Daring to Hope
The restaurant was a small establishment just about where Diagon Alley met Knockturn Alley. It was called The Crossroads for this reason. Before I had defeated Voldemort, this had been a recruiting station for Death Eaters, but after the war was won it was cleaned out and put under new management—namely, George Weasley. He was never actually in the restaurant, however; he was always next door in the joke shop, keeping the Weasley's Wizard Wheezes business alive by constantly working on new projects. The restaurant itself was actually run by Angelina, who was as talented of a cook as she was a chaser.
I was extremely relieved when I heard that she had taken the day off for today and one of her friends was in charge. It meant that Ron, Hermione, and I wouldn't have anyone to distract us from trying to have a good time except ourselves, and we wouldn't be as guarded with each other as we would around the rest of the Weasleys.
Hermione and Ron were perhaps the only people who didn't blame me at all, including myself. I thought that they should blame me, that it truly was my fault that they couldn't celebrate their anniversary the way they wanted to. But, being the amazing friends that they are, they did not resent me for any of my actions. In fact, they had tried to support me, to tell me that there was no way I could have known, that I was perfectly justified in my actions and didn't have anything I needed to repent of. I was grateful for their friendship, but at the same time I didn't believe anything they were saying. This day was supposed to be the happiest day in their relationship, and because of me they couldn't enjoy it.
We walked into the restaurant and picked a small, obscure table in the very back of the room, virtually unnoticed by anyone aside from the waitress. We didn't have to order; we came here enough that everyone knew what we wanted and just brought it out to us. All three of us were silent for a moment or two, not quite sure what there was for us to talk about.
"How are you, Hermione?" I asked, taking her hand and squeezing it. I hadn't seen her for more than a month now—I had been so busy with the dementors that I hadn't taken the time to come and see her.
She smiled. "I'm just fine, Harry. Nothing out of the ordinary."
I raised my eyebrows. "I think carrying a baby would be a bit out of the ordinary for you, Herm."
She quickly turned to stare at her husband, who shrank in his seat.
"I thought we agreed we would tell them together," she hissed.
"It just came out!" Ron said, raising his hand slightly in protection. "You know how bad I am at keeping secrets!"
"How long have you known?" she asked me, sighing as she ran her fingers through her hair.
"Only since last night," I replied, stifling laughter.
"Does everyone know?"
"Everyone who was at your in-law's house for dinner. Why weren't you there, Hermione?"
"I was working," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
"You have a job?"
"Well, not exactly…"
I frowned. "Then what were you doing?"
She sighed and folded her hands in her lap. "I was researching something. I spent the whole day doing it, actually."
"You couldn't take a break to come to dinner?" I asked, curious.
"No," Ron said before his wife could respond. "She was in Australia at the time."
My eyes widened. "Australia?"
"She found someone she wanted to ask some questions about her research," Ron continued. "He agreed to meet with her."
"And you were okay with that?" I asked him, smirking.
"No, he wasn't," Hermione said, obviously still annoyed. "Not until I set up the meeting at my parent's house, that is."
"Does the guy even live in Australia?" I inquired.
"New Zealand," she responded, waving the question away with her hand.
"What were you researching?" I questioned, my interest truly peaked.
She opened her mouth to respond just as the waitress came with our orders. The conversation was temporarily postponed as all of us delved into out meals, and our own thoughts.
I gazed absentmindedly at the couple across the table from me—they were so happy, so in love with each other. There were no regrets in their relationship; they had everything they could ever have hoped for in each other, and they were able to be with each other every single day. The best I could do was stare at a lifeless form in a hospital bed and talk to myself.
After a few minutes, Hermione seemed to notice my sadness. She didn't have to ask me why I wasn't feeling well or what the problem was—she already knew. Slowly, she placed her fork on her plate and reached across the table to take my hand.
"Harry—" she began.
"She should be here," I whispered. I felt a tear slowly fall down my cheek and hit the back of my hand.
The next thing I knew, Hermione had stood up to sit back down next to me. She brushed the hair out of my face tenderly before taking both of my hands in hers.
"Remember what I told you about the research I was doing?" she asked.
I nodded. "It's hard to forget after only about five minutes."
She let herself be embarrassed for only a moment before continuing. "The person I was interviewing was a man by the name of Gregory Nelson. When he was sixteen, he lived in London with his father, who was a business partner with Lucius Malfoy. Unfortunately for him, Mr. Malfoy decided he would rather work alone and murdered him—using Gregory's wand. Gregory was found guilty of the crime and was sent to Azkaban."
"Hermione, where are you—"
"After two years, he was sentenced with the Dementor's Kiss," she concluded, trembling with excitement.
It seemed as if all of the air was pushed out of my lungs. I sat there, staring at her, not daring to believe, hardly comprehending the statement she had just made.
"You mean…" I started, unable to say the words for fear that they might not be true.
"He found his way back, Harry," she whispered, her eyes bright.
Instantly, I was on my feet. I clumsily fumbled in my pocket for some galleons and set them on the table for Ron and Hermione to pay for the dinner before heading towards the door.
"Where are you going, Mate?" Ron called after me, also standing.
"New Zealand," I yelled in response as the door shut behind me.
"I really can't remember that much, Mr. Potter. I'm sorry."
"You must know something I could do to help her?" I said desperately.
Mr. Nelson shook his head. "I was in a coma for a whole week after my soul returned to my body. During that week, all of my memories of what it was like as part of the One completely left me."
"The One?" I asked, confused.
"The collection of souls in each individual dementor," he explained. "Once yours has been added, there's absolutely no way to separate yourself from it. The One act as one being in what they sense as well as what they think."
"But if there's no way to separate yourself from them," I inquired. "How did you get out?"
"That's just the thing," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "I really don't remember. I had completely lost my identity, I know that much. It was only when I saw my mother after I woke up that my memories returned."
"But you really don't know how you escaped the dementors?"
He shook his head sadly.
In silent frustration, I buried my face in my hands. He was my only link, and he couldn't tell me anything.
"You don't have any ideas?" I asked once more.
He sighed, thinking it over once again. "Only one, and it's a long shot."
"I seem to remember one of our number leaving the One," he said, thoughtful. "It was when my dementor was captured for the first time. Someone that this soul had known was the one who caught us, and it seemed to bring back his identity for a while—kind of like my mother brought back my memory. I'm sorry to say that we soon lured him back into the One, but even if he could have stayed separate, I don't know where he would have gone from there. I'm assuming I went through a similar separation process, but I don't know what I did differently."
"It's better than nothing," I responded, standing and gathering my things. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Nelson."
"Excuse me, Mr. Potter," he said, standing. "But do you know how many dementors are out there? The chances of finding the one that took your fiancé are extremely slim."
I forced myself to smile, and he stared at me in shock.
"Then I guess I'll just have to catch all of them, won't I?"
A/N: How can I improve? Strong critique encouraged, but don't be rude, please! Review!!