AN: Thank you all for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
Hermione held the folded sea green hospital gown close to her chest. The fabric felt as if it had been ironed one too many times, yet the end of the strings were frayed. Perhaps it was nearing the end of its life.
"Remember to cover your front and tie it behind your back," the Mediwitch began.
Hermione nodded. As if I could ever forget how to put this on.
"Try not to tie it too tightly around your neck though. We wouldn't want you to feel uncomfortable."
Hermione squeezed the gown. As if this wasn't uncomfortable enough.
"Is everything clear?"
Hermione swallowed. How did the second year who could write a thirty foot parchment on brewing polyjuice grow into a woman who couldn't find the words to say she doesn't need a lecture on how to dress herself?
"Do you have any questions?"
Am I going to die?
"No," Hermione choked out. "I understand everything."
"Good." The Medwitch smiled as if she was conversing with a first year eager to enter Hogwarts, not a woman terrified of returning to St. Mungo's.
Before Hermione could meditate on the disconnect, the Mediwitch handed her a small golden bell. "Ring this when you're finished."
Hermione winced. Was the last person to hold this a snowman?
The Mediwitch whistled a tune as she skipped down the hallway. Hermione blinked. Was this Mediwitch was aware that they were in a cancer ward? Had she ever been hexed for being too cheery?
Thank Merlin Severus hasn't crossed paths with her. Lord only knows how well he'd respond to her demeanor.
After taking a deep breath, Hermione stepped into a nearby women's changing room. She locked the door behind her and set the bell onto a corner stool. Then she removed her shirt and pants.
As she removed her bra, she stared at the wall in front of her. It was sterile white. The only difference between it and the floor was that the walls lacked tiles.
Never before had she been bothered by a room without a mirror, yet she couldn't help but wish there was one on this wall. It would be lovely to look at herself one more time before the potions ravaged her body. If she wanted people to remember her as she was, she wanted to see herself in this moment. In a few months-perhaps weeks-she would want nothing to do with a mirror. Now though, she would give anything for one last glimpse of her semi-healthy body.
Hermione took off her underwear and sighed. If she wanted to look in a bloody mirror that badly she could do it once she got home. Granted she would need a few moments alone, but it would not be hard to find some way of occupying the rest of her family. So long as she could hide her true intentions for staring at herself they may leave her in peace.
She put on the hospital gown. There was no softness in the fabric that touched her skin, and the chill of the air sent chills up her spine. She pulled out her wand and muttered a spell. The ribbons tied themselves together, giving her at least a modicum of modesty.
Thank God my magic still works. In a few weeks, I may no longer be able to say that. Perhaps I should store a few memories of me doing routine spells, just to prove to myself that at one point, I did have control of my magic.
After picking up her clothes, she crept down the hall into an examining room. It was just as stark as the changing room, and the hallway, and anything else in this horrid place.
Severus glanced up from his journal. Judging from the position of his bookmark he had made no progress since this morning.
"How do you feel?" Severus asked as she placed her clothes on the chair beside him.
Hermione sat on the examining table. "I feel sorry for you."
He raised an eyebrow.
She smirked. "You missed quite the show in that changing room. It's a real shame they wouldn't allow you in with me."
His lips curled up. "If they had allowed me inside with you I doubt we ever would have left."
"Yes, because if there's one scent which causes arousal it would be antibacterial potions," Hermione purred.
Severus closed the book. "One could spray eau de liver jelly beans in the air, and I would still be aroused by you."
"All mentions of naughty changing room shenanigans aside," his voice was lower. "How are you faring?"
Hermione crossed her legs. "I'm alive anyway."
"What else can I say?"
Severus closed his mouth.
She took a deep breath. "We've been through this all before. It never gets any easier, but we know what to expect."
"You are still allowed to have an emotion."
"I don't want to feel anything right now. All I want to do is get through this appointment."
"I will do my best to help you accomplish that goal."
She relaxed. "Just being here is enough for me."
"I only wish I could do more," Severus replied.
Her grin was genuine. "You gave me thirteen good years with you and the children. That's more than I ever thought I would have."
"I wish I could have done more for you," Severus answered.
"You gave me the best years of my life. You've made me happy, which is more than I can say for many other people," Hermione replied.
"Perhaps," he muttered.
Hermione picked up the bell from atop her clothes pile. "Are you ready for them to come in?"
"Why are you asking me? You are the patient."
"Yes, but whatever the healer says affects you too. If you are not emotionally ready for her to come in then I can wait."
"I will never be emotionally ready for any healer to walk through that door."
"Neither will I."
They gazed at each other for a few moments. The tension left Hermione's body. She didn't have to face death alone. Her husband wouldn't dream of abandoning her. Right now, that was all the support she needed.
"Ready?" she whispered.
"I suppose so," he answered.
She rang the bell. It was a soft tinkle. From what Hermione understood, it would somehow activate a beeper at the front desk. How it did so she wasn't entirely soon. At some point, she should ask a Healer how it worked.
Within moments, she heard footsteps from down the hall. She set the bell beside her and glanced at Severus. Then she mouthed, "I love you."
His eyes glistened.
The door clicked open. "Hello."
"Hello Healer Wu," Hermione began.
The Healer held a manilla folder in her left hand, and extended her right hand. Hermione grasped it and shook. Then Healer Wu turned to Severus. "Hello Severus."
"Hello," he answered.
They shook hands. Then, Healer Wu made her way to a gray medical stool and sat. She cleared her throat. "So Mrs. Snape, I see you're my patient today."
"Yes, I am."
"I had hoped to see you again under different circumstances."
"I had hoped to see you under difference circumstances as well. It would have been much better to meet you at a potions conference than here," Hermione answered.
"Indeed." Dr. Wu set down the folder onto the desk and thumbed through it.
Hermione's heart slowed.
"According to the Mediwitches the scar on your arm is returning," the Healer began.
"Yes," Hermione pointed to the faded letters on her left arm.
Healer Wu scooted her chair closer to her patient. She adjusted her glasses and hummed.
"The scar isn't dark yet, and my magic feels fine," Hermione began. "But I want to catch things as early as possible."
"That's an excellent idea," Healer Wu took her finger and ran it along Hermione's scar.
"You're correct, right now it looks fairly light," Healer Wu looked up. "Still, it is a symptom that things aren't quite going right."
"No," Hermione answered. "They aren't."
Healer Wu wheeled back towards the table. She pulled a parchment from the middle of the folder and grabbed a quill from the edge of the desk. Then she dipped it into an ink pot. "Are you experiencing any other symptoms?"
Healer Wu scribbled onto the parchment. "Have you noticed an uptick in magic?"
She jotted down another sentence. "Have you had difficulty casting spells?"
"Good," the Healer muttered. "Have you noticed any bleeding?"
"Have you had any unexplained pain?"
"I am glad to hear it," Healer Wu crossed a t before turning back to Hermione. "I'm going to go ahead and run a few wand scans then, just to give us a better idea of what we're dealing with."
Hermione lay down. She squinted. Must they put the bright candles so close to a patient's eye level?
The Healer put her wand just above Hermione's abdomen. She muttered, "este acolo cancroma?"
The wand began to glow green. The Healer bit her lower lip and she trailed the wand down Hermione's pelvis. It began to glow a neon red. The Healer shifted the wand to the right. It glowed blue. Then she shifted it to the left. It turned neon red before fading into the blue.
"It looks like there is a tumor on your colon," the Healer began. "Which isn't surprising given that your uterine cancer did spread to the colon."
The Healer raised her wand. "The good news is that other than the colon tumor, it has not spread yet."
"But it could spread soon," Hermione cut in.
"It could," Healer Wu answered.
Hermione's throat constricted. "How much longer do I have?"
The Healer answered, "I cannot tell you with any degree of certainty."
"Which means I may have a couple of months at best before it spreads," Hermione replied.
"You could have six months or more," Healer Wu answered
"Please, don't give me false hope. Tell me the truth, no matter how unpleasant it is."
"I'm not trying to give you false hope. The reality is that your husband created a brilliant, life saving potion. With his cancer delaying medication we cannot always predict when a cancer will return, or how aggressive that return will be."
Severus folded his hands.
"Sometimes the potion gives us enough time to cure the cancer, and other times nothing can be done. At this point in time, I cannot tell you which category you fall under," Healer Wu continued.
Hermione bit her lower lip.
"The good news is that we've made advancements since your last bout with cancer. You may respond well to some of them," the Healer offered.
"The last time I had cancer the dark magic was too prevalent for any treatment to work," the patient began. "Will that be the case this time?"
The Healer straightened her posture. "Sadly, there is no way to subdue the dark magic completely. It could inhibit our progress."
"That being said," Healer Wu answered in a gentle voice. "We do have some promising new treatments."
"Realistically, how much time would they buy me?"
"I cannot say. It may only be a few months, or it could be a few decades. I cannot make any guarantees at this point in time."
Hermione kept her focus on the Healer.
"The good news is that we've caught the cancer early," Healer Wu began. "We can begin some treatments which should make it easier to use magic, and we can work on preventing the cancer from spreading any further."
"Yet the colon tumor will continue to grow?" Hermione asked.
"Yes," Healer Wu answered. "Thanks to the dark magic, there is no way to prevent that. All we can do at this point in time is hope it doesn't spread."
Hermione bowed her head.
"Still, we can start with the dark magic suppressant treatment for Monday, if that works for you," Healer Wu replied. "It may not be able to cure the problem, but it will slow the progress. Maybe it could give us just enough time to treat your cancer."
"I am fine with beginning the anti dark magic treatments on Monday," Hermione answered.
"Okay," Healer Wu replied. "I can go ahead and schedule something. In the meantime, do you have any questions?"
For the first time in her life, the Gryffindor know-it-all didn't want to know anymore than she already did.