Chapter 6 : Chapter 6
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During the taxi ride, Hermione suddenly felt very nervous. What do I do if he wants to… she thought or, which was worse, what do I do if I want to… She made some coffee and as she poured he came and stood behind her, put his hands on her shoulders. She turned and as he kissed her she responded in spite of herself. It seemed like a lifetime later when she pushed him away gently,
“That was nice, and no mistletoe full of niggles either.” he said. There was that smile again, and those eyes. Those mesmerising eyes.
“Yes it was nice and its Nargles not niggles. Grab your coffee and let’s go and sit down.” She led the way. He sat beside her in the lounge and as she looked at him a new thought entered her head. ‘He’s not Ron.’ Something must have shown in her face because Robbie said,
“Is something the matter? he asked, “I didn’t offend you by kissing you did I?”
“No, not at all,” she decided to come clean, “It’s just that… well, I wasn’t exactly truthful the other night when you asked me if I had a boyfriend. There is someone but we ran into some difficulties, and we’re not seeing each other at the moment. I’m sorry Robbie. I should have been honest with you.”
“I see.” He paused, Hermione felt uncomfortable in the silence. He spoke again, “Listen, I’m not going to ask what difficulties, that’s none of my business, but is there any hope that they are insurmountable?”
“I can’t say that at the moment. I’m not sure what I want to do. It would have been easier for me if I hadn’t met you. I’m very attracted to you and even sitting here now I’m longing for you to kiss me. But that’s not going to help me with my problem.” He took her hand in one of his and put the other behind her head,
“It may not help,” he said softly, “but it can’t hurt can it?” With a gentle pressure he pulled her head forward, as their lips met Hermione slid her arms around his neck. Long seconds later she broke the kiss and buried her face in his neck.
“Robbie, please don’t do this to me. Don’t push it now, please.” He eased her backwards, his hands gentle on her shoulders and looked her in the eye.
“Hermione, I’m very attracted to you as well. I think we could be very special. But the last thing I want to do is make things more complicated for you, and I can’t say that I’m not disappointed, so I think it would be better if I left. Don’t take this the wrong way but I’m hoping that you and he, whoever he is, don’t work it out.” Hermione gave a hint of a smile.
“At least finish your coffee first.” They made small talk for a few minutes while he did just that. “Thanks for being so understanding, you’re quite sensitive for a roughy, toughy soldier aren’t you?”
“Marine,” he said, “I’m not a soldier I’m a Marine, I know you didn’t mean to but you just insulted me.” Hermione threw up mock salute.
“Sorry sir, it won’t happen again.” she said, raising her hand in a mock salute. Robbie chuckled and his eyes twinkled, severely tempting Hermione yet again.
“Don’t worry about it. Right then I’d better be off.” She went to the front door with him,
“Robbie I’m really so very sorry.”
“It’s OK; I’m just sorry it didn’t work out for us, at least so far. So long Hermione, take care. Maybe I’ll call you sometime.”
“No! I mean please don’t. I need some time to sort myself out.” He turned and smiled, his eyes lured her in, and without thinking she put her arms around his neck and kissed him deeply. The logic in her head was fighting with the longing in her heart. They broke apart and Robbie stepped outside. She did not know why she spoke but she did,
“Robbie… just in case… I’ve still got your number.”
“Please don’t lose it, use it, Hermione, Bye.” Then he was gone. Hermione cried herself into a fitful sleep full of Robbie dreams that night. Most of them she could tell anyone about. One of them she would never, ever tell anybody. That was the one she couldn’t get out of her mind.
The Ministry examiner, Wilkie Twycross, arrived right on time on the following Saturday to conduct the apparation tests arranged by Arthur Weasley. After the exchange of a few pleasantries, Harry, Ron and Ginny followed him into the garden. He checked his paperwork and said to Ginny, “Ladies first, I think. Alright with you Miss Weasley?”
“Yes, what do you want me to do?” Twycross looked around,
“This is quite a large Garden so first I will apparate around it and you just follow me. We’ll do that three times. Do you understand?”
“Yes I do.” said Ginny. There was a loud crack and Twycross appeared over by the garden gate.
“OK Miss Weasley, when you are ready, go ahead.” Ginny took a deep breath and turned on the spot, an appeared about six feet from where the official was standing.
“Very good Miss Weasley, you could have been a little closer maybe but that’s not a problem.” Another crack and he moved to the other end of the garden. This time Ginny was even further away. “Relax, Miss Weasley, you’re too tense, you’re doing fine so stop worrying.” Crack. He appeared standing close to the house in the precise position he had started from. This time Ginny got it right. So right that she was standing on Harry’s foot. The boys did equally as well, although every time Ron completed a movement his first action was to raise a hand to check his eyebrows.
“So far so good Lady and Gentlemen,” said Twycross, “now we get a little more ambitious.” He looked around for a distant landmark. He pointed to a small clump of trees about four hundred yards from the Burrow. “I want you to go to those trees. When you get there raise white smoke with your wand so I can see how close you are. When I give you a signal you may return. Any questions? No. Very well then, Miss Weasley, you can begin when you’re ready.” Crack. Ginny vanished. A few seconds later a small column of white smoke appeared close to the target trees. “Excellent.” said Twycross raising his wand which issued a spray of white stars. Crack. Ginny reappeared about four feet away. “Well done indeed Miss Weasley, that’s a pass I think. Congratulations.” Ginny beamed. Harry and Ron also passed. Twycross asked Ron, “Why do you touch your forehead after every apparation?”
“Well sir,” said Ron, “At my first apparation test you failed me because I splinched myself. I left half an eyebrow behind.”
“You must have caught me on a bad day.” Wilkie Twycross laughed heartily and accepted a small Firewhisky from Arthur.
Hermione’s mind was in turmoil. Since waking early that morning she had but one thought in her head. Robbie. She was in her own bed, but had started to imagine waking in her parents’ room with… ‘NO! Don’t go there… do not go there!’ her head had screamed. ‘But I want to… I so want to go there.’ her heart had whimpered back. As she knew it must, her head won. This time anyway. It had taken her a great effort of will to snap out of the daydream. She knew she had to do something about her situation, and soon. Very soon. By the time she had showered and dressed she had decided that she had to see Ron. She still did not know what she would say to him, but after the meeting she hoped she would have a clearer idea of whether she was going to go back to the Burrow or stay here as a Muggle. She would go to the Post Office in Diagon Alley and use the fastest owl service they offered. Sticking to her decision not to use magic, she caught a train to London. She stood outside the Leaky Cauldron and watched as people walked by, unaware that the place existed. Unnoticed by anyone she slipped into the pub and through into Diagon Alley. She was the only customer in the Post Office. Going to the counter she spoke to the clerk,
“What is the fastest owl service you have and how much does it cost please?”
“To go where Miss?”
“Our express owl service can do that in three hours. Costs three Galleons.”
“Fine, I’ll just go over there and write a quick letter.” She was back in five minutes with a small sealed parchment. She paid the postage and watched as the clerk selected an owl, tied the letter to its leg, then released it through a hatch in the wall. Now she had at least a couple of hours to occupy, she was confident that Ron would leave the Burrow as soon as he read the note. She started to wander aimlessly around the shops, careful to avoid Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, where she was certain that George had alerted his staff to her disappearance. She went back through the Leaky Cauldron into Charing Cross and wandered into Trafalgar Square. Even in junior school they had done history. Looking at the figure standing high on its column, the facts came back to her. ‘Admiral Horatio Nelson, hero of the Royal Navy. Victorious at the battle of Trafalgar in the year 1804, no that’s wrong, it was 1805. Fatally wounded in the hour of his triumph. Now interred in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.’ Pleased with her powers of recall, she strolled up the Strand, her eyes darting here and there taking in coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and theatres.
It seemed to Harry that Ron’s mood was slowly improving. He was still surly at times but generally, although not the happy-go-lucky person he was he was, he was for the most part civil to everyone. They had flown every day but even so there was no enthusiasm on Ron’s part. Harry had gone to the local village and come back with a plastic football and was now trying to teach Ron how to play.
“What was that team that Dean supports?” he had asked Harry.
“They’re called West Ham United.”
“They any good?” Ron wasn’t really that interested but thought he should make an effort.
“I’m not sure,” Harry was pleased to get any sort of response from his friend, “I think they are in the top division, but how good they are, I don’t know.”
“Seems like a stupid game to me,” Ginny remarked, “Dean told me some stuff about it. There’s a rule that nobody understands, what did he call it now…Yeah the offside rule. What’s the point of a rule that nobody understands?”
“I’ve got an idea,” Harry said, “why don’t we go to a game. It’ll do us all good to get away from here for a few hours. We can see if it’s a stupid game or not.”
“Might be a laugh,” said Ron, “God knows I could use one or two of those.”
“Let’s go up to London tomorrow and see what we can arrange.” Ron was about to reply when an owl swooped out of nowhere. Ginny bent down and retrieved the letter from its leg. She looked at it and handed it to Ron,
“It’s for you.” Ron took the parchment staring at his name on the front,
“It’s from Hermione. I recognise the writing.” His hands shook a little as he tore open the seal. It was short and to the point.
I’m sorry for not being in touch before. I have to ask a favour of you. Please will you meet me in Diagon Alley as soon as possible this afternoon? I’ll wait until about five o’clock. If you decide to come, please come alone.
Ron handed the note to Harry without speaking. Harry read it quickly and passed it to Ginny.
“What are you waiting for Ron, get going.” He had expected Ron to be more enthusiastic.
“Yeah OK, let’s go.”
“She wants you to go alone Ron,” Ginny said, “and anyway, I’m sure that I’m the last person she wants to see. So I’m not going.”
“And I can either stay here with Ginny or go with you. Hmm… tough choice. What am I going to do?” said Harry sarcastically, “Get going, you dipstick.”
“She didn’t say where in Diagon Alley.”
“Are you being deliberately stupid? It’s not that big a place is it, find her!” The now familiar crack and Ron disappeared.
Hermione was outside Madam Malkins when she saw Ron. She was about halfway to him when he saw her and as they approached each other he smiled, ‘He’s not Robbie’ she thought to herself.
“Hello Ron.” She could not keep the uncertainty out of her voice.
“Hermione, it’s so good to see you.” He embraced her. The hug she returned was half hearted, and Ron noticed. “Is everything alright now? I hope so, Harry and Ginny are dying to see you. Come on.”
“Ron, I… I’m not going back. Not today anyway. I need to talk to you. Let’s find somewhere quiet where we can be private.”
“What do you mean you’re not coming back? Of course you’re coming back. Where else are you going to go?”
“Ron please, not here in the street.” They found a corner of the bar of the Leaky Cauldron where they wouldn’t be easily overheard. Taking a sip of Butterbeer Ron started the conversation.
“Hermione, what is going on? You disappear without a word because of something Ginny said and then I hear nothing. What exactly did I do to deserve that?”
“You did nothing Ron and for that I can only say I’m very sorry. You didn’t deserve it, and I was very wrong.”
“Where have you been staying?”
“At my parents’ house.”
“Really? But Harry and Ginny checked there. They said it was deserted.”
“All my stuff was in the living room, they couldn’t have missed it. Anyway Ron, please just let me talk. I’ve got a lot to tell you.” Ron picked up his drink and leaned back in his chair. “Since I left the Burrow I’ve been living in my old home, but I’ve done it as a Muggle, because I didn’t know if I’d be going back. I haven’t used any magic at all. My problem is that I have found it enjoyable for the most part. I’ve spent a lot of time in the town just walking around, watching non-magic people going about their business; I even met an old friend from junior school. The long and short of it is that I’m very tempted to stay there. For the only time since I got my first Hogwarts letter, I felt… normal. Sorry to use that word but I can’t explain it any other way.”
“So this is my dilemma Ron, you are precious to me and you always will be, but I can’t ask you to give up everything you are, however I’ve had a new experience these last few days and I am reluctant to give that up too. If I came back with you today, I would always be wondering about this life and in time that would change me as a person. I’d become resentful and probably miserable. To be perfectly frank I don’t know what to do.” Ron took another drink and looked thoughtful as he put the bottle on the table. He raised his head to look at her,
“Why am I here Hermione? What am I supposed to say? If you’re waiting for me to tell you to go for it then you are going to be disappointed. I want you to come back with me now. Either you will or you won’t, and if you won’t then I’ll have to learn to live with it. It won’t be easy but I’ll do it eventually. I can understand that Muggle life is different to ours, but what happens when the novelty wears off? What happens a year from now when you are tempted to do magic because your old school friend wants her hair done a different way?”
“It’s not a she.” Hermione said before she could stop herself.
“Ah… now I begin to understand. You’ve found yourself a new boyfriend.” His stomach churned at the thought that he had lost her.
“No Ron, it’s not like that at all.” Are you sure about that? She thought.
“Hermione, it looks to me like you have a big decision to make, and do you know what… as much as I love you, it’s not one that I can help you with.” He stood up. “When you decide, let me know. You know where I’ll be.” Before Hermione could answer he had disapparated. Moments later so did she. He reappeared at the Burrow, Hermione arrived in her parents’ living room. They both had tears in their eyes.
Harry and Ginny had been flying when they saw Ron arrive in the garden. As they swooped down Harry noticed that Ron was alone. They landed beside him.
“Ron, what happened? Did you see her?” Ron stopped and dried his eyes.
“Yes I saw her. I thought you said that you checked her parents’ house?”
“Yes we did. I told you.”
“Did you check the living room? All her stuff was in there, she said you couldn’t have missed it. Some check you did.”
“Er… no we didn’t go out of the kitchen,” Harry’s heart dropped, “sorry mate, we screwed up.”
“There you go understating things again. Thanks a lot.”
“Where is she Ron? When is she coming back?” Ginny put a hand on her brother’s shoulder, hoping that it was a comforting touch.
“She isn’t coming back, Ginny. She’s going to live as a Muggle, no magic at all.”
“She can’t mean that, she’ll come round.”
“She does mean it. In fact she’s already found herself a boyfriend.” Ron’s insides churned again as he said it.
“What?” said Harry and Ginny together.
“Yeah a boyfriend. Fast worker y’know, our Hermione. Doesn’t let the grass grow. Right I’m going upstairs. I don’t want to see or hear anyone for the rest of the day, and that includes Mum if you would be so kind as to pass the message. Thank you.” He disappeared into the Burrow.
“She’s winding him up. She hasn’t got a new boyfriend.” Ginny tried to make it sound convincing.
“I wouldn’t be so sure, Ron seems convinced. I feel like banging their stupid heads together.” Harry paused, “Now what do we do?” They tried a game of Wizards Chess but they could not concentrate. A lethargic game of cards had the same effect. They drank a lot coffee and nibbled on some biscuits. Time dragged by and eventually Harry decided to have an early night. Ginny stopped him.
“My big mouth started all this trouble, Harry. So my big mouth is going to finish it. You know where I’m going, please don’t follow me, this is strictly girls only. Don’t wait up.” She turned on the spot and vanished.
I’ll never understand women. Harry thought. Give them a licence to apparate and they’re off at the drop of a hat.
Authors Note: How would Hermione's life have turned out had she decided differently. The answer is coming soon in a spin off story, tentatively titled 'Hermione. What if...
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