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Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Ron was exhausted. As much as he tossed and turned, sleep eluded him, and he was left to sit in the darkness of his flat mulling over the events not only of the past couple of days, but also the last five years.
Although he had been ultimately justified in his hunt for Hermione and Draco, the means by which he had achieved this end left him feeling unsettled. As the night wore on, this feeling grew into a full-blown attack of his senses. He tried to convince himself that what he’d done in the past to find them, the lengths he’d gone to were necessary, but a voice that had long been dormant whispered reproachful, slighting accusations at him.
He wandered aimlessly from room to room trying to find peace of mind. Trying to escape this voice haunting him, reminding him of the atrocities and wrongs he had committed all in the name of this quest. He relived each and every cold-blooded act and vicious word. In hindsight, they all made him shudder. He’d sacrificed so much. His family, his friends, and his peers were all victims of his obsession.
His rambling brought him finally to the bathroom. He stood staring at the reflection in the mirror. What he saw there made his stomach turn. ‘Who is this person, this monster? Where did he come from?’ He thought to himself.
He stood like that unmoving until it was finally time to get ready and meet Harry at St. Mungo’s.
The next morning, Ron walked down the halls leading to Hermione and Draco’s room in silence. He was in no mood to talk. All he wanted was for Hermione to say she wanted to stay and know who she was, and by extension know him. Harry, sensing Ron’s state of mind, respected his wish to travel in wordless companionship.
As they entered the room, an eerie quiet hovered in the air. The two men stood stalk still for several moments taking in the vacant space. The privacy curtain had been drawn back, and the sheets had obviously been changed causing the beds to take on a severe, crisp, clinical appearance.
“Harry, why is their room empty?” Ron finally asked suspicion lacing his voice.
“I don’t know mate, but let’s not jump to any conclusions. Maybe they were transferred. They could’ve been moved to Long Term Care.”
Trying to push his own fears down, Harry patted Ron on the back, and said, “Let’s go ask the front desk where they might be.”
Leaving the vacant room behind, Ron tried to walk calmly to the reception desk but this attempt failed miserably. As they progressed down the hall, his pace began to pick up until he broke into an all out run.
Sliding up to the desk with Harry close behind, Ron bent over for a moment to catch his breath, and calm the terror that was rising in his chest.
“Miss, can you tell me where the two patients from Room 224 have gone?” Ron asked still slightly out of breath.
“They were released this morning and left for…” the woman paused to look down, and consult her charts. “Hammersmith.”
Both men were speechless. Ron staggered backward slightly at the revelation that Draco and Hermione had chosen their Muggle lives instead of the Wizarding World. His heart began to hammer frantically.
Snapping out of the shock first, Harry pushed the questioning on. “When did they leave?”
The receptionist glanced to the clock on the wall, and said, ”About twenty minutes ago.”
Stepping forward and gripping the counter, Ron asked anxiously, “Have the two Muggles had their memories wiped yet?”
The receptionist gave him an odd look, but answered, “Well Sir, I’m not certain, but it is standard procedure when performing a memory wipe to return a patient to their residence before casting the spell. This is done to avoid any trauma the patient may experience finding themselves in an unfamiliar environment.”
Ron looked to Harry, and said in a low, desperate voice, “Maybe we still have time. Maybe they haven’t done it yet.”
His mouth set in a grim, tight line, Harry simply nodded.
“However, in this case…” she continued but before she could finish her sentence, two loud “cracks” reverberated through the now empty hall. Exasperated, the receptionist just shook her head.
“How many bloody Aurors does the Ministry have to send to accompany two Muggles for Merlin’s sake?” the woman mumbled to herself.
Harry and Ron arrived with a pop in the same alley they had apparated to a few days prior.
‘Was it only two days ago that we sat down in their living room, and told them who they were?’ thought Ron morosely. ‘And now, to think I might lose her for good.’
Ron was shaken from his dark thoughts by Harry’s hand grabbing his forearm.
“Let’s get moving, mate. Don’t know how much longer we have.”
Ron gave a nod, and they were on their way.
They entered the flat cautiously to find no one about, however, in the next moment they heard voices floating in from the kitchen. In short order, they made their way through the living room, and into the kitchen to find Ginny and Draco sitting at the table. It appeared as if she were questioning him and filling out some kind of report.
“Ginny?” Ron bellowed.
She jumped slightly and turned to look at them. Harry’s eyes darted over to Draco who seemed to be sitting with a completely vacant expression on his face. He couldn’t tell if Draco had already had his memory wiped or not.
“Hello Ron! Hello Harry!” piped in Draco happily with a small wave.
‘Guess not,’ thought Harry.
“Ron. Harry. What are you doing here?” Ginny questioned.
“What are we doing here? I could ask you the same question," accused Ron.
“My job. What does it look like I’m doing?” she spat sarcastically.
“I can’t believe you willingly brought them here."
“What are you taking about? I volunteered.”
“You volunteered?” he shouted.
“Yeah! What’s you’re problem, Ron?” she leveled angrily.
“My problem?” he huffed. “My problem is your obvious lack of concern or regard for how this might affect Hermione, or Draco, or… or Harry even.”
“Oh, that’s rich. Don’t talk to me about my lack of regard for people’s feelings, Ron. Not when you’ve made it your mission in life over the past some odd years to hurt and alienate every single person who’s ever loved you.” Ron flinched at this.
“I can’t even count the number of times you’ve brought Mum to tears,” she continued on. “Don’t make this about them, Ron. This is all about you, and what you want you selfish git!”
This was quickly turning into the row to end all rows between the two siblings. Harry had to do something.
“Gin,” he cut in, “I can’t believe the Ministry would have allowed you to come here with Draco and Hermione on your own. There would have been an Auror detail assigned to you for security purposes.”
Suddenly, a familiar voice broke through the interrogation from the other room. “But I am here, my dear boy.”
Both Harry and Ron bolted into the living room, and their eyes immediately fell on the dark, tense figure of Mad Eye Moody standing rigidly in the corner. How on earth had they missed him when they first came in?
“What are you doing here?” asked Ron incredulously.
Moody’s brow creased at the redundancy of the question, but he answered anyway, “The Ministry sent me to accompany Ms. Weasley, Mr. Malfoy, and Ms. Granger.”
At that moment, Hermione emerged from the hall leading to the bedrooms saying, “Well, I’m all done. Let’s get going.”
She caught sight of Ron and Harry, and the room stilled.
“What are you two doing here?” she asked concerned.
“Stopping you from making the biggest mistake of your life.” Ron answered.
“Oh Ron, don’t be so melodramatic,” Ginny said entering the room with Draco close behind her. Ron shot her a vicious glare.
Sensing the brewing spat, Hermione asked Ron, “What in the world are you on about?”
“Listen Sarah,” he said as he took her hand, led her to the couch, and motioned for her to sit. He knelt before her, and said with a forced calm, “Both you and Peter have so much to come back to, so many people in the Wizarding World waiting for you. Don’t do this!”
She took a moment to register what he was saying, and then something indescribable flashed in her eyes.
“Ron, we understand your position, but the decision has already been made.”
“Then unmake it!” Ron said growing frustrated.
“Ron, it’s better this way.”
Draco walked up not able to restrain himself anymore.
“Oh, you’re absolutely evil, you are.” He managed through a small chuckle.
Ignoring him and barreling on, Ron continued, “You’re the brightest witch of your age, and Peter…” here he stumbled a bit.
Making the ultimate move in his desperate attempt to convince them, he stood, and threw his arm around Draco’s shoulder. “Peter’s from a very prestigious family. You have a huge inheritance coming to you.” Then he gave his shoulder a quick squeeze.
Totally taken aback by the physical contact, Draco started to laugh even harder.
“Listen mate, I think you’re great and all, and I appreciate the sentiment but I prefer girls.”
Ron gave him an odd look sending Draco into an even bigger fit of laughter. With that, he started off down the hall toward the bedrooms.
“Hermione,” he called, “I’m grabbing a jumper. Did you want one too?”
“Yes, thank you.” She shouted back.
Harry gasped, but Ron didn’t seem to notice.
He squatted back down, and took Hermione’s hands in his.
“Please Sarah, I’m begging you to reconsider.”
She took one hand from his hold leaving the other behind, and gently cupped his cheek.
“Ron, I'm sorry but my mind is made up.”
She stood and went to meet Draco who was now returning with the two jumpers.
Ron, still crouching, was completely deflated. Without turning his head, Ron asked, “Where are you going?”
“To work,” she said as she pulled on the jumper.
Ron stood, and shot her a quizzical look.
“Well, I can’t quit my job over the telephone, now can I? It wouldn’t be right. Are you ready, Draco?”
Draco smiled, and nodded. As they were making their way out the door, Hermione called to Mad Eye. “We’ll be back in about an hour.”
Ron, finally piecing it together, was too afraid to hope. He looked at her, and called, “Sarah!”
She turned back slowly with a small smile playing on her lips. “I’m only going to say this once Ron. My name is Hermione.” And with that she closed the door.
The room was absolutely silent. He looked around to find Harry and Mad Eye looking out the window, and Ginny beaming up at him.
A slow smile started to spread across his face as the truth of the situation sunk in. Suddenly, Ron burst out laughing hysterically, and scooped Ginny up into his arms bridal style.
He started to swing her around, and through her giggles she was screaming, “Ronald Bilius Weasley, you put me down!” but there wasn’t an ounce of scolding in her voice.
He placed her back on her feet, and started to hyperventilate. He sat with a great thud onto the couch his laughter swiftly turning into wracking sobs, and he buried his face in his hands.
“Oh Ron, it’s all good now. She’s coming back with us.” Ginny said as she sat beside him on the couch. She wrapped her arms around him tightly, and held on as he poured out all the grief, sadness, and frustration he’d been holding in for the past five years. He couldn’t for the life of him answer her. The last two days had been emotionally dizzying. Ron was just now allowing himself the time to fully realize that Hermione was not only not dead, but she was coming back to them.
Ginny felt tears prickle her eyes as she held his shuddering form. This was her Ron: goofy, awkward, short-tempered, over emotional, loving, and loyal. The big brother that had disappeared so long ago only to be replaced by a cold, aloof, vicious man.
Across the room, Harry’s feelings silently echoed Ron’s. He stood staring out the window as quiet tears slid steadily down his face but a small smile graced his lips. Mad Eye simply reached out and squeezed the younger man’s shoulder in comfort and support.
For the next quarter of an hour, only the soft, breathy sobs and hiccups of Ron and the occasional soothing whispered words of Ginny could be heard in the near silence of the room.
A long and difficult road lay ahead for them all, but at least there was still a road to travel.
A/N: Watch for "When A Door Closes". It is the sequel to this story picking up a month after Hermione and Draco have been admitted to St. Mungo’s to start their road to recovery. Thanks again for all the interest, and hopefully I’ll see you over there.