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Chapter 17 : Trials of Hermione Granger
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Hermione sat on her bed in Harry and Ginny’s flat with her legs crossed, her foot dangling in the air. She had been having a staring match with the calendar hanging on the opposite wall. No matter how she had looked at it, the days and numbers still told her the same thing: Over two weeks had passed since she'd left Edinburgh and her job and Jonathan. It seemed like much longer, though, she thought. As unfamiliar as she had felt when she first arrived here, things were upside down now, leaving her with that same unfamiliarity about her old life.
She hadn’t spoken to Jonathan for a while now. The last time he had seemed pretty content on his vacation in Greece. In the end she sent him two or three letters by owl post, as Ginny had suggested with an odd smirk, hardly stopping to think how weird that must’ve had been for him. He had probably returned sometime this week and Hermione knew he would be worried. Or angry. Or anything. She felt like she didn’t even know him from such distance and after all that had happened. Like her kissing another man, for example, she thought angrily to herself for the thousandth time.
Standing up, Hermione walked to the calendar and leaned her elbow against the wall, running her hand into her hair. Sighing, she stared at it the same way as before. She counted and counted, planning how much longer she could stay. She had to go back as soon as possible. There were other things she had allowed herself to forget completely and irresponsibly. She was disappointed with herself about everything. Who was she anyway?
She turned away abruptly and walked over to the small table under the window. It was stacked with all the spell books she had bought in Diagon Alley, all of them thrown open on random pages with spells of various kind. In the corner, there was the photo album she had borrowed from the Hogwarts library, and Harry once again blinked up at her from the picture awkwardly while picture Ron and Hermione kissed.
She kept wondering about their engagement over and over again. They never really ended it. Practically they were still engaged. She could just go back to Edinburgh, end things with Jonathan and stay here where she was supposed to be. But it couldn’t be that simple. She couldn’t just forget everything from her other life, because it had been true for her until she'd discovered this new world and the people within it. No more could she expect things with Ron to be the same as they had once been. It didn’t matter if they had been anything more than friends in the past, because that was what it was – the past. A past she couldn’t even remember, on top of it all.
Hermione ran a hand through her thick hair, feeling empty and lost more than ever before.
Next to the photo album was her wand. Picking it up, Hermione gripped it firmly in her fingers.
“Accio!” she shouted, her wand pointed at the calendar. Her initial inspiration was to summon the thing to her and tear it to shreds, but the thing wouldn’t budge!
Since her little pathetic wand spark in the garden, Hermione hadn’t been able to conjure anything. She had been practicing almost all night, getting only a few hours of dreamless sleep. Hermione didn’t know whether she felt thankful about the lack of dreams, or sorry.
Maybe her magic really worked only with Ron around. What was she to do? Tag along after him and kiss him for the rest of her life whenever she wanted to do a stupid spell?
Wincing, Hermione quirked an eyebrow. Could she do that? The prospect didn’t seem all that bad, she thought sheepishly. Shaking her head at the thought, feeling ridiculous, Hermione tried to concentrate on her wand again.
“Engorgio!” This time, she was pointing her wand at a book on the table. Nothing happened to it, not even a shiver.
Hermione gritted her teeth and had to take in a few deep breaths to calm herself. Maybe she should start with something really, really easy that would enable her to move onto more complicated spell-work.
Flipping through the first book she found, she went to the first pages with the easiest spells. She held her chin as she scanned the page quickly, all the necessary information immediately seeping into her head.
“Right,” she muttered to herself, walking in circles. “You can do this, Hermione. It says in the description every first year masters this in their first lesson. Lumos!”
She had really believed this one would work, that the tip would light up. There was no light, no sparkle, nothing. Unable to hold it in any longer, Hermione broke down in tears, sitting down on the edge of her bed with her head in her hands.
How could she ever hope to fit into this world, fit in with Ron, when she couldn’t do the one thing that made her truly belong there?
“What do you want me to say?”
“Erm, the question was pretty clear.”
Ron was standing behind the front counter at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, taking new products from a box set atop it. He was placing it in the shelves, daring to levitate them with his wand occasionally when George wasn’t looking.
“You asked something along the lines of: hmph mm so hmmph what about hmph Hermione?” said George. He was pacing the front room of the shop, commanding Ron where and how to put the new products on the shelves and what price to put on them.
“I didn’t hmph all the way through the question!” Ron shot back indignantly, setting new packs of bubble gum down with bigger force. These bubble gums were secretly salty, and the label read: For all those vultures that swoop down on you whenever you pull out a pack!
“Sure you didn’t,” chuckled George, doodling down a new product design on his clipboard, with his wand tucked behind his ear.
“Can you just answer me?”
“Once again…what do I answer with? Hermione has been gone just like you. And I've hardly seen her since she’s been back.”
“Oh, never mind then.” Ron got back to his work, his shoulders slumped.
George lifted his eyes from his drawing with a sigh.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked reluctantly. George Weasley had never been one to talk about feelings and relationships and all that rubbish. In the past, there had been only person he would talk to about these things, and even then the talking hadn’t even been necessary because everything unspoken was already understood.
Ron took the cue, however, and strode over to George, knocking the box over in his haste. Rolling his eyes, George managed to put all the contents and the box back up onto the counter with his wand.
“Right, sorry about that. Anyway, the thing is…Hermione is engaged. Not that I have anything against it, but, you know, we used to know each other. I hear we’ve been very good friends. I’m just wondering, as a friend, who is this bloke she’s supposed to marry? Is he a good guy? I don’t know! We should know, because Hermione is our dear family friend, so I just wanted to ask if her Jonas man is a good bloke.”
“Slow down,” George said with a small laugh, because Ron had spoken very fast and wildly. “How should I know whether her boyfriend’s a good guy? I've never met him.”
“Maybe it doesn’t even matter whether he’s a good guy,” said Ron absent-mindedly, taking his chin into his hand and walking from one end of the shop to the other. “I mean, does she even know him? We’ve been practically living in a daze for the past few years, what with all the memory loss. We haven’t been ourselves, so we made some weird choices. We had false memories, so maybe we even had false feelings! That’s it. What if Hermione doesn’t even like this guy, she only thinks she does, just like she thought she was this silly Muggle woman living in Edinburgh since forever.”
“Ron, you can’t just assume she doesn’t-“
“Aha! What if he’s the one that did this to us? That would seem just like funny old Johnny to enchant Hermione and kidnap her from her real family and friends so he could marry her. I mean, who wouldn’t? She’s like the loveliest thing on this good earth!”
“Yes, and he kidnapped you because you’re just such ingenious company!” George cut in sarcastically, placing his arms atop Ron’s shoulders to stop him from his jumping all over the place. “He’s a Muggle, he couldn’t have done this,” he said tiredly, feeling at a real loss of what to say to his brother. It was only natural Ron would start trying to deal with all this since he had been in love with Hermione. Ginny had briefed him on the whole situation and it was clear to him it wasn’t his place to tell Ron. But it seemed harder and harder to keep them in the dark about the truth since they were both trying so hard to uncover it. George knew very well what it was like to have people tiptoe around him, never saying the inevitable, thinking he could not deal with it all just yet.
“Look, the thing is, before you disappeared…” George reconsidered his next words for one last moment and just as he was about to finally say it, the door swung open, the little bell tinkling above.
Bill walked in, holding a little wooden chest under his arm while Victoire followed him with bouncy steps, holding his other hand.
“Hello Uncle George, hello Uncle Ron!” she called with a glowing smile. George bent down so she could give him a kiss on the cheek and then she ran past him and jumped straight into Ron’s arms.
“Hey Ron, I picked this up for you from our family vault.” Bill placed the chest on the front counter, pushing away the box. “These are all your documents from school and your past job, and some other little things we thought were important. You should look through it and sort it all out.”
“Well, I see you two have been working hard. The place looks almost like when it first opened.”
It was true. The shop was swept, the windows were washed and all the broken shelves repaired. There were old and new products everywhere and on the floor were stacks of colorful new advertising fliers Ron planned to put up the following afternoon.
“Yep, I’ll just finish putting these up,” Ron motioned with his head to the box with the salty bubble gum, “and we’ll be finished. I thought we could do something like a sale day, one day when all products would have these little discounts. You know, to bring the customers back.”
“What’s a discout?” Victoire asked Ron.
“A discount. It’s when you buy something for less money.”
“Will I get a discount?”
“You’ll get something free, because I’m not a little git like your other uncle who made me pay even more! And you have to promise you’ll use the Canary Cream on him especially.”
“Sure will,” she giggled as Ron put her down and she ran to the back of the shop to inspect more of what she could get for a discount from Uncle Ron.
“How did you know I made you pay more?” George asked, a sad smile playing over his lips.
“I don’t even know. One of those random things that keep coming back without me realizing. Give it a few years and I’ll remember everything!”
Bill helped them with the last little things, fixing the creak in the door and the flickering lamp hanging from the ceiling. Soon there were no more boxes in the way, the shop was clean and smelled both exciting and mysterious and the three brothers looked around, all three of them smiling while Victoire sat on the counter now, dangling her feet.
“One more thing,” said Ron after a while, walking to his rucksack in the corner and taking out a picture frame and a folded piece of paper. He placed the frame with his wand on the wall right behind the front counter clumsily, where all the newest and most popular products were. He then unfolded the piece of paper and looked up at George, fear mingled with care mirroring in his face.
George’s expression was unreadable, his face a silent stone as he looked down on the picture of him and Fred Weasley from when they'd first opened the shop.
“I don’t know how to straighten it out yet,” Ron gulped awkwardly, cowering a little under George’s gaze.
“Here, let me,” said Bill softly, putting the tip of his wand gently on the photograph, and immediately it was straight like fresh new paper. He then put the photo in the frame and stepped back besides George to look up at it, barely realizing he was clutching his shoulder.
“I think it looks good,” George said with a weak smile, his voice hoarse with emotion.
“I think Uncle Fred was prettier than Uncle George because he had both ears,” Victoire mused when glancing over her shoulder at the picture, “but you’re funnier,” she grinned, turning back to George who hugged her suddenly and ruffled her hair affectionately.
“I was always the funny one,” he remarked proudly, “which was, essentially, our goal anyway.” He then turned to Ron and punched his shoulder jokingly. “Thanks, mate.”
When Bill took Victoire into his arms and to the picture, telling her of the day her two twin uncles opened the shop, George leaned closer to Ron and whispered, “I can’t say much, it’s not my place, but I don’t think Hermione should be with the Muggle, and you, as her friend or whatever, should definitely do something about it.”
Ron smiled appreciatively and stepped aside as George went to Bill and Victoire. Ron glanced at the little chest, taking real note of it for the first time. There was a key on a silver chain attached to it. He unlocked it and glanced through it quickly, deciding he would sort through all this parchment rubbish later. Just as he was about to close the lid, he noticed something sparkling in the corner. Pushing the parchment aside, he saw two small earrings. They were periwinkle blue and smooth along the surface. Ron never knew much about women's jewelry, but an image flashed before his eyes so unexpectedly it felt like lightning striking him.
He could picture it completely, Hermione in a matching dress, wearing these earrings with her hair tied up in a neat bun, locks of curly hair falling into her eyes. Feeling a lump forming in his throat, Ron put the earrings back hastily and closed the lid of the wooden chest.
He then joined George, Bill and Victoire under the framed picture of the twins, suspending the thought of Hermione from his mind for the time being. It was time, after all, to learn something about the brother he would never meet again.
Hermione dragged herself into the kitchen and sat down behind the table where a cup of coffee was already waiting for her. Ginny was fumbling with an owl at the window, trying to tie a letter to its leg. She then proceeded to the fridge and took out some milk and a dozen eggs. She set these down a bit carelessly on the kitchen counter, and started rummaging through the cupboards, knocking over potions and bottles of ingredients with a clatter.
“What are you doing?” Hermione asked, noticing Ginny looked even more frustrated than she had before, though Hermione didn't know why.
“Nothing, I’m just a little nervous. And Mum always makes pies when she’s not feeling well, so I’m about to make a pie!”
“What are you nervous about? Do you need help?” Hermione was just about to stand up, but Ginny shoved her down into her chair quickly.
“No, I think I can manage. I’ve watched Mum do this since I was little. And it’s nothing to worry about, really.”
That was hardly true, Ginny realized. But she decided she wouldn’t tell Hermione that the people that had kidnapped them in the first place might be at it again before Harry returned with new information from the investigation.
Ginny was swishing her wand here and there to make the milk pour into a bowl and crack the eggs. Hermione smiled sadly, eyeing her wand set on the table before her, destined to be untouched and unused.
“I should make a visit back to Edinburgh,“ she said quietly. Ginny’s wand clattered to the floor and she hastily bent over to pick it up, clearing her throat nervously in the process.
Hermione had somewhat expected this reaction and looked at Ginny apologetically. “I will be back. But, my job...I have to make so many arrangements. Also Jonathan, I’ve written him a few quick, vague letters, but he must be worried sick about me.”
At first, Ginny seemed understanding, but as usual, her expression changed as soon as Hermione mentioned Jonathan. There was a simple reason to this, Hermione now knew and for a moment felt annoyed she had been kept in the dark for so long. Not that it would have changed anything if she hadn’t been.
“What are you going to do? With your job and all? I mean, quitting can’t be that hard, can it? You go, I can come along and help you pack and-“
“Wait, wait! Quitting, packing...?” Hermione stood up from her chair nervously, pacing around.
“What, you want to stay in the Muggle world, doing a Muggle job? Hermione, you don’t belong there, you’re meant to do something else, here, with us, in the magical world!”
“Well, the magical world doesn’t seem all that inviting to me. I don’t feel like I belong here, Ginny.” As soon as she spotted the hurt look on Ginny’s face, she regretted her words. “I didn’t mean it like that. I appreciate all that you and Harry have done for me, but I still cannot remember a thing! I can’t do magic, as much as I try, every second of every day, it doesn’t work! Not a spark, not a single thing happens, ever! I felt so right when I came here and found you, but ever since then, it hadn’t moved anywhere for me. I feel so stuck, in everything. I need to go back and take care of my job, I'm good at it and I don’t see why I should quit since it’s probably the only thing I will be good at,“ she added a little indignantly.
“Oh that is rubbish and you know that. You were perfect at everything you tried and-“
“That’s the problem, Gin, I don’t know. I don’t know who I used to be any more than who I am now. I believed it, at first, I really thought...but I’m so tired. So tired of dreaming dreams that don’t make any sense, so tired of being in the dark about everything, tired from all the people coming up and talking to me about things I have no idea about, people I don’t know. I need...I need to leave, just for a few days. Please, try to understand.”
Hermione stared at Ginny with wide desperate eyes, needing to hear that the other woman wasn’t angry with her. Despite all her frustration and anger, she didn’t want to part on a bad note with Ginny or Harry.
Perhaps Ginny understood because her face softened and with slumped shoulders, she sat down. “What about Ron?”
Hermione winced, running her hand through her hair sharply. “What about him?”
“Never mind, Hermione. I understand that you need to go back and sort things out. Just…”
“Don’t worry,” Hermione said with a relieved sigh of her own. “Could I use a telephone?”
“Yeah, we have one down the hall. I don’t know how to use it, though. We keep it mostly for Dad's enjoyment.”
“That’s fine, I know how it works.” Hermione smiled with amusement.
“This is hopeless,” Ginny sighed exasperatedly and threw her apron down onto the floor. “Look, Hermione, don’t leave til at least tonight. I still need to talk to you.” Ginny considered her for a moment, knowing that she had to stop with all the secrecy. She hadn’t told her about her and Ron’s engagement and look where that led her – she’s running back to that Muggle. “I don’t think it’s safe for you to go alone, considering what happened in the past. Harry and I were trying to find some trail to the people who did this, and it seems they might try again. Harry and Dad are at the Ministry as we speak, trying to find out more. I’ll go and help them in a minute. Please wait here, okay?”
Hermione furrowed her eyebrows. It was weird to think she was in some sort of danger. What more could they do to her after taking her past and magical ability as well probably? She nodded her head anyway.
“Alright,” Ginny breathed, sliding her feet into her shoes. “If you need anything, just use the Floo to go the Burrow. You’ve seen how that works. Much simpler than a telephone!”
Ginny longed to stay with Hermione, and explain things. Explain everything. But the words were so hard to find, and when she saw Hermione reaching for the phone, she felt like she shouldn’t listen to that. Nor did she want to.
Ginny Apparated away and Hermione tried to absorb everything Ginny had told her. She wanted to help them, or rather help herself and Ron, but what was she to do anyway? Picking up the phone, she dialed Jonathan’s phone number, which she knew by heart. It rang a few times before she heard Jonathan’s voice on the other line.
“Hey, it’s me. Hermione,” she said hoarsely, feeling an odd shiver upon hearing his voice. It felt similar to the feeling of when you miss someone, but she also felt her heart wasn’t entirely in it.
“Hermione! What the…it's about time you finally called! Where the hell are you? You said it would only be a few days and I haven’t heard from you at all for more than two weeks now!”
His voice was angry, but he also sounded worried. With shame, Hermione realized that up until this point she hadn’t spared much thought about Jonathan and how her sudden disappearance would make him feel.
“I’m sorry, but…I, um, I sent letters,” she stammered hopelessly. She still had no idea how she would explain all this, if she would at all.
“Letters? You mean those two notes on old paper? There was also nothing useful in it, you didn’t tell me anything, just not to worry. And that’s kind of difficult when these letters of yours were brought by birds for crying out loud! Just what the hell was that? I’m not even sure that little story of yours about leaving for work is even true. Where are you anyway? I’m coming for you right this instant, just give me the address!”
“No! I will explain everything. Don’t worry. I’m coming back today, or tomorrow. Okay?”
There was a pause until Hermione heard Jonathan again. When he next spoke, his voice was much gentler, although it seemed it took him a while to calm down.
“Okay, I can’t wait to see you. I love you,” he added, just as Hermione was about to say her goodbyes. For a moment she froze, at a loss for what to say. She was about to say it back, but found she couldn’t really. Annoyed with herself, Hermione bit her lip, thinking this shouldn’t be so hard. “Hermione?” The sound of her name, spoken with a hint of urgency, brought her back to reality as she shut her eyes and said quietly,
“I love you too.”
Hanging up the phone, Hermione massaged her temples, trying to ignore the guilt as she suddenly realized how empty those words had been, she might’ve as well said them to the wall. Opening her eyes, she turned around and took in a sharp breath when she spotted Ron standing in the doorway, clutching something in his hand and looking at her sadly and angrily at the same time.
Author's Note: Thank you for beta reading and encouragement as always, Megan (momotwins) and thank you all that read and reviewed. I hope you liked this one, too. Please review. I love it when you do.
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