A/N: A few quick, semi-important notes.
1. This is going to be one of possibly three Big Bang-sized stories that I will post this year.
2. My goal is to post a chapter a week on this story for 24 weeks, at which point the story should be complete.
3. I've started writing the FINAL chapter of Sharing Sleep. I'm also working on With Me. I have not forgotten! :)
4. I came up with the plot to this story whilst listening to a lot of The Joy Formidable. Therefore, I have linked up one of their songs to each section of this story and added a selection of lyrics at the end, which I think kind of go with the story. Ignore them, if you like. I tend to write to music, so it inspires a lot...
Here is Chapter One, Part One's track, "Cradle" -
http : / / www . youtube . com / watch?v=W66yhfMb4d0 [remove spaces]
5. In order for this story to work and not make you hate me, you all have to sort of blindly trust me. This was an experiment, in a way, to see if I could make this combination of plot devices work in a realistic and in-character way. I think I have figured out a way to do that, and I would be happy to hear your opinions on whether or not you think I did... However, it is going to take some wading through stuff that could possibly make you question what the hell I'm up to before you get to that point. So, like I said... TRUST? :)
5. I love you.
Chapter One - Sticks and Stones and Apologies, Part One
On August 31st, Hermione Jean Granger opened her eyes.
Golden sunlight filled her room, stretching to each corner, blinding her. She sat up, blinked rapidly to adjust her eyes to the early morning glow, and her world fell very slowly into place.
She was home.
She tried to focus, to make sense of everything... everything that for some reason felt so distant as she fully regained consciousness. But it was as if her mind was full of cobwebs, old from lack of use. Hidden or discarded thoughts rested beneath the dust, but she couldn't reach them, or even know for sure that they were real, that they really awaited her return.
She stood, suddenly frightened, and stared, unblinking, out her window, her skin breaking out into furious goosebumps, despite the warmth of the sun beating down on her through the glass. It was like waking from a dream, desperately trying to pull it back to the forefront in order to remember. But it slipped through her fingers like smoke, and she had no idea how to gather it back.
Heart beating wildly, her eyes scanned her light blue walls, recognizing her location with a sickening feeling. Something was wrong. She called up the date, remembering how she'd searched for it at the end of the war, having been too busy until that moment to worry about such things. May 2nd seemed oddly distant, though she remembered everything so vividly and knew that it was only yesterday...
So it was May 3rd. Why, then, was she in her parents' home today... alone?
Frantically, she tried to recall arriving, what had led her from the scene of the last battle against Voldemort to her childhood home, her warm quilts, and the eerie silence of unexpected solitude. But as hard as she tried to remember, she couldn't piece it together.
Panic set in, and she breathed deeply to calm down. It was irrational, she thought, to feel this way. She just had to concentrate, to steady herself and think. And to contact Harry and Ron as soon as possible and find out what the hell was going on.
Where were they now? Why had she found herself so soon after the war, after all they'd been through, alone? Whatever had happened, it hadn't been a part of her plans. And the worst part was, she couldn't remember...
And so, she choked back her uneasiness, and disapparated from her bedroom... to just outside The Burrow's wards.
Wind whipped through her hair, casting it across her face in frizzy bits. She stepped closer, towards the Burrow, brushing a hand over her eyes to clear her hair away so she could properly see...
But with her next step, a jolt of something like fire seared her skin, running through her nerves... She jumped back, and for a moment, she was too stunned to realise what had happened. But then, as she took another, much slower step backwards, she understood.
The wards. She was unable to get past them. Which had never been true before. Ever. Ron's family had ensured she was always able to pass.
She wasn't sure if it frightened her more not to know why they'd shut her out, or to have to wonder if they were alright. Tears welled in her eyes, and she couldn't seem to control them. But as she blinked to free them, the world around her began to spin and she tumbled, eyes suddenly fixed on the trees to the right of the property.
Red, yellow, and orange.
It wasn't May 3rd. It couldn't be.
She began gasping in air, gulp after gulp, but none of it seemed to quite reach her lungs. And the last thing she saw was the Burrow's front door opening, and a figure with messy jet black hair emerging slowly... out into the autumn afternoon.
She blinked her eyes open and was immediately face to face with an elderly healer, who was looking back into Hermione's eyes with a mixture of concern and relief.
"Where am I?" Hermione choked out. "What's happened?"
"You're at St. Mungo's," the healer explained, politely, backing away a few inches to give Hermione room to breathe. "Harry Potter brought you here."
Her eyes shot open wide, and she tried to sit up.
"Yes," the healer assured her, concern returning.
"Where is he? !" Hermione nearly shouted, sitting fully up in bed now.
"He's gone," the healer said, simply, alarmed by Hermione's outburst. "He brought you here, asked us to take care of you, and he left..."
Why would he leave her here alone? Confusion re-mounted, and she was desperate for the answers she wasn't sure how to find.
"Was there anyone with him?" she asked, needing the answer to be yes.
"No, I don't believe so..." the healer said, slowly.
Hermione breathed a bit too heavily for a moment, trying to lift this fog of confusion that would not shake away…
"Miss Granger, do you remember what happened to you?" the healer asked, gently.
Not only could she not remember what had happened to her between collapsing outside the Burrow's wards and now, but she couldn't remember... well, rather an awful lot, it was turning out...
"No..." she breathed, having no idea how to properly explain it...
"Mr. Potter told us you'd collapsed, and that he'd apparated here with you."
"What's the date?" Hermione cut in, remembering the way the red leaves of the Burrow's trees had blurred as she'd fallen...
"I'm sorry?" The healer furrowed her eyebrows down at Hermione.
No matter what the healer said, it was going to be a shock. She could feel it, dread rising up in the back of her throat...
"August 31st," and Hermione's heart dropped painfully as her eyes welled with tears, "but-"
"It can't be!" she shouted, irrationally... because she knew that it was. Gasping in air, she closed her eyes, and finally, she nodded. "...but it is, isn't it."
"Miss Granger?" and as Hermione opened her eyes again, she noted the presence of a second, concerned looking healer, slowly making her way into the room, eyes on Hermione.
At least now one thing made sense. She'd just lost four months of her life. And she had absolutely no idea where to start to find them again, except to her healers now, and hope for the best... to hope for a cure.
"I can't remember anything after the 2nd of May."
They ran so many tests she almost forgot what she was being tested for. Which would have been ironic, considering...
The healers, who had gathered around her, seemed to find her case not only completely puzzling, but also terribly intriguing, neither of which she considered to be a good sign. If they couldn't figure out what had happened to her, what hope did she have to restore what she'd lost?
But when, at last, they'd finished their tests, she couldn't wait for another moment. She stood from the cold table on which she'd been lying, spells trickling around her in an attempt to piece her memory together.
"I need to get in touch with Harry Potter," she said, firmly. "Please, do you have an owl I could use?"
"Sure," one of the healers said, and she took Hermione's elbow, directing her down the hallway towards a tiny room, strewn with owl treats and bits of ribbon, formerly used to tie together scrolls of parchment. "Here," the healer said, and she pointed Hermione towards a small barn owl and a stack of blank parchment.
"Thank you," and she began to write.
I don't know what's happening. Please, if you can come to St. Mungo's with Ron... I need to see you both, to talk to you and figure this out. Harry, I've lost my memory. I don't know what's happened over the summer. The last thing I can recall is going home to the Burrow after the battle at Hogwarts in May.
I'll be staying in St. Mungo's overnight, and I desperately need to see you... and Ron. Please say that you'll come...
Harry chewed at his bottom lip, caught somewhere between frustrated and cautious, having no idea how to approach Ron about this. They were, sadly, both seated on the edge of Ron's bed, in his room, and so it was going to be impossible not to say something. Ron had watched the tiny owl fly through his open bedroom window, aimed directly for Harry's lap. He'd watched Harry open the letter, read it over... read it over again...
It was useless to go on pretending like it was nothing. He could tell from the way Ron's cheeks had reddened in anticipation that he probably already knew, just from the way Harry was acting, exactly who this particular letter was from...
"It's from her... isn't it," Ron practically growled, fists clenching the quilt on either side of him.
"Ron..." Harry swallowed, scanning the parchment one last time, "she says she's lost her memory..."
"Bollocks," Ron huffed, turning his eyes away from Harry to glare forward, muscles rigid.
"How do you know for sure?" Harry asked slowly, feeling the fragile eggshells beneath each of his words.
Ron let out something between a derisive laugh and a sob, oddly enough. And Harry's heart skipped over a number of beats as he waited...
"She wants a second chance," Ron said, as if it was completely obviously, "and this is her way of trying to get one."
It sounded... so un-Hermione-like. But then again, so did everything she'd done, recently...
"You think so?" Harry asked softly, feeling a tad guilty for wanting her to be telling the truth. So he wanted one of his best friends - okay, former best friends - to have lost her memory? Well, yes. Yes, he did, actually...
"I don't know..." Ron sighed, releasing his death grip on his quilt. He closed his eyes as Harry mulled over their options.
So... she'd done something bad. Really bad. But she was still Hermione, wasn't she? And maybe, just maybe, this loss of memory could bring who she was back to them...
"But..." Harry pressed on, thinking aloud, "when have we known her to lie? She doesn't-"
"She doesn't?" Ron interrupted, anger returning as he ripped his eyes open again to glare at Harry.
It wasn't going to be any use trying to work his way through this. Harry knew how irreparable things were now. And it was, honestly, a completely ridiculous hope to have, that because she couldn't remember what she had done... that maybe... they could forget it, too...
"Okay, the one time," Harry sighed, "but-"
"Yeah, the one time..." Ron snapped, bitterly, elbows on his knees as he turned away from Harry again.
There was nothing left to say. They'd see her tomorrow. A fact that Harry was trying very hard not to bring up again, now that the two of them had finally moved past it... He wasn't sure what was going to happen on that train, but if he could just get Ron to Hogwarts without too much trouble...
He nodded to himself, rolled Hermione's letter back up into a tight scroll, and stood, stretching.
"What are you going to do?" Ron asked, looking up at Harry. And from his position on the edge of his bed, messy fringe cutting jaggedly across his forehead, swooping down into his sparkling eyes, Ron looked so much younger than he was... so much more unsure than that brand new, almost-confident Ron that Harry had seen glimpses of before-
"Not going to do anything. You're right," Harry said, "she must be lying."
Ron blinked up at Harry for a second too long, and Harry knew he wanted to believe her nearly as much as Harry himself had wanted to moments ago... But he also knew how futile those lingering desires were, and no matter how much Ron longed to go back, he could never do that. It was much too late.
Harry left Ron to a glowing sunset, echoing through his brightly poster-covered room... And moments later, two floors below, he wrote Hermione a simple reply. Because after all, she was still... someone, to him. Someone.
I'm sure I'll see you on the train tomorrow. Good luck.
She couldn't sleep. She could feel sleeping potion pooling in the pit of her stomach, mixed with the warmth of a large cup of tea. But she'd known it wouldn't matter then, as she'd sipped it down, as much as she knew it now... now that it was trying to work. Her eyes burned from crying, and her bed in St. Mungo's was much less than comfortable. She'd spent the rest of the evening being tested, climbing to higher floors for inspection and attempted treatments, all of which had failed, turning up nothing...
She could think of no reason why she would suddenly find herself here. And the worst part was that aching feeling that she'd done something wrong that she couldn't remember. Why else would Harry refuse to come and see her? Why else would Ron ignore her like this?
The knowledge that she'd be seeing Harry on the train tomorrow tipped her off to the fact that yes, Hogwarts would begin its school year the following day, with the Hogwarts Express trip. And... that she was enrolled. And that Harry was, too. Was it too much to hope that Ron would be there, as well? That she'd finally be able to find out if he knew something more? She couldn't help but fear the discovery of what she was missing, the memories that had vanished without a trace. But at the same time, she had a very strong feeling that Ron and Harry would know something. That they knew something at this very moment and were being so cruel to her because of that knowledge...
In fact, it wasn't even a suspicion. She could think of no other reason for them to behave this way towards her. And she was always very good at deduction.
At last, dawn broke, and she rose from her bed to collect her things. Unsteady on her feet, she managed to make her way to the front desks, where she checked herself out of care. She wasn't in danger, at least not that they could find. And there was no reason for her to stay here, when she showed no signs of illness or the after effects of having been cursed...
She'd discovered, late into the night, that a group of Aurors had evidently been trying to track down her parents in Australia, to restore their memories. She wasn't sure why she'd waited so long, and when she'd pressed for more information, she'd found out that the search had, of course, been initiated by her, by a series of meetings with the heads of the Auror department, in which she'd stated her case and reasons for behaving in such a rash manner, sending them off with severely altered memories and brand new identities.
Too bad she couldn't remember a bloody moment of those meetings, what she'd said or why...
At least her parents were still safe, and away from this mess, she thought, as she made her way to an apparition point, turning quickly away.
Trunk packed, she bustled through King's Cross station, feeling almost numb. She had one mission, one plan, and she had to be strong enough to face them, no matter if they wanted to see her or not. She needed answers... answers that she was sure they had.
She boarded the train ten minutes early and made quick work of checking every individual compartment for signs of Harry... or Ron. When she could not locate them, she selected a compartment for herself and waited, heart pounding against her ribs as she stared, forehead against the glass, out the window, at the platform beyond... where so many students were being hugged and kissed goodbye, parents clinging to their first year students with happy tears in their eyes.
And before she knew it, she was sound asleep.
I can see he says what he means
I can't say what he means when he says that
I'll pretend, I'll pretty pretend, when all I wanna see is the end of this
I can see he says what he means
We'll deal him sticks and stones and apologies
I wish, oh, I wish it was through
Split the scars, get up off your knees
Just lift the marks to new found kinesis
I wish, I wish, I wish the cobwebs would cover me.