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Chapter 3: Loneliness
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Jonathan made his way up the stairs swiftly, humming a tune he'd heard on the radio that day. His case in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other, he grinned to himself at the thought of Hermione’s reaction, his respected, intelligent and clever wife-to-be.
Walking to the door, he pulled the keys from his pocket and got into his urbane flat. The small chaos around the flat indicated Hermione was already packing for their upcoming vacation in Greece.
Passing through the clean front hall, Jonathan stepped into the tidy living room, where everything was firmly in its spot, as if placed there by a ruler. That’s how both of them liked things: orderly and efficient.
Loosening his tie and placing his case by the black leather couch, Jonathan heard Hermione shuffling with clothes in their bedroom. Walking quietly, he reached the doorway and watched her stuffing the suitcases with garments of clothing, their entire wardrobe sprawled on the floor and furniture of the bedroom. Furrowing his eyebrows, Jonathan spotted a shift in Hermione’s behaviour straight away. The look on her face was absent and far away, movements automatic, and her usual clarity was replaced with that occasional aura of distance and mystery; one that never bothered him, though he couldn’t say he enjoyed it.
Strange wasn’t a favourite word in his dictionary.
Hermione didn’t notice his presence, even though he was standing directly in the doorway, straight in front of her. His eyebrows flew up as Hermione tossed heavy, thick jackets into the suitcase, something they surely wouldn’t need on the hot Greek beaches.
“Honey?” he said slowly but loudly enough for Hermione to stop halfway in her movement, looking up into Jonathan’s face. As she stared at him, Jonathan had the impression that for a moment she didn’t even know who he was – her eyes were darting all over him, trying to find his rightful place in the world and in her life.
Suddenly she shook her head and put on a smile that always pleased him.
“You’re home early,” she said casually, placing her hands on her hips and looking around in bafflement, as if surprised at the mess and chaos she has created. “I just thought we could start packing today.”
“We’re leaving in a few days, there’s still time for that. Besides,” Jonathan took three confident steps toward her and glanced at the jackets on top of the suitcase, “what’s that?”
Her eyes darted to the jackets, and she ran a hand through her hair nervously. Grabbing hold of the coats, she threw them carelessly back into the wardrobe and smiled up at Jonathan nervously. Giving her an inquiring look, Jonathan stepped to the wardrobe and started replacing the jackets on their hangers.
“What’s wrong with you? And what’s all this mess?” He motioned all around the room. Hermione followed the movement of his hand and lifted her hand to her lips, biting her nail uneasily.
“Nothing. I’m just…suffering from a travelling fever. I hate packing and want to get it done as soon as possible. About the mess, um, I just got a bit carried away. I’ll clean it up.”
Crouching down, she began gathering the dresses, shirts and underwear into her arms, Jonathan knelt down beside her, pulling the clothes from her arms and dropping them back to the floor.
“There’s no time for that,” he said calmly, but Hermione noted a hint of annoyance in his voice and she rolled her eyes at how neat and organized he had to be all the time. Sure, she was quite a pedant herself, but not to the same extent, nor was she so demanding of other people to follow and keep up with her habits. “You have to get dressed for the party, dear.”
“The party? Another one?” she inquired as they both stood up. “What party?”
“I told you about it this morning when I came to see you at work, remember? Are you sure you’re all right?”
Racking her brains for a second, Hermione suddenly remembered and looked back up at Jonathan apologetically, though slightly irritated that there had to be some fancy party or a social occasion twice a week.
“Let me just take a shower and dress quickly,” she muttered and sprinted toward the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
Agitated by the fact she hadn’t even greeted him with a kiss and hadn’t noticed the flowers he brought her, Jonathan left the room, kicking away a sweater from his path.
Ronald Wesley was hospitalized for three days and then they gave him a release form. Even his minor injuries seemed to heal quickly and inexplicably. The doctors, however, didn’t settle on this for long and emptied another bed. For two days Ron waited for Dr. Hermione Granger to appear in his room, coming to ask more of her peculiar questions that she didn’t seem to understand herself. Drawn to her in a way he couldn’t explain, Ron clutched the plastic bag with his belongings dejectedly as he was discharged – she hadn’t shown up.
Approaching the nurse sitting at reception and flipping through a magazine, Ron cleared his throat and the young woman glanced up at him, annoyed at being distracted from her reading. It was already evening and not many people sailed through the halls, only a doctor passed the rooms from time to time.
“I, er, I’m looking for Dr. Granger,” he said. “She saved my life and I’d like to thank her.”
Rolling her eyes, the nurse set the magazine on her knees, snapping her gum. “She’s not here and won’t be for the next two weeks. Leaving for a splendid, expensive vacation with her rich, snobbish fiancé.”
Perking up an eyebrow, Ron felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Can you…can you tell me where can I find her? I really need to see her, you see.”
“Sorry, but we’re certainly not allowed to give out personal information about patients or doctors to other people,” she said haughtily and went back to reading her magazine.
“No, no, please…this is really important. I don’t know how to explain it, I need to see her.”
Shutting the magazine and clicking her tongue impatiently, the nurse turned in her seat and glared at Ron. “You know what else is important? The privacy of others. We have our rules and terms of service in this institution, and we follow them, you know why? So we can protect people from lunatics like you.”
Snorting sardonically, Ron widened his eyes. “Lunatic? I am not a lunatic, woman; I just need to find this person because she is the key to all I’ve ever wondered and questioned in my life.”
This last and unusually poetic attempt to convince the nurse to help him was unsuccessful. Threatened to get thrown out by police, Ron gave up and willingly walked out of the hospital onto the darkening streets of Edinburgh. Desperately hoping to see her walk from behind a corner or park her car by the road, Ron was disappointed. Had it not been for the gum-chewing, impolite hag of a nurse, perhaps he would have gotten at least a little clue as to where he could find her. Hermione.
He hardly took note of where he was going. Somehow he didn’t feel like going back home, making sure his friends and Chelsea knew he was all right. The image of his flat didn’t feel like home and the swift flashes of his friends’ faces made him feel cold and remote.
The sun was setting and Ron angrily kicked a can laying on the road, shoving his hands into his pockets.
Charming all her bags to shrink to the size of a baby’s fist, Ginny shoved them into her handbag and glanced back down at the shopping list her mother had prepared for her. Everything was crossed out except a Flesh-Eating Slug Repellent.
Putting the list back into her jeans pocket, Ginny looked down Diagon Alley and set out in the direction of the sinister Knockturn Alley just around the corner. Even though the war had been over for a few years, the place still had the same eerie, dark air about it. The walls of the close-set buildings were dirty, while years of grime were sprawled across the dusty roads that so few feet walked these days. Houses and shops close together, as if huddled to hide the sun from view, made the streets crooked and thin.
Ginny walked in quick strides, her eyes scanning the dirty windows with letters hidden under the settled dust. Reaching her destination, a small shop nestled between two tall flat buildings, she pushed the door open, an ancient bell tinkling above her head and a large cobweb stretching as the door opened fully.
The interior was lit up by a few candles perched on top of old cabinets and cupboards. This was one of the shops still thriving in Knockturn Alley, for its helpful though radical products used in housecleaning and working around the garden. Most of the shelves were lined with various repellents, dangerous planting seeds and fertilizers.
At the back of the shop, though, was a small rickety cupboard, half-opened. Walking closer, her eyes registering a soft glow coming from behind the little doors, Ginny reached the cupboard and opened it. Slightly creaking, the little door revealed various objects that had no place in a shop designed to sell products helpful around the house. There were thick books in black leather and shrunken things of unknown origin, but Ginny sensed they were made of human flesh. Then there were glasses filled with coloured liquids, dead animals floating inside, horrified looks upon their features.
Just as she was about to look away, another glass caught her eye, the one emitting the soft glow that had first grabbed her attention.
Running her fingertips across the cold glass where a soft-looking powder hovered, Ginny furrowed her eyebrows and read the product’s description.
Memory Dust ~ a tiny, sparkling powdery essence, which, if thrown into the victim’s eyes, puts the victim into a ten days long slumber. Once awoken, the victim’s memories are replaced with false ones. The cure: unknown.
“I wouldn’t touch that, missy, if I were you.”
Ginny started at the sound of the rough old voice, snatching her hand away from the glass and turning around.
“One breath of tha’ and you’re done for.” The man grinned, revealing large yellow teeth. His unpleasant face was covered in soot and thick eyebrows pointed in all directions.
“Where did you get it from?” she asked, her eyes darting to the glass with the sparkles in it again.
“Just like all my products. They come from nowhere in particular. Jus’ appear.”
“And cure unknown?” she asked, furrowing her eyebrows.
“Can come in handy now tha’ there’s a spell to reverse the Obliviate curse, eh?”
Shrugging her shoulders, Ginny took a step closer to the counter.
“I need one Flesh-Eating Slug Repellent…”
Grinning from ear to ear, the man nodded. “Yes, quite the pests this spring. All over gardens. Almost everything is sold, bu’ I still ‘ave some in the back,” he said, turning around and disappeared in the next room.
As the man shuffled in his cupboards in the storage room, Ginny pondered the Memory Dust shortly. How ingenious, she thought, to create something to put people into a false life and rip their true past away from them.
He was back within seconds, carrying a large green can. A slug with fangs was on the cover, crossed out. Ginny paid the price, thanked the man and without further ado left the shop.
Hurrying away from the sinister place, Ginny felt free again under the warm glow of the sun engulfing the picturesque and lovely-looking Diagon Alley. Striding through the streets and into the Leaky Cauldron, greeting some friends on the way, she was now walking the London streets to her usual place of Apparition.
Thinking about the boring process of eradicating slugs from her mother’s garden wearily, Ginny suddenly felt someone bump into her, sending her falling to the ground, papers whirling around her head.
“Ugh, sorry, Miss…wait a minute, Martha.”
Looking up, Ginny spotted a tall man in a neat suit talking into a small black device with an antenna. He spoke with a heavy Scottish accent and wore a scandalized expression over his face. Shaking her head with silent laughter, thinking about her dad and the joy it would give him had she snatched the thing away, Ginny gathered the papers around her.
“No, dear, nothing happened, I just bumped into a woman,” the man went on animatedly, crouching down across from Ginny and taking some papers himself. “No, I did not do it on purpose just to…Martha!” Dropping all his papers to the ground, he remained there crouching, his mouth hanging open as a shrieking voice sounded from his black phone.
Chuckling under her breath, Ginny stood up with the papers in her arms, ready to give them over. She glanced down momentarily and noticed she was holding a newspaper. The headline caught her eye; there was an accident and an unmoving picture of a man being carried into an ambulance car. His hair was strikingly red, much like that of her entire family and the face seemed awfully like…
No, it couldn’t be. Ginny sharpened her gaze and squinted down at the picture, but the useless Muggle photo was of low quality and she couldn’t see it clearly, yet the unconscious man's familiar-looking long nose made her heart skip a beat.
“Thank you.” The man’s voice ripped through her thoughts as he took all his papers away from her and continued walking off. “No, dear, I swear I do love you and only you. Yes, yes, she was terribly ugly and I bumped into her because she was so wide.”
Standing there dumbfounded, Ginny watched his back until he disappeared in the crowd. Getting her senses back, she turned on her heel and hurried off to Apparate away and tell Harry immediately.
Loneliness has many forms and shapes. There’s the painful loneliness, when you really, really miss someone that you know cannot be replaced. Also the loneliness which we all know; one where a person feels secluded from the world, abandoned and neglected from friends and family; the so-called bitter loneliness. Then there is the intentional solitude that can restore the equanimity of mind, doesn’t hurt, for even the sound of the word alone is beautiful.
And lastly there can be the empty loneliness -- the most unexplainable and self-destructing. When you don’t understand the reason that you're feeling lonely, and you feel alone in a place crowded with people. It’s when you feel alone with people you know and genuinely like. It’s when you desperately miss something, and it’s not coming, and it’s terribly out of your reach, making you feel as though you had no beating heart at all, for there seems to be nothing in you, only infinite hollowness.
Ron had always felt lonely, though he was hardly aware of his feelings; he didn’t give them all the recognition he should have. The thing was, up until this point, meeting the woman from the hospital, he had never really searched for something. Now, however, he felt he had found something he maybe should have been looking for.
For one wild second while staring into her soft, brown eyes, he felt whole again. There wasn’t exactly any physical attraction between them, though she was rather striking, but the warmth around his heart made him sure this was not some kind of a wild illusion or idea. Maybe she was a friend from the past he couldn’t quite remember, or maybe he was simply meant to get to know her better for all it could take.
And now, when he had found her, he had lost her just as quickly. The fact that it pained him so much told him there was truly something more in all this, something to know and to discover.
The sky was now completely dark, first stars glinting in the distance, giving Ron the desire to reach out and touch them, knowing answers were somewhere in the dark, far away, and she was one of those stars.
There was a world far beyond, and why he longed for it so much he still didn’t know. But then, maybe he didn’t need to know everything.
Sighing, Ron turned on his heel, his shadow spinning under the lamplight. About to give up on his aimless searching and head home, he halted and went completely rigid. As if by a miracle -- an unspoken wish -- there she stood under the lamp, holding paper bags full of groceries in her arms, staring at him with her eyes wide.
Suddenly both of them knew that this was no longer a coincidence.
Author's Note: Here's the third chapter, dearies. I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for reading. Also a huge thanks goes to the people that reviewed, whether from over the forums and especially those who I didn't even ask. Your support and constructive criticism means a whole lot to me.
Until next time and please review, for that makes me very happy. :)
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