Chapter 18 : Sleep Don't Weep
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Harry walked into the shop, closely followed by Arthur. He had to step over the broken door blocking the entrance, glass cracking under his shoe. Curious eyes from the streets of Knockturn Alley followed their movements, but each time Harry or Arthur looked back, everyone would hang their hand and scuttle away. Harry would have to question these people lurking around later, he reminded himself.
The place smelled of pesticide and smoke. Harry and Arthur both lifted the sleeves of their robes to cover their noses.
Just as Ginny had said, the shop was trashed. There were signs of struggle everywhere. The products were scattered across the floor, damaged and broken. Scorch marks lined the wall behind the counter.
Arthur was performing charms to reveal magical traps when Harry noticed an odd-looking cabinet in the back corner of the shop. He walked over to inspect it more closely and noticed the huge padlock was cracked, hanging limply from the smashed door. It was empty, as he had suspected, only tiny golden specks spotting the wood. It looked like sand and Harry thought it could be the dust everyone kept mentioning. Running his finger over the sprinkled surface, he slowly leaned closer to smell it.
“Harry, I found something.” Harry turned to look at Arthur, who was gripping his wand and looking at something on the floor. As Harry approached him, Arthur picked it up and examined what turned out to be a silver ring. There was sudden recognition in Arthur’s face and he handed the ring to Harry with pursed lips.
Harry recognized it in a split second. He would recognize that family crest anywhere – the silver snake slithering over an ornate M.
“I can’t believe this,” Arthur said as anger flashed in his eyes, an occurrence Harry had very rarely seen. “After everything that’s…”
“We can’t be sure this is Malfoy’s. Anyone could’ve nicked it off him and left it here on purpose to frame him. Malfoy isn’t so stupid as to leave it lying it around here.” Harry furrowed his eyebrows and tried to think. It was way too obvious that Malfoy had been involved in this. Never after the war had Harry started to like the man, but he believed they had reached an understanding of sorts. It had been after Ron and Hermione had disappeared when they last spoke to each other out of some now-forgotten necessity.
Sure, Malfoy was a git and that would probably never really change, but for some reason Harry refused to believe he would kidnap Harry's best friends, erase their memory and settle them down somewhere in Scotland. If anything, Hermione and Ron would never allow Malfoy to win in a duel, he thought with a grin.
Arthur didn’t seem convinced, however.
“How can we really know that? This is the Malfoys we’re talking about. They have always been openly against my family. I admired what you did for Draco after the war, and I allowed myself to believe he was just a child and deserved a second chance, but this,” he spat, pointing at the ring in Harry’s fingers with aversion, “speaks to something else.”
“I know, but I feel it’s all a part of a bigger picture,” Harry said with a sigh, slipping the ring into his pocket as Arthur slumped down to sit on an overturned cupboard.
“I have been living with the knowledge and guilt that I let a second son die. I know that whoever has done this didn’t kill them, for which I thank God every day, but my son and Hermione have been returned to us damaged and lost. They don’t remember anything. Ron can’t even remember the brother he’ll never see again.” An expression of intense pain and loss etched over Arthur’s face as he spoke. “Hermione, the most brilliant girl I’ve ever met, cannot do a simple levitating spell. I’ve been erasing people’s minds for a living, but we erased events, not lives, not whole pasts and inserted fake memories. Our past is what shapes us; it’s what makes us who we are. These people have to pay for what they’ve done.”
“They will,” Harry said resolutely, feeling slightly lighter when Arthur nodded appreciatively.
“Now, Harry, can you really say Malfoy is not involved in this?”
“Of course I can’t. That’s why we’re going to pay him a visit and ask, and he better tell the truth.”
“You’re leaving?” Ron tried to keep his voice casual, but his eyes betrayed him.
Hermione, too, had to try hard to keep her voice steady. “I should. I’ve been here for far too long. I have a job to take care of and-“
Ron knew what she was going to say, but he didn’t want to hear it.
“What about our sessions and the memory thing? What if we’re closer to resolving it?”
“We’re not closer to anything!” she snapped back.
“Hermione, if this is about the magic problem…”
“Yes, it is also about the magic problem, but about other things as well. I need to go home,” she said stubbornly, trying to convince herself as much as Ron.
“This is your home!”
“We don’t remember anything Ron! And it looks like that’s not going to change anytime soon. I can’t just sit around here all day and whip my wand into the air, with nothing happening. People tell us that we’re heroes, that we fought in a war and flew on dragons, but what use is that all to us when we can’t remember it? I love what Harry told me about me, how brave I’ve been, but I cannot believe it, because it’s not real to me! The very things that shaped us and shaped our world are gone; we’re not the people we used to be.”
“So you want to just give up? Turn your back on all of this, on Harry and Ginny and…and me?”
“I don’t know what I want to do. I’m going home and start from there.”
“You don’t have to start from there, we already started there, remember? This is where you should be, not taking steps back.”
“You don’t understand! When we came here, it was to find something. You did, you found a family; I found a newspaper article about my dead parents. I can’t even remember them, you get to make new memories with your mother and your father. I have no one.”
Ron opened his mouth to argue, but realized he couldn’t bring himself to argue with her about that.
“There are other people that care about you here,” he said desperately. “You can’t just leave, Hermione, you can’t.”
“Ron…” But she never finished her sentence because Ron crossed the distance between them in half a heartbeat and kissed her. Hermione’s knees buckled as she sagged against him, numb from the heavenly feeling of his lips atop hers. Small stars erupted behind her closed eyes and she wanted to stay forever in this moment, but she couldn’t. Not yet.
Ron broke away, looking into her eyes so deeply she couldn’t even blink. “Don’t go,” he whispered, his voice barely audible over Hermione’s ragged breathing.
Hermione wanted to say a lot of things, things that had been hiding in the corners of her soul for days now, probably even years if she came to think about it, but it was too complicated now. “I can’t, I’m…”
“Engaged,” Ron finished for her darkly. “I know.” He pulled away, taking a step back, and Hermione had to regain her balance.
The sudden loss of Ron from beside her felt like a giant glitch in gravity, and her head was spinning. Hermione wanted to yell, to scream Yes, engaged to you! But she never found her voice. She didn’t know what prevented her from telling him the truth. Maybe she was simply afraid he didn’t feel the same way, but that was ridiculous. From the way he looked at her to the soft touch of his lips on hers, Hermione allowed herself to be fool enough to believe he felt something remarkable for her. It was still so huge, especially with her other engagement. She had to resolve that first, because she no longer had the strength to deal with both of them at the same time.
“I’m so tired, Ron,” was all she could say, just then realizing how true it was.
“I don’t know. You’re tired. Come here.” Ron took her hand very softly, giving her space and opportunity to snatch it back. She didn’t. He led her to her room and sat her down on the bed crouching opposite, looking up at her with a guilty expression. “I’m sorry about that, I shouldn’t have,” he whispered hoarsely.
Hermione hated herself for being so unfair to him. Wasn’t she as guilty, having kissed him back at the Burrow that one time? It had been such a stolen moment, as if plucked from a dream, unreal yet still poignant in her every thought. Tears rolled down her cheeks, tears of longing and of guilt, of being such a coward and unable to speak the words that fought to get out of her. Ron reached out a hand to wipe them away as softly as if a warm summer breeze passed over her skin.
“Sleep,” he said again, and he stood up as Hermione slowly leaned back into her pillows. She hadn’t even realized he'd been holding her hands until he let go. She wished he hadn’t.
Her eyes began to droop, the weight in her chest crushing her heart with every heartbeat. Ron placed something on her bedside table and turned to walk away.
“Stay,” Hermione spoke softly, and Ron stopped in the doorway, taking in a deep breath. Without a word, he walked to the bed and lay down beside her. He kept the distance between them, but Hermione, her mind clouded over with tiredness, snuggled closer to him. She felt him bore his face into her hair, and that was when Hermione fell asleep. She slept like she hadn’t slept in years, peacefully and at rest, as if everything was as it should be and there was no other care in the world than the fresh scent of Ron beside her.
She woke up hours later. Stretching on her bed, her eyes still closed, she reached out a hand to touch Ron. There was nothing but empty space. Eyes snapping open, Hermione propped herself on her bed and blinked in the dim light. It must’ve been twilight outside her windows.
Swinging her legs over the bed, she couldn’t help feeling forlorn and upset Ron wasn’t there. A strong emotion of fear swayed over her.
She noticed a small box with a letter on it lying on her bedside table. Remembering Ron had left it there before she fell asleep, she reached out to take it with a trembling hand. Opening the box, she furrowed her eyebrows as she took two earrings from it and held them gingerly in her hand. They were blue like the sky and Hermione knew immediately they belonged to someone special.
Opening the envelope, a photo fell out of it to the floor. Hermione picked it up and peered at it through the gloom. Her eyes widened slightly as she looked down at her mother and father, her mother wearing the earrings Hermione was clutching in her hand. There was another photo in the envelope. Taking it out, she noticed this one was a magical photograph and it showed Hermione dancing in a periwinkle blue dress, wearing the same earrings. Her dance partner remained unknown, because the other half of the photo was torn off.
Hermione’s eyes were dry; she couldn’t cry, but her insides contracted with a loving heartache. She pressed the photograph of her mother to her chest and clutched the earrings in her hand even harder. Such a little thing, but somehow she felt a little closer to the woman that had been her mother. These earrings had been a gift, a special one, Hermione somehow knew that. She longed to remember her mother's face and the moment when she had put the jewelry in her hand and had told her she’d look beautiful wearing them.
She put them back into the box and stared at them for what seemed like long hours, trying to recall something. The hollowness inside her felt a little less gnawing as she imagined various scenes of her and her parents - hazy scraps of images of her father teaching her to ski and her mother lecturing her about proper mouth hygiene.
Hermione had no idea how Ron had come across all this, but the sudden need for him nearly took her breath away right then and there. Where was he anyway?
Standing up, Hermione walked to the table stacked with books. It was the usual pull, to look at the picture of her and Ron, the secret desire to just glance at it. Only then she noticed that it was not there. Pushing all the other books away and lifting them, replacing them, Hermione still couldn’t find the photo album.
With a heart beating wildly, she ran into the living room and gasped.
“No, no, no…” The photo album laid open on the coffee table, right on the photograph with her and Ron and the words about their engagement. She then noticed the fireplace and the soot and ashes all across the hardwood floor, as if someone had been in a real hurry to leave. Forgetting to think about anything, she put her shoes on quickly, grabbed a handful of Floo powder and stepped into the fireplace. Bracing herself for the uncomfortable spinning that would take place, she threw the powder and shouted, “The Burrow!”
Hermione was spinning in circles, gritting her teeth and hoping she would get this right. As soon as she spotted the familiar bottom of the living room at The Burrow, she lunged forward and found herself stumbling to the floor.
Molly ran to her in alarm, helping her to her feet and dusting the soot and ashes from her. Hermione coughed, still distressed and with her head whirling, so Molly led her to the kitchen and brought her a glass of water. Hermione was forced into a chair and even though she wanted to run upstairs and find Ron as soon as possible, she felt she shouldn’t just run away from Molly, who looked really worried herself.
“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said breathlessly as she gulped down the rest of the glass, glancing around to look whether Ron was in the room too.
“Are you alright?
“Yes, I’m just dizzy from the Floo.”
Molly eyed her for a moment, looking as though she wanted to say something but found it hard to. Shifting in her seat uncomfortably, she reached out to pat Hermione on the hand.
“I wanted to talk to you about something.”
Hermione started, staring at Molly with surprised, her stomach lurching. From the look in Molly’s eyes, Hermione dreaded what she was going to say next. “I really, really don’t want to get involved, it’s not my place, but please, Hermione, be careful with Ron.”
The words hit her unprepared and Hermione pulled her hand back from under Molly’s touch, her cheeks reddening.
“What do you mean?” Hermione couldn’t believe Ron would tell on her to his mother, because that is what it looked like at the moment. She hadn’t even had time to think about all that could happen now that Ron had seen that photograph and article. She was shaking just thinking about what his reaction might be, especially after what happened between them. There was the gorgeous kiss and then him feeling guilty because in his mind, she didn’t belong to him while she knew the entire time, that originally she had. And still she let him feel bad for what he had done, unable to at least be honest that they were in it together.
Molly’s voice snapped her out of her thoughts roughly. “I understand this situation is very complicated for you, but you’re engaged to another man now and-“
Hermione couldn’t take it anymore, the fear and emptiness and shame in her head making it ache. An unknown need to defend herself gripped her. She stood up abruptly and just blurted without thinking,
“You are not my mother, so please stop trying to act like one.”
As soon as Hermione heard herself say those words, she regretted them instantly. Molly looked as though she’d been slapped. Hermione opened her mouth to apologize, but fell silent as she saw Molly glance furtively around, a hurt look in her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Hermione, I didn’t mean to.” Without looking at her again, she stood up, too, and walked out of the kitchen fast, passing Ron in the doorway.
The moment was almost comically identical to the one few hours before. Hermione felt like shrinking under his incredulous gaze. During their brief time together, she'd seen many emotions in his eyes and face, annoyance, fear, confusion, affection, but never was there such fury.
“Ron,” she croaked, but he reached her in three quick strides, grabbing her by the arm and leading her outside into the garden. There he turned her around to face him, letting go off her arm and taking a step back.
“Why did you have to be so mean to my mother? What has she ever done to you except be as nice as possible?” he asked sharply, his eyes flaring at her.
“I didn’t mean…” she muttered, but Ron looked away, his eyes vacant. He would not hear her and there was obviously something else.
Hermione froze momentarily, thinking she didn’t hear him right. Her stomach churned uncomfortably and she felt quite faint as the one word he uttered so coldly dawned on her.
“What?” He didn’t mean it, he couldn’t mean it. She was taken aback in a way she hadn’t yet experienced. For the past few days she had been thinking about leaving, about escaping for just a little while. But as he had said that, as he had been actually throwing her out of his house, she realized just how much she didn’t want to go, how much she couldn’t even imagine leaving all this, leaving him.
His emotionless voice reached her rather painfully. “You wanted to leave, couldn’t stop talking about it! Go back to Jonathan, if that will make you happy. ”
“Just go.” Ron turned away and walked into the house without another word, slamming the door shut. Hermione stared at the wood for minutes to come, an odd pain taking place in her chest. Waiting, hoping, he would come back and talk to her, she shivered as the wind picked up.
But Ron didn’t come back. Hermione wanted to go in after him, but all the courage she tried to muster just slipped away from her like sand until she turned and kept walking.
Author's Note: Thank you everyone who is still reading this story. Thanks to all the people who reviewed the previous chapters after such a long delay. Thank you million times Megan (momotwins) for beta reading and support, as always. The chapter title was inspired by a song from the wonderful Damien Rice.
Did you like this chapter, hate it? What are your theories? Let me know and review pleaaase, it makes me very happy. Also, if you had any questions, you can visit and revive my dead Meet the Author Page. Aaand, I think that's all. Sorry for the long AN. I love you all!
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