Chapter 16 : Decanting the Past
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AN Special thanks to all who helped me with trying to figure out a name for the book that Hermione recieves for Christmas - and a very special thank you to ahoythere for coming up with the incredibly rad title for this chapter!
December, Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon. 1997 A.D.
“What d’you mean, ‘we’ve got to leave’?” hissed Ginny over dinner that night, her eyebrows pulled together.
“I mean exactly what I said,” Hermione told her, picking over her potatoes as the end of the table to her right erupted in laughter as Tonks showed off her Metamorphmagus skills. The only person who didn’t seem remotely excited was Mr. Weasley, who stood off a little ways away, talking what could only be business involving You-Know-Who with Kingsley Shacklebolt.
She looked back at Ginny, who looked a bit too cozy with Harry next to her, seeing as they’d only just broken up a few months ago, on account of it being too dangerous for Harry to have any emotional ties that You-Know-Who could exploit. On Harry’s other side was Ron, who’d been uncharacteristically silent since their kiss a few hours ago.
She tried not to think about that.
Or look at him too often.
“But tonight?” Ginny asked, making a face. “We can’t just up and leave without everyone getting a bit suspicious, Hermione. And besides,” she glanced in Harry’s direction as he elbowed Ron and then whispered something to him, “the boys’ve only just returned. I don’t think they’ll be staying for very long, though. Ron doesn’t look as chuffed to be here as I’d expected…” she glanced at her brother, then gave Hermione a long, pointed look, like it was her fault.
And it sort of was.
But Hermione did not openly acknowledge that.
“I’ve got a plan,” Hermione said quickly.
“We can’t just leave him out there to die, Ginny!” she shot back under her breath, her eyes darting round as she set her fork down. “If he’s killed, that blood’s on my hands. I couldn’t live with myself –”
“But it’s Malfoy!” Ginny countered, her eyes wide. “Haven’t you even considered the possibility that maybe he isn’t even in danger? That this has nothing to do with you –?”
“You’re making it out like I’m some self-obsessed loon or something,” Hermione frowned.
Ginny sat back in her seat, pressing her lips together. “Well what am I supposed to think? You have to get over this– this infatuation you have with him, Hermione!” Ginny replied sharply, shaking her head, her teased ponytail swinging to and fro.
Hermione shoved back her chair and stood up, tossing her napkin onto her untouched plate of food before stalking out of the kitchen to the stairs. She heard a few people call out to her, but she kept walking, touching her head and muttering things under her breath. As much as she wanted to believe that she could, Hermione knew that this trip would not be a success without Ginny by her side. She needed someone to have her back when she braved the unknown – a friend she could count on, at the very least. But now she didn’t even have that.
Why was it so difficult for Ginny to just be on her side? To just trust that she was, in fact, doing the right thing here? And she was… wasn’t she? The last time she checked, saving a life was about as well intentioned and selfless as anything but Ginny just refused to see that. She remained firm in her belief that Malfoy was and would always be a bad person – the same Draco Malfoy they had known for most of their lives.
Hermione sank down on the second step of the stairs, putting her head between her knees and taking a deep breath. Why couldn’t she be that way, too? Why couldn’t she squelch these feelings she had for Draco even when she knew that it hadn’t really been Draco at all?
Even when she had Ron back home in one piece, just the way she’d hoped?
She brushed her fringe to the side, exhaling as she closed her eyes and tried to calm down. Then she heard footsteps approaching. Her eyes opened tiredly, not exactly wanting company at the moment, but with one brief glance, she knew instantly who it was. Hermione bit her lip but said nothing.
“Hey,” said Ron, folding his arms across his chest. “Are you okay?”
She sighed. “Honestly…” Hermione replied, “I don’t know.” She rubbed her temples, shutting her eyes.
Ron sat down beside her.
When his leg touched hers briefly, he tensed, but relaxed again when she didn’t move away, probably out of relief.
“Do you want to… I don’t know… talk about it at all?” he asked tentatively, peering at her from the corner of his eye, watching her face. Hermione chewed on the inside of her cheek, looking up at Ron.
What could she possibly say to make him understand what she was feeling right now, to explain to him that she had feelings not only for him, but for their supposed arch nemesis, too? She didn’t think he’d take something like that very well, and even if he did, she would never believe it. Ron Weasley wasn’t that quick to forgive, especially someone that had tormented him for years.
“I’m sorry,” Hermione said finally, standing up and dusting off the back of her jeans. “I just… I just need to be alone for a bit, okay?”
“Hermione, wait–” he tried to tell her, but she was already turning around and heading up the stairs.
Thankfully, he did not try to follow her.
Ron stood at the foot of the stairs, watching her has she walked away again for a long moment and running a hand through his already messy hair. Then he shook his head and went back to the kitchen, deciding not to bother her anymore for the rest of the night.
When she reached the second floor, Hermione glanced back over her shoulder, catching one last glimpse of him as he turned and left, feeling a slight twinge of guilt. She should have been happy that he and Harry were back – ecstatic, even. They were her best friends after all, and they’d been through just about everything together. And yet… she still couldn’t help but think of Draco.
Those feelings you felt? They weren’t for Draco – why can’t you accept that? Chione chided sharply in the back of her mind. You were never falling for him; you were falling for Mark Antony, a man who had been trying to kill you – us – and probably hasn’t given up yet! That Ron? You should give him a chance, because chances are, you’ll find that Draco hasn’t changed as much as you want to believe…
Hermione clenched her hands into fists at her sides, turning and heading up to Ginny’s room. Sure, she may have hoped, if only for a moment, that things would be different between her and Draco once she saved him, but maybe Chione had a point. Maybe she was just wasting all of her energy on him because of the idea that she’d been falling for him that had been planted into her mind by Chione’s ex-lover. Maybe it was all just in her head.
But even if it was, she still needed to find a way to get rid of Mark Antony once and for all, because she had a very strong feeling in the pit of her stomach that told her he wouldn’t stop until Chione was dead. And, seeing as Chione was now occupying her body, that meant he wanted Hermione dead, too.
She gulped, sinking down onto Ginny’s bed as she rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and yawned widely. Her sleep patterns had not improved much over the past few days, her mind plagued with thoughts and nightmares sprung from the various fears that gnawed at the back of her mind constantly. She just couldn’t wait until all of this – including the ongoing war with You-Know-Who and his minions – was over, and things were back to normal again.
Hermione flopped onto her back, the mattress groaning under her weight as she exhaled and stared up at the dark ceiling. Pale moonlight filtered in through the frosted window pane, throwing patterns across her face as she closed her eyes, and tried to let sleep take over her mind.
But then she heard a loud thud, and her eyes instantly snapped open once again.
She sat up, her eyes scanning the room before falling to the floor. She saw that her bag had fallen off the bed and now the loose items that had been inside of her bag had spilled across the polished wood.
Hermione sighed, kneeling down to right her bag and put her things away again, when she noticed one of the larger things that must have fallen out, making the thud – the present that Ron and Harry had sent her earlier. She swallowed hard, her eyes flickering up towards the door, though no one was there, as she slowly lifted the parcel from the floor and sat down, leaning back against the side of the bed. She noticed that there was a tear in the paper it was wrapped in, and from that tear, with shaky hands, she tore the rest of it off. Inside was a thick book, bound in dark gray leather and new-looking, with brilliant gold lettering embossed in the cover that shimmered even in the poor lighting.
Important Modern Magical Discoveries
She felt a slight twinge of recognition as she gazed at the book on her lap, but then that recognition was confirmed when she retrieved the note that had come along with the gift, scrawled in Ron’s barely legible handwriting. Hope this brings back memories, it read, plain and simple. Her eyes shifted back to the book and she felt a small smile creep up on her lips. Of course. It was one of the books that they had consulted in their first year, when they had been looking up information on Nicholas Flamel.
How could she ever forget?
Of course, the one in the Hogwarts Library had seen much wear and tear over the years, but this book looked new, updated, even, and that made her a little sad. They hadn’t had to buy her a brand new book, especially one that she would have gone through in a day or two – a simple letter would have sufficed. But it made her heart swell in flattery that they’d even thought of her at all, so she remained content as she carefully opened the front cover.
Hermione reached into her bag and retrieved her wand. “Lumos,” she whispered as she began to flip through the pages, relishing the crisp feel of them against her fingertips.
She did not read anything in particular for a while, just skimming the pages silently. She felt a slight chill creep across her skin, like someone had opened a window or a door momentarily, letting in a gust of frigid December night air. Then, about a hundred pages into the book, she stopped. In slanted black calligraphy across the top of the page was one word – Pensieves.
Just beneath the title of the chapter was a picture of some sort of basin, with carvings in the side that she recognized as runes from the course she’d taken a few years ago. It looked ornate and intricately designed, like it had once been used by kings, and very, very old. She couldn’t quite make out the runes or other strange symbols on the side of the basin, and inwardly wished she’d brought her Runes textbook.
Her eyes drifted down the page slowly, a few words like 15th century, Thomas Mardling, and siphoned recollections jumping out at her but not holding her attention for more than a few seconds. She turned the page, and the very moment that her eyes found the picture adorning the page, all breath escaped her. Hermione touched the picture tentatively, then reached into her bag, searching for a moment before pulling out the vial that Colin had given her in the hospital wing.
Holding it up next to the photo in the book, she realized that they were exactly the same.
“‘The silvery, hair-like substance pictured above,” Hermione read to herself in a murmur the caption beneath the picture, “a memory, can be reviewed in a Pensieve by drawing it from the temple with one’s wand and depositing it into the basin…’” She frowned slightly, her brows furrowing as she read the sentence twice more, but she had not read it wrong the first time. “It’s a… memory?”
She raised the vial in her hand slowly, her eyes widening slightly.
And suddenly, she understood.
“Honestly, Hermione?” said someone suddenly, giving her such a start that she nearly dropped the vial completely. She exhaled slowly, looking up. It was Ginny, standing on the threshold with her arms folded across her chest. “You abandon us at dinner to come ogle a – a piece of hair in a vial? What could possibly be so interesting about that?”
Hermione shut her book and set it aside, standing up and shaking her head. “It’s not a piece of hair, Ginny,” she told her. “It’s… I think it’s a memory.”
“A… memory?” Ginny sounded skeptical. Very skeptical.
“It’s not as crazy as it sounds, I swear. There was a whole chapter about it in that book” – she pointed to Important Modern Magical Discoveries – “a whole chapter that made me understand why Colin gave me this. He thought that I’d know what to do with it, and now I do. What if it has clues about where to find –”
“Don’t,” Ginny protested firmly, her eyes narrowing, “say his name. Not right now.”
“Look, I just don’t understand it,” she admitted. “You hate Malfoy, then your suddenly all over him for a few weeks, but you’ve obviously wanted to be with my brother since the day you met him –”
“He left me –”
“He came back for you!” Ginny hissed, advancing on her friend. “Merlin, Hermione, for the brightest witch of your age you sure can be thick.” She shook her head, shutting her eyes for a moment as she took a deep breath. “My brother is in love with you,”
Hermione sighed, “Ginny, you don’t –”
“Just – hold on, okay? Just let me finish,” she said. “My brother is in love with you – ask anyone and they would agree. I’ve known him my entire life, and not once have I ever seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you,” Hermione opened her mouth to interject, but Ginny cut across her as she shook her head. “Not even that foul Lavender Brown,” she assured her. Hermione smiled a bit. “All I’m asking you to do is just give him a chance, for me. For the sake of his sanity, really.”
“Are you sure?” Hermione inquired, swallowing hard.
Ginny just smiled, taking the vial from Hermione and steering her toward the door. “He’s sulking up in his room,” she explained simply with a wink.
“Ginny –!” The door promptly shut in her face with a small slam that made her jump. Hermione’s face fell as she slowly turned to face the stairs leading to the upper floors of the house, exhaling deeply as she toyed nervously with the chain of her time turner for a minute, before tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. Well, said Chione, voicing Hermione’s thoughts, might as well get this over with, then.
Hermione made her way up the stairs, cringing slightly at the sound of her voice in her head. When she said it like that, it sounded… dreadful. Talking to Ron couldn’t possibly be that horrible, could it? It would be a bit awkward, given the fact that Ginny’s words still plagued her, closing in around her like walls with each step she took.
“My brother is in love with you,” she’d told her, “ask anyone and they would agree.”
Would they really?
Was it really that obvious?
Had she really been so absorbed in worrying about stupid Draco Malfoy that she hadn’t even noticed what was staring her right in the face this whole time? She swallowed hard, her palms going clammy as she stepped onto the final landing before the attic, coming to a stop just outside a door that was cracked open slightly. She wiped her shaking hands on the sides of her jeans before slowly pushing the door open and peering inside.
Ron’s bedroom looked just the same as it always had.
It was a cramped space, with a low, slanted ceiling, two beds squashed in – most likely by magic – as Harry was probably staying in there with him as usual, and every surface was covered in some form of Chudley Cannons paraphernalia. Hermione smiled to herself despite how nervous she felt.
It all seemed so normal, so familiar, like nothing had changed.
But so much had changed.
Ron lay on his bed by the window with his arm across his eyes, blocking out the light pouring in from the moon. He wore his jeans from earlier, a flimsy white t-shirt, and his hair was a mess – even more so than before – as though he had run his hands through it again and again since she’d seen him last.
She couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt and suspicion that it had been her who had caused him such stress. But the feeling did not last long. A second later, the door bumped into the desk behind it and Ron shot up in surprise, drawing his wand and pointing it at her. Hermione offered him a look of utmost apology. “Sorry,” she admonished, holding up her hands in front of her in defense. “Ginny said you might be up here so I thought I’d come… by, but if you’re busy, or sleeping–”
“No!” Ron practically shouted, setting his wand back down on the nightstand and standing. “I mean, I’m not doing anything. You just scared me is all.” Hermione stopped with her back to him and her fingers lingering on the doorjamb as she hovered on the threshold. Ron took a furtive step towards her. “Did… uh…” he cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck, “did you need… something?”
“An answer,” she told him slowly, turning around.
He studied her face for a long moment, before running his hand through his hair and turning away, shaking his head. “Look, I’m not sorry for kissing you –”
“Your sister,” Hermione interrupted, clearing her throat and blinking a few times, “she, uh, she told me that you were… that you were in… love,” she said, struggling to get the words out, “with me.”
“Hermione, I –”
“You don’t have to explain,” she replied, shaking her head. She slowly took a few steps into the room, tucking her hands into the back pockets of her jeans as Ron turned round to face her once more. They stood a few feet apart now, just looking at each other.
He lessened the gap to make those few feet only a few inches, brushing her hair behind her ear very gently. She didn’t protest. “I missed you,” Ron admitted. “More than I’ve ever been brave enough to admit, and I do love you, I think,” he shook his head, “But not like I love Ginny, and I understand that you may have… met someone else while I was gone, but I just wanted you to know–” Hermione cut him off with a kiss, stretching up on her toes and taking his face in her hands.
Ron’s mind slowly caught up and his hands found her waist, her lower back, her hips as they backed up to his bed. He laid back against the pillows as she climbed on top of him, straddling him as he unbuttoned her sweater, pushing it off her shoulders as she tugged his t-shirt off over his head. In doing so she revealed a great assortment of cuts, bruises, and even a few burns across his chest and arms. But instead of being disgusted or overwhelmed by the battle scars, she kissed them each with affection and care.
She kissed him on the lips once more, passionately, and as she began to unbutton his jeans he put a hand on top of hers to stop her. Their eyes met and she pushed her hair behind her ears, confused.
“Are you sure you want to do… this?” Ron asked her. “Harry and I are leaving in two days and if you and I go through with this…” he sighed, shaking his head, “it might be that much harder for you to let me go this time. I don’t want to cause you any more pain,”
Hermione cupped his face in her hand, tilting her head to the side a bit and smiling with flattery. “I’ll be fine,” she promised, before leaning in slowly and kissing him again. Ron clasped her hand in his tightly, running his thumb across the back of her hand, and as they got out of the rest of their clothes, he started to believe her.
But even hours later, when he was fast asleep thinking that they were on the same page and very much in love, she lay awake next to him, staring out the window at the moon above and thinking not of the boy in bed with her, but of the one she had yet to find.
January, Hogwarts, Scotland. 1998 A.D.
A far off clock tolled eleven o’clock as they quickly raced down the corridors of the castle, dazzling sunlight gleaming as it filtered through the frosted window panes and illuminated their path. Neville clutched the strap of his bag across his chest, wriggling his other hand in her death grip in discomfort.
“Er… Hermione,” he tried to say, “d’you really think –?”
She gave him an exasperated sigh as she glanced back over her shoulder and shook her head. “Of course it’s necessary that we do this now, Neville,” Hermione replied. “I just told you this ten minutes ago.”
He had been skeptical about this since the moment he’d found out that they were skipping lunch to break into the Headmistress’ office and use her Pensieve – whatever that was. Hermione had avoided explaining why she needed to do this, and why she’d needed to bring him along, but Neville never got the chance to ask. In fact, he wasn’t so sure if he should ask at all, since she seemed a bit… off today.
Neville shook his head. “No, I know,” he assured her as they turned another corner and Hermione finally stopped rushing along. “It’s just…” Neville chewed on his bottom lip, “are you sure we should be doing this without Ginny? It feels like you’re about to discover something huge and I thought you’d at least want her to know –”
“Look,” she snapped, spinning on her heel, her brows pulled together. “Can we… can we just focus?”
He studied her face as her annoyed demeanor turned to one of slight desperation, and after a few seconds he decided that it wasn’t worth fighting with her about any longer. She was right. They did need to focus – they were losing precious minutes in there with each second they stopped to argue.
“Okay, you’re right,” admitted Neville, turning to face the gargoyle that stood between them and the hidden entrance to the Headmistress’ office. His eyes found the floor as he wrung the strap of his bag absently. “Let’s just get this over with,” he muttered.
“Okay,” Hermione smiled, completely oblivious to his emotions as she stepped forward and issued the password. “Holyhead Harpies.”
In an instant, the gargoyle sprang to life, rotating until it revealed to them a grand staircase spiraling up and out of sight. Hermione quickly ascended them with Neville on her heels, reaching the door to the Headmistress’ office in seconds. Pressing her hand flat against the door, she shut her eyes and took a deep breath.
You can do this, she told herself. You’ve come this far.
Although that was true, she still knew that the moment she stepped into that office, she would be breaking all kinds of rules and be subject to serious punishment if she was caught. She still had a chance to turn around and head back to the Great Hall, pretending she’d never even thought of this little plan.
Hermione looked back over her shoulder, meeting Neville’s gaze for a moment. He raised an eyebrow at her questioningly, wondering what she was waiting for. And suddenly, she was convinced.
She pushed the door open slowly, tip-toeing into the vast room and looking around cautiously, but no one was there as she had expected. As she continued to move across to the middle of the room, Neville shut the door behind them.
“So… if you were a shallow basin used to store memories,” said Hermione, “where would you be?”
When she made a full one-eighty, she noticed that Neville was looking toward something to the left of the Headmistress’ desk – a cupboard in the corner with shelves on either side, laden with books, glass vials, and rolled up sheets of parchment. The door was cracked open slightly, emitting a very faint glow.
As if on cue, Neville looked back at Hermione, gesturing to the cupboard with his thumb. “How about over there?”
Hermione swallowed, the corners of her lips turning up in a feeble smile as she returned her gaze to the glowing cupboard and made her way to it. He hesitantly followed a few feet behind. As she grew nearer, she lifted the top of her bag and reached inside, fishing round inside it for a bit without taking her eyes off the cupboard. Neville watched her curiously, his brows furrowed deeply.
“What are you looking for?” he asked her, but she barely heard him. His voice sounded detatched, far away. A moment later, she stopped in front of the cupboard and pulled out the vial that Colin had given her. The shape and feel of it was familiar in her grasp, but her hands were shaking slightly as she pushed the doors to the cupboard open further. The glow of the basin bathed her pale skin in a bluish light, the hair-like strands swirling round near the bottom of it reflecting in her eyes.
This was it.
This was the moment she had been anxiously awaiting for the past two days. She was still a bit upset that she had not been able to set off on her search for Draco yet, but figured it was better to find out more about the memory Colin had so desperately wanted her to see while she still had a chance. She hoped it would help her understand what happened – what was happening.
But whatever the case, she had made her choice.
She was here now, and time was running out.
She had to know – “Hermione?” A hand clasped her shoulder suddenly and Hermione gave a start, looking up to find a very concerned Neville looking down at her. The pale glow of the Pensieve danced across his face as well. His brown eyes flickered down to the vial in her hand. “What’s going on?”
Hermione’s fingers curled tightly round the vial in her palm as she looked back at the Pensieve and yanked the cork out of the top of the vial. “I don’t have time to explain,” she replied.
“But I don’t –”
“Just – stay here, Neville, okay?” Hermione told him, pouring the hair-like strand into the basin and pulling out her wand. “Make sure no one comes in.”
By this point, Neville’s eyes were flickering between Hermione’s face and the basin in front of her as she touched the tip of her wand to the strand she had just poured in, swirling it round until the liquid grew darker and darker. “Stay here? What do you mean, ‘stay here’? Where are you going?” Neville demanded, but she was already leaning forward, forward, forward, until her nose was touching the liquid. “Hermione, wait–!” he tried to protest, his eyes wide with terror.
But it was already too late.
Her entire face submerged, and then she was quickly yanked into the basin as if by invisible arms, spiraling down through darkness once more.
AN 2 Sorry, again, for the long wait! I do still care about this story, I do! For all of you who have kept up with the story from the beginning, thank you! I really appreciate that you're taking an interest in it :) I already have an idea for a sequel, but first I have to get through this story! Ah! Well, I don't think there are very many chapters left, so.. yep. That's all. I just wanted to update so that you guys wouldn't hate me...
Reviews are always welcome and appreciated! Thank you! :)
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