Chapter 5 : Chapter 5
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Ron’s mood had not improved overnight and he sat glumly toying with his breakfast. The fact that Pigwidgeon had not yet returned did not help. Arthur had gone to work at the Ministry and would not be back until early evening. Harry and Ginny had all but stopped trying to cheer him up, and they sat together idly flipping through that day’s Daily Prophet. On an inside page they saw an article that made them pause.
“Listen to this,” Harry got their attention, “Former Under-Secretary to the Minister of Magic, Dolores Jane Umbridge will not face charges of Death Eater activities. She will however be charged with exceeding her authority in punishing students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A Ministry spokesman said ‘Some of the methods used were nothing short of torture. We are confident that we have a strong case.” Harry flexed his left hand where the phrase ‘I must not tell lies’ was still just about visible. He knew of several others who bore similar scars, thanks to Umbridge. “Finally,” he said “she’s going to get what she deserves.”
“As long as they don’t punish her with just a slap on the wrist,” Ginny responded, “what do you think Ron?”
“As far as I’m concerned they can… oh hell, I really don’t give a toss at this moment in time.” He stood abruptly and went to his room. It was only a few minutes later when Harry, looking out of the window said,
“Ginny go and give Ron a shout, Pigwidgeon is back.” He opened the back door and the little owl flew in, landing on the table. Ron came pounding down the stairs and made a wild grab at the bird that leapt nimbly to one side and gave a couple of bad tempered pecks at his fingers. “Ouch. You little… come here and let me get that note.” Pig obliged and as Ron released the parchment, gave his finger another good nip before flying off to the top of a kitchen unit. Ron looked in horror at the parchment and the words ‘Return to sender’ in a hand that he knew as Hermione’s. “Harry, she didn’t even read it.” He exclaimed.
“Really!?” Harry couldn’t believe it, “What is she playing at? Ginny have you told us everything that happened yesterday.”
“Absolutely Harry, I give you my word.” Ginny replied. Ron interjected,
“It doesn’t matter Ginny, this part isn’t your fault and I don’t particularly care anymore. As far as I’m concerned the search is off. She can go to hell.”
“Ron stop it! You don’t really mean that.” Ginny pleaded.
“Oh don’t I! I’ll see you later.” He went back to his room and ten minutes later was back with a small bag he had packed. “I’m going to stay at George’s place in Diagon Alley.” Harry stood in front of him,
“Ron, calm down. You can’t go.” He put his hands on Ron’s shoulders. Ron just shrugged them off,
“You’re going to stop me are you?”
“If I have to, yes I will. Anyway how are you going to get there? You know what your Dad said about apparating, and you need to make a booking for the Floo network.”
“I’ll bloody well walk if I have to… no, wait a minute, I’ll call the Knight Bus, problem solved. Now get out of my way.”
“Ron please don’t do this, you’ll regret it, really you will.” pleaded Ginny again. Harry raised his voice,
“Ron, I’m about a millimetre away from giving you a good old-fashioned non-magic slapping mate, now cut it out and sit down.” said Harry as Molly arrived in the room,
“What on earth is going on here, what is all this shouting about?”
“It’s Hermione Mum,” Ginny explained, “she sent Ron’s note back without even reading it.” Molly saw the bag in Ron’s hand, she stood squarely in front of him with her hands on her hips.
“Going somewhere are we? If you don’t know where she is, where are you going to start looking?”
“I’ve told these two Mum, I’m not going to look for her. I’m not interested any more. I’m going to George’s.”
“That is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard you say Ron Weasley, now sit down.” Ron didn’t move. “I said sit down, Ronald! Now!” This time Ron complied. Such was Molly’s tone that Harry nearly sat down too.
“That’s what I did wrong,” said Harry, “it’s all in the tone of the voice.” He was trying to lighten the atmosphere with a little humour and although he got half a smile from Ginny, it didn’t work. Molly spoke out again,
“Right, understand this! Nobody is going anywhere or doing anything until your father gets home. I don’t want to hear a peep out of any of you. Now find something to do that doesn’t involve you getting in my way and get on with it.”
After Pigwidgeon had left, Hermione had made herself another cup of coffee. While drinking it she was thinking about everybody back at the Burrow. Yet again the hurt returned, or was she over-reacting she wondered. She was a little puzzled that she wasn’t missing Ron, or the rest of them, as she thought perhaps she should. The house was a bit musty being unoccupied, so she set about freshening it up. After a couple of hours the temptation to use magic was getting stronger. It had taken a great effort of will to resist, but she had succeeded, and it had taken her mind off her troubles and… Robbie. The work completed, she had taken a long, hot shower after which she felt much better. In her dressing gown and with her hair up she cooked herself a meal and settled down in the lounge to decide what she was going to do.
Arthur had been right about the Ministry’s ability to help. Unable to use the Trace, they would have to rely on Hermione using the very few charms, spells or hexes that they could detect. They had not noticed any unusual activity in the time that she had been gone. He was surprised that Ron’s note had come back the way it had.
“What exactly did her original note say?” he asked Ron.
“It said she was going away for a few days and that she would be in touch.”
“Well then, I think we’ll just have to give her the few days she wants and wait for her to do as she says. That is to get in touch with us when she’s ready. It’s not ideal Ron, and it’s a bit disturbing not knowing where she is, but I can’t think what else we can do. What you shouldn’t do is get ratty with one another. That won’t do anybody any good.”
“As I’ve told the others Dad, I’ve don’t particularly care after the way I’ve been treated. I wasn’t the one that upset her.”
“Ron, I don’t believe that for one minute, and I don’t think that you do either. So stop kidding yourself.”
“What about our apparation test Dad? Did you manage to arrange anything” said Ginny, changing the subject.
“The examiner will be here on Saturday at noon.” He grinned at Ron “I suggest you put a sticking charm on your eyebrows.”
Hermione was in Basingstoke again. She was there to put the first part of the plan she had worked out a couple of evenings before. Having enjoyed her date, she had decided to try living as a Muggle for a while longer. She had spent the previous day going over it in her mind, looking for problems and pitfalls. Not finding anything insurmountable and believing she was aware of the potential difficulties, she had resolved to go ahead. She returned to the same café where she had met Robbie and settled at a table in the corner.
Taking a sip of coffee she reached into a shopping bag and pulled out the mobile phone she had just purchased. The assistant in the shop had been very helpful and had assembled the phone and explained the various features. She looked at the piece of paper in her hand and started to dial the number written there. There was a moment’s hesitation before she pressed the little green telephone on the keypad. The connection took about a second. The call was answered on the third ring. Her heart rate increased rapidly.
“Hello Robbie? It’s Hermione.” It took a great effort to keep a tremor out of her voice.
“Hermione! Great. You did it then.” He sounded pleased to hear her voice.
“Yes, I took your advice and got a phone. How are you?”
“I’m good, how about you?”
“I’m fine. I was wondering if you were free this evening. I thought perhaps we could do something?”
“Oh I’m sorry, Hermione; I’m in London visiting some friends. I won’t be back till tomorrow. I can’t leave early; he’s got tickets to a show tonight.” Hermione felt her spirit sink. “What about tomorrow evening, I’ve no plans and if I did I’d break them for you.” She felt her spirit reverse and soar out of her shoes and the fluttering in her tummy was back with a vengeance.
“That’s fine with me, Robbie. What time?” She was sure her effort to sound casual were failing miserably.
“I don’t know what time I’ll get back. I’ve got your number now so I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon, OK?”
“Fine, I’ll give you my number…”
“You don’t know much about mobile phones do you Hermione? My phone gets your number from your phone or something like that. Trust me I’ve got it.”
“OK Robbie, I’ll look forward to your call.”
“OK then… I’ve been thinking of you a lot Hermione. Can’t wait for tomorrow. I’ll see you then. Bye.”
“Yes Robbie I’ll see you then. Bye.” There was a click as the call disconnected. All the way home on the bus two phrases went round and round in her head. ‘I’ve no plans and if I did I’d break them for you’ and ‘I’ve been thinking about you a lot.’ I bet he says that to all the girls, Hermione thought. The fluttering in her stomach made her hope that he didn’t.
Despite his protestations of indifference Ron’s mood did not improve during the ensuing days. Harry, Ginny and the other Weasleys had tried many different ploys to snap him out his moods, without success.
“C’mon Ron, let’s go flying and chuck the quaffle around for a bit.” Harry suggested.
“Nah, you go. I’m alright here.” His voice was flat and bored.
“Ron you’ve got to snap out of this. You’re becoming a right pain in the backside for everybody. If, as you say, you don’t care about Hermione, then why the long, moody face you’ve been wearing since she left?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“What do you mean, I wouldn’t understand? When we were off chasing Horcruxes I was separated from Ginny for the better part of a year. It tore my guts out every single day, and it’s doing the same to you, but I don’t remember going on about it.”
“That’s because you had something to take your mind off it. You were quite busy as I recall.”
“Yes I was, but you are acting now just as Hermione did when you left us. Except that you’re far worse. I’m sure she’ll turn up or write soon, we’ve just got to be patient. Now grab your broom. You too Ginny, let’s go.” They flew for an hour before quitting. “Feel any better?” Harry asked Ron.
“Yeah, a bit I suppose,” said Ron with a sigh, “what am I going to do Harry, she dumped me, and I don’t know why.”
“She hasn’t dumped you, you idiot. She’s just gone away for a few days. She’ll be back I promise. I can’t tell you when, but trust me, she’ll be back.”
“I hope so Harry, as I live and breathe, I hope so.”
The next day seemed, to Hermione, to take forever. As the clock ticked slowly towards noon she turned her phone on, and waited… and waited. By mid afternoon she was beginning to lose hope. She jumped as high as the ceiling when, at four o’clock the phone chirruped. Trying to suppress her excitement she answered the call.
“Hi Hermione, sorry to be so late.” She controlled her breathing and then took a deep breath.
“That’s OK Robbie, how are you?”
“Fine thanks, is there anything in particular you want to do this evening?”
“No Robbie, I put myself completely in your hands.”
“Hermione,” he said sounding shocked, “we only met a couple of days ago.”
“Don’t be an idiot, you know what I meant.” The laugh helped her to relax.
“I know I do. I’ll meet you outside the café about seven thirty and we’ll have something to eat and go to a club or something.”
“Sounds good. See you at seven thirty then.”
“Looking forward to it.” She ended the call, checked her watch and headed for the shower.
At a few minutes after the appointed time Hermione approached the café. Robbie was waiting and again her butterflies took off. He leaned down slightly and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“Good to see you again Hermione, you hungry?” The grey eyes seemed to pierce her very heart.
“Yes I am, where do you want to go?”
“How about a pizza. Quick and easy, alright with you?”
“Fine, shall we go? It’s my treat.”
“In your dreams, Hermione, I’m old fashioned enough to insist on paying for a date.”
Just over an hour later they set off to a club that Robbie knew. Hermione was shocked at the noise level when they entered but after some time concentrating on trying to hear what Robbie was saying she noticed it less and less. They danced a lot and her mind went back to the Yule Ball. The only other time she had experienced anything like this. Late in the evening, well past midnight, Robbie went to the bar to get a last drink. A drunken voice sounded in her ear.
“Allo darlin, you all alone then. Well don’t worry, not any more you’re not.”
“I’m not alone thanks.” Hermione said politely, slipping her hand into her handbag and clutching her wand. She would only use it if she had to. Her eyes moved quickly around the crowded room trying to find Robbie.
“Not much of a boyfriend if he’s gorn and left you ‘ere isse.” A hand with dirty fingernails moved around her shoulders.
“He knows I can look after myself if necessary.”
“Does ‘e now.” said the drunk.
“Yes he does,” said Robbie, “so fuck off.” The drunk turned round, almost losing his balance, and staggered off cursing out loud. Hermione relaxed her grip on her wand and breathed a quiet sigh of relief. They finished their drinks and headed for the door some minutes later. As they approached the exit the doorman spoke to them.
“If I were you I’d wait a minute, there’s some bother kicking off out there. We’ve called the cops, shouldn’t be long.” Robbie smiled reassuringly at Hermione.
“Thanks mate,” Robbie replied “we’ll be careful.” A police car pulled up as they came out of the building. A single policeman got out and went towards two drunks who were yelling and cursing at a couple who cowered against the wall. The cop soon had his hands full and declared the two of them to be under arrest. He then attempted to handcuff the first one who did not want to co-operate at all and it soon became quite a struggle. The second drunk moved behind and made as if to assault the officer.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you mate.” shouted Robbie, pushing Hermione behind him and walking closer. Hermione reached into her handbag again. The drunk turned,
“Oh yeah, why not?” he said. Robbie was closer now and spoke quieter,
“Because if you do I’ll have to hurt you.” Those words sparked a memory in Hermione’s brain. Something Harry had told her, something to do with Dumbledore. Then it came to her. The confrontation with Cornelius Fudge and Dolores Umbridge in the Headmasters office after the discovery of Dumbledore’s Army. Dumbledore had used those words to an Auror named Dawlish before escaping.
“Oh, hard man are you.” The man moved towards him. Robbie stood with his feet slightly apart, looking perfectly balanced and relaxed. His eyes never left the drunken face in front of him.
“Harder than you mate. Believe me; you really don’t want to do this.” Robbie’s voice was soft and quiet. It did not sound boastful just a simple statement of fact. Bystanders would not have heard a thing. The drunk reacted by laughing and swinging a punch at Robbie, Hermione was amazed at how quickly the drunk was on the ground with his arm twisted up his back in Robbie’s firm grip while Robbie knelt beside him, a knee in the small of his back. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he said “now just lay still like a good little boy, or I’ll pull your arm off and smack you with the soggy end.” Another police car arrived and two more officers got out, just as the first officer finally succeeded in getting handcuffs on his man. He was escorted to a seat in the back of one of the cars. As his colleagues took the other drunk the first officer came to Robbie and Hermione.
“Thanks for your help. Where did you learn to do that?”
“Royal Marines.” said Robbie. The cop looked back at the drunk being loaded into the second police car,
“Not his lucky night was it. Anyway thanks again.” He returned to his vehicle.
“You’re welcome.” The policeman looked at Hermione, “You’re a lucky girl miss. Goodnight.” He walked back to his car. Robbie looked at Hermione,
“Sorry about that but those sorts of people really get up my nose. So can I take you home tonight?”
“Yes you can, lets get a cab.”
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