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.