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Chapter 19 : Of Broken Glass and Closed Doors
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The sun was setting over the delicate landscape of Ottery St. Catchpole. Hermione watched the pinkish glow dancing on the horizon. Despite all that had happened, she appreciated the view as the simple beauty brought her some small comfort after what had just happened. It would be amazing to have Ron by her side for many reasons. Hermione almost felt pathetic for how much she craved the romance with him, a romance she would have never cared too much about before. Sunsets and fairytales were never her thing, really, but with Ron it all seemed gorgeous and possible and reasonable, with no shame in it.
She wasn’t quite sure how she felt, devastated or angry, it was very fuzzy inside. Hermione knew she had messed up, but the fact that she had gone a little crazy on Molly worried her more than what had happened between her and Ron. She couldn’t help feeling he was overreacting a little bit, putting her in a place where she would always be the bad guy. It was a wrenching feeling of clinging to him through the mess of things and being frustrated with his attitude at the same time.
She wanted to stomp back down the hill and blow down his door with her wand and smack him. And then she realized she couldn’t really do it, because she used to be engaged to him, and she was now engaged to another. And she probably wouldn’t even be able to blow down the door because she couldn’t do any magic!
Growling into the wind, Hermione trudged on. Only then did she start wondering just how in the world she would get back to Harry and Ginny’s. She didn’t have the slightest idea where she really was and no means to contact any of them. That left her one option, and that was to go back to the Burrow and use their fireplace.
Suddenly she thought about Ron, and more importantly about Molly. Shrugging her shoulders, Hermione realized she would just have to find another way.
As she reached the top of the hill, there was a lone tree set against the darkening sky, and Hermione leaned against it. She shivered slightly and breathed in the fresh air, trying to figure out what she would do next. Her body ached from the inability to cry and so she just shook rigidly against the tree.
At least there was all the more reason for her to go. Ron had made it clear he wouldn’t hold her back anymore. Hermione thought of what she would do once she got to Scotland. She didn’t know, but it didn’t worry her much. An intuitive certainty inside told her the decisions would come along the journey.
She felt like she truly had nowhere to go now, but she couldn’t just stay there forever, even though she really wanted to. The hill on which she was standing overlooked the entire village and Hermione wondered how she’d have to ask strangers whether she could make a telephone call and how annoying that would be. Then a strange house caught her eye. It was a little away from the rest of the village, oddly shaped and colorful, as if plucked from another world, a Wizarding one at that.
Normally Hermione wouldn’t really think it safe or the best choice to go and ask about in a house like that, but she felt drawn to it, like she had been here before. And then she realized she probably really had been somewhere around here, this place being so close to the Burrow.
Slowly, she descended the hill and made her way to the house, knowing she would find help there and then it would be straight back to Scotland.
Ron stayed shut in his room all night, dozing off occasionally, then waking up to think about what idiocy he was capable of. Was this the current confused Ron, or had he always been such a prat?
His room was quiet, the silence pressing down on him. Millions of thoughts swam in his head, some more poignant than others: how he had thrown Hermione out, how he was torn between feeling guilty and feeling as though she had deserved it. He'd felt this endless anger toward her ever since he had found the photo album.
He had spent sleepless nights and agonizing hours thinking about how he had been confusing her with his actions, trying to steal her away from her fiancé, while she knew all along they had been together and that this attraction between them had so much foundation he hadn’t been let in on, as if he hadn’t been a part of it at all. How dare she keep it away from him? It was apparent to him that she had probably decided to keep it a secret because she very well knew what or whom she wanted in the end. Why bother dealing with Ron and his feelings and their engagement when he wouldn’t ever remember it, and she could just hop happily off and live her life with the man of the present, not of the past.
Since it was morning, Ron was finally willing to get out of his room, because the hunger was starting to irritate him even more than the rest of his troubles. He went to the kitchen of the Burrow, appreciating the warmth it emitted even in such a rainy and depressing morning such as the one he had just woken into. Pouring himself some coffee he found on the stove, he scanned the kitchen for signs of breakfast made by his mother, but there were none.
His mother walked in the next second, and Ron sat down beside the table with a sigh of relief, giving her a tired smile, expecting food to appear on the table. Instead, Molly slowly walked over to him and smacked him upside the head with her apron.
“What was that for?” cried Ron while spitting some of his coffee down his shirt.
“What on earth have you done?”
“What do you mean?” It was an automatic question to buy him some time to find the right words to go around this. He wasn’t too keen on elaborating on the issue.
Waving her wand, Molly made the spill coffee disappear from his shirt and snatched the cup from his hands.
“You threw Hermione out of the house, that’s what I mean. I didn’t want to say anything, but I couldn’t even sleep thinking about it. Really, Ron, you throw someone out just because of an argument? Especially someone who can’t do any magic and might have trouble getting back home!”
Getting up from the chair, Ron took three quick steps around the table and further from a seething Molly. The truth was, it really hadn’t occurred to him. Very quickly, he gulped down the sudden flood of shame and tried to come up with something desperately.
“Um, I didn’t really think about…But she was horrible to you, so I…I just told her I didn’t like it.”
“You threw her out of the house! How could you? Since when does my son act like this towards a woman he cares about? I will not have this!” she exclaimed and grabbed Ron by the shoulder, dragging him to the fireplace. “You go now and apologize to Hermione!”
“What? No! She should apologize to you!”
“Look, Ron, she’s having a really tough time. Everyone can snap sometimes. She’s confused and lost and she can’t even do magic, imagine how hard that must be for her! And you just throw her out! How do you expect to be a good husband to anyone when you can’t handle a little emotional unbalance?” Molly asked, her last words ending in a shrewd little laugh.
“So this is how women always act? It doesn’t end when they finally grow up?”
Molly narrowed her eyes as he winced after realizing his very untimely ‘women are crazy’ reference.
“I am going to pretend I didn’t hear that. No more talk, go!” She grabbed a handful of Floo, threw it in the fire and pushed Ron into the green flames without another word. Ron’s head was spinning from the travel, and for a moment he was glad he had no time for breakfast. Spotting Harry’s living room, he lunged forward and stumbled in. Crossing the room and the hall, he spotted Ginny’s red hair in the kitchen, so he went there.
She was working quietly at the counter, making sandwiches with a grim look on her face.
“If you’re looking for Hermione, she left,” Ginny said quietly, not lifting her eyes.
Ron stood transfixed in the doorway as his knees buckled. He was still angry, and still couldn’t figure out all the feelings of resentment and guilt he had, but the fact that she was really gone now struck him unexpectedly.
“Yes, and supposedly she had some trouble getting here. Luna brought her. Hermione didn’t say much, just packed her bags and asked Harry to drive her to the station very early in the morning. And why did she leave?” Ginny asked mockingly and pretend to think deeply about it. “Hm, maybe it was because she wanted to set her affairs straight or maybe it could be because someone went completely mental on her just because she didn’t hug you around the knees and beg to be your wife again.”
Ron smacked his forehead and mouthed empty words for a second. It seemed a bit unfair, his mother and sister ganging up on him like this. Maybe he had gone a little too far, but his anger was justified to a certain extent, and he knew that.
“She knew we were engaged for days! And she didn’t say anything, even though we…uhm…” Ron went suddenly red in the face and his ears looked ready to emit steam.
“We might have gotten closer. A little bit. I dunno. The thing is,” Ron went on, waving his hand and trying to get rid of the awkwardness in his voice, “we’re in this not-knowing-our-past mess together! She found out something pretty significant about our past, not her past, but our past! And she kept it a secret, because she probably didn’t want to deal with it since she already has a new husband-to-be! I mean, why didn’t you tell me anyway?”
“I don’t know! I’m a little angry with myself about that one, but it seemed too overwhelming, especially when we found out about Hermione’s other relationship. But you can’t blame her for having it. She forgot you, okay?” Ginny said, a little too loudly, her face contorted with sadness as she looked at Ron. “It’s terrible, but she did, and she probably fell in love with this guy, because she was alone and you just can’t…can’t expect that to simply stop. I’m sorry, Ron.” She left the sandwiches at the counter and reached for her brother’s arm. “I so wanted to just fly over to Edinburgh and turn that guy into a pickle or something, so you two could be together, and I would tell you to go there and do it yourself, win her back and be happy, but…maybe you shouldn’t. At least not for a while.”
“So she’s just going to get married and live in Scotland like a silly Muggle while she belongs here? That just doesn’t feel right!”
“Well then maybe you shouldn’t have basically sent her packing when she ran after you to apologize.”
“She was mean to Mum,” he retorted angrily.
“Well, yeah, but Mum feels really guilty now that you sent Hermione away because of her. And it wasn’t even that much of a big deal. We were all mean to Mum from time to time, because we’re idiots. And besides, I think it was more about the jealousy than about Hermione being a little snappy. Look, I don’t want to blame all this on you, but she probably needs to figure some things out, so let her breathe, and then fight for her without being a jerk.”
“Maybe it would help if next time you all told us the truth straight at the beginning.”
Sighing, Ginny crossed her arms and looked at her feet guiltily. “It wasn’t right of us to keep you in the dark about it.”
“Just be honest with me next time.”
Ginny bit her lip and looked as though she hesitated for a moment. “Well, there are some new things that surfaced about your disappearance.”
“I went looking for Memory Dust, found the shop in which I’d seen it completely trashed, so Harry started doing some investigating. It seems it might not be over and that the people who had taken you might still be out there.”
“And you let Hermione go back to Scotland?”
“I believe Harry’s done the necessary precautions and protection, it might even be better she went out of the picture here, because it seems someone is spying on us, has information. Harry and Dad are looking into it. And besides,” added Ginny with a sigh, “even if I tried, there was no stopping Hermione this morning. She looked very determined about leaving.”
Ron imagined Hermione with her bags on the platform, his thoughts traveling back to the day of their arrival to London and how crazy it had been for them. At least they had been together. Now she was gone, alone in that personal mess of things, and he felt sad he could no longer share that with her.
“I guess I screwed up.”
“Well, you’ll fix it, because you’re my brother, and you’re a great guy even though sometimes you don’t entirely act like it. And we’ll pretend I never said this,” Ginny added hastily when she spotted the small grin on Ron’s face. “Here, have some breakfast,” she said, setting the plate with sandwiches on the table. “I reckon Mum punished you with no food this morning.”
Instead of eating it, Ron pushed his sandwich all around the plate, supporting his chin with his hand, his elbow propped on the table. “The thing is, I’m not even sure if I want to fix it anymore. She said things along the lines of our relationship being in the past, one we can’t even remember…maybe only the existence of it once is not enough at this point.”
“I thought you felt differently.”
“Well maybe I was wrong.”
They ate their breakfast in silence as more words of regret hung in the air around them. Ginny watched her brother out of the corner of her eye, his slumped shoulders and the forced smile he sometimes sent her way. Still, he seemed grateful he had found some understanding, and she was glad she could offer it to him. It was moments like these when she realized, again and again, just how much she had truly missed Ron.
All the bickering and arguing over the years just went out of the picture, and she could see all their shared time before Hogwarts. They had to stick together since they were both excluded from games of their older brothers because she was a girl and Ron was the youngest. Ron was actually the first that ever lent her a broom, although later he pretended that never happened and refused to play with her. And she was the one that got rid of all the spiders when they were near, never making fun of him for his phobia.
“Hey, enough with the sulking,” she said suddenly, kicking him swiftly under the table. “What do you want to do today? Practice magic or something?”
Ron thought about that for a minute. He could go to the joke shop or go back home and try to reason with his mother. He would mostly like to talk to Hermione, or maybe he wouldn’t. He couldn’t really tell. He had been so wrapped up in her and all the issues surrounding them both that he forgot about many other things. Perhaps Hermione was right that it wouldn’t be the worst thing to set some things straight, things they left behind rather hastily after they had discovered the truth about themselves.
“I want to go to Edinburgh too.”
“To see Hermione?” Ginny flung her arms into the air and gave Ron an exasperated look. “Were you even listening to me?”
“No, to see Chelsea.”
Jonathan’s apartment was so unlike all the places she had been to recently it startled her. It was organized and tidy, not in a maddening way, but in such a usual way it looked like a furniture store. Hermione imagined The Burrow in sharp contrast and felt a small tug at her heart. Even Harry and Ginny’s flat had a certain extent of comforting chaos around it. She liked it that way. It had been the same when they visited Hogwarts. There was no mess or chaos in the right sense of the word, but the place was wonderfully irregular, unpredictable and different in every edge of the wall and corner.
This place just seemed unsettling.
Hermione was sitting on the sofa, her bag beside her, unpacked, and she had been waiting for Jonathan for nearly an hour now, wishing he would already open the door and walk in. She needed to get this over with.
They keys rattled in the lock and Hermione slowly turned her head to see Jonathan’s face light up slightly when he spotted her.
“Hermione, finally!” He crossed the room and embraced her tightly, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. He was about to kiss her mouth when Hermione took a step back, her eyes shut and a deep frown settled over her face. Jonathan took no note of it, however.
“It’s such a shame you didn’t go to Greece with me, the weather was superb the whole time! And the parties and people, it was all a magnificent blur. I felt like I didn’t even want to leave. But well, job’s a job.”
Hermione watched him talk animatedly as he prattled on and on, his voice hardly reaching her ears. Minute by minute she found out she simply didn’t care about what Greece had been like or what Jonathan had been doing there. How did one just lose interest in a person after a relationship like that? It seemed odd, and a little selfish, to think you could just stop loving someone so abruptly. But then, maybe she'd never truly loved him. Hermione wasn’t the type to dwell on these kinds of things, analyzing all the emotions and reasons of them.
True, Hermione and Jonathan had never really fallen crazily in love. They had gone out on a date, they had had a good time, they had started dating and eventually had moved in together. After a while, it had seemed only natural they might get married, because they suited each other, they were okay, they made sense.
They had made much more sense than her and Ron had, but did that really matter? As she was watching him as if from a distance, as if she hardly knew him at all, whereas Ron had been so vivid and ever-present in her mind, she really thought it didn’t matter. The intensity of any emotion she might have felt for Jonathan only paled in comparison to what she felt for Ron, whether it was anger or something else entirely.
“We need to talk, Jonathan.”
“You didn’t hear me?”
“I did. You want to talk and you said it in a very serious tone. You also look like somebody died.”
Taking in a deep breath, Hermione looked at him sincerely. “I’m sorry, Jonathan, but I think…I think we went into this engagement thing too quickly. I thought about it and…I think I’m not the right person you should be marrying.”
Her last words were drowned out by a sharp laugh coming from Jonathan as he began to shake his head in disbelief. “Wait, wait…You’re breaking up with me?”
Hermione briefly though how strange it was how sometimes one readies himself up for something, the decision is made and in that certain moment the courage, determination or wants just fail, and the person doesn’t know what to do. This situation, quite strangely, was the exact opposite. For days Hermione had been mulling this choice over, and she never knew what she wanted, she never got past the point where she said the engagement was too soon, but as she stood across from Jonathan, she knew everything.
“Yes, I think I am,” she replied steadily, looking him in the eyes even though she really wanted to turn away.
“What…I don’t even…Is someone else involved in this?” he spat, his eyes growing darker.
“There’s everything involved in this. It turns out that I’m someone else than I thought I was, and everything is different now.”
“What does that even mean? What have you been doing on that trip of yours, seriously? Few weeks ago before I left everything was great. You just take off, no explanation, no phone call, like I suddenly don’t exist to you. I still thought, well, okay, she probably had a good reason and will tell me, but you come here, can’t even wait until I take my damn jacket off and you just blurt out you’re leaving. Really classy, Hermione.”
Breaking the tumultuous eye-contact, Hermione started pacing around the room while Jonathan donned his jacket and shoes jerkily, cursing under his breath. Hermione considered telling him the truth, that she was a witch, but that had been a foolish thought. It wouldn’t fix anything, and Jonathan would not believe it. Oh and there was also no way of her demonstrating anything.
When Jonathan finally settled down, Hermione went on.
“You’re right, this is not the right way to do things, I’m not feeling very good about that…”
“Oh so you feel uncomfortable because you had to dig up some decency to at least drop by and wave goodbye, well that’s nice,” he retorted, flinging his case across the room onto the sofa.
The reasoning was useless. Hermione wasn’t surprised and didn’t blame Jonathan. He did seem more irritated than hurt, and she felt dreadful about just walking around inflicting pain and disappointment on people, but what would be the use of her staying with Jonathan just out of duty?
A deafening silence filled the space between them, as if predicting the weight of the words Hermione spoke next.
“I don’t love you. Here.” Hermione slowly slid the engagement from her finger, already feeling as if a portion of the crushing weight inside her had somewhat lifted. She silently set it on the surface of the coffee table.
Jonathan’s stare was fixed on the ring, his expression blank. No one liked to hear that.
“Fine, fine!” he burst out, snatching the ring off the table. Hermione tried to look guilty, she tried to feel guilty, but it didn’t work. All those moments of guilt and apprehension she had been feeling before evaporated into thin air as if they had never existed.
“I’ll move my things out of the flat today or tomorrow,” she said, taking hold of her bag and moving towards the door.
“So you’re not even going to explain things? You met someone better or just spontaneously decided to stomp all over our relationship?”
Turning around, Hermione spoke calmly. “Jonathan, remember all those times when I told you I felt something was wrong with my life and my past, and that I had a feeling there was something more to it? I could never explain it, and you never had the patience to listen, or to care. My past is stranger now and I just don’t know where I am right now…”
“For God’s sake, are you really pulling this inner confusion rubbish on me again?”
“See? I am trying to explain, but you just won’t listen because you don’t care. It disrupts your perfect little world of great career and wonderful vacations and fancy parties. We care about different things. I never realized it as much as I do now. I know this decision is abrupt, but it’s the way it is. Look, you’re a good man, and being with you was nice, but this is no longer what I want or what I need. I’m someone else completely, and I just…I’m sorry. This is how I feel.”
“Well then, there’s really not much more to say, I guess.” Crossing his arms, Jonathan looked out of the window and after more moments of a deliberate and stinging silence, Hermione turned and reached the door.
As she closed the door, she closed another part of her life, like it was the easiest thing, but it wasn’t truly. Her first brief notions of relief slowly faded away, just like her relationship with Jonathan, like webs on flowers scattering through the wind. There was an emptiness; one that gnawed and felt raw. Many things are better than emptiness, but emptiness was, after all, better than living in a lie.
Hermione stood in her little office and she felt like an intruder more than ever now. Her eyes darted all over the office, the place that used to be a home and the place where she thought she had been paving her road to success and great career. And now it seemed like she was looking at it all through a glass. It wasn’t truly hers and she was no longer sure whether she even deserved it. It was like she had stolen it and everything she thought once belonged to her in this room was a fake.
Walking to the diploma hanging on the wall, she tried to think back on how she acquired it. Harry had told her she had undergone an intense Healer program after school and dabbled in Muggle medicine as well, in order to gain more knowledge. Then they disappeared and here she was, staring at a paper with her name on it.
She tried to remember the day and moment she had gotten it, but even her fake implanted memories had faded by now. There was nothing. She took the frame into her fingers and traced her fingertips along the glass, and then flung it across the room where the framed paper crashed against the wall loudly.
Taking in shallow breaths, she stomped over to the desk stacked with papers and folders.
She grabbed the closest pile and in one swift aggressive movement she swept it off the table. Hermione started reaching all over her desk, taking whatever she could put her hands as object after object flew all across the room, tears falling from her face as she did it. There went the framed picture of her and Jonathan, smashing against the wall. Her expensive pens and lamp went flying to the other side. She grabbed the chair and turned it over, kicking into it and sobbing along.
She wanted to trash the entire place, because she felt even this was now stolen from her. The air got so thick Hermione thought she would choke. The desk was soon cleared of all things, so Hermione got to the little closet in the corner, and she jerked every lab coat off the hangers, ripping a sleeve in one, unintentionally or not, didn’t matter. With the closet empty, Hermione kicked the clothes into the air along with the heaps of paper as it all circled in the air, as if suspended in time. Glass crunched under her feet and she soon felt a sharp pain tug at the base of her foot, a shard piercing her through the thin sole of her shoe.
The bottled emotions of anger and guilt, no longer even clear really, because Hermione failed to find the distinction between her guilt toward Ron or Jonathan. She wanted to scream, just for a second, but the last bits of her sanity reminded her to just sob quietly, as to not draw any outside attention.
The damage was done, there was nothing left to destroy, so Hermione just sank to the floor and tried to wipe her eyes with the back of her hand.
Hermione sat amongst the heaps of paper for a longer time, out of breath and with her heart beating wildly. Hugging her knees, she glanced around the messy room, already calculating how much she would have to pay for the damage. It didn’t matter to her really, this fake life no longer really mattered. With this realization, she felt the rage ebb away slowly and her lungs started filling with a strangely fresh air with each new breath. The chaos and mess around her brought a weird sense of tranquility, and she closed her eyes and let go of the remaining papers she had clutched in her hands moments before.
It was a long day, but it was almost over, and even though it was one of the hardest she could remember, she felt grateful for it. It all seemed possible now, letting go of what wasn’t really hers, and trying it once more in the world she belonged to. A rush of new determination seeped into her as she was slowly cooling down, blinking through the gloom and her tears. She would try the magic, and she would one day succeed, because Hermione Granger may be a mess right now, and a confused lost woman, but Hermione Granger was not a quitter.
Thoughts of Ron were also there, but only at the edge of her mind, because it all suddenly seemed bigger than him for the moment. Hermione needed a fresh start in an old place, and his role in her life suddenly seemed all the more questionable.
Author's Note: Thank you, Megs (momotwins), for betareading even during NaNo. You're the best! To everyone else, thanks so much for all your support and patience. See? It didn't take me two years this time, and it won't! I hope you liked the chapter as some things were finally dealt with.
If you'd like, you can use the little box and review, and make me uber happy. Even a few words will do. Thank you for reading.
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