Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor do I have ownership of any of the characters. I am not affiliated with J.K Rowling, Scholastic Books, Warner Bros, or Bloomsbury Publishing in any way. However, the plot is my own.
A/N: Oh my goodness, I am so sorry! It has been too long since I have updated this story! I know I promised that I would have it up by the end of July, but then my laptop cord melted and I had issues! I am so sorry, I cannot apologize enough! Big thanks to all the loyal readers who enjoy this story, I hope you enjoy the chapter!
She couldn't breathe.
She had heard the words, watched them spill from his mouth, and yet her mind refused to comprehend them. It was useless, they invaded her mind, whispered over and over again, taunting her until she could no longer breathe. The air was there in the room, and although her mind was screaming for her to inhale the oxygen it so desperately wanted, she couldn't even function to complete the simplest task.
Her vision blurred.
Fighting back her tears she reached out and grasped Bill's wrist with her trembling fingers, seeking support, frantically trying to find an anchor to keep her steady. The seconds ticked by in silence as she groped for the right words, praying this was a horrible nightmare that she would wake from. As each second passed in endless agony, she knew, this was no nightmare, this was reality, and suddenly a nightmare seemed like a pleasant escape from reality.
Tears silently rained down her cheeks.
Finally managing a shaky breath she slowly lifted her eyes to his, not sure of what she would see, but terrified of what she wouldn't see. Her teeth dug into her lower lip painfully as she bit down to keep from saying anything, to keep from pleading with him to remember her. Her fingernails bit angrily into Bill's wrist as she studied Charlie's expression. There was no denying it, she could see it in his eyes, for all he knew, she could have belonged to Bill, not him.
Her breath hitched as he studied her face.
She could feel him studying her carefully, trying to place her, and possibly this terrifying scenario he had awoken to find. His eyes locked with hers and for what seemed like the hundredth time in the last month, her heart shattered again. Less than a month ago, she had looked deep into those eyes and seen everything he felt for her, adoration, affection, understanding, and quite possibly even love. Now all that stared back at her was confusion and a hint of curiosity.
It was clear to her, as she stood there numbly staring at Charlie.
He didn't love her anymore.
He didn't even know her.
He could feel her desperation as she grasped onto his wrist painfully, as if she could somehow will Charlie to remember her. She was losing her control, and Bill knew deep down she couldn't handle this right now. It was too cruel, to have Charlie back, and yet know deep down, she had nothing.
She had lost everything.
That was the undeniable truth, and he could tell from her silence, that she knew it as well. He wanted more than anything to comfort her, and a small voice in the back of his mind shouted at him, begging him to listen, trying to convince himself that Hermione still had him.
He disgusted even himself.
Here she was, seconds after receiving one of the worst blows of her life, and already his mind was swooping in, preparing to step in and take Charlie's place. His own brother was casually thrown aside in his mind as he watched the tears build in her brown eyes, the pain crossing her face. There wasn't anything he wouldn't do to make her pain go away, to save her from this heartache.
It was in that moment he would have given anything to be Charlie's place, if nothing more than to make her happy again. Nobody needed or wanted him anymore anyways.
He was replaceable.
He always had been.
It was like waking from a foggy dream.
His head was pounding, and it took a moment for his vision to clear as he glanced around the room. It had been many years since he had awoken in this condition, and never had he been wearing a paper gown, that from the feel of it, didn't even cover his ass.
Most of the time this type of condition was the product of a late night of ramming shots of Firewhiskey down his throat. However, he couldn't remember the last time he had even gone out for a drink. So he had a sneaking suspicion that whatever had caused him to wake up in this place, hadn't involved the Naughty Broomstick or a shot of Firewhiskey.
Before he even had a chance to inquire where he was at, or even take a breath for that matter, there was a woman by his side. Her eyes were bloodshot, and it was evident that she hadn't slept in days, her hair in disarray and her clothes properly mussed. In fact his first impression was that the young woman had just stumbled out of a broom closet after a good snogging.
Something here was wrong.
He could feel it as he looked up at her reassuring smile, and felt her cool hand as it grasped his own. She was expecting something, and for the life of him he couldn't figure out what it was that she wanted from him.
Time slowed as he tried to process, desperately trying to place her, to get a feel for why she was even here. He thought as hard as he could, studying her brown eyes, but he couldn't place her. Slowly he pulled his hand away from her, she obviously had the wrong room, after all, if she had been in the right place he would have known her name.
She was the kind of woman a man never forgot.
He was about to ask her if she had happened to step in the wrong room, when a familiar face stepped up to the bed right next to the mysterious woman. Heaving a sigh of relief Charlie did his best to form some sort of intelligent question. Quickly deciding that this woman was very important to his brother, he decided to ask who she was. As soon as the words slipped out though, he knew he had made a mistake.
A big mistake.
The room seemed to crackle with tension as the young woman met his eyes, studying him, searching for something he couldn’t give. Guilt consumed him as he watched her struggle to stay calm and in control and he watched as Bill looked at her, a peculiar look crossing his face. Before Charlie had time to puzzle out exactly what that look meant, or even receive an answer to his question, the door opened and a young lady entered the room.
She was wearing what he could only assume was a St. Mungo’s standard issue white Healer cloak, and her chocolate brown hair was slung up casually in a bun. A small silver nameplate was attached to her cloak, and the name Healer Carrington jumped out at him. He watched as she carefully studied the expressions on Bill and the nameless woman, her eyes narrowing at the unshed tears shining in the girl’s eyes.
Before the woman could start asking questions Charlie decided he needed to know exactly what was going on. So far nobody had given him any answers, and he was tired of just sitting here in a room full of upset people, and not knowing exactly why everyone was upset.
“Bill, what is going on, and who exactly is this?” he asked again, hoping for an answer about the mysterious woman. Then turning his head to the Healer, he looked her once over and was rewarded with a feeling of déjà vu. “And not to be forward here, but how do we know each other? Something about you feels very familiar.”
A small gasp came from his right. It had come from her, the nameless woman, he was sure.
It did little to phase him.
His gaze was firmly on her, the one he couldn’t quite force himself to look away from.
She had tried her best to convince herself that this was just some big nightmare, and she would soon be waking up in their bed with Charlie by her side. It was useless though, somewhere along the way her life had turned into a nightmare, one that she would never wake up from.
It wasn’t fair.
They had been through so much together already, they didn’t deserve this! Years and years apart, followed by what she had thought at the time was the lowest point of her life, before they had finally been together. She had been very wrong, she would gladly return to the days when Charlie was in Romania and she was still in London without her, at least he had known who she was.
Now everything was lost.
She could still remember the moment clearly in her mind, he hadn’t known who she was, but he had known Healer Carrington, a woman he had met once, he hadn’t even been conscious. He had forgotten their life together, every moment, every kiss, every touch. For him, they had never happened.
Her initial thoughts were that it was most likely a temporary side effect that would go away after a few hours. It wouldn’t be long, and then he would remember everything, and they would be together again, just like they had been before this horrendous accident. Her healer instincts had told her otherwise though, and when Charlie’s doctor had arrived to run some tests, he had confirmed her worst fears.
He might never remember her.
Well, technically that was a lie, he knew exactly who she was, Hermione Granger, his little brother’s friend. Above all it was one of the biggest blows yet. Charlie could only remember events that had happened up until a few months before New Year’s, the New Year’s party where they had first kissed.
It was the cruelest twist of fate yet.
He knew who she was, and yet he knew nothing about her. All he had to go on was the few times they had met back when Hermione had still been a student at Hogwarts.
Sitting in her chair in a tiny room with the rest of the Weasley’s receiving his diagnosis, she had felt numb. She couldn’t even comprehend what she was going to do, or how to even handle news like this. There was a slight chance he might remember, but there was no telling when that day might come, or if it would ever come at all. She could feel everyone’s eyes on her as she digested the news, after all, she was really the only person affected by this news.
Charlie knew everyone - everyone but her.
She did her best to hold in her emotions, to pretend that she was okay, but it was futile. It seemed impossible that she still had tears to cry, but she did. As she sat there sobbing, she felt someone wrap their arm around her in a reassuring hold and draw her closer. Her first impression was that it was probably Ron or Harry, but as she laid her head against a broad chest, she knew she had been wrong.
Hermione didn’t even have to look, she knew it was him. In the past few weeks she had spent enough time wrapped up in his arms to know exactly how it felt. He had been there for her in what could only be the lowest point of her life, and she was so grateful that she had somebody to turn to in this difficult time.
More than anything though, she knew he understood, neither of them had ever expected to be alone at this point in their lives. Just like Bill, she hadn’t expected to lose Charlie, everything had been perfect. The biggest question now though, was who was it harder for? Is it easier knowing your partner wanted to leave? Does it make getting through the day knowing they would still be with you if they could?
All they had now was time.
Time to wait. Time to pass. Time to move on.
That was what she was doing now, waiting for time to take her away for this pain. She had tried to return to her home, but just like before, it was too hard. Even worse than before were the thousands of memories of him, in every square inch of their apartment. Harry and Ginny had offered their guest room again, but with Ginny expecting, Hermione didn’t want to be an interference. After her polite turn down of their offer, Ron and Lavender had offered, but the idea of living with Ron made her uncomfortable, and staying at the Burrow would have been almost as bad as staying at home.
She was prepared to move back in with her parents, but Bill had politely invited her to stay at his house. At first she had resisted, but after much insistence from the Weasley Wives, she had given in, after all Bill was like a brother to her, and Charlie would have understood.
So there she sat, at Bill’s dining room table, turning over the horrific events of the last few weeks in her mind. They had been taking turns making dinner, simple things, but it didn’t matter what was made, Hermione couldn’t force herself to eat. Everything had lost its luster since the accident, and everything reminded her of him.
Sometimes it was even too painful to look at Bill across the table, the similarities between the two brothers so strong, and yet so different. Every look at him reminded her of what she didn’t have anymore though. Reminding her that she should be sitting across from Charlie, and yet even if she were sitting across from him, he wouldn’t know who she was. He wouldn’t understand why she was simply aroused by the word shower, or why she still couldn’t quite look Molly in the eye without blushing. It was this cruel reality that left her mind jumbled, making it almost impossible to decide on any course of action.
Of course, there was really only one decision left for her to make, and she was doing her best to avoid the entire thing. Ever since they had received the news, the one question on everyone’s mind, including her own, was, what she was going to do now? Every option seemed ridiculous, and yet, she would have to choose something, and soon.
As her mind puzzled through all these things, she absently moved her fork across her plate, flicking peas from side to side. She didn’t even know she was doing it until she felt a hand close over her own, stopping her uncontrolled motions. Slowly she lifted her eyes to his and bit down on her lip as she helplessly tried to keep the tears pooling in her eyes from falling.
“I don’t want to be here anymore Bill,” she cried, as he squeezed her hand supportively. “I would give anything to go back, to step in his place. I don’t want to be the one who remembers anymore, it’s too hard.”
“No, you don’t want that Hermione,” Bill said in a comforting tone. “You think you don’t want to remember right now because you are in pain, but think of everything you would lose if you didn’t remember. Neither of you deserved this, it should have happened to me. If anyone of us were to get hurt, it should have been me, I don’t have anyone anyways. Nobody to disappoint, nobody’s heart to break. Nobody.”
“You’re wrong,” she reassured him. “You have your parents, your brothers, even me Bill, you have me.”
Standing up she made her way around the table where she stood to meet her halfway. Right now all they needed was to know they had someone, to know that despite all of the bad, they would always have a friend. They did what was natural, their arms wrapped around each other as they hugged, standing there for minutes, just feeling the protectiveness of another’s arms around them.
It meant nothing, and yet it meant everything.
Time was up.
Hermione had put off making this decision long enough. A week had come and gone since the doctor had delivered the news that had altered her entire life. The doctor’s told her that she could wait, that she could decide later, but she knew that it was time. She had spent every waking moment trying not to think about what she was going to do, but it was useless, it was all she ever thought about.
Before she spoke to the doctors though she had called one last Weasley Wives meeting, needing validation, to know that she was doing the right thing. The rest of the woman had met up with her at a coffee shop near St. Mungo’s. Hermione had arrived a few moments before the rest of the women, and quickly took a seat, not at all comforted by the fact that she had been there only a few minutes and was already wishing they were meeting at a pub instead. Finally everyone had arrived, and they were all waiting expectantly for her to speak.
“I’m sorry to interrupt any plans, but as you all know, I have decided to give the doctor’s my decision today, and I just needed to know that I’m doing the right thing. I need to know that if any of you were in my position, you would do what I’m doing,” Hermione blabbered nervously. “I need to know that if the doctor’s asked you if you planned on staying with him, knowing that he may never remember you, that you would.”
“Is that what you decided?” Molly asked from her spot across from Hermione, her eyes sadder than Hermione had ever seen.
“I think so,” Hermione said in a shaky voice. “I just cannot imagine ever explaining to Charlie that I walked away knowing he might someday return.”
“What if he doesn’t though?” Ginny questioned quietly from the corner.
“You think I should walk away?” Hermione gasped. She had expected this from some of the other girls, but never from Ginny or Molly.
“I just don’t want you to lose your chance at happiness. I don’t want you to never find love.” Ginny explained sadly.
“I did find love.” Hermione said coldly. “I cannot believe I am hearing this, are you telling me if you were in my place and Harry was sitting in that hospital, that you would leave him? You love Harry, how could you even think about turning you back on him when he needed you most.”
“I’m not saying that Hermione,” Ginny defended herself. “I would love to think that I could do that. That I could sit there day after day and know that there was a slight possibility that Harry might never remember why he loved me. That he might never remember our first date, our wedding, everything that has mattered. I wouldn’t want to resent him, and I don’t know that I could look at him everyday and not feel slightly betrayed.”
“He’s all I have, he’s all I want, even if he’s not Charlie, I have nothing else,” Hermione mumbled, knowing she didn’t have any other choice. It wasn’t like Charlie had sat around and talked about what they would have wanted each other to do if something were to happen to one of them. “I would understand if it were me and he left, so I understand what you’re trying to say Ginny. I need to live each and every day with the decision I make though, and leaving Charlie is not an option. We fell in love once, and we have to fall in love all over, we will. It’s not going to be easy, and I’m going to be frustrated and sad, but I have to believe that in the end, somewhere, somehow, I’ll have him back again.”
With that said Hermione politely told everyone goodbye and made her way to St. Mungo’s. Her mind was going a mile a minute as she mentally prepared herself for what kind of journey she was about to embark on. She could only hope that he would remember sooner, rather than later, and they could move on with their lives and put this behind them.
She had told Bill this morning what her decision was, and he had been very supportive, offering to let her stay there for the duration, and she had gladly accepted his offer. She needed his support right now, he seemed to understand her better than anyone else right now.
Hermione was still thinking about Bill’s offer when she turned a sharp corner and ran right into someone, knocking them to the ground with a thump. Muttering a handful of apologies she reached down to help them up. Her eyes widened as she caught site of who it was, Healer Mona Carrington.
“I’m not leaving Charlie,” Hermione stated defensively, and Mona’s eyes widened.
“Good decision,” she commented uneasily, feeling as if she was being put in her place.
“We loved each other very much, we were very happy together,” Hermione continued, trying to avoid the fact that she had made it sound like their relationship had ended.
“I know,” Mona said sympathetically. “He spoke very strongly about you that night, that kind of love and devotion doesn’t disappear. He’ll remember, I know he will.”
“I need to believe that,” Hermione said sadly. “It’s all I have anymore, memories of what used to be, and what could have been.”
“Why don’t you go talk to the doctor real fast, and then meet me in the cafeteria for some coffee,” Mona suggested. She didn’t know why, but she wanted to be this woman’s friend, she needed to be this woman’s friend.
“That sounds nice,” Hermione replied. Somehow speaking to the woman who had last spoken to Charlie when he was still Charlie seemed somewhat comforting.
In that moment an unlikely friendship was created.
Somehow neither of them realized how intertwined their lives would soon become. Nobody could have ever predicted how fast things could change, or how drastically lives could change.
For better or for worse?
Only time would reveal.
A/N: I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter, it was very bittersweet to write, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I promise that next time I will not wait so long to update! Thanks again for reading and as always reviews and comments are always appreciated!
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