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Chapter 12 : More Questions than Answers
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After sleeping for an hour or so, Hermione slowly began to stir. Her eyes felt heavy and her muscles were stiff, as if she’d slept more hours than normal. She slowly opened her eyes to find Ron’s face above hers. Her hands went to her mouth as she let out a small yelp and sat up quickly.
“Ron? What are you doing?” she asked with a yawn.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Ron told her, moving the pillow she’d been sleeping on from his lap.
“It’s alright. Erm – are we at my apartment? How did we get here?” Hermione questioned, glancing quickly around the room.
“They released me. You were sleeping so peacefully and I didn’t want to wake you, so I just brought you here. I hope it’s alright that I stayed,” Ron lied easily. Hermione looked at him with a puzzled expression.
“But – why would they release you? You were having headaches, and I don’t think –“
“Shhh, don’t worry,” Ron interrupted, “I’m going back. But for now, they don’t know what’s wrong with me, so I suggested spending time with you to see if we can jog my memory.”
Hermione nodded slowly, but didn’t look entirely convinced. It was strange that anyone in the hospital would have released Ron with her, and she knew she wasn’t normally that sound of a sleeper. Hermione felt an uneasy feeling wash over her.
“Could you excuse me a moment?” Hermione asked, standing up from the couch. She walked down the short hall towards the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Once in the bathroom, Hermione checked around for her wand. After confirming that it wasn’t with her, she splashed some cold water on her face.
“Hermione? Are you alright?” came Ron’s voice from outside the door.
“Yes, just wanted to freshen up a bit. Be out in a sec!” Hermione called. She walked through the other bathroom door leading to her bedroom and pulled out a piece of parchment and a quill. After scribbling a note to Harry, Hermione crossed the room to where her owl was resting in her cage. Before she could attach the note to her owl’s leg, her bedroom door opened.
“Sorry,” Ron said, looking into Hermione’s eyes, “I was worried something was wrong.”
“No, nothing. I was just sending a quick note to a friend. She invited me to the party I was at earlier and I meant to thank her. I thought I’d send her the note now before I forgot,” Hermione replied. She finished tying the parchment to her owl’s leg and was surprised to see Ron cross the room and open the window. She murmured a word of thanks as the owl took off. “Maybe we should go back to the hospital now,” Hermione suggested, backing towards her bedroom door.
“Please don’t make me go back yet. I just want to spend some time with you,” Ron pleaded, hoping to change her mind. He crossed the room and took her hand in his.
“I want to spend time with you too. But we need to figure out the last thing you remember. You need to be around Healers –“
“You’re a Healer. I trust you not to let anything happen to me.”
“I need to be at the hospital with supplies just in case anything happens. I’m sure Healer Grant and I will be able to come up with something and then you’ll be ready to leave when it’s safe,” Hermione said as she tried to pull her hand from Ron’s grasp.
“Just a few more hours. Then I promise I’ll go back,” Ron said, walking closer to her.
“Look. We don’t have to rush things. We have so much time,” Hermione murmured softly. Her back was pressed against the wall and she the uneasy feeling was growing in her stomach.
“Well love, that’s where you’re wrong. There really isn’t much time at all,” Ron replied, dropping his arms around her waist and pinning her arms by her side. “We’ve got to move quickly now,” Ron told her. With one hand holding both of Hermione’s behind her back, Ron used the other to cup her cheek in his hand. “I promise to be gentle,” he whispered, bringing his lips down to hers.
“No –“ Hermione began, but her protest was lost as Ron pulled her closer. She struggled to get her hands free, but his grasp was too strong, and without her wand, there was nothing she could do. He kissed her hard. She tried to move her head but the hand holding her chin locked her face firmly in place as he moved his lips roughly against hers. When Ron pulled away, Hermione began to whimper softly. She quickly realized there wasn't much she was going to be able to do to resist Ron's wishes.
“Put the dress you were wearing back on,” Ron said calmly, gesturing to the bag he’d dropped in her room earlier. “Don’t try to fight me. I have your wand and mine, and the letter you sent to Harry has been intercepted. Things will be a lot easier if you just do what I say,” he told her, releasing her from his grasp. Hermione moved her leg in an attempt to kick Ron, but his reflexes were quick. He pinned her arms against the wall and pressed his weight against her so that she couldn’t move. “What did I just say? Try that again, and I’ll freeze your body and dress you myself.”
Hermione’s eyes began to tear up. Ron released her again and she picked up the bag lying on the floor and started for the bathroom.
“No, love. You’ll change in here. I’m not letting you out of my sight anymore.” Hermione’s eyes went wide.
“Who are you? This can’t be a polyjuice potion.”
“It’s not. And I’m the same Ron you used to know, just with a few improvements. Now get dressed. You slept for a long time this morning and we have places to be this afternoon.”
Tears spilled down Hermione’s cheeks as she pulled her black dress out of the bag and held it in front of her. She tried to use it as a shield while she pulled her shirt off and turned around as she slid the dress up over her pants. She held the dress up as she pulled her pants off underneath it and straightened the dress out. Hermione gasped as she felt Ron’s breath on her neck as his fingers pulled up the zipper.
“Gorgeous,” her murmured into her hair.
“W-what do you want?” Hermione asked hesitantly.
“No questions please. Everything will be revealed in time,” Ron told her. He ran his hands up her arms and kissed her neck. Hermione cringed away from him.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” she questioned.
“You kissed Viktor. You cheated on me. So really, you deserve this,” he replied calmly.
“No,” Hermione gasped, more tears escaping her eyes. “Let’s just go back to St. Mungos. I promise I’ll do all I can to help you.”
“There’s nothing you can do to help,” Ron told her. “I want you to write a letter to our dear friend Harry. This one won’t be intercepted. I want you to ask him to meet you at this address at four o’clock and to bring Ginny. Tell him you want to discuss my mental state and need to get out of the hospital for a while.”
“I’m not going to help you hurt anybody else. If you end up killing me, that’s fine,” Hermione said, her voice angry. Ron waved his wand and bound Hermione’s hands behind her back.
“Crucio,” he said with a wave of his wand. Hermione let out an ear-splitting scream and fell to the floor. Without her hands available to break her fall, she fell to her knees first and hit her head against her dresser. A stream of blood trickled down her face as she began to whimper in pain.
“Kill me,” she spat.
“That’s not the point here, love. The purpose is pain,” Ron said, walking over to Hermione and roughly pulling her off the floor. Hermione searched Ron’s eyes for the softness she’d seen the other day, but was unable to find it.
“He and I are one in the same.”
“Her would never hurt me. Ron, are you in there? Can you hear me?” Hermione asked, looking into his eyes, searching for any hint of the Ron she knew; the Ron she missed.
“You can’t save me, mudblood. I’m better this way,” Ron told her, brandishing his wand. Bindings covered Hermione’s wrists and ankles. Ron lifted her easily into his arms and set her gently on her bed and pacing in front of her.
“Four years. Someone has been planning this and that’s why you disappeared four years ago,” Hermione said to herself. “Right after Voldemort died.”
“It is not ok to speak his name,” Ron told her through clenched teeth. “I’ve been told you are clever, but you’re not going to figure this out. There’s no precedent for what’s happening here.”
“Maybe I’m not going to figure it out, but I do know that yesterday in the hospital, Ron, my Ron, was there. I also know that my apartment has charms to alert me to the use of the polyjuice potion, meaning my Ron is inside of whomever you are somewhere. I know that yesterday, he was looking at me like he always used to look at me, and even though it’s been four years, being with him feels like time hasn’t passed at all. So maybe I won’t figure out what’s going on right now, but you probably underestimated how much he cares for me. In the end, you will lose, whoever you are,” Hermione said angrily. Ron stopped pacing and sat next to her on the bed.
“Perhaps you don’t understand who is in charge here,” Ron told her. He ran a hand slowly up her thigh and over the material of her dress until he reached her neck. After taking her chin roughly in his hand, Ron brought his lips to hers and ran his tongue across her bottom lip. “Kiss me back, love,” he whispered. Hermione lay motionless and squeezed her eyes shut. Ron pulled back and ran a hand up her arm. “He’s trying to fight me. He’s angry I get to taste you through him,” Ron laughed, his breath moving over Hermione’s face.
“What have you done to him?”
“I’ve told you. I’ve made improvements. Now, shut up and be still. I’ve got to send a message and then we will be on our way,” Ron told her. Hermione could only hope that either Ron would push through whatever was controlling his mind or that Harry and Ginny would go to the hospital and notice she was missing. All she could do was wait.
Ginny slowly opened her eyes and was pleasantly surprised to find her head was still resting on Harry’s chest. He was starring down at her and running his fingers through her hair.
“You really stayed,” she murmured softly, stifling a yawn as she pressed a kiss to Harry’s lips before snuggling back into his chest. He wrapped his arms tighter around her and kissed the top of her head.
“I promised I would,” he replied.
“Yeah, but you’ve promised me things before,” Ginny said quietly. Harry sucked in a breath.
“You’re right. I have to prove to you that I mean what I say. And I will,” Harry promised, brushing Ginny’s hair away from her face. “How did you sleep?”
“I slept ok,” Ginny replied. “Do we need to get going to see Ron and Hermione?”
“Probably soon. I think we can wait a bit though. It would be nice for them to have some time together,” Harry suggested, moving his hand across Ginny’s stomach.
“Ok. I suppose we should owl Mum soon to let her know what’s going on. I expect she will want to visit again later today as well if she isn’t already there.” Ginny began tracing circles across Harry’s bare chest.
“Right. And I need to owl Gordon and probably speak with Malfoy again to see if anything has changed,” Harry said.
“This is strange. Usually when you start to talk about all the things you need to do you start moving around frantically and run out the door,” Ginny laughed.
“Right now I just feel like being with you. Ron is being watched by Healers. Malfoy said he’d let us know if he found out anything. And Gordon can just bloody wait.” Harry shifted onto his side and moved Ginny so that she was lying on her back. Ginny noticed his eyes were tinted with lust, which was a look she hadn’t seen on him in a while. Harry leaned his face towards Ginny’s until their lips met in a searing kiss. Their legs tangled together and as they kissed, Ginny started to feel like she was finally getting Harry back.
“Back already? That’s not like you,” Astoria noted as Draco walked through the front door. She immediately noticed that he was in a bad mood and stood up from where she had been reading in the room next to the main hallway. “Come on, I’ll make you something to eat,” she said, starting for the kitchen.
“I’m not hungry. I need to see her,” Draco said.
“She’s asleep. You had her up in the middle of the night.”
“Something is happening. I really need to speak with –“
“Draco, slow down. Just give her a couple more hours. What is it that’s bothering you? You look like you haven’t slept.”
“I can’t. There’s too much going on in my mind to sleep. I don’t want to talk about it,” Draco said harshly.
“Well since I’m the only one you can talk to about it, you may as well try. You know I need to know everything if I’m going to protect your mother,” Astoria said, starting down the hallway. Draco followed her until they reached the kitchen where Astoria made a sandwich and set it in front him.
“My father is doing something that will ruin us. It’s got something to do with Potter and this time the Ministry isn’t going to let us off if we’re involved. This is going to crush Mother,” Draco said, ignoring the food in front of him.
“You haven’t done anything wrong in years. You’re really trying to make things better and I’m sure the Ministry sees that,” Astoria told him. She started to move towards the cupboard to find something to drink when Draco pushed out of his chair, grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him.
“I am not a good person. Malfoy’s aren’t good people,” he spat angrily. “Nothing will ever change that.”
“I don’t believe that, and neither do you,” she replied, attempting to pull her arm from his grasp.
“I’ll show you,” Draco told her. He pulled her face roughly to his and pushed their lips together in a rough kiss. Before he could deepen it he found himself back against the wall with his hands stuck next to his head.
“Don’t ever push yourself on me again,” Astoria told him coolly, her wand resting easily in her right hand. “I know you care about me, and I don’t care how bad of a person you think you are, you will never treat me like that again.” An apologetic look fell upon Draco’s surprised face. Astoria pushed her wand back into her robes and walked over to Draco. She raised a hand and ran her index finger down the side of his face. Slowly, she stood on her tiptoes and cupped Draco’s face in her hands. Their lips met in a soft and tender kiss, causing Astoria’s toes to curl as she parted her lips gently and allowed Draco’s tongue to mingle with hers.
“That, should have been our first kiss,” she told him, pulling away. With a wave of her wand, Draco fell from the wall onto his hands. He pushed himself into a standing position.
“I’m sorry,” he said slowly, his voice thick.
“Stop trying to be the person you think you have to be. Be who you want, and do what makes you happy,” she told him.
“Easier said than done,” Draco replied.
"You can be happy and help your family at the same time."
"I'm having a hard time believing that is a possibility," Draco sighed.
“Well, you helped me to help my family. So I’m going to help you help yours.”
“I’ve asked too much of you as it is.”
“You helped me save my sister. You can never ask too much of me. Sit down and eat, and then we can talk about how to help your family. We can probably start by finding your father, and I think I know how to do that.” Draco sat back down at the table and Astoria took the seat next to him. For his mother’s sake, he hoped he could figure out what to do soon.
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