Counting
by MelWil

She began counting the days.

At first, when the numbers were low, they were a way to measure concern and freedom. Two days Harry had been unconscious, five days of peace, eight days since Voldemort was killed. Then, with time, the marks she made each day became just numbers, yet another thing to do.

Harry and Ron found out on day twenty-four, their second last day at Hogwarts. They tried to throw her homework planner in the lake, tossing it between them and telling her that she wouldn't need it, there were no more exams for her to take. She snatched it out of Ron's hands and threw it away from him, into the grass. It opened at the back of the book, the the page where she was keeping tally.

"What's that?" Ron asked, picking it up off the grass. He peered at it and handed it to Harry.

There's twenty-four," Harry said. He lifted his eyes from the little book and met Hermione's. "You're counting."

She nodded and took the planner from him, tucking it into her bag.

"Twenty-four?" Ron frowned at Hermione. "What does twenty-four mean?"

"Twenty-four days since we . . . since Voldemort . . . died." Harry told him.

"Oh," Ron bit his lip. "I forgot."

"It's nothing," Hermione turned and began walking toward the castle. "Come on, we'll be late for the feast."

 

On the thirty-second day her mother brought clean T-shirts and shorts to her bedroom. She placed them on the end of the bed and looked over at Hermione.

"When do your results arrive?"

Hermione pulled her knees up to her chest and looked out the window. There were muddy puddles in the backyard. "Soon."

"You haven't said much about school this holidays." Her mother moved over to her desk and wiped dust off her pile of school books.

"It was a busy year. We spent a lot of time getting ready for the NEWTs."

Her mother picked up a piece of parchment. "Are you ready for your job?"

"I begin training in two weeks." Hermione pulled at the sleeve of her T-shirt. She would have to go shopping for robes before she began.

"Have your friends got jobs?"

Hermione shrugged. Most people wouldn't line up jobs until they got their results back. But Dumbledore had asked her to take a role in the rebuilt Ministry.

Her mother picked up another piece of parchment. "Are you counting something?"

Thirty-two lines. Thirty-two days. She wondered if Harry was still counting.

"It was something for Arithmancy, Mum."

Her mother left the parchment on the desk and went to the door. "We missed you this year, Hermione." She sighed. "We'll miss you when you start working."

Hermione rested her chin on her knees. "I'll miss you too," she whispered.

 

On the seventy-fifth day they said she was ready to start working. They gave her a desk and a cubicle and a list of things that needed to be done. She set her quills in an old coffee cup in the corner of her desk, next to a brand new bottle of blue ink.

"You got new robes."

Hermione looked up from the list to a witch hanging over the top of her cubicle. "I'm sorry?"

The witch pointed at Hermione. "You bought new robes. You were wearing Hogwarts robes during training."

Hermione played with the sleeve of her dark blue robes. "I didn't want to buy new robes until I was sure they wanted me here."

The witch laughed. "You're Hermione Granger. Harry Potter's best friend. Of course they want you. Do you know how good your name will look in the Daily Prophet?" The witch reached out and grabbed Hermione's hand. "I'm Viv. I guess I'll see you around a lot."

"I guess so."

Viv reached out and plucked the tattered piece of parchment from the side of Hermione's cubicle. "What are you counting?" she asked.

Hermione took it back off her. "Nothing. Nothing at all."

 

On the one hundred and twenty-seventh day they held a party at the Burrow. It was supposed to be a celebration, an occasion to recognise their victory. Hermione wore black robes.

She found Harry and Ron hiding in the apple orchard, surrounded by bottles of firewhiskey and gillywater and other drinks Hermione recognised as Muggle. Ron handed her a bottle and she sat down with them.

"How's the party?" Harry asked.

Hermione took a drink and looked at him. He was wearing Muggle clothes jeans and a T-shirt and he looked like he hadn't shaved in a week. There were dark shadows under his eyes and the scars down his arms were still red and angry looking. Judging by the number of empty bottles in the grass, Hermione figured he was pretty drunk.

"The party's great," she said, playing with the lable on the bottle. "Mad-Eye's drinking to the lost, Molly can't stop crying and everyone's wearing great big fake smiles."

"Sounds like a riot." Ron emptied another bottle and threw it at a nearby tree. "Drink Hermione. These things are easier to deal with if you're drunk."

Hermione shrugged. "I'm not really thirsty."

"No," Ron pointed the neck of the bottle at her. "You don't want to lose control. You don't want to leave your perfect, little numbered world."

"There you are."

Hermione looked up and smiled at Lupin. He was leaning against an apple tree, looking down at them, a wry smile crossing his face. "You were trying to find us?" she asked.

"Molly was. She was wondering where you'd disappeared to."

"Let her wonder." Ron tossed another bottle. "Did you know Hermione still counts?"

Lupin looked at Hermione. "Counts what?"

"One hundred and twenty-seven," Hermione whispered.

Lupin nodded. "She's not the only one counting, Ron."

 

She spent the two hundred and ninteenth day in a Muggle hospital, sitting next to Harry and trying to figure out what she was doing there.

"I'm sorry, Hermione." He said again.

She shook her head. "I don't understand, Harry. What the hell did you do?"

"I told you," he grinned, "I got into a pub fight. The other guy was bigger than me. I lost the pub fight."

"And you came to a Muggle hospital?" She looked around the waiting room. The fluorescent lights were hurting her eyes.

"They're better with this stuff. They patch up after pub fights every day of the week." Harry shifted in the seat, grimacing as he held his ribs.

"You think St. Mungos never saw the aftermath of a Leaky Cauldron fight?" Hermione sighed. "Why did you call me? Wouldn't Ron be better at this?"

Harry laughed gingerly. "Ron in a Muggle hospital? That makes for an interesting picture. Anyway," Harry sniffed, "Ron prefers to drink alone these days."

Hermione pulled at stuffing which had escaped through a crack in her chair. "Why were you in a Muggle pub, Harry?"

"No one knows me in the Muggle pubs." Harry looked away from her. "How long have we been waiting?"

Hermione consulted the clock on the wall. "Four hours and thirty-seven minutes."

He nodded. "You're still counting."

"Always."

 

On the three hundred and sixty-fourth day she pulled the piece of parchment off the side of her cubicle and made a tiny notation in the corner. The parchment was full.

"Are you going tomorrow?" Vi hung over the wall of Hermione's cubicle, her over sized sleeves covering Hermione's photo of her parents.

Hermione picked a quill out of her coffee cup and examined the nib. "Tomorrow?"

"The Ministry ceremony. It's been a year since Voldemort was kiulled, remember.?"

"Really?" Of course she remembered. She'd spent three hundred and sixty four days remembering.

"They're thinking about calling it Harry Potter Day. Then no one will ever be able to forget the day." Viv grinned. "Isn't that a great idea?"

"Brilliant." Hermione pulled a pile of parchments towards her.

"I can't believe it's been three hundred and sixty-five days." Viv shook her head. "It just doesn't seem that long, does it?"

Hermione looked up at Viv. "Three hundred and sixty-four."

"I'm sorry?"

"It's only been three hundred and sixty-four days. Not a full year."

Viv glared at Hermione. "Well, you are little Miss Pedantic, aren't you." She steeped away from Hermione. "I guess I'll see you at the ceremony tomorrow."

Hermione didn't watch her leave. As far as she was concerned she had a right to be pedantic. She'd counted every day, as she watched Ron push everyone away. She'd counted as Harry drank and picked fights. She'd kept on counting as everyone else seemed to go on with their lives.

She crumpled up her tattered, ink covered piece of parchment and threw it across her desk. She had to learn to live without it, to live without counting every second of every day.

She had to learn to live again. Beginning with tomorrow.

 

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