Hermione learns just how quiet it is on the western front
Harry's shout was lost in the background of a high pitched whining, followed by a loud explosion. Hermione staggered, both shocked by the noise and physically by the actual sensation, the feeling of the forceful blast wave hitting her frame. When her vision cleared Hermione let out a small gasp. She recognised her surroundings immediately. There were biplanes dogfighting over a wasteland of craters and mud. Barbed wire was rolled out with the corpses of the unfortunate wrapped tightly in their final embrace. The air had a filthy tang of metal and smoke and it almost hummed with energy. Somehow, she was on the western front. And the battle was starting.
Ron was sitting at the dining table staring into a lacklustre soup when the owl arrived. At first, he didn't notice it, but it hooted indignantly and pecked him on the ear. He hissed as he felt the beak draw blood, and he felt a warm trickle run down his face. Gingerly, he removed the letter attached to the owl's leg, and the owl flew away. He recognised the scrawl of Ron as coming from his sister's hand. Ginny had heard.
Ron hadn't seen Ginny for 6 months, as the Quidditch season had started and Ginny had been away defending her first team place. Not that she needed to worry, since she was the highest scoring chaser in league history. To Ron's eternal shame Ginny had broken the record for the number of goals scored in a Quidditch match in a game against his own beloved Cannons, something she never missed an opportunity to point out. Ron crushed the letter in his fist and sent it flying into the roaring fire that was blazing in the grate.
Suddenly thirsty, Ron struggled to stand. His legs were shaking and weak and he collapsed in his chair. Frustrated, Ron dug around in his robe pockets for his wand and with a grunt of satisfaction, used it to summon his stick. Bracing his weight on the cane, he crossed the room and made his way into the kitchen. He made to get himself a butterbeer, but the trip had exhausted him. He sank into the nearest chair, and summoned the butterbeer instead. The Healer said that his endurance would increase in time if he worked at it, but in the end he knew he would be consigned to a chair. A wave of hopelessness overcame him, and he wept.
'Harry!' Hermione screamed as another shell landed near her. The battle field was becoming clearer, and she saw the thick mud and devastation all around her. The sky was dark and there was driving rain and cold. A network of trenches materialised in front of her, and she dived for cover into them.
Hermione landed with in a pool at least a foot deep, and disturbed 3 large, bloated rats that scurried away dragging their pale tails behind them. The trench was empty. Whilst she could hear masses of gunfire all around her, and saw the flashes in the sky and all around her she felt the rhythmic thud of shells and bullets, she saw no soldiers around her. She climbed the firing step, and looked out across no man's land. If there was no one shooting on her side, then there must be someone shooting on the other side.
Hermione's rational mind blinked. She could clearly see multiple soldiers running back and forth through the enemy trench, and even an officer shouting encouragement to his men. The soldiers were all the same person. They were all Harry. Or rather, they were all similar to Harry, but not quite exact. The soldiers were all behaving differently, not in the uniform, clone like manner she expected. To her surprise she could even hear them, hear their exact words.
One Harry wasn't even looking at her or her trench. His eyes were fixed on the ground, and he carried out his orders with fervour. One was fixing his bayonet and preparing to go over the top, his green eyes shining with his lust for blood. The officer was busy directing them, but Hermione clearly saw arrogance in him, a lack of humility that she knew her Harry had. Her observations were cut short. One of the Harry's had raised his arm and pointed straight at her, and Hermione felt his gaze sear her to her very soul. Then he raised his rifle and all went white.
Hermione was back in St. Mungo's. Harry was back in the bed before her, still and unmoving. The Healer stood in the corner, avoiding her gaze. Hermione turned and faced the Healer down.
'How long was I gone?'
The Healer opened their mouth to speak, but no words came out. Then the Healer swallowed and said, 'Fifteen minutes. Once you touched Mr Potter's head-
'Harry's head' cut in Hermione
'Harry's head' continued the Healer, 'you went all still, and your eyes glazed right over. It was as if you'd been stunned. I didn't know what to do, I checked your vital signs and I couldn't detect any sickness.'
'Harry was trying to talk to me. I think he was using Legilimency'
'But he can't. He's brain-dead'
'Obviously your original diagnosis was flawed, because Harry has created an environment in which he can exist and perform magic from, in his mind. Only his body is broken. The man is still there. Inside, reaching out to us.' She bent over and rested her hand on the bed. ' To me.' She said softly.
The Healer looked horrified, as the fact that Harry was conscious and trapped in his own mind dawned. 'Did you manage to talk to him?'
Hermione shook her head. 'No, for some reason his mind rejected me, like it was fighting against me.' She turned to look at Harry. 'But it's a start'.
Hermione turned to the Healer and said 'I'll be back tomorrow. And please, for his sake, charm some windows in here or something. It's the least you can do to let him know when it's the daytime outside.'
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Coming up, Hermione hits the books to find out how to talk to Harry whilst Ron has a visitor.