Chapter 27 : It All Comes Out
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The Story of Merit and Rasui
There once was an Egyptian princess named Merit who fell deeply in love with a serving boy, Rasui. Her father Uro would not allow Merit to be with her beloved and forced her to marry the ruler of a nearby region, Panahasi. Panahasi was a cruel man and Merit did not love him.
It is said that Rasui had bestowed upon Merit a small, golden ring set with a tiny chip of ruby. He then used an ancient magic to endow the ring with his love. The runes loosely translated to mean ‘Endless Love’.
Merit accepted this ring, and they planned to elope to a far away country. When Panahasi learned of their scheme and caught Merit, he took her away to his castle. Rasui escaped, but for Merit, there was no escaping. She would have to marry the brutish man.
Not wanting Rasui to suffer as she would, Merit added her own magic to the ring. On top of Rasui’s hieroglyphs, Merit wove a spell. This spell left no mark on the ring. It was a spell that would only take effect once she married someone else, for she still had hope that Rasui would come for her.
Once she accepted the vows of marriage, Rasui’s memory of Merit would change. Not lost completely, as their lives had intertwined too much over the years, but enough that his mind would no longer hold any trace of their love.
Merit couldn’t bear it if she married someone else and Rasui suffered because of his love for her. So on her wedding day to Panahasi, Rasui’s memory of his love faded. She spent years without seeing her beloved, until one day in the market she spotted Rasui working in a stand.
Not able to avert her gaze, their eyes met. Rasui could not help but pursue her from that moment on. For a while, he had forgotten her, but upon seeing her face, he knew he was destined to be with this strange woman. Merit, having never lost her feelings for Rasui, could not resist his advances.
They were unable to keep their love a secret for long, and upon hearing of the affair, Panahasi took his revenge against Rasui, killing him at Merit’s feet. The ring, which had held their love together, was lost forever.
Until now, Hermione thought.
Whoever sold it to Ron must have only seen the spell for endless love and Ron, seeing the Egyptian runes, would have wanted Hermione to have it. Somehow, the ring knew their destiny and poured its magic out on them, as they became the ill-fated lovers in the story. Maybe it happened when Ron added his own inscription. Whatever the case, when Hermione married Draco the ring reacted and wiped Ron’s memory of Hermione clean.
What the ring could not do was wipe away his love for her, just as it wasn’t able to do so for Rasui. Hermione closed the book and looked more closely at the ring. There had to be a way to break its spell. She was about to look into artifact magic when she felt an odd tingling sensation run down her back.
She turned to see Draco standing like a shadow in the doorway. Arms crossed, he was leaned against the frame.
“You scared me.” She said, once she felt that she could keep the shock from her voice.
“Where were you tonight?” His voice sounded cold, and another wave of shivers washed over her.
“I’ve been here and I stopped by the Hogshead to see Harry. Why?” He had come home to ask her where she was?! Not a word from him in over two weeks and this is how he greeted her? If he has decided that he can’t forgive her kiss to Ron, why bother coming at all?
She gaped at him.
“I know you were with him!” He spat the last word so venomously that even though Hermione stood across the room, she flinched.
“With who? Ron? He was there, but I didn’t go to see him. I went to see Harry.” Her shock had completely worn off and now anger raged in her. How dare Draco come back and treat her in this manner? Especially now, when she had evidence against him! How he was going to explain his ‘lack’ of involvement was something she really wanted to hear.
“So going to see Harry involves you holding hands with Weasel, does it?”
“Were you following me?” She stood, and even though her stature was smaller than Draco’s, all her fury proved an intimidating force. Draco took a step back but held his forceful gaze. Hermione stepped forward, pressing her advantage.
“So what if I did? After being informed that you ran off with the Weasel last night, I came to see for myself. And what a show it was, too. I ask you to come home so that I can think, and what do you do? You run into the arms of the man that pulled us apart in the first place.”
“Oh. So, now Ron pulled us apart? It has nothing to do with your manipulations? Nothing at all to do with how you were, in fact, involved in Ron’s kidnapping? Or maybe how you paid some tramp to sleep with Ron so that I would find out about it? What exactly was your plan for that one? Did you just want to hurt Ron, or was my pain a bonus?”
Hermione stepped forward again, her face s red with anger, and her finger pointed into Draco’s chest.
“Draco, I admit I messed up in kissing Ron, but now that I know all you have done, why in the world should I want your forgiveness?”
He gaped. It was the first sign of feeling in him since he had come home. “I… I didn’t.”
“Don’t you dare lie to me, Draco Malfoy! Don’t even think about it.”
Hermione pushed him back so far that he fell onto the settee.
“Hermione, I swear I didn’t…”
“NO. MORE. LIES!”
“Look, just listen to me. Please.” She stopped and looked down at his pleading face. This sign of weakness made her back off, but only slightly. Draco was never weak, or at least never showed it.
“Five minutes.” She looked down at her wristwatch.
There was a moment of silence, which Hermione broke with a light “Tic-Toc” and a tap to her watch.
“I didn’t have anything to do with Ron’s kidnapping.” At her disbelief he added, “I swear it.”
Hermione just growled.
“Look, I just found out about it a few days before he came back. Theo sent over an owl. You remember, right?”
She nodded slowly, as if she were drawing the memory forward.
“Well, I went over to his place and he took me to that house, the one where Weasley was being held. He didn’t know about it. His dad took the poor bastard before he was caught.”
She shot him a sharp glare.
“The elf was left to care for him, but since no one knew he was there, no one could order his release. So, the elf just kept him there until she died, I guess.”
He looked up at her, searching Hermione in hope that she believed him. Her anger slowly ebbed away and she listened more closely to his tale.
“When Theo went to put in a new house elf now that the elder one was getting sick he saw Weasel…Er…Weasley there. That’s when he called me.”
“And why would he call you?”
“I don’t know, because he thought I could help.”
“Help with what exactly?”
“Hermione, love, I promise I didn’t do anything. We set him free. Theo put a memory charm on him so he wouldn’t remember where he had been. Then we went home. That’s it. I swear it.” He held his hands out in a supplicating manner.
“Oh, Draco. Why didn’t you just come and tell me this?” Hermione paced in front of him.
Draco’s face grew cold again. “Why would I have done that? I wasn’t going to chance you leaving me for him. Not that it mattered. You left me for him anyway, didn’t you?”
“Damn it, Draco! I didn’t leave you.”
“Yes you did. You left the second that you heard he was back. You leave me every time we make love.”
Hermione took a step back from him. Her face went white, and she felt as if her heart would stop beating all together.
“Yes you do. Why do you think I sent that little tramp after him? So you would see, so you would know that he is not who you think he is.” He rose from the settee and came closer to Hermione.
“And who is he Draco? He didn’t do anything wrong that night! I did. I kissed him. I was the one who was married. Ron didn’t owe me anything. You, however, did. You owed me respect and trust. Neither of which I got from you.”
“Trust,” he laughed. “What a joke. You kissed him, Hermione. Why should you deserve my trust?”
“Yes, I kissed him. Only after he told me that there was a witness to his kidnapping that pinpointed you. If you had been honest with me from the beginning, I would have had no reason to doubt you.”
“You shouldn’t have doubted me to begin with!”
“Oh, yes, the ever truthful one who resorts to tricks and schemes to embarrass your supposed opponent.” The argument began to grow heated again, and they both stood face to face, neither one of them backing down this time.
“No ‘supposed’ about it, Hermione. The Weasel has haunted this relationship from the beginning.”
“Yet you pursued me anyway. Don’t play the victim here, Draco. You knew how it was. If you didn’t like it you should have stayed away.” It was a low blow; she could see the hurt in his eyes.
“Maybe I should have, but I couldn’t…” He reached his hand up and ran it down Hermione’s arm. “I loved you too much.”
Hermione softened her stance and clasped his fingers with hers. “I know.” Silent tears slid down both of their cheeks.
“So what now?” Draco choked out.
She gave him the most honest answer that she could. “I don’t know, Draco. I just don’t know.”
Ginny was dozing lightly on the couch. Chocolate cake crumbs littered her shirt and the couch. She had been waiting up for Harry and drifted off to sleep when the rustle of his footsteps woke her.
Groggy, she couldn’t call the ire that she had intended. “What time is it?”
“Late.” Harry said as he took off his cloak and hung it up.
Suddenly, she'd found that ire. “WHERE WERE YOU? I HAVE BEEN SITTING UP ALL NIGHT WAITING FOR YOU TO…”
“We found where they kept Ron.” His voice sounded tired, and it was that more than his words that had initially stopped her tirade. When the words finally sank in, her anger disappeared completely.
“Where? Was it Malfoy’s basement?”
“No Ginny, it wasn’t Malfoy. In fact, he really played no part in Ron’s kidnapping at all as far as we can tell.”
“Yeah right.” She folded her arms over her chest and saw the chocolate crumbs move on her shirt. Unfolding her arms, she picked up some of the larger pieces and popped them into her mouth.
“No, really. I can’t actually tell you much, not until the trial is over anyway, but it looks like Malfoy was not the bad guy in this case.”
“He’s still a conniving little ferret.”
“Yes, yes he is.” Harry went to sit by Ginny and put his arm around his shoulder. “But he is not the conniving ferret that kidnapped Ron.”
Ginny sulked down lower into the couch.
“You seem displeased.”
“Well, I am. I want that rat behind bars.”
“You know, Gin, he’s your best friends husband, and as Hermione’s best friend you should be happy to know that he had nothing do with it.”
She mumbled something unintelligible even to herself under her breath.
“So who did it then? Who is on trial?”
“Really?” The information floored Ginny. Of all of Draco’s friends, Theo had been the one she tolerated most.
“He didn’t do it, but that’s what he’s going to have to prove at the trial.”
“Well if he didn’t do it…”
“Really Gin, I can’t tell you any more. It’s been a long night. Can we just go to bed and discuss this in the morning?”
She was about to argue, but his face looked so tired and defeated that she couldn’t bear to disagree with him now. She would save that for the morning.
Ron was more than happy that he couldn’t remember what had happened in that house because by the looks of that dungeon, he didn’t want to know. He went with Harry, Reynolds, and a team of Aurors to pick up Nott following the search of the cottage.
Nott came quietly. In fact, he looked a little relieved to have been caught. Ron never paid the son of a Death Eater much thought. The boy, now man, seemed to be completely unremarkable. Nothing about him stood out in Ron’s memory, past nor present. Even after seeing him, Ron quickly forgot just what Nott looked like.
It was no wonder no one could identify him from his portrait. Theodore Nott was the most indistinguishable man in England. Perhaps that is why he did so well in business; no one saw him coming.
The interrogation seemed more like an afternoon tea. Nott was more than willing to give the details of Ron’s imprisonment in his family home. However, it seemed that he miraculously had nothing to do with the crime. Nott blamed it all on his father, and why not? The man sat rotting in a cell in Azkaban for life; a few more years wouldn’t kill him.
Okay, so maybe Ron was a bit harsh. They really had no solid evidence that Nott had anything to do with Ron’s kidnapping. Maybe the bloke really had been clueless, but then why wouldn’t he have just brought Ron in as soon as he found out? It all just seemed a little too perfect.
There was also the question of Malfoy. Why had Nott called the one person in the world that would not want to see Ron return? Was that what happened to his memory of Hermione? Did Draco take that away?
“Are you going to be all right?” Harry asked as they set to floo to their respective homes after the interrogation was over.
“Yeah. Just seems a bit too easy if you ask me.”
“Listen, Ron, I know you want to think that Draco is the devil. I know you would love to hear all the horrible things that he gets up to...” Ron scowled, which caused Harry to pause for a moment. “…but the truth is, he is not such a bad guy.”
Harry held his hands up high in the air. “I am not saying he is some sort of saint. All I mean is he isn’t the same bloke we went to school with. And I know you really won’t want to hear this, but, he truly does love Hermione.”
Ron grimaced, but what could he say? There was no reason to argue. For all Ron knew, Harry was right. In fact, he probably was. It was strange how levelheaded his friend had become during Ron’s absence.
“I’m so sorry, mate. About everything.” With a pat on the back and a flash of green flames, Harry left Ron in the atrium of the ministry to contemplate his fate.
Ron didn’t want to, but he finally had to admit that all hope with Hermione was lost. There would be no way to win her. She was too noble, too sweet, too good to leave Draco, and after all these years, why would she want to? What did a future with Ron hold? He didn’t know. He couldn’t remember the past. How would he even begin to map out a future?
With a heavy heart, he flooed himself to George’s flat where he cried himself to sleep.
A/N: It's late, but I wanted to get this out since I am not sure if I will have much time tomorrow. I hope you liked it. Did anyone guess any of that? A lot was revealed in a short amount of time and I am very, very anxious to hear what you think about it.
I want to thank everyone so much for the wonderful birthday present of all those lovely reviews. They really made my birthday. Thanks also for the B-day wishes. You guys are the best.
To my lovely beta Georgia Weasley who has been knocking out these chapters left and right, you are the best beta a girl could ask for.
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