Chapter 1 : Prologue
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“Hello, Ms. Granger!” the nurse chirped brightly, her baby blue eyes darting back and forth like she did not want to look me in the eye (or one of her patients’ maladies was contagious and she had been infected). “Mr. Weasley is doing great, just great today! He added a Vomit-flavoured bean to his collection, isn’t that wonderful? Well go on dear; he’s been waiting anxiously for your daily visit!” She then proceeded to dash off, probably attacking some other poor visitor with her overly enthused personality and chalky made-up face.
No, I was not feeling generous today.
“As if I’d be excited that Ron added a Vomit-flavoured bean to his Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Bean collection,” I muttered angrily under my breath, gingerly turning the handle to Room 215 so I would not disturb him. I need not have bothered, though, Ron perched in a hideous brown armchair (when would St. Mungo’s refurbish?), staring blankly out his window, in the exact same position he had been in when I left him last.
“Hello, Ron!” My voice cracked when it attempted to execute an exclamation point. I waited patiently for a response, something, anything.
“Who are you?” He glared balefully up at me for daring to disturb his reverie, and I felt the inevitable knot form in my stomach. Even after all the prayers in the world, he still did not remember me. Some days he seemed to vaguely recollect that I had visited sometime in the past, and though he did not exactly welcome me, he at least tolerated my presence. Other days, like today, he attacked me, believing I was an untrustworthy stranger who would wrest him away from his comfortable existence.
I simply could not take it anymore. Unrequested and unwanted, soft wet tears trickled down my cheeks, landing uncomfortably in the collar of my shirt. Pathetic. My name was Hermione Jean Granger, in Hogwarts I had been sorted into the Gryffindor House, yet here I was, bereft of courage and strength. Merlin, I hated crying in public. Crying in public made me feel weak, as if others were constantly judging me and whispering, “What’s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she just give up on him?”
I was not going to give up on Ronald Bilius Weasley. Ever.
Ron’s cerulean eyes filled with concern when he saw that I was upset. Biting the inside of his cheek, he stood up and lumbered towards me, his arms open to enfold me in an awkward embrace. If anything, his hug made me feel even worse. Now all I could think about was the hugs he used to give me—great big bear hugs that would sweep me off my feet as he rubbed his nose against mine and tenderly brushed his lips to meet mine. This embrace was a ghost, the sort of squeeze you would give your Great-Aunt Margaret who looked old and wrinkly (and who you really did not want to touch). He was hugging me out of a sense of obligation, not out of a sense of affection.
“You’re breaking my heart,” I wanted to tell him. Instead, I murmured a muffled “Come back to me, please” into one of Mrs. Weasley’s hand-knit sweaters (someone must have had to wrestle with him to force him to put it on) where his robust heart thumped steadily beneath my cheek.
Patting me gently on the back, he deliberately relaxed his voice and repeated, “Who are you?” This time, he peered at me curiously, wondering who this eighteen-year-old girl was that had wandered into his hospital room and promptly began sobbing into his sweater (and slobbering all over his clothes. Mrs. Weasley must be so proud of him; she raised him to be such a proper gentleman. He did not even flinch when snot began running out of my nose).
What to say? How could I reply, “Hello, Ron, I am your girlfriend, except you obviously don’t remember me”?
“I am a…friend.”
Ron frowned at me, not a hostile frown, but a something-here-does-not-add-up frown. Most likely, my voice had betrayed me once more. “Well…friend, my doctor has repeatedly informed me that I was cursed with a particularly powerful Memory Charm. Sometimes I cannot even remember what happened the day before, so the spell must be exceptionally destructive,” he trailed off self-consciously, staring fixedly at worn linoleum. “Maybe you could recount some stories from our shared past?” Smiling shyly, he looked back up at me hopefully, appearing for all the world like the little boy I had fallen in love with all those years ago.
“I can do that.”