Chapter 1 : Chapter 1
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She thought back, as she always did, to her wedding. The only memento of that day, almost five years ago, on display in her house was a single photograph. It was of her in her bridal gown with the person she was closest to in the whole world. It should have been her husband, of course, but it wasn’t. It was her sister-in-law, Ginny Potter, who was also in her bridal gown. Both were smiling happily at the camera and at each other. It had been taken just before the double ceremony commenced, before Hermione’s life had started its downward spiral, just as Ginny’s life went in the opposite direction. Even Ginny didn’t know that at the moment Hermione had said ‘I do’ her mind was in another place, with another man, a man that Hermione hadn’t seen for almost a year and half. A man who had been dead for those eighteen months. His name was Robbie.
His name was Robbie MacDonald and he was the first boy that had ever ‘kissed’ her. They had been nine years old and the kiss had taken place under a sprig of mistletoe at their junior school nativity play. They had lost touch when Hermione had gone away to Hogwarts. Eighteen months or so before her wedding to Ron, Hermione and Ginny had fallen out. Harsh words were spoken and Hermione had fled from the Burrow to her parent’s house in Basingstoke, then standing empty and unused. Her Mum and Dad were still in Australia.
She had been sitting in the sunshine at an outside table of a coffee shop in the town centre, when out of the blue a tall, slim, but strong-looking young man had asked if he could join her. She had been about to demur when two things happened. She had looked into his eyes; eyes that seemed to suck her into their steel grey depths, and he had asked her a question. Is your name Hermione Granger? They quickly re-established their knowledge of each other. Robbie, currently on leave from the Royal Marines, had asked for a date that evening and Hermione had surprised herself and accepted without hesitation.
A pleasant dinner with wine followed by a slow walk to the towns central taxi rank was the only agenda. A brief conversation which had established that she would call him on the number he had written down for her. A briefer kiss, a taster for the second, not so brief kiss, when she marvelled at the display of fireworks behind her closed eyelids and the unbearably pleasant churning in her tummy. Just as she surrendered herself to the sensations, the taxi driver cleared his throat rather loudly; he wasn’t earning anything while this guy snogged his girlfriend. That night she fell asleep gazing at the image of his face coming closer, she could still feel his lips on hers and those eyes; oh God, those eyes. As sleep overtook her, she smiled. She was beautiful when she smiled.
The next day she had purchased a mobile phone, called him and arranged a second date. This date had ended with them sitting in her parents living room drinking coffee. The kisses had started her insides twisting again before her head won the battle with her heart. She had told him about Ron and asked for time to sort herself out before taking an irrevocable step. She later came to regret that decision.
A meeting with Ron had not gone well which had only fired her resolve and so she had called Robbie for another date. She was getting ready for this, her third date with Robbie, one that, if it ended in the bedroom, would be fine with her, when Ginny Weasley decided to intervene.
Her best friend had appeared at her home and in the ensuing heated ‘discussion’ had reminded Hermione forcefully of the recent conflict they had come through, of the cause they fought for, of the people who hadn’t survived. They had been her friends too, like Ginny’s brother, Fred. Reluctantly Hermione agreed to return to the Burrow, effectively breaking her date with Robbie.
One day she and Ginny had been shopping in Basingstoke when they saw a local newspaper with Robbie’s picture on the front page. Her heart hurt badly when she read the article that told her Robbie had been killed in action. She felt horrible but after a few days had decided that there was nothing to gain from feeling that way, so she had taken her few memories of Robbie and locked them away in a small corner of her heart and started to live again. Even so Robbie had been a regular and frequent visitor to her thoughts and dreams. Maintaining the memories of his eyes that still drew her to him in those dreams. It was her opinion that had he lived he would have been the love of her life.
She now realised that her marriage to Ron had been a mistake, a big mistake. Even though she had a great affection for Ron, she doubted now that she had been in love with him. Not the kind of love that will sustain a happy marriage.
Nobody knew of Hermione’s unhappiness; or the reason for it. She had hidden it well. Her double life was her secret. She had a good job in the Family Division of the Magical Law Enforcement Department, preparing cases of juvenile crime to send into the legal system. As a supervisor she had six investigators working for her, and she was next in line for Head of Section. She loved her job and in the office she was happy. In social situations, she was happy. She could laugh and joke with the best of them. Nobody knew that it was all an act, a sham, a hidden tragedy wrapped carefully in a farce.
Her thoughts inevitably came round to the cause of her misery. Marriage had not proved to be the bed of roses it was supposed to be. At least hers wasn’t. She had imagined an apartment or a small house that she and Ron would build their home in, with a career in the Ministry for both of them. Then after two or three years a baby to complete the happiness she longed for. However sex with Ron had very quickly become boring, repetitive and unsatisfying. She wanted a sex life like the one Ginny described to her once when the two girls had shared a bottle or two of wine during a man-free weekend. Harry and Ron had been in France on a Quidditch break. A giggling Ginny had told her about sex with a lover who considered her needs first. A lover who considered her needs at all would be a huge improvement for Hermione.
Their honeymoon in Greece, paid for by Hermione’s parents, had been wonderful. Ron had been loving, attentive, everything a new husband should be. Hermione was very happy… for about six months. She hadn’t consciously noticed any change in Ron until the first night it happened. It wasn’t just something that Ron did; it was something that happened to her as well. They had begun to make love when she looked at his face and had no idea why it suddenly morphed into the face of Robbie. Try as she might she could not make the face above her turn back into Ron. Then the pain returned.
“Hermione, are you alright? Asked Ron/Robbie.
“No… I…” she had to stop this now. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong but it’s hurting… I’m sorry but please stop.” He was annoyed, she could tell. Her vision of Robbie faded. Ron rolled on to his back, breathing heavily. Minutes passed before she spoke softly. “I’m sorry Ron; I don’t know why it hurts. Perhaps I should go to St. Mungo’s…”
He hadn’t answered, just grunted a ‘whatever’ and then rolled over and gone to sleep. She went to the bathroom, locked the door and cried bitterly into a towel that muffled her sobs. Nights like this were frequent occurrences over the next few months, despite the healers finding nothing amiss with Hermione’s body. Eventually Ron had stopped trying to make love to his wife. After a month or so it was obvious to Hermione that while their sex life was in trouble, Ron’s was not. Instead of coming home drunk he was now returning relatively sober and very happy. He was obviously getting satisfaction elsewhere.
Hermione was carrying a mixed burden of confusion, shame and guilt. Ginny was the only person she had confided in. She would, and indeed had in the past, trusted Ginny with her life. She trusted her with this.
“Who came into your head? Not Harry?”
“No not Harry, it was… oh bugger, it was Robbie, Gin.” More tears flowed.
Ginny sat open-mouthed, “Robbie! I thought you were over that.”
“So did I, Ginny, so did I. But I’ve never been able to get Robbie completely out of my head and for a couple of years now I’ve had thoughts of him more often than I care to admit. I can’t get him out of my head. That’s why I’m confused.” Ginny sat silently before saying,
“Hermione, that night, what is it six years ago, when I came to see you, you were getting ready for a date with Robbie weren’t you? If you had gone on that date and he had wanted to sleep with you after, would you have had sex with him?”
“I can’t be certain but I think, yes I would have. I was hoping he would. I wanted him Ginny, I wanted him so bad. I can’t stop thinking about him, even though he’s dead. Should I say anything to Ron?”
“No! Absolutely not, Hermione.”
“He’s going to ask sooner or later. I don’t want to lie to him anymore.”
“Who are these tears for?
“These tears you’re crying now, they can only be for one of three people. Robbie, because you’re feeling bad about standing him up, and because he’s dead you can’t make it right. Ron, because you think you’re betraying him, or you, Hermione, because you’re scared and unhappy and don’t know what to do. So once you work out why you’re crying, you’ll know what to do about it.”
“I’m crying because I’ve been having serious doubts about my feelings for Ron. I mean, you can’t cheat on someone with a dead person, can you? I’m not sure I can stay married to him while I feel like this, and I can’t see it changing anytime soon. It wouldn’t be fair on either of us. Keep this between us, Ginny.”
“I’m hurt that you even ask me that, Hermione.”
“I’m sorry Ginny, please, I need your help, don’t turn away from me.” Ginny embraced her friend.
“I’ll never do that, Hermione, you know that.” Hermione dried her eyes and blew her nose.
“Yeah, I do. Listen I want… I want to go and see Robbie’s parents. I don’t know why, but I just have a feeling it might help me to talk about him. What do you think?”
“It might help you, Hermione, but you have to consider them as well. Will they want to talk about him?”
“I hadn’t thought of that. It has been six years maybe they’re okay talking about it. There’s only one way to find out.” She made up her mind, “I’m going!”
Hermione paused on the pavement outside the suburban semi that had been Robbie’s home. There was a car in the driveway so it seemed that Brian and Carol Macdonald were at home. Taking a deep breath, Hermione opened the gate and walked slowly up to the house. The door opened after one ring of the bell, to reveal Robbie’s father.
“Hello Mr Macdonald. I know you won’t remember me, my name is…”
“Wait… it’s um Hermione isn’t it, of course I remember you. You were very kind to us when they brought Robbie home. Please come in.”
Hermione took the seat she was offered. She was alone while Brian went to find his wife. The couple settled themselves in front of her.
“I’m sorry to trouble you after all this time, but I’m having a problem that I hope you can help me with. Do you mind if we talk about Robbie?”
“No not at all. In fact…” Brian interrupted his wife.
“Not yet, Carol; let’s hear what Hermione has to say. Forgive me, Hermione but did Robbie get you pregnant before he went away?”
“Oh no, Mr Macdonald, it’s nothing like that.”
“I’m sorry to ask that, but it has happened that families of dead soldiers are approached by pregnant girls or girls with babies claiming that the dead soldier was the father.”
“Really! That’s terrible, despicable. But no, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because since that time there are very few days, very few, when I have not thought about Robbie. Just lately it’s been more frequent. In fact there are days when I can’t get him out of my head. It’s causing me problems and I wondered if talking about him would help me.”
Brian had a very serious expression on his face and Hermione prepared to be asked to leave. Brian looked at Carol who nodded enthusiastically.
“Hermione, you won’t believe this, but we have wanted to find you for over a year. We just didn’t know where to look.”
“Find… me? Why?”
“This will come as a shock Hermione, but by some miracle, Robbie is alive.” Her head swam,
“Alive? Robbie is alive? But… I… I don’t understand. How…”
“Let me explain. When they got Robbie to the hospital in this country they were preparing for the formal autopsy when they found signs of life. Faint signs, but there was no doubt he was alive. He had sustained a very serious head injury. He was in a coma for two and a half years and then he woke up. I use the term ‘woke up’ loosely. He could see and he could respond to sound but could do nothing for himself. He didn’t speak but made sounds that were unintelligible. That is until one day a nurse became convinced that he was repeating one sound and in particular, one word, a four syllable word. It took a year of trying different words to see if there would be a reaction. A year or so ago, that same nurse, her name is Éowyn, found the word. When she repeated it back to him he became excited, agitated, as if he was saying ‘at last you’ve got it’. The word was ‘Hermione’; it was your name he was trying to say.”
“My name… my… name. Are you sure, I mean, why would he say my name?”
“We don’t know. We won’t know until he is able to tell us, and that could still be years away. He is making progress. Éowyn has spent a prodigious amount of time working with him. We visit him twice a week and we are due to go tomorrow.”
“Well please give him my best wishes, Mr MacDonald…”
“We can do better than that, Hermione. What I mean by that is, if you are free tomorrow why don’t you come with us. I’d be interested to see his reaction when he sees you.
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