I wish I was JKRowling... Well, I am not. And, although the plot was born inside my head, this story would not have existed without her.
Once again, I'm grateful to EmyBellerose for being a great betareader! Thank you so much for your support and encouragement, you're awesome!
"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." Agatha Christie
CHAPTER 1 : DESESPOIR
Hermione caressed the cover with deep fascination. She was about to discover one of the greatest mysteries of the magic world. She hadn't felt this mix of excitement and terror since the day she had found out about the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. As her curiosity had always been stronger than her fear, she held the obscure book and opened it. A nauseating smell of mold escaped at the movement. The book was so thin and light that it looked more like a journal. It probably only contained a dozen of pages.
The first-page was like the rumors said: entirely covered with bloody signatures of the witches who collaborated to write the book. Delicately, she turned the page with her fingertips. The following page was damaged by time, worms, and humidity. Judging by the drawings, it might have been instructions for a potion. No, it was for a curse. She looked closer but the only readable scribble was a tiny line at the end of the page. Since it was written in Latin, she wasn't sure of the translation as she started to read it: "... a tui, Melusine, trado meus anima..."
Suddenly, the book slipped from her hands. She gasped in horror as the precious item fell on the floor. Wondering if it was an effect of the sentence she red, she bent to pick it up. And something unexpected happened; her hands couldn't catch the book. They went through it, as if she was a ghost. A frown darkened her face as she could not remember her research mentioning any risk of being cursed while reading the book.
Frustrated, she sat on the stone floor, working on a way to bring the book to England with her. She tried to touch it many times, but every attempt was in vain. She was reluctant to use a spell on it, afraid of altering its quality and authenticity. The only solution was to do more research in order to find a counter-curse. She stood up, dusted off her pants, and disapparated to her flat in London.
Ron and Harry were there, playing with giant Lego pieces.
"Aren't you two too old to play with Legos?" She asked as she took off her cloak.
They must be concentrating, thought Hermione when no one responded. She came closer to see how their Eiffel Tour was progressing.
"Hey, you're forgetting one level here." She pointed out.
They still did not react. Why were they ignoring her? She thought they were okay with the fact that she couldn't fill them in with her discoveries yet. It wasn't like they weren't used to.
Ron summoned some pieces and looked at a photograph before adding them.
"Err, mate, I think we forgot a level."
Hermione lifted an eyebrow at Ron's observation. Still ignoring her presence, Harry and Ron took one step back to have a better look at their work. She sighed and stood in front of the miniature.
"Why are you behaving like kids?"
Her friends stayed indifferent, discussing about a way to rectify their mistake, as if she was invisible.
A terrifying idea crossed Hermione's mind. "Harry, Ron! Look at me!" She tried to grab Harry's arm, but her hand passed through his body like it went through the book earlier. Panicked, she pounced on every item she saw: the sofa, a cup of coffee, a copy of the Daily Prophet, the rug, even the wall. She looked for her cloak, but it had disappeared from the sofa where she was certain she had put it.
There was nothing to do, she ran through everything and everybody like a ghost. She was worse than a ghost was, since nobody seemed to see or hear her. What about her wand? Hermione picked it from her jean's pocket, relieved to be able to touch the most precious thing she had ever owned.
She closed her eyes and breathed heavily. Her wand was certainly her only way to communicate, she should calm down before she used it incorrectly. She collected herself and uttered in a shaking voice: "Accio quill!"
Nothing happened. She summoned it repeatedly, tears began streaming down her face, but the quill remained motionless. Devastated, she turned towards her friends and screamed. "Please, look at me! I'm here! Merlin, look at me..."
"Did Hermione tell you when she'd be back?" Harry asked in the middle of her cry.
"She said it would take the whole morning. I wish she'd let me accompany her..."
"You know that's how she works."
"Yeah... But still, I thought she would stop hiding things from us."
"I trust her..."
She dissolved into tears while dread covered her body with his icy coat.
Four months had passed from that day, and Hermione was roaming alone in limbo. Her disappearance had been on every newspaper's front page headlines, and everybody was mobilized to help search. A meeting had been organized every Monday during the first two month. Then, people started showing up less and less, and it got fixed on the first Monday of every month. She used to follow Harry and Ron everywhere they went. Sometimes she spoke to them, just because she needed to speak. Truth be told, she had no hope of communicating with anybody anymore. It was just how she remained sane. She just stayed with them, looked at them, and spoke to them.
One night, as Ron was secretly crying in the bathroom, she told him she loved him and confessed that she didn't blame him for the kiss he shared with Luna two days ago.
"Hermione, I miss you so much." He whispered, wiping his tears.
"I miss you too."
"I wish I hadn't kiss Luna."
"You don't have to feel guilty; Luna is a great girl. She takes better care of you than I used to."
"What am I going to do? If you're not alive, I'm not either."
"We're both alive, Ron, we're both alive."
She regretted her behavior when she realized the consequences of her actions. She felt like a pianist who had become deaf and dumb. Every day, every hour, every minute, she was sinking deeper and deeper into emptiness. Loneliness was her only friend...
It wasn't easy to work on a solution. Her brain was too blurred by melancholy and loneliness to work properly.
Nevertheless, she kept some indisputable statements in mind. She had lost her materiality, but she was still one united person. Floors seemed to be the only things she couldn't cross. She was not dead; she was not a ghost seeing as ghosts couldn't see or hear her, either. She was the only person in her predicament. She could travel as fast as her thoughts; however she's still subjected to time. She didn't need to sleep and eat. She could touch herself, things she carried, or wore as long as they stayed in contact with her. And, she finally understood the translation of that fateful sentence. "To you, Melusine, I entrust my soul." Unfortunately, the deeper meaning of it was still unclear.
She was there, sitting on the floor in the middle of her bedroom, working on a solution. She could repeat to herself that she was dead, but still, she continued to live.
Hope showed its face the last week of the fourth month. It was May, and Neville, Luna and Harry were invited to dinner at the Burrow. Days at the Burrow were the saddest and happiest times for Hermione. She was glad to see everyone, but the usual hurly-burly of the Weasleys' kitchen had faded, and there was still a moment when Ron left the place to lock himself in his old bedroom.
Ginny was in charge of putting Hermione's notes and parchments in order. She would have gotten a clue about Hermione's research if the notes weren't scattered here and there in her office, in her flat, between books, or under piles of others notes. Today, Ginny came to the Burrow with a letter, announcing that she might have a lead.
" As you all know," started the ginger-haired girl in front of a dozen of eyes wide with expectation. "At first, I thought that Hermione was working on Tales of Beedle's translation. However, I just found this piece of paper dated from February 5th, two days before her disappearance."
"Who is it from?" Harry asked. Hermione glanced at the paper and recognized it.
"Well, it's a letter from the French Institute of Celtic history, who is collaborating with Hermione on her search."
"Does the letter say what she was searching for?" He questioned.
"No, it doesn't say anything more. But now, we know that there's someone, at least, who knows what she was researching."
"I'll go to France after dinner," claimed Ron.
Good Gryffindor, thought Hermione with a sad smile. Yes, they were on the good lead, but they were so far from figuring that she was victim of a curse.
"There's no need to hurry. The institute must be closed at this time." Mrs. Weasley said.
"I don't care. If I have to wake up the French Minister of Magic himself, I'll do it. What if she's in danger? What if we arrive too late?"
"She's alive Ronald." Luna asserted.
Everybody's eyes fell on the blond girl. "How can you know...?" Ron whispered.
"Bibbering humdingers don't kill their victims. They just need to collect enough saliva to feed their larva." She replied.
Hermione laughed nervously as everyone shared dead-panned looks. Once, she would have been irritated by Luna's words.
"We're talking seriously Luna." Told Mr. Weasley.
"Yes," she nodded, "Me, too. And if you were more serious, you would have started to ask bibbering humdingers to send Hermione back."
Ginny tried to rein the conversation back in. "Well, while Luna will be asking the bibbering humdingers if they can send Hermione back, I'll look for notes dealing with Celtic history."
"Ron and I will go to France early in the morning." Harry added.
They distributed tasks and discussed why Hermione would have been interested in Celtic History until the end of the dinner. Mr. Weasley went to sleep while his wife was cleaning the kitchen. George and Neville disapparated to their respective houses, and Harry followed Ginny upstairs, leaving Ron and Luna alone. Intrigued by the progress of their relationship, Hermione stayed with them in the main room.
"Can you lend me a cauldron?" Luna asked.
"Yes, of course." He went in the kitchen and came back with an old battered cauldron.
She took it and asked again: "Do you have giant squid juice?"
"Err, yeah, I think my mum kept some in a pot in the cupboard..." He turned back to the kitchen, and then stopped halfway to glare suspiciously at Luna. "What are you up to?"
"I also need a bottle of water to extinguish the flame."
She gave him a startle look, as inappropriate as ever. "Ronald?"
Knowing that it was a lost battle, he sighed and went to the kitchen to bring what she told him to.
When he came back, she wasn't in the room anymore. "Luna?" He called out.
"She's in the garden," spoke Hermione. As if he had heard her words, he took a look at the garden.
The night was clear. Luna was pulling up some grasses, the bright moon shining on her long blond hair.
"What are you doing?" Ron asked as Hermione and he joined the strange girl.
The cauldron was heating on a mass of woods. "I'm preparing an offering for bibbering humdingers."
She took the pot of giant squid juice from Ron's hand and poured the whole container into the cauldron. Then she added the mass of grass, spat in the mixture, and shuffled it with her wand ten times. Ron seemed a bit disconcerted. He observed her movements, trying to unravel the mystery of such craziness. Luna was like the moon Hermione thought, inconstant in her reaction, dreamy and meditative. She had such a different comprehension of the world that it was impossible to guess what was happening in her head. Hermione knew how Ron and Harry were impressed by her ability to speak freely and frankly without any taboo, not afraid of what people might think.
For some moments, Ron seemed on the verge of saying something. Hermione was watching the scene with great interest. Something was uprising between them, only it went beyond words.
Luna glanced at Ron with a smooth smile and picked up a big black bean from her pocket. She crumbled it into the hot cauldron, spat, and shuffled the potion again.
"Are you sure bibbering humdingers won't do her any harms?" He finally asked.
She stared at him thoughtfully before responding. "Yes, don't worry."
He smiled weakly and lied on the grass, his eyes anxious, questioning the moon about his girlfriend's safety. Hermione joined him and caressed his face. She was fascinated by the electric tension, almost palpable, which was burning Ron and Luna while they struggled to hide it. It was like a riddle, the most important riddle of their life. Ron was torn between staying faithful to Hermione or letting his heart open up at another chance at love. And Luna was lucid, waiting for a sign. To pretend that watching her boyfriend falling in love for another girl- a girl who was one of her closest friends- wasn't painful, would have been a lie. She missed him, but above all, she missed life. In fact, she missed so many things that after four month she had to swallow the lump she had in her throat and wish he would be happier. After all, she didn't know if she would come back one day.
They heard footsteps and looked up to see Ginny and Harry coming out of the house.
"We saw the smoke from the windows. What are you both doing?" Ginny said.
"Luna is invoking bibbering humdingers." Her brother answered.
"Err, okay... But can't you do that in the kitchen, it's cold outside."
Ron shrugged as Harry sat silently next to him. Ginny curled up into his arms shivering from the coldness of the night.
A/N : Thank you so much for reading. Hope you like it. I've already written 8 chapters, but I won't post them all at once. Any comment? I wonder if my English has improved...