Chapter 12 ~ A Witch, a Wizard and a Room of Requirement
“Rick, I would like you to spend the Christmas holidays with the Weasleys,” said Professor Dumbledore one evening when Rick had Apparated to his office. “Mrs. Weasley is demanding that I allow Harry to spend the holiday with them and ... well, she can be very persuasive, when she has her heart set on something. It would also be good for Harry’s morale. For reasons of his own safety, I had no alternative but to insist that he spend the whole summer holiday with the Dursleys. Mrs. Weasley has invited him, and I don’t want him to have to remain behind at Hogwarts this Christmas, as well.”
“But will he be safe, sir?”
“I believe so, especially if you are with him. The Hogwarts Express will be protected by a defensive shield. Members of the Order will escort you between King’s Cross station and the Burrow, which now serves as the backup headquarters for the Order, and has been heavily warded. Its defences are now equal to those of Grimmauld Place.”
“But the Weasleys may not want a stranger staying for Christmas,” said Rick, feeling a little uncomfortable about intruding on their family celebrations.
“Ah, I have already spoken with Molly about you and she is keen for you to come. ‘The more the merrier’, were her exact words as I recall. She wouldn’t hear of you spending Christmas all alone at Hogwarts, so far away from your home.”
My home? thought Rick. Yeah, it’s far away, that’s for sure. And not just because it may be on the other side of the planet – it was a different planet, a different time, a different reality.... Not that I’m complaining, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but right here. But still ... Mrs. Weasley has no idea just how far from home I really am.
“What did you tell her about me?” asked Rick.
“Just the ‘usual story’. And that you are a good friend of Ron and Harry, and played an important part in the recent student uprising. She knows nothing of your powers, or indeed, that you saved her daughter’s life in the Quidditch match against Slytherin.”
A friend of Ron, thought Rick. Who would have thought a month ago that he could be described as a friend of Ron! But it was true. After confessing how he had been duped by Pansy into divulging the Gryffindor password, Ron seemed to have had a ‘Road to Damascus’ experience, and was, at last, able to see Rick without prejudice. They had been comrades since the struggle against Umbridge; and even though Ron was unaware of how much Rick had done, he now recognised him as a powerful and valuable ally.
There was still some discomfort between them around Hermione. While there was nothing overt between Rick and Hermione, it was pretty obvious that they liked each other, and they were going to the Yule Ball together.
Ron had finally been forced to accept that Hermione loved him as a friend and a brother, and not the way he would have preferred. However, since Padma had invited him to the Yule Ball, his romantic fantasies seemed to have shifted somewhat from Hermione to Padma; not to mention some of the other witches who had also invited him.
Rick was aware, however, that even if Ron’s feelings towards Hermione were now more ‘brotherly’, he still needed to be careful. He remembered how protective Ron was of Ginny, and how he had ‘seen off’ Dean Thomas.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
After a week of their Empathetic Magic experiment, Rick and Hermione compared notes. Hermione had attempted to summon Rick thirty times. Rick had detected eleven of them, accurately identifying the time and the location from which she had summoned him.
“You’re absolutely sure that you didn’t cheat or use your magic Hogwarts map, or whatever it is, to find me?” asked Hermione. She was stunned at Rick’s success and could no longer deny the fact that Rick could do Empathetic Magic.
“I promise,” said Rick, smiling. “But the experiment isn’t over yet.”
“What do you mean?” asked Hermione, curiously.
“Well, eleven out of thirty isn’t all that good. I’d like to see if it’s possible to improve upon it,” explained Rick.
“But it’s amazing that you even sensed me summoning you once! It’s quite extraordinary. And remember, I was just summoning you for experimental purposes. It wouldn’t have been as forceful as if I was really in distress – like when Malfoy had me captive in the dungeon.”
“I think there’s a way to strengthen both your summons and my receptivity,” said Rick, thoughtfully.
“But, how?” asked Hermione.
“I’ll show you,” said Rick, smiling, “but not here in the common room. Come on, let’s go.”
“Go where?” asked Hermione, puzzled.
“To the Room of Requirement,” said Rick, softly.
“But why do we have to go all the way to the Room of Requirement?”
“Trust me,” said Rick. “And anyway, it’s not that far – if you know how to find it.”
Hermione was curious as to what Rick meant, so she agreed to go with him. It was still an hour until the night curfew.
Rick turned left down a corridor, not more than twenty yards from the Gryffindor portrait hole. He touched the wall and a large polished door, with a golden handle, suddenly appeared. “After you ... witches first,” said Rick chivalrously, opening the door for an astonished Hermione.
“But this can’t be the Room of Requirement,” said Hermione, in confusion. “The entrance is opposite that ridiculous tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy trying to turn trolls into ballerinas – it’s nowhere near here!”
“The Room of Requirement,” said Rick, with a smile, “is where ever you require it to be. Just as it’s always how ever you require it to be.”
Hermione entered the room and looked around. Most of the light came from a cosy fire crackling in a large fireplace along one wall. In front of the fire was a very large and comfy looking leather couch. On either side of the couch were low tables, each with an elegant candelabra and vases of beautiful flowers upon them. On one table there was a pitcher of pumpkin juice and two glasses. On the other, there were several plates of delicious looking pastries.
“Wow!” said Hermione. “The Room of Requirement never looked so inviting.”
Rick and Hermione sat down, taking in the soft ambience of the room.
“Well,” said Hermione curiously. “So how do you think Empathetic Magic can be strengthened? I’ve never read anywhere that it’s possible.”
“Well,” said Rick, “the way I see it, Empathetic Magic depends upon the feelings between the people involved.”
“Yes, that’s obviously the crucial factor,” agreed Hermione. “A mother’s love for her baby is fierce and powerful,” she mused.
“Then there was Helga Hufflepuff being summoned by her lover,” added Rick.
“So, if you could strengthen the feelings between two people, the Empathetic Magic between them would increase,” said Hermione, thoughtfully. “Yes, that makes sense. But how can you strengthen the feelings?”
Hermione had been thinking hypothetically up to this point. Suddenly she realised that the two people in question, for the purposes of their experiment at least, were her and Rick. Hermione looked up at Rick, her mouth dropped open as she suddenly began to suspect where this might all be leading.
Rick, meanwhile, was trying very hard to convince himself that understanding his powers of Empathetic Magic was really very important to the cause. Dumbledore himself, suggested that I investigate my link with Hermione. So it must be important – important enough, to justify me using my charm. This is all for the Cause, he told himself.
“Why, you just want to snog! Don’t you?!” demanded Hermione, outraged.
“Yeah, I’d really like to,” responded Rick candidly, without thinking. “But ... but, no ... that’s not what I meant! That’s not really what this is about, at all. I mean ... what I mean is, I really do want to learn more about Empathetic Magic. I think it could be really important to investigate it and ... err, I want to see what happens if I, err ... kiss you,” he mumbled.
“What? You want to kiss me?” gasped Hermione.
“You don’t understand,” said Rick desperately. “What I mean is, if we were to kiss, then, err ... our feelings for each other might grow. And then the Empathetic Magic between us would grow stronger. Don’t you see? Then we could do our summoning experiment for another week and see if there is any change in the success rate. Just think of it as a something we’re doing ... err, purely in the interests of science,” rationalised Rick, hoping to appeal to Hermione’s insatiable thirst for knowledge.
“So you don’t really want to kiss me then? It’s all just in the interests of science?” said Hermione, arching an eyebrow.
Rick realised he was now trapped. If he said he didn’t want to kiss her, Hermione would probably slap his face and walk out. But if he said he did want to kiss her, she would also probably slap his face and walk out. Rick now understood what it felt like to be on the ‘horns of a dilemma’ – not very good.
He couldn’t say yes, and he couldn’t say no, so he just did it. He leaned over and kissed her. Rick had dreamed of this moment for a long time – both in ‘this life’ at Hogwarts and, also often, in his ‘past life’. But it wasn’t anything like the way he had fantasised about it.
It was the most magical moment of his life – either life. He felt himself flow together with Hermione. It was a bit like the experience in Dumbledore’s office when he took Gryffindor’s wand. It was that same feeling of connectedness. He felt totally connected with Hermione, and also connected with everything at the same time. Rick was stunned.
Hermione had stopped thinking by the time Rick’s lips had touched hers. She had looked into his eyes and felt him enveloping her. Her thoughts had stopped, and once she stopped thinking, analysing, assessing, and evaluating the situation, it was easy. She really wanted this. She welcomed his kiss, and met his intense feelings and passion with equal intensity. Like Rick, she too felt the powerful connection between them. It was as if their souls had somehow merged, both together with each other and with all existence.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
By the time Rick and Hermione got back to the deserted Gryffindor common room, it was well past curfew. They didn’t want to part, to go their separate ways, to their separate dormitories – so they sat together in front of the fireplace.
“Rick, I think we should keep our ... our relationship to ourselves for now,” said Hermione. “I don’t even understand it myself ... I mean, what’s happened between us tonight. I certainly don’t want to try explaining it to anyone else ... or face a grilling from Lavender and Parvati, or Ginny – or anyone!”
“Yeah, I understand how you feel,” replied Rick, putting his arm around Hermione and snuggling up close to her. “I feel exactly the same way. Let’s keep it our secret. I sure don’t want to have to face Ron when he finds out ... we’re just getting to be friends.”
“Rick, can you imagine what all those witches with crushes on you are going to do to me if the news gets out? I’ve already been getting death glares, ever since they found out that you are going to the Yule Ball with me. I think there would be some serious interest in voodoo around here, and a ready market for Hermione Granger dolls.”
“Agreed,” said Rick. “Life will be a whole lot easier for both of us, if we keep what’s between us ... to ourselves.”
“Well, I just hope we can hide it,” said Hermione. “The bond between us is so strong. I mean ... I never imagined that it was possible to feel so close, so much a part of ... so connected with another person. I’ve never been in love before,” she continued shyly, turning her face away from Rick and staring into the dying embers of the fire. “I’ve read some of those romance novels, and I know all about the emotions, and passions, and fireworks that are supposed to happen. Well, they sure did happen! But there is something else as well, something quite different, that’s not in the books. But I can’t explain it – there are no words to describe it.”
“Hermione Granger at a loss for words,” quipped Rick. “I feel I’ve been paid the ultimate compliment.... But seriously, I feel the same way as you, and I’m also at a loss to describe it. We seem to have bonded together at some very deep level. It’s more than love, it’s ... I don’t know, spiritual ... magical! The only thing I know for sure, is that it happened, in part, because of my ... umm, ‘special magical powers’ – I’m sure of it.”
Hermione sighed. “And you still won’t tell me about them, will you? You’re still keeping secrets from me, aren’t you Rick? Why can’t you just be open and honest with me – why can’t you tell me everything?” she asked in frustration.
“Hermione, please believe me! I do want to tell you everything. It’s not easy keeping so many secrets from everyone; from my friends ... and especially from you. There’s nothing I’d like better than to unburden myself, and tell you the whole truth about myself – everything. Do you have any idea how lonely it is for me? Can you imagine what it’s like having to constantly hide behind barriers? Do you realise how hard it is to maintain this? I have to keep track of what a whole lot of different people know about me and try to be consistent and not contradict myself. Do you really think I enjoy having to conceal the truth?” asked Rick, sighing heavily.
“But why do you have to?” asked Hermione. “And anyway, I thought you said that Professor Dumbledore knew all your secrets.”
“Professor Dumbledore does know everything – and he told me that I should keep as much secret as possible. Please trust me, Hermione.”
Hermione sighed in resignation. “I do trust you, Rick. You’ve saved Harry and me enough times to earn my trust. But it’s a bit scary. I feel so close to you now, almost like I’m no longer a separate individual. Yet, at some levels, I just don’t know you at all! Where did you really come from? I don’t believe that story about you being an orphan from the remote mountains of New Zealand – it’s just too convenient.”
“What are you?” she continued. “It’s like when I discovered that there really was something other than just Muggles, that there really were witches and wizards, who can really do magic – and that I was one of them. But you are just like some other category again – all by yourself. You break all the rules; you Apparate around Hogwarts; you do magic which no one has ever heard of – that’s not in any of the books! And now there’s this strange magical bond between us.”
“How did you get all your extraordinary magical powers? Why, I don’t even know what all those powers are, or what kind of magic you are capable of. You keep it all hidden, and it’s just so ... frustrating!” said Hermione, resentfully.
“Maybe you should just think of me as a Wizard of Requirement,” said Rick, trying to lighten things up.
“What do you mean?” asked Hermione, puzzled.
“Well,” explained Rick, “just like the Room of Requirement manifests because it’s required, I’m here at Hogwarts, because I’m required.”
“By who?” asked Hermione, confused.
“By everyone on the side of the Light. Professor Dumbledore, Harry ... maybe even you,” said Rick with a grin.
“Rick, that’s silly.”
“Is it? If the Room of Requirement can manifest, and manifest in the way that it’s needed, then why not a person?” asked Rick.
“But Rick, a room isn’t like a person. It isn’t born, it doesn’t have a life, a history, all the memories of childhood, growing up and all of that,” protested Hermione.
“Neither do I,” said Rick.
“What do you mean?” asked Hermione, flabbergasted. “Don’t you remember your life before you came to Hogwarts?”
“No,” said Rick, shaking his head, “I don’t.”
They were both silent for a few moments.
“I’ve got it!” exclaimed Hermione suddenly. “You’re a Time Traveller, aren’t you? It’s the only logical explanation,” she said, beginning to regroup her ideas about Rick around this intriguing new concept. “You’ve come from the future, most probably, although it could be the past – no, it must be the future! That’s why you can do magic which no one in this time knows anything about. You’ve come to help the Light battle Voldemort and the Dark forces. You’ve come to avert a terrible calamity that has befallen the wizarding world in your time, as a result of Voldemort’s victory in this time. I’m sure I’m right! It explains everything! What year have you come from, Rick?”
“Hermione, you are one clever witch, you know that?” said Rick. “You are right about the reason I have come. It is to prevent Voldemort from winning. Because right now, the odds are stacked heavily in his favour. But I have not come from the future – or from the past. I’m not a Time Traveller, I’m a Reality Traveller.”
“A Reality Traveller? What do you mean by that?”
“I mean that I haven’t come from a different time, I’ve come from a different reality, a different universe, if you like,” explained Rick.
“But that’s not possible ... is it?” asked Hermione, no longer quite sure of anything – at least not where Rick was concerned.
“Well, before you used the Time-Turner in your third year,” said Rick, “you would have said that Time Travel wasn’t possible. Maybe you are just going to have to learn that nothing is impossible.”
“Rick, how do you know about the Time-Turner?” asked Hermione, suspiciously. “Only Harry, Ron and Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore know about that, aside from me. I didn’t tell you about it, and I can’t think why any of them would. Who told you, or have you been doing some extensive reading – in my memories?” she demanded.
“I did read about it Hermione, but not in your memories. It was in a book,” said Rick.
“Why, of course!” said Hermione. “It’s a book you read in the future, which hasn’t been written yet. Goodness, it feels strange to think of myself appearing in a book. But it all makes sense now,” she added, fitting it neatly in with her Rick, the Time Traveller thesis. “What was this book called?”
“‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’. It’s all about your third year at Hogwarts, about Sirius Black and everything that happened,” said Rick.
“Yes, of course,” said Hermione. “It’s so obvious now. Harry’s famous – there are bound to be loads of books written about him and his adventures here at Hogwarts.”
Then Hermione had a terrible and devastating realisation. She burst into tears. Rick hugged her and asked gently, “Hermione, what’s the matter, why are you crying?”
“Because,” sobbed Hermione, “if you’re a Time Traveller, then you’ll return to your own time someday – without me. I don’t think I could bear being separated from you. It would be like having a part of myself, of my soul, torn away.”
Rick held Hermione close, comforting her. “I won’t leave you Hermione, ever – I promise,” said Rick reassuringly. “Like I told you, I’m not a Time Traveller, I’m a Reality Traveller. I’ve come from another reality, and there is no way I can go back.”
“Why not?” asked Hermione, not sure if she believed there was such a thing as a Reality Traveller. If there was, she didn’t understand what it might be.
“Because I died in the reality I came from. That’s why I can’t go back. I’m sure you’ve heard of reincarnation. Well, I died and then I ... sort of got ... reincarnated into this world, this reality. I guess it’s all pretty normal, if you believe in reincarnation,” said Rick. “The only unusual thing was that I wasn’t reincarnated as a baby, but as a sixteen year old boy – on August the thirty-first, this year, 1996.”
“Do you remember what year it was when you died?” asked Hermione, dropping her latest theory – Rick the Time Traveller – and the countless preceding ones. Rick was telling her the truth, bizarre as it was. I know without a doubt, that what he is saying is true, she thought to herself. But how am I able to know that? It must be some kind of Empathetic Magic – it’s because of the link between us.
“No, I’ve no idea what year it was,” said Rick. “I don’t even know where in the world I lived or any of the personal details of my life. What my parents or brothers or sisters were like – or if I even had any. I don’t even remember what I was like, how old I was when I died, or even what my name was – it’s all a total blank.”
“Wait a minute,” said Hermione. “You said you read a book called ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’. How can you remember that ... and anyway, how could there possibly be a book about Harry Potter in the Reality you came from? That doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Rick proceeded to tell Hermione everything that he could remember of his previous life. He told her about the Harry Potter books and movies. About how amazingly popular they were in that world, where there was no magic, only hard, cold, impersonal science.
“I was totally obsessed with Harry Potter and his magical world,” explained Rick. “It was the most important thing in my life. That much I can remember. I guess that’s why I can remember it – because it was so important to me. I lived in that world – well, it was this world really – it was more real to me than what was called the ‘real world’. Professor Dumbledore explained to me that in some religions they believe that your thoughts and dreams and desires create the world that you reincarnate into after you die, and that’s how I ended up here.”
Hermione was fascinated. “Yes, I’ve read some of the Tibetan ideas about death and reincarnation. Then there’s the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’, which is really a manual for guiding the departed soul into the next life, it’s mind-boggling really. In a way, we create the next world that we’re born into, and yet it was there all along.”
“You’re dead right!” said Rick, “It is mind-boggling – especially when it happens to you.”
“I mean this world was always here, just the way it is now, with absolutely no reference to the world you came from,” continued Hermione, warming to the topic. “But from your perspective, you actually created it all – with the help of the author who wrote the books, of course, because the author really created it out of his or her own imagination to start with. It really is ... mind-boggling.”
“So that’s how you knew my name when you tripped over me in Flourish and Blotts that day. You knew me from the books,” said Hermione. “Am I just the same as in the books then?”
“You’re exactly the same,” said Rick. “After all, I created you from whatever image I had of you in my previous life. You were beautiful then – and you’re beautiful now. I’ve been in love with you for so long, Hermione. I’ve dreamed about you for so long. I’ve wanted you for so long, you have no idea....”
“I think it was my love for you that made my obsession with this world so strong – strong enough to draw me into it. If I manage to make a difference in the battle between the Light and the Dark, then you can claim the credit for it.”
Hermione snuggled up closer to Rick. It was nice to feel so loved. Loved with such desire, that it had drawn Rick to her, from another world, another reality.
“I guess that sort of makes me your Witch of Requirement then,” said Hermione with a smile. “I came into existence – along with this whole world – because you wanted me.” Hermione was silent for a while, before suddenly asking, “But Rick, that still doesn’t explain all your amazing powers. In fact, it means that you were a Muggle ... that you had no magic at all. So where did all your magic come from?”
In for a penny, in for a pound, thought Rick, The game’s up now, I might as well tell Hermione everything. She’s not going to give me a moment’s peace until she knows the whole story.
Rick proceeded to tell Hermione what had happened, on that fateful day when he appeared in Dumbledore’s office. He told her of Godric Gryffindor’s message from the spirit realm, and of his astounding experience upon touching Gryffindor’s wand. How a connection had been forged, between him, and the spirits of the great witches and wizards of the Light.
“Then they are the source of all your magic and all your power,” said Hermione in awe and wonder. “You have all the magic of the most powerful witches and wizards who ever lived – well, the good ones at least. Rick, you must be the most powerful magical being that ever existed!” said Hermione, shaking her head in incredulity.
“Yes,” sighed Rick. “But along with all those gifts comes a very heavy responsibility. I have to make sure that we win – that’s what I’m here for. I really am a Wizard of Requirement, just like I said before, and it’s a most formidable requirement.”
“Rick, you can do it. With all the powers you possess, I know you can, and I’m going to help you if you’ll let me,” said Hermione, with determination.
“But I can’t kill Voldemort,” sighed Rick. “I can’t kill anyone. I can’t even hate anyone – not even Draco Malfoy! I feel connected to everyone and everything. It would be like killing a part of myself. So you see I’m not omnipotent. I have my limits. I can help Harry, I can protect him; but in the end, it’s Harry who will have to destroy Voldemort, not me.”
“Just as the Prophecy predicts,” said Hermione. “But Rick, there are lots of ways of dealing with enemies, besides killing them —” Hermione abruptly stopped. “But, of course!” she exclaimed, looking at Rick in wonder, as the penny finally dropped. “How could I have been so stupid not to see it before? You’re the Ghost of Godric Gryffindor – it’s so obvious now! You Squibbed Lucius Malfoy and Umbridge. You can’t kill anyone, so you Squib them, it’s absolutely brilliant!” she said in admiration.
“Actually,” laughed Rick, “I got the idea of Squibbing from you. Remember how you told me about that book in which Germaine Pankhurst claimed that Circe once cast a spell on an evil sorcerer, and destroyed his power. Well, I figured that since she turned to the Light, I probably have her gifts, so I tried it on Lucius Malfoy – and it worked a treat.”
Rick told Hermione about all the other powers he had discovered so far. “But I’m still learning more about my powers every day,” said Rick. “I mean I was really serious about experimenting with Empathetic Magic. It wasn’t just a clever ploy to kiss you – although I desperately wanted to – and I’m awfully glad that I did.”
“Yes, me too,” agreed Hermione throwing her arms around him.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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Coming up: Chapter 13 ~ The Yule Ball
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