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Memory Dust by shadowycorner
Chapter 13 : Ludwig Steiner
 
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Memory Dust

Chapter 13: Ludwig Steiner



After the failed attempt to bring Ron and Hermione’s memory back, the four of them sat in the living room in silence. Few days went by since then and things weren’t looking much better.

Each of them tried to think of a new way to go around this huge problem. Ginny convinced Harry and Arthur to try out the counter charm again, but it hadn’t worked any better than the previous attempt. It only resulted in Hermione and Ron being completely spent and exhausted for the day. Craig the Obliviator advised them not to try it again since it was, after all, a tough attack on their minds.

That left them empty-handed and hopeless. They had two options: find another way, or just accept the fact the memory loss was irreversible and deal with it. The latter didn’t agree with anyone much, though. One couldn’t just transfer lives like that no matter how much sense it made.

“I had this idea,” Harry said, interrupting the silence and bringing everyone’s attention to him. “Remember Ludwig?” he asked, turning to Ginny, who nodded vaguely. “He’s a trained Legilimens, which means he can look into people’s minds and look for the sources of their problems, fears, sorrows and so on. He’s a sort of…”

“Wizard psychologist,” Hermione finished for him, leaning closer to listen, her interest piqued.

“Yes, exactly. He helped George a lot when he was having troubles with nightmares.”

Ron looked sadly out of the window as Harry went on.

“He does the work of a psychologist, but so much more thorough because he can inspect your mind. Maybe he could try and look at your memories.”

“But we don’t have any,” muttered Ron from over the table, chewing on some toast, obviously in low spirits. His speech, however, surprised everyone since he hardly spoke to anyone lately. His optimism was leaving him. It was leaving him every time he looked at his family and couldn’t remember his childhood. It was leaving him every time he came upon family photos and the face identical to George’s never sparked any memory. It was leaving him every time he looked at Hermione and never spotted at least a little sign of something mutual of what he felt.

“Actually,” Hermione began, walking towards Harry with excited eyes, “that’s not entirely true.” All faces turned to her as she walked towards Ron abruptly. “Come on, Ron, we have these…feelings. Feelings that made us initially go into this whole thing. Feelings that reminded us that something’s been there once. That means our memory cannot be gone entirely. Remember when you said that when you were home, visiting the familiar places you could almost see a little red-headed boy running around in your mind? That is something like a memory, even if you think it’s just a passing thought. It is possible, right?” Her question was directed at Harry, who smiled and placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder.

“Of course it is which is exactly why we shouldn’t delay. I’ll go owl Ludwig right away while you finish your breakfast. Actually, no, I’ll go talk to him straight, so I can give him all the information he will need.” With that, Harry was out of the room with a loud crack, startling Ron, making him choke on his toast. It was hard getting used to these magic tricks going on all over the place.

After a while, all three of them were sitting in the living room. Hermione was switching through the television channels impatiently while Ron was pacing the room. Ginny only watched the scene sadly from the doorway. She had thought it would be far easier bringing them back into this world, but sometimes when their conversation came to a halt and they realized that they were actually strangers, the mood took an immediate downturn. She and Harry tried talking about everything they could think of to them, but then even the stories, so unfamiliar to them anyway, ran out.

They had to remember, she understood that. Otherwise it would be a very difficult process for them to feel at ease and natural again, with thosefalse memories still in their heads.

With a little explosion, bright green flames erupted from the fireplace. Ron jumped at this, knocking over the chair and hitting his leg on it. Cursing loudly, he picked the chair up with a groan.

“Now, you’re lucky it wasn’t your mother coming through, otherwise she’d probably smack you with that chair across the back after hearing your language,” said Arthur Weasley as he walked out of the fireplace, casually wiping the soot off his nose with a grey handkerchief. “Harry arranged the session with Ludwig for this afternoon. Your mother and I are taking you to Diagon Alley to show you around. She believes that dragging you down places you once knew must spark recognition of some sort eventually. Let’s hope she’s right,” he finished with a cheery smile.

“When will I learn these tricks?” Ron asked a little gruffly, ignoring Arthur’s previous statement. “I can’t believe I was once a wizard and can hardly make a cup of tea by my own hands these days, without any magic involved.”

“Don’t worry, soon. You have enough to worry about without learning magic all over again from scratch. We don’t need the house burning down,” added Arthur jokingly, but Ron didn’t share the humor and just turned away irritably.

“Thanks, Dad, I could’ve guessed I would be rubbish at magic anyway,” he retorted harshly with his back turned to his father.

Arthur looked hurt, and Ginny noticed. “What got your knickers in a twist, Ron? We’re all trying here. Can’t you get a little joke? You’ve been moping around and gurgling instead of talking all day, what is wrong with you?”

Immediately turning back to look at his dad, Ron felt ashamed for retorting that way.

“No-nothing. I just…I’m sorry,” he said, turning on his heel and storming out of the room and shutting the entrance door quietly behind him. All they could hear was his rushed steps on the stairs. Ginny made for the door to follow him, but Hermione grabbed her hand.

“Let me go after him, please,” she said, her voice soft and hesitant.

Flinging her arms into the air tetchily, Ginny exclaimed, “Fine! You go. That’s a better idea because I’d probably bat-bogey hex him, he’s been so annoying the whole day!”

Without further ado, Hermione followed and after a few seconds of fuming, Ginny smiled a little to herself.

***

Hermione ran out of the block of flats hurriedly, turning her head in all directions. Ron was just turning a corner on the other side of the street, so Hermione ran after him.

“Ron! Ron, wait up!”

It seemed at first, that he had heard her but didn’t turn on purpose. Hermione stopped, placing her hands on her hips, losing patience.

“Ronald Weasley, stop and turn around this instance!” she yelled in the bossiest voice she could muster.

Immediately Ron stopped, but took a while to turn. When he did so, his hands in his pockets, Hermione could see he was upset. She herself wasn’t exactly cheerful, but Ron’s behavior was troubling her. Ever since the first attempt to bring their memories back, he had more or less refused to look at her and had avoided any contact. Even as she approached him and got a closer view of his gloomy face, she could see he wasn’t very happy she was the one to go after him.

“What’s wrong?” Hermione asked, reaching him and crossing her arms slowly, looking at the ground. Ron sighed in front of her. She could see his chest heave - startled her slightly. “I know things haven’t been going according to plan,” she said, daring to look up at him, “but look how far we’ve come, how lucky we got.”

There was a momentary silence between the two. The busy street and world went on without them;they seemed to be suspended in another world. It was a world of muffled voices, blurry images and helpless attempts to reach out and bring the other back into the real world, in the right shape and form, having things as they should be. It reminded Hermione of their accidental or maybe fateful meeting back in Edinburgh. The essence in the air was almost the same. The same confusion, uncertainty, disbelief, but with so much less hope and excitement.

“Don’t think I’m not grateful for finding my family,” Ron said quietly. He turned around and walked on, Hermione following him by his side. “It’s the best thing that could possibly happen to me, but in some really bad, scary way it doesn’t seem to be enough,” he finished, sighing sadly. “Did you know I had another brother? Fred, George’s twin. I don’t remember him at all and it seems I never will. Others I can get to know, we can renew the lost bonds and relationships, but he’s gone forever and I have nothing except a picture. And then you…” His voice trailed off and Ron bit on his bottom lip, wishing he hadn’t said the last thing.

Hermione herself wished he hadn’t said it. For all she knew, it didn’t mean anything. For all she felt, she knew it meant everything. And did she really wish he hadn’t said it? This doubt was the reason for the guilt that was growing with each new day.

She decided to ignore it just when her voice betrayed her. “What do you mean me?” she asked without thinking, coming to a halt.

Ron faced her boldly, still biting his lip, glancing from place to place.

“What do you want me to tell you? You really think going to a wizard psychologist is going to help?” Ron asked angrily, making the quotation marks with his fingers when saying the words ‘wizarding psychologist’. “These guys just keep saying useless rubbis in the non-magical world, why should they be any different in this one? They just have some fancy, shiny magic tricks, is all. So what do you want me to say?”

“I-I don’t know. I want you to be honest or…well…” Stammering, Hermione shut her mouth and eyes, taking in a deep breath. “I just…I hate seeing you walking away. It scares me, okay?” she exclaimed, her eyes welling up with tears suddenly. “You’re the one thing that makes a little sense in this mess. You’re my friend, so don’t walk away!”

Ron winced, opening and closing his mouth to retort something, but he only found himself at yet another loss of words.

“Hermione, calm down,” he said gently, touching her by the arm gingerly. “I wasn’t going to run away, I just needed some air.”

“I know, I know,” she replied, turning away, angry at herself for her inappropriate reaction. “Look, we just have to believe there is a way to make things right.” Facing him once again, Hermione attempted a small smile. “So don’t be angry, and come back with me. Who knows? Maybe this Ludwig man can help us. He might not return our memory, but he might see what we can’t, and that can lead us to something more. I know that you’ll be able to remember your brother one day. I promise.”

Snorting and trying to hide it right afterwards, Ron remained silent for a little while. “I don’t feel like going back there after how difficult I’ve been the past few days.”

“They’ll understand,” Hermione said simply with a smile. “They’re family.”

“They are, aren’t they?” Ron said, smiling back at her. How nice it was to say it, and still the distance between them and Harry and Ginny’s flat was so, so wide.

“Let’s go back then. Please?” she asked, reaching out her hand. When Ron gave her a questioning look, she just took his hand and walked with him across the street. Somehow, she knew that without holding his hand, maybe she herself wouldn’t be able to return. With him it was the right thing, though. And the comforting thing was that she knew Ron felt the same way.

***

Diagon Alley was nothing like they had imagined it to be. It was actually one thousand times more beautiful, extraordinary and exciting. Hermione and Ron found it hard to hold their excitement together. Ron pored over the brooms over and over again, already scheduling flying lessons. The fact that he was once a Quidditch player cheered him greatly, even though he had to be explained to what Quidditch was at first. As soon as he found out, his eyes glinted like a little boy’s. Molly just rolled her eyes at Hermione and led her on.

“Men and their flying toys,” she muttered to herself, going on about how much she despised the stress and worry each time her kids mounted brooms and lunged into a game where they were open to possible head injury by bludgers and so forth.

Later Hermione and Ron agreed to go into Madam Malkin’s to get some new robes. It seemed like fun, getting some of the bizarre clothes as well. Once they got out of the shop, however, the robes felt comfortable and just right. They felt a strengthened feeling of belonging in between the crowds of people dressed in flamboyant colors and antique-looking garments.

Once they passed Flourish and Blotts, it was a hard task getting Hermione to resume their way to Ludwig’s. She was so fascinated by the variety of magical books, the smell of old parchment and the bindings of fancy skins that they literally had to drag her out of there.

Every now and then someone broke from the crowd and came up to Ron and Hermione to tell of their delight at their finding. It turned out their reappearance was written about in a wizarding paper called the Daily Prophet.

“I tried keeping the news of you down until everything is back to normal,” Harry explained with a sigh, “but since you’ve appeared at the Ministry, there was no stopping it.”

“Why would anyone care to write about us?” Ron asked incredulously.

“War heroes,” was all Harry had to say on the matter with a chuckle. Ron remembered the initial, brief story Harry had clued them in on the first time they had arrived at their house, but still it didn’t trouble him all that much. He felt he should ask and delve more into it, but not that day.

Despite the hardships they all had with the difficulty of bringing Hermione and Ron’s memories back, thus helping them enter their respectable past lives again, that day in Diagon Alley it seemed as if not a day had passed since the happy days before their disappearance. After their conversation, Ron had calmed down and was as cheerful as he was able to. He felt he had to make it up to his friends and family who’d had to put up with his surly behavior.

Harry and Ginny were giving them a thorough tour, recollecting every good memory they had of the place. Molly and Arthur added their bit as well. Ron and Hermione felt at home, they felt safe and they laughed more that afternoon than in previous days combined. For a few hours they were able to put their troubled minds to rest, enjoying a few well-earned comforts.

A rather awkward situation appeared when Ron was suddenly ambushed by a squealing unknown woman that later introduced herself as Lavender Brown.

She kissed him on the cheek, leaving a smudge of her lipstick there. Hermione stepped back to watch this with an arched eyebrow and crossed arms.

“Oh, Ron, so good to see you. You sure look as good as ever, honey,” she grinned, ruffling his hair. “We were all very sorry when you and your Hermione vanished! I mean, good old school days, right?” se added with a seductive smile, standing so that her cleavage stood out. Ron’s ears went immediately red, to nobody’s surprise. Lavender’s high giggly laughter died out when she set eyes on Hermione, who tried to look cool and casual, but was gnawing at her bottom lip, unaware.

“Oh dear, you know me, I’m just a flirt like that,” she said in a mock-apologetic voice, flipping out a silken handkerchief out of her handbag, wiping the lipstick smudge off Ron’s cheek. “I always knew I wasn’t the one, I just got him ready!” she laughed, winking at Hermione, giving her a sideways squeeze and taking off. “Everyone’s as pleased as I am that you’re back. Wait ‘till I tell them I’ve met you. Don’t forget to show up at our soon-to-be class reunion,” she shouted from behind her shoulder before she got lost in the crowd.

“Who was that?” Ron asked out loud.

Smirking, Harry led them on, glimpsing Hermione’s annoyed expression. “That, mate, was your ex.”

“My ex? Her? She was…frightening,” he said, but looked a little pleased and smug at the information. After all, she was quite good-looking and seemed very keen on him still. He just wondered momentarily what she meant by saying your Hermione, but the thought was soon driven out of his mind when his sister laughed behind him.

“You just wait ‘till you hear about the ‘My Sweetheart’ incident,” Ginny said from behind him with a grin, immediately telling the story to Hermione. The result was another dose of jovial laughter and Ron gruffly walking ahead, wishing that no Lavender had crossed their path minutes ago.

They still had one more half hour before the session with Ludwig, so while Molly and Arthur separated from the group to go to Gringotts, Harry took the rest of them for a creamy sundae at Fortescue’s.

Ron was the first to finish, much to Ginny’s distaste, who, much like her mother would, scolded him for eating like a ‘half-starved, uncivilized orangutan’.

To make it up to her, or so he thought, Ron grabbed her hand and dragged her back to the broom shop. Ginny agreed, following him and laughing despite herself. After all, she didn’t mind looking at new brooms, especially now that she could look at them with Ron.

Meanwhile Harry and Hermione hung back on the terrace of Fortescue’s, bathing their faces in the warm sun’s glow.

“Are you nervous?” Harry asked Hermione, sipping his soda.

Shrugging her shoulders, she furrowed her eyebrows and remained quiet for a while.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been too much into psychology and the field. Maybe I’d like to have some time to read something about it, you know, to be ready. It’s even more unnerving when I imagine him not only asking me questions and over-analyzing them, but also actually going into my head. A person’s private thoughts are the one thing that’s only theirs. It feels strange to just hand them over to someone for inspection.”

“Yeah, I know how that feels,” Harry muttered, leaning forward and placing his elbows atop the table. “But it might be very helpful.”

“Yes, of course, that’s why I’m going for it. Although,” Hermione’s voice trailed away as she wondered how she’d put her thoughts into the proper words. “Maybe I’m a little afraid of what I might find out.”

Harry didn’t know what to reply to that. In the distance, they could both see Ron and Ginny swooning over the newest broom on the market. Ginny was trying to elaborate on some Quidditch maneuvers with her arms flailing in the air. Hermione was smiling in their direction, but the next moment she averted her eyes and sighed.

“I couldn’t overlook the tension between you and Ron before this afternoon. Is everything alright?” Harry asked cautiously, careful not to tread on dangerous ground. Acting as though his two best friends had never loved each other wasn’t easy, but he hoped it was still somewhere there in them.

“Yes, of course. Sometimes it just gets so…complicated, weird, dramatic. It wears me out. I feel as if there was some block between us,” she blurted out without thinking. Usually she wouldn’t go pouring her heart out just like that, especially about Ron, about whom she tried very hard to keep her feelings a secret, but this was Harry. “One minute it’s completely natural being in his presence, talking to him and suddenly it becomes so hard, almost impossible.”

Laughing quietly, Harry arched his eyebrow at Hermione. “It’s always been that way between you. You could change from normal talk to endless bickering to not speaking for weeks in a flash. Eventually it always got right, though. With Ron and you, it always gets right in the end. That was one of the things that got me through when I felt at my lowest, you and Ron.”

“Oh Harry,” Hermione sighed tenderly, leaning into his shoulder, watching Ron and Ginny once more. In some moments, memories almost weren’t needed.

***

Harry was just leaving Ludwig’s office, casting one last hopeful smile at the magician before exiting. Hermione and Ron sat at the opposite sides of a tattered but comfortable sofa, the both of them stiff as boards.

For Hermione it was easier to relax, because upon introduction she took a liking to the nice man and his disfigured back didn’t bother her in the slightest. He had smart eyes full of gentleness, and any sign of kindness and intelligence combined was enough to put her at ease.

Ron, on the other hand, felt a little queasy about the man. He couldn’t help it, but he was creeped out by the visible hump on the old man’s back and his toothless smile unnerved him. He reminded him of a bad fairy tale wicked witch his mother read to him about. Actually, that was the fake memory of the fake mother he didn’t have. So then, he probably shouldn’t be afraid of Ludwig and his wicked witch likeness.

“Gee, I really do need a psychologist,” Ron thought to himself while rolling his eyes.

The room was lined with bookcases emitting small dust clouds every time a train passed by across from the window on the Muggle side of the world. Everything in the room seemed rickety, from Ludwig’s little desk adjusted to his height, to the old globe, antique lamps and a large aquarium that didn’t fit the room for being too modern. Its color rather struck through the brown and beige of countless old books and parchment laying about. Still the room looked clean and well-kept, an organized chaos more like it.

In various places there were strange glass objects and flasks containing a silvery liquid casting an illuminating glow on its surroundings. Both Ron and Hermione were oddly reminded by the room of some other place, only this one was significantly smaller.

Clearing his throat, Ludwig gained their attention, already sitting in his high red velvet chair. His walking stick was firmly in his hand and he tapped his fingers on the wood regularly.

Smiling kindly, he motioned for a scroll of parchment laying on his desk. “By signing this you give me the privilege of inspecting your memories. It also states I’m forbidden to present your memories, my analysis of them or any other information I might gather about you further.”

Ron made to stand up and gather the paper and pen, but he was quickly pushed back into his seat as the scroll of parchment levitated along with a peacock feathered quill over to him. Skimming it through, he signed without much hesitation. Hermione took her time reading the agreement and after signing it, she stood up and carried it over to Ludwig’s desk.

“Now, I’d like to inform you of how these sessions will work I don’t want you to think that when you walk out of this office this afternoon, you’ll remember everything as if your memory had never been gone. I’m afraid to say, you’ll probably remember nothing more than what you did when you walked in.

“The human mind is a fragile thing and any unnatural action such as an intrusion by Legilimency or any kind of memory charms can have a horrible effect if used unwisely. Mr. Potter informed me that the memory counter charm has been used on you twice in the last four days. Therefore I wouldn’t be so keen on entering your mind for another week, but as Mr. Potter insists I try at least a little, it is necessary that you will attempt to relax completely before I tread on the sensitive grounds of your mind.”

Hermione glanced at Ron as he was desperately turning his snorts of laughter into coughing. She turned her attention back to Ludwig, but as he droned on, the corners of her lips were dangerously threatening to go upwards as she heard Ron snort repeatedly.

Mr. Ludwig didn’t seem to notice, thankfully.

“So you’re not going to inspect our memories today?” Hermione asked, a slight hint of disappointment in her voice.

“I’ll just take a look at the memory of the events that preceded your arrival to Scotland. We need to take this one step at a time. Now, I’ll try to look into one of your minds. Which one would like to go first?”

None of them answered, but as Ron spotted that Hermione felt quite nervous, biting her lips and fidgeting with her hands, he stood up.

“Try me first.”

“Very well. Please sit back down. You, Ms. Granger, please take a seat over there,” he said, pointing to a tiny wooden chair by the window. Hermione obeyed with only a thankful look aimed at Ron. “Now relax,” Ludwig said to Ron, his eyes piercing him.

Gulping, Ron watched the old man warily, but when their eyes met, he felt himself relax a little. Ludwig gave him an encouraging smile and now he was more reminded of a grandfather he never knew instead of a wicked witch.

“Legilimens!”

Ron’s eyes went shut and images flashed before his eyes with the speed of a lightning. He saw the events of past days going by in a whirlwind until it all suddenly stopped, leaving his mind blank, only mere shapes and silhouettes moving through. He couldn’t see anything much too clearly, though. Circling dust was spiraling all over the blankness, shading up even the slightest movement or color he was able to spot. It was as if behind the white curtain there was a world out there, and Ron was so close to grasping it, seeing through, when suddenly things started going black. At first only one spot appeared, later spreading out across the whiteness like ink spreads when poured over a parchment.

Slowly things went back into focus, moving past at a quick speed, but this time he could recognize the faces and voices of his colleagues back at work, his dead family all the way to Hermione, Harry, Ginny and the Weasleys. Suddenly, though, something seemed to tug at the side of his brain and there came the whiteness again, devoured by endless black shadow, but all in faster motion this time until it all went black.

Pain spread through his head and little stars erupted behind his eyelids, but right that moment all the pressure from his brain eased and he snapped his eyes open with a gasp.

Before he could take in his surroundings again, there came a yelp from somewhere in the room. As everything came back into focus, Ron stood up dizzily and rushed over to where Hermione was crouching over the old man, who had fallen over in his chair.

“What happened?” Ron was breathless as he said it, sweat clinging to his chest.

“I don’t know. He had his wand pointed at you when suddenly some sort of…power or field threw him back.”

Coughing, the old man opened his eyes and lifted his head. “Not to worry, not to worry. This sometimes happens; I should’ve seen it coming. Please lift the chair up, if you will.” Hermione and Ron both heaved the chair up. “The long back of the chair is necessary for these occasions, you see,” chuckled Ludwig. “Had it not been for this chair, I’d bang my head on the floor countless times.”

As Ludwig dusted himself off, Hermione and Ron resumed their seats on the vacated sofa.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Weasley, I seemed to have gone too far in the end. Curiosity overwhelmed me. What I saw is really interesting, but I strictly refuse to do any more mind-reading for the day as you can see how it can exhaust a person. I need to think more about all I saw. I think that’s over for today. I’ll speak to Mr. Potter so he can more thoroughly explain it to you.”

“Why were you thrown off like that, sir?” Ron asked, his breathing finally intact as he leaned his elbows on his knees.

“I’ve hit upon a brick wall or something of the sort. It’s been set there on purpose and it allowed me to go no further. When I tried once more, there was some kind of magic that reacted. And that’s about all I can tell you for now.”

Flashing his toothless grin again, he stood up shakily, leaning on his walking stick as he went. With heavy hearts and tired minds, Ron and Hermione stood up and followed him out the door.

***

The walk from Ludwig’s office was not as joyous as the walk before. Hermione was deep in thought, a little disappointed she didn’t get to have her mind inspected after all. Ron was too tired to think. He had enough of these digging around in his brain.

Harry was quickly briefing Ginny on what Ludwig had told him, promising Ron and Hermione he would explain the details they didn’t understand later at home.

As they were walking, a child ran out a door of a store hurriedly. It almost trampled over Hermione, leaving only the tinkling of doorbells and boisterous laughter behind. Glancing up, Hermione read Ollivander’s at the top. Her heart sped up inexplicably at the sight.

The display seemed lately renewed with the sign ‘Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C,’ in fine gold lettering. Behind the glass there were three silken cushions and on each rested a wand of fine polished wood. As she stared at the shop with her mouth agape, Ron bumped into her.

“Hey Harry, look,” Ginny said, pointing to them with glowing eyes. “They feel the magic that is within them.”

Grinning ear to ear, Harry put each arm around their shoulders. “I think it’s time to get you two some new wands.”

Author's Note: My infinite thanks goes to Megs (momotwins) for being my wonderful beta. Another thanks goes to TGS, mainly Gubby and Rachel for supporting me through writing this chapter after six wordless months. And THANK YOU for coming back, reading this story and not giving up on it. I'm more than thankful.
PLEASE REVIEW :)


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