A/N: All the standard disclaimers apply. This is a fan-fiction, set in a world and using characters created and owned by J.K. Rowling. It's just a fantasy of my own distorted mind, borrowing Rowling's fictional world and those who inhabit it for my own, and hopefully my readers', pleasure. Since I don't plann on making any money from this, I don't think any copyright laws are violated.
The Setting: 12 Grimmauld Place, two weeks after Bill and Fleur's wedding, the fall of the ministry, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione's escape from the Death Eaters.
Harry took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration. He and Hermione were in the Black family library at 12 Grimmauld Place, scouring the decidedly dark collection of magical references for any clues on how to destry horcruxes. The high-ceilinged room was dark and musty, despite having thrown back the heavy curtains on the tall window in the middle of the bookcase-lined wall. Sunlight just didn't seem to want to penetrate the gloom. It didn't help that they were researching evil magic. Harry sat in an overstuffed chair while Hermione had curled up on her legs on a sofa across the room, a stack of books as tall as she was on the floor next to her. Ron was off, who knows where, probably either sneaking a nap or scrounging for a snack in the kitchen. He didn't have the head for book research.
Sighing, Harry replaced his glasses and bent over the large, musty volume on his lap. For the fifth time in as many minutes he tried to decipher a passage that seemed to be about horcruxes, but he just couldn't understand the flowery, old English script. "Hermione," he said, finally giving up and turning to someone he trusted to know just about everything. "What does it mean when they say…" He stopped midsentence in frightened surprise when he looked over to the sofa at his bushy haired best friend. "Hermione!" he shouted, leaping towards her while drawing his wand. The teenaged girl in question was standing next to the sofa with a dazed look on her face and a couple dozen glowing orbs of light floating about her head.
"It's OK," she said quickly, shushing him with her hand. "Quick, how many are there!" Confused, but obedient, Harry started counting the orbs circling her head. Gradually they began to fade away until they were completely gone. "How many did you see?" Hermione asked Harry urgently.
"That's what I got, too." She sat down on the sofa, wringing her hands and biting her lower lip with worry.
"What's going on, Hermione? What was all that about?" Harry asked softly, kneeling in front of her, confused and concerned.
Hermione took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm herself down. "I found this book on memory charms," she pointed at the open book on the top of the tall stack next to the sofa. "I thought maybe it would help with when, or if, I ever get to restore my parents' memories." Harry nodded, a sad look on his face. He knew how great a sacrifice his friend had made to join him on this, so far, pointless quest of Dumbledore's. She continued, "Did you know that obliviated memories aren't really erased, as such? Instead they are sort of folded in on themselves so that they can't be accessed, but they are still there, in the obliviated person's mind." She held her hands out flat, as if holding a memory, then folded them over themselves to hide her palms from sight. Harry nodded again, not really know, but urging her to continue. He wondered what all this had to do with the orbs. "Anyway," she continued after another sigh. "I found a spell that reveals how many erased memories a person has in their head. It displays a glowing light for each folded memory." He sat back on his heels, absorbing what she had just said. A few silent moments passed as they stared at each other. "Harry, I've been obliviated twenty seven times!" she cried, tears starting to well in her eyes.
"Oh my God," Harry exclaimed, leaning forward to pull her into what he hoped was a reassuring hug. "Who? What? When?"
"I don't know! I don't know! I don't know!" she cried mournfully. They held each other for several minutes in shocked and fearful silence. "Harry? I think I should do the spell on you, too." Separating, he leaned back and nodded his reluctant agreement.
"What do you want me to do?" he said, suddenly afraid of finding out what the spell would reveal.
"Just hold still," she answered, raising her wand slowly and muttering an incantation. Instantly Harry's head was surrounded by orbs of light. Shocked for a moment, he remembered to start counting.
"Forty nine!" both he and Hermione said at the same time. The orbs faded away and the two teens stared at each other, wide-eyed.
"Hermione?" Harry asked quietly, after a few stunned minutes of contemplation. "Is there any way to recover a memory obliviated by someone else?"
"Y-yes," she nodded, turning to the book and flipping a few pages forward. "But it's not easy and can be dangerous. There's a series of spells that can unfold the memory. It has to be done one at a time. It sounds like it might be painful. And if you do it wrong, you can lose more memories than you get back."
"Do it to me," Harry stated, more of a command than a request.
Hermione looked at him, biting her lower lip again, then said firmly. "No."
"What?" Harry said, taken aback. "Hermione, we have to get those memories back!"
"I know," she said, "But I want you to do it to me first." She held up her hand to stop the objections that were about to burst from his mouth. "We need to see if it's going to work, if we're doing it right. My memories are less important than yours."
"I disagree!" Harry said vehemently. "You're the brains of this operation, Hermione. You always have been. I would be lost without you. You have to do me first."
"Thanks," she smiled at his compliment, "but I'm not the Chosen One. You are. You're the one who has a destiny and a prophecy to fulfill. I'm just the swotty sidekick."
"You're more than that," he insisted taking her hand and looking into her brown eyes, meaning every word he said.
"Nonetheless," she gasped confused at his declaration, tearing her eyes away from his dazzling green gaze. "I'll show you how to do it, but won't do it to you until after you've done it to me. If that makes any sense." Harry looked like he wanted to argue some more, but he finally sighed and gave in. Together they leaned over the book and read and re-read the passage describing the obliviation counter-spell. As Hermione had indicated, they had to go after each memory separately, and it wasn't going to be easy for either of them.
"Ready?" He asked several minutes later, after much discussion and several rounds of wandless practice. She nodded and cast the memory-revealing spell again, her head surrounded by glowing orbs. Harry chose one at random, and lifting his wand, began the counter-spell. Hermione gasped and winced in pain, then she reached up and touched her lips with her hand, and smiled.
"Oh Harry! You won't believe what that was a memory of!" she exclaimed. "Keep going! Do another!"
He picked another orb and repeated the spell. This one seemed to hurt Hermione more, but she urged him to continue. After the tenth one, she buckled at the knees and Harry grabbed her around the waist and lowered her to the sofa. Lying back, she whispered, "Don't stop."
"Are you sure?" he asked, concerned.
She nodded, "Definitely, my love." She gripped his hand and braced herself for the next round of painful counter-spells.
My love? Harry wondered, but setting aside his confusion at her comment, he pointed his wand and continued. Hermione moaned in pain and arched her back. Each memory recovered seemed to be more painful than the next. There were only six left and she was gasping and writhing on the sofa underneath him, her fingers digging into his arms.
"Bloody hell!" came a shout and a crash from the doorway. "Stop, Harry! What are you doing to Hermione!" Ron had dropped the plate of sandwiches and bottle of butterbeer in his hands and was rushing toward Harry. There was the fire of rage in his eyes at the sight of his best friend pointing a wand at the head of his girlfriend, who was obviously in pain.
"Petrificus Totalis!" Ron stopped midstride and straightened up, stiff as a board, his arms to his side and legs stuck together. He fell over backwards with a loud thud. Surprised, Harry looked down to see Hermione's wand hand pointed around him at Ron. She had risen to her elbows and sent the spell to stop him.
"Don't ask," she said through gritted teeth. "I'll explain later. Just finish!" She lay back and grabbed Harry's arm. "Finish it!" she commanded forcefully. Harry complied, more confused than ever. When the last memory restoration spell was finally complete, Hermione sat up and wrapped her arms around him in a tight embrace. She was sobbing freely. After a few minutes, she leaned back and looked him in the eyes, with a look he had never seen her give him before, a look he'd seen just a tiny glimpse of when she looked at Ron. She leaned forward and kissed him on the mouth. Not just a peck between friends, but a passionate, insistent kiss, like no kiss he had ever gotten from any girl before.
"Hermione, what the…" he started when she finally leaned back. She smiled and put her finger on his lips, shushing him.
"Seventeen," she said enigmatically.
"What? Seventeen what?" he gasped, still shaken by the kiss.
"That was our seventeenth first kiss," she said, with a grin and a giggle.