Chapter 10 - The Unknown Home
Harry stood rooted to the spot, his heart hammering as fast as the day he had died and breathed again. But at the same time, there was a soothing calm and comfort in his mind, like he had felt in the Forbidden Forest when he saw his parents, Sirius and Remus for one last time. It was a miraculous feeling and a horrible fright to see his best friends, people who he loved so much and buried long ago, staring back at him, as real as ever.
Hermione’s untamed hair was in its usual ponytail, strands falling in her eyes, too messy to describe. She was holding Crookshanks gingerly and Harry suddenly resolved to take great care of the animal for the rest of its life. Ron stood beside her, his hair still violently red like Ginny’s, and he had the same long freckled nose and was maybe even taller than Harry had remembered.
Tears in his eyes, the silence enveloping the four of them, Harry felt as though he were staring at a portrait that depicted his best friends bickering over Hermione’s cat again and again like they used to in third year. For a moment, just the most fleeting of seconds, he even doubted they were real and felt a sudden urge to take a step forward and touch their faces, embrace them and make sure they were not just magical moving canvas, empty of the real thing. Something held him back, though.
It was the quizzical expression in Hermione’s eyes, one that she always had when observing something new and unknown. Or it might have been the wary, sharp gaze of Ron as if he weren’t sure whether the people standing in front of him were enemies or friends.
Something was wrong. Harry felt it in the tips of his fingers and in every blink of an eye of the people standing before him.
But before he could say something, before he could act or think it all out, Ginny couldn’t contain herself any more and flung her arms around her brother, sobbing on his shoulder. All three of them seemed to be taken aback. Hermione’s eyes widened in a shocked but expectant sort of way. Ron slowly held Ginny, attempting a pat on the back. His goggling expression was priceless, Harry thought briefly with a grin.
Pulling away from Ron a bit, her hands still on top of his shoulders, Ginny sniffed a little and remained looking at him for just a little longer. It had been too long since she'd seen that face, and she found herself unable to tear her eyes away – until she glanced at Hermione.
Hermione was suddenly forced to drop the cat as Ginny embraced her for a change. Crookshanks meowed agitatedly, but stepped aside and seemed as though he was looking at the scene with sardonic understanding.
Meanwhile Ron exchanged an If they must
look with Harry, but when he caught Harry’s eye, he realized what he was doing, didn’t know the reason and so he looked away. Harry frowned at this, fear gripping him.
This was not how Hermione and Ron would react upon seeing them after so long.
Pulling away from Hermione slowly, Ginny took a step back to Harry, feeling more comfort there than from Hermione and Ron, both of whom didn’t give off the slightest impression of response besides looking shocked. As the glowing smile faded a little from her face, Ginny opened her mouth to say something, but Ron cut in,
“Who are you?”
Ron’s words hit them with a power none of them expected, even though it shouldn’t have surprised them that much. Ginny’s eyes darted to Harry helplessly, and so he walked to her side and placed an arm around her shoulders. They both felt a little stronger after that.
“We’re Ginny and Harry, and you’re our family. Ron, Hermione,” Harry started, and when he said their names, both of them seemed to tremble again, “you don’t know who we are at all?”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a worried, flabbergasted look.
“No,” Hermione said, startled as Crookshanks began nuzzling his head against her leg. She bent down and picked the cat again, stroking its head absent-mindedly. “But you… You know us.”
It was not a question and she said it with an air of mystery, but there was also something like joy, Harry noted. As he nodded slowly, Hermione’s eyes seemed to brighten up just as when she was coming to some conclusion she longed for.
“But what happened? How come you don’t… what-” Ginny was clearly lost for words, looking between Hermione and Ron to Harry, her eyebrows furrowed. “We know you. You’ve been gone for so long. You have to tell us what happened and…oh my God, Ron,” she said, taking a step forward and looking startlingly at him, “you’re my brother.”
Ron took in a sharp breath and went slightly red in the face. The first thing that came to his mind for answering was ‘I don’t have any sister,’ but he knew better. Just by seeing the way she looked, and feeling her embrace him he felt all the distant scents of home, and past, and childhood he always thought insignificant. Her red hair and brown eyes reminded him of a mother that could scare him with her strictness and save him in his boyish anguishes at the same time.
“Okay, let’s just calm down and try to figure this out,” Hermione said, being probably the only one present enough to sort out the situation. “You two…” she began timidly, feeling slightly awkward for having no idea how to address them after they just openly proved they know who they are. “You say you know us. And… and that’s why we’re here. You see, it’s very complicated, but… we have no idea who you are and I’ve never seen you in my entire life, but… something’s wrong with us, with Ron and me.”
It was beyond Harry how Hermione could keep her head in situations where everyone else would be very likely to lose it. Waiting for someone to continue, Hermione looked in vain, as Ron was still watching Ginny with a surprised but tender expression and Ginny just stared at Hermione with her mouth slightly agape.
Clearing her throat, Hermione continued in a higher voice, as if her mouth had gone very dry. “There’s a lot of explaining to do on both parts, I think, and I don’t really know where to start.” She gave a nervous laugh and looked at the others pleadingly.
Letting go of Ginny, Harry walked to Hermione. She squinted at him a bit, as if recalling something.
“It’s okay,” he said softly, reaching out a hand to place on her shoulder. To his immense relief, she didn’t flinch under his touch, but relaxed. “We’ll tell you all you need to know. What’s important is that you’re back, you’re safe now.”
He smiled and didn’t know where to keep his eyes, whether on Hermione or Ron.
“Safe from what exactly?” Ron asked, placing his hands into his pockets and stepping from one foot to the other.
“You know what this means, Harry.” Ginny’s voice came from behind him, making him turn back to her. “They’ve been Obliviated.”
Both Ron and Hermione furrowed their eyebrows at this.
“We’ve been what?” Hermione asked, setting the cat on the ground and placing the loose strands of her hair behind her ear, licking her lips nervously.
“You’ve been cursed,” Ginny went on. “Put under a Memory Charm, that’s why you don’t remember anything.”
“A memory charm? What do you mean?”
Harry and Ginny stared at the pair of them with disbelief.
“You don’t understand? How… You don’t remember even… Well, magic, it was magic!” Ginny exclaimed, taken aback and not knowing what to do next. She had felt so overjoyed just minutes ago, but now everything was crumbling under the realization that Hermione and Ron had no idea who they were, and now it turned out they didn’t even realize the existence of magic.
Harry took the information much more readily. Since he knew how it felt, being told for the first time that he’s a wizard, he decided for a slow approach. “This is difficult to explain, everything and so on, but you’re wizards. You always have been and-”
“I told you it was real!” Ron said excitedly, turning to Hermione.
“I never said it wasn’t, I just questioned it a bit!” she retaliated indignantly. Harry had to overcome the urge to laugh.
“It doesn’t matter,” Ginny said, smiling at seeing her brother and friend bicker the way they used to, which could mean that even though they couldn’t remember anything, they were still the same people. “We’ll put you back together. There is a counter-jinx, there are ways to make everything all right again. And we’ll find out what happened to you, but what’s important is that you’re back and you’re still together. That’s important, the most important thing. Oh my,” she sighed and hugged them both again. For the first time, Harry saw Hermione smile a little.
It was his turn, at last, he thought as he walked to them and embraced Ron strongly, fighting the tears welling up in his eyes. His best friends were back and nothing else but that mattered to him as he hugged Hermione. They didn’t yet know the reason of his affection and of his powerful embrace. They couldn’t remember what the three of them had gone through, how they helped him all the time even if they weren’t always with him. They never knew they were the source of his countless Patronuses. But Harry didn’t care. They would know, soon enough they would find out, remember again and everything would be like before. It was so beautiful and unbelievable.
“Where have you come from?” Ginny asked.
“Edinburgh,” Hermione and Ron replied at the same time. Ginny smiled at Harry knowingly, but her smile faltered as Hermione went on, “We met a couple of days ago, at the hospital where I work. Due to some… er… strange circumstances, we both realized something was wrong with our pasts. It’s not that we don’t remember anything. We remember our pasts. Everything from our childhood until now, but it all feels distant and unreal. So we figured we should try and find something out. That’s how we got here.”
Harry and Ginny found it hard to follow her. This didn’t seem to be the aftereffects of a Memory Charm. Usually the afflicted person either couldn’t remember anything, or they forgot only a certain stretch of time while the rest of their memory remained intact.
“Wait, so you didn’t know each other until a few days ago?” asked Harry with raised eyebrows.
“No, we just felt really familiar with each other,” Ron replied, shrugging. “That’s how we figured out something might be wrong.”
Harry exchanged a pained look with Ginny. “Okay, well…we should leave this…” he looked around at the deserted little park they were at leisurely “…place and go home, to our flat and you can come with us. That is, if you want to," he added hesitantly, receiving a scathing look for giving them a choice from Ginny, who didn't see this as optional, really.
Sighing, Hermione seemed to think what else they could do since going home with two complete strangers wasn’t the epitome of safety. Even if it was obvious they’d found exactly what they needed and what they had been looking for, still she remained a little cautious as to who she would let near her.
“Good idea. I really need to settle down and hear some explanations,” Ron said from beside her. Hermione just nodded, glad he'd made the decision for her rather than her having to think just a little more about the whole matter. Her head was fit to burst.
“We should really get going then,” Harry said, taking his wand out of his pocket. “This is what we use to do magic,” he added to them upon seeing them glaring at the piece of wood in his hand.
Ginny was quick enough to find an object they would turn into a Portkey, half of a broken beer bottle, and handed it to him.
The glass glowed a light blue and shook in Harry’s hand, then lost its glow, as still as before. Hermione and Ron looked deeply interested.
“All we have to do is take hold of it and it’ll take us to where we live. Come on,” he told them, reaching out his hand encouragingly. “Take Crookshanks with you, Hermione.”
Eyeing him questioningly, it took Hermione a moment until it dawned on her. “Oh!” she exclaimed and picked the cat up once more. Before walking to Harry, she couldn’t resist looking for Ron. He was in the same situation as her, he knew how she felt, she needed him with her.
Ron nodded his head and motioned for her to go forward, following and touching the bottle along with everyone else, trying very hard not to think how ridiculous they must appear. Four people with a cat, gathering round to touch a piece of glass, honestly. This was starting to be fun, was the last thing that went through Ron’s mind as he felt himself being lifted off the ground as if an invisible rope hooked him around his navel and kept on pulling him through a whirlwind of swishing colours and noises.
Just as his head was beginning to spin, they landed on a hardwood floor. Ron and Hermione collapsed to the ground, wobbly-kneed, while Harry and Ginny landed much more gracefully, as if they were stepping down from invisible stairs in thin air.
It took them a few minutes and a lot of fussing from Ginny whether they wanted tea or any other refreshment to finally settle down. She even seemed to scare them a little bit by her attempts to take the best care of them that was possible. She might’ve been as boyish and tough as ever, Harry thought, but sometimes the resemblance to her mother was rather striking.
Hermione and Ron were sitting on a large sofa at opposite ends, preserving some distance between them. Harry sat opposite them in a comfortable recliner, Ginny perched by his side on the arm of the chair, and the silence stretched between them.
“Maybe you could finally tell us what you know,” Hermione said finally.
“Right!” replied Harry, laughing shortly to break the tension. “I honestly don’t know where to start…”
“Three years ago you disappeared from your house without a trace,” Ginny stated bluntly without hesitation. “You know, it was horrible. Unexpected. The war was over, we were all moving on and piecing our lives back together, and then you two just vanished.”
Tilting his head to the side in wonder, Ron asked, “Pardon me, but… The war was over? What war?”
Sighing, Harry ran a hand through his messy hair and set his green eyes on Hermione and Ron. “There was a dark wizard named Voldemort and… It’s a long story. Our world, the world of magic, was set in darkness when he was powerful. He killed people, he tried to take over, he didn’t stop before anything. It took a long way and effort to defeat him. After his defeat, our world was left in shambles. His followers were being lined up to go into Azkaban, a wizarding prison. Well, we – meaning you two and me – kind of stood at the front of the fight against him and the rebuilding of the Wizarding society. That means we still had enemies. This is not a lie, nothing is a lie any more,” he added hastily as he spotted traces of disbelief on their faces.
“There are kinds of magic that probably did this to you, and I swear I’ll find out who, how and why they did. One day we went to check on you two after we haven’t heard any news from you. There was blood, your blood as we found out by regular magical tests. Another sign of battle was Ron’s broken wand, and then we found yours in the back garden, Hermione. And so you were gone. We didn’t know anything – there was no trace, no clue. It looked like you’ve been simply blown up by a powerful, evil curse. Even that’s possible,” Harry added, his memories vaguely travelling back to Peter Pettigrew and the magic he had used to erase twelve people off the face of the world.
“Oh.” And that was about all Ron was able to say. As Harry spoke to him and Hermione, a mixture of fear and pride crawled up his spine. The fear he knew was real. He believed everything this man before him said and he knew that somewhere deep within he could still remember the horrors of that time, and even the ending and victory they must’ve achieved.
“When you mentioned our house, you mean that we…” Hermione’s voice trailed off and face turning pink. Ron didn’t say anything, but appeared more alert than ever.
Grinning ear to ear, Harry nodded. “You see, you two…”
“You were flat mates,” Ginny piped up sharply, ignoring Harry’s puzzled look. “A-and very good friends.”
“Right,” said Ron, his face losing the radiant glow it had just a moment ago. "But what about our family? Do I have more sisters, or brothers? Am I the oldest or the youngest?" he asked eagerly, his eyes fixed on Ginny.
Ginny smiled and started telling him all about the Weasleys, and Harry sat back and watched them. Ron was drinking in every word Ginny said with a half-smile, as if he couldn't believe his luck in finding her. Harry wondered just how lonely Ron must’ve been that this information brought him such joy, and he accepted it so readily, disregarding any confusion and denial. Ginny waved her hands as she described their brothers, her face animated and alight with emotion. Harry hadn't seen her quite this happy in some time, and he had a flash of regret for not believing her all that time when she'd known Ron was still out there.
Hermione was sitting upright on her end of the sofa, a little stiffly, and Harry watched her face for a moment, happier than he could have imagined to see his two best friends again. She was smiling whenever Ron laughed, and though apparently she didn't know it, Harry could still see the affection in her eyes when she looked at Ron. It resembled one of those looks he was never let in on, one that was only theirs and no one else’s.
Whatever had been done to them hadn't been a Memory Charm. There was something underlying their current perception, like faint echoes of the past in their minds. It seemed the original memories were still there, with this new reality overlaying them like a sheet thrown over furniture - the real shape was still there, only covered up. That wasn't how Memory Charms worked. He couldn't think of anything that could have this effect on them.
Hermione noticed him watching her and glanced at him with a nervous smile. He smiled back reflexively, still thinking of how this had been done to them.
"Who was I?" she asked quietly, and Harry's smile faded. "Did you know my family?"
“I didn’t know them that well to tell the truth. They were Muggles. That means non-magical people. We started meeting more only after you disappeared until…”
“Until they died,” Hermione finished for him expressionlessly.
Ron tensed beside her, turning his head and feeling embarrassed for getting so psyched up about his family when it turned out her parents were dead.
“How do you know that?” asked Ginny, standing up from Harry and striding to Hermione, crouching down and taking her hand in hers. This sudden action startled Hermione, but in a touching way as she returned the squeeze.
“Yesterday I went through some old newspapers at a library. I found my name in an article that spoke about two dentists dying in an accident.”
“We can tell you more,” Ginny spoke softly.
Shaking her head and smiling a forced smile, Hermione blinked her tears away. “Maybe later, not now.” This was a happy moment; Hermione didn’t want to ruin it.
Nodding understandingly, Ginny returned to Harry's side and grabbed his hand for support. It was harder to regain the more joyful flow of conversation as Hermione lifted a hand over her mouth as if to hide her quivering lips.
“I don’t know what to say. This is so… unbelievable and strange!” Harry exclaimed, trying to lighten up the moment, knowing he was never good at this.
“Tell me about it,” Ron replied casually and leaned back in his seat. Harry grinned at seeing Ron look more comfortable with each second. He still couldn’t say that about Hermione, though. She looked troubled, glancing around the room restlessly, observing magical objects in awe and wonder, but always tearing her eyes away with worry.
“I understand that this must be complicated, especially since you probably lead your own lives now. Your past is false, however, everything you remember is not true. But what you experienced for the last three years is, that was you as you are, only ripped out from your world and rid of your own and true memories. So… it’s your decision whether you want to stay here, with us, where you belong,” Harry remarked emotionally, averting his gaze. “Or you can go back.” He said the last sentence quietly, not wanting to say it but feeling he had to. They had the right to be offered a choice. But he believed they would stay, both of them. If they felt only the tiniest of imprint of what he felt, then they wouldn’t just leave.
Ginny by his side didn’t say anything, only poking Harry in his side strongly and biting her bottom lip. He knew he’d hear something about this one from her later on.
Sitting at the edge of his seat now, Ron grinned slowly and nodded his head. “I’m staying,” he said with affection, his eyes travelling from Harry to his sister, and then, though only momentarily, to Hermione. “I don’t have much to return to, really.”
Harry felt overjoyed at this and looked at Hermione. Every eye in the room turned to her and she shrunk a little under their gaze, as if in defense. She didn’t say anything, only fiddled with her hands in her lap. It was only when Ron turned to her that she snapped out of her daze. Although she avoided his eyes, it was clear she was fully aware of him staring at her expectantly.
“Sure,” she said, a little smile creeping up her lips. “I want to… know more and stay here, with you... all.”
Resisting the urge to just gather them into his arms once more, feeling that would be too much, Harry was as happy as he could ever hope. He no longer cared what it would take to bring their memories back, he’d do it. He didn’t care that he was wrong and Ginny was right, he’d admit it. He was even oblivious to the fact that Ginny would have Wife Ammo for the rest of their marriage… He’d take it all.
“Let me just… send a few messages. We have to get the word out that you’re back! Nothing too overwhelming, of course,” Ginny said, standing up and running out of the living room to write letters and surely rouse their owl. Harry imagined the reactions of the rest of the Weasleys. He hardly considered that 'nothing too overwhelming'.
“I’ll be right back,” he said to Ron and Hermione, going after Ginny.
Harry found Ginny bent over the kitchen table, scribbling a few letters and then attaching all of them to the distressed bird. Watching the owl fly away, Ginny turned around to run back into the living room, but faced Harry.
“Why didn’t you tell them?” Harry inquired.
Her face falling, Ginny shrugged. “Don’t you see? They’re not aware of ever being together. We can’t just tell them, ‘Oh by the way, you're engaged!’ At least not so fast.”
As Harry thought it over, he had to agree.
“I can’t believe it. It took them seven years to work out their issues and openly realize and admit their feelings for each other. How long will it be this time around, you think?” he laughed, taking Ginny into his arms for a quick kiss she more than deserved.
“Not long, Harry. They’ll be all right. We’ll visit the Obliviate squad first thing tomorrow, or even later today. They’ll remember without us ever telling them.”
“Let’s hope so.”
Meanwhile, as Harry and Ginny discussed how they would deliver more information, Hermione and Ron finally managed to look each other in the eyes.
“Mad, eh?” Ron said, placing his elbows on top of his knees and rocking back and forth apprehensively.
Smiling at him sidelong, Hermione nodded and took in a deep breath. “We’ve found them, we did it.”
Ron didn’t like the faraway and doubting shadow settling over her features. Her expression switched every few minutes, from happy to worried, and that scared him in a way that made his hands go cold.
Moving an inch closer to her, Ron touched the top of her hand. Hermione glanced up at him sharply, but calmed down upon seeing his encouraging, compassionate smile. That’s when she forgot about what troubled her: about Jonathan and Edinburgh and her office and everything that stood in the way of this life and the past she was about to discover. Maybe it would eventually catch up with her, but not then, when she was sitting opposite of Ron, finally home and fulfilled.
Author's Note: This chapter was so hard to write. I realize it's confusing and all that, but so is the situation for the characters, so I hope you understand. I have to thank Megan (momotwins) again. Her beta reading is the best I could ever have. She really pulled me out of a deep depression after I had real issues with some passages. So, I hope you enjoyed it and can't wait to see what you think. please, please review. :)
PS: The gorgeous chapter image made by the talented xfaded!ORANGE. Thank you so much. :)