The desert sun beat down upon Hermione Granger as she crawled out from the ruins of the ancient Temple she had been exploring. She stood up and wiped at the sweat that poured down her tanned face. Her bushy brown hair was sticking to her neck as it came out of its untidy bun, and her face was flushed with excitement. In the few years she had been a Curse Breaker, she had never had such a find. True, it was not a find in jewels or gold, but information. She could hardly wait to get to work.
She retrieved her rucksack from the mouth of the tunnel and peeked inside. There they were, ten scrolls, neatly rolled and aged to perfection. She could practically see the magical aura surrounding them, protecting them from time and the elements. She pondered what other protective curses were upon them for a moment. If the rest of the Temple was any indication, they were sure to be nasty.
She closed the sack and hoisted it onto her shoulder where it dug painfully into her skin. Sand and grit rubbed her and she felt stiff and itchy. She thought longingly of her shower as she began the long trek back to her tent.
Hermione was not supposed to be here, mainly due to the fact that no one who ventured here had returned. Every Ministry of Magic around the world had deemed this part of the Sahara off limits. But Hermione hardly cared. She thrived on danger. After all, “what the Ministry didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them or me for that matter.” It was her motto, and she giggled to herself thinking of it. But that was short-lived, for her thoughts began to drift.
How had she come to be here? Life had definitely thrown her a few surprises. Life had seemed to be going so well. The war was over and she finally had a future with Ron at her side. He had even promised to come with her to try to find her parents again. Then Narcissa Malfoy appeared and her life had been shattered more surely than Voldemort had ever managed to do.
She remembered waking from the battle alone, in St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. The crisp hospital sheets itched and she was painfully aware that Ron was no longer by her side. Hot tears of disappointment leaked from her eyes. She missed him so much.
After three days of begging and pleading with the Healers she was released and finally allowed to see Ron. She quietly walked up to his bed and laid a gentle hand on his. “Talk to him,” the Healers had urged. “He can hear you.”
“Hey,” she said softly. “I'm here now. I'm sorry they took me away.” She took in a deep breath. “I'm sorry this happened. Why did we go there? Why?” She gazed lovingly into his face. “I love you,” she whispered. “Please wake up. I need you.” With those words tears began to stream unchecked down her cheeks. She bent down to kiss him lightly. But her strength finally left her and she collapsed with her head next to Ron's. She silently sobbed into his pillow.
For days Hermione sat by his bed, but knew that something was wrong. The man she loved more than life itself was lying as if dead. She wished, time after time, that it could have been her lying there, that he had woken first. She would have done anything to take his injuries upon herself. She loved him so much. Yet still, she knew that something was terribly wrong.
It was quite by accident that she found out just how dire Ron’s situation was. She was coming back from the tea room when she came upon a group of lime green clad healers. They were talking in hushed tones and Hermione was about to ignore them and move on when she heard a snippet of their conversation.
“…so there’s nothing we can do?” a Healer with dark hair and pointed beard was asking.
“I’m afraid not,” answered a severe looking woman with long brown hair. “There is simply no cure for being hit by a Killing Curse. We’ll just have to make him comfortable until he passes on.”
Passes on? Hermione thought. They could not be talking about Ron, but instinctively she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were. Right then and there she decided that she was going to do something about his condition, one way, or another.
She looked within herself, searching for answers. She tried to remember what had happened when they had been hit with the Curse. She remembered hearing voices and she remembered a deep, golden light, but she could not remember much of anything else. She racked her brain, trying to think and remember the words the voices had said. Somehow, she knew it was important: that it was the key to everything.
Finally, it had all become too much. She refused to watch him liethere day-in and day-out. Her heart was breaking with each moment. She knew she had to do something, if she continued to do nothing he would be there forever. There were answers out there and she had to find them.
She started small with the Hogwarts Library, but the answer eluded her. She went to Grimmauld Place, still the answer remained hidden. So she moved up. She went to the Ministry of Magic. She spent a few months with the Unspeakables inside The Department of Mysteries; still, they found no answers. There was nothing to wake someone from the Killing Curse. Her heart ached and she was filled with despair. Finally she went back to the hospital hoping that by seeing him she would find the answers she was seeking.
She watched him sleep from the doorway of his room. Tears of frustration filled her eyes. She wiped them away angrily. She wanted to scream, rant, and rave at the sleeping form before her. “Why can’t I save you?” she shouted at him. “It’s been so long and I can’t save you!” She let out a quick sob. “Why?” she asked over and over again, sinking to her knees.
Suddenly from deep within her, a fire burned. She could save him, but she had to look farther. She swiped at the tears again and stood up. She made her way to Ron’s bed. His hand was warm as she picked it up and held it in hers, which was cold and clammy in comparison. With her other hand, she brushed his crimson hair out of his face. His hair was still so soft. She felt calmer than she had since waking from her injuries.
“Hello, my love,” she said to him in a voice barely more than a whisper. “I have to go away for a while. The Healers…” she paused as tears threatened to come to the surface again. When they passed, she continued, “The Healers say that you won’t ever wake up. They’re trying to make you comfortable until you finally pass on.” She stopped, her eyes burning intensely. She looked upon his handsome face. “But that’s not good enough for me. I know there’s a way to save you. I know somehow, somewhere there is a way to save you. I have to go and find it. I can’t…I can’t watch you die, not when I know that I haven’t done everything I could for you. So I have to go now.”
She squeezed his hand a little tighter. “If I fail and you wake without me…I want you to know that I love you and I’m sorry that I wasn’t here. I’ll find the answer and then we can be together. Nothing will keep us apart; I promise you! I love you.” She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss upon his lips.
She released his hand and turned toward the door. When she was once again in the doorway she turned and looked at him once more. “Goodbye,” she whispered and was gone.
Three torturous weeks passed for her before she had a break. She met a young American Curse Breaker by the name of John Hawkins who needed a partner. The thought of traipsing through tombs was far from appealing, but ancient civilizations knew things that the modern world had forgotten. Maybe her answer would be found there. She started work, hoping against hope that she was doing the right thing.
Six months later she received the letter.
Ron's awake! Oh, Hermione, I have been so worried. I thought he never would. Please come home. He misses you. There has not been a day when he hasn't asked about you. Come home, Hermione. Life here isn't the same without you. Ron would never ask you to come himself. You know how my son can be, so I am asking for him. We all miss you, hurry home.
All our love,
He was awake and, for the first time since everything had happened, she felt alive. Hermione was back in London before she knew what was happening. She could feel him tugging at her, pulling her to his side. She stood in front of St. Mungo's for a moment to catch her breath; she was going to see him after all of this time! She ran inside, going as fast as she dared inside a hospital.
“Hermione!” She looked up. Harry was coming toward her from the other end of the corridor.
“Harry!” she squealed. She threw herself into his arms. “It’s so good to see you!”
Harry hugged her tightly and spun her around for good measure. “It’s good to see you too” he said happily.
“Oh Harry, is it really true? Is he really awake?” she asked.
The happiness faded slightly from Harry’s face. “Yeah he is.”
Hermione looked at him curiously. “Harry, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know how to say this.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “Hermione, I’m not sure that you should see him right now.” His face was full of concern and there was a trace of fear behind his eyes.
“Why not?” she asked, as her heart dropped down into her stomach.
“He’s really upset with you right now.”
“Why?” she asked, yet already knew the answer.
“Because he thinks that you betrayed him.”
“Betrayed?” she asked incredulously.
“Yeah, it’s stupid really. He keeps going on about giving his life for yours and golden lights and voices. It doesn’t really make much sense. I think he’s remembering dreams from his coma. Anyway, I think that he’s mostly hurt that you weren’t here when he woke up. It’s been two months.”
“Two months?” she asked. Had it really been that long? “He’s furious, isn’t he?” She was suddenly afraid.
“Yeah, that’s putting it mildly.”
Despite her fear, Hermione squared her shoulders. “I have to see him and explain.”
“I know, but let me warn him first, alright?”
The two made their way down the corridor. As they approached Ron’s door, they heard him talking.
“How could she?” Hermione heard him say. “How could she leave? I thought I meant something to her.”
“You do, dear,” the voice of Molly Weasley soothed. “She loves you; she just had to leave for a little while. I’m not sure why, but she thought she was doing the right thing.”
“The right thing? How can you stick up for her, Mum? She left me!” He was angry. Hermione's heart was beating rapidly in her chest. “I would have stayed” he added sulkily.
“I know that, but don't judge her too harshly until you hear what she has to say.”
“I don't care what she has to say, she shouldn't have left! Anyway, she’s not here is she? And she’s probably not coming back so I’ll never get that chance will I?”
“Oh Ron, I know this isn’t easy for you. And don’t lie to me Ron, if you didn’t care about her you wouldn’t be acting like this,” Molly said in a slightly irritated voice. “You about her so much that it hurts.”
“No I don't, Mum,” Ron's voice was as hard as iron and as cold as ice. “I don't ever want to see her again.”
“You don't mean that,” Molly said. There were tears in her voice.
“Yes, I do.”
Hermione’s eyes filled with tears. She looked at Harry, who looked back compassionately. He tried to move her toward the door, but Hermione shook her head. She backed away a few steps before turning around and running down the corridor as fast as she could. She ran away from Ron and the life she used to know. Harry called after her, but she ignored him.
She no longer cared if she lived or died. If it didn't matter to Ron; it didn't matter to her. She had thrown herself back into her work, and tried to never think about the life she had left behind, and the life she could have had…
Hermione shook herself out of her reverie when she saw her tent just ahead of her. It was a light tan and blended perfectly with the sand around it. She saw something moving, a fluttering movement around the area of her tent. She slowed her pace and approached cautiously. As she got closer to the tent, she could no longer see whatever it was. She assumed it was an illusion and aching with tiredness she entered her tent.
She stopped and let her eyes adjust to the cool darkness. It was magically enhanced to fit anything she could possibly want for her field research. There was a kitchen just as she entered, complete with stove and a scrubbed wooden table. A bathroom was just off to the right. Off to the left there was a comfortable sitting room, with sofas and bookshelves and lamps for reading.
She took off her rucksack and set it on the table. That’s when she saw it; there, in the middle of the table, hooting happily, sat a very familiar bird.
“Hedwig?” Hermione murmured. “No, you’re dead,” she shook her head in denial. “You died years ago. Harry was devastated, I remember.” She gazed at the bird who looked at her with familiar amber eyes. Yet there were differences as well. This bird had different markings and her snowy face was more round. Also slight protrusions rose from the top of her head almost as if…and the answer hit Hermione with the force of a bludger.
“Hedwig had children!” she exclaimed. The bird visibly brightened and puffed up her chest feathers proudly. “You look a lot like her. I wish you could have known her better, she was a wonderful owl and friend.” Hermione stroked the owl’s soft feathers for a moment as she remembered the fallen Hedwig. After several minutes Hermione noticed the letter attached to the owls leg. It was an official looking letter bearing none other than the Hogwarts Coat of Arms. She broke the seal and read the letter.
I don't know if you are aware, but Professor Vector has retired this previous year. I find myself in need of a new Arithmancy professor. As you were the best at the subject to ever grace the halls of Hogwarts, I would like to offer you the position. Please send your answer via this owl as soon as possible.
Minerva McGonagall Headmistress Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
She was filled with numb disbelief. Her eyes searched the parchment sure that this was some sort of sick joke. She could not go back to her old school, her old life, it was laughable.
Hermione wanted to throw the letter as far from her as she could. There was no way she was going back, not now, not ever. It was ludicrous, there was no way.
She began pacing. She had given up on that life; there was nothing for her back there.
Her pacing slowed as faces began parading through her mind’s eye. Harry, Ginny, Neville, Luna…the list went on. She smiled; it would be fun to see Hogwarts again, she had always enjoyed herself there. She thought fondly for a moment of the many adventures from her wild school days. She thought of Harry, his raven hair and his haunted green eyes and how they only lost that look when he was with Ginny.
She thought of Ron, his red hair and sparkling blue eyes and for once she felt hope instead of the longing and hurt that usually filled her. She missed them so much. The memories washed over her, and for a moment, she was happy. For the first time in five years, she was happy.
The happiness lasted only moments. “No,” she said aloud. “Those days are gone, forever.”
Tears were streaming down her face as her pacing brought her to the bathroom door. She opened it and stepped inside, crying bitterly. The shower looked inviting, as if it could erase the pain as well as the dirt and grime. She through her clothes to the floor and turned on the water.
As the water poured down upon her, Ron’s face appeared in her mind. Why did loving someone have to hurt so very much? If only things had been different, if only… She closed her eyes and reveled in the warm water upon her face. She knew she was still in love with him, and she continued to cry as her thoughts of Ron took her back in time six months.
Three days after that fateful day at St. Mungo’s, Hermione left for China. There was an ancient temple that John wanted explored and she had been eager to accept the job. She spent a year there, losing contact with everyone, due to the fact that her location was supposed to be secret. She was not even allowed post.
The time had passed slowly for her in a haze of confusion and loneliness. She began to regret her decision to leave Ron that day. Perhaps if she had stayed, they could have worked out their differences and, in time, he might have even forgiven her. On her last day in China, she decided that she would go back and talk to Ron. No matter how angry he was with her. At least then she would know.
Upon her return from China, John had been ecstatic with her work and he’d taken her to dinner. They sat together in a posh American restaurant. Soft music played in the background and the food and wine were excellent.
“These came for you while you were gone,” John said, pulling out a thick wad of envelopes. Hermione had been shocked at the sheer number of them.
“These are all for me?” she asked incredulously.
“Yeah,” he answered. “Most of them are from the same guy. Someone named,” he checked the return address written on the envelope, “Ronald Weasley.”
Hermione had been in the middle of a large gulp of water when John had said this. It had sprayed out of her mouth and covered John’s shirt front.
“Oh, John, I’m so sorry,” she apologized quickly and grabbed a napkin in attempt to mop him up. John just smiled at her.
Hermione was red with embarrassment, but John’s blue eyes merely twinkled at her. “Must be some guy,” he commented when she took her seat again.
“He is,” she replied wistfully. John stood up.
“I’ll just leave you to it then, shall I?” he asked her.
Hermione was still in shock. Why Ron would be writing to her she had no idea. After all he never wanted to see her again. That was what he had said. Could he have changed his mind? John patted her shoulder as he left and Hermione missed the look of sorrow and longing in his eyes as he walked away.
She opened the first letter and began to read.
Hi, how are you? I'm getting out of St. Mungo's. The Healers say that I'll make a full recovery. So how have you been? Things here have been interesting. Harry and Ginny got married. They missed you, you know. George has been trying his best to speed along my recovery. But I don't think that he’s succeeding. I just don't think that turning into a canary every so often promotes healing. My Healer was pretty upset when he found out.
I haven't seen you in a long time. I miss you. It’s just not the same here with out you. There's no one to keep me on my toes. There's no one to challenge me. I wish … I don't know what I wish. I do know that all my wishes revolve around you.
I understand if you don't want to come back here. I could come to where you are. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I love you. I just want to be with you. I'll hopefully see you soon.
She sat in shock, staring at the letter. He still loves me! Her heart soared. She read each letter in turn and each filled her heart with joy. Then the letters changed. He was hurt by her lack of responsiveness. They were angry and tore at Hermione. The last letter broke her in two. It was not angry or hurtful. It sounded as if he had nothing left to live for.
My Dearest Hermione,
I think I understand now. You never loved me and staying away was the easiest way for you to tell me. I was hoping that you would feel the same way for me that I feel for you, but I guess not. I don't think that I will ever be over you. But I now know that I need to move on for the both of us.
I miss you more than life itself. If I had known that this is what I would wake up to. I don't think that I would have wanted to wake up. I suppose it's too late for that now.
I'll always remember you. I'll always remember the love that I feel for you. I should have told you just how much I love you. I guess that I just thought you knew. I never should have let you doubt it.
I'm sorry that my love is not enough to overcome whatever demons are keeping you away.
I wish I knew where you were. I would have followed you anywhere.
I will leave you alone now. I know if you wanted me you would have been here by now.
Goodbye, my love. May you find happiness in your life and may you find the love I was never able to give you.
I love you,
Tears glazed her cheeks as she slowly lowered the letter. Hermione knew she had to do something. She had to act fast. It had been two months since he had sent the letter to her. She left the restaurant and went to find Ron. He deserved some answers.
She found him inside the Leaky Cauldron. He held a butterbeer in one hand and kept glancing nervously toward the door. She was nervous and needed to collect herself before he saw her. So she sat in the shadows and watched him for a moment.
He glanced toward the door again and a wide grin spread across his face. He stood and waited as a woman came up to him. He embraced her. He held her for a moment before placing a tender kiss on the woman’s lips. Hermione went numb. She was too late. She stood and left the pub without a backward glance.
The pain of that memory washed over her. Tears flowed freely down her cheeks mixing with the water that continued to pour over her. Thinking about Ron again opened her heart and she finally allowed herself to feel what she had kept hidden all of these years. Her tears became cleansing, the hurt she had felt for so long washed down the drain.
When she had cried herself out, Hermione turned off the shower and dressed quickly. She thought of the teaching position that she had been offered. Maybe she should accept it… It would give her the opportunity to use the Hogwarts library to aid her in her study of the scrolls. She had been gone so long. She did miss being with other people. She did miss Ron. No, she thought, Don't think about that now. He's moved on, remember?
She wandered around the tent, still debating her choice. She would miss this. It was the only thing that had helped her to feel alive for a long time. The danger of the tombs and, conversely, the relative safety of the research were two opposites that drew her as a moth is drawn a flame. She was happy in her career. But was there more for her? Did she want to go back? Was it time? She continued to pace the tent for some time before finally coming to a decision.
She walked back to Hedwig’s child with a dish of water and sat down to write a letter. Twenty minutes later, she looked down and read what she had written.
I would be honored to accept the position at Hogwarts. I look forward to seeing you at the start of term.
“Here’s my reply,’ she said as she tied the letter to the bird’s leg. The owl opened her wings impressively and took off. Hermione watched her fly off into the distance.
She began to tidy up her tent. Tomorrow she would be packing up and heading back to London. What surprised her was the little knot of excitement she could feel building up in her stomach. She lay down on the sofa and smiled. One thought troubled her. How am I going to tell John? He’ll never understand. She shook her head. She’d deal with it in the morning.
A/N: Thank you as always to the wonderful and talented guruvee. Without you I would not be here. Thank you so very much. Also thank you to my wonderful readers and especially my reviewers. You make writing worth while and without you fan fiction wouldn’t exist.