Hermione sighed, closing the book in her lap for the third time that evening and gently tossing it to the side. There was no use trying to read. She hadn't been able to concentrate on anything since she walked by the newsstand in the Ministry atrium on her way to her office. He had been on the cover of Witch Weekly. Again. With her.
Her name was Alesia Halligan and she was the seeker for the Caerphilly Catapults. She was tall and thin and had the prettiest blue eyes Hermione had ever seen. She figured that's the type of girl he had wanted all along: a girl with smooth, straight hair, a smile of perfect teeth, and a deep interest in Quidditch. All in all, she was the kind of girl Hermione never was and never would be.
Oh, stop it, Hermione thought to herself. It's been two years. Get over it.
But she knew that wasn't possible. She'd never truly be over Ron.
Hermione sipped some wine as she thought about the two years since she and Ron ended things. They had split for not one reason, but for a bunch of stupid little things. She had gone on a few dates since the breakup, but none of the blokes she went out with were ever interesting enough to consider for a second date, let alone an actual relationship. She would constantly compare them to Ron, sometimes without even realizing she was doing it. None of their smiles measured up to Ron's adorable lopsided grin. They never talked with their mouths full like Ron always did, something that drove Hermione nuts but made her giggle nonetheless. And none of them ever had the guts to challenge anything she said; they just agreed with her all the time and threw in smiles and nods for good measure.
Merlin, did she actually miss bickering with Ron?
One of the things she missed the most was The Burrow. More specifically, she missed the kitchen - that warm, welcoming kitchen filled with happy faces, chaotic chatter, and endless laughs. She yearned to once again sit at that table with the people she had come to love more than anything. They were her family. She missed them all dearly.
She still saw Ginny regularly, of course; after all, she was really the only constant female friend Hermione ever had. She also kept in touch with Molly and Arthur on occasion, but it would never be what it once was. Hermione always politely declined their invitations to family and holiday dinners. Though she was always humbled to be included, she could never accept their offers. The thought of once again being in the same room with them, all of them, especially with Ron there, was too weird. It would feel too strange, too...wrong.
No. She could never go back to the Burrow again. Ever.
Not after everything she did.
Hermione took not a sip, but a gulp from her wineglass. She always made it a point to not think about certain things she'd done in the past few years, but every once in a while, they wandered into her mind before she could stop them. Given, she only remembered fragments of each occasion, but those fragments were enough to consume her with guilt, remorse, and self-loathing. How could she have been so daft? Furthermore, how could she have repeatedly made the same stupid blunder? Sometimes she couldn't help but think it was a misnomer to be labeled as "the brightest witch of her age."
Suddenly, Hermione felt lonely. She wished she could talk to someone not just about missing Ron and that stupid magazine cover, but about the mistakes she made that she simply couldn't escape no matter how hard she tried. But how would she talk to someone about those? Not only were they incredibly humiliating, but she didn't remember much of them. A few months back, she'd removed each of those memories from her mind, stored them in tiny glass vials, and tucked them away in the back of her potions cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind, she had assumed. She was wrong.
Then, as if on cue, Ginny came soaring through the fireplace.
"Ginny, what the-?" Hermione exclaimed, jumping in her seat and nearly spilling the small amount of wine left in her glass.
"Sorry, I should have let you know I was coming," Ginny replied as she stood up, brushing the dust off her purple robe in the process. "Ugh, I hate the Floo. Kitchen?"
"Er, okay," Hermione said, waving her wand and clearing up the remaining dust from the floor before following her red-haired friend into the adjacent room.
"Got anything stronger than wine?" Ginny asked once in the kitchen. She didn't bother to wait for Hermione's answer before she began rummaging through the cabinets. Hermione didn't mind, as she did the same thing whenever she went to Harry and Ginny's, anyway. Her place was theirs, and vice versa. It was nice to at least have some family left, she thought.
"Ah, here we go," Ginny said gleefully when she found a half-empty bottle of firewhiskey. "Want me to pour you a glass?"
"No, thanks. I have to work in the morning."
"Suit yourself," Ginny conceded with a shrug. "Wait, what do you mean you have to work tomorrow? Tomorrow's Saturday."
"I'm going in for a few hours to get some paperwork done," Hermione said. "Might as well catch up while I have the spare time."
Ginny shook her head and leaned against the counter. "You work too much."
"It's not like I have anything better to do."
"Maybe you would if you allowed some time for yourself," Ginny countered. "Anyway, I came her for a reason. We need to talk."
Hermione wasn't sure whether she should have jumped with joy or scurried away into the next room to bawl her eyes out. Being honest with herself, she actually wanted to both very badly. Instead, though, she stood in the kitchen and acted as if the mention of Ron's name had no affect on her.
"What about Ron?' she asked smoothly, sitting down at the table.
Ginny took a sip of firewhiskey and sighed. "Alright, look. I'm just going to get straight to the point. Do you still love him?"
"We've been broken up for two years, Gin."
"It's a yes or no question, Hermione. Do you love him or not?"
"Ginny, after all this time, I don't think I could possibly-"
"Still waiting..." Ginny taunted.
"Okay, fine," Hermione relented. "I may still have some feelings for him. Happy?"
"Very," Ginny said with a grin.
"Why? It's not like anything could ever happen between us again. He's moved on."
"What makes you say that?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "He's been seeing that girl who plays for the Catapults. Didn't you see the cover of the latest Witch Weekly?"
"You mean that Alesia twit?" Ginny asked. "Please. They were hardly a couple. Besides, that picture was taken ages ago."
"Then why put it on the cover now?"
"It's obvious, isn't? A handsome war hero, a gorgeous Quidditch player...who wouldn't want to read about that? But it's all fake. Tabloid rubbish."
"You mean...they were never together?"
"Well, they were," Ginny admitted, "but it was an on-and-off thing. He liked her, but not enough to stick with her. And thank Merlin, too. She's such a snot."
Hermione looked down at her hands, not really sure what to make of what Ginny was telling her. Ginny always had a reason for bringing things up. What was the point of coming all the way to her place at nine o'clock in the evening to talk about Ron?
"Even if they aren't together," Hermione began, "it doesn't matter. He and I are finished. Done."
"I don't think that's true."
"He still loves you, Hermione."
Hermione's eyes shot up at Ginny. "Yeah, alright. Time to put the firewhiskey away, Gin."
"I'm serious. He was visiting the other night and I overheard him talking to Harry in the sitting room. Harry brought up Alesia, asked how they were doing and whatnot, and Ron said it was never going to go anywhere because she isn't...well, you."
Hermione snorted, not believing a word of what Ginny was saying.
"You must have heard him wrong," she insisted. "If he had any feelings left for me whatsoever, he'd have contacted me. He knows where I work and where I live. He could have visited anytime, or written."
"Yeah, because the owls carrying letters from you have been flocking to his window," Ginny remarked sarcastically with a roll of her eyes and a sip of her drink.
"Fair point," Hermione admitted. "But even if we wanted to fix things, it's too late."
"It's never too late. Why do you think I'm here?"
"For the liquor?"
"Ha, well, yeah," Ginny said with a grin. "But honestly, you two can fix things. He wants to see you, Hermione."
Hermione raised her eyes to her best friend.
"What?" she whispered.
"He wants to see you," Ginny repeated.
"He told Harry that?"
"No, he told me after I cornered him later on that evening."
"Of course you did," Hermione said. She wouldn't have expected anything less from Ginny. "What did you say to him?"
"What do you think? I told him I heard everything, that I thought he was a prat for not admitting things sooner, and...well, that I thought you still cared for him, too."
"Ginny!" Hermione exclaimed. "I never even told you that! What if you were wrong?"
"Honestly, Hermione, you're the worst at hiding your feelings. I can read you like a book. I knew I wasn't wrong."
Hermione closed her eyes and gently rubbed her temples, desperately trying to will away the headache she could feel slowly developing. It was only going to get worse if she began over-thinking things, and seeing as she was Hermione Granger, she knew that's exactly what she'd end up doing.
"I think I might need that drink now," she mumbled.
"I figured as much," Ginny said, pouring a generous amount of firewhiskey into a crystal glass. She brought it over to the table and sat down across from Hermione.
"I can't meet with him, Gin," Hermione said the second Ginny was across from her. "I just can't."
"Why not? You care about him and he cares about you. I mean, it's not going to be a picnic, but-"
"No, Ginny, I'm serious. I can't meet up with him. There would be no point. There's no chance of us fixing things."
"Again, I ask, why not?"
Hermione slowly spun her glass around, watching the amber liquid swirl around inside of it, but didn't take a sip.
"Too much has happened," she muttered in a barely audible whisper.
"This wouldn't have anything to do with those four little memories you've got stashed away in your potions cabinet, would it?"
Hermione looked up from her glass with an eyebrow raised.
"Yeah, I know about those," Ginny continued. "You let me borrow some hangover potion a couple months ago, remember? I saw them glittering in the back. They are memories, aren't they?"
Hermione nodded reluctantly. "Yeah."
"What are they memories of, exactly?"
"You don't want to know. They're bad. Really bad."
"Fair enough," Ginny said. "If you took them out of your head, they must be pretty awful."
"They are, and because of them I know I can never fix things with Ron."
"But they're out of your mind. Ron doesn't have to know about them."
Hermione sighed. "I couldn't do that. If there was ever a chance of us getting back together, the last thing I'd want to do is start the relationship off on a lie. Four lies, in fact. I'd have to put them back in, and once they're in, they'll be unavoidable. I'll have to tell him. And trust me, Gin, he'll never forgive me for them. He could love me more than the Chudley Cannons, but once he finds out about what I've done, he'll hate me."
Ginny shook her head. "He could never hate you, Hermione. Besides, whatever you've done can't be that bad in comparison to him. He hasn't exactly been a gentleman since you two broke up."
"Gin, I'm serious. Nothing he's done could ever measure up to what's in those damn vials."
"Well, I don't know what's in them, so I can't judge," Ginny relented. "But I do know it's a good sign that you're willing to be honest with him."
Hermione eyed Ginny. "You really think I should meet with him?"
Ginny was silent for a moment before answering. "I think you've got nothing to lose."
She nodded. Ginny made a fair point. If, by some miracle, they were able to work through things, she could have Ron again. But if they didn't, well...at least she'd have given it a try.
"Alright then. When and where?"
"Tomorrow night, Leaky Cauldron. I'll let him know."
"I still think this is a bad idea," Hermione said.
Ginny shrugged. "I don't. Like I said, you've got nothing to lose."
Yeah, other than my dignity, Hermione added silently.
"Do you want me to hang around while you put the memories back in?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, but thanks. I should probably be by myself when I do that."
"Alright," Ginny said with a nod, standing up from the table. "I guess I'll be going, then. Is eight o'clock okay for tomorrow?"
"Yeah, that's fine," Hermione replied, taking her first sip of firewhiskey. It burned her throat on the way down, reminding her that she never much liked the drink. She pondered for a moment why she asked for a glass, never mind why she even had it in the house.
"Okay. I'll owl him tonight, then. I really think this a good thing, Hermione."
"I hope you're right."
Ginny smirked. "I'm always right."
Hermione couldn't help but laugh. "Have a good night, Gin. Say hi to Harry for me."
"Will do. 'Night."
Ginny vanished into the sitting room, and when the familiar whoosh indicated that she'd disappeared into the fireplace, Hermione let out a heavy sigh. She was meeting Ron tomorrow. She was going to talk to him face-to-face for the first time since they broke up. She was going to see him for the first time in two years.
And she was going to have to tell him about the contents of those damn vials.
Hermione sighed once more, knowing she couldn't put it off much longer. She always knew she'd have to put the memories back into her mind one day, but she never thought the time would come so soon. She'd hoped she'd get at least a few years of peace before she had to go back to hating herself again.
Once in her study, she closed the door behind her. She wasn't really sure why, seeing as she lived alone. She supposed it just seemed fitting for what she was about to begin doing. She fiddled with her wand as she walked across the room to her potions cabinet. She opened it slowly, almost as if she thought those little vials of memory were going to jump out at her. But they didn't. They merely let off a slight, silver glow from their dwelling in the very back on the bottom shelf.
Hermione gently pushed aside her supplies of Veritaserum, Essence of Dittany, and Dreamless Sleep Draught to pull out the glittering vials. Unlike everything else in her potions cabinet, these vials weren't labeled with names, but with dates. She lined the four of them up on her desk and stared at them for a while. As she looked at them, the fragments from each of them flashed through her mind. They were all little things. An unsteady breath, a flash of light, a pang of guilt...all things that could easily be part of various everyday scenarios, but she knew they were tiny pieces connected to the contents of the vials, and it made her sick. She was so stupid.
For a moment, Hermione contemplated forgetting the whole thing and shoving the memories back into the cabinet. She could lie to Ron if she really wanted to, and he'd never be the wiser. But she knew she couldn't do that. It wouldn't be fair to either of them.
She twisted her wand in her hands again as she tried to decided where to start. Part of her wanted to begin with what she knew was the worst one and get that over with, but she decided against that right away. She had no idea what the experience of reinserting a memory would be like, and if it turned out to be particularly taxing, she didn't want to do the worst one first and be too stressed or too tired to do the other three. No, she'd start with the tamest and work her way up.
Oddly enough, the dates on the vials corresponded to the intensity of each memory in them; the tamest thing she'd done had been first, and her screw-ups had only gotten worse after that. Hermione sighed.
Chronologically it is, then, she thought.
She picked up the vial labeled 12 June, 2000, and when she popped open the top, the fumes rose from within it. Again, fragments flew through her mind. A day at the office. Strawberry yogurt. Frustration. Anger. A knock. A hug. And there was that pang of guilt again.
This vial was Percy's.
Author's Note: This is just a friendly warning that if you're a strict R/Hr shipper and can't stand the thought of either of them being with anyone else ever (even if there's a chance they'll end up together again at some point,) this is the time to back out of the story. Of course I hope that I peaked your interest with this chapter and that you'll want to continue reading, but I know there are diehard fans of the ship and I completely understand that reading about them having even minor relationships with other people upsets them. My intention with this story is not to offend Rin/Hermione shippers (seeing as I'm one myself, haha,) but to play with a little idea I've had that simply would not go away.
You've been warned. :) Thanks so much for reading! Hope to see you soon!
Write a Review The Weasley Vials: Chapter 1 - A Visit From Ginny