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A sheen of sweat glistened over her face as she clenched her wand, her knuckles white from the strain. The exhaustion of the battle was slowly taking its toll, but she pushed the sensation aside and steeled herself for the fight that lay ahead. She was now face to face with her most loathed adversary. Harry had Voldermort, and she had him.
She eyed him cautiously sizing up his possible weaknesses and looking for a tactical advantage. There was no question it would come to this. Every single one of their dealings had been fraught with conflict and strife. Every glare, every hurled insult, and every vicious hex had brought them to this moment. Draco Malfoy was her nemesis and it was her right to take him down.
When he had initially come upon her, he was hit with an onslaught of different emotions. Fear, anticipation, hatred, and excitement all rolled through him like a tidal wave. This was it. It was almost as if he’d been hunting for her from the onset of this battle.
As he fought to gain the upper hand, he mused how he would take great pleasure in making this filthy, little mudblood suffer. There was nothing to hold him back now. No threats of detention. No dealing with the incoherent ramblings of that moron Weasley, or the insufferable Potter. Hermione Granger was going to regret the day she ever laid eyes on him.
Between the screaming and shouting, and the constant electrical crack of magic, Ron’s head was beginning to throb painfully. Clutching tightly at the large gash on his brow, he stumbled weakly and awkwardly about the field searching for her. He’d lost track of Hermione, and was becoming desperate in his need to find her. The ache in his temple was growing stronger and he was losing the ability to focus properly.
He turned frantically on the spot, but saw only the smoke and ash of recent conflicts. The screams of before were slowly becoming a muffled hum to his ears. Again he turned, and suddenly spotted her across the field. To his great horror however, she was engaged in a vicious struggle with Malfoy.
Draco had lost his wand and was now trying to wrestle Hermione’s away from her. Ron tried to move toward them, but as he did so, he stumbled and his legs gave out. As an awful weakness started to overtake him as he watched them wrestle desperately against each other. In a jumble of arms and hands that fought for control, the wand disappeared between them, and then quite suddenly, a brilliant burst of light flashed from where their bodies were pressed tightly together. As he lay there, the last thing he saw before unconsciousness claimed him was both Hermione and Draco’s huddled, clutching forms collapse to the ground in an unmoving heap.
FIVE YEARS LATER…
Ronald Weasley walked the Ministry halls toward his department with a frightening forcefulness. Gone was the sweet, awkward boy who seemed so unsure. His still young features were set in a grim determination and surly demeanor. The war had changed Ron. He was extremely withdrawn now, and made those who did not know him well feel extremely uncomfortable.
After the war, he’d chosen to follow his childhood dream of becoming an Auror. However, his reasons for doing so were vastly altered from his original intentions. Instead of wishing for the thrills and adventure that would accompany such a vocation, he thrived on the need for revenge with, at times, gruesome results.
As his feet pounded viciously along the tiled floor, he moved swiftly to reach his meeting with Mad Eye regarding the latest report of a certain former Death Eater. For the past five years, Ron had made it his personal mission to find Malfoy and bring him to justice. Whether the git actually made it into the hands of the Ministry unscathed or even alive was another matter.
Many believed Draco as well as Hermione had perished the night of the final battle. In the madness and chaos, no one could recall seeing either of them during or after the fight. There were no bodies. Only Hermione’s wand was found broken on the ground where Ron had witnessed their final struggle. Ron’s was the last and only account of them. A funeral was held for Hermione, which Ron staunchly refused to attend, and the magical community found his behaviour appalling.
He didn’t believe for a moment that either was dead. In his heart, he knew Hermione was still alive and was being held hostage by Malfoy. Over the years, Ron had slowly transitioned from a shy teenager into an almost delusional young man. Highly suspicious of everyone, he shared the full extent of his beliefs regarding Hermione and Draco with only Harry and Moody.
Harry, for his part, had grown increasingly worried about Ron. His drive to find Malfoy, who in all likelihood was dead, bordered on the obsessive. Mad Eye did nothing to deter Ron, and at times even seemed to egg him on. Although Moody’s misguided intentions were honourable, he’d grown to love Ron like a son, his actions angered Harry to no end.
Harry couldn’t fault Ron for this drastic transformation though. Alone, Ron had witnessed firsthand the fall of their best friend. It must have been devastating for him to watch her die unable to move, unable to prevent it. Harry’s guilt over failing his two very best friends was boundless.
Despite the fact that Ron had never said anything, Harry knew she’d meant so much more than merely a friend to him. Ron had only just begun to truly understand the depths of his feelings for her when she’d been ripped from his life.
As Ron rounded the final corner before reaching Moody’s secluded office, he slowed his pace to try, and settle the excitement bubbling up inside him. This was it. It had to be. As he opened the door and took in the tense, wired posture of one Mad Eye Moody, he pushed down any indication of anxiety, and asked the question that had been driving him all day.
“What do you know?”
Moody took a moment to pick up a file and then stared unflinchingly at Ron before responding in a deathly calm.
“Have you ever heard of a Muggle suburb of London called Hammersmith?”
IN ANOTHER PART OF LONDON…
Peter walked into his flat carrying the groceries he’d picked up on his way home. He looked around expectantly.
“Sarah!” he shouted. “Sarah? Are you in? I could really use a hand with these if you aren’t too busy.”
He looked in the hall mirror to guage his appearance. He was a mess. The clouds had been threatening rain all day, and as he was making his way home, the sky had opened up.
Although his hair was soaked and clinging to his face, the wetness did nothing to dull the vibrancy of his white blond hair.
Suddenly from down the hall came a voice.
“Well look at what the cat dragged in!”
Turning abruptly, he spotted his chuckling flatmate.
“You’re just lucky you weren’t out there,” he smirked, his steel grey eyes dancing with mischief. “What with how this kind of weather affects your insane mop, we’d never get you through the door for all the frizz.”
She scowled at him and slapped his arm lightly.
“Here, take these into the kitchen for me,” he said handing the bags to her and walking off in the direction of his room.
“I have to change before I catch my death. I’m absolutely drenched.”
“Really,” she quipped, “I hadn’t noticed.”
Without stopping, he simply shouted in response, “Smartass.”
Before turning and heading toward the kitchen, she smiled to herself, and answered sweetly, “Always.”
With great economy and agitation, Ron moved about his small office gathering the necessary items for his upcoming mission. As he picked up Moody’s file for a quick once over, he heard a slight rapping at the door. He glanced up quickly to spot a dark mess of hair and spectacles peaking around the edge of the doorframe.
“Hey Harry,” he greeted as he looked back down at the file again nervously scanning its contents before finally stowing it into his satchel.
“Do you have time to catch some breakfast?” Harry inquired.
“Actually, I was just about to shove off.”
Ron contemplated whether or not he should let Harry in on where he was about to go and for what purpose. On the one hand, Harry had always been there for him even when everyone, including his own family, had dismissed his theories. On the other, Harry had been increasingly distant as of late. Against his better judgment, he relented.
“Um… well, Harry… I was just going to… you see… Moody just gave me this report and…”
At the mere mention of Mad Eye, Harry’s entire disposition changed.
“Oh Ron, no. Not again! How many times do you have to put yourself through this before you finally understand that she’s...”
Harry couldn’t finish the sentence. Instead he looked down and away, huffed out a large breath of aggravation, and began to pace the room like a caged animal.
“For Merlin’s sake Ron, how many more of Moody’s wild goose chases will you go on?”
“This is it, Harry. I can feel it. Here, look…”
At this, Ron reached back into his satchel for the file. “Take a look. It has to be him. The eyewitness’ description is just too exact. The location makes perfect sense in relation to the last battle and how far they might have been able to travel.”
Harry waved the file away.
“No, Ron. It’s not possible. After all this time, don’t you think if they were that close we would have found them?”
“But this is just like Malfoy. To be hiding her right under our noses… If we go there and scope it out, I’m sure…
“No Ron.” Harry cut him off abruptly. “Just… no!”
Ron paused to take in the shift in Harry’s support.
“So, you won’t be coming then.” Ron asked uncertainly.
They both knew this was no longer a question of whether Harry would be joining him for the day, but more if he would be there for him from now on.
It broke Harry’s heart to hear the despondent tone in Ron’s voice. He could not even answer him with words. All he could manage was a quick shake of his head and then to refocus his eyes out the window to his left.
The realization that Harry was no longer the ally Ron once thought he was made his stomach turn. He had to swallow hard to keep down the bile rising in his throat. The ultimate disappointment and utter rage that was coursing through him was staggering. He closed himself off to control his reaction and put up a veritable wall of cold, fierce, silent anger.
“Fine.” he forced out through gritted teeth, and with that, Ron strode from the room.
Harry sat heavily into a chair and placed his head in his hands.
“What are you getting?” Sarah asked. “And remember, this is my treat to celebrate your new job.”
Peter glanced at her sideways with a small but proud grin playing across his fine features.
“I’m not certain… perhaps just a tea and a scone.” he answered.
“Ooohh, big spender!” She shot him a teasing smirk and an arched eyebrow.
His smile faltered. “To be honest, I’m feeling a little too tense to eat. I really want it to go well today. We need this… “
Sarah patted his arm gently. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fantastic. You’re a natural at this sort of thing,” she said soothingly.
Changing the subject, she handed him the money.
“Here. Can you order for me and pay? I need to use the loo. Get me the same. Tea, milk wiith one sugar, and a scone.
“Milk and one sugar.” he said at the same time as her. “Yes, I know.” He smiled at her warmly as he took the note.
She gave him a reassuring smile and a quick nod, then turned to make her way to the restroom. As she left, his confident smile fell into a deep scowl. Nervously, he watched her retreating form disappear into the back of the café. He had never been very good at this part. Sarah told him he only needed to practice, but the notes and coins always made him so confused for some reason. And once he was flustered, he couldn’t quite handle dealing with the shop owners.
He looked up from his hand clutching the money to meet the gaze of the older woman behind the counter. She smiled at him sweetly and asked “What can I get you, love?”
This didn’t seem too bad.
He began to answer “Well, I’ll have…” when suddenly, he felt two large hands clutch tightly at his collar and whirl him around like a rag doll. His vision was momentarily blurred by the whirl of motion he had been launched into. But as his eyes adjusted, he found he was nose to nose with a rather large, rather angry ginger haired man.
The woman at the counter gave a loud shriek and in his peripheral he could see her backing away from the counter.
As Peter dragged his focus back to the hulk nearly choking the life out of him, he realized that threatening words were now spilling from said hulk’s mouth in a low, vicious rush. He tried desperately to concentrate on what the thug was saying, but found he could barely hear him over the thundering of his own heart.
“Could you repeat that for me?” he caught himself eking out.
Was he insane? This man could easily break him like a twig. Apparently, the man’s mind was traveling along the same lines because his face had now gone an interesting shade of crimson and he looked nearly ready to explode.
The frightening man grew dangerously quiet, and pulled him even closer. In a strained whisper, the giant growled, “Where is she you little, pathetic ferret?”
Ron was growing impatient with the little git. Was he purposely trying to piss him off? The look of utter confusion on the ferret’s face was absolutely maddening. He gripped his collar harder and began to lift him off the ground. The flailing weakling began to gasp for air as he grabbed desperately at Ron’s clutching hands.
“Let’s try this again, shall we? Where the hell…” but before he could finish his sentence, a piercing scream came from behind him. He scarcely had time to look around when he felt a small someone jump on his back throwing an arm around his neck, and start striking him fiercely with the other.
By the lack of force behind the punches, Ron could tell it was a woman. But, in truth, she wasn’t playing exactly fair because she had just opted to release his neck in favor of grabbing a fist full of hair and yanking for all she was worth. Ron howled in pain.
In order to pacify this new, unforeseen threat, Ron dropped Draco who sagged ungracefully to the floor, and deftly turned and grabbed the woman’s wrists to halt the attack.
The sight he was faced with shocked him to the very core. There, before him, stood a very alive, very angry Hermione.
His eyes quickly traced over her features only slowing at her soft pink lips, her full bushy brown hair, and her pert little nose. When his eyes finally came back up and locked with her blazing chocolate brown eyes, everything else seemed to fall away. He felt as though he was liable to drown in them if he held her gaze any longer, and yet he could not bring himself to look away. He watched as her eyes darted down to his mouth and gazed longingly.
Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice.
“Ron!” came Harry’s voice from the door.
Both Ron and Hermione looked to Harry in bewilderment. Giving her head a quick shake, Hermione seemed to regain herself first and easily pulled her wrists free from Ron’s grasp.
“You great oaf, who do you think you are assaulting perfect strangers?”
Ron turned to look at her dumbly still speechless from the bombshell of seeing her again.
She dropped quickly to Malfoy’s side, and threw her arm around his shoulder to gently rub his back.
“Are you alright Peter? You’re not seriously hurt, are you?”
As he tried to clear his throat, Draco patted his chest roughly and pulled at his collar to straighten it.
He gave her a watery smile. “No, no, I’m fine. It was only a bit of a shock,” he coughed out.
“Peter, what did you do this time? She must have been amazing to risk this…” she glanced over at Ron briefly with a haughty, dismissive look “…this jerk!”
“What? No, Sarah!” He sputtered. “ Nothing at all like that. I’ve never seen this bloke before in my life.”
“Doesn’t mean you haven’t seen a whole lot of his girlfriend,” she countered.
“Sarah, I’m serious. You know I haven’t been dating anyone lately. But now that you mention it.” The mischievous glint was back in his eyes. “He looks an awful lot like the type you would go for.”
A deep blush spread over her face, and she looked down awkwardly dropping her hand from his back to pick at something invisible on her coat and bag.
“I haven’t the foggiest of what you’re referring to.”
“Mind you, the blokes you’ve always dated never had it all, but this gent seems to be the complete package. He’s tall, extremely fit, blue eyes, freckles, and has that bright red hair you always seem to drool over.” Malfoy looked Ron up and down appraisingly.
“This is total nonsense Peter. Are you sure he didn’t cut the blood flow off to your brain because now you’re talking complete rubbish.”
Ron had been listening in on the entire exchange, and felt extremely torn and confused. The embarrassment that flowed through him at the fact that they were openly discussing whether he was Hermione’s type was overwhelming. But what floored him even further was that this was Hermione and Draco talking so companionably, so intimately.
“Have you forgotten,” she continued, “that he was trying to strangle you to death only moments ago, and now you’re sizing him up as a potential date for me?”
“Well love, desperate times call for desperate measures,” he smiled teasingly.
At this, Hermione hauled Draco off the ground and started leading him toward the door.
Finally gaining his wits, Ron called after her. “Hermione!”
She turned abruptly, and shot him a vicious glare.
“You must have me mistaken with someone else,” she snapped at him. “My name is Sarah, and this gentleman you were so rudely choking is Peter. Now if you’ll excuse us. Good day!”
She stalked toward the door and paused briefly to consider Harry. He saw an odd look of recognition knit her brow as she gazed at him, but she quickly brushed it aside and moved out the door with Draco in tow. In passing, Malfoy gave Harry a warm, genuine smile and a slight wave as Hermione dragged him from the shop.
Harry, for his part, had been frozen in shock at the door the whole time. He turned to Ron and said, “That was her… That was him…”
Ron looked from Harry to the door, and then back again. He shook his head in disbelief and then began to look around realizing that all eyes in the cafe were on them.
“I think a memory charm is in order here mate,” he muttered quietly.
Heading briskly down the street, Peter tried desperately to keep up with her. He had dropped the façade of humor choosing instead to deal with what he believed to be a very serious situation.
“We have to talk about this Sarah,” he called out. “Those men knew us. It wasn’t just a case of mistaken identity. Sarah… Stop! This is the third time this month something like this has happened!”
She purposely ignored him and began to move more quickly down the crowded sidewalk. As he struggled to keep up awkwardly dodging oncoming pedestrians, he finally let his frustration get the better of him. With one swift motion, he reached out, grabbed her wrist, and unceremoniously turned her to face him. He was met with a stern, unflinching glare.
“Sarah, what if they know what happen to us?”
At this, she softened. She looked down and while releasing a heavy sigh she began to shake her head ever so slightly from side to side. She joined her hands and allowed her fingers to lace themselves together, and then apart in a writhing dance.
She couldn’t allow herself to hope. They had fought and struggled so hard and so long even to just survive. Things felt nearly settled. There was money for food. Peter had finally found a job that he was not only capable of doing, but also seemed to enjoy. That in and of itself was a colossal achievement. They had a flat; there would be no more living in shelters.
It just didn’t seem like it could be possible. Not after all this time. It had been five years. Why had these people not found them sooner? Did she and Peter even want to be found, especially by the likes of these questionable characters? Unbidden, the one man’s piercing blue eyes suddenly invaded her thoughts. They mesmerized her; the way they looked at her, saw through her, into her! She had seen those eyes before, maybe in a dream. She felt her gut clench and her throat constrict at the memory.
She roughly shook the images from her mind and brought her head back up to meet her best friend’s searching gaze.
In a quavering voice, she forced herself to respond, “I’m already late for work. Can we discuss this at home?”
He looked at her worriedly. They’d been through their share of rough times together, but rarely had he seen her this distraught. He cupped her cheek and gently brushed away an errant tear.
“Fine,” he uttered softly. “But don’t think for a second I’m letting this drop!”
He pulled her into a tight hug, and as she wrapped her arms around his middle, he placed a chaste kiss on the top of her head. He pulled back and away, and flashed her a wide grin.
“Now off with you Miss. Someone has to bring home the bacon, and lord knows my little job at the tailor’s shop won’t cut it.”
He paused and looked at her expectantly with what seemed to be an impossibly wide grin. “Get it?” He sputtered. “Cut it? I work for a tailor. It was a pun, Moppet.”
She rolled her eyes at him, but laughed despite herself. She gave him a small jab in the stomach and said, “We really need to work on your sense of humor. Might be the thing that keeps scaring off all the ladies.”
She turned and started off down the street.
“What do you mean?” He shouted after her. “The birds love me! I thought it was quite funny.”
“See you at home!” She called back to him.
He smiled to himself. Quickly remembering the events of the café though, the smile left his face. He stared after her for a moment, then turned and headed off to his first day of work.
The two figures made the walk toward St. Mungo’s psychiatric department in silence. Every now and then, Harry stole concerned sideways glances at Ron trying to catch any kind of feeling off him, but he was a brick wall. He hadn’t said a word to Harry since they’d left the café. And all through their debriefing at the Ministry, Harry could tell Ron was carefully avoiding making eye contact with him and keeping any kind of communication to a strictly professional basis.
Ron was obviously still upset over their earlier argument. He probably felt betrayed and abandoned. ‘Great,’ thought Harry. ‘Just another thing to add to the good old Guilt pile.’
As they continued wordlessly down the nearly empty hallway, the tension between them was palpable. Finally, Harry stopped abruptly. A second later, Ron halted a few feet ahead but refused to turn around and look at him.
“We have to talk about this mate… before we go into that room.” Harry voiced.
Without moving, Ron answered, “There’s nothing to talk about.”
This avoidance tactic annoyed Harry. It was so “Ron”.
“Bullshit! I know you’re still angry about before. But I came, didn’t I?”
Ron spun around and growled viciously, “And what a great help you were. You practically held the door open for them.”
“I didn’t see you making any bold take down moves. Or do you consider a half hearted ‘Hermione’ your ultimate weapon?” Harry shot back.
“At least I never gave up on her!”
“Fuck you!” Harry shouted.
A gasp and slight whispers from down the hall shook them out of their confrontation. Embarrassed by their display, they looked around awkwardly.
Harry placed his hand on Ron’s shoulder. “Listen, I’m sorry… about everything. You have no idea how much.”
“I know mate.” Ron looked down and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Let’s get in there. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we can get her home, right?” Harry said encouragingly.
The two friends held there for a moment until Harry patted Ron’s shoulder and then they both continued on down the hallway toward their meeting.
Having knocked and entered, Harry and Ron looked around at their surroundings. The floor was a soothing dark hard wood, the walls were lined with bookshelves and portraits, the furniture appeared comfortable and inviting, and an antique lamp bathed the room in a warm wash of light. It looked more like a study than a therapist’s office.
As he scanned the room, Ron’s eyes fell first upon Mad Eye standing stiffly in the corner to whom he nodded in greeting. Then finally, his eyes settled on the woman sitting behind the desk.
‘Who would’ve thought Lavender Brown would become a psycho analytical healer. Guess all that interest in Divination paid off for her’ Ron mused to himself.
“Gentleman,” she greeted standing and coming around from behind her desk. She reached out and shook Ron’s and then Harry’s extended hands. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“Yes, it has.” Harry finally managed.
She turned to retrieve a file from her desktop and then faced them again.
“Have a seat.”
Harry took the proffered chair while Ron chose to move off and lean against a bookcase in the corner.
“I was owled your depositions from the Ministry about an hour ago, and have gone through your statements. Is there anything else you can think of that struck you as odd from the encounter? Was there anything about their behavior that stood out to you?”
The Lavender of Hogwarts was nowhere in sight; this woman was all business.
“Well, not so much Hermione save for the fact that she didn’t recognize us, and she was coddling Draco. She seemed to be the same old mother hen she used to be,” Harry joked before continuing.
“It was Malfoy that was completely out of character. He seemed a little clueless, and defenseless. Didn’t even fight back against Ron. Also, he seemed particularly attached to Hermione. There wasn’t any of the old animosity between them.”
Lavender had been listening intently, but it was at this point that Ron jumped in.
“I still don’t trust him,” he offered. “It could have easily been an act.”
“I don’t know, mate. Hermione didn’t seem surprised by his behavior toward her. He was a good actor back in school, I’ll give you that, but I don’t think he could have kept it up for five years with her.”
“It’s as I suspected,” Lavender interrupted.
“What is?” Ron asked.
“Well, this is only a hypothesis. We still have to run a full physical on both of them and perform a complete psychological analysis. But from what I’ve gathered from the Ministry report and what you’ve just told me, I believe Hermione and Draco were both obliviated five years ago.”
“Really?” questioned Harry.
“Yes. When I received the Ministry’s owl, I went back and reviewed Ron’s statement from just after the war regarding what he saw before he lost consciousness. I think I’ve pieced together what actually transpired.”
“What happened?” Ron asked moving forward and taking the seat next to Harry.
“My suspicions are that as they were struggling for control of the wand, one or both of them casted the Obliviate curse. Because they were both holding the wand in between them at the time the curse was leveled, they were both affected by it.”
She paused for a moment before continuing.
“There are several factors that may have affected the wand and the casting of the spell. The magic flowing through the wand at the time was probably very unfocused due to their struggle, but highly potent because of their emotional states. This would explain the broken wand at the scene. The magical force would also have been doubled by their combined energies, and could be viewed as a contributing factor. Also, because it was Hermione’s wand, I believe Draco was hit harder. Based on your description of him, I’d say I’m correct in this assumption. Honestly, we won’t know the full extent of the damage or the veracity of this hypothesis until we get them in here. “
Ron and Harry looked at each other dumbfounded by these revelations.
“Is there anything more you think we should know before we go after them?” asked Moody from the corner. The seated men jumped slightly having forgotten that he was even present.
Lavender regarded him briefly before answering.
“In fact, there is. The Ministry has informed me that they would like to keep this very tightly under wraps. They have sanctioned a full investigation, but until more can be learned, they want to keep the number of people involved to a minimum. That includes everyone in this room, a select group of healer’s here at the hospital. I don’t need to remind you that if something like this were to be leaked to the Daily Prophet, it could turn into a media circus.”
Taking this as their cue that the meeting was over, Ron and Harry stood.
“Well, I guess we should come up with a game plan on how to proceed.” Harry offered.
Lavender piped up “We’ll get the ball rolling on this end. Do what you can to make contact and get them to come willingly.”
She began to move back behind her desk when something else came to her.
“One more thing, if we find we’re unable to reintegrate them back into the magical world, it’s the Ministry’s opinion that Hermione and Draco should have their memories wiped permanently. They would be returned to Hammersmith to live as muggles, uninterrupted and unaware of their past.”
Ron looked at her and said in a low, threatening voice. “Well, we’re just not going to let that happen, are we?”
He moved quickly from the room leaving behind a stunned Lavender, and an apologetic Harry. Moody for his part only smirked at the boy’s aggressiveness and followed him out.
“Honey, I’m home!” Came Peter’s voice.
Sarah was sitting in the small kitchen sipping her tea and dreading the evening before her. She knew it was unavoidable, but couldn’t help the overwhelming sense of foreboding that was filling her.
Something was beginning to unravel, events beyond her control. She knew she would be able to handle whatever was coming, but it was Peter she was worried about. He was so helpless sometimes. As far back as she could remember, he had always needed her. She wasn't sure if she'd be able to be there for him, but damned if she wouldn't go down without a fight.
“In here!” she shouted back.
He walked in with a huge grin on his face, and plopped himself down in a chair.
“How was you’re first day? Tea?” She inquired trying to keep him off the inevitable conversation as long as possible.
“Yes, please. Magnificent!” he responded jubilantly.
She jumped up to put the kettle on.
“So, tell me about it,” she urged.
“Well, we had this one bloke come in who was only looking for a shirt. By the time I was done with him though, he was in for a full suit. You should have seen Mr. Pierce’s face…”
He slowly stopped talking, and Sarah, sensing something was wrong, turned around to face him.
He looked up at her with wide eyes. “I’m not going back, am I?”
Trying to cover her concern, she turned quickly back to the tea. “What are you on about? Sounds as if Mr. Pierce loved you.”
“That’s not what I meant Sarah, and you know it. Those men from this morning are going to come back, and when they do, things are going to change, aren’t they?”
Sarah was now trembling slightly, her heart racing. She finished making his tea and brought it to him. Sitting down she grasped his wrist and gave it a quick shake.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“I want to deal with it now Sarah,” he said quietly.
Sarah sighed, rubbed both hands over her face, and then let them drop to the table to clench them before her.
“Peter, we don’t know anything for sure.”
“I know that ever since we moved out of that last shelter and into this flat a month ago, strange things have been happening.”
Sarah couldn’t deny this. Peter had had some very odd encounters in the past month.
“First, there was that woman on the bus who started crying when I sat next to her and then asked me not to hurt her. How in the world she could possibly think I would hurt her I have no idea. So, I shrugged it off as some loon on a bus,” he managed out shakily.
“Then there was that strange man with the eye patch and the limp who kept following me around for a whole week. I don’t care what you say. It wasn’t my imagination. The bloke was definitely stalking me. And now these two fellows from this morning… All this in less than a month! Sarah, these things aren’t normal!”
“I know Peter. I know,” she sighed heavily.
“I know life was rough before when we didn’t have a place to stay or when we were going from shelter to shelter, but this just seems kind of crazy…”
She sat there silently not knowing exactly how to respond.
“I think our only option is to find out what these men want,” he said definitively. “Maybe they could even tell us who we were and why we were laying on that field.”
She sat there motionless for a moment. He wondered briefly if he’d been too bold in making the suggestion. It was usually her job to make these kinds of decisions.
“Fine,” she blurted out looking down at her hands unhappily.
“Listen Sarah, if you don’t think we should…” he started but she cut him off.
“No, no, you’re right. I have a feeling these things are just going to keep happening. Best to face whatever’s coming head on.”
They sat there sharing an awkward silence. Finally, Peter couldn’t take it anymore.
“What about your job at Systech?” he voiced uncertainly. “You worked hard for over two years to get to that position. You had no training to be a research analyst, and yet you did it! Are you ready to give that up?”
Sarah huffed in frustration and stood up to clear the empty cups from the table to the sink.
“No one says we’re going anywhere Peter, and besides, I have some vacation time coming to me. It won’t be a problem.”
He stared at her for a moment trying to guage the validity of her excuse.
“Fine,” he said finally. “That solved, how do you propose we go about finding these blokes? It’s not like we can call them up on the telephone, or do an Internet search on them, or anything…”
Sarah leaned against the counter trying to come up with a solution.
Suddenly, having made some kind of decision, she pushed off the counter and started for the door. With purpose, she walked out of their flat, down the stairs, and out into the street followed closely by Peter.
Sarah stood there for a moment searching the darkness for something. Without warning, she spoke to no one in particular “I know you’re out there. You might as well come out.”
Nothing happened for a minute or two, but Sarah remained undeterred.
“Come on!” she shouted angrily. “Don’t waste my time.”
Peter looked at her as though she’d just lost a screw or two.
Suddenly, two men immerged from the shadows with the air of a couple of children who were caught stealing from the cookie jar.
“”How did you know?” Peter asked.
She shrugged. “I’ve had a feeling we were being watched all evening.”
She looked at the two strange men.
“We have to talk, don’t we?” she questioned suspiciously.
Silently, they look to each other and then back at her, and nodded their heads simultaneously.
She eyed them warily still uncertain if they could be trusted.
Sensing the building tension, Draco broke in “Would anyone care for a cup of tea?”
Ron looked at him with a slight disgust. ‘Who is this pansy ass?’ he thought to himself.
Taking in Ron’s expression, Harry answered quickly “You know something? I would love a cup.”
“Great.” Draco smiled congenially.
With that, the two headed inside.
Ron paused for a moment to shake off his mood before entering when he noticed Hermione hadn’t moved. She simply stood looking off into the dark.
“Um, are you coming in then?” he asked timidly.
“You’re sure we’re who you’re looking for?” she asked ignoring his previous question.
“Definitely,” he answered without hesitation.
She nodded as if confirming something in her own mind, then took a step closer to him, and searched his face for some kind of familiarity. He became very uncomfortable at her close proximity.
“What was I to you?” she asked finally. “I heard what you were saying to Peter this morning. Obviously, it was me you were looking for. I want to know why.”
Shock played over his face. They were standing so close now. Taking in his expression, she withdrew from the intense moment, and waved her hand before he could answer.
“Never mind,” she said, her face flushing slightly. “Forget I said anything.”
She then turned quickly, and headed inside to join the others.
Ron stood there staring after her.
“You were everything,” he said into the night.
When Ron finally entered the flat, he found Draco and Hermione seated on either side of Harry looking at what appeared to be photos.
“What’s going on?” Ron questioned.
Harry stood and moved to him, leaving the other two to pour over the pictures.
“Sorry, mate.” he answered, in a lowered voice. “Wasn’t sure how long you were going to be out there. We really needed to get started though if we were hoping to get them to go with us tonight.”
Ron was none too pleased by being left out but certainly understood Harry’s reasoning.
“Fine. What do they know so far?” he mumbled begrudgingly.
“Their names and that they attended a school called Hogwarts.” Harry answered in a whisper.
Hermione’s voice suddenly cut through interrupting them. “So, we all went to this school together then?” she said, motioning to the four of them with her hand.
Harry turned to her. “Yes, we did.”
“This is the oddest thing I’ve ever seen,” Draco piped in from a hunched over position.
“What’s that?” Ron asked.
“How on earth did you get this picture to move?”
Ron and Harry looked at each other sharing the same driving thought. <i>‘SHIT!’</i> This was not the way they meant to tell them. The pictures up until that point had all been stationary.
Hermione leaned over and gasped slightly. “My goodness!”
Draco turned the picture over to look at the back and ran his hand over it seemingly searching for some kind of technology. Hermione reached down and started digging through the other pictures Harry had brought.
“Do you have any more like that? The photo paper’s so thin? Are there microchips embedded on it or something?” she asked curiously.
“Harry, what the hell?” Ron growled.
“I don’t know how that got in there. The Ministry provided me with that packet of photos.”
Ron shook his head and ran his hand through his fiery hair.
“Damn it! Bloody tossers.” he spat out.
“Is there something the matter?” came Hermione’s voice from the couch.
When Harry looked back to them, he and Ron were met with two sets of eyes intently trained on them.
“The thing is… The thing is that the school we attended wasn’t a normal school in Muggle terms.” Ron tried to explain.
“Excuse me?” Hermione interjected.
“Muggle terms? What’s that?” Draco asked confused.
“What Ron means is that this particular school is where young people are sent to learn and practice… magic.” Harry supplied.
Draco and Hermione sat unmoving for several moments. Suddenly, Hermione burst out laughing, and Draco joined her shortly thereafter.
“Are you kidding me?” she managed.
Ron and Harry looked at each other in confusion.
“This has got to be some kind of practical joke. Did the blokes at Systech send you?”
She turned to Draco, and through her giggles, she said. “I bet you it was Mark and Edith in the Research and Development lab.”
Draco smiled at her relieved by the possible explanation.
“I’m sorry, but this is no joke.” Harry broke through their tittering.
“You’re a wizard, and you’re a witch,” he said, gesturing to them both forcefully.
In an instant, their good humour slid from their faces.
“You’re serious? You’re serious.” Hermione finally answered. She pondered this for a moment.
She stood quickly. “No, you’re mad, that’s what you are! Get out of here! Get out now!” she was nearly yelling at this point.
“Wait, hang on! We can prove it. Watch!” Ron raised his voice to overpower hers.
He grabbed the lamp off the end table, and threw it to the floor. The lamp smashed into pieces with a satisfyingly loud crashing noise. Hermione screamed, and sat back down quickly to clutch at Draco who threw his arm around her protectively. They looked terrified.
Ron pulled his wand from his robe and pointed it at the broken shards of lamp shouting, “REPARO!” The lamp pulled itself together seamlessly. Then Ron spoke again, “Accio lamp.” and the lamp flew to his outstretched hand.
He turned back to Draco and Hermione seated on the couch, their eyes the size of saucers. They sat speechless for a moment.
“How… How did you do that?” Hermione finally eked out while pointing weakly to the floor and then to the lamp in Ron’s hand.
“It’s what we’ve been trying to explain to you.” Harry answered with a forced calm.
Clearly shaken, Draco finally spoke up. “You’re wizards?”
“Yes,” Harry said, “as are you.”
“Are you sure?” Hermione questioned, still seeming to doubt the whole thing.
“Yes,” answered Ron.
“Prove it,” she shot back.
“What? I just did.”
“No. That we’re… what you say we are.”
“How could we possibly do that?” he countered.
“Well,” she thought about it for a moment, “you could always teach us something. A spell maybe.”
Both Ron and Harry started at this suggestion, but after a moment’s consideration, they let the idea settle. It did seem like the only way to show them what they could do.
They began to brainstorm the possible different charms they could teach them with relative ease.
“What about that Levitation charm from first year?” Ron offered.
Harry smiled. “Perfect. Not too difficult to perform, and there’s little to no risk involved.”
Harry turned to Hermione. “Alright Sarah, you first,” he said handing her his wand.
She stood to join Harry, and took the proffered piece of wood with great trepidation.
“I want you to focus on that piece of paper on the coffee table. Try to put all of your mental energy into it. Now wave the wand and tap the page while saying ‘Wingardium Leviosa’.”
He spoke slowly as if to a child and performed the hand motion at the same time.
She looked at him incredulously. “You can’t be serious.”
“Just try it.”
She stared at him for a fleeting moment, but finally conceded. She began to wave the wand in huge sweeping motions from side to side, and said the words in a rush.
Trying to control the smirk that was threatening his face, Ron came over to stop her.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa… You’re going to take someone’s eye out like that…”
At this comment, Harry snorted loudly. Hermione tried to ignore him and focused on the instructions being given.
Ron continued smiling fully. “It’s not ‘Wingardium Levio-SAH’, but ‘Wingardium Levi-OH-sa’.”
Not being able to hold himself back anymore, Harry burst out laughing. It was all too much.
“What is so funny?” Hermione questioned angrily.
Waving his arms in front of him to try to catch his breath, he finally was able to answer through the fit of giggles wracking his body.
“Nothing… nothing… Ron’s just being his normal prat self… and I need a glass of water.”
Hermione shot Ron a death glare, but he shook his head from side to side with his most convincing wide-eyed, innocent puppy dog look.
Harry started to move toward the kitchen when Draco jumped up, and said. “I’ll get it for you.” and they both left the room.
In his eagerness to leave the living room, Draco had outstripped Harry and made it into the kitchen first. As Harry sank into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, Draco retrieved a glass and filled it at the sink. Sitting across from Harry, he handed him the water.
A heavy silence settled between them, Harry contemplated his discomfort with this new Draco.
‘Old habits die hard I guess,’ he thought to himself.
He took a large pull of water from the glass, and eyed Draco cautiously. He was fidgeting with his clasped hands, and when he noticed Harry watching him, he gave him a nervous grin. ‘Maybe it’d be easier if I thought of him as Peter.’
Before he’d finished that thought though, Draco began awkwardly. “So… are you into football?”
Harry couldn’t help but laugh at Draco’s attempt at small talk.
“No, not really. Not much time for it. Quite busy at work actually. Besides, the big sport in the magical world is Quidditch.”
“Quidditch? What’s that? Is it anything like football?” Draco asked intrigued.
“Well, no… Actually, it’s more…” Harry paused. If he got into Quidditch right now, he could tell they’d be talking about it all night.
“Actually, it’s quite complicated and difficult to describe. How about I explain it to you some other time? Or better yet, I’ll take you to a match.”
The last he offered without thinking but kicked himself inwardly for making the suggestion.
“That sounds fantastic. Can’t wait.”
Another thick silence seemed to take hold, and both shifted awkwardly under its weight. Unable to bear the palpable tension in the room any longer, Draco got up quickly and cleared Harry’s half empty glass.
“I guess we should get back in there.” he suggested.
Harry simply nodded his assent and started to stand.
Draco stopped suddenly, and took a deep breath. “Let me ask you something. Actually, make that two things.”
“Alright.” Harry responded uncertain if this was a wise choice based on Draco’s change in demeanor.
“How long were they involved before she and I disappeared?”
“Who? Oh, you mean Ron and Hermione? Well, officially they were never together, but they were both very… stubborn about each other.”
Draco smiled to himself. “That makes sense.”
“I think during the war they came to an understan…”
Here, Draco cut him off. “The war?”
Harry panicked for a moment. ‘Damn it! How could I let that slip?’
“No, no… it’s not… It wasn’t so much a war, but rather a… difference of opinion between two groups.” Harry supplied lamely.
‘That wasn’t a complete lie.’ Harry thought to himself.
Draco looked at him unimpressed by the excuse.
“Yes, I can see how you could get a war and a difference of opinion mixed up. They’re so interchangeable!” He countered sarcastically.
Disgruntled by his mistake, Harry asked, trying to change the subject. “What was your second question?”
“I can’t remember,” he lied. “I guess it wasn’t that important.”
Harry looked intently at Draco who, buried in his own thoughts, didn’t seem to notice the attention. He appeared to be piecing something together, and the further along he got, the deeper the frown became that spread across his pale face.
Harry didn’t like for one second where this was going. He had to get Draco out of whatever line of thinking he was in.
“Hey mate, you all right there?” He said patting Draco on the back trying to sound as companionable as possible.
Draco blinked a few times, looked up and over to Harry’s smiling face.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine… Just… Let’s go see how the two lovebirds are doing?” he joked halfheartedly.
In the meantime, Hermione had been desperately trying to perform the spell and growing more frustrated by the minute.
“Look, this doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe I’m not magical,” she said dejectedly.
“Nonsense. You’re just trying too hard. You don’t need to wave the wand so much. It’s just one fluid motion,” Ron suggested.
She pinned him with a disbelieving stare.
“Here… Let’s try this. Put the wand down first.”
Dejectedly, she placed the wand on the coffee table.
“Right. You have the words down. Now, let’s just practice the hand motion involved.”
He tried to demonstrate beside her, but she was still having some trouble.
“Let’s try something else…”
Not thinking about the possible intimacy of the posture, he moved over to stand behind her. He placed his left hand on her left arm, and wrapped his right arm around her to grasp the back of her right hand in his.
His tall length of 6’3” towered over her tiny stature of 5’4”. The effect of the position was instantaneous. Both stiffened feeling heat and tingles at every contact point, and the heady rush that flowed through them like an electrical current.
Ron kicked himself inwardly. What the hell was he thinking? Well, it worked with Ginny when she was a child and he was trying to teach her different spells. ‘Not the same thing, and you know it mate,’ he berated himself.
Ron cleared his throat awkwardly, but tried to continue on with the lesson.
“Right…” his voice cracked slightly, and he winced. What? Was he sixteen again or something?
“Let’s just try the arm movement again, shall we?” he said uncertainly.
With that, he moved her hand from the far right inward in what felt like a graceful sweep. He repeated the move again, and they both began to relax slightly not only with the movement, but also with the physical connection.
After several more graceful passes that were made in complete silence, Hermione had closed her eyes, and unwittingly began to lean her head back against his chest. Ron, lulled by this and the slight swaying motion their bodies had begun to make, let his head drop forward.
Their temples were nearly touching when suddenly Draco’s voice cut through the haze.
“Well, look what we have here…”
At this, Ron and Hermione jumped apart instantly. Hermione grabbed the wand off the coffee table, and began to study it intently.
Ron shoved his hands in his pockets, flushed red right to the tips of his ears, and mumbled almost inaudibly. “I was just showing her the hand movement for the spell.”
“Well, that’s some kind of hand movement. It certainly looked magical.” Draco was smirking mischievously. “Don’t suppose I’m going to get that much one on one… um… guidance. Harry? What do you think?”
“Not on your life mate!” Harry chuckled.
Draco, walking past her on the way to the couch, whispered softly into Hermione’s ear, “Have a nice dance, dear?”
By this point, Hermione had gone so red one would think she’d spent too much time in the sun.
“No matter.” she finally managed. “Let’s try this, shall we?” And with that, she focused her attention back on the piece of paper.
She performed the words and the movement flawlessly, and the page began to lift precariously off the table and into the air.
“Sarah, you did it. Oh my God, you did it!”
Draco jumped off the couch, and ran over to Hermione picking her up in a big bear hug.
He put her down and smiled a sassy grin at her. “Always knew you were a witch.”
She slapped his arm and chuckled.
Through all this, Harry leaned over to Ron and whispered, “Hey Ron, you’re quite the teacher. I think you may have missed your calling.”
Ron’s head snapped over quickly to Harry who offered him a smirk and a wink.
He flushed red again, and mumbled. “Oi! Shut it you.”
Harry laughed outright at Ron’s witty comeback.
“Alright, my turn!” Draco announced happily.
Ron tensed immediately, but Harry shot him a look that said ‘Let it drop. It’ll be fine.’ Ron could only huff in response and cross his arms.
Draco took the wand from Hermione, cleared his throat, and stared at the piece of paper now back on the coffee table. With a slight swoosh and a flick of the wand and the words flowing naturally from his mouth, the page began to float easily off the table.
Hermione looked on amazed as Draco trembled slightly in shock.
“Well done, Peter!” She said softly wrapping her arm gently around him. Draco seemed to be speechless.
“Thank you,” he finally managed in a strained, thin voice.
“I’ve never seen anything come to you that easily, love.” she said like a proud mother.
He seemed more surprised by this than Hermione. He swallowed hard, and collected himself before daring to answer.
“I know,” he marveled.
Hermione took in Draco’s quiet pride and happiness at having finally achieved something without a struggle, and made her decision.
She looked to Ron and Harry, and said. “So, what’s the next step?”
As she held tightly to him with her eyes clenched shut, she felt very much like a sausage in a casing. Ron and Harry had explained in great detail what “Apparating” was, and the sensation that would accompany it. Their descriptions and assurances, however, did nothing to prepare her for the vice like squeeze she felt all over. It took only seconds, but it was an experience she would never forget.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself in a white room with two beds divided by a privacy curtain. She looked to her left, and saw a large window overlooking a garden. Although it was nearly midnight, the trees looked quite lush in the moonlight. After a moment, she heard someone softly clearing their throat, and turned her head quickly to be faced with bespectacled green eyes and a mop of black hair. Realizing she still had her arms wrapped tightly about him, she eased her grip and took a step back.
“Sorry about that, Harry. Still a little disoriented from the trip,” she apologized.
He smiled at her warmly. “No worries,” he offered.
Suddenly, a loud pop came from across the room, and there at the sound’s origin stood Peter and Ron.
They made quite a picture, Peter fiercely clinging to Ron. While Peter had a massive grin on his face, much like a child who’d just gone on his first carnival ride, Ron’s visage was marred by a massive scowl. She had a pretty good idea why Ron was vexed. Part of it had to do with the fact that she’d opted to apparate with Harry instead of him.
After their whole magic lesson fiasco though, she could barely even bring herself to look him in the eye. Harry’s presence was comforting in a way, whereas Ron’s felt extremely intense. It was because of this that she found herself shrinking away from him now. Their connection was too potent, too volatile. There was an undercurrent of aggression in his nature that unnerved her.
The other part of Ron’s dark mood was something she wasn’t fully prepared to acknowledge yet. She was aware that it involved Peter, but that was as far as she would allow herself to take it.
Being pulled from her ruminations, it took her a second to realize Harry was speaking before she tuned in.
“Originally, you were going to have your own rooms, but then we thought you might feel more comfortable staying together.”
Sarah simply nodded and continued her silent perusal of the room. Peter, however, felt the need to compensate for her quietness.
“Thanks ever so much. I don’t think I would have felt right being away from her for the night.”
Ron snorted loudly and crossed his arms looking totally unimpressed. This drew Sarah’s attention to him instantly. Shooting him an accusing glare, it was the first bit of eye contact she’d made with him in over an hour. Ron’s face grew red, and shoving his hands in his pockets, he directed his eyes to the floor.
Peter shifted uncomfortably where he stood, and said, “Well Sarah, which bed do you want? The window, or the door?”
Before he had even finished, she’d answered darkly, “The door.”
It was her habit to take up the offensive position. If anyone came into the room, they’d have to deal with her first.
“Fine, fine… I’ll take the view…” Peter answered trying to sound breezy but failing miserably.
The four stood in a precarious silence.
“Well, I guess we should be off, so you two can settle in for the night.” Harry finally asserted.
Peter stepped forward with his hand extended toward Harry. “Thanks again, Harry, for all your help and kindness.”
Harry took the offered hand, and smiled. “Not a problem.”
“And thank you too, Ron.” Peter moved to Ron, hand out.
Unmoving, Ron stared at him coldly. Peter flinched a little, but refused to back down. Harry cleared his throat loudly, and Ron shifted his eyes to him in acknowledgment of the wordless suggestion. Ron reached out and grabbed Peter’s hand, shook it once, and then dropped it disdainfully.
“Yes, well Sarah, I think I’m going to use the loo first if that’s alright with you.” Peter mumbled.
“Fine,” was all she managed through gritted teeth glaring a hole through Ron.
“Goodnight, gentleman.” Peter offered before disappearing into the washroom.
“Goodnight.” Harry called. “Have a good night, Sarah. We’ll see you in the morning, alright?”
“Yes, you too Harry. See you in the morning.” And with that, she turned brusquely toward her bed ignoring Ron completely.
The only outward indications of Ron’s anger were the muscles working rigidly through his clenched jaw. Harry recognized the warning signs, and grabbed him roughly dragging him from the room.
Once she heard the door click shut, Sarah let the breath she was holding stream out of her in a long exhale.
What was she going to do? She couldn’t lie to herself that she wasn’t attracted to this man, but he was being a total and utter prick to Peter. Back at the flat, the incident in the café had been forgotten, and everything seemed to be fine. It was fine, that is, until Peter was able to perform that spell on his first go. Ron had turned into a bloody nightmare after that. What the hell was his problem?
She shook her head a little, and forced that particular question from her mind.
Quietly, the door to the washroom opened, and she turned around to take in Peter’s long figure leaning against the doorframe.
“They’re gone?” he asked.
“Yes,” she responded turning back to her overnight bag on the bed.
Mimicking her earlier motion, he breathed out heavily. She started to move past him into the loo, when his hand on her forearm stopped her course.
“Sarah, I need to bounce something off you. Mind if I bend your ear for a bit?”
She nodded, but moved into the washroom to start her nightly routine.
He turned his body to face her, but maintained his position leaning against the frame. Looking down, he played with his hands mindlessly as he tried to pull his thoughts together. The longer he took, the more concerned she grew.
“Peter, what is it?” she asked with her toothbrush still in her mouth impairing her speech. She removed it, took a swig of water, and spit out.
“Since all this began, have you wondered at all who we might have been?” he looked at her earnestly.
She hit the light in the washroom, and started for her bed. “Peter, they told us who we were. You were called Draco Malfoy. No offense but that really is a silly name,” she tried to joke.
“Tell me about it,” he smiled lightly, and moved off toward his own bed but stopped at the edge of the privacy curtain.
“And I was Hermione Granger,” she continued trying to ignore his tense state. “I have to admit, I didn’t get off much better in the name department.” She chuckled a little while climbing under her covers.
“Yah…” was all he offered.
“Peter?” she asked.
“What if I wasn’t…” he started ignoring her questioning tone.
“What if you weren’t what?”
“What if I took you for all together not nice reasons? Sarah, I couldn’t bear it if I’d actually meant to hurt you.”
“We woke up on that field together, remember? We were hugging, and you couldn’t even speak. So, you weren’t taking me anywhere. If anything, it was the other way around.”
He remained silent, but grabbed onto the curtain absentmindedly.
“Just because that prick was a jerk to you, does not mean you weren’t a good person, Peter. Harry seems to like you just fine.” She paused here for a second. “What if we were a couple and Ron was just jealous?
“Oh Sarah, please! You’re like my sister.”
“And besides, you cannot base your opinion on the actions of two blokes we just met,” she continued.
“You know it’s more than just these two blokes I’m talking about.”
“Listen, we’ve learned a lot in the last few hours, and I think you’re just emotional because you’re tired. I know I’m exhausted,”
“Perhaps,” he answered quietly releasing the curtain, and climbing into his own bed. He didn’t add anything further, but he also didn’t seem entirely convinced.
“Peter?” she called softly to him.
She hesitated a little. “Sleep well, alright. If you need me, I’m right here,” she offered.
“Thanks, Sarah. You too.”
She heard him shift in his sheets, and then, the room fell silent.
She knew that Peter sometimes came off as a bit of an idiot. At times, it was genuine. But, more often than not, he used it as a cover so he could better guage people and their emotional states without being suspected. He’d learned how to read people from her. When they’d been living on the street, she’d taught him to disregard people’s words and watch their behaviour and emotional reactions in intense situations instead. Yes, it was animalistic, but there had been too many occasions when this tactic saved them from a potentially violent confrontation.
As upsetting as these realizations were, she couldn’t deny that Peter’s suspicions regarding his past felt right on the money. He was her family, and had been for as far back as her memory spanned. But if she were to base Peter’s true identity on Ron, and even Harry’s reactions to him as well as the other encounters he’d recently experienced, she’d have to admit that things didn’t look good.
‘Well, who ever he was is meaningless,’ she told herself, ‘because he’s my best friend now, and that’s all that matters. Anyone who causes him an ounce of pain will have me to contend with.’
These thoughts preoccupied her as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
Peter and Sarah sat in the office by themselves waiting. It had been an excruciatingly long day of being poked and prodded, and drinking things that looked and tasted exceptionally unpleasant.
This thankfully was their last stop of the day before heading back to their room. Apparently, they had to meet with a therapist to evaluate their mental health, but they’d been waiting for over twenty minutes. Sarah understood the necessity of this portion of their exam, but the end of the day was just not a good time to best assess her mental health. To put it bluntly, she felt like an utter bitch at the moment, and one look over at Peter told her he was asleep on his feet.
Abruptly, the door opened admitting two bustling figures. Startled, both Peter and Sarah turned to take in the activity at the door. Two smartly dressed women had entered discussing a matter that seemed, at least to them, of extreme importance. Sarah was thoroughly unimpressed by their pompous veneer. Peter, however, was all smiles.
He jumped up, and said enthusiastically. “Hello!” Sarah grabbed him, and pulled him back down into his seat.
The two women jumped, and turned instantly to regard them, shock playing openly on their faces. The Indian woman recovered herself first, dropped her gaze and silently made her way to a chair just off to the left of the desk.
“Oh, hello!” said the Caucasian woman as she approached them, and shook both of their hands.
“You must be Peter Wright, and Sarah Anderson. My name is Healer Brown, and this is my associate, Healer Patil. She will merely be observing for this meeting.” The Indian woman smiled demurely, nodded her head, and went back to her notes as the other woman made her way around the desk to her seat.
“Sorry for keeping you. I understand you must be quite tired after the day you’ve had, so I’ll keep this brief.”
Sarah looked over to guage Peter’s response, but found him completely enthralled. She groaned inwardly. ‘Great! I know that look.’ He was smiling like an absolute goof and staring at the woman intently. ‘Guess I’m on my own for this one.’ She turned her attentions back to the therapist.
“We’ve reviewed your test results and you are, in fact, Ms. Hermione Granger, and Mr. Draco Malfoy.”
The woman paused briefly to consider her next words. “The tests were also meant to discern what kind of injuries the two of you suffered that would have caused this degree of memory loss. It is our conclusion that you were both hit with the Obliviate curse, which effectively wiped your memories. Peter, you received a greater portion of the spell causing your memory loss to be far more extensive than Sarah’s.”
Sarah reached out and grabbed Peter’s hand.
“I don’t want to go into too many details of the how and the why. You’re both obviously spent, and giving that information right now would be detrimental to your recovery.”
Sarah fumed. In theory, she understood this woman’s reasons for not giving them the whole story, but they had searched for the truth of who they were for the past five years. Maybe her exhaustion was clouding her better judgment, but it felt completely unfair.
“Let me get this straight. All you were planning to do in this session was tell us who we were and that we had lost our memories due to some kind of curse. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but someone else already told us our names, and we’ve been fully aware of the second piece of information for the past five years save for the curse part. All you’ve managed to do is state the obvious. Now, if you’re completely through which I believe you are, we would really appreciate going back to our room for a lie down. Thank you very much!”
Sarah didn’t care if she sounded aggressive and hostile. The whole day had been an exercise in futility in her opinion.
The woman blinked slightly stunned.
“Sarah, you’re being rude.” Peter reprimanded.
“I don’t care. I’m bloody tired, and so are you!”
The woman sniffed loudly. “Right. Ms. Anderson, there is one more point I need to impress upon you and Mr. Wright. You both have a decision to make. You can either choose to learn more about who you were, or you can return to Hammersmith and continue on with your lives. This choice is not as easy as it appears. If you decide to stay, you will be required to remain in the hospital for the foreseeable future undergoing potion treatments and therapy sessions until which time your memory has returned to a sufficient level. This could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of years.”
Peter grimaced here.
“If you decide to return to your muggle life however, then we will have no other choice but to wipe the events of the last several days from your memories. You will be allowed to live your lives as if none of this happened. Do either of you have any questions?
“Yes. How long do we have to make this decision?” Sarah asked uncertainly.
“I need both of your answers by tomorrow morning.”
Peter and Sarah looked to one another, held each other’s gaze for a moment, and then nodded slightly.
“If you’ll excuse us, Ms. Brown, we have a lot to discuss.”
And with that, they stood and left the room.
Harry popped his head into the room, and spied Hermione sitting on her bed reading a rather large book. The privacy curtain was drawn obscuring the view over to the other side.
“Hey, what’re you reading?” He called, and started to move into the room.
She looked up at him quickly, and smiled. With a wearied expression, she took a deep breath, and sighed closing the voluminous tomb and placed it on her bedside table.
“Oh, just something one of the Healers gave me. I couldn’t sleep and was looking for some light reading. She said she thought I might enjoy it.”
As he looked down at the alleged book, he started chuckling. “Hogwarts, A History?”
“Yes. It’s quite interesting actually. Kind of like reading a Science Fiction and Fantasy encyclopedia… What’ so funny?”
“Nothing, nothing! Might just be one of the Healers having a go at you. Either that, or they really want you to remember. What did she look like?”
“Shoulder length red hair, lots of freckles. I don’t think she was teasing me. She’s been one of the nicest to both of us.”
“Ginny.” He mumbled smiling to himself.
Ginny’s logic was so funny sometimes. He could see where she was heading with it though. If anything could jog Hermione’s memory, it would be this book.
“Pardon?” She cut into his thoughts.
“Nothing. Not important. Where’s Peter?”
“He’s having a lie down. All those tests really did him in.
She looked at him, and then to the door seeming to notice for the first time that he was alone.
“So, where were you this morning? You said you’d come and see us off?”
“We did, but we’d just missed you. They had already taken you down to start your physicals.”
She paused awkwardly for a moment before continuing. “And where’s Ron?”
Harry had to fight the smile trying to form on his face. ‘Just like old times,’ he thought to himself. ‘Even when she’s mad at him, she can’t help wanting to see him.’
“Oh, he’s just outside. Didn’t want to… um… disturb either of you.”
“More like he didn’t want to deal with Peter.” She said angrily as she viciously threw the covers off of her.
“No, I don’t think that was it. Where are you going?”
“To have a little chat with him. This childish behaviour has to stop.” She said throwing on her robe.
Harry took a step back as she passed by him. He knew better than to get in her way when she was itching for a fight.
“Sarah, he has his reasons.” He said in one last attempt to prevent the inevitable row.
Gripping the door’s handle, she said quietly. “Whatever they are, they’re not good enough!”
With that, she opened the door, and stepped out into the hall.
The door slid shut behind her as she scanned the hall for him. Finally, she spotted him just down the way on a bench with his head in his hands. Instead of going at him immediately, she watched him for a moment.
He sat up, and sighed heavily into a slouched posture letting his head fall back against the wall behind. He looked so tired, and unhappy, she couldn’t help but want to comfort him. Having realized someone was watching him, his eyes shifted to her, and his entire body tensed. He stood and made his way over to her.
She, in turn, steeled herself for the confrontation she knew was coming.
“What is your problem?” She spat out before he'd even reached her.
“My problem? I don’t have a problem.” He said taking the defensive.
She crossed her arms and glared at him.
“What has Peter ever done to you? If anything, you should be apologizing to him.”
“Excuse me?” He bellowed.
“The first time we had the misfortune of meeting you, you introduced yourself by strangling him. Since then, you’ve been nothing but rude, and downright hostile toward him. Peter, on the other hand, has proven himself to be a true gentleman by ignoring your mistreatment of him.”
“A true gentleman? That git wouldn’t know what a true gentleman was even if the bloke came up and kicked him in the arse.”
“A gentleman wouldn’t kick a man in the arse.”
“Oh, you know what I mean.”
“Peter is more of a man now than you’ll ever be.” She growled, and marched off down the hallway.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” He shouted following her.
Finally having had enough, he grabbed her arm, and whirled her around. “Are you two… involved?”
She sniffed and stuck her nose in the air. “That really isn’t any of your business. But if I was involved with someone, I’d be lucky if it was Peter.”
She knew she was just saying this to get a rise out of him. Peter was great and all, but she really didn’t have those kinds of feelings for him.
“Over my dead body.” He gritted out.
“Don’t make promises you can’t and won’t keep.”
With that, she started back down the hall.
“Hermione, come back here.” He yelled and started to follow.
Without slowing, she shouted back over her shoulder. “Sarah!”
He stopped dead in his tracks. “What?”
She spun quickly around. “My name is Sarah. Until I remember this other person’s life, I’d prefer to be referred to as Sarah. Thank you!”
He clenched and unclenched his fists and glared a hole through her.
She shifted her weight, and crossed her arms again with a huff.
He moved closer to her, and placed his hands on her forearms.
“Listen, Sarah.” He became so earnest she found it unsettling.
“Who Peter was… Who he used to be…” He continued. “Draco Malfoy was an evil, manipulative, vicious person who did horribly bad things to others. He ruined people’s lives for fun, and enjoyed causing pain.”
Sarah’s eyes began to fill with tears but she fought to keep them at bay.
“That’s not who he is now though. Peter is the warmest, most caring person I know. He wouldn’t dream of hurting another person.”
Ron rolled his eyes at this.
“Yes, but Sarah, you don’t know what will happen when he gets his memory back. What if he goes back to who he was… If he ever hurt you, I’d…”
“He would never hurt me.” She cut him off and went through a door leading to a stairwell. Ron was right behind.
Harry sat flipping through the “Hogwarts, A History” from Hermione’s bedside table. He wasn’t really reading with any kind of focus, just skimming the pages allowing the memories they incited to flood back to him.
It was fairly silent save for the even breathing from the other side of the room. Without realizing it, Harry’s attention was drawn to the steadiness of the sound. It lulled him into thoughts of the person who rested behind the curtain. There were so many questions and concerns he had regarding Draco.
This wasn’t just a casual visit for him. He’d been stationed by the Ministry to guard them, Draco in particular.
Harry let his thoughts wander.
‘What happens when he remembers? Will he go back to being who he was? Or will he stay this new person? How long will it take for him to remember? Weeks? Months? Years? Will he ever remember? Merlin, for his sake, I hope he doesn’t.’
The sound of the door opening drew him out of these musings. He looked up and over to find Lavender surveying the room.
“Where are they?” She asked, confusion lacing her voice.
“Draco is asleep, and Hermione is with Ron somewhere probably having a right good spat about now.”
She rolled her eyes in response, and Harry briefly spotted the girl he new from school.
“Did you need them for another test?” He inquired.
“No, no… Just wanted to make sure they were comfortable and didn’t want anything.”
Harry only nodded his head.
“Well, I’m going to go find her. The last thing she needs right now is a row with Ron.”
Harry couldn’t control his reaction. “Uh huh…” Was all he could offer.
He assumed this was just another one of Lavender’s jealous snits.
Sensing his opinion, she continued. “She and Draco have some serious decisions to make, and I don’t want her making them in an emotional state.”
She’d really grabbed his attention with that last comment.
“What do you mean? What decisions?”
“As I told you before, Harry, they have to decide whether they want to stay and go through a pretty difficult and possibly lengthy recuperation. Or have the memories of their time here wiped and be returned to Hammersmith.”
“You told them this?” His anger rising.
“Yes, Harry. It’s their right to choose, no one else’s.”
She was right, of course. He knew she was right, but it didn’t stop him from being upset with the prospect of losing Hermione again.
“Now, I’m going to go find her before Ron says something stupid.”
Distracted by this new development, Harry simply nodded. This created a whole new gamut of questions.
“Sarah, you have no idea how cruel Draco Malfoy was. He hurt people… You were the most in danger.”
She didn’t want to hear it.
“I think the biggest threat to my life and safety right now is you.” She shouted angrily.
“He’s a deceitful, evil, little ferret who deserves to be put out of his misery,” he screamed.
She slapped him hard across the face. That would definitely leave a mark. He didn’t reach up and clasp his cheek though. Instead, he stared at her seething in anger.
Her voice dangerously low, she whispered. “Take that back.”
“No.” He challenged.
She reached up to haul off and slap him again, but he grabbed her wrist viciously.
“You hit me one more time, and I’ll…” Ron growled.
“And you’ll what? What will you do?” She dared.
His eyes flitted quickly down to her wetted, trembling lips, and she gasped slightly. They’d never been alone together like this.
In one swift motion, he pulled her to him still clutching her wrist. He placed his other hand forcefully behind her head to hold her in place, and brought his lips crashing to hers. The kiss was brutal, and his touch was completely lacking in gentleness. She struggled weakly against him at first, but as his initial roughness began to wane and his lips took on a softer feel, her body began to respond and she melted into his tall frame.
As the hand holding her wrist released its grasp and moved to wrap around her slim waist, his tongue brushed lightly along her lips begging for entry. She whimpered softly at the contact, and allowed him to deepen the kiss. Her hands limply fell to his shoulders as he pulled her even more flush against him. But after a moment they grew bold, and traveled up to become tangled in his hair.
He moaned deeply as she took handfuls of his mane and tugged at it to better position his mouth for her. His hands began to venture up and down her back as their kisses became more and more urgent.
Suddenly, she pulled back panting heavily, her lips swollen and red. Gasping for air as well, he looked at her bewildered. In a flash, she slapped him. Confused, he stared back at her, but then the anger flared in his eyes.
“I told you not to hit me…”
“Shut up!” She interrupted still breathing deeply.
She grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled him back to her slamming her lips into his. This action was so forceful that he lost his balance, and tripped forward slightly. He placed one hand on the wall behind her to brace himself, and wrapped the other arm around her.
There was nothing gentle about these kisses. They were a violent clash of lips and teeth as their tongues battled for dominance. Her hands greedily roamed his back and shoulders. As he let his arm bracing him buckle slightly and force her more fully up against the wall, he wedged his right leg between both of hers causing an intimate friction. She released a guttural moan, and her head fell back at the sheer pleasure of the pressure his leg was applying. He took full advantage of the supple expanse of skin offered, and latched his lips and tongue onto her neck. His fingers began to trace up and down her ribs barely brushing the edge of her breasts on the up stroke eliciting breathy gasps and sighs from her.
All coherent thought had flown from their minds. There was no sense of right or wrong in this haze, or the consequences of these actions. Between kisses, licks, and bites, he began to mumble sweetly into her neck, and through the fog she heard two words.
All coherent thought had flown from their minds. There was no sense of right or wrong in this haze, or the consequences of these actions. Between kisses, licks, and bites, he began to mumble sweetly into her neck, and through the fog she heard two words.
She pulled away from him, and looked into his clouded blue eyes. The lust she saw couched there made her flush all over.
“What did you just call me?” She whispered.
“What?” He murmured still unfocused.
His eyes slid down to her mouth, and he leaned in to taste her again. His lips were so soft she nearly lost herself to the sensation. With great effort, she pulled herself from sinking further into the lust-induced haze. Placing her hands gently on either side of his face, she pulled away slowly and licked her lips savouring the tingle humming through them. A moan involuntarily rumbled through his chest at the sight of her tongue dancing across her red, swollen lips.
“You just called me something? What was it?”
Regaining his senses and realizing his slip up, he released her and took a step back.
‘What was I thinking? I should never have kissed her like that. She can’t even remember her own name, for Merlin’s sake,’ he thought to himself. He couldn’t help the shame washing over him for taking advantage of her like this.
“Nothing. It was nothing.” He said quietly as he jammed his hands into his pockets looking everywhere but at her.
Deciding he needed to get away before anything else happened, he made a break for it.
“I have to go. I have to find Harry.”
He started to move for the door, but she caught his sleeve, and pulled him back to her. She grabbed both of his arms and held him firmly.
“You’re not going anywhere until you answer my question. What did you just call me?”
He looked at her, and saw desperation flooding her features. There was something else laced deeply within her eyes that he just couldn’t place.
“Ron, please!” She begged.
“I said ‘Mione’…” He blurted out. “ My own… ”
She took this in, and then stepped closer to him relaxing but did not totally releasing her grip on his arms.
In a much smaller voice, she asked, “And was I? I mean…” Beginning to tremble from the nervous electricity shooting through her, she tried her hardest to force these words out. “Was I… yours?”
Forgetting himself again, he cupped her face in his hands, and began to gently trace his thumbs over her lips reverently. He studied her face for what seemed like an eternity.
“I… You… You were…”
“What the hell…” Came a voice from nowhere.
They both turned their heads to the source of the interruption, and dropped their hands from each other. There stood Lavender in the doorway looking completely nonplussed by the scene before her. She inhaled deeply to gather her senses, and forced on a veneer of professional calm.
“Well, come on Ms. Anderson. You’ve had a long day, and you should really try to get some rest. You have a big decision to make tomorrow.” Lavender finally managed through clenched teeth.
Hermione looked around slightly lost, still confused by the heat and intensity of the previous moment.
“Yes, of course.”
She looked up at Ron one last time before moving slowly through the open door held by Lavender. Both watched her leave.
Once Hermione was out of earshot, Lavender shot Ron a vicious glare and said icily, “I don’t know what just happened here, but I will hold you personally responsible if she experiences any emotional trauma as a result.”
Lavender took another cleansing breath, turned brusquely, and marched out of the stairwell leaving behind a flustered and bewildered Ron.
Harry sat staring at the white privacy curtain, his head throbbing from the pressure behind his eyes. He reached up, took off his glasses, and pinched the bridge of his nose.
He felt incredibly torn. Draco seemed to be a nice enough bloke now, but Harry still wanted him to disappear forever preferably remaining completely clueless as to who and what he used to be. However, Harry also wanted Hermione to stay, and fill their lives with her bushy haired, know-it-all uniqueness again. Five years was a long time to be without her.
The only drawback was that these two scenarios were mutually exclusive. They could never exist at the same time. As it currently stood, if Draco were to leave, Harry was fairly certain Hermione would go with him. If she were to stay, Draco would stay as well. When all was said and done, there was no question that keeping Hermione with them was the only viable option. He’d just have to tolerate Draco, and hope he didn’t turn back into a prick again.
For all his newfound conclusions though, he really had no say in the matter. The truth was that the decision lay entirely in Hermione and Draco’s hands. And at that very moment, Ron was probably stuffing things up horribly with her. It seemed almost frightening and bizarre that Draco Malfoy was their best and only hope in keeping her from returning to Hammersmith.
Harry was brought out of his reverie by the sound of shifting sheets, and a slight muffled sigh. His attention was drawn to the curtain again as the person on the other side was slowly coming out of sleep.
“Sarah?” He heard mumbled.
The voice had been quiet and uncertain. Almost like a child calling for his mother after waking from a nightmare. Harry put his glasses back on, and pulled himself from his musings quickly enough to respond.
“She’s not here.”
Harry could sense the confusion emanating from the other side of the room.
“She’s just gone for a walk.” He continued. “She’ll be back shortly.”
“Where am I?” The displaced voice asked.
“You’re in a hospital called St. Mungo’s.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Draco’s voice came a bit stronger. “Right. Forgot there for a moment.”
Harry heard him get out of bed, and sigh heavily. Suddenly, Draco’s tall frame appeared at the edge of the curtain.
“Well, hello Harry. When did you get here?” He offered with a big smile.
“Oh, about an hour ago.” Harry said trying to sound friendly.
Draco moved forward, and plopped himself onto Hermione’s bed.
“So, she’s gone for a walk, has she? With Ron I presume?” He gave a cheeky grin and waggled his eyebrows. Harry couldn’t help but laugh.
“She always did have a bit of a weakness for red heads. Now, I know why.”
An awkward moment of silence passed between them, and they both shifted uncomfortably in their respective positions.
Harry hated the tense silences he kept finding himself in with Draco. Cutting straight to the point, he said, “I hear you and Sarah have a big decision to make tomorrow.”
Draco’s face fell, and he became very preoccupied with picking at the bed sheets.
“Yes.” He managed. “Healer Brown wants our answer by tomorrow morning.”
“Have you come to any kind of decision?” Harry asked anxious for but still dreading the answer.
Draco looked up and held his gaze for a moment.
“Yes, and no. Staying and leaving both have their good and bad points.” He paused to consider his next words.
“I’ve never really had an easy time out there. I was getting better with Sarah’s help, and I actually started to feel like I might fit in. That is, until all this happened. I know nothing about this world you live in… but I figure that because this is where I was raised, hopefully I’ll have a better go of it here. That is if I ever get out of this place. All I’ve managed to see so far is the inside of this hospital. And the way Healer Brown was talking earlier, it might take years. I don’t think I want to live in here for that long.”
He stopped there to let this sink in. Harry blinked at Draco’s candidness, but before he could comment on it, he had started again.
“I know I sound unsure, but I think I’ve made up my mind. Ultimately though, it really doesn’t matter what I want because Sarah’s needs come first. She had a good job with room to grow in Hammersmith. We finally had a nice flat. We were meeting people. She seemed really happy for the first time in…”
He paused and swallowed hard, but willed himself to continue. “I don’t know what she has here Harry. I know you and Ron must have been important to her, but she seems so confused now. I’ve never seen her like this, and I can’t say that I like it. Harry, what do you think we should do?”
The perfect opportunity to keep Hermione with them was presenting itself, but he couldn’t bring himself to take it. He couldn’t manipulate Draco like that. Harry could have kicked himself at that moment.
“Listen mate, this is a tough choice to make; one that you and Sarah will have to live with for the rest of your lives. You are right. She does mean a lot to me, and to Ron, but this is all the more reason why I shouldn’t give you my two cents. Besides, I’m sure you can probably guess what we want. You have to do what you think is best for the both of you.”
Draco merely nodded, and continued his aggressive fiddling of the sheets.
After a few minutes of silence in which both parties mulled over the conversation, Draco finally spoke.
“Thanks, Harry. For listening and all. Normally, I only have Sarah for these kinds of things. And since she’s directly involved, I didn’t think I could tell her all that. It might change her decision.”
“No worries mate.” Harry managed still baffled by the idea of Draco putting Hermione’s feelings and needs before his own.
Suddenly, the door swung open admitting a pinched looking Lavender, and a taciturn Hermione. The two men regarded them with concern.
Before Harry could even speak, Draco was up and off the bed throwing his arm protectively around Hermione’s shoulder.
“Are you alright there love?” Draco questioned.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” She answered not paying much mind.
Hermione looked at him and then down at her intertwined hands. She allowed him to maneuver her over to sit by the window across the room where they proceeded to have a near silent conversation.
Appearing in the open doorway, Ron decided to show himself at that moment. He looked tense, and worried.
“What the hell happened to her? She looks terrible.” Harry whispered angrily.
“Ron is what happened, that’s what!” Lavender leveled with a seething anger bubbling just below the surface.
Harry pinned him with a vicious glare. “What did you do?”
For his part, Ron had discovered something very interesting to move around with his foot on the floor. When he didn’t answer, Harry grabbed his arm and hissed out, “Ron!”
“I kissed her!” He mumbled out, and Harry shook his head.
“Anything else?” Harry questioned forcefully.
“I’ve heard enough. Ronald, I need to speak with you outside NOW!”
With that, Lavender moved out the door and into the hall. Harry could not stop shaking his head.
As Ron started to move to go, however, Hermione’s voice came loudly from the corner.
“Are you leaving?” She said as she rushed over to him.
He hesitated slightly. “I need to have a word with the therapist in the hall, and then, I think it might be best if I was off for the night.”
He refused to bring his eyes up to meet hers.
“You’ll be back tomorrow though, won’t you?” She asked as she reached out and touched his arm.
He looked up into her hopeful face, and said, “I… I don’t know… I’m not sure if that would be such a good idea.”
The colour drained out of her face as she dropped her hand to her side.
“I understand.” She answered almost inaudibly.
“No, you don’t.” He managed roughly before turning and heading out the door.
Harry, completely dumbfounded by this exchange, could only give a small, awkward smile before biding them both a goodnight.
Out in the hall, Harry found Lavender already ripping Ron a new one.
“What the hell were you thinking becoming that intimate with her? She doesn’t even remember you Ron!”
“I know, and I’m sorry.”
“Damn right you’re sorry! You could have done some serious damage back there. Hell, you already might have!”
Ron was slouching lower and lower with each well-aimed accusation.
“Now, Lavender…” Harry tried to interrupt.
“Stay out of this Harry.” She screeched, and Harry jumped back slightly. “She’s fragile, and confused, but you go and try to get your jollies off with her.”
Ron was taking it all without making a peep, or raising his head.
“Lavender, she really didn’t seem…”
“Shut up Harry!” She cut him off.
That was it! This woman had exerted her authority just a little too far.
“NO… YOU SHUT UP!” Harry bellowed. Both Ron and Lavender whipped their heads around, and stared at him with saucers for eyes.
“Just because you still have unresolved issues with Ron does not give you the right to pile the guilt on like this.”
Lavender flinched at this comment.
“Now, I’m not sure what Hermione remembers, or how her memories are coming to her, but she’s definitely remembering something. And I feel Ron here is the major reason for that. But if you try to tell him he’s not allowed to see her, I swear to the Gods and all that’s holy, I will have words with your Superiors. And don’t think for one second I’m above pulling the whole ‘I’m the one who destroyed He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and saved the Wizarding World’s sorry ass’ guilt trip. Because guess what? When it comes to Hermione, I’m not! Come on, Ron. Let’s go!”
Harry turned briskly and started pounding down the hall at a vicious pace leaving behind a shell shocked Lavender.
Once Ron had managed to catch up with him, and keep pace, he said, “Thanks mate.”
“Don’t mention it.” Harry responded gruffly. “She was really beginning to piss me off.”
After a few more painfully silent moments, Harry continued, “She was partially right though, Ron. I know you miss Hermione, but please try and think before you act.”
Ron nodded and kept his head down for the rest of the walk out of the hospital.
Once Harry had left, Hermione wandered over to her bed, sat exhausted on it in a deflated heap, and stared straight ahead at nothing in particular.
Draco came over and joined her on the bed sitting directly across from her in her line of vision.
“Have you decided how you want to answer tomorrow?” She said flatly.
She nodded, and sighed deeply.
“Me too. So what’s it going to be for us then?”
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.