An unexpected reunion
Hermione's notes: 3 years. Is that enough time, do you think for a soul to turn entirely dark? Is that enough time to forget who you were, and everything you ever cared about?
Using a portkey on a normal day is bothersome. Using 2 back to back in quick succession is disorienting and Hermione's vision swims. She thinks she even passed out for a moment. The world above her spins, like she's on a merry go round. Trees swirl blurring together overhead, reminding her of a vaulted ceiling in a cathedral. The sky is gray. A bird passes by or perhaps an owl.
Hermione is laid out like a starfish on the pitiless earthen floor. Where had Draco Malfoy sent her? Rocks are digging into her back, and she moves slightly to ease the discomfort.
She can see the little silver thimble lying just out of her reach. Her cloak has a warming charm on it, but she finds the spells been disrupted somehow.
She's about to try and sit up, when a deadly voice cuts across the air like a knife. Her blood runs cold. She knows that voice. She last heard it 3 years ago, and it's haunted her every waking moment since.
"Don't move a muscle." The voice warns her.
Hermione shuts her eyes tight. No. Anyone but him.
"Surrender your wand."
Her...fuck. Not only had Draco Malfoy tricked her and sent her straight into the arms of his fellow Death eater, he did so while she was unarmed.
Hermione regrets not forcing Malfoy's hand. It would have been much better to die on the staircase back at base camp. At least that would have been quick.
Hermione fears she has just become a prisoner of this war. They'd string her death out for months. She'd seen the battered bodies when they came back, of other order members. A quick death would have been mercy.
"I don't have it." Her voice came out weak, and defeated. Bravery wasn't going to help her right now, and she couldn't find a scrap of it in her at the moment. Not with him here. She still refuses to open her eyes.
Would his eyes still be the deep sapphire hues of the ocean? Like she remembered. Or would they be darker in tone, soiled by the ilk of dark magic. Sometimes Hermione thought that was what happened to her own eyes. They'd been lively amber once, but now when she looked in the mirror they were so dull in color they almost looked black. If the eyes were windows to the soul-
She heard the crunch of leaves and rocks under boots as he approached. She didn't dare move. He was above her, she could make out the shadow through her eyelids.
Then she felt the tip of a wand press to her neck and a rough palm gliding over her cloak. Checking her pockets, to make sure she hadn't lied about being wandless. Then she was being shoved into a sitting position.
"Look at me." His hand gripped her upper arm so tightly, she had no doubt it was already bruising.
Hermione gulps in a lungful of air, she hadn't realized she was holding her breath. She didn't want to look at him. The thought of laying eyes on him again made her want to cry. She could feel traitorous tears already gathering at the corners of her eyes.
Hermione feels a stinging burn pulse through her neck. A threat. That's right. Hermione had read in a report somewhere that he was favoring fire spells these days. She refuses to cry out, and bites down on her tongue instead.
The burn reminds her though. Of who she is. Hermione Jean Granger. A student of Minerva Mcgongall. A member of the bravest house of them all. She is a Gryffindor for Godric's sake. In the face of this Death eater she will be brave.
Hermione won't allow him the satisfaction of a reaction. She forces her face into something she'd copied from Harry at the start of the war. Imperiousness. This is beneath her. He is beneath her.
For a fleeting moment she is proud of her Gryffindor effort to remain unaffected by him, but it is dashed quickly. For when she opens her eyes she gasps audibly.
Blazing blue eyes, and a smatter of freckles. Long flaming red locks pulled back, in the same manner Bill Weasley once wore his hair. His face is more hollow, and he has scars above his cheeks now, but it is him.
Ronald Bilius Weasley.
Something deep, and long forgotten inside her arises. In an instant she is back at Hogwarts. Ron is spinning her around in circles at the Yule ball. There is a smugness in Ron's smirk, like he couldn't have been happier to be the one holding the bossiest know it all of the century. Both his hands on her hips, and they dance barely a breath away from one another. Harry grins at them nearby, raising his butter-beer at them. Ginny looks pleased as pudding at the display, hopping up and down like the child she still was. Hermione's blue dress floats in layers around the two of them moving fluidly like waves crashing to the sea. When Ron dips her with all eyes on them in the center of the dance floor, her stomach flips. Butterflies. His touch gave her butterflies.
"Well look at, you." Tone indifferent.
Then the memory comes crashing down on her like shards of glass, and she plunges back into her current reality. The one where Ron is a death eater.
"Ron i-" Hermione doesn't even know what she wants to say. What did you say to someone you hadn't seen in years? Someone who betrayed you, and wanted all the people like you dead.
"How did you come to be here, mudblood?"
Hermione flinches. She had never heard him use that word.
She decides it would be for the best to conduct herself as if he is a stranger, he is now afterall. She won't use his name. She won't insinuate she knew him in any other capacity than a death eater.
"I don't-" Her first instinct being to mislead him.
"I'll have none of your tricks. If i think for a moment you aren't being honest i'll send for a Legilimens."
The threat hangs heavy in the air. Hermione didn't like the thought of someone looking into her head. Seeing her private memories, hopes and dreams. She might implode like a dying star, if the Legilimens were to reveal to Ron the memory she just recalled at seeing him again for the first time.
A foolish dewey eyed school girl, peeks up at her from the far hidden back of her mind. 'Tell him the truth' she orders her older self.
"I took a portkey while switching safe houses. When i arrived at base camp, it was already under attack. I entered the house, hoping someone might be salvaged inside. I ran into trouble almost as soon as i got through the front door."
Ron watches her with the veracity of a hawk. His eyes have taken a on glassy presence, like he's no longer entirely there. Is he- occluding?
"Go on." He demands when he realizes she's stopped speaking.
"There was a death eater. We exchanged spells, before i could make it up the staircase."
Hermione hopes he won't ask her, but she expects he probably will.
"Did you see who?"
"Malfoy." His name on her tongue felt like syrup. It was hard to move around. "He all but shoved a portkey on me."
In a moment of blind panic, Hermione had trusted Malfoy to be her salvation but he tricked her into a much worse fate. So she shouldn't feel guilty for dropping his name, but she does.
From Ron's posture it seems to Hermione, Draco had stepped out of line by sending her with the thimble. Ron seemed quite perturbed.
"He didn't have orders to take prisoners on this one then?"
That's how it was sometimes. The battles sometimes ended without prisoners being rounded up. When the death eaters were under orders of absolute annihilation.
"No." Ron purses his lips.
He stands pulling Hermione with him, she sways a bit still woozy from the teleporting, and falls against him limply. His arms are strong holding her in place, and warm, and had his chest always been this broad- No! She can't allow him to have this effect on her ever again. Death eater! He's a death eater now! He's dangerous. She knows this. Why is it so hard to place this hardened solider apart from the person that danced with her in a blue dress? It shouldn't be. Harry had come to terms with it. In Harry's head there were 2 Ron's. The one they knew at school, and the pureblooded Death eater he'd become. She shakes herself to rid herself of the impromptu thoughts. They were pointless.
Her cheeks warm when she looks up to see he's staring at her like she's just dribbled on her shirt.
"Back to back portkeys can be quite disorienting." She says in explanation.
Ron drags her along, and she starts to take notice of the area around them. Definitely a forest. Where she can't say, but it's secluded. When they walk through a wall of brush and bushes there is a clearing. A single tent. Hermione can feel the hum of wards and enchantments, and she knows if it weren't for Ron's arm on hers she would be unable to see the tent.
The air glimmers as they pass through the first ward. Then the second. Then the next.
Then he's summoning a chair and forcing her into it. He binds her with a spell, and she finds she can't move anything below her chest. Some type of body bind curse.
He ducks into the tent. Leaving her alone. With her thoughts. She begins to strategize. What would be the best way to get out of this? She'll have to wait until the body bind is lifted. She chews at her lip absentmindedly. She could try to wrestle his wand away, but he's much bigger than her. That won't do. Was she in any shape to cast wand-less magic? A jinx along with a stunning spell would probably take him down. She just needed to play her cards-
"Don't do that." Ron growls at her, popping back out of the tent.
Ron flicks his wand, and his patronus tumbles into corporeal being. The little jack russell terrier as sprightly as ever floats away into the distance. She wonders where he's sent it, and if she should be concerned.
"What?" She asks genuinely unsure of what she had done to anger him, by sitting quietly.
"Biting your lip. Don't."
"Why?" She does stop.
"It's your tell."
"For when you're coming up with VERY bad ideas." He narrows his eyes, to knowingly.
Hermione decides to avoid meeting his eyes again. It does things to her when he looks at her. She focuses on a point beyond his shoulder.
But since he was the one to address the proverbial elephant in the room, Hermione decides she doesn't feel at all bad for plotting the best way to attack him.
Why did he have to bring up the fact that they shared a past? That, though it might have been years they still knew things about each other, whether they wanted to forget them or not. She had been fond of pretending they didn't know each other from Adam.
"You can still summon a patronus?" She asks partly to distract him, and partly because she had been surprised by that.
"Why wouldn't i?"
"Do you remember what Harry taught us? They're tied to happy memories."
She watches for some kind of reaction at Harry's name, but there isn't one.
"Even Death eaters can have happy memories." Said in the tone one would scold a child.
"Dark magic leeches into your memories. Into your soul even. With as many unforgivables as i know you've used, you shouldn't be capable of maintaining a patronus. Especially one that's fully corporeal."
"You always were the brightest witch of our age." It isn't a compliment.
"Even i'm not capable of a patronus, like that anymore." It had been more than a year since she'd been able. "How did you do it?"
"Wouldn't you like to know."
"Yes." She really did, her mind was racing with the likelihoods, and possibilities.
Who was this man in front of her, now? The things he must know, the things he must have learned from the Death eaters, the things he must have endured since they last met. It sent her mind humming.
In the 3 years they'd spent apart Ron had lost all traces of boyhood in his face. He looks tired, older than the 20 years she knows he is. As a grown man he is serious, analytical, and resolved.
"You have more pressing concerns, i'm afraid." His tone is once again indifferent to her.
She is an irritant, no more than garbage sent by Malfoy for him to clean up. To dispose of. To kill.
Neville warned her once, before he died. That he heard there were special orders on Hermione. For if she was ever captured. She had hoped he was wrong, but Neville had rarely ever been wrong.
Dread licks at the corners of her mind. The dewey eyed school girl is back, and she sinks into the fetal position.
This is bad. Very. Very bad.
The Order didn't even know she'd been taken prisoner, and their headquarters had just been blown to hell. No one is coming to help her get out of this. If she lives or dies it's on her.
"What's going to happen to me?"
She spares a glance up at him.
Entirely off the record. Hermione decides his eyes are still the very same deep sapphire hues of the ocean. She wishes they aren't. It would be easier to hate an older Ron Weasley, with darker eyes. It would be easier for her to remember he is the enemy, if only she could see the dark magic he possesses reflecting in his eyes.
If the eyes were windows to the soul, what did that say for Ronald Weasley?