Hermione sat at the terrace of the Burrow, morning coffee on the table beside her. She had been eyeing her wand over and over again ever since she had first received it a few days ago. In the end, only Ron got a wand at Ollivander’s because his original wand had been broken when they disappeared. Hermione’s wand had been found undamaged and Ginny had preserved it all that time.
Harry had advised them to not try anything major with it yet. He had said wands have strange ways of working and even the man at Ollivander’s had told her that her old wand might be a little overexcited upon being back in her hands.
“I’m just worried that with your strong magic the wand might make something explode,” Harry had chuckled when explaining the business to her.
Naturally, though, Hermione couldn’t resist the urge and so last night she'd tried flicking it a few times, but nothing had happened.
And that was why they were at the Burrow, waiting for a teacher Harry called in to help them. There was Molly, Ron, Hermione and little Teddy and Victoire running about. Hermione was barely sitting still, sipping her coffee and trying to look calm. In reality she was excited beyond words to explain. Finally there was something that didn’t stir up any confusion or nervousness in her; she almost felt she was made to do this.
Hermione listened to Harry and didn’t try anything yet. She wanted to do this right – unlike Ron, who had been walking around for three days, brandishing his wand like a sword, making everything around him burst or collapse even though others told him to cut it out. With a spark of jealousy, though, Hermione noticed he was slowly getting the hang of it.
“Oh Ron, no!” came another shout from inside, followed by a deafening crash of what seemed to be cutlery.
Running inside, Hermione saw Ron grinning with glee as he helped his mother scoop up the big pieces off the floor while she cleaned the rest with her wand.
“Hermione,” he began excitedly, running to her, “I levitated. I saw Bill do it yesterday, so I just tried it out and all these plates actually lifted off the table and floated in mid-air. Unbelievable! I love this world,” he finished, taking a piece of cake from the table and munching on it cheerfully.
“Harry told us to be careful,” Hermione retorted matter-of-factly, bending down to help Molly, angry more because of the fact that Ron was already ahead of her. “We’re supposed to wait for the teacher before we start doing magic on our own.”
“Oh but what could be possibly so hard about this?” Ron asked, waving his hand on the subject.
Harry walked in the next second, raising his eyebrows when he spotted Hermione and Molly sweeping the rest of the broken cutlery and Ron walking around, flicking his wand at every object within his reach, snickering each time it gave a budge.
“What happened here?” he asked, walking to Ron and snatching the wand from his hands with a grin.
“Ron is breaking plates and knocking things over just because he can,” Hermione spat, standing up and dusting herself off.
Molly put the broken pieces into the sink and sighed. “Lord, it’s just like when all of you were suddenly allowed to do magic out of school. I really thought going through this six times would be enough!”
“Didn’t you mean seven?” asked Hermione in confusion, doing the math in her head.
“Oh no, Percy was never much trouble in this matter.”
Harry was the only one to laugh at this while passing a glance at the window.
“Great, she’s here,” he said, motioning with his head for Hermione and Ron to take a look.
A tall witch was approaching the garden, her light cloak billowing after her as she walked with her head held high. She was wearing a pointed hat and square-shaped glasses. Her face was expressionless and Ron’s smile vanished off his face when he saw her. It was not from fear, but out of some sort of respect he felt when looking at her.
Slowly, Hermione and Ron emerged from the house just as the witch entered the garden through the door in the fence. She stopped in her tracks when she spotted them, her hand shooting up to her mouth.
Quickening her pace, she strode over the garden to them, her face suddenly alight with happiness and emotion.
“Oh my, Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger,” she exclaimed happily, forgetting all her previous attitude and scooping them into a tight embrace, one after the other, knocking her glasses askew. “I am so happy to see you again. We already lost all our hope in finding you and here you are, as young as ever. It truly feels like just yesterday when you both sat in my classroom, Ms. Granger raising her hand all the time and Mr. Weasley never paying attention.”
“Nice to see you too, Professor,” he grinned good-naturedly.
Hermione was glad as well, feeling a great liking and respect for this woman.
Minerva McGonagall soon regained her composure as she gave the hat and cloak to Harry to put away, revealing her long, stern face with soft eyes and her hair pulled up in a tight bun.
Molly tried ushering Teddy and Victoire inside so that they wouldn’t disturb the lesson, but they insisted on staying, practicing magic with their fake wands. When Teddy made puppy-dog eyes at Harry, he relented, receiving only a scolding look from Molly. Later, though, she brought everyone sandwiches. At first, Teddy and Victoire tried mimicking McGonagall like Ron and Hermione, their wands emitting just faint sparkles. After a while they got bored of that, running off to play somewhere else.
Professor McGonagall started out with the basic charms. She was a Transfiguration teacher as she told them, but she had great skills and knowledge in Charms as well.
Ron, already having had practice in making things fly about the room, was picking up on everything surprisingly fast. On the contrary, Hermione grew frustrated with every minute. Everyone was watching her when she was about to attempt a spell the first time, their eyes eager and expectant as if she were to conjure an elephant into the garden, but nothing happened. Nothing happened the first time, second time or even the next.
Professor McGonagall’s face fell in a tragic manner at first, spotting that Hermione Granger, of all people, was incapable of doing any magic.
Hermione tried not looking as upset as she really was. After all, it must’ve been normal for the magic to be a little slow after such a long time of being without it. Everyone seemed a little too worried, even Ron, despite his enthusiasm, and so she felt that maybe it wasn’t all that good after all.
It was a horrible feeling and Hermione had to fight with herself in order not to break down in tears. Her huge expectations were crushed, and just by her own failure. For the first time, she felt sure when she grasped her wand. She felt sure of all this business, she knew this was her life and this was the real world she was born into.
Her faith and confidence were instantly gone, leaving behind only a vast emptiness.
The lesson was soon over. While Ron was showing Victoire and Teddy his new spells, Hermione watched from her seating spot on the terrace. She finished the coffee in a quick swig, realizing it was cold and no longer good.
Meanwhile, Minerva McGonagall was inside, collecting her things and being offered treats by Molly. She gratefully took a sandwich and put her hat on.
“How does it look with them, Professor?” Harry asked, his arms crossed and a worried expression on his face.
“I don’t know, Harry. Ron seems to be doing well, still it seems that unless their memory is retrieved, they will have to learn most of their spell-work from scratch.”
“What about Hermione? Why doesn't her wand so much as shake when she tries to use it?”
Shrugging her shoulders sadly, Minerva McGonagall fastened the cloak around her shoulders. “I truly don’t know. It looks like she’s lost her magical ability, but don’t worry,” she added hastily when Harry opened his mouth to protest, “I’m sure that’s not the case. She just needs a little more time. It must be a great shock to jump from one life to a completely different one in a matter of days. What you wrote to me about the whole affair is very complicated, maybe she’s just a little blocked, still in a position where a piece of her mind finds it hard to believe all this is possible.”
“What if she was deprived of her magic by the kidnappers?” Harry asked, his voice low and seeping with anger.
Molly watched the conversation with her hand to her mouth, her look full of worry. “Surely that couldn’t have happened,” she said with a gasp.
“I doubt it. After all, Ron doesn’t seem to be under any negative influence,” McGonagall said with a smile, seeing him levitating Teddy a little above the ground as the boy giggled profusely. “I’m not an expert in this field. Mr. Steiner will know more about this, I’m sure.”
Hermione stood up instinctively when McGonagall walked out of the door, ready to leave. Even Ron noticed, turning around. The wand in his hand turned too, making Teddy fly in that direction, bumping into Harry who caught him just before he was about to fall to the ground.
“Oh, sorry,” called Ron, making an apologetic face Molly’s way when she placed her hands on her hips agitatedly.
“Now, Ms. Granger, before my next visit you put yourself together. You were the best student I have ever had and you never cowered in front of a challenge. Let that encourage you.”
Hermione smiled at this, new pride and determination seeping into her. She shook McGonagall’s hand and thanked her for all her help.
“As for you, Mr. Weasley, good job,” McGonagall said when passing him on her way to her Apparition spot, “but I do advise you to be a little more careful still.” She motioned her eyes toward little Teddy who was still in Harry’s arms, stretching out his hands, pretending to be a plane.
Going slightly pink in the face, Ron scratched the back of his head. “Oh, I know, I’m a wizard now,” he said with a smile, “not a baboon brandishing a stick.” Swinging the wand about as he was, though, he might as well have been one. At first this didn’t call for any reaction, until McGonagall had gone and they were all going back into the house. Suddenly an old speck of memory came to Harry.
“Ron, how do you remember that?” he asked, stopping him before he went in after Molly, Hermione and the kids.
“The bit about the baboon brandishing a stick,” Harry said. “What made you say that?”
Ron shrugged. “Dunno, it just came to me.”
“That’s because Flitwick once made you write that down one hundred times. Clearly his intent had worked, engraving it into your mind. This is wonderful, though. I think it’s time to pay Ludwig a visit again.”
Before going straight to Ludwig to have their minds inspected, Hermione and Ron were given time to roam Diagon Alley on their own for a little while. Ron tried to reason with Hermione and support her in terms of her inability to make any magic earlier that day.
“I mean, I’m sure it was just because you were tired, or stressed out. We’re under a lot of pressure and it’s only natural that-“
“Okay, Ron, I get it,” she cut him off, too bad-tempered to listen to him, as nice as he was trying to be.
“I’m just saying that I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it very soon and be better than me straight away.”
“Will you just give it a rest? I don’t want to talk about it!” she snapped.
“I was only trying to be nice,” Ron retorted, too stubborn to let it go. He didn’t want to be quiet anymore. The energy and strength he'd felt that day reassured him. And he wanted to prolong his conversation with Hermione, even though she'd been giving him a hard time the entire day. “You don’t have to push me away just because probably for the first time I was better at something.”
“You can’t be serious,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes in an ‘as if’ manner, even though she didn’t mean to. It just came with the stress and jealousy, she guessed.
Ron picked up on that, however. “Oh what’s that? So you think I’m still rubbish in comparison even though you couldn’t even perform a small levitating charm.”
“You didn’t even say it right, for Heaven’s sake. It’s Wingaar-”
“No, don’t give me that again, please!”
“What do you mean again?”
“I don’t know, never mind, the point is that today I was better and you just can’t take it.”
“I don’t care about your stupid magic skills. Anyway, had it not been for Molly and Harry, more than one poor soul would end up being injured today. You’re impossible and incapable of not doing just the opposite of what you’re told!” She didn’t even know where her supposed arguments were coming from. Hermione only needed to yell and Ron was standing before her, giving her all the reason she needed, with his indignant manner and presence that both annoyed and flustered her at the same time.
“At least I don’t just sit around, waiting patiently for orders to come my way like a well-behaved little student. Maybe if you practiced a little yourself, instead of scolding me all the time for my attempts at magic, you wouldn’t be so lost today.”
Gritting her teeth, Hermione felt the urge to just reach for her wand and send a flock of bloody insects after him, but the realization it probably wouldn’t have any effect anyway just dampened her spirits.
“I’m now going to buy some books to calm down before I tell you something I’d regret.”
“Oh you just buy lots of those books because clearly you need them. Don’t forget the one about proper communication,” he yelled after her as she turned on her heel, stormed into the store and slammed the door shut so that the glass displays rattled.
Ron stood frozen on the spot, his mouth slightly agape and brow furrowed, still wondering just what in the world had he done wrong in the first place. Shrugging his shoulders with annoyance, he placed his hands in his pockets and turned into another direction.
Harry was off getting something sorted in the wizarding bank called Gringotts and he was supposed to meet them at Fortescue’s in an hour. Having nothing to do, absolutely refusing the idea of going into the shop after Hermione and risking serious injury, Ron set out down the street broodingly.
He walked aimlessly for some minutes, not bothering to be happy any longer. His feelings toward Hermione were making him more and more nervous. She could make his heart beat happily in a second. And it took her the same amount of time to make him feel at his worst. He didn’t know if this was love, but he had never felt it. In that particular moment, he’d rather not have felt anything for her besides pure, platonic friendship.
If it only were that easy.
Unexpectedly, Ron remembered a girl that was probably waiting for him back at home. Regret and guilt crept into his thoughts as he realized that since he'd left, he hadn’t let her know by a single message, even though he'd promised to. He reckoned he ought to give her a call when he got back to the Burrow.
With the reminder of Chelsea, Ron was also reminded of another person – Jones-whatever-his-name-was, Hermione’s wonderful, smashing fiancé.
He was just about to get upset, but he soon stopped dead in his tracks, all thoughts gone from his head as all he was registering was the wonderfully colorful shop in front of him.
The sign read Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes and Ron smiled to himself.
Not waiting another minute, he ran in. The bell above the door tingled and George emerged from the back of the shop, wearing a pair of thick gloves. He had expected a customer to be there, and he was caught by surprise when Ron was standing there.
“Hey Ron,” he said, cracking a smile and putting the gloves away. “What brings you here? Everything alright?”
“I’ve done magic today,” he blurted out excitedly, looking around and noticing the shop was rather messy. Half the shelves were empty and stacks of boxes were set carelessly by the counter.
“Today, yesterday and the day before that. I noticed, you left a big scorch mark on the door to my old room and Dad told me about you trying to demolish the house,” said George smiling.
“Practice is the key,” Ron remarked pointedly. “We’re here to see Ludwig, but Harry needed to get something done and Hermione is buying books, so…I thought I’d come here. We wanted to come last time we were here, but after the session at Ludwig’s office…”
“Oh, he’s a total energy-sucker, isn’t he?” grinned George, picking up a few boxes he had behind the counter. Ron strode over, offering his help. “He’s a good fellow, though,” George continued as they carried the boxes to the back of the shop. It looked different than the front, chaotic and messy, with numerous boxes laying about, their contents spilled on the floor. Dust was the common resident and George needed to have the place lit by a candle, saying the light bulb had exploded a few days ago. “He helped me too.”
Taking a while to answer, George moved the boxes about. “I’d been having some bad dreams for a while, but it’s much better now,” he added, waving his hand upon the matter. Ron didn’t dare to inquire any further. “Anyway, I know this place looks shabby, I’m just having trouble keeping it afloat since my co-worker quit a few days ago.”
“Nothing, she was just a woman who couldn’t see the difference between a job and a relationship,” he replied with a frown.
Walking about, Ron prodded the boxes with his foot and observed the objects and products. Since he had no idea what half of them did, George took to explaining right away to ease the pressure of the awkwardness in their conversation.
The truth was, Ron didn’t know how to talk to him. There was still the feeling of unfamiliarity as he didn’t yet have much chance being around George. In addition, he felt the urge to ask about Fred, but he didn’t want to risk his brother’s good mood.
“I’ve heard this was the best joke shop in Britain,” said Ron, walking back to the front of the shop, carrying a box of Daydream Charms to refill the almost empty shelf.
“It was. I have to admit I slacked off a bit, didn’t care as much and so the business went down. It just wasn’t…the same. I mean, you know these things, sometimes they just stop being fun,” he said, averting his gaze and turning around to refill another shelf on the other end.
Ron couldn’t shake off the feeling that this just wasn’t right. The situation of the shop wasn’t right, George’s manner wasn’t right, nothing was right. The moment he'd first spotted it, he'd known this shop was supposed to be bustling with people, shining with all the now-graying colors. And George’s face was not made for a frown. It was made for laughter and Ron only hoped, in the little space of his heart, that somehow he could at least attempt to bring it back.
“You know, I could help a bit.”
George gave him a questioning look, but a small smile appeared on his face.
“Yeah, I mean, back in my fake life, as I like to call it, I’ve been just a cashier at a local shop. Nothing life-changing and I won’t miss it,” Ron went on. “If you need, I can just clean up the storage room and be here when you want to take a day off, instead of the shop being closed.”
“Hm, I guess I could use a maid,” George joked, a spark of faint laughter in his voice.
Ron opened his mouth to protest in indignation, but George cut in, “You never shut up. You’ll drive me crazy.”
“I grew silent from all the loneliness,” replied Ron with mock sadness.
“Oh really? Poor, tortured soul, you! And what if a beautiful woman walks in here…will you gawk at her, red in the ears, stuttering about and knocking everything over like you always do?”
“Oh shut your face. If anything, if a beautiful woman were to walk in here, she’d fawn over me.”
“Yes, you’re quite the catch, little brother.” Ron was about to retort, but George strode over to him, wound an arm around his shoulders and ruffled his hair. “I’m kidding, Ron. You gotta understand, I haven’t had the opportunity to make fun of you in ages. Must catch up.”
Laughing, Ron broke free from George and tried to flatten his now-messy hair. “I’m glad to see you missed me.”
“No, seriously,” George said, his laughter dying down and expression turning solemn. “I’d love to have you here.”
Ron smiled back at him, and so they went back to work, already making plans to repaint the front of the shop. Feeling happy at heart again, Ron was no longer worried about anything for the moment.
Ginny was growing worried as she roamed Diagon Alley, unable to find Ron and Hermione. They weren’t at the Fortescue’s, so she walked the shops and sure enough Hermione was found in the bookshop. Letting out a sigh of relief, Ginny went in, but just as she was about to greet her, she stopped short.
Hermione was sitting on a chair, looking angry and reading a book, with several more books stacked at her side, already wrapped.
“Hermione, what happened to you?”
“Nothing happened to me.” She didn’t even bother to lift her eyes from the book, which was a sure sign she was very angry.
“You’re hurting that book,” Ginny remarked, as Hermione flipped the pages violently, her lips pursed and eyes unfocused.
“Well, besides being even less than rubbish at magic and having a fight with Ron, I’d say I’m alright.” Her voice was unusually high when she tried to appear calm.
“Aw, sweetie, that magic thing will work out in no time. It would be impossible, you and no magic. As for your fight with Ron, I’m actually surprised it took you so long.”
Hermione shut the book with a thud, making Ginny wince. “What do you mean?”
“You always used to fight. Couldn’t even breathe without it, really. Sometimes it even reached the point where your fighting was actually stimulating to your relationship.”
“Relationship?” she asked, her eyes widening slightly.
Ginny made a flabbergasted face, only mouthing inaudible words. “Aahhh…friendship. I said friendship.”
“No, Ginny, you said relationship.”
“I meant friendship. Friendship is a kind of relationship. It’s a relationship you have with a friend. Ah, look! There’s Harry,” she said hastily, pointing through the window at Harry who was waiting for them outside. “Time to go to Ludwig’s. Lovely.” Ginny grabbed Hermione’s hand and was pulling her to the door before she’d have any other chance to inquire about Ron and the word relationship appearing in the same sentence.
“Wait, I have to pay for my books.”
“Oh, no you don’t. You donated money to the shop regularly, so all these books are free of charge for you until the end of your days.”
“Really?” Hermione’s eyes shone with an excited light as she looked around herself, thinking of all the possibilities. “But, I haven’t donated anything in the past three years, so it wouldn’t be right. Let me just pay for my things. I took out more money from the bank before coming here.”
“Hermione, Muggle money won’t help you here.”
“So there’s Muggle money and magical money? There’s just no end to learning about this world, is it?” She said it with a half-sigh, half-joy. “Is there a way to exchange? Because I insist on at least buying some groceries and contributing to the amount you and Harry spend for the flat. I mean, I can’t live off your generosity just like that.”
“Hermione! Don’t even mention this. Besides, Harry went to Gringotts to sort out your and Ron’s vault. You both have your savings there, so there should be no problem. Now come on, we’ll come and pay for your books on the way back, surely you don’t want to drag them around.”
“Do we share a friendship vault with Ron, too?” Hermione asked briskly, finally setting the books down and following Ginny out into the street with half-raised eyebrows.
Hermione and Ron sat on opposite sides of the sofa, not looking or speaking to one another. Ludwig was taking some notes and the scribbling of his quill was the only sound that filled the room, except Ron’s fuming and Hermione clicking her tongue impatiently. She had her arms crossed and leg swung over her knee, dangling it in constant motion.
“So, today I plan to look into both your minds, so I can compare whether the effect is the same.”
This seemed to be the wrong thing to say because it served as the match for the string of the dynamite that was sitting before him.
“I’m sure she thinks you’ll find more in her head than in mine because according to her it’s impossible we’re at the same level of intelligence,” Ron muttered to himself, but loud enough for Hermione and Ludwig to hear.
“Mr. Weasley, I am not here to measure your intelli-“
“Oh just look at him, poor self-conscious, egocentric little boy. It’s not my fault he takes everything I say to heart,” Hermione spat, looking to Ludwig as if to defend herself. “Besides, if he was expecting me to jump up from happiness that he’s a prodigious magical child just because he can break things and haul children across the garden on a whim, he was sadly mistaken.”
“I didn’t expect you to jump with happiness, though a little appreciation wouldn’t hurt. What I was trying to do was to make you feel better before you went crazy and snapped at me every minute. And I didn’t haul any children.”
“I told you I didn’t want to talk about it and you just wouldn’t listen!”
“Sorry for caring then.”
“You don’t have to care.”
“I won’t, you can bet on that.”
Ludwig’s eyes were travelling back and forth between them. Finally he cleared his throat loudly, bringing their attention to him.
“I don’t know if you remember, but I’m here to help you find your memory or the source of its loss, not for marriage counseling. That’s the office down the street, run by a colleague of mine called Michael Bumber. You can recognize it by shouting insults coming through the rattling windows and doors flying off their hinges every minute. He’s not very good at it yet,” Ludwig chuckled, but his face went stern the next moment. “I don’t want people to mistake my office with his, understand? So now calm yourselves down and please be quiet. I am too old for this.”
Ron and Hermione went silent, both embarrassed. Ron ran a hand though his hair and Hermione was flattening the hem of her skirt, waiting for instructions from Ludwig, not daring to utter one more word. They still refused to look at the other, though.
Ludwig asked them some questions about their previous life, how they were brought together and how did they feel when something familiar sparked their curiosity. He also asked about dreams and other things. Then the mind inspection began again.
The process was just the same as before, only new to Hermione this time. She, too, felt a little out of breath and woozy after the intrusion into her mind. Ron was about to bring her a cup of water, but thought it would be a good idea to levitate it. It ended spilt all over Hermione. For Ludwig’s sake, she didn’t say anything just pursed her lips and snatched the glass of water from Ron’s hands viciously when he brought her another one, red in the face a little.
Since Ludwig saw there was no use talking to them anymore, he dismissed them, thinking it would be better to talk first to Harry again.
Ron and Hermione made for the door, meeting before it and reaching for the doorknob at the same time, their hands brushing against each other. Hermione pulled her hand away brusquely as Ron opened the door with a loud clatter. Harry and Ginny were already waiting for them in the hallway, but their words didn’t even part their mouths as Hermione sat down on the bench irritable and Ron exiting the place, murmuring just that he would wait outside.
Ginny shot Hermione a questioning look and immediately went to her while Harry into Ludwig’s office.
“I wonder, Mr. Potter…did they bicker this much before?” was the first thing Ludwig asked when Harry closed the door quietly.
“All the time.”
“Hm, interesting.” Ludwig took his chin in his hands, stroking his little beard and pacing the room. “What I’ve seen today was much clearer than last time. First I didn’t know why, but I have a theory that it’s because your friends were themselves. They weren’t holding themselves back, pretending to be calm and reserved. They were spontaneous and the activity that was so characteristic for them back before the memory loss must’ve aroused something in their minds to fight the mind affliction.”
“You think that having them do the same things and visit same places will bring their memory back?”
“I don’t know. This memory loss is strange to me, because it’s obvious their memories are not entirely wiped away or lost since they still have these sparks of recognition in some situations. I can only guess their memories are somewhere in there, buried under the spell.”
Ludwig tapped the end of his walking stick, deep in thought. Then he spun around and strode over to a cabinet near his desk. He rummaged in it, between flasks of potions and ingredients, until he took out two small flasks, each holding a silvery blue liquid.
“Before sleep, give them this. It stimulates dream activity. Dreams are the messages of our subconscious. Ms. Granger also mentioned she had strange dreams that sometimes agree with the events of her life. I think it’s worth a try.”
“What if they only dream weird, confusing dreams that make no sense and never happened?”
“Make them write the dreams down, but most importantly talk to them. You and Ms. Weasley are the only links they have with their stolen, forgotten past. Listen to them and their dreams, tell them which are true and which are not. For now, that’s all I can do.”
Author's Note: Yay, here's chapter 14! We're going further and further. What do you think? And as you might've noticed, Hermione and Ron weren't exactly friendly with each other in this chapter, but I'm not sure about the bickering as I haven't written them like this before. It'd be great to hear what you think.
Thank you, Megan, as always. xoxo
And thanks to everyone that reviewed the latest chapter. It made me so happy to see some people are still reading and enjoying the story even after such a long absence. It meant the world to me. Thank you.