“How come you don’t remember?” Hermione asked sardonically. “Surely everyone must know how and when they got to the place they are at now.”
Crossing his arms at his chest, Ron stood up from the bench. “Very well then, why won’t you tell me how and when and from where you got to your current flat, work and everything?”
Hermione opened her mouth to say something straight away, but as she thought about what she was about to say, she halted. Furrowing her eyebrows, Hermione leaned forward.
“Well?” Ron interrupted her thoughts.
Glancing up at him nervously, the same pink tinge appearing on her cheeks, Hermione smiled apologetically. “Actually, I don’t remember either.”
Ron didn’t bother to hide his look of smugness, but Hermione didn’t notice as she stood up abruptly.
“But...I lived in a small village in Scotland, though my co-workers always kind of teased me about my Yorkshire accent. But I’ve never been to Yorkshire as far as I can remember.”
Ron raised his eyebrows at her knowingly.
“What should we do then?” she asked, turning to him.
All images of knowledge gone from his face, Ron stared at Hermione blankly. He furrowed his eyebrows and screwed up his face in concentration.
“Um, do we visit the landlord?” That was the only thing he could come up with, yet right after he had said it he felt ridiculous for mentioning something so pointless.
“It’s worth a try,” Hermione muttered, rubbing her chin with her fingers and obviously deep in thought.
“No it’s not,” Ron said.
“You just suggested it,” she replied, giving him an exasperated look.
“It was just a stupid thought. How would he know where we come from? Usually he only takes the money, makes the given arrangements and is done with it. My landlord does nothing all day except watch television and munch on crackers. He wouldn’t give a damn if a bomb exploded right above his head. As long as his money is being delivered every month, all is well.”
“Well, a landlady from my old place was very nosy,” Hermione said. “Of all the inquisitive women in the world, she’s the worst. The flat is only a few streets away from here. You never know; we might just find out a little clue.”
Shrugging, Ron put his hands into his pockets and nodded. “Okay then.”
Hermione nodded back fervently and lunged for her grocery bags enthusiastically. There was nothing more alluring than the feel of something close to being discovered. Staggering slightly under the weight of her bags, her arms suddenly felt lighter as Ron took one bag into his own arms. Hermione gave him a very odd look, surprised by the gesture; he didn’t look like a gentleman. Ron looked just as surprised, though, clearly not used to helping women with their bags. The tips of his ears went red and he turned away, just to end the strange moment.
Hermione hurried to catch up with him, unaware of the small hint of a smile appearing at the corner of her lips. She led the way, knowing the direction to her old place by heart. They were quiet, only the speeding cars and life bustling around them found their way to partially break up the silence. Their silence, however, was one that brought calm in between their confused minds. And when they didn’t try to think about everything too much, they could find out they’re almost at peace. Had they not been trying to actually question everything about the two of them, perhaps this walk would be an ordinary part of the day.
They reached a tall Victorian building a few moments later. It looked old and quite unstable; some of the windows were dusty and cracked, but others looked normal. He wondered if the inside of the building was as ancient and dilapidated as the exterior.
“You lived here?” Ron asked with raised eyebrows.
“I did. Why the surprise?”
Shrugging, Ron approached the stairs of the building without words. Hermione knew what he meant. The shabby place was in great contrast to her current life so full of neatness and splendor. But as far as she could remember, she had nothing against shabby. On more than one occasion this place felt more like home than the urbane flat she shared with Jonathan ever had.
In front of the entrance door, Ron offered to take even the second bag. Handing it to him, Hermione then opened the door and held it open for Ron to get in.
“Mrs. Duchonova lives just in this flat down the hall,” she said as she led the way. Stopping in front of a door decorated with flowers, she knocked softly. They both heard the loud noise of the television being turned down and someone shuffling toward the door. As it opened, a middle-aged woman stood in the doorway, bespectacled by thick horn-rimmed glasses. Her hairstyle seemed to be suspended in time, for it was a mass of hard curls that formed a perfect helmet-shaped sphere around her head. She had a long nose and hard features. Upon seeing Ron and Hermione, though, she smiled broadly.
“Ah, you’re Miss Granger if I remember well. What brings you here?” she asked eagerly, eyeing Ron with particular interest.
Running a hand through her curly hair, Hermione wondered how she would go about it.
“Mrs. Duchonova, I need to ask you something. Do you remember how I came here? To this flat?”
Mrs. Duchonova’s eyebrows disappeared into her mane of a fringe as she crossed her arms at her chest.
“How you came here? Well, your sister and her very handsome husband made the arrangements and you moved in within the next few days, of course. It was a truly lovely present for your graduation from medical school.”
“A sister?” Hermione asked keenly, her eyes widening. “What…what did she look like?”
Furrowing her eyebrows, it was apparent Mrs. Duchonova had to search her wide memory. After all, she had witnessed far too many people passing under her windows and past her door.
“You didn’t look too much alike. She was tall and slim, had dark hair and…I don’t really know.”
“What about her husband?” Ron asked.
“Ah well, he was a very handsome young man indeed. Dark skinned, very exotic. And those white teeth, oh my, not even my new teeth can shine as much.”
Glancing hopelessly at Ron, they seemed to share their thoughts. This wasn’t going anywhere. Hermione never had a sister and these people the woman talked about didn’t ring a bell at all.
“Miss Granger, may I ask why are you asking me this? Surely you must know what your family looks like,” Mrs. Duchonova said with a sweet smile, though her beady eyes watched Hermione suspiciously.
“Erm, the thing is, I haven’t talked to them much ever since they rented this flat for me. Our family has a lot of issues and sometimes it’s hard working them out. I was just wondering if you remember where they came from when they were here.” Hermione heard Ron stifle laughter behind her back.
“I am sorry, but I have no idea,” Mrs. Duchonova said, and Hermione’s face fell immediately. “All I can tell you is that the first rent was paid by them. They sent it in a letter. It had a London postage stamp is all I remember. I threw the letter away because I have far too many papers piling on my desk. You know, it’s not as easy to be a landlady these days with all the irresponsible people. Can you even imagine how many never pay on time?”
But Hermione wasn’t listening anymore; she was looking at Ron. He smiled at her from behind the grocery bags, knowing that their way here was a bit successful after all.
“Thank you so much, Mrs. Duchonova. I appreciate your help. Goodbye.”
Turning around, Hermione ushered Ron out of the building before the woman had the opportunity to go into any more ranting.
“Well, London it is,” Hermione said as they descended the stairs. “I don’t remember anything about London, though. Do you?” she asked, turning around so abruptly her foot slid down the stair.
Just as she was about to fall, Ron instinctively dropped both bags and grabbed her by her hands, pulling her back up. Looking down, Hermione gasped as she saw the bags almost hovering in midair, a few inches above the ground. Shutting her eyes and opening them up again, the bags were on the bottom stair, well and full. Nothing had gone rolling out.
Shaking her head, Hermione looked at Ron to find him staring at her. He didn’t seem to notice the bags at all.
“Are you alright?” he asked, letting go of her hands and stepping down the last few stairs to pick up the bags.
“Of course,” she replied, quite shaken from everything that had just occurred. Things were getting even more strange and far beyond her senses to comprehend. The feeling was very unsettling. Taking the bags from him, Hermione avoided his eyes.
“I better get home and straighten things out about the vacation. When can we leave for London?” The mere sound of the words as they escaped her mouth sounded crazy, but the feel of them filled her up with excitement.
“I’ll take a few days off of work and we can leave sometime in the evening.”
For a few more seconds they kept looking at each other, but as the moment stretched on and grew to be quite inappropriate, Hermione thought, she smiled politely, waved him goodbye and walked off into the direction of her new home, away from the shabby place, and away from Ron Weasley. But she would see him very soon again. That seemed to liven up her step.
Hermione entered her home hesitantly, trying to make as little sound as possible. She knew that eventually she would have to sit down with Jonathan and tell him of the new and inconvenient arrangements, and that she would have to do it that night, but the mere imagination of it made her shudder.
Locking the door quietly, making sure the keys in her hand didn’t tinkle too much, Hermione headed to the kitchen, almost tip-toeing as she did so. Her hopes were soon crushed as she entered the kitchen, finding a disgruntled Jonathan poring over newspaper, smoking a cigarette.
“Where were you?” he asked as Hermione walked over to the kitchen counter and set the grocery bags down onto it. Pursing her lips, she sat down across from him.
“I don’t like when you smoke in here. We discussed you would do it on the balcony whenever you might feel inclined to,” she said coldly.
Jonathan finished the cigarette and extinguished it in the ashtray on the table. He smiled at Hermione, but she knew he was agitated. And that irritated her just as well; she already felt trapped at times when she was with him, as he demanded to know her whereabouts at all times. On evenings like this one, when he had waited around for her half the day, he grew irate.
The silence between them was drawn out and uncomfortable, much unlike the one she shared with Ronald earlier that day, she thought dismally. Sighing, Hermione knew that the best way would be to just have it out with him.
“Jonathan, I’m late because something’s come up at work,” she began, rather timidly. Jonathan furrowed his eyebrows and nodded for her to continue. “I…I think I won’t be able to come to Greece with you.”
Jonathan had shot up from his chair so abruptly it got knocked over. Hermione didn’t blame him for his rage.
“Hermione, sweetheart,” he said, laughing slightly, as if convinced she was only joking, “surely you’re just pulling my leg. I know you; you wouldn’t just change the arrangements on the eve of our departure.”
Rolling her eyes slightly, Hermione stood up as well. “Yes, I would, for work I always would,” she said hotly, ignoring the little voice nagging at her conscience that she was lying since hunting for her past with a stranger had nothing to do with her work.
“But, we’ve planned this vacation for months. Our friends will be there! How will I look, coming there completely alone?”
“There you go! There’ll be plenty of your friends, not our friends. Knowing your ways, I’d end up with nothing to do once again.”
“And what does that mean?” he asked abruptly, placing his hands on the table and leaning forward. “You can talk to anyone and enjoy yourself.”
Waving her hand, Hermione went on, reminding herself to forget the knowledge of how little Jonathan knew her. “Listen; try to understand what my work means to me. After all, you’re just as dedicated, I daresay. I’m sure you will have a great time even without me and I promise we will catch up on everything.”
As these words parted her mouth, Hermione knew only half of her heart was in them, because the enthusiasm she was supposed to feel was absent.
Jonathan’s eyes didn’t leave her, but if he knew something about Hermione well, it was that once her mind was made up, there was no changing it.
“I can’t believe this,” he said exasperatedly, shooting Hermione disappointed and goaded looks. His petulance made her even less enthusiastic about spending more time with him.
“Jonathan, I am sorry and I will try to make it up to you, but this is my final word, I’m not going, because I can’t. There will be time for another Greece in the future, my work needs me now.”
Jonathan remained silent, weighing his words. He always weighed words and never stuttered. “What is this thing going on at work that makes you stay anyway?”
Hermione smiled slightly, because she knew that if he’s asking her this, he had already accepted the news. Her smile disappeared right after, though, as she realized she didn’t think up a clever enough reason for herself to stay.
“There will be a big surgery going on and they want me to assist. I can’t tell you all the details right now, but there will be a lot of preparations and tests with the patient before it. I also need to do some research. It will take my time.”
Feeling ridiculous and wishing this would finally end, Hermione thought briefly about her phantom patient and made a mental note to call Sheila and inform her of the part of the situation. Half-truths and lies…so far her hunt for the truth about herself wasn’t as satisfying.
Crossing his arms at his chest, Jonathan stared at Hermione icily, but then he shrugged his shoulders and lifted up his hands in resignation.
“Fine, your loss, Hermione, I won’t stand in the way.”
Striding toward him, Hermione embraced him and gave him a short kiss.
Smiling, even though the smile never reached to his eyes, Jonathan hugged Hermione back and pulled her close to him. Trailing soft kisses down her neck, he reached for the buttons of her blouse.
“You better make the goodbye proper at least,” he said hoarsely, feeling Hermione tense under his touch. “Are you okay?” he asked, pulling away, holding her by the shoulders and looking into her downcast face.
Raising her eyes to meet his, Hermione leaned forward and kissed him deeply, knowing she owed him that much. For now. Lately things just hadn’t been as before.
As Ron entered the small building in which he lived, he still wore that goofy kind of smile he couldn’t quite decipher. He felt the lingering grin on his face filled him up with happiness and never before experienced excitement.
Climbing the stairs one by one, he fished the keys out of his pocket and vaguely wondered how much damage had been done to his plants during his absence of few days.
Finally stepping on his landing, he looked up and halted as he saw a small figure sitting on his doorstep.
The girl looked up, her blue eyes sparkling with tears. Upon seeing Ron, she shot from the ground with surprising speed, only to throw her arms around his neck and sob into his shoulder.
Flabbergasted a bit, Ron patted her on the shoulder awkwardly.
Chelsea pulled back and her look of relief and joy had been replaced by one of fury. Smacking him into the shoulder, she took a step back and eyed him angrily.
“Ron, you are a humongous prat! Four days...four days. You’ve been gone for four bloody days and we didn’t know anything! I waited for you to come and take me to the cinema for three hours. I was livid you didn’t show up, but then Ben told me you had an accident and that you were injured. We didn’t even know to which hospital they took you, so we searched and when we finally found you this afternoon, we only found out you were already released, but you didn’t bother...” Smacking herself on her forehead as if to show him how thoughtless he was, Chelsea placed her hands on her hips and took in a breath. “You didn’t even bother to call, to let anyone of us know whether you’re alive and all right.”
Gaping at her open-mouthed, Ron resembled a goldfish out of water, only to realize that indeed he could’ve at least let Chelsea and his other friends know how he was. He was so caught up with thinking of Hermione that he absolutely forgot about the people in his life; it seemed strange, but when there was Hermione, the others didn’t seem half as real.
“Chelsea, I’m... really sorry. Come inside and have a cup of tea,” he said after a while, unlocking his door and placing an arm around Chelsea’s shoulder as she began sniffling again.
“Tea is your solution for everything, isn’t it? I apologise for yelling at you,” she said quietly as he led her in. “But I was really... worried.”
Ron couldn’t help himself, and he gave her a warm smile. “That’s okay. I deserved it for being such a careless git.”
“So, what happened?” Chelsea asked as she sat down on his vacant sofa in the living room while Ron fumbled with teapots and cups in the kitchen that was separated from the living room by only a counter.
Shrugging his shoulders, Ron scratched his head. “I was walking down the street, so oblivious that I didn’t notice a car speeding along the way. Then I woke up in the hospital and…” Ron’s voice trailed off at the thought of seeing Hermione for the first time. He felt he shouldn’t continue. “Then I found out what happened, spent hours on end in that dreadful place wondering what an idiot I am, and today I finally got home.”
It took a few moments for the tea to be done. Chelsea watched Ron from her spot, grinning as he got burned by touching the teapot, shrieking and sucking on his burned finger, meanwhile cursing everything that came to his mind. She felt… happy upon seeing him again, relieved even. When he was gone, she had the oddest feeling that he might never return again. And her anger was only there to cover up for the worry mingled with her affections toward him.
Ron carried the tea to where Chelsea sat, sitting down next to her.
“Are you all right then? No brain damage?”
“None at all. Other than what was there to begin with, I reckon,” he added with a smile, trying to cheer her up.
Chuckling, Chelsea sipped her coffee and avoided looking at him for just one second.
“You got run over by a speeding car and nothing has happened? You must be a miraculous child then.”
Nodding, Ron grinned. “Yeah, of that I’ve always been convinced.”
After that Chelsea questioned him more about the possible future rehabilitations he would have to undergo and whether he had met anyone interesting at the hospital. Ron merrily went on telling the tale of the haughty receptionist, entertaining Chelsea with the edited version until they drank all their tea.
“I better get going,” Chelsea said as she was standing up, taking hers and Ron’s cup and carrying them over to his sink.
“I’ll wash them, don’t bother,” Ron said hastily as she was about to turn the water on. Smiling sheepishly, Chelsea grabbed her jacket. “I probably won’t be going to sleep straight away. I have to pack anyway. I’ll come to work tomorrow and take a couple of days off probably.” Chelsea gave him a questioning look. “Err... I’m going to London.”
“London? Why would you ever want to go to London?”
Placing the large trunk on his bed, Ron looked up at her and considered his possible answers. For a moment he felt like telling her; she was a friend, after all.
“I’m going to visit family.”
There were some things even closest friends didn’t need to know. “I’ll explain later,” he added as Chelsea opened her mouth to question him more. There were enough questions for the day. They gave him a headache already.
Chelsea nodded, pursing her lips slightly. If there was one thing she didn’t want, it was to pressure him.
Ron walked her to the door. Leaning with his arm against the doorframe, he gazed down at Chelsea.
“Sorry again Chels, I didn’t want to scare you or anything.”
Chelsea avoided his eyes, muttering a soft ‘that’s okay’. She seemed to be fighting against something, but Ron was too tired to notice anyway.
“Bye then,” he said, stifling a yawn.
Nodding her head, Chelsea stepped out of his flat and neared the staircase. Suddenly she spun around and ran back to Ron, placing a kiss on his lips so sudden and surprising Ron just stood in his doorway, incapable of any reaction. As Chelsea deepened the kiss, Ron came to his senses and regained the feeling of his body. Reaching his hands into her hair clumsily, he kissed her back, only because he didn’t have the slightest idea what else he could do.
Chelsea pulled back, ending the kiss with a soft peck on his lips.
“Let me know when you come back,” she said quietly, though boldly, her hands on Ron’s chest.
“Erm, yeah, okay,” he whispered hoarsely, brushing his nose against her hair.
Glancing up at him apologetically though much happier, the sparks in her eyes dancing; Chelsea smiled and finally left, her footsteps echoing in the hallway.
Ron stared after her for a few minutes, his mind completely blank. He felt both happy and dejected, as he closed the door and walked into his bedroom, slouching down into his bed, so tired he didn’t even bother to undress.
He had planned that moment for a long time, and it was just as perfect and lovely as he wanted it to be. It only felt a bit wrong, failing to complete him, and that was his last thought before falling asleep, dreaming of flying brooms and strange smelly turbans.
A/N: Now, now, don't kill me. It had to be done. After all, they still got their normal lives to deal with. This chapter's been a bit slower, but necessary, so I hope you still enjoyed it. A huge thanks goes to my lovely Megan (momotwins). She really saved the chapter with her amazing beta work. And I would also like to thank all my reviewers and a special thanks goes out to those who have nominated this story in the Dobby awards. You have absolutely no idea how happy that made me feel, because I honestly did not expect it. This chapter is therefore dedicated to each and every one of you. Thank you. Oh, and please be so kind and review. :)