Chapter 12 : Not the Easy Way Out
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Chapter 12: Not the Easy Way Out
With tired mind come tired eyes, and soon Hermione was blinking in the pale light, forcing herself awake. She still needed to think, and she hated those moments when her brain refused to do so. Sometimes she really disapproved of biological processes and things like melatonin. Suddenly, though, just as she was ready to give up, the door into the room creaked open.
Hermione heaved herself up on the bed and saw Ginny standing in the doorway, with her hands behind her back, biting on her bottom lip.
“Is everything alright?” Hermione asked. She watched Ginny approach her bed and sit down, still feeling a bit wary. She was, after all, more or less a stranger to her. But as soon as the bed creaked under her weight and Ginny reached out to touch her hand, Hermione relaxed.
“I see you can’t sleep either,” she remarked, lighting the lamp in the corner of the room with a flick of her wand. “I’m so happy that despite your memory loss, you’re actually still the same person,” Ginny said slowly, but it was so heartfelt Hermione had to take in a deep breath.
“Am I really?” she asked, her voice quivering.
“Yeah,” Ginny chuckled. “You still care, and you’re still so inquisitive, so reserved and yet with such a big heart. I missed you so much.”
Hermione didn’t want to end up in tears again, but she felt very close to it. Opening her mouth to say something, Hermione got all the planned words stuck in her throat. She couldn’t even finish a thought these days, let alone start one. There were so many things she wanted to say or ask that each time she attempted to say something, it already seemed unimportant in comparison to her next thought.
“What?” urged Ginny, cocking her head to the side.
“I’m…confused,” Hermione heard herself say, and as that one word parted her lips, the rest of it was as effortless as breathing. “It’s too much in a very short time. Two days ago we left Edinburgh, being who we are, in the hope that we might find a little clue as to what might be wrong with us. And now I’m here, with a whole new identity, history, life. I know you’re not lying, I know all this is true, but…it’s a knowledge unsupported by any facts, memories, real tangible things I could have as evidence. Without it, without my memories, I just find it hard to function. All I have is the belief that they will be brought back, with magic of all things!” The last part of her speech sounded unnecessarily heated, but Ginny didn’t seem to mind.
“You know, I was just waiting for all these doubts to kick in. I understand. It’s terrible what happened to you. You have no idea what has been ripped from you and-”
“And then there’s my life, my career, my fiancé,” Hermione began, but the moment she ran out of breath, Ginny abruptly shot to her feet.
“A fiancé?” she asked incredulously.
Forcing a smile, strangely almost regretting she had said it, Hermione nodded. “Yeah. His name is Jonathan and it’s been two months since we’ve been engaged.”
Ginny’s hand shot up to her mouth and Hermione could swear she pursed her lips. In the end, Ginny just resumed her seat on the sofa and forced a smile of her own.
“How long have you known each other?” she asked conversationally, but Hermione could hear tension in her voice.
“More than a year, and… and it’s a very balanced and perceptive relationship.”
Hermione couldn’t define the sudden displeasure she felt, whether it was with Ginny for displaying obvious distaste about this information or Hermione’s odd need to be defensive of herself, as if wanting to excuse this misdeed of actually being engaged.
Leaning her elbows on her knees while heaving a sigh, Ginny looked into nowhere, her hand still at her mouth, tapping her lips disconcertedly. Only then did Hermione notice she was clutching something in her other hand.
The silence between the two women stretched on in an uncomfortable contrast to their previous easy talk. Ginny broke it with a nervous laugh, standing up and looking everywhere except Hermione.
“That’s nice then. Sorry for my surprise, right now I’m just so happy you’re here it feels as if you were never really gone, so… you know.”
“Yes, I understand,” Hermione replied timidly, twirling the fabric of the covers in between her fingers, eyeing Ginny’s fisted hand.
“Good night then, tomorrow is a big day. We’ll figure all the problems out then.”
With that, Ginny just gave a grin and a nod of the head before retreating into her bedroom.
As the door closed, Hermione groaned and fell back into her pillows. She thanked heaven she was so tired, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at all.
Tomorrow was a big day, indeed, and Hermione was caught up in the fear that she might just get more than she bargained for.
Harry stirred awake when he heard the less than quiet shutting of the door. Ginny wasn’t exactly the quiet type of girl anyway, and his sleep was very light ever since he could remember. Looking up from his pillow, he saw her leaning against the door, muttering something under her breath.
“You’re awake?” she asked when she noticed him yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“I am now that you’re stomping around,” he replied gruffly, sitting up and lighting a lamp at the bedside table. The room was thrown into a soft golden glow, making Harry squint his eyes.
Gritting her teeth, Ginny sat down on the bed irritably. “I’m not… stomping.” The last word sounded much calmer, resigned.
Avoiding his eyes, Ginny replied with opening her palm and revealing a beautiful engagement ring sitting there.
“Oh my, Gin, you didn’t…did you?” With her, one could never be sure. “What’s your point? First you didn’t want them to know like this, us just telling them out of the blue, and now you’re secretly sneaking around the house with Hermione’s engagement ring, playing matchmaker?”
“I know what I said this afternoon, but I felt so excited that we’ve found them and that they’ve found each other! And then I thought, gee, tomorrow Hermione’ll find out she’s engaged to Ronald Weasley, my lovely goof of a brother. I mean, someone had to warn her and make her ready for it.”
While Harry just stared blankly, Ginny let out a sigh of exasperation, placing the ring on the bedside table. “It was useless anyway, I didn’t tell her,” she added sadly, turning to him. “Harry, Hermione’s engaged.”
“Oh no. Are you sure?”
“She said it. Someone named Jonas or whatever. Harry, this complicates things a lot.”
Harry screwed up his face in concentration and shrugged his shoulder. “But once she remembers about Ron…”
“Just because she’ll remember Ron doesn’t mean she’ll forget the other bloke the next moment. She’s engaged to him. That’s a… Harry, we’re engaged!”
“Calm down. Some people get engaged for stupid reasons and it doesn’t last.”
“Well, still, if you’re engaged to somehow, you have a bond; you’re planning your lives and future together. I’m worried that will really prove problematic,” sighed Ginny, snuggling close to Harry and turning the lights off.
Ron looked out of his window and saw a large garden stretching below him. He found himself surprised at the absence of weeds, but it was still spring, so the grass was as clean and green as ever. Behind the fence and the hedges were dusty roads and fields leading to an overgrown orchard. On the right side of the land was a small paddock with a pond, bringing back vague images into his mind. He tried to pinpoint at least one of them; the little boy running after a group of red-headed boys, dragging a broom too big for him; splashes of the cool water on a ridiculously hot day; spinning around and heaving potatoes over the hedge.
These images came and went, not one of them staying long enough for Ron to remember more than the impression. He thought about telling his family of these flashes, and they could clarify them for him, but it was all like waking up from a dream: everything was fresh the moment you opened your eyes, still as real as the very air you breathed, and then it was all gone from your mind within a blink of an eye.
Walking away from the window, Ron dressed quickly and exited his room, leaving the violent glowing of orange behind. As he went downstairs, his steps were slow. He paused every second to inspect a corner of this strange house that had been his home once… that was his home now again.
There wasn’t much time to fully take it in the previous night when they arrived, tired from the gathering at Harry’s. Hermione stayed behind at their flat, and Ron was sorry he couldn’t show her the house. Her presence would make it easier, just like his presence helped her back in the dentist’s office. He hoped it had helped her, anyway.
Soon Ron reached the second floor, spotting two doors, one an ordinary brown colour, while the other was painted in vivid and flamboyant colours. It bore a Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes poster, which he knew was his brother George’s joke shop. Approaching it, Ron considered opening the door, maybe talk to George. His older brother was quite amusing, Ron thought, but a bit moody with his manner always changing to and fro, enthusiastic to distant.
In the top left corner of the door, Ron saw something carved. He peered closer and read ‘Fred and George Weasley’.
The hair on Ron’s neck stood up slightly as he thought who Fred was. Suddenly he didn’t feel like going inside the room any more. Backing away, Ron turned on his heel and followed down the spiral, rickety staircase of the Burrow. One door on the first floor was opened, and even though Ron didn’t want to disturb anyone, he peeked in and found himself in an airy room lit up by the morning sun. It smelled flowery and reminded him of Ginny a lot. He reckoned this must’ve been her room before she moved in with Harry.
Just as he was about to exit, something jumped at him from behind. Tiny little arms wrapped around his neck and a squeaky ‘boo’ echoed in his ear. Chuckling, Ron twirled around the room, hearing a girl’s laughter follow.
Finally she let go and landed on the floor with a thud. Ron turned around to look at a small girl, still giggling.
“Hey, who’re you?”
The thing was, the little girl didn’t look like a Weasley at all besides a few freckles. She had smooth blond hair almost down to her waist, no freckles and rather striking features. She looked like a little porcelain doll, but that was as far as the resemblance went. Her face was dirty from eating chocolate and there were grass stains on the knees of her trousers from crawling on the ground. In her blue eyes she had a mischievous spark and her cheeky stare made Ron want to chuckle again.
“The name’s Victoire,” she said with a grin, showing her missing tooth in the front. “I know who you are. You are my missing uncle.”
Crouching, Ron smiled at her and nodded. “You’re right, that’s me. Who are your parents?”
“Dad and Mum,” she said with a laugh, running past him down the stairs. Ron followed her and found himself in the spacious kitchen where his mother stood by the stove. Victoire was pulling on her apron. Whatever she said made Molly turn around to Ron.
A smile broke across her lips. “Good morning, sweetheart,” she said, striding across the kitchen and already ushering him to sit behind the long table. Victoire climbed into a chair next to him, still keeping the toothless smile intact.
“I see you’ve met your niece,” Molly remarked, returning to the stove. The smell of preparing breakfast filled Ron’s nostrils and he sighed contentedly, leaning back into his chair, his stomach grumbling. “She’s Bill’s daughter,” Molly added. “She usually stays in your room when she’s around, but we put her in Ginny’s since you’re back now.” The last words were said with a motherly affection, soft and dream-like, as if Molly was still trying to decipher whether it was happening for real or whether it was just a dream. She placed breakfast in front of him and kissed his cheek. “She’s a little mischievous spirit, just like Bill when he was young,” Molly smiled, stroking Victoire’s hair and wiping a chocolate stain from her cheek.
As Ron ate, Victoire stared at him the whole time, grinning cheekily from ear to ear.
“So, why do you stay in my room?” Ron said with his mouth full. As Molly shot him a disapproving glance, Victoire seemed to have no trouble of understanding.
“I like the Cannons!” the girl exclaimed. Ron felt a rush of pride and joy hearing this, although he couldn’t explain why. As far as he knew, he didn’t really have an idea who the Cannons were, though he recalled the name from all the posters in his room. “Dad says I took that silliness from Uncle Ron.”
“Oh well, whatever your daddy Bill says, don’t always believe it. He thinks he can be smug because he’s the oldest. Cannons are the best.”
That seemed to win Victoire over. When Ron finished his breakfast and leaned back into his chair with a full stomach, Victoire jumped off her chair and grabbed his hand.
“Come with me, Uncle Ron.”
“Thanks, Mum,” said Ron and followed his niece, walking hunched over to let her tiny figure walk freely while holding his hand. She grabbed a framed picture from the mantel piece and pulled him outside into the garden. They sat down on the stairs of the porch.
“Is it true you don’t remember anything?”
“Well, sort of, yeah,” Ron said.
“So you don’t even know that granny Molly is your mummy?”
“I do, I feel she is, but I can’t remember her any more than the others. But they will fix me this afternoon and I’ll remember everything again.”
Victoire listened to him with furrowed eyebrows and then just shrugged. Placing the picture on her knees, she showed it to Ron. He could see the entire Weasley family huddled in the picture, but they all looked slightly younger than they were now. For one, Bill’s face was different, less rough and scarred, more beautiful and smooth. Also, each one of them was wearing a knitted sweater with an initial in the middle.
“That’s my daddy,” Victoire said, pointing to Bill. “Granny always says she’s trying to make him cut his hair, but he never says yes. I won’t ever cut my hair too much either, because Mum says haircuts aren’t good for the soul,” she added as a matter-of-factly, shaking her head at the thought. “That’s Uncle Charlie, he didn't used to come around a lot but now he does. He always brings me toys. He’s my godfather,” she said proudly, “and he said that when I’m ten, he’s gonna bring me a pet dragon. But I won't be ten for a loooong time," she added with a mournful little sigh.
"How old are you now?" Ron asked.
"I'm four years old," she told him, holding up four fingers. Ron smiled at her and looked down at the picture again, and she resumed her lecture, pointing at the people in the photo. “This is Uncle Percy. He’s boring and I don’t like him, but Granny says he’s family, and I have to like family, and Mum said just pretend. This is Aunt Ginny. She plays Quidditch and teaches me tricks. That’s Granddad an-”
“Wait, who’s this?” Ron cut in, pointing to two boys sitting next to each other. One of them was George, and the other looked identical to him. “That’s…”
“That's Uncle Fred,” Victoire said, her smile vanishing. “He was Uncle George’s twin. Daddy says he died in the war. Everybody tells lots of funny stories about him. Except Uncle George, he doesn’t really talk about him."
There was a moment of silence. Victoire inspected the picture further while Ron rubbed his chin and felt sadness creep into him. He couldn’t remember Fred any more than he could remember the others, but while they were here with him, he was gone and he would never meet him again. The knowledge that he didn’t have a single recollection or memory of this lost brother deepened his grief.
He had to find his memories again, he had to get it all back.
“Do you want me to show you around?” Victoire piped up cheerily, placing the picture aside. She grabbed Ron’s hand again and tugged until he stood up, then gave him a wheedling smile. “If you open the broom shed for me, we can fly a broom.”
That thought cheered him up a bit, so he smiled and followed. At least he would pass the time while waiting anxiously for his memories to come back.
A few hours later, Hermione and Ron were ushered into the Ministry by Harry, Ginny and Arthur. Waiting for Arthur to pick the right Obliviator to do the counter curse, Harry and Ginny gave the other two a tour of the Ministry. Both of them were in awe of the place and also surprised at the majority of people that came up to them to say hello and claim how great it was to have them back.
Hermione couldn’t understand how she could’ve lived without this world and not missed it. Everything was gorgeous to her, from the flying memos and wizards dressed in robes to the green-flamed fires and tiny little house-elves scuttling around with trays of tea and coffee. Although she didn’t really like the fact that the trays looked awfully heavy for the house-elves, making a little mental note to ask either Harry or Arthur whether it had to be like that.
There was little to no time to talk with Ron. Ever since they said good night before each staying in a different house, they’d been listening more than talking. Hermione tried as best she could to absorb every piece of information she heard from Harry and Ginny. The things they said were sometimes unbelievable, but they were great memories, full of wonder and thrill. Whatever had been before her memory loss must’ve been a good life, and Hermione was sorry she had lost it and couldn’t remember. She longed for those spoken memories to feel like more than just stories she heard others tell.
Soon Arthur caught them up, a young man with a thick beard walking in his wake. The tour of the Ministry ended and the six of them took the lift into the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes.
Ron and Hermione didn’t have to undergo the usual procedure of paperwork, they were taken straight to a spacious room with a desk and a sofa on the opposite end of the room.
“Good afternoon, my name is Craig Woodland and I’m the Head of the Obliviator Squad. I hear that you’re suffering from an extensive memory loss of three years and if this has been done by the Obliviate curse, I will have no problem fixing it. The process isn’t complicated, you might just feel a little drowsy and confused after I perform it, but then the memories should be coming back almost at once. Are you ready?”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a look before nodding. Harry, Ginny and Arthur were all smiling encouragingly, taking a step back from Craig.
Hermione almost made a movement to grab hold of Ron’s hand, but thought better about it and kept her hand limply beside her own body. The Obliviator came closer to them and lifted his wand. Hermione closed her eyes, inspecting her mind so she would be able to tell the difference later on. She thought of Harry and Ginny, wonderful people she had already taken a great liking to, but still they were people she'd only met a day ago. Then she thought of Mrs. Weasley and her motherly smile, the way she always brought a scent of baked cookies and home with her. While it was lovely, it was still unfamiliar. Finally, Hermione thought of Ron. She hoped her cheeks weren’t really as red as they felt. She saw him clearly in her mind, even though her eyes were firmly shut, and she felt the faint butterflies in the stomach, a sense of tenderness washing over her, mingled with joy and affection, firm but without a source and reason.
Not long now, she thought.
An incantation was said out loud, but Hermione forgot to catch it before her mind was wiped blank and everything faded away.
Hermione and Ron found themselves sprawled on a spacey sofa, waking up within seconds of each other. Looking up and waiting for the edges to come back into sharpness, Hermione noticed all the expectant faces staring at her. There was Ginny, Harry and Arthur, Ron’s father. She recognized them, and that alone ignited a spark of joy in her, but they were still the same people they had been just a moment before she passed out. Panic kicked in, so Hermione glanced sideways for Ron to find him looking at her with a very similar expression.
The gentleness she suddenly felt was so overwhelming she longed to just reach out and touch him.
Ron breathed in and out quickly, ignoring the crowd of people waiting for one of them to speak. He felt happy, because he knew the spell worked. Looking at Hermione staring back at him with expectation and hope in her eyes, he gulped. He felt like the ocean had just broken over his head and swept him out to sea. He loved her and that’s what had made him think it had to work. He almost laughed to himself, already knowing he had loved her before, now, all the time.
A smile broke over his lips, but it didn’t last long. Hermione broke eye-contact, furrowing her eyebrows, her eyes travelling to Ginny and Harry. Ron himself felt the knowledge wash away, just like the huge wave of the ocean. It swept you and knocked you off balance, it whirled the sand, but it would be gone the next second, leaving no mark behind.
The more seconds passed by, the more Ron realized he still couldn’t remember a solid thing. His feelings couldn’t be denied, but the memories and foundations he had expected to see weren't there. Instead of his real past, instead of all the things said to him in the last twenty four hours, the only thing he was able to recall was his unreal and unremarkable past.
“Well, did it work?” Ginny asked, making Hermione stand up and pace the room, biting on her nails.
The Ministry official twirled the wand between his fingers, watching the scene with interest.
“It didn’t,” Ron said, heaving a sigh and leaning back into the sofa, hiding his face behind a hand. For one second, he had thought everything was okay and back to normal. He had thought he had truly realized that he'd loved Hermione and that in the past she had loved him too, which she would remember. But she didn’t. It didn’t work on him; it couldn’t have worked on her.
The sad thing was, memory or no memory, the emotions he experienced were real and there was no denying them now.
“Maybe we should do it again,” Ginny said, walking to the Ministry official. “Try again. Maybe the Obliviate charm had been done way too strongly. And it’s two of them, maybe if we do it separately.”
“I’m sorry, Ginny,” Arthur said, pulling Ginny back by her arm, because she was towering above the Ministry official in an intimidating manner. “Craig is the best at this. It might take them a little while, though.”
“Not sure, sir,” Craig said, rubbing his beard as all eyes turned to look at him. “The counter-curse for the Obliviate charm is as simple as the Memory charm itself. I’ve been doing it ever since it was invented. The victims remember straight after we perform the charm. They hardly ever pass out either.”
“You should’ve said that earlier,” Harry said irritably, striding to Hermione. “Are you all right?” She nodded absentmindedly, and Harry turned to Ron. “And you, Ron?”
“What are we going to do now?” Ginny asked with a hint of frustration to her tone.
Harry sighed, running a hand through his messy hair and looking from Ron to Hermione.
“There has to be another way,” Hermione remarked. She wished she would be able to solve this or come up with something on her own, but it eluded her; she didn’t have the knowledge of this world and the magical ways of it.
Craig the Obliviator shrugged. “I’m really sorry. Perhaps we can try again, although I don’t think it’ll make a difference. Still, if we’re to try again, you will have to wait a couple of more days.”
“This is a powerful charm. It gets into your head, deals with your memory, consciousness and unconsciousness. You can’t just undergo it on a daily basis. It’s very exhausting for the brain and the mind.”
“Craig is right,” said Arthur, giving Craig a nod his way. He nodded back and left the room, having to attend to other cases.
Sighing, Arthur turned to the rest of the people in the room, wearing a worried expression. “Ginny, you take Ron and Hermione home while I try to consult about this with some other experts. Harry, you might want to come with me. Everyone will be much more willing to help once they learn your best friends need help.”
“Sure.” With that, they both exited the room. Ginny faced her brother and best friend, forcing a smile that would somehow ease the situation.
“You know, things rarely go according to plan in this world and life,” she laughed nervously.
They didn’t give much of a response, though. Sighing, Ginny led them out of the room toward the nearest fireplace. She was sad herself, but she couldn’t have imagined how they were feeling. They both walked with slumped shoulders, avoiding each other’s eyes and hers.
But in a fleeting moment she noticed the way Ron looked at Hermione, and her heart ached. Hermione didn’t remember anything she felt for Ron, she didn’t remember all they shared and all they had gone through. Instead, she had a fiancé back at home, which probably made her rule out any possibility of a relationship with Ron.
Ginny hoped she wouldn’t have to resort to it, but it seemed that she would have to tell them about their engagement and relationship sooner or later before Hermione returned to her stupid Muggle boyfriend.
What she had seen in Ron’s eyes was unrequited love. She recognized it well, and she had a bad feeling that if this didn’t work out, things might not go any easier onwards. Especially concerning the lives they had left back in Edinburgh.
As for their memories, that seemed to be more complex and sinister than it first appeared. And as anger welled up inside her, Ginny thought they should raise a new point – to find the people responsible for robbing them of their true life, memories and the chance to find their happiness.
Author's Note: Here it is, chapter 12! Thank you, Megan (momotwins), for being the best beta in the world. Thank you xfaded!orange for making chapter pictures for some of the previous chapters (look, guys, they're awesome, I have chapter images! yay!). And thank you everyone else for reading and reviewing this story. As you can see, Ron and Hermione still have a long way in front of them. A simple Memory Healing charm won't just do the trick, so stay tuned for more to come. I can say that there'll be more and more information about the Memory Dust and so on. Also, I decided to do NaNo, so this might be the last update for a month, but who knows. I might get tired of my novel and write out the 13th chapter. Okay, this author's note is getting unnecessarily long, so byee and PLEASE REVIEW! :)
PS: If you were to revive my dead page over at the forums, I'd be so happy.
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