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Chapter 4 : Hermione: Unclaimed
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I spotted Draco Malfoy an hour later, quietly observing families coming to collect the dead bodies from the half-shattered Slytherin table. It was funny how he still kept to his own, even after all of this carnage.
Harry had left with Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had decided to personally get Lupin and Tonks home safely; Harry, being little Teddy’s godfather, had wanted to be there when he broke the news to the Tonks’s and to offer any help that he could. He was amazing. He was so tired and worn out, broken at the sacrifices people had made, but he still pushed through it all for everyone else but himself. He was selfless, an altruist. He forgot about all of the personal reasons for wanting Voldemort dead. Yes, he killed Harry’s parents and was the cause of Sirius’s and Dumbledore’s deaths, but Harry had done this for everybody else. Harry finally did it to make sure that what happened to him did not happen to anybody else, so nobody else’s parents were killed. It was a shame that mine could not remember me…
Ron, along with Ginny, Mrs Weasley and Percy (George had left much earlier with Mr Weasley as he could barely stand nor speak) took Fred’s body back to the Burrow. I had wanted to go with them, Ron insisted that I came, but I could not bare to intrude. I could not imagine how George would react when they arrived, so I made up some excuse about helping Luna Lovegood find her wand. I would return to the Burrow, right after everybody else at Hogwarts had gone. It would give me some piece of mind to know that everyone got off safely.
Anyway, as I had already mentioned, I was dithering about the hall, about twenty or so had passed since people began to leave, some children waiting for parents to apparate in, when I saw him. Luna was long gone, as was most of the DA members. It was a sad thing that so many people were dead, but what was worse was that so many bodies had been left unclaimed. I passed Cho Chang and her mother - who was so very pretty - as they disapparated out of the hall, giving them both a parting smile, and then stood at the back of the hall, watching him. He looked completely unaware of the people around him, of me. His hands were over his mouth, almost holding his breath inside of him, as his watery eyes looked on the dozen or so lifeless bodies thrown unceremoniously in the corner of the room.
“Would you like a tissue?” My comment seemed to have caused a tear to finally fall from his eye, and at the sight of this, he turned his entire face away from me so that I could only see his white blonde hair. I assumed he wiped the tiny wet speck of emotion from his cheek.
“Do you think that’s funny?” he spat at me.
“No, I was just trying to…well…nothing I can say will reverse all of this.” The unseeing eyes of the dead gave me a chill and I looked away and sat at the Hufflepuff table silently. He ignored me for a while, then continued to throw confused glances at me.
“What?” I whispered a little rudely.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I noticed,” I said quietly. “But you keep staring. Now, either you like the way my face looks today or you’re just about as confused as me as to why these bodies haven’t been picked up.”
He sniggered, but I’d much rather like to think he laughed. “I’d much rather prefer the latter, seeing as you look terrible. It isn’t one of your better days seeing as you’ve just been in battle and all.” He paused, still looking over at the corpses. “I was just curious as to why you’re still here. I would have thought that you would be with Weasley or Potter.”
“We’re not joined at the hip. Besides…” I sniffed. “I thought I’d leave them all alone. I feel so out of place…and there’s nothing that I can do. Fred…” My heart stilled for a moment, my soul steadying. Draco said nothing and waited for me to continue. “Fred’s gone and I thought I should give them some space…”
“Kind of you.” I dismissed his sly comment and stared as the last person disapparated. It was nearing midnight; dusk was long gone and the stars finally showed themselves under the enchanted sky.
“Where’s your mother?” I queried absently.
It took a while for him to he realise I was speaking to him, but he answered. I was still surprised that our conversation had lasted this long considering our history. “She went back to the Manor to make sure that everything is gone. Making sure no death eaters are there any more.”
“I offered. She told me to stay until she came for me. And as you know, your mother’s word is law.”
“My mother…” I could almost smell her auburn hair, feel her soft skin touch my own when she used to shake me awake in the mornings. She was an excellent timekeeper. All of the times that I had nearly been late for the Hogwarts Express, she would make sure that I would be on time, turning the shower on for me, preparing breakfast and starting the car, so that my morning could run smoothly. And my dad…he was just as perfect. Always there where when I needed him. I even talked with him about Ronald after my fourth year and he said that I should be patient and then things will all work out. And they did for a while. But Wendell and Monica Wilkins would not remember all of this, would they? Eighteen years worth of memories…
“What about her?”
Draco snapped me out of my distant thoughts.
“She…she doesn’t know who I am.” I fell into a tumult of fresh and salty tears. I tried so terribly hard to wipe my eyes with my sleeve, but my jacket was so filthy that I just couldn’t see a thing. I dragged it off viciously and threw it to the ground. He was watching me, I could tell. I could feel it. “I had to…I had to erase…
“You erased your parents’ memories? That’s harsh, Granger.”
“I…what else could I…?”
“You could find them again though, couldn’t you?” I said nothing, just cried some more. “You could.”
“Do you think so?” I could barely see him, my eyes were so wet.
He shrugged, but it was comforting nonetheless.
We sat in silence for a while, the still air penetrating the space between us.
Then he stood up. “Are you going to help me or not?”
“What?” The tears were dried around my eyes and I had wiped my nose with a small square of tissue I had found in my jeans pocket.
“What are you doing with them?” I panicked for a moment.
“I dunno…I just thought…” He shrugged and scratched his head, still not looking at me.
“Right.” Although we didn’t say it, we knew what we had to do. We sorted through the fourteen bodies (although Draco had to take over when I nearly collapsed at the sight of a first year student) trying to identify them with record books I had went off to find in the trophy room. Of the seven people we identified, we closed their eyes, covered them up, and wrote their names down on pieces of parchment to take to Kingsley to put in the Prophet. Thinking quickly, we extinguished the fires people had lit and cast a freezing charm over the area.
I sat down, hands still shaking, and with a clatter, my wand fell to the ground.
Draco turned. “You should go now.”
I shook my head and ignored a throbbing pain in my chest. “You’ll be alone…your mother…isn’t back…”
“I’ll just apparate there now. I’ll blah blah blah…”
And then nothing. I couldn’t hear him, see him…nothing.
Unconsciousness never felt so welcoming.
* November 2002
I couldn’t stay at the Burrow that night no matter how many times Mrs Weasley insisted that I stayed. Baring her concerned questions about my time in Italy would surely drive me mad, what with most of the Weasley’s back home during this sad time in their lives. Loosing Fred was so much and now Ron too…
But I suppose being mother to Ronald’s baby had its downsides too. Nobody in the ministry knew of his existence and it would stay that way as far as I was concerned, Some would be elated, glad that there was a part of their dead fiancé left to love. But not me… Ron did not even know he existed as he died before I could tell him I was pregnant…before I even knew…
Hugo stayed at the Burrow mostly, Mrs Weasley or Ginny caring for him while I was working, and on most weekends…I probably only saw him once a fortnight and even then, I can’t bare to look at him for too long. He was about a year old as just as gorgeous as his father, but with hazel eyes and a little dashing of freckles across his cheeks. Hugo had only ever called me his mother twice, and hearing him call Mrs Weasley ‘mommy’ nearly tore me in two.
In March 2000, just before Ron was…before Ron had left me…we had a moment. A small moment. And within this moment nobody existed besides the two of us…Draco didn’t exist…and there came the conception of our little boy…
A few nights before he went, Ron had done something which touched my heart, which made me warm inside, filled my soul with ecstasy; he told me that he loved me.
Of course, Ronald had said the three words before, but this time it was different. He was very nervous, twitchy almost, his voice stammered and his palms were considerably sweaty.
He had invited me to the Burrow to celebrate his twentieth birthday, so I had parted from my distant cousins in France, and used the floo network to get to my second home. Saddled with a few bags - I was staying for two weeks after all - I emerged from the Weasley fireplace with Harry and Ron to meet me and get me settled in. I received a hug from the both of them and the first thing I asked was, “Where’s Ginny?”
“Out buying party stuff,” Harry said.
“Party?” I asked.
“You do know it’s my birthday tomorrow, don’t you?” Ron chuckled.
“Of course,” I muttered. “but I didn’t realise we were having a party.”
“Yeah, well, we’re having the party on the sixth but the family are coming around tomorrow,” Harry informed me as he hauled my bags up the stairs. We entered Ron’s attic room and Harry set my things down. He looked at me. “Um…well, I’ll be sleeping in Ginny’s room…so…hope you don’t mind, Hermione.”
I shook my head. “No, not at all. But does Mrs Weasley?”
“Of course she does,” Ron muttered. “But we’re adults now, have been for a few years. She doesn’t have a say.”
I smiled at him appreciatively and began unpacking, placing a few of my belongings around the room so that I could feel more at home. Harry shuffled out and Ron just stood watching me fluffing pillows, stowing my shoes beneath the second bed and adding my cosmetics to his messy desk in an immaculate order.
Cheeks reddening, I turned to him. “What?”
“Nothing.” He slid from the room and I heard his heavy steps traipse away from me.
The birthday celebrations were mild, but were something to remember. For me particularly. All of the Weasleys came together to celebrate. They did this often ever since Fred died. Any excuse they would use to come together, they would take. They grasped every opportunity; birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Easter, Halloween, St George’s Day and even days created by the wizarding community to commemorate public figures such as Merlin, the Hogwarts Founders and The Weird Sisters. Ron greatly adored his family for going out of their way to see him on his birthday - I could have sworn that he was about to well up in tears when they all apparated in, extended family included; George, Angelina, Percy, Bill, Fleur, Charlie and the Tonks’s - including little Teddy - arrived at four sharp to begin the festivities.
The previous evening, Ginny and I had been putting up banners and balloons, trying to stop Ron from pulling them down in embarrassment, eventually having to fuse them down with a sticking charm. The next morning, I volunteered (I was in a good mood) to help Mrs Weasley prepare the delicious feast that would be on the table that afternoon while Harry had to persuade Ron to comb his hair and put on some decent clothes. He pretended to act surprised when they arrived, although quickly getting distracted by the food on the table including the chocolate cake.
When either elder members of the family had passed out or disapparated home from tired drunkenness or everybody was in bed, Ronald and I slowly made our way up to the attic, chuckling and talking of how enjoyable and successful the night had been. After a quick trip to the bathroom I laid down on the additional bed, sighing in the darkness, waiting for the hallway light to go out and Ronald to return so that I could bid him goodnight. The creaky floorboards signified his entrance, so I rolled over and called out, “Goodnight Ron.”
He didn’t reply at first, so I sat up, eyes adjusting to the darkness. Only then did I realise that the sun was due to return and that it would be morning soon as the light sky peered though the curtains impatiently.
“I’m here,” he had muttered softly.
I chuckled. “Goodnight.”
“Yes?” I replied.
“I know I haven’t always shown it, but I really appreciate you.”
“Ron, I know. There’s no need to -”
“No, wait. I need to say this.” He sat on the edge of his bed, his eyes closed tight. “Sometimes I don’t think about what I say or even how other people will feel after I’ve said them. With you, I’ve learnt the hard way…I never wanted make you feel bad, but I only mess up when I feel something so deep inside myself that nothing makes sense. And nothing does when I’m with you. Hermione…I think I love you. No…I know I do. I love you.”
“Are you ready now Hermione?”
Harry interrupted my silent deliberations in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place. He had been gone for the whole evening, leaving me to think and I had been sat on the same uncomfortable wooden chair for over twelve hours. I guessed he had rejoined Ginny and Hugo and the other Weasleys at the Burrow, most likely filling them in on the meeting. No one could understand my position, not even Harry. How would he feel if the life, the memory of another person was in his hands, that the certainty of the future depended on him…? But I was forgetting that Harry had already been through this tenfold; if anyone could understand it would be him…so why wasn’t he helping me? Why didn’t he comfort me and tell me things would get better?
I turned my tear-filled eyes towards him. “I don’t think I can do it, Harry. Please don’t make me go.”
He sighed and filled the chair beside me. Reaching out, he held my hand in his. “No one’s forcing you to do this. This is entirely up to you, so do whatever your mind tells you. Think of the benefits…”
“I don’t think I can see him again…alive…”
“Malfoy?” I nodded. “Don’t worry, Hermione. He can’t hurt you any more than he already has.”
My inner voice failed to shout and scream that my love for him was the cause of my despair. To see him again would surely break my heart in two, would surely send me into a sustained depression, would surely drive me crazy with the idea that I know our separation was imminent. I had not healed much after his death; I cried that night in Italy when nobody could hear me, pain rippling through my chest as I pounded at my pillow, angry at him for doing this. Why would he leave me? Why would he give up?
All I could utter was, “He might be innocent.”
Harry gave me a quick grin and said, “We’ll see.”
I know he didn’t believe me. I could see the doubt swimming in his emerald eyes. But this was nothing compared to the guilt I had stored in my heart. What would Ron think if he knew I had fallen in love with Draco Malfoy and that he loved me too? Well...Draco had not actually said it, but I knew he did...he must have... What would Ron think if he knew that I had neglected our son because I felt so guilty? He would surely think I have gone either mad, bonkers or barmy - they meant the same thing, but he’d say one of them. My Ron always had his cute little expressions….
Is it ever possible to love two people equally, but in different ways? On one hand there was Ron, my best friend since forever and romance between us was always expected. We had it alright…moments before we thought we’d lose each other, lose everything…that kiss sealed our relationship. Although our romance had quietened down after that, there was always that spark. All we needed was time, but there was never enough. Draco, however, I hated more than anything in the world, especially seeing as I thought he’d taken Ron away from me. We had been getting along previously to Ron’s death - not necessarily friends - and Ron's warnings against Draco made me want to talk to him more. Curiosity drove me into getting to know him for I had wondered for years what went on in his mind. I had made things worse by highlighting him as a suspect and when he softly declined responsibility for the event, I came around. Then the chase became personal, I had wanted him to tell me the truth, what he knew and I also just wanted to see his face, to kiss him…
“Hermione?” Harry held out my coat.
I held my breath for a minute and then exhaled slowly. I shook my head, “I won’t be needing that remember?” I would assume my old self, including my outfit.
I shuffled aside as Harry lit the fireplace, green flames shooting up in the hearth.
“Ladies first.” He handed me the pot of floo powder. I took a grateful scoop and was soon face to face with the Minister, Robards, Gumboil and Evie, Harry soon falling out of the fireplace behind me. Along the table was a time turner, although it was not palm-sized, it was decidedly smaller and a shining silver or platinum and diamond encrusted with a Latin enscription. There was a piece of parchment next to this and a quill.
“Sign here, Miss Granger,” Kingsley asked me, pointing to the dotted line. “We need to document your trip.”
I quickly scanned the small print, the terms and conditions, and signed my name with the quill.
“How does this work?” I asked with the advanced time turner between my fingers.
Evie answered me. “As soon as you put it on, think of where you want to go and it’ll take you there, but it can only go back a year or so. We’re working on advancements. And I’m sorry to say this was only in the pre-production stages around Ron’s death and we couldn’t tamper with fate even if we wanted to because it always has consequences.” I nodded ashamed that she had almost read my mind. I would have loved to see Ron again. “Only, when you get there, you can’t take it off because as soon as you do, you’ll be back here. Do you understand, Hermione?”
“Yes,” I muttered.
“Are you ready?” Harry asked.
“As I’ll ever be…Tell Hugo his mummy loves him.” Harry nodded.
I was ready to see him, to see my lost love, back in a time when we were strongest. My heart skipped just at the thought of him.
I smiled and slipped the time turner around my neck. “January 1st 2001,” I whispered.
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