finished it, and cleaned it up a little. If it’s a bit confuzzling, I do apologize.
-Thanks a million trillion to my fantabulous beta, Gufa!
A Forest of Memories
Hermione Granger was sitting in her backyard.
It was a bright, pleasantly warm summer’s day, and one of the mildest there had been in weeks. A wonderful breeze ruffled the trees, and she leaned forward on her hands, pulling her legs in from her Indian-style position in order to rest back on them. She wiggled her feet in the grass, enjoying the feeling of the soft blades lightly scratching back and forth in between her toes.
Such a perfect day made for quite an ironic contrast to her mood.
Hermione had been home from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for two weeks, but the ride back on the Hogwarts Express was still so fresh in her mind that it felt as though she could just have stepped off to meet her parents and say her good-byes to Ron, Ginny, the rest of the Weasleys, and Harry…. Oh, Harry.
He had seemed so empty those last two days – he had withdrawn so far inside himself that it seemed as though his body become a thin, brittle wrapping struggling to keep the pained and subdued soul inside from succumbing to its darkest wish and dying out. He was so… distant. More distant than ever, if that was possible…
Her heart went out to him. It was so horrible, seeing him that way; she knew he was in such pain, though he had not told her or even Ron why. It was because of Sirius, she told herself, though somehow she knew this was only part of the truth, he was mourning Sirius. Hermione let out a sigh. She gazed up at the nearly cloudless sky, searching for something - she knew nothing was there, she didn’t even know what she was looking for-
But then she saw it. A budgie.
She was oddly reminded of the previous summer holiday- there had been some rubbish story one day about a bloke who’d taught one to water ski.
The brightly colored bird dipped lower, fluttering down, and came to rest on her shoulder.
It was out of surprise that Hermione did not, at first, question its intentions of landing on her, yet was out of reason and quick wit that she did not start or speak. She slowly and very deliberately raised a hand to touch the violent feathers, but the bird, who seemed to have other ideas, flew away, brushing her cheek lightly with its wings and giving her shoulder a small squeeze with its toes that she was sure it had meant to do.
Feeling oddly deserted, she started to call out to it, but was distracted by a slightly heavy weight on her shoulder - wonderful, Mr. Water Skis had gone and done his business before he left- but as she looked to her side it was a very different sort of present she found. Her Time Turner- exactly as she remembered it from her third year; she knew it was the very same one. Too excited to properly think things through, she snatched it up and placed it around her neck. Hermione was comforted in having its presence about her, yet before she had time to understand any further, she felt a jerk around her navel. The safety of her Muggle neighborhood smudged and blurred as though in a blender of colors and emotions. … Where was she going? The Time Turner Portkey seemed oblivious to her question. New feelings began to surround her, and senses she hadn’t used in twelve days reawakened… the world stopped spinning, and even before she could see her surroundings, Hermione knew where she was. She gracefully fell to the earth, twisting around and landing on her seat, legs once again curled beneath her, though this time, she quickly rose, anticipation building in the pit of her stomach.
She was in the Forbidden Forest. Oh dear…
Though immediately sure of where she was, Hermione had never seen this part of the forest before: as far as she could tell, this was the opposite side from which where Hogwarts stood, and she knew she would be even more hopelessly lost if she went out in search of her school. All she could do, Hermione realized with a shiver, was wait for the Time-Turner to turn back into a Portkey…
A Time Turner! She had somehow forgotten what that meant. She had the power to replay minutes, hours… even years…
How dearly she would like to take it and turn back the days -to warn her two weeks younger self of the trap that lay ahead, to capture that evil Umbridge woman, even to go back to the end of fourth year and tell Harry not to enter the maze… but even as the thought occurred, the Time-Turner warmed to the touch of her skin and began to burn. No, she mustn’t - everything happened for a reason, it was not for her to decide… but the thought of all that could possibly be saved ached inside her, and the Time Turner physically projected that agony. She let out a small squeal and struggled to take it off - it burned hotter in response, heating by the second; it had to be gnawing at her skin- she writhed, twisting her whole body in the struggle to stop the horrible pain. It would not come off; it would burn her alive - At last, half by instinct, half as a last resort, Hermione gave an awful wrench and tore it from her neck. She watched the little hourglass fall, in seemingly slow motion, as it did perfect somersaults in the air. It fell to the ground with the earsplitting noise of breaking glass, a hundred times louder than natural. She covered her ears, and watched the pure, fine grains of the sands of Time run off a stump and away down into the earth.
Breathing hard, she backed away, quite ready to leave, but her stomach clenched sickeningly and her heart seemed to skip a beat as she realized she had just destroyed her only way home. Hermione fought down the panic threatening to overcome what little seemed to be left of her common sense- what had been thinking, destroying that thing? Doing it in before it got me, she thought, still feeling ill.
Control, she had to keep control, stay calm, stay collected… But there seemed very little way that she could think herself out of this. Resisting the urge to moan into the musty evening air, Hermione took a steadying breath. Work through this she thought. You’ve gotten yourself out of much worse…
She was suddenly distracted by a sound from somewhere far away - she could not describe it further, other than it seemed to have come from a person. Hermione twisted around, searching everywhere, but without knowing what she was searching for. Nobody’s there, something told her... But the other part of her said somebody was there. But where had they gone?
Confused and disappointed, she made a noise of desperation.
"Ah, there’s nothing to worked up about," said a passing shadow of vibrant hair.
Relief spread through Hermione, and she called out to her friend.
"Ron!" She exclaimed, talking very fast. "You’re here, too! What’s happening? How did you get here? Did the budgie-"
"A whadgie?" he asked, now coming fully into view.
"A - oh, never mind."
"Anyway, I dunno what this is all about, but I reckon I must’ve just Apparated here," said Ron, mouth twitching slightly. Annoyance rose up in Hermione at the speeds only Ron could induce.
"You CAN’T "- She began, but Ron only walked up to her and put a freckled finger to her lips with a smile as slight as the blush radiating wonderfully on his cheeks.
The place where his finger rested tingled nearly to the point of a heavenly numbness, and, hardly a second before she knew she couldn’t take any more, he drew away, and faded into the shadows. She saw the tip of one very red ear disappear, and he was gone.
Once again subdued, though too much in shock to hardly express it, Hermione let out a sigh.
Her sigh was met with silence, but it wasn’t the normal kind, if there was such a thing. This was both sadly familiar and all–encompassing; it was one of the most depressing things she had ever felt, after, perhaps, the Dementors But instead of going icy cold, her surroundings felt… endlessly deep. And so dark - but not evil at all. It felt like -
And he was there. Standing in front of her, a mildly questioning expression on his face.
"I didn’t need to see that just now," he said.
Hermione felt as though her insides had been removed. She decided to feign innocence.
"See what?" she asked, entirely too quickly. Harry’s eyebrows shot above his messy black fringe.
"Oh! That! No! - I mean- it- I…. No!"
"It’s okay, Hermione,"
"No, really it- it was- we were just…but-"
"-You love Ron, Ron loves you," Harry interrupted, blushing slightly, an odd expression on his face. "Suppose I have to get used to this sort of thing, don’t I?"
Though thoroughly shocked to hear the words aloud, Hermione felt them blaze through her entire body. It was true; she cared so much for Ron- down to every single freckle- and she always would. All she could do at first was nod, and Harry gave a good - natured smirk. It was good to see Harry entertained at something- even if it was the prospect of her and Ron together.
"I’m glad you’re feeling better," Hermione said in a rush. "I was really worried at the end of school - are you alright?" His smirk died away as quickly as it had come.
"I’m fine," said Harry defiantly, and hearing the poorly repressed pain in his voice tore at her heart even more.
"You’re not!" cried Hermione. "I know you’re not! When have you ever been ‘fine-’" She bit her lip, ready for Harry to explode at her in fury. To her surprise, his expression softened slightly, and, for a second, Hermione thought he was going to crack. The idea frightened her beyond all belief- Harry didn’t cry. Harry was strong through everything, even when he had every reason to absolutely bawl. He just wouldn’t…
He didn’t, though what he did do seemed almost worse. He just stared at her- a brilliant green, empty stare that said, quite plainly, ‘why?’
I don’t know why, she thought. I’m so sorry…
The hollowness in Harry’s eyes seemed to intensify, but all he said was, "You’re right. I’m not okay."
Harry turned his back on her, seeming to blur as he did so. His head whipped around, and the forest seemed to momentarily blend with many locks of jet-black hair before they disappeared as well.
Now she was thoroughly depressed, and prepared to give up looking for a way home. Maybe she could just try a bit of wandless magic- someone had to be around. Or something. She shivered. Dusk was quickly approaching - how had that much time passed? It had been nearly full light when she had appeared in the Forest; time seemed to be going by so quickly…
Almost in answer to her last thought, she felt a bright, familiarly warm smile.
"Ginny?" asked Hermione, by now knowing what to do.
"Oh - hi Hermione," Ginny grinned at her, her bright hair catching the last rays of sunset. "I imagine you’re ready to go back by now, so I’ll say this quickly and be done so you can get on your way." She smiled broadly, yet to Hermione her features seemed to be tinged with an unnatural maturity for someone almost fifteen… not just maturity, actual age- it had been there all along, and she’d never noticed…. She had seen it before in someone else too, and suddenly realized with a jolt that that person was Harry. Glancing quickly down and to the side, pretending to look at an interesting bit of grass, she swallowed. Looking back up, she looked with a new respect into the brown eyes that were regarding her carefully.
"Never noticed how old I am until two weeks ago, did you?" she asked. "Neither did Ron - the prat- or Harry, for that matter. In fact, I think the only person who did was Neville, but that didn’t do much good until recently, when he finally realized what we already knew- that he is somebody." Ginny looked to one side, and the noise Hermione had heard earlier returned to her ears, growing into a shape of a person. Neville smiled slightly, waved, and disappeared again.
"Anyway, you can think on all that later; right now you probably want to know how to get out of here - so anyway, as you might have noticed, it appears you’re in the Forbidden Forest."
"Really?" said Ginny softly, sounding slightly amused. "You sure about that, Hermione? Being tired must really impair even your judgement. But staying focused-" Now more business-like, she slightly adjusted her posture in a way that uncannily reminded Hermione of Fred and George. "Right, well - two things. Good, general, Dumbledore-like advice, really. One: things are not as they seem, and two (which I know you’ll just love): Trust your heart, not your mind."
Hermione began to protest, but Ginny cut her off. "Hermione – this forest is filled to the bloody brim with magical creatures… do you think the actual forest itself is any different? Listen, and not with your ears! Your mind doesn’t work correctly when it’s here, anyway…" Ginny gazed about her, and smiled kindly once more. She did one ‘He got off’ war chant-bounce and disappeared, flaming hair and all.
Hermione stared at the spot where her friend had just been for a few moments. Out of pure habit she began to think very hard, until she heard Ginny’s exasperated moan in her head-
Only she hadn’t heard it, she had felt it. It had come from some deep, happy memory that brought her joy. It gave her happiness even here in the forest, where the light seemed to have stopped dying out and was stationary at a position of later evening; a bit more than two- thirds the way through… Five-sevenths, maybe…
She tried very hard to let her love penetrate the places her mind could not go, and, very slowly, she felt it working…
And then it clicked - all of it. Her eyes, which she had unconsciously closed, sprang open. Of course - the trees. You don’t have a forest without them, after all. Life that begins as a seed and grows strong and tall into a wisdom beyond words… Trees had ancient magic, too. They were Secret-Keepers of the earth, really… The forest held memories, those of anyone who had ever passed through it, and she, having done so many times, had left memories of many pieces of her life there, things she would need for…
There had been more memories left among the earth that evening, and Hemione knew that she had found what she had left before; what she had then been able to give and now had need of… and it - all of it - made sense… the wind swept around her once more…
Night and morning seemed to have been skipped and things had gone straight to afternoon. The sun was bright, the grass was green, and…
Hermione rolled over; eyes wide open in the sunlight. It was morning - or afternoon. Or…something. She looked up at the clear blue sky above her back yard, as if to ask it questions. How long had she slept? What had happened? The sky had no answers for either of these inquiries, but a new feeling was resting in Hermione; she felt… settled. Healed. And loved, but -
Had it all really been a dream…?