Disclaimer: Many of the characters in this story are the property of J. K. Rowling, as a result I am making no profit in this endeavor. Still not making a profit, what has the world come to?
Slowly Harry became aware of voices in the house. Someone else must have arrived. He slowly sneaked out into the living room where he could hear the voices in the kitchen.
“He’s still in pretty rough shape, Ron. I’ve worked nonstop on the charm since we got him here, but it was hard on him. I had to keep him sedated while I worked. Otherwise I was afraid he might wake up and bolt again. The way the charm works, I had to block out the oldest memories last and those are probably the most painful.” Hermione seemed to be talking in sort of a dazed mumble.
“You must be exhausted, dear. Why don’t you go get some sleep?” A voice Harry instantly recognised as Ron answered sympathetically.
“I can’t yet, we need to make sure that Harry’s comfortable and safe, and that he’s going to stay before I will be able to sleep soundly. It’s been so long; it felt so good just to talk to him this morning.” Hermione sounded relieved but completely exhausted.
“Yeah, I can’t wait; we haven’t had an actual conversation in so many years. I can’t wait to tell him about Chudley.” Ron sounded like his normal cheerful self, the sincerity in his voice clear and resounding.
“How are the kids?” Hermione asked.
“They’re doing fine, dear. They were a bit surprised when I told them I was leaving, but they took it okay, and you know how much they love Ginny. They’ll be fine. Ginny, on the other hand, is going to be in a right state, I think, by the time...”
“How could she know? We didn’t tell anybody but Dobby, and he wouldn’t say anything after we told him not to!” Hermione whispered fiercely, sounding much more awake.
“Shhh! Quiet, Hermione, you don’t want to wake up Harry.” Ron paused. There was quiet from the kitchen as if they were listening to see if anyone was stirring in the house. Harry felt guilty for eavesdropping on his friends, but he had to figure out exactly what was going on, and it seemed he might learn more this way than by asking directly. He had already worked out that he must have essentially been kidnapped and seemed to be locked in this place, and his wand was missing. However, he trusted Ron and Hermione with his life, so until he could get his memories back, he had decided to play along. He just wished that he had his wand; he would ask Ron about it later. He heard Ron start speaking again, but could just barely make out what he was saying.
“You know how Ginny is about Harry. She knew he was back in town before we did, and she knows that he stopped running the morning that he went to see her. She trusts us, I think, but you know she’s been waiting to talk to him for nine years.”
Harry’s head reeled. What could have possibly happened between him and Ginny that he hadn’t spoken to her in nine years? The last memory he had of Ginny was breaking up with her at Dumbledore’s funeral. Had she been that mad that she had been unwilling to speak to him since the breakup? He thought it had gone pretty well, all things considered, he remembered hoping at the time that it wasn’t forever. What had he done? Harry’s spinning head and churning stomach were a bad combination, and he hurried back to the loo, chucked the contents of his stomach into the toilet and lay down on the floor. Hermione’s head popped through the door. “Oh, my, I guess porridge was a bit much for you this morning.” She took a flannel and ran it under the faucet and then bent down, wiping his face and neck.
“Thanks, that feels better.” Harry saw Ron’s head pop through the door and peek in at him. “Hey, mate, good to see you. Hermione tells me you finally got a clue,” Harry wheezed at him.
“Hi, Harry, I got a clue about what exactly?” Ron asked as he smiled at his long-lost best friend.
“About her,” Harry replied cheekily.
“Oh, er, yeah, I forgot you didn’t know about that. I finally managed to make her come to her senses a few weeks after your last memory, I would think. She went as my date to Bill’s wedding,” he said proudly.
“Don’t let him fool you. It took him a month to get up the courage to snog me, even after I kissed him first at Bill’s wedding,” Hermione interjected tartly.
“We snogged loads of times after Bill’s wedding!” Ron objected.
“Yeah, because I initiated it. You didn’t initiate a single kiss until that night in Wellington when we were looking for the Tiara. I thought you might never try to kiss me.” Hermione’s voice had a bit of edge to it, but her face gave away her mood, it was a happy memory, and she clearly wasn’t upset.
“Is it my fault that you couldn’t keep your hands off of me?” Ron asked cheekily.
“Definitely,” Hermione responded with equal cheek.
“Um, guys, do you need me to clear out of here, so you can have a moment?” Harry asked from the floor next to the toilet.
“Oh, no, of course not, sorry ,Harry,” Hermione apologised with a light blush to her cheeks.
“It’s okay, but someone might think you’re newlyweds,” Harry chided.
Harry smirked at Hermione, and she smiled back at him. “Oh, Harry, how I’ve missed you. It’s so good to have the three of us back together again.” Her face slowly started to change from a bright smile and contorted just a bit. Tears started leaking gently from her partially closed eyelids.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?” Harry asked gently. He’d always been rubbish with crying women, and he was at a loss for what had happened to suddenly change her happy mood.
Hermione sniffed a bit. “I’m sorry, I’m just so happy, and I can’t keep it in.” She flung herself at him and they both toppled back from where Harry had been sitting up to the ground and she snuggled on top of him as he lay against the cool floor.
“Er, Hermione? Don’t you think Ron might take this personally?”
“No, it’s just so good to finally have you back with us. I don’t think Ron minds at all, do you, sweetie?” Hermione said as she lifted her head and looked at Harry with sparkling eyes.
“Just keep your hands where I can see them, Potter,” Ron teased.
Hermione sat back up and looked Harry over. “Feeling better?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Ron extended him a hand and Harry grabbed it while climbing to his feet. He glanced at the mirror, and the stranger looked back at him once again. “I don’t think I will ever get used to that face,” Harry said, going pale. His eyes once again looked lost.
“You’ll be looking more like yourself in a couple of weeks, Harry, we just need to get some food into you, and get you good and rested. You’ll be good as new before you know it,” Hermione soothed, making a point to rest her hand on Harry’s shoulder, giving it a squeeze. As a group, they turned and headed back out to more comfortable quarters.
Ron sat down in a chair in the sitting room and casually pointed his wand at the fireplace and muttered, “Incendio.” The firewood that Dobby had prepared during the night burst into flames and started giving the room a more comfortable air. Harry sat down across from Ron as Hermione perched herself on the arm of Ron’s chair.
Harry looked at them for a moment and then asked, “So what happens now? How do I get my memories back?”
“Well, Harry, I’ve spent the last several years working on a type of memory charm therapy. Most of the patients I’ve worked with have suffered such traumatic events in their lives that they can no longer cope with reality. It’s designed to help slowly deal with the events from the outside. Then when the memories have been dealt with emotionally we reincorporate them back into the person’s normal consciousness, where they have the tools to deal with the pain caused by the event. It’s been fairly successful in treating different kinds of stressful memories,” Hermione explained.
“She’s brilliant, she is. She got Frank and Alice Longbottom out of St Mungo’s!” Ron exclaimed proudly.
“Quiet, Ron,” Hermione scolded while blushing.
“Anyway, I set up a series of blocks on your memory starting with your most recent memories and going back to the day you turned seventeen. The treatment involves breaking down each block, one at a time, removing them from your mind and cataloguing them. Then we review them one at a time with a Pensieve, and you deal with each memory separately. Once you have dealt with those memories we will include them back in your consciousness. Since you have already coped with the pain of them, they shouldn’t bother you as much,” Hermione finished.
“Why did you go so far back?”
“I went back to the last definite happy memory I knew of, that had a defined date and time in your thoughts, the day you left the Dursleys'. After that, the happy memories were too difficult to pick out, and you need a base line memory that’s happy, as part of the healing process. I didn’t want to go any further back, and unfortunately, you just weren’t very happy during the time that we knew you after that day. We also need to create a memory gap from your happy memory, until the more traumatic events in your memories happened, so that you won’t get overwhelmed when we break down those memory blocks, and you’re able to remove them from your mind,” Hermione finished, peering intently at Harry.
Harry sighed heavily. “What happened that you lot are so desperate for me not to remember?”
Ron put his arm around Hermione. “Harry, we honestly don’t know. We’re as curious as you are. At one point you just started avoiding everyone. You wouldn’t talk to Hermione and me about it. Then, after the fall of Voldemort, you just disappeared and never really came back. We want to help you get your life back. Whatever you want to do with it after that is fine. Isolating yourself from everyone, living Merlin knows where, and not taking care of yourself isn’t going to cut it, mate. Either you figure out how to take better care of yourself, or you stay here.” Ron tried to keep his tone light, but it was clear he was deadly serious about the confinement.
“Is that why you took my wand? You’re afraid I’ll escape?” Harry asked accusingly.
Hermione sniffed, and Ron answered, “You’re a powerful wizard, Harry, and we were afraid these first few days you might feel threatened and try to fight your way out. That’s why we took your wand. You can have it back as soon as we’re sure you’re not a danger to us, and that you’re willing to stay and work with us. That’s all we’re asking, for you to try and work with us, and let us help you get your life back.”
“I’ve had years of people doing what they think is best for me without my opinion. I don’t like being treated like a child or a prisoner. Why would I believe you want what’s best for me when you’re stealing my memories, and taking away my wand?” Harry spit.
Ron’s face began to colour and his eyes narrowed. “Well, you’ve been doing a bang up job taking care of yourself, haven’t you? Look at yourself.”
“Ron!” Hermione exclaimed looking down at him in shock.
“How do I know that it wasn’t you who made me this way, I can’t remember anything!” Harry shouted.
“Oh great, Harry, I’ve only been your best mate for what? Fifteen years? You really think I’d want to do that to you?” Ron said, waving his arms erratically towards Harry.
“That’s enough, both of you!” Hermione yelled. “Ron, you will not yell at Harry.” She gave him a warning look and turned towards Harry and said much more softly, “I’m asking you to trust us. I know you don’t remember the last nine years, but you know us both well enough to know we’d never do anything to hurt you. You need to learn to depend on your friends the way we have always depended on you. You always think you can do everything alone, well, guess what? Sometimes people need help. You don’t have to be ashamed or embarrassed or a prat about it, and this time you don’t even have to ask. We are helping you with this. I could have had you committed to a secure ward, but I believed that our friendship was strong enough for you to let me help you here. Was I wrong?” she finally finished.
“How long is this going to take?” Harry asked, deflating.
Hermione looked concerned for a minute, and then answered with a question. “Does it matter? You’ve been away from your friends and family for seven years. Unless you have another family somewhere that we don’t know about, wouldn’t you give up some time to get them back? At the very least so they don’t have to spend their time worried sick about you?”
The startled expression on Harry’s face spoke volumes. “Is that a possibility? That somewhere out there I have another family waiting for me?”
Hermione shrugged and sat back down on the arm of Ron’s chair. “Anything’s possible, but when we brought you here it didn’t look like you’d had a proper shower, a decent meal, or even a clean change of clothes in a while. In fact, I think Dobby burned your clothes once he got them off you.”
“So I have Dobby to thank for my wardrobe?” Harry joked. There was nothing in the wardrobe in his room, he had checked earlier. The pajamas he was wearing appeared to be the only clothes he had; he didn’t even have a dressing gown.
Hermione let loose a jaw-cracking yawn. “Oh, sorry about that.” She covered her mouth and then said somewhat sleepily, “Dobby will get you whatever you need. He should be around here somewhere.”
“He is,” Ron said sniffing the air. “I smell bangers and scones!”
Harry and Hermione shared a secret smile, as they heard Ron’s stomach rumble loudly.
“Well, it’s good to know some things never change; Ron’s still hungry.” The corners of Harry’s mouth started to curl as he teased his friend.
“Honestly, Ron, you just ate!” Hermione frowned at him.
“The stomach wants what it wants, dear, and who am I to deny it?” Ron said philosophically.
“I just want to know how many you have in there,” Hermione snickered, poking Ron in the stomach playfully.
“Hey, stop that!” Ron tickled Hermione in retaliation causing her to shriek and jump off the arm of his chair.
“Well, I’m going to take a nap. You boys can figure out feeding yourselves.” She walked over to Harry and hugged him tightly. “It really is good to have you here. We’ll start getting your memories back soon. Until then have fun commiserating with Ron, he’s been dying to tell you about the Cannons for ages now. Oh, and stick with toast until you get more used to eating.” Hermione walked back past Ron and gave him a quick kiss and headed down the hallway.
Ron and Harry headed into the kitchen. “Good morning, sirs!” Dobby squeaked as he bowed deeply. He was wearing mismatched socks, a hat, and what appeared to be one of Molly Weasley’s jumpers. “Would you like breakfast, sirs, or perhaps some lunch?”
“This looks great, Dobby!” Ron exclaimed as he sat down and pulled the plate of bangers towards himself. “But Harry needs toast; he is still adjusting to real food.”
“Oh, of course, Harry Potter, sir. Right away, Harry Potter, sir!” Dobby squeaked excitedly.
“I can get it myself, Dobby, it’s just toast.” Harry wandered towards to the toaster, opening a cabinet to look for bread.
“Oh, no, sir! Mr and Mrs Weezy is paying Dobby to take care of Harry Potter,” Dobby said as he gently pushed Harry back towards the table. “A good house-elf never accepts paying if derelict in his work!” Dobby shuffled Harry back to the table and pulled out a chair for him.
“Do you think I could get some clothes, Dobby?” Harry asked. “The pajamas are nice, but I could use a shirt and some trousers. Guess I will have to wait until I can get measured to get some new robes,” Harry asked.
“Oh, of course, sir, Dobby will take care of everything!” After bringing Harry some toast, Dobby disappeared to go find some clothes. Harry nibbled on his toast and watched Ron chomping down the plate of bangers and polishing off half a dozen scones. Sipping at his tea , he waited patiently for Ron to finish his breakfast.
After a few minutes, Harry asked the question he’d been dreading all morning. “Ron, how’s Ginny?”
Ron looked at the scone he’d been eating like it had offended him and put it back on his plate. “Um, she’s pretty good, you know, keeping busy watching our kids; they’re a bit of a handful.” Ron was staring at the scone on his plate as if he was afraid it might wander off.
“Um, that’s not exactly what I was looking for. Is she happy?”
“Most of the time she’s happy enough,” Ron said evasively.
Ron looked up from his plate, and he and Harry eyed each other carefully for a moment. Harry started laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“I don’t remember the last nine years, and I ask you how Ginny is, and all you are inclined to tell me is that she’s keeping busy and she’s happy enough. I’m certainly glad to hear she isn’t bored and sad,” Harry snickered.
Ron wasn’t sharing Harry’s humor. “You want the truth, Harry? We’re trying to keep your spirits up here, and I don’t think talking about Ginny is a good idea.” Ron eyed Harry carefully.
“Ron, did I do something to Ginny?”
Ron sighed. “You should remember breaking up with her, right?”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t meant to be for forever. I was just protecting her from Voldemort. If people knew we had broken up, then she wouldn’t be in as much danger. If people knew she was my girlfriend, Voldemort would have stopped at nothing to get to her.” Harry paused. “I never wanted to break her heart, Ron; I was pretty sure she understood that, and would come to forgive me eventually.”
“She did understand that, she thought. But then you killed Voldemort, and she thought you would be coming back to her. She was frantic, assuming you must have been too injured to come home. She helped us look for you; most people gave up after a few months, but Hermione, Tonks, the whole family, and the DA kept looking until August. It had been almost a year, and we hadn’t seen a single sign that you were alive, other than our inability to find your body. In September, Hermione and I went back to Hogwarts to finish our N.E.W.T.s. My heart wasn’t really in it, but Mum was insistent that we go back, and we had really given up the hope that even if you were alive, that we would be able to find you. I didn’t know what to do, so finishing our N.E.W.T.s seemed like as good a thing as anything else. Ginny had already finished, and she wouldn’t give up. She insisted that you were still alive, that she could tell.
“She started researching ways to find you, and she located some of your hiding spots eventually, but you were always gone when she got there, and she never made contact. We thought she was just seeing what she wanted to see. Many of us had honestly assumed you had died either in the battle, or afterwards from lack of treatment. But Ginny was absolutely convinced you were still alive. She started feeling like you didn’t want to come back because of her, that maybe you didn’t love her. About six months after she finally gave up, you showed up in my living room. Baby Harry was maybe three or four months old, and you just Apparated right into our living room, popping a pretty strong ward to do it. Almost scared me to death. Anyway, after that you would show up periodically but never for more than just time for a few sentences. We would start talking, and after a few minutes you would start blaming yourself for things that weren’t your fault. You would get worked up and disappear as suddenly as you appeared, and we wouldn’t know when we’d see you next. This whole time you’re appearing and disappearing, Ginny keeps saying that she can feel you watching her every once in a while. She says you got so close a few times that she could actually smell you, and that’s not to hard to believe, because you smelled pretty bad the few times you popped in to see me as well. But you never showed yourself to her, you stayed in the shadows. You never answered her calls to you. We would have thought she’d gone mental except whenever she claimed you were nearby, you would always show up somewhere and talk briefly with me or Hermione.
“Nobody else who knows you has ever claimed to see you, and so we don’t talk about it much; people would think we are crazy. There are crackpots who claim they see Harry Potter all over the place, but when we investigate most of the time, they are totally unbelievable. The family knows you’re alive, of course, but most of the rest of the wizarding world has assumed you died in the final battle with Voldemort.” Ron finished this story quietly, not quite willing to look Harry in the eye.
Harry sat shell-shocked in his chair. He didn’t say anything for probably ten minutes. “Did I every say why?”
“You never said much of anything; it was like it was painful just to see us. You talked more to Hermione than you did to me, but still she could never get you to say where you were going, or to talk about what had happened. We want to know what happened as much as you do, why you left us behind and ran off to fight him on your own. It must have been something to see. I wish you had let us help you, Harry, maybe all of this wouldn’t be necessary now. We were supposed to be a team.” The disappointment in his voice was palpable.
“Is she mad at me?” Harry asked quietly.
“Oh, I reckon she’s furious at you. She feels that you made a silent promise to come back to her when you sent her that ring, and she’s been waiting almost nine years now to collect,” Ron said this with a hint of a smile.
“I sent her a ring?” Harry asked, shaking his head.
“Yep, an expensive one, too, used to belong to Rowena Ravenclaw. Ginny hasn’t taken it off for a second since the day she got it. Wears it right on her ring finger, she does.” Ron was enjoying taking the mickey out of his friend just a little bit.
“Does she still love me?” The words hung in the air, stifling the room.
Ron wasn’t sure how to answer. “She hasn’t moved on, if that’s what you’re asking, but I think that’s a question you need to ask her.” Ron hesitated, trying to decide if he was going to ask the next question or not, finally deciding he wanted to know. “Do you still love her?”
Harry never hesitated. “Yes, of course!” Then after a few second he continued, “But, from my perspective, we just broke up six weeks ago, so I could protect her.” Harry buried his face in his hands. “What have I done?”
“I don’t know, mate, but as long as you don’t run away again, it will all work out.
Harry and Ron talked on a variety of topics, including the Cannons. When Ron told Harry they were in first place, he had been convinced Ron was having him on. Apparently in nine years, anything was actually possible. Harry eventually excused himself to go take a shower and put on the clothes that Dobby reported were waiting for him in his room. Harry got out of the shower, and without a razor or his wand, had to leave the scraggly beard. He wrapped a towel around his body and wandered into what was for now ‘his room’. In the wardrobe he found a pair of boxers, a pair of trousers, two mismatched socks, and an ‘I love Harry Potter’ t-shirt. Harry sighed; it was going to be necessary to find someone else to do his shopping soon, if they weren’t going to let him do it himself. He found a new pair of trainers next to the wardrobe that fit well enough and put them on, and headed back out to the living room. He found Ron sitting at a chess board, eating a rather large sandwich. Across the board there was a large steaming bowl of soup waiting for him.
When Ron saw Harry come into the room he burst out laughing. His sandwich fell apart under the force of his shaking. “Oh, my. Oh, oh, sorry, Harry,” Ron finally said, not sounding sorry at all.
Harry looked himself up and down. “Is there something funny about the way I’m dressed?”
With this, Ron snorted, and started laughing again. “No, no of course not, I always assumed you were the real force behind the Harry Potter fan club.” Ron attempted to compose himself. “Fancy a game?”
“I fancy getting out of here and finding some decent clothes, but since it’s unlikely you will let me, sure, I can spare half an hour to get obliterated at chess.” Harry plunked himself down across from Ron. They actually played for a couple of hours, Ron completely destroying Harry every time until even Ron seemed to be losing interest. Suddenly there was a loud tapping on the window. Harry and Ron looked up and saw a snowy owl impatiently tapping the window. Harry jumped up to let her in, but the window wouldn’t open. “Er, a little help here, Ron?”
Ron got up and tapped the window with his wand, and it slid open allowing a very agitated Hedwig into the room. When Harry sat down at his chair, she proceeded to nip every single one of his fingers, until finally Harry had to push her away. She flew up and perched herself on top of a bookshelf and glared down at Harry. “What was that about?” Harry groused, while tending to a now bleeding finger.
“I would say that Ginny isn’t the only angry woman you’re going to have to worry about,” Ron chuckled. “She turns up occasionally, and once in a while Ginny or Hermione attempts to send a letter to you using her, but she always returns a week or so later with the letter still attached. This may be the first time she’s seen you in a while.” Ron looked bemused by the whole situation.
Harry nursed his fingers as he glared back at Hedwig. “Good to see you, too!”
A drowsy and disheveled looking Hermione emerged from the bedroom. “What’s all the ruckus about?” She wandered over to Ron and kissed him tenderly and then laid her head on his chest.
“Oh, Harry was just demonstrating his prowess with the ladies.” Ron chuckled, nodding up to the angry owl on the bookcase.
“Oh, my, she does look a little upset, doesn’t she?” Hermione said in a concerned voice.
Hermione walked over and fished a couple of owl treats out of a box in the corner and threw them up to Hedwig, who hooted a thank you and promptly pretended to be asleep. Hermione glanced at Harry and noticed his shirt for the first time. “Oh, I see letting Dobby do the shopping might be a bad idea.” She genuinely tried to keep the smile off her face, but it was a struggle. Finally she walked over to Harry and tapped his shirt with her wand, turning it into a neatly pressed blue button-down.
“Thank you, Hermione.” Harry smiled.
“I need to run out for a bit and grab a couple of books, return some post and such, will you two be okay here by yourselves?” Hermione asked. “I will even see if I can find you some clothes.”
“I don’t know, Kia, do they make 'I love Ginny Weasley' t-shirts?” Ron snickered, and then received a very disgruntled look from Harry.
“Ron! Stop that. You’re supposed to be being nice to him, honestly.” But she was giggling all the same. “You’re terrible.” She pecked him on the cheek and grabbed a winter cloak off the rack. “I’ll be back late; don’t hold dinner for me.” With that she stepped out into the autumn evening.
A/N: A giant thank you to my betas Cera and Katieay, and my proofreader Emily. Without them, you wouldn’t be reading this story. Also a thank you to Jennifer, if it hadn’t been for her insistent demands for ‘more’ this story probably wouldn’t exist at all.