He dreamed of large fangs with black blood on them and golden cups, all multiplying and multiplying, the gold and bone drowning him and crashing him with its brutal weight. Ron fell, deeper and deeper under the millions of murdering objects until it suddenly melted away.
He was floating in mid-air, dust trickling and forming small heaps all around, closing him in.
He got off the bed and froze when he spotted Hermione, unconscious in the corner, unfamiliar objects in her hand and blood trickling down her temple. He ran to her and grabbed her hand tightly, rying to shake her, but she wouldn’t budge. Fear gripped him and he wanted to scream, but he felt as if a hook grabbed him around his navel and pulled him away from her. Ron opened his mouth to yell for help, to yell at Hermione, but only a hoarse, incoherent sound escaped him.
He was in a circular room, breathing in the air, which made him cough. Dusty, it was dusty all over the place, all the time. And every time he closed his eyes, there were sparkles and exploding stars and he felt fainter by the minute. Two people were bustling around him, but he couldn’t see them. His eyelids were heavy, his sudden, unexplainable tiredness robbing him of his vision. The last thing he saw before falling away was a huge glass and a sparkling sandy substance within it, like shimmering gold dust.
All of it turned black, and Ron found himself in a familiar scene. He sat on a broom in a huge football field, and he flew fast, trying to escape a flock of birds that cackled at him with a familiar voice. He crashed and broken wands began falling at his feet as a crowd of people appeared all around him, unfamiliar people wearing silver and green, pointing and leering at him.
Ron woke up with a start, his head pounding.
The last images from his dream were quickly fading, simmering away like heat from morning tea. Ron tried to grasp at them with his tired consciousness, but it was useless. With a groan he decided he would no longer bother to try.
Ever since Ludwig had ordered them to drink dream potions before going to sleep every night, he’d had a hard time sleeping at all. It was one nonsense dream after another, which he couldn’t even forget in the morning, but had to record it in that ruddy dream book Ludwig had given them.
It didn’t even seem all that helpful since all he dreamt about were embarrassing moments that thankfully, according to Harry, had never happened in the past. He could only hope his dreams didn’t have premonition qualities, because if he would, ever, in the near or far future, have to dance naked with a seal on a leash and a fez on his head for the amusement of Hermione and her faceless fiancee, he would kill himself.
Aside from the occasional ridiculous dream, he sometimes dreamt of hazy moments and faces, things that had occurred in his dreams even before. Nothing useful, though, no moments and sequences or memories that Harry or anyone could specifically recognize. And if he did dream something like that, he forgot very quickly, failing to record it in time.
There was also one more face in his dream, and that was Chelsea. Over and over again he saw her, heard her say I’ll wait for you, and each time he woke up with a feeling of guilt rising in the pit of his stomach. He had meant to contact her, to tell her of all that had been happening, but he never did. What would he say? He imagined she wouldn’t believe him anyway. Still he wanted to be decent enough to let her know.
The next time.
He kept postponing it for quite some time until it seemed to him too long a time to contact her at all. Disappearing from his former life wasn’t as difficult. He’d probably got fired from his job after crossing his vacation limit. He didn’t really care. Unlike someone else, apparently, he thought grudgingly.
Due to his lack of sleep, he was also growing more and more irritable with each new day. The days when his family fawned over his return had to end, because they still had their lives and jobs to go back to. Ron was still lost, and felt useless. The only time he felt he was in the right place was when he was helping out George in his joke shop, but even that wasn’t rosy and merry all the time.
George’s changing, brooding moods startled him. He still didn’t know how to comfort his brother, who seemed so lost, shut-off, and conflicted; it pained Ron to see him like that and be unable to do anything about it. As much as he tried, he learned what the rest of his family had had to learn heartbreakingly in the past years, and that was that neither he nor anyone ever would fill the place of the dead twin.
Ron winced at the sudden appearance of the woman in his thoughts, random and quite usual as of late. Standing up from the bed, he kicked his dream journal away with grim satisfaction, knowing it would annoy her to no end. As far as he knew, she had just as much trouble with her dreams as he did, but being the proper little lady she was, she wrote every little detail into the journal. She also nearly went into a frenzy when she had learned Ron was neglecting this task.
As he stomped into the bathroom and brushed his teeth, he was annoyed and sad at the same time. It had been days since their last visit to the loony wizarding psychologist, but he and Hermione were still on some sort of battleground. She hardly spoke to him except when she felt the need to nag. At first he’d understood: her magic still seemed to be blocked, and that was probably the cause of all her frustration. Still he wearied of her angry looks and bad attitude toward him when he tried to help.
Aye, as Ginny often scolded him, he wasn’t always the sensitive type, but still, he at least tried, which was something she couldn’t say.
Ron rinsed his mouth and set the toothbrush on the sink with a loud clunk, and then looked into the mirror.
He missed her. He missed their connection. Hermione was blocked with her magic, and so she was blocked from Ron as well. Suddenly he felt bad for thinking of her that way. He was the lucky one, finding his family and a world full of magic and possibility. Hermione had found a life that was lost to her, dead parents and a world that was closed to her, still out of reach since she couldn’t perform the magic she knew was one of the most vital parts of her.
Frustrated with himself, Ron ran a hand through his hair and reminded himself to be patient. After all, he was so angry with her because all the intimacy he felt they had shared was suddenly gone. After the incident of the counter curse on their memory, which didn’t work, he felt something for her. He was in love with her, stupidly, uncontrollably and unexplainably. For a while he was convinced that she must’ve felt something as well, but he was losing hope with each new day.
He would stop hoping. He would stop planning. It was pointless; she was engaged for God’s sake! How was he to compete, especially after she’d closed herself off? And maybe, just maybe, he was overreacting with his feelings. So she was pretty, prettier than anything he had ever laid eyes on, but still, he was thrown into a crazy life situation. She was thrown with him. She just understood him, because she was going through the same thing and that was why he felt this way. Nothing more. He had been lonely for too long and had simply overreacted.
Nodding his head at his reflection, knowing he was being surprisingly smart about this, Ron left the bathroom. He had hardly walked across the hall and reached his room before knowing how absolutely futile and untrue all his self-convictions had been.
That afternoon, Harry, Ginny and Hermione visited the Burrow. They decided not to practice any magic, because Hermione was still getting no results, so Harry tried talking to them about the dreams. Neither was very helpful. Ron appeared unwilling to talk at all, while Hermione just sat in her chair in a daze.
They were in the garden, little Victoire running around, growing more mischievous every day. Harry noticed she had learned many new tricks from Teddy. Those two were a rather formidable pair. Ginny’s gaze kept darting from Ron to Hermione nervously as she wrung her hands in her lap.
She was conflicted whether to tell or not tell them about their engagement. Hermione had a fiancée, Ron was being his stubborn, insensitive self and as much as she wanted them to know the truth, she knew it was just not the right time. Yet it was nearly impossible to watch them being so awkward around each other, as if they were mere strangers.
“Well, the dreams! Tell me about the dreams,” Harry insisted, pacing around the garden table impatiently. He had flipped through Hermione’s journal moments ago but had found nothing useful, really: only random dreams and no revelations written in that neat, familiar handwriting.
He looked expectantly at Ron, who ignored him, instead tickling little Victoire while she threw her arms around his neck and did cartwheels around him. They sat together in the grass, both laughing and joking with each other. Harry noticed Hermione watching the scene from the corner of her eye with a small smile.
“Ron, I hate to interrupt, but we’re actually trying to get somewhere. Hand over the journal.”
Ron looked up and shrugged, pulling out the book and throwing it over to Harry, who caught it instantly. Flipping through the pages, Harry was torn between annoyance and amusement.
“What the... Ron, for God’s sake, this book is mostly blank. There is something about your... nakedness? Oh look, you dreamed about Quidditch. That's good, you remember it,” he said hopefully.
“You did talk an awful lot about it,” remarked Hermione dryly.
“Is - is this me?” Harry looked scandalized and shoved the journal in Ron’s face. He and Victoire chuckled both when they spotted a funny picture of Harry, dangling upside down from a broom.
Shaking his head and turning away from the pair of children, he rounded on Hermione.
“Okay, at least you can be sensible with me. You keep mentioning this dusty thing, what is it?”
“I’m not sure, but it’s almost always there. I feel like I read about it somewhere, but for the life of me I just can’t remember. Surprising, eh?” she asked with a hint of a helpless, but honest grin. Harry was glad to finally see her produce a positive emotion.
“I dreamed of dust as well,” Ron said suddenly, standing up as Victoire ran off chasing a garden gnome. He sat down into a chair next to Hermione and ate a sandwich from a tray that Molly put out into the garden for them. “It sparkled and fell down in circles and stuff. Made me sneeze like an idiot.”
Harry quirked an eyebrow and crossed his arms. “Well, unfortunately, I don’t know what that could mean except a hidden obsession with cleanliness, which would be very out of place in your dreams,” he said sardonically, nodding his head in Ron’s direction.
“Hm, a circling sparkling dust…” Everyone looked to Ginny who had finally spoken, standing up from her chair. “I have to go check something, you carry on.” And without another word, she was gone. Harry shook his head and jumped away instinctively just in time to let a startled garden gnome run by, a crazed Victoire speeding after him.
“Okay, that’s enough, little lady,” Harry said, grabbing Victoire and lifting her off the ground. “It’s time for your afternoon nap. Your grandmum will be furious with me if she learns I let you go crazy in the garden again. I never heard the end of it the last time. Seriously, baby-sitting you and Teddy is sometimes tougher than evading jinxes from loony Death Eaters. I’ll be right back,” he called after Ron and Hermione, carrying a giggling Victoire over his shoulder.
“You have a wonderful family,” Hermione said quietly, looking down at her hands.
Ron’s heartbeat quickened when he heard her speak to him calmly. “It’s your family, too, you know.”
Hermione’s smile finally reached her eyes and she slowly looked up at him. “I’m sorry for being so…difficult. I don’t feel like myself anymore, mostly because I don’t even know who that is. I just wish I could be able to do something. With magic, or our memory.”
“Well, we’ll just have to keep trying.” A mad feeling of courage overwhelming him, Ron got up, grabbed Hermione’s hand and pulled her to her feet. “Come on, let’s try some spell right now. I know you’re probably tired of hearing this, but seriously, it’s just a block of sorts. George was kind enough to inform me that I was really rubbish at magic most of the time and everyone keeps saying you were brilliant. Which means, that once you overcome this, you’ll be moving mountains with the blink of an eye.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Hermione laughed despite herself, even though she wasn’t sure she should be so close to Ron, holding his hand.
“Here,” he said, boldly reaching his hand into the pocket of her jeans and taking out her wand.
She took it from him gently and he closed his palm around her fingers, strengthening her grip on the wand. Hermione was glad he was standing behind her, because her cheeks were blazing red. She cursed herself under her breath, reminding herself for the hundredth time that she was not a silly schoolgirl. Honestly.
“Just don’t overthink it. Now, I don’t know why, as usual, but I have this weird feeling you are overthinking it, putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. Just think about what you’d like to do. Have you ever felt so lazy to get up from the couch for the remote control you just wished you could will the stupid thing to float to you?”
Snorting with laughter, Hermione turned her head to look at Ron, finding his face unnervingly close to her face. “No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah, no surprises there, I guess,” he said meekly and Hermione looked forward again, unable to stop bloody smiling.
She concentrated on Ron’s journal laying idly on the table and pointed her wand at it.
“And remember, it’s Wingardium Leviosa!” Ron added in a very good imitation of her.
“I know,” she snapped, but let out a laugh. She didn’t know whether she felt at ease or ready to run. She was only aware of Ron’s hot breath on her neck and found herself enjoying it. It was lovely even though terribly inappropriate.
Hermione murmured the incantation and even though she didn’t receive the result she was hoping for- the journal didn’t budge - she felt a weird feeling of energy creep through her fingers and into her arm. Her wand trembled oddly and she wasn’t sure whether it was the magic or her own nervousness. She felt Ron breathe into her hair, his hand on her shoulder.
“Try again,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. And so Hermione did. Still, nothing happened, and the familiar feeling of desolate frustration seeped into her, but quite suddenly, a red spark twirled from the tip of her wand and vanished into thin air.
Hermione spun around to face Ron, rather rapidly for she brushed her nose against his for the briefest second.
“Did you see?” she asked, feeling stupid for getting so excited over a little spark, but after days of accomplishing nothing, this meant something to her.
Ron gave her a smile that lit up his face in a very lovely way.
“It was just a spark, though,” she added.
“Hey, it’s a start,” he told her encouragingly, tipping her chin up.
They were quiet for a while and Ron gulped guiltily. He could almost see his reflection from this morning frowning at him disapprovingly. He pulled his hand back, realizing all of a sudden that standing here and touching Hermione’s face went against the rules he had spent all morning setting up for himself.
“It’s strange," she suddenly said.
“Up until now, I haven’t really been able to do anything, I didn’t feel anything when I tried. It felt ridiculous, I felt like a child, holding a stupid stick and trying to do imaginary magic. But now…it was different. I felt this heat in my hand and then the spark…” Her voice trailed off and Hermione looked at Ron strangely, wondering whether this change had anything to do with him being so close to her.
“Well go on then. Do it again,” he exclaimed, smiling at her expectantly. She was about to, but then something stopped her.
She thought back on the first day of her training, of her excitement and confidence and of how that vanished within seconds when she couldn’t do any magic. Her face fell and she looked at her feet, terrified of disappointing herself again.
Ron, sensing her distress, walked to her and somehow he understood.
“We can also do it later,” he said. The tenderness in his voice made Hermione dizzy. She got to the table and set her wand down.
“I’m not giving up,” she said resolutely, more to herself than him.
“I know.” Ron stood there awkwardly, racking his brains for something to say. Hermione faced him again, smiling only little, but her eyes were lit up with a strange glow that made Ron gulp. Surprisingly enough, the words seemed to come to him naturally. “I missed this. I missed being able to talk to you.”
“So did I.”
And because everything was crazy and nothing really made sense anymore, Hermione kissed Ron or maybe he kissed her, but it didn’t matter. Without realizing, Ron pulled her close to him, as close as it was possible, knowing somewhere in the back of his mind this moment wouldn’t last. Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck, not even bothering to realize how wrong it all was. His lips were hot, his breath even hotter, and it drove her crazy. At the first touch of their tongues, Hermione kissed him even more deeply, becoming somebody else, somebody she secretly always wanted to be. It seemed he knew, for he responded with equal pressure and desire.
Ron’s lungs ached; he couldn’t remember the last time he had breathed air. He was breathing her and only her.
In the end, Ron pulled away, because he was ready to pass out from all that was happening within him. This was like a dream, like the dreams he expected to have but didn’t. As his hand trailed into her her, Hermione staring breathlessly at him, he realized this was real, with both dread and jolting happiness.
They heard a sound coming from the house and automatically they both took a step back. Hermione bumped into the rickety table so violently, all that was on it rolled over and fell to the ground, the cups and plates and her wand. She bent down to start picking it up, feeling thankful she could hide her face and regain her breath.
Harry jumped from the porch and made his way to them. With a swish of his wand, he helped Hermione gather the fallen cutlery and place it back onto the table.
“Takes me ages to convince these kids to take a nap, seriously,” he told them irritably but with a small grin, barely noticing the distress of his two friends. “Ginny disappeared, only left a note saying she wanted to check something about the dust you keep mentioning. She heard of it somewhere by the looks of it. This is good, we might be actually on to something, eh?”
Hermione collapsed into her bed that evening, tired and happy and sad and frightened. Her head filled with thoughts of Ron, she pressed her face into her pillow and let out something between a sob and a laugh. Her mind kept going back to the quiet moments in the garden. She thought of Jonathan briefly and how he never made her feel like that. She thought of the dreams, the bad and the good, the recorded and the ones she kept a secret. Dreams she dreamt of Ron and her, scandalizing dreams that made her shiver and shake and blush even despite her age and experience.
Mostly, she thought about the kiss, unable to tell how it started and how it ended, knowing only how sweet it was. After Harry’s interruption, they were both surprisingly nonchalant about it, making plans, listening to his stories and degnoming the garden, as if they had never kissed at all.
Slowly, Hermione fell asleep. The darkness took her, softly. And she was whirling and turning, waving her wand, delighted at the fact that it was actually doing its magic. With every wave of her wand, a dusty curtain moved away, revealing more and more curtains in her path. One by one she removed them until they were all gone and she walked into a kitchen. She didn’t recognize the place, but she felt a sense of familiarity as she started preparing some coffee. Ron walked in suddenly, having just walked out of the shower.
He was wearing nothing but a towel around his waist and his hair was dripping wet. He walked past her, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek and brushing her arm breezily. Hermione didn’t wince or falter, she didn’t feel strange, because this was so right. She felt hot and wonderful and she wanted to walk across the room and give him a proper kiss.
He was sitting behind the table, reading newspaper when she surprised him and jumped into his lap. Ron laughed and pressed his face into her hair. She loved how refreshing and wet his hair felt against her skin, how nicely he smelled. Like nothing else in the world, like Ron, like the husband he would soon become.
Ron was talking to her, but she couldn’t really hear his words. She stared at the ring on her finger, the gem so small and simple and so gorgeous.
But then the world turned black.
A scream erupted from somewhere and she was reaching out her hand, trying to find Ron, but he wasn’t there. She only felt a strong hand grasp her wrist and pull her, far and away, and she wanted to fight and go her own way, but she couldn’t. She kept walking and then she forgot that she needed to escape, she felt sleepy and heavy, her knees wobbling under her weight.
Hermione woke slowly, pressing her palm over her aching forehead. Images of her dream kept flashing before her eyes, but they were so elusive, growing paler. That darkness that always came, that’s what she remembered clearly, but as much as she tried, her head ready to explode, she could no longer remember properly what exactly happened before. She hazily recalled Ron, half-naked, and immediately she felt the familiar post-sleep tremble and tingling everywhere.
Unconsciously, she looked at her hand and noticed a ring on her finger. It was an engagement ring; the diamond gleamed in the moonlight that came through the window. She didn’t even remember when she had put it back on.
Jonathan’s face appeared in front of her and she tossed on her bed and turned to face the wall, feeling as though the ring had become so much heavier.
Author's Note: It's been ages, hasn't it? Please don't hate me. Just so you know, this story will not be abandoned, and it will be finished, and I'm guessing that this time around, it's going to be really soon. Thank you for all your reviews and for reading and I apologize for keeping you waiting for so long.
Thank you, Megs, for beta-reading and for giving me the encouragement I needed to start writing again.
The next chapter is 95% done, it will be posted within the next few days, I think. I hope some of you came back to read this story even after such a dealay, and for that, thank you again. Please review :)