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Live...or Die Trying

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Author's notes:

Thank you to RedBlaze for all the advice and encouragement! You are my favorite fanfic author and inspire me! (smiles) Questions that arise from this chapter will be answered in subsequent chapters.

 


Chapter 1- Broken

 

 

“Yes…oh shite! Harder!” The woman cried, her long, chestnut curls fanned over the pillow.

 

 

“ I’m…oh…so close..damn!” The man above her growled, his red hair sticking up in places as sweat poured off his forehead.

 

 

“Put..my legs on your..your shoulders..NOW!” The woman screamed beneath him.

 

 

With a growl he lifted both of her legs aggressively. The woman inched her hand down between them and started rubbing her nub roughly. He watched her hand fast at work and could feel himself getting closer to the edge. Her center gripped around him. He looked back at her face. Her eyes were closed and she was biting her lower lip. Suddenly her eyes opened and she began to shake violently, followed by a loud scream. That was all it took for him to seize up and come right along with her.

 

 

He collapsed on top of her, both of them were breathing hard. Slowly their breathing slowed back to normal, both of them deliciously exhausted. The man rolled off her and sat up on his side facing her. “You’re incredible you know that.” He smiled and kissed her lips gently.

 

 

“So you’ve told me twice this week.” She giggled.

 

 

He reached down to her and wiped the curly fringe out her eyes. “I can’t believe you told me to stuff it today in front of the whole bloody squad!”

 

 

She looked up at his face smiling. “Like you’d do anything about it! Besides, I don’t give a damn about Auror protocol. You of all people should know that by now.” She got up suddenly and retrieved a tank top from the floor, pulling it over her head. Looking around the room she suddenly asked, “Do you know where the hell I put my knickers and shorts?”

 

 

“Don’t get dressed yet,” he groaned, looking up at her. Seeing her arch her eyebrow at him, he knew it was better not to push her. He shook his head.

 

“And by the way it’s getting late. You'd best get dressed and get back home to your wife don’t you think?”

 

 

He watched her intently. She spotted what she was looking for and he saw her slip both the knickers and shorts on. Gods, but she was beautiful. Her long brown curly hair and chocolate brown eyes made him weak. He loved her sculpted body and it turned him on to know end how dangerous and cunning that body could be. Several scars ran across her chest and the sides of her legs and he found them to be incredibly sexy. She was one tough woman and there had been many times when he actually felt the hairs stand up on his neck at the stories he heard about her. And he believed all of them as she was aggressive in bed and liked rough sex---and demanded it from him. Before he could stop himself he blurted out, “I love you, you know that?”

 

 

She stopped dead in her tracks and turned to him slowly. “You know that I hate it when you say that, right? I told you along time ago when we started seeing each other that love had no place in this.”

 

 

“C’mon Hermione we’ve been doing this for over a year now. Don’t you feel anything towards me?”

 

 

She stared at him, contemplating her answer. She sighed before saying, “You're married, David.”

 

 

“I would leave Dorian in a heartbeat if you’d just say it back to me once….just once!”

 

 

“You know that’s never going to happen. I told you when we got together I wasn’t interested in the happily ever after bullshit. I like things how the way they are and I don’t need anymore complications in my bollixed life!” She sighed again, “Look, just get dressed and go home.”

 

 

David stared at her for a moment before angrily getting up and scrounging around looking for his clothes.

 

 

Hermione shook her head and left to go to the kitchen.

 

 

David heard several cabinets open and close. “If you're looking for the Firewhiskey you’re not going to find it in there Hermione!” he shouted.

 

 

The slamming of the cabinets stopped instantly and he could hear her stomping down the hallway towards the bedroom. David had just finished getting dressed when she appeared in the doorway with her hands on her hips, looking very angry. “Where the hell did you put it, arsehole?” she fumed.

 

 

David stared back, a fire in his eyes. He took a deep breath to calm himself before he said, “You drink too much, love. I hate seeing you do this to yourself.”

 

 

Hermione walked straight over to him. He made an opposing figure, towering over her at 6’1 and well built. But nothing or nobody intimidated her and he knew it.

 

 

“Tell me where it is David or I swear I’ll beat the living shit out of you right here, right now! I’m not fucking around!” She shoved him roughly in the chest.

 

 

He gave up, realizing it was useless to try and stop her. “I hid it in the dresser,” he said weakly as he closed his eyes and bowed his head to the floor.

 

 

Hermione turned from him and started opening the drawers violently to her dresser, throwing her clothes to the floor as she rummaged around like a person possessed.

 

 

David looked at her sadly. “Look, I’m done with this. I don’t want to do this anymore,” he sighed, pausing before grabbing his wand off the nightstand as he prepared to Apparate.

 

 

 

Hermione turned toward him clutching the bottle of Firewhiskey he had hidden and smiled at him slightly, “I’ll see you Monday night David.” She winked at him before heading off to the kitchen to find a glass.

 

 

“Be sure to brew some more of that potion for me love. Lord knows I wouldn’t want my dick to shrivel all up!”

 

 

When she didn’t answer he quietly said to himself, “This is so fucked up.”

 

There was a loud pop as he disappeared.

 

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

 

 

Hermione sat in her favorite armchair in front of her fireplace, savoring the numbness that was coming over her due to the Firewhiskey. It had been an hour since David had left and she was indulging in her favorite activity-getting pissed. It helped rid her of the pain, the hurt and the longing for him, for Ron. It had been five years since Ron, Harry and herself had defeated Voldemort. They were proclaimed to be heroes, the “saviors” of the entire free wizarding world.

 

 

Upon coming home, Hermione had attended endless parties, gave interviews and headlined at speaking engagements. She talked to so many people about her experiences that it had become robotic and annoying. It had nearly all been too much for them. They each dealt with their super celebrity status in their own way.

 

 

Harry, who was used to being recognized as the “Boy Who Lived”, opted to stay in the shadows and spend his free time with Ginny, the love of his life.

 

Hermione braved the reporters and admirers for awhile, until she too began to try and drop out of public life. Sick of all the attention, she went back to her home and stayed with her parents for months, trying to decide what to do.

 

 

Upon returning to the wizarding world, she was shocked to find Ron had become a real player.

 

 

Ron was the only one out of the three of them that truly embraced his new found celebrity. He would go to all the “right” parties and hang out with all the “right” people. He was never with the same girl out in public and never had a steady girlfriend. Hermione knew he was shagging other women and it frustrated her to no end. She had been in love with him for years and had thought that he felt the same way.

 

 

After much soul searching, she decided to become an Auror, as there were still Death Eaters at large, hoping to bring back the glory years of Voldemort.

 

Harry and Ron wanted to be Aurors as well and so the three of them had entered a modified Auror training program together. It was during their training that the old Ron returned. Being out of the limelight brought him back down to Earth and Hermione couldn’t have been happier. It took them less than a year to become Aurors, as the Ministry insisted that they be able to use their years of experience battling Death Eaters and facing Voldemort as timed served.

 

 

They were all placed in the same Auror Squad. Ron insisted on partnering up with Hermione, leaving Harry to partner up with a seasoned Auror named Flannigan Flumes, that positively scared the hell out of all three of them.

 

 

 

The Auror Squads were made up of six Aurors, each squad with a Captain. The Captains were usually Aurors who had decided to come out of the field for various reasons. Captains rarely saw any action, as they usually handled the planning of raids and handed out assignments from the comfort of their desk.

 

 

 

 

It was while off on an assignment that Hermione had lost her virginity to Ron. Thus began a rather tumultuous affair between the two of them, full of passion and lust. They would be together for a while then breakup after one of their heated arguments only to come back together again.

 

 

 

There was this certain something between them, it was a pull, an attraction so deep that it consumed them. Ron eventually moved into Hermione’s flat and things improved greatly between them. All went well, until a bungled assignment left Ron sullen and withdrawn. She couldn’t reach him and he finally moved out.

 

 

 

She was devastated to learn that Ron had taken up with the Muggle girl who was somehow involved in that botched assignment.

 

 

He never told her why.

 

 

 

The anger and pain ate away at her very soul.

 

 

 

Soon after, she requested being transferred to another Auror Squad where she was partnered with Charlie, Ron’s older brother. She threw herself into her work as an Auror like she had never done before. To make matters worse, if not humiliating, she started hearing rumors that Ron had shagged other women when they had gone through their many short-lived breakups. It had been six months since Ron had left their flat when the final blow was dealt to her one day at the Burrow.

Charlie had warned her that Ron was coming for dinner that evening around five.

It was at two in the afternoon when she made her way outside preparing to leave after having lunch with Mrs. Weasley. She figured she was leaving in plenty of time to avoid Ron altogether.

She had just made her way across the yard, preparing to Apparate when suddenly she heard a voice she knew only to well behind her.

“Hello Hermione,” Ron said quietly, almost as if in a trance.

Hermione looked up at him. She couldn’t find her voice. It had been so long since they had spoken to one another. He looked so handsome in his Muggle street clothes.

But the knowledge that he wore those clothes for “her” made Hermione feel sick to her stomach. Angrily, she spat, “What do you want Ron?”

Ron shifted from side to side and then he walked right in front of her. Hermione continued to stare at him angrily. “I’m getting married Hermione.”

All of a sudden all of the air left the room and she felt as if she couldn’t breathe.

The silence was deafening, almost eerie until finally Ron continued, “Look I wanted to tell you before you heard it from somebody else."

With all the strength she could muster she asked him, “When?”

“In a few weeks.”

She couldn’t believe it. She felt a pain suddenly rise up in her chest and knew that without a doubt that Ron Weasley had broken her heart right then and there.

She shakily stood up and was about to walk away when he grabbed her wrist. “Hermione, I want you to go on with your life and be happy.” He seemed to struggle with himself before he choked out the words, “Promise me you’ll find happiness…that you’ll be happy.”

She looked back at him. She could see tears falling down his face and it took everything she had not to reach out and comfort him. She gently removed her wrist from his grasp and reached up and kissed him softly on the cheek.

In a quiet, steady voice she whispered to him, “Good- bye Ron.” She walked away quickly, wanting nothing more than to be away from him and away from all the hurt. Before Apparating she chanced a glance back to where he had stood and saw he was gone. She fell to her knees crying like she had never done so before in her life. She crumpled to the ground in a fetal position, bringing her knees up to her chin. She wasn’t sure how long she remained there, defeated and lost.

Hermione didn’t know it at the time, but it was the last time she would cry. She hardened herself after that night. Never would she lose control like that again. No man would ever have that kind of power over her again either. She turned to liquor to numb her pain and pushed all emotion down deep inside herself.

 

 

For awhile, she was cold and distant toward those around her. Her behavior had worried Harry and Charlie to no end. Hermione left the flat that Ron and she had shared a few weeks after that, not being able to deal with the memories anymore. Buying a new flat, she tried to get on with her life and finally snapped out of her depression enough to begin getting back to her old self, at least on the outside.

 

 

Harry and Charlie eventually started to lay off her as she had become good at playing the old Hermione in public. In private she was just a shell of a person, drunken and completely devoid of feeling.

 

 

As if things couldn’t get any worse, Ron had decided to transfer to northern England soon after he married. Harry followed and became his partner. Harry only did so because Ginny had been chosen as the new seeker for the Holyhead Harpies and her training camp was located nearby.

 

 

The Golden Trio was no more as Ron and Harry had both abandoned her.

 

 

David Langley had taken over as Captain of her Auror Squad a little over two years ago. He caught her eye immediately as he reminded her of him. Not that David looked exactly like him as his red hair was longer than Ron’s and his eyes were a brilliant green. No, what grabbed her attention more than anything else about David was his heated temper and disregard for the rules. He was reckless and ruthless, having been a seasoned Auror for over seven years before taking the Captain’s job. Finding out he was married was also a plus for her.

 

 

He was tied to someone else.

 

 

She made it perfectly clear to him the first night they were together that she didn’t want him to leave his wife. Theirs was an arrangement, a sexual arrangement and to be nothing more-not ever. He'd been fine with it for awhile and had only lately started to press her for more, but she wasn't having any of it.

 

 

He was even threatening to end it, as if that would convince her to cave in. She knew David wasn’t going anywhere as their sexual encounters were feral and wild, nothing like he had with his wife. He always showed up at her flat the same two nights a week unless she was on some assignment or out on a raid.

 

 

She didn’t love David. She didn’t care that he had a wife to go home to with three kids. She didn’t care that he loved her and begged to hear her say the words in response.

 

 

Hell, there had been many times that she’d found relief in a one night stand if David wasn’t available.

 

 

 

She felt empty and numb, laughing bitterly before taking another swallow of whiskey. The alcohol finally consumed her and she passed out in her armchair just as the cold, grey light of dawn crept over the windowsill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Many thanks to my fabulous beta ronloveshermione! Thanks for taking the time in your very busy life to edit my story properly! You're the best!  {smile} 


Hermione awoke to someone pounding on her door. Her head ached and she groggily searched for her wand. The pounding got louder, doing nothing to make her headache feel better. “Just a bloody minute!” She shouted. She shakily made her way to her front door. She unlocked it and pulled it open angrily. There stood Harry.

“What took you so bloody long?” He looked at her and shook his head. “Never mind, I can see for myself why.” Harry moved past her as Hermione closed the door.

They stood looking at each other until, becoming exceedingly exasperated, he said, “Obviously you forgot we had a lunch date!”

“Oh shite Harry! I’m sorry. Just let me go find my wand and get rid of this hangover first.” 

Hermione walked groggily to her bedroom; Harry followed close behind. He watched a clearly aching Hermione scanning the floor for her wand. “Why the hell are all your clothes all over the floor?” Harry asked.

“What?” She said, clearly more worried about finding her wand and ridding herself of the pounding in her head.

“Your clothes on the floor.” He gestured down.

“Oh, I dunno I think I was hunting for something.” Hermione reached down under the bed and cried a triumphant, “Aha!” She stood with her wand and performed the hangover charm on herself. “Much better! I’ll just throw some clothes on and clean up this mess and we can head.”

“Are you alright Hermione?” Harry asked concerned.

“What do you mean? I’m perfectly fine, I just had a bit too much to drink last night, that’s all.” She pushed him out of her bedroom. Harry stood just outside of her door, knowing damn well she wasn’t.

 

 

“Oh…ummmm..” The woman sighed as Ron pounded into her. She suddenly came underneath him as Ron emptied himself into her, shaking and spent. He rolled off her and ran his hand through his hair.

“That was incredible love.” She looked over at him and smiled warmly. “I am the luckiest woman in the world.” She reached over and kissed him on the lips. They both laid there in silence, coming down from the high. She reached over and laid her head on his chest. “Ronnie, have you given any more thought to what we talked about yesterday?”

Ron sighed. “I told you, now is not a good time.”

“But don’t you want to have children Ronnie?”

“Eventually, just not right now okay? We’ve discussed it to death. Just drop it!” Ron brought his hands up his eyes and rubbed them. Last evening they had spent the entire time discussing her need to have a child all of a sudden. He had almost lost his temper then and now he could slowly feel it building inside of him again.

“You act like it’s something that would be awful. You wouldn’t have to do a thing, I’d be home to care for our child.”

Groaning, he shot up out of the bed and headed toward the bathroom. He couldn’t take anymore. Shannon just couldn’t get it through her thick skull that he wasn’t ready for children right now and he was past the point of caring.He took a shower, dried off and headed back to their bedroom, hoping she had gotten the point and dropped the whole bloody thing. He was wrong.

She looked up at him. “Please change your mind Ronnie. Do it for me…for us.” She pleaded.

He dressed silently, purposely with his back turned toward her and determined not to turn around. Finally, still not looking at her he said, “I need a drink. I’m going out.” He let out a sigh before saying, “Look, I don’t want children right now. When I get back I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

He walked out of the bedroom and out the front door, slamming it as he left.

Ron walked angrily towards the Broken Wand. The Broken Wand was the wizard pub in the city of Durham where he lived now; it never really felt like home. It had been over a year and a half since he’d gotten married. He felt like it had been the right thing to do at the time, considering the circumstances. He felt protective of Shannon and vowed he would never let anyone, especially himself, do those horrible things to her again.

Soon after marrying her, he couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling that perhaps he had acted a bit rash and impulsive. Sadly he knew he wasn’t in love with her. He couldn’t possibly be if he was out shagging other women.

It wasn’t like with…….her.

He missed Hermione more than he would ever admit to himself or anyone else. He still felt horrible for what he had done to her.. She wouldn’t understand he kept telling himself. And he felt damn sure she’d never forgive him or look at him the same way. It had been best for both of them when he ended it.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

He just didn’t know what else to do at the time and had been second guessing himself ever since. Yes, he was being the truest he had ever been in his heart when he did the right thing and let her go.

His last memory of them pained him beyond anything. He could still see her lying on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. He had hidden behind the shed that day, willing himself with everything he had not to run to her.

He loved her and as far as he was concerned he had proven it by letting her go.

He made Charlie promise to watch over her, and he did just that by making Hermione his Auror partner. Their paths would cross sometimes as he would catch a glance at her now and then while out on an assignment or raid.

When there was an opening at the Auror Headquarters in Durham, Ron jumped at the chance to transfer. It would take him away from her so he wouldn’t regret what might have been.

He had been wrong.

The distance didn’t help matters, for he still thought about her. Since Ginny had moved to Durham a few months before he did, he wasn’t surprised when Harry decided to transfer as well. It improved his spirits somewhat to have Harry and Ginny around. Ron never talked about Hermione, and after awhile Harry and Ginny quit bringing her up. He hadn’t seen her for over a year now.

He entered the Broken Wand and was immediately greeted by a very chubby, surly looking man behind the bar. “Eh’ there Ron! The usual mate?” He started to reach underneath the bar for a glass.

Ron held up his hand, ushering him to stop. “Nah, Mickey. Actually I was wondering if your Floo Network is still hooked up to the Leaky Cauldron?”

Mickey smiled at him, “Homesick again there, mate?”

“That and I need to get as far away from a certain someone right now as possible.” He ran his hand through his hair in frustration.

Mickey nodded and then gestured over to the fireplace. “It’s all set up there for you mate. It’ll cost ya’ ten sickles to use me Floo powder though.”

Ron reached in his pocket and counted out the sickles in his hand. He gingerly tossed them to Mickey, grabbed some Floo powder from the pot on the mantle and stepped into the fireplace. Throwing it down firmly, he said, “The Leaky Cauldron!” Mickey waved good-bye to him as Ron became engulfed in brilliant green flames and disappeared.

 

 

Hermione came out of her room dressed in jeans and a low cut red blouse. Wand in hand, Harry knew she was about to Apparate. “Wait!” Harry said. She looked confused, so Harry added, “Let’s walk shall we?” She shrugged and followed him out her door.

They walked in silence for a few moments when Harry carefully asked, “Hermione are you sure you’re alright?”

Hermione stopped dead in her tracks and rounded on him, clearly not happy,” Like I have told the whole lot of you I. Am. Fine!” She was breathing heavily, a look of fury on her face.

Harry looked down and immediately her demeanor started to soften. “I’m sorry Harry. It’s just that I don’t know how to truly convince you that I really am okay. We have this conversation every time we meet up.” Hermione leaned over and hugged him.

Harry squeezed his arms around her, “I worry about you being so far away now. I only ask because I care. You’re still my best friend, you know.” Hermione pulled back and looked at him.

“Yes, I know that.” She said quietly. For the smallest of moments Harry saw a flicker of the old Hermione, the one he knew was in there somewhere. She quickly pulled herself together and said brightly, “How is Ginny doing?”

Harry ignored the fact that she changed the subject and replied, “Good, good. She’s sorry she couldn’t be here today. Her coach insisted that her team have an extra training session. They’re taking on the Dublin Deltas Monday night and they’ve only been defeated once this season. I can’t wait to go and watch her. She’s brilliant Hermione!”

Hermione looked at him intently, “I’m really glad Ginny and you are happy, Harry.” She said warmly. She laced her arm through his and smiled. “Is she still having trouble with what you do?”

“Ah, she’s still the same about it all; you know-scared shiteless! It worries her to death when I get called out on an assignment. And when it’s Quidditch season…” Harry rolled his eyes, “We hardly see each other at all.” Hermione looked at him worriedly. “No, no, it’s all good Hermione, it’s just that we miss each other, you know?”

He never knew when Ron and he would be called and would often simply have to send Ginny an owl or hurriedly tell her good bye in person. It had been a good decision to move to Durham in retrospect. He loved that he had someone to go home too. It had been good for Ron as well. When Ron had been kidnapped by Death Eaters for six terrifying days, Harry had never been so scared. He was overjoyed when Ron was found alive along with two others from their squad. Sadly, he quickly found out that he wasn’t the same Ron after that.

Ron had never told him exactly what had happened. Then Ron took up with the muggle woman, who was some how involved in the kidnapping, shocking Harry beyond belief. He hated what the whole ordeal had done to Hermione. It was a terrible time with Ron going off around the bend and Hermione falling apart.

Harry knew Ron couldn’t possibly love Shannon because only after only a few weeks of marriage, Ron had started to see other women. Harry decided it best not to judge him though and they seldom talked about it. He was both curious and worried about Ron having these extramarital affairs having learned all about what a Bonding ceremony entailed from Charlie. Harry couldn’t figure out how the hell Ron was doing it!

 

It had been right after Ron’s marriage that Charlie had come to stay at the Burrow after a horrific fight with his wife. She had accused Charlie of fooling around on her, forcing him to cover his private parts and barely able to concentrate on apparating to the Burrow.

After his Mum berated him for hiding like a coward, Charlie retreated upstairs to Ron’s bedroom where he knew the liquor was hidden. Harry, who was visiting, sat with Charlie in Ron’s room, both of them getting totally pissed on Firewhiskey. The drunker Charlie got, the more irritated he became.

Charlie was talking to nobody in particular for awhile. Saying one time, “How fucking mindless can a witch be?” After one large belch he turned to Harry, “She should know there is no way in hell I would cheat on her after we Bonded. I mean for pity’s sake it would be the most humiliating experience of my life!”

They were already starting to work on their second bottle when Harry learned a startling fact about Bonding from Charlie that he would never soon forget.

Charlie had begun to smile and sway slightly, “ You know Harry, a Bonding is a very complicated process. It’s forever, so you best be sure the other person you’re marrying is who you want to be with for life.”

Well, when one Bonds what the hell happens exactly?” Harry asked curiously.

Well first of all, it’s much like an Unbreakable Vow. Only when one of the two dies can they be entirely free of the marriage.”

Charlie leaned in to Harry, raising his eyebrows and said, “I happen to be privy to some very secretive information about the whole Bonding process and how it works. Wanna’ hear it?”

"Go on.”

If you fool around while Bonded…well, trust me when I tell you it would be a very bad idea for a bloke!”

What happens?”

 “Well to put it bluntly…you’re dick shrinks!”

No fucking way!”

Yes way! And I have it on good authority that it will happen if you fuck around on your wife after being Bonded.” Harry looked at him doubtfully. “Look, I have a friend from Hogwarts who I happened to run into at a Muggle bar. He showed me his dick and I’m tellin’ you it was no bigger than what I had when I was seven years old!”

Merlin!”

That’s what I said when I saw it!”

Harry and Charlie sat in silence for a moment when Harry suddenly came to a realization, “Wait a minute…why the hell were you lookin’ at another bloke’s dick for?”

We were completely pissed! He told me the situation he had gotten himself into and I didn’t believe him. I told him he was full of shit and we got into an argument. He told me that it’s an unknown part of Bonding. I ‘d never heard it myself. Somewhere along the line I told him to prove it and by damn if he didn’t pull his pants down right then and there in the bar! I said “Merlin” when I first looked at it and then I never laughed so hard in my life!”

Charlie began chuckling at the memory.

Is there a way to fix it or reverse it? I mean aren’t we part of a magical world that can damn near fix nearly anything with a wand or a potion, for goodness sake?” Harry said, looking completely exasperated.

Well, supposedly there is some sort of potion that can put it right. The problem is the recipe for said potion isn’t well known. I dunno’ if it even exist at all really.”

Harry stared dumbfounded at Charlie. He couldn’t even fathom what would happen to a witch and not really wanting to know he decided not to ask. “Don’t they tell you about what’ll happen to your private bits at the Bonding if you cheat?”

Charlie swayed slightly in his chair, obviously starting to feel the effects of the amount of alcohol he had already drunk. “Well that’s the curious thing. See when you Bond you have to sign this ridiculously long piece of parchment. I mean the damn thing must be twelve feet long!”

Harry scowled, “So you’re saying that nobody really reads it because of how long it is?”

Well, that and because I don’t know bloody anyone who could read the damn thing even if they wanted too.”

Why is that?”

The vows were written centuries ago. It’s written in some old wizard language that nobody I know of understands.”

Clever bastards!” Charlie raised his drink and nodded in agreement. “So you’re sure that it’s most certainly written somewhere in that marriage contract?”

I knew that chap pretty well who showed me his bits. And while I was in school I overheard the birds going on about how well endowed he was. No, that wasn’t a hex or a curse that did it to him. I’m pretty sure it’s written in there somewhere.”

Harry shook his head while Charlie suddenly grinned. “That poor bastard must of went spare when he woke up in the mornin’ and took a piss!” Charlie roared with laughter until he suddenly fell off his chair and passed out cold.

 

 

For some reason he was scared to tell Ron what he had heard. He was sure that Ron would flip out, throw himself off a cliff or bloody well hang himself if he knew the consequences of his actions. Harry did eventually bring it up in a rather odd way one time while they were out on assignment. It was a conversation neither one of them had mentioned since.

 

 

They had been hiding out at an old apartment building in downtown London. While the room they were in was dilapidated and had surely seen its better days, it was with great relief that there was at least a fireplace to keep them warm.

Harry had been sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace drinking for a few hours. Ron had left him earlier promising to return before midnight. When he finally came back, Harry was feeling a great buzz from the whiskey.

Hey Harry!” Ron said as he sat on the floor and began taking his boots off.

I’m almost afraid to ask…but where did you go?” Ron smiled. Harry knew that smile.

C’mon Harry, you know where I’ve been.” Ron grabbed the whiskey and took a swig.

For some reason the conversation he had had with Charlie came back to him. Starting to panic, Harry began searching his brain, trying to figure out exactly how to ask Ron what he wanted to ask him. Looking back, he was pretty sure it was the whiskey that made him do it. “Ron is your dick okay mate?”

Ron turned to Harry staring at him in disbelief. “Merlin Harry, how much whiskey have you had?” Ron laughed as he said, “What the hell kind of question is that?”

Harry started shifting nervously as he tried to find the right words. “It’s just that…um…well that I… worry about your health you know…including your …um equipment as well.” Harry looked over to Ron who still looked at him like he had lost his mind. “Just please answer the question mate.”

You’re serious?”

Yes, just be honest with me…I can take it… and…and… if you need me to…um…you know… in the future… help you in some way just let me know. You know I’d go to the ends of the Earth for whatever potion or tonic or spell that would set you right.”

Harry stood up and started pacing the floor, wringing his hands together. “I mean you and I both know that I’m completely daft at making a potion but I want you to know that I would make hundreds-no thousands, until I got it right!” He stopped in front of Ron and with a look of sheer agony said, “I know you would do the same for me if my bits were…you know…”off” in some way.”

He then kneeled down in front of Ron, laying his hand on a clearly baffled Ron’s shoulder and added, “You’re my best mate and I just wanted you to know all that.”

A bewildered Ron shook his head up and down slightly before drawling out, a very slow, “Riggghht.” His eyes widened, “You’re totally scaring the shite out of me! You sure you haven’t been drinking something else or hit with a hex of some kind?!”

Ron took another long swig, slowly a smug smile started to appear on his face. “Look, if the woman I shagged tonight is any indication, then you can rest assured that my private bits are in perfect working order.”

Just to clarify…she isn’t the first bird you’ve been with since getting married, right?”

What do you think Harry?” Ron laughed.

Well?” Harry asked seriously. Ron shook his head and laughed even harder.

Okay, the answer is no. I have been with other women and again, I can assure you that they were perfectly able to take a ride on “little Ron” with no problems at all.”

Harry blew out a sigh of relief then shouted, “Thank God!” startling Ron and causing him to jump slightly. “I mean that’s fantastic mate. I feel much, much better now.”

The two drank the rest of the night in silence. Ron kept throwing a confused look his way every once in awhile, sometimes sniggering uncontrollably for a few minutes.

 

 

From then on it was like a little joke for Ron, who would sometimes tell Harry after coming back from a shagging session in a mock serious voice that “incase he wondered, his bits were just fine, thank you very much.” He would then start shaking, clearly trying to stifle his laughter, causing Harry to role his eyes.

He wasn’t sure if Hermione had someone to comfort her. It pained him to see her alone. Charlie suspected that Hermione was seeing somebody but if she were she wasn’t letting anybody know-including Ginny- which surprised Harry.

They arrived at the Leaky Cauldron and grabbed a table near the bar. Neither one of them noticed Ron, who was working on his second glass of bourbon. The waitress came to their table and handed them two menus. “Let me know when you’re ready…..wait a minute!” She pointed at them excitedly, “Aren’t you Harry Potter and Hermione Granger?” It was at this point that Ron raised his head and looked over at them.

It couldn’t be. He hadn’t seen her in over a year. Her hair had grown and even from a distance he could see that she was still beautiful. How he itched to touch her! A lump formed in his throat. He felt like the walls were starting to cave in on him. The whole place disappeared and all that remained was her. He missed her so damn much. Ron quickly gulped down his second bourbon, trying to work up his nerve. Asking the bartender for another drink, he made up his mind. He was going to face the love of his life again.

He needed to make sure she was okay.

Harry smiled uncomfortably and said weakly, “Um…yeah.”

“I can’t tell you how much of any honor this is. I remember seeing you in the paper. Saved us all, you did! Can I have both your autographs before you leave today?” She smiled hopefully.

“Um, sure.” Harry said as the waitress left the table with a noticeable skip in her step.

Hermione rolled her eyes and opened her menu. She heard a chair being pulled out and a glass hitting the table and suddenly his voice, a voice that she would know anywhere.

“Mind if I join you?”

Hermione looked up to see Ron Weasley sitting down right in front of her.

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Thanks again to my wonderful beta ronloveshermione! I am so lucky to be able to work with her! She's great!!!! 

The wonderful Napchic did a really, really hot photo manipulation featuring Hermione, Ron and David. She put alot of effort into it and it really took my breath away! 

"Dearest Napchic, you have made my year!"

Please take a look at the link below!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/18593462@N06/2863015601/in/photostream/

    


“Bloody Hell!”

 

 

There was a deafening silence. Harry finally broke the tension, “Hey Ron I didn’t know you’d be here today.” Harry looked over to Hermione, clearly gauging her reaction. She eyed Harry suspiciously for a split second.

 Bloody hell she thinks I set her up! 

 

She shocked the hell out of him by merely taking a breath and looking back at her menu. The truth was Harry had no idea Ron would even be there. He had purposely set up lunch dates and get-togethers with Hermione when he knew for sure Ron wouldn’t be around.

 

 

Hermione hadn’t felt fear in so long. When she had looked up at him the old feelings were creeping back in. She could feel it and it scared her beyond anything else. He looked so damn good. His hair had grown past his ears. His eyes still captivated her, looking like two deep blue sapphires. He was still fit and muscular. She had learned to shut her feelings out and it took every ounce of courage for her to do it right then. She wouldn’t let him get the satisfaction of knowing he had hurt her so badly.

 

 

He wasn’t going to win this time. 

 

 

“So, is it okay if I join you?” Ron said again more to Hermione than Harry.

 

 

Hermione looked up at Ron. “Sure. Why not.” She smiled pleasantly and looked back down again. Ron looked over at Harry, who shrugged. The waitress had returned and was now in even more of a frenzy because Ron, whom she had also recognized, had joined the two of them.

 

 

Smiling profusely, the waitress asked, “In all the excitement, I forgot to ask you what you wanted to drink before I came back to get your order. I am so, so sorry.”

 

 

Hermione set her menu down and smiled up at the waitress, “Ogden’s will do.” Ron, who was about to take another sip from his class, stopped and stared at her. She calmly continued, “I suppose you’ll take my order as well now?” The waitress nodded excitedly. “Well let’s see, I’ll also have a roast beef sandwich with crisps on the side.”

 

 

Harry stared at her and Ron back and forth until he came to himself when the waitress coughed to get his attention. Harry ordered a cup of tea and a bowl of onion soup.

 

 

The waitress left them. A tense silence engulfed them. Ron finally looked toward Hermione and said calmly, “How are you?”

 

 

Without any hesitation on her part, she replied, “Fine. Just fine Ron.” She smiled at him. “How about you? Life treating you well?”

 

 

“Um yeah, real good.” Ron shifted in his seat uncomfortably. Harry was taken aback at how Hermione was so calm and collected toward Ron. “I heard from Charlie that you got a promotion some time back.”

 

 

“Yes I did as a matter of fact. I haven’t told Charlie yet, but I’m starting a new area of training in a couple of weeks.”

 

 

The waitress brought her and Harry’s food and drinks. Harry was too keyed up to eat, waiting for the explosion from Hermione that just didn’t seem would ever erupt. It was odd.

 

 

Ron seemed to have picked up on this himself as he eyed Harry wearily. “So what kind of training- if you don’t mind me asking?” Ron said taking another slow sip of his drink.

 

 

“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you wouldn’t I?” Hermione started laughing and took a bite of her sandwich. Harry laughed weakly as all Ron could do was stare at her dumbly.

 

 

Ron, who gave a half hearted laugh a bit late, said, “No, really tell us.”

 

 

Hermione took a drink of her Ogden’s and closing and opening her eyes for a second before replying in the same steady voice, “I really can’t tell you Ron. It’s top secret. I was lucky enough to be chosen and I can’t blow this. If word got out that I was talking about this at all… well it wouldn’t be good.” She took another bite of her sandwich.

 

 

All of a sudden a thought seemed to hit Ron, “Wait a minute. You won’t be working with Charlie anymore?”

 

 

“No Ron. It’s time for me to move on.” She said this without any hint of anger in her voice.

 

 

Harry was completely perplexed by her behavior. She hadn’t seen Ron in all this time and Harry knew it had killed her when he married. He just couldn’t believe how calm she was acting with Ron. It was like nothing had ever happened between the two of them. No affair, no fight…what the hell was going on?

 

 

Just then a petite woman with long, blonde hair wearing deep purple robes approached their table looking furious. She slammed down a small, rectangular card right in front of Hermione.

 

 

“Know where I found this?!” She screeched at Hermione.

 

 

Hermione nonchalantly picked up the card, glanced at it and placed it back down on the table. “No I don’t. But thank you for returning it as it probably would have been a bitch to get caught without my Apparition license.” Hermione picked up her glass and took another drink.

 

 

“You left this on my dresser in my bedroom! You know the one I share with my husband?” The woman was shaking with fury.

 

 

Ron and Harry looked back and forth at both women, clearly baffled.

 

 

“Hmmm.” Hermione said as she laid her hand upon her cheek as if lost in thought.

 

 

In a fit of anger the woman yelled, “Well?! What the hell do you have to say for yourself? It’s pretty obvious to me that you’re sneaking around with my husband for your license to have been in our bedroom!” The lady had now come around and stared down directly into Hermione’s face, as if willing her to strike her.

 

 

Hermione smiled up at the woman, infuriating her even more and said, “And who are you again?”

 

 

Flustered the lady replied, “I’m..D-Dorian L-Langley.”

 

 

“Well, Mrs. Langley there obviously has to be some mistake here, as, rest assured, I have never stepped one foot into your bedroom.” Hermione folded her hands, placing them under her chin.

 

 

“You don’t know a Captain David Langley?” The lady said, her voice laced with suspicion.  

 

 

 

“Langley…Langley. Um…no can’t say as I do.” Hermione said still never breaking eye contact with her.

 

 

The woman stood up a little straighter. “Why certainly you know him seeing as he’s your captain!”

 

 

“I am not allowed to fraternize with any of my superiors; surely you knew that.I don’t fancy myself being discharged anytime soon. Still it is curious why my Apparition License would have ended up on your dresser…unless…”

 

 

The woman stared at Hermione intently while Hermione seemed to be contemplating something, and then she smiled and said, “You know a few days ago I dropped off my uniform at the Auror Alterations Department. I was wondering where that damn license went! I bet you I left my card in the pocket. Actually, I’m sure I did as the last time I had it I was wearing that uniform.” She smiled brightly up at Mrs. Langley.

 

 

“Oh… well… I did drop off David’s a few days ago as well actually.” It was obvious that a light bulb had suddenly gone off in Mrs. Langley’s head as she said, “The idiots that altered the suits must have some how put your card in the wrong pocket. I am so, so sorry. You must think that I am absolutely ridiculous.”

 

 

“No problem. How did you find me, by the way?” Hermione asked, not missing a beat. 

 

 

“I asked David where to find you as he told me if I didn’t believe him to ask you myself. I think he got his point across. I feel really stupid right now.” She said quickly. “Look, I really am sorry about any misunderstanding and I am so, so embarrassed.”

 

 

“Don’t worry about it.” Hermione smiled as the lady turned and hurried off, practically running over anyone in her way. The smile then left her face immediately as she reached for the card in front of her and shoved it in her pocket. “That stupid bastard!” She said to nobody in particular.

 

 

“What do you mean by that Hermione?” Harry asked.

 

 

She arched an eyebrow as she turned directly toward Harry and said, “What I mean by that Harry is…” Suddenly her demeanor changed as she quickly added, “Um… nothing. Just forget about it. I’ll handle it.”

 

 

Harry looked at her in disbelief, “Hermione, please tell me your not shagging this guy?” Glancing across the table, he noticed that Ron had gone completely rigid. 

 

 

“Look Harry, it’s none of your business okay? I’m a big girl and I know exactly what I’m doing.” Hermione gulped the rest of her drink down.

 

 

Ron, whose face had slowly reddened with anger, finally shot a look of fury at her before saying, “Is that why you were chosen for some special training? You’re fucking your captain?”

 

 

Harry bowed his head and took a deep breath, expecting to hear a very vocal denial from Hermione. When the explosion never came he looked up to see her smiling smugly at Ron. “Unfucking-believable Hermione!” Harry yelled at her. “Why the bloody hell would you do that for?”

 

 

Hermione took a deep breath, as if to compose herself. “Look, neither one of you have ever been complete saints so spare me! I don’t give a shite what you think about what I do in private. I used too….but I don’t anymore. The world is changing and I suppose I’m just changing right along with it!” She turned to face Harry, and slightly lowering her voice said, “You’ll just have to get over it, Harry. That’s just… well… the way things are.”

 

 

She lowered her head, staring at her half eaten sandwich. Everyone was silent. Both Harry and Ron looked at her like they didn’t know who she was anymore, like they had been kicked in the stomach.

 

 

Ron was about to say something when an owl suddenly swooped in, landing on the table. It walked toward Hermione who untied the note from the owl and unrolled the parchment. She read the note and without looking up she said quickly in a clearly contrived happy voice, “Sorry, gotta’ go! As you both know when you’re summoned you best get your arse there as soon as possible. Lord knows you don’t want them to send a firing squad!” She laughed.

 

 

Ron and Harry were not laughing at all.

 

 

“We’re not completely daft Hermione. That’s not an official summons. We all know what they look like!” Harry spat at her.

 

 

She made to stand when suddenly Ron reached a hand across the table, placing it on hers. “He’s asked you to meet him hasn’t he?” The rage apparent in his voice.

 

 

Looking at him as if he’d gone mad, Hermione pulled her hand out from under his laughing heartily. “It’s none of your business who it’s from! You told me to be happy once, remember?” Her laughter abruptly stopped, and a serious expression suddenly appeared on her face, she slowly leaned across the table until her face was just inches from his, “Well guess what-I. Am. Happy!”

 

 

She smiled sweetly before saying calmly, “Do me favor and just go fuck yourself Ron!”

 

 

She pulled her wand out and dissapparated on the spot leaving a completely baffled Harry and livid Ron in her wake.             

Chapter Text


Author's notes: Many thanks to my brilliant beta ronloveshermione! I appreciate all you do! 


“I don’t fucking believe her!” Ron slammed his fist down on the table. “Charlie never told me she was seeing a married guy; he’s the captain of her Auror Squad for pity’s sake!”

 

“Nobody knew she was seeing him Ron.” Harry took a deep breath and closed his eyes. It was suddenly painfully clear to him what Ron’s actions had done to her. It was also with a feeling of complete guilt on Harry’s part that he had left her.

 

 Some bloody friend I am!  

 

She would have been better off never having knowing either of them, he thought bitterly.  

 

Ron, who was seething with anger, turned to Harry. “What did she say this bastard’s name was again?”

 

“No Ron. You’re not going there. You’re married! If you start playing the jealous, protective lover boy you’ll just confuse her more! Not to mention you could get her into some serious fucking trouble at the department.”

 

Nonplussed, Ron responded, “You handle it your way Harry and I’ll handle it mine.”

 

“I’m not fucking around with you arsehole. You leave it!” Ron laid some money on the table and downed the rest of his drink. He made to leave when Harry said, “Where are you going?”

 

“To see Charlie.” Ron walked out of the Leaky Cauldron as the waitress appeared back at the table with a piece of parchment and quill in hand.

 

The waitress smiled warmly at Harry and placed the quill and parchment in front of him. “I was hoping to get all your autographs.” She said, clearly disappointed. “Oh well. Could you make it out to Freda?” She said sweetly.

 

Harry picked up the quill and began writing hurriedly. When he finished it he handed it back to the waitress, stood up and made quickly for the exit, having not even touched his soup or tea. The waitress smiled after him and looked down to admire her autograph. Her eyebrows suddenly furrowed in anger when she saw what he wrote:

 

Dear Freda,

 Go fuck yourself and leave

me the hell alone!

Signed,

Mike Hunt  

 

************************************************************************

 

Ron Apparated to Charlie’s place once he left Harry. He hoped that Charlie was around because he needed information, and he wasn’t bloody leaving until he got that information!

 

It had upset him to no end at how different Hermione had become. He knew her like the back of his hand, he always had. But now, he just wasn’t sure who the hell she was anymore. Charlie had promised to look after her and as far as he was concerned Charlie had fucked up royally.

 

Ron entered the kitchen to find Charlie sitting at the table having tea with his wife, Padma. The look on Ron’s face let Charlie know that Ron was in a very bad mood. He turned to his wife and asked her to give them a moment. Padma smiled briefly at Ron and left the room.

 

“What is it Ron?” Charlie asked calmly.

 

“I saw Hermione today.” Ron said in a quivering voice.

 

“And?”

 

“I asked you to look after her and I can see you did a totally smashing job of it.” Ron said sarcastically.

   

“What the hell are you on about Ron?” Charlie took a sip of his tea.

 

Ron pulled a chair out from the table, turning it around and sitting down. “You want to know what I’m on about? Did you know she was shagging a married Auror captain?”

 

Charlie spit out his tea. “What?! No bloody way. I’d know if she was.”

 

“Are you sure about that?”

 

“Ron, I just don’t see how, that’s all. You know Hermione. She’d never do that!

   

“I think it’s safe to say that I don’t know this Hermione and I can assure you that she is doing that!”

 

Both men sat quietly looking at each other. Charlie shook his head, not believing what he was hearing. “Do you know who she is supposedly shagging?”

 

“Um…a David Longley or Langley.”

 

Charlie looked as if all the blood had drained from his face. He suddenly shouted, “That bloody wanker!”

 

“I take it you know him then?” Ron said pointedly, knowing full well Charlie did.

 

“Yeah, of course I do. He’s in charge of our squad. But he’s got a wife and three kids. Why the hell would he be fooling around with Hermione? They can’t even stand each other.” Charlie looked at his brother as if seeming to ponder something. “Bloody hell, he does remind me of you!”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“David is a tall bloke and has red hair. He’s built like us and he’s the most sarcastic hot headed dick you could meet. Hermione and he are always having a go at one another.”

 

Charlie seemed to suddenly stare into space and said to no one in particular, “No wonder she hasn’t been suspended for insubordination. God I’ve been so stupid!” He covered his eyes with his hand, shaking his head.

 

“But it just couldn’t be. I mean the captain still seems to be packing.” Ron gave him an odd look when Charlie added quickly, “Mind you I don’t stare at his crotch all day.”

    

 

Ron ran his hand through his hair. “Never mind his crotch. What the hell is it with you and Harry?” Ron said perplexed. “Anyway, besides the wanker, would you have any clue as to what sort of training she might be keen on doing in the next few weeks?”

 

Charlie looked tense. “She mentioned some sort of training?”

 

Ron nodded his head.

 

“Well the only training that’s coming up that I’m aware of would be for long term deployments. You know -Shadow Training, undercover for months at a time.”

 

“Do you think that’s what she’s shooting for?”

 

“I dunno’. I mean it’s really hard to get into it. Becoming a Shadow requires certain criteria. Most opt to not join simply because you can become so immersed in that world that it becomes too hard to get out.” Charlie took another sip of tea and sighed. “I really hope she isn’t thinking of doing it.”

 

“You said it’s hard to get in. But if she’s sleeping with your captain surely she’s been guaranteed a free ride so to speak?”

 

Charlie laughed, not missing Ron’s quip. “Ron, Hermione doesn’t need to sleep with anybody to get into that type of training. She meets all requirements for getting in. She has the highest capture numbers in our squad. She also excels at potions, spell work and wand handling.” Charlie looked down at his cup, swirling it around. “You also have had to kill and unfortunately she has.”

 

Ron looked intensely at Charlie, “What would killing somebody have to do with anything?”

 

“You have to have nerve, Ronnie, to be a Shadow. They don’t want a poof out there where it can get pretty intense, you know?”

 

Ron said quietly, “Charlie, she’s not the Hermione I remember, is she?”

 

“No, I suppose not, if I were being truthful to myself really. I’ve been turning a blind eye for awhile now when it comes to her. She’s the best partner I’ve ever had, saved my arse a fair amount of times!  I just let her be when it came to personal matters. But believe me, I had absolutely no idea she was shagging David. That’s thrown me for a loop that has!”

 

Ron sat with his head down as if contemplating something. “I’m going to put in for a transfer back here and sign up for that training Charlie.”

 

Charlie slammed his cup down on the table, “Are you insane? I’m telling you Ron it’s a very bad idea.”

 

“I’m a big boy Charlie and you know I can damn well take care of myself! I’m fully qualified.” He said this as if it settled the matter.

 

“Aren’t you forgetting one little detail? Actually one big detail?”

 

“What?!”

 

“You’re married arsehole that’s what! You could be gone for months at a time! It’s not a job for a married bloke!”

 

Ron started to pick at the slightly splintered wood on the back of his chair. “What if…if I said that it didn’t matter…that I wanted to do this anyway?”

 

Charlie glared at him. “You. Are. Married!” He shouted. Charlie leaned his head back against the wall, watching Ron, waiting for a response.

 

When Ron didn’t respond immediately and continued to pick at the wood, a sudden realization hit him. “You don’t care do you?” Charlie said quietly.

 

Ron didn’t look up at him and said quietly, “Look, Charlie I’m starting to realize that perhaps I married Shannon for all the wrong reasons, you know?”

 

Charlie took this in, shaking his head in frustration. “But Ron, they would be very hesitant to allow a married wizard into that shite. They’ll check your background and service record thoroughly and believe me, they’ll know that you are in fact a married man!”

 

“No they wouldn’t.”

 

“Why the hell not? You are Bonded for Merlin’s sake! That leaves a magical record-a traceable record! Not to mention a Bonding is for life! You can’t get out of it unless one of you kicks the bucket!” Charlie’s jaw suddenly grew rigid, “You surely wouldn’t…you know… do something rash?”

 

Ron looked at him. “Bloody hell Charlie I would never kill Shannon, I mean, how heartless do you think I am?”

 

“Sorry Ron…that was stupid of me.” He said fairly.

 

“It still wouldn’t be a problem though…the traceable Bonding part.” Charlie stared at him curiously. Ron seemed to struggle with himself a minute. He let out a deep breath and looked pointedly at his brother, “We weren’t married in that way Charlie. We...uh...well that’s to say… when we eloped...we married in the Muggle tradition you see.”

 

Charlie, clearly irritated, stared at him wide eyed and said in a low voice, “If Mum ever knew that she’d go spare! She went completely mental when she found out you eloped in the first place!” Ron rolled his eyes which seemed to only egg his brother on. “It’s bad enough at family get-togethers at the Burrow when we know that Shannon is coming over and we’re all forced to make modifications so to speak as not to frighten her. Which by the way really pisses everyone off !”

 

Charlie eyed him suspiciously, “You still haven’t told Shannon that you’re a wizard, have you?”

 

Ron sighed. “No.”

 

“Are you ever going to tell her, Ron?!”

 

“It’s just not that easy Charlie. I just don’t think she’d take it well.”

 

They sat in silence for a few moments.

 

Ron stood up abrubtly. “I need to go. I have a few things to work out. Let me know what you find out and Charlie…” He leaned in close to him, “not a word about this conversation to anyone.”

 

Ron disasperated away, leaving a solemn and worried looking Charlie in his wake.                         

 

                    

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Many thanks to my fantastic beta ronloveshermione! I appreciate all you do!

*hugs*

missgranger2 


Hermione apparated back to her flat in a very foul mood. I cannot believe Harry set me up like that! She flopped down in her armchair trying to calm down before she went and talked to David.

David’s going to bloody well hear about it that’s for sure! That damn David and his bloody games!  

She sighed in frustration.

I said too much…I don’t know what the hell came over me. Ron wasn’t supposed to be there!

Ron had looked so damn good; making her lose all focus and sense of reason.   

Dorian confronting her in front of Harry, much less Ron, was something she had never foreseen happening. She only admitted to the affair because Ron was there and that had been both foolish and rash on her part. Groaning, Hermione knew Harry would eventually go to Charlie and Ginny about the whole thing.

Good going! You’ve gone and opened a bloody can of worms!  Hermione stood up and made her way over to her fireplace and prepared to floo over to the ministry. Can this day get any worse?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Harry had been completely taken off guard back at the Leaky Cauldron. He didn’t know what the hell to do at this point. Hermione had changed and not for the better.

Why hadn’t he seen it before?

Hermione and he got together as much as possible when their schedules would allow. If only he had had more time for her. Needing to collect his thoughts before going over to Hermione’s flat to straighten things out, he decided to visit with Molly. He knew Mrs. Weasley would be really upset with him if she had found out he had been in the area and not stopped by to see her.

Harry entered the back door that led into the kitchen to find Mrs. Weasley hunched over the stove cooking what smelled like beef stew. She turned suddenly when she heard him come in, “Harry!” She ran to him and engulfed him in a hug, making Harry fight for air.

When she let go she smiled warmly at him. Harry smiled back, “It’s good to see you Mrs. Weasley! I’m sorry I didn’t owl you first to let you know I’d be stopping by.”

“No apology necessary Harry! You’re practically family, always have been! You know I always told you to consider this your home!” Harry nodded and walked over and sat at the table. “Do you want some stew? It’s your favorite!”

“No thanks. I ‘m not really hungry.”

Molly came and sat down beside him. “Well if you aren’t having any of my stew, then something must be wrong. Do you want to talk about it?”

Harry stared at her for a moment. He wasn’t sure she was the person he should talk to about Hermione. Harry was sure she loved Hermione and even considered her to be another daughter.  Mrs. Weasley had always been there for him and he did consider her to be the mother he never had. Summoning his courage he decided to ask, “Mrs. Weasley have you noticed anything different or…off when Hermione visits you?”

The warm smile from her face suddenly faded. “Well, to tell you the truth Harry, I don’t see her as much as I used too. In fact I’m lucky if she stops by to visit once a month anymore.”

Harry’s eyes rounded in shock. “But I thought she always had dinner here twice a week!”

“Oh she used too, yes. A few months ago that all stopped though. I thought I might have upset her or something, but when I do see her she’s always pleasant.”

“Do you think she’s okay?”

Molly remained quiet for awhile before replying, “No. She claims she always is, but I know her better than she thinks I do.” She removed her rag from her pocket and started to wipe the table in front of her. “Ronnie really hurt her Harry. He’s my son but I’ll never understand all that.”

“Ginny and I quit trying to figure it out a long time ago.” Harry shrugged, “I suppose he has his reasons and perhaps someday he’ll clue us in.”

Molly stood up and began wiping down the rest of the table, clearly avoiding Harry’s eyes, “Speaking of Ginny how is she?”

Harry knew what was coming; he’d been down this road before.

Neither Ginny nor he had ever told Mrs. Weasley that they lived together. But Harry knew she wasn’t stupid and knew damn well they were. Ginny and he knew she wouldn’t approve of the arrangement.

“Ginny is fine Mrs. Weasley. She sends her love. She couldn’t be here due to a last minute training session today.”

Molly stopped what she was doing and looked pointedly at Harry. “Look Harry I wasn’t born yesterday; I do know that Ginny and you are…well that is to say…shacking up!” Molly put her hand on her heart. “Please tell me that you and Ginny aren’t…well…you know…doing certain things?”

Harry’s eyes shifted from side to side and he tried looking anywhere but at her. What the hell? What the bloody hell! His day just seemed to be getting better and better! He couldn’t believe she had brought it up on today of all days! And he sure as hell didn’t want to answer her!

Molly evidently took his silence to mean yes, “Oh…well… fiddle- dee- dee I suppose.” Pursing her lips, she turned from him slowly and began stirring her stew vigorously while Harry wished he could crawl under a rock and die.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Hermione stepped out of one of the many fireplaces situated in the main lobby of the ministry. She walked a few steps, arriving at one of the many lifts. As she entered it, she could hear several of the occupants whisper excitedly about her. Choosing to ignore them, she made a point of staring straight ahead. Usually, she could take the gawking in stride- but not today. Sighing in relief, she was glad when she finally reached Level 4 where the Auror Offices were located.
     
She stepped out of the lift into a foyer. There were two hallways located at opposite ends of the room. The left hallway led to the training, locker and interrogation rooms. The right hallway led to the offices of the Auror command.

Hermione went right, walking quickly until she approached a desk. Seated behind the rather large desk was a small, elderly woman wearing a bright, red witch’s hat and spectacles.  

Oh damn Euphelia Ringstopper! Hermione groaned. She rummaged in her pocket, pulling out her Auror I.D.  

As Hermione reached the desk, she held her I.D. out to Euphelia who purposely ignored her.

Keep calm! Keep calm!

 “Excuse me Ms. Ringstopper.” The old lady looked up and gave Hermione a scowl.
Hermione smiled sweetly, “I need to see Captain David Langley.”

Ms. Ringstopper snatched the I.D. out of Hermione’s hand. She looked at it intently before handing it back to her. Looking Hermione up and down, she barked at her, “State your full name!”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Really Ms. Ringstopper must we always go through this?” Hermione said impatiently. She held up the I.D. “I mean you already know who I am.”

Do I?!” She said viciously. “I’ll have you know that there are plenty of Death Eaters who’d like to get past this desk and take a crack or two at the Aurors in those offices! How do I know you aren’t a Death Eater in disguise or that you’re under the Imperious Curse?”

Hermione decided to toy with her, knowing full well it would only aggravate her further. “Indeed, how could you ever be totally sure that the person checking in with you is who they say they are? Do you have some sort of special knowledge or power that the rest of us don’t have?”

Euphelia stood up, not being more than 4’3 and reached over her desk. “I. Can. Tell! I’ve been doing this for over forty years! I’ve seen imposters and I can usually spot one a mile away! It’s all in the eyes, girl!”

Hermione couldn’t help but giggle. She barely managed to get out, “Wh-what do you see in my eyes?”

Euphelia studied her eyes intently. “I know the piece of work that’s in front of me! You think you’re smarter than me, don’t ya’!”

Hermione was now shaking, desperately trying to suppress her laughter. “I certainly don’t know what you’re going on about Ms. Ringstopper. I couldn’t possibly flatter myself by saying that I’m anywhere near as smart as you.” She said sweetly.  

Euphelia scrunched her eyes, “You certainly are smart. A right smart arse that is! You best follow procedure there, smart girl! If you go and piss me off, I might not let you get passed me, eh?”

Old toad!

Hermione decided it best to straighten up quickly. She put her I.D. back in her pocket and sighed. “Fine, ask away.”

Euphelia sat back down. “What’s your full name?!” She said loudly.

“Hermione Jean Granger.”

There were hundreds of filing cabinets situated behind her, stacked up to the ceiling. Ms. Ringstopper waved her wand and a file jumped out of one of the cabinets and landed on her desk. She stood the file up and opened it, clearly trying to hide the contents from Hermione.
 
“Auror identification number?!” She asked, never taking her eyes off the file in front of her.  

“HG 216516376121.”

“Auror Squad number and insignia?”

“Number 533. The insignia is a yellow Griffin atop a red background.”

The old lady scanned her folder, clearly looking for a question that would make a fake Hermione slip up. “Hmmm…Mother’s maiden name?!”

“Puckle.”  Hermione was tapping her foot now, clearly sick of all the questions. “Are you satisfied now?”

Ms. Ringstopper looked her over once more before saying, “I am… this time.” She closed the folder and slammed it down on the desk. “Do you have an appointment?’

Completely exasperated by this point Hermione practically shouted at her, “No! Look he won’t mind, I have something very important to discuss with him!”

“Everybody always says it’s important! You’re nobody special missy! I have to send him an interoffice memo first.”

She quickly wrote a note on a piece of parchment and pointed her wand a few times at it. The parchment promptly rolled itself up and flew directly through the wall to Hermione’s left.

Within a few minutes, the parchment came sailing back through the wall, landing on Ms. Ringstopper’s desk. She snatched it up dramatically and unrolled it. After reading it she said to herself, “Yes, okay.” She looked up at Hermione. “Stand back there girl!”

Euphelia stood up and came around to face the wall that the parchment has just come through. She tapped her wand against the wall. Slowly the middle of the wall started receding, making a large opening. “Captain Langley’s office is…”

“The fourth one to the left. I know! I know!” Hermione finished for her, completely exasperated. She walked down the hallway that was lined with offices on both sides.
When she got to David’s office, she didn’t wait to knock and instead turned the knob and shoved open the door.

David, who was sitting behind his large, cherry desk, froze. “Don’t act like you weren’t expecting me-you bloody prick!” Hermione said sarcastically.

“Close the door!” Hermione didn’t move. Clearly aggravated, he got up and made his way quickly to the door and shut it. He pulled his wand out and put a silencing charm on the room before turning toward Hermione angrily. “What the hell was that?! Somebody could of heard you for bloody sakes!”

“Let them! I really don’t care right now who hears!”

David took a breath. “I take it you ran into Dorian today?”

“You know I damn well did since you’re the one who told her where to find me you bastard!”

David smiled. “My my, are we a bit upset?” Hermione had a look of fury on her face. When David tried to reach out to her she roughly shoved his hand away. “Oh c’mon, you set things right didn’t you?”

“You purposely took my license, David, and set it in a place where your wife was sure to find it! What the hell are you doing?!

He studied her a moment. “Nothing!”

Her face reddened in anger, “Don’t you “nothing” me David! What kind of games are you trying to play here?!”

“No games Hermione. I admit I did take your license the other night and I did set it on my dresser, alright?” Hermione was about to say something when he raised his hand up to stop her. “I want to be with you and I admit I wanted her to know about us!” Hermione shook her head and rolled her eyes. “I love you and I thought that this would somehow prove it to you. I don’t care if she finds out, I really don’t anymore!”

“I’ve already told you this thing we have is not going to go any further. You’re Bonded, meaning you’re married for life!”

David looked down at his shoes and said uncertainly. “What if…something were to maybe happen to her?”

Hermione’s eyes widened with shock. “Don’t even suggest such a thing! We could both wind up in Azkaban! Besides it wouldn’t change a bloody thing between us!”

David groaned and covered his face with his hands. He brought his hands back down to his sides, clenched in fists. “I want to be with you all the time! I don’t want to have to keep taking some bloody bad tasting potion in order to make love to you Hermione! I can’t help the way I feel!”
     
Hermione shook her head sadly. “We will never be together David. You have to except things the way they are.”

Turning around, she sat down in one of the two chairs in front of his desk. She propped her elbow up on one of the arms and held her chin in her hand. “I don’t understand why you have to complicate matters. Just leave it, alright.”

David walked towards her and sat down in the other chair. “Is that why you’re running away from me-because I make matters more complicated?”

Hermione raised her head up to look at him. “What are you talking about?”

“You know… you training to be a Shadow.”

Hermione looked at him in disgust, “You approved it!”

“I’m in love with you, I’d do anything for you and you know that. It’s just that I got to thinking that maybe I’ve given you a way out…and perhaps I shouldn’t have done it.” He looked down at his lap sadly.

“I’m not a woman who wants to be tied to any man. But yes- being a Shadow would take me away from you for months at a time and I think the distance would do you some good.” She bit her lip and raised her head up. “By the way, are you having me followed?”

He looked up and turned his head towards her. “What do you mean?”

“Your wife told me that you were the one to tell her where to find me! I don’t remember saying anything to you about meeting Harry at the Leaky Cauldron.”

He smiled sheepishly. “Really?”

Hermione huffed, “Well did you or did you not tell her where I was?”

“Uh…no… no of course not!” He started to pick at a lose thread on his pants.

Hermione studied him intently, “You’re lying! You did too have me followed!”

David seemed to be trying to choose his words carefully. “I don’t want you to go flying off the handle or anything…but…oh bloody hell! Fine, fine I had somebody follow you alright?”

Hermione stood up, shaking her head, “This is getting way too bizarre! It ends now David!”

David shot up and said worriedly, “Look I’m sorry alright! I won’t do something stupid like this again, I promise!” Hermione made her way towards the door. “Please!” He begged. He followed her and grabbed her arm and spun her around. “I’ll do anything too make it right…just say you’ll still see me!”

Hermione shook her head more forcefully. “No! This arrangement is over! I wipe my hands of the whole sorted mess we’ve created!”

As she opened the door, David said quietly, “Please Hermione!”

Ignoring his plea, she turned from him and walked swiftly out the door, slamming it behind her.

An anguished looking David stared at the closed door for a long moment. Out of no where his sadness suddenly turned into rage. And before he could stop himself, he drove his fist completely through the door.

Chapter Text


Author's notes: I would like to thank my super terrific beta ronloveshermione. You do awesome work! *hugs*


Ron walked briskly down a street in London heading towards one of the British Government buildings. When Shannon and he eloped, they did so with a justice of the peace in the very building he sought. He had also accompanied her to the driver’s license office in order for her to have it changed over to her married name. He had observed enough to feel fairly comfortable about these particular Muggle workings. Having watched several Muggle movies and documentaries on the telly, he felt confident at what he was about to do.

 

Shannon thought he worked for the British Special Forces and she had never questioned him. Hell, she didn’t even question him when he appeared ignorant of certain things he should know being a Muggle.

 

Walking into the building he headed to the receptionist area. A very large blonde woman asked in a rather high voice, “How can I help you sir?”

 

“My wife and I had a baby recently and we wanted to get another copy of the birth certificate. You see, my wife accidentally misplaced the original one.”

 

“You will need to go to the third floor sir and sort it out there. I do hope you brought the correct paperwork because if not it will have been a wasted effort.”

 

Ron patted his jacket pocket. “Oh I have everything, no worries.” Ron smiled at the lady and headed to a wall that was lined with lifts. There was a large group of people ahead of Ron waiting as well.

 

Sighing, he literally had to stuff himself into one of the lifts. Moving to the side as best as he could, he reached inside his jacket, grabbing his wand. He then maneuvered himself in such way as to be able to shove his wand down his sleeve so that he only held the tip in his hand.

 

Finally the lift stopped on the third floor; Ron shoved his way out. He looked around to see that he was in a rather large room with a line of people that was snaking around the entire width.

 

Bloody hell, look how long that cue is!

 

Ron decided there was no need to wait- he had his wand! He stretched up on his feet to peer over the crowd to find the front of the line. Got it!  He spotted a sign to the loo and quickly went into a stall. Using his wand still tugged in his sleeve, he charmed his body to blend in with his surroundings. That’s so bloody cool! He then concentrated hard on the front of the line and apparated himself there.

 

Stumbling slightly upon arriving at his destination, he wound up bumping into a rather fierce looking bloke. Having not being able to see Ron, the man angrily barked at a pleasant looking older gentleman behind him, “Watch it!” The old man’s face drained of all the blood as he sputtered an apology.

 

Ron made his way around a long counter where several clerks worked. Slipping  through a door that he was pretty certain would lead to the administrative offices, Ron quickly made his way down a long hallway. He noticed an opened door to his left and went in.

 

There was a balding man with horn rimmed glasses typing madly on his computer. A large stack of files sat beside him and he was mumbling to himself angrily. Ron walked right up to the man and waved his wand in front of his face as he muttered a spell.

 

“What’s your name?” Ron asked casually.

 

“Archibald Grayson the third,” said the man obediently.

 

 “Well first of all Archibald I need you to get up, close the door and lock it.”

 

 The man did as Ron told him and then came back, standing there waiting for further instructions.

 

“You can sit down now in your chair.” Archibald walked over and sat wearing a glazed look on his face. “Now, I need you to access all information on a British citizen by the name of Shannon Louise Marsdon Weasley in your computer.”

 

Archibald typed quickly and within minutes a screen appeared with Shannon’s personal information.

 

Ron walked behind the desk and stood behind the man. “Okay, I need you to go in and delete the marriage record first.” Archibald dutifully obeyed. “Delete the name Weasley.” Again, he did as Ron asked.

 

Ron took out his wallet and removed a small, crumpled piece of newspaper from it.

 

Reading over it briefly he looked at Archibald, “I need you to pull up any information you have on an Edna Marsdon.”

 

Archibald began typing and pulling other screens up. He worked diligently for a few more moments. “Here it all is.” Archibald stared blankly at the screen.

 

“Very good Archibald. Print that out for me, will you?” He printed it and Ron removed the paper from the printer as soon as it had finished. As he looked it over he said, “You do good work there mate.” He folded up the paper and shoved it in his pocket. “Now to set you back right. First of all, you won’t remember my voice or anything you did in relation to a Shannon Louise Marsdon Weasley.”

 

Archibald shook his head, still staring blankly ahead. “Nope, I won’t recall any of it.”

 

Ron smiled. “I should do something for you for all your trouble mate.” Ron sat thinking for a moment. “Are you married Archie?’

 

“Nope.”

 

Ron’s face suddenly lit up, “Aha! I got it! Once I release you from the spell, you’ll recall having the best damn night of your life!” Ron smiled wickedly, “Last night you’ll recall having shagged a gorgeous woman…no-make that several gorgeous women for over five hours straight.” Ron chuckled. “You’ll feel fucking fantastic for days…got it?!”

 

“With several women…best damn night…fucking fantastic for days, got it.”

 

Ron walked to the door and opened it. He waved his wand at Archibald, releasing the spell. Before Ron turned to Apparate, he couldn’t help but look at Archibald, who was humming happily and wearing a shit-eating grin on his face.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

Hermione left the Ministry of Magic and made her way down to her favorite package store. She knew she needed something strong tonight to calm her nerves. It had been one hell of a day to say the least. She was fine with ending things with David. If she was being truthful to herself, she was only with David because he looked and acted like Ron.

 

There were no comparisons between the two men when it came to sex. David could be quite selfish, getting off and then leaving her to take care of herself later. Ron had never done that, even if he was exhausted. With David, Hermione would even fake having an orgasm from time to time. Again, she never had a similar problem with Ron. Ron knew where to touch, to nip, bite, suck or lick her to get her off.

 

When she finally reached the package store, she let out a sigh of relief. One final stop and I can go home and forget about this whole bloody day!

 

Hermione walked to the counter where a rather large man stood. “Ello’ there Miss Granger! I got your usual all packaged up and ready to go!”

 

“Thank you Sam!”

 

Sam leaned down. When he came back up he sat a brown paper sack on the counter with a large, clanking noise. “Two bottles of Firewhiskey and one bottle of Ogden’s!”

 

She dug around in her purse to give him some galleons. She didn’t have to ask how much it was and Sam didn’t need to tell her. Hermione was a frequent customer.

 

With two hands she reached up and grabbed the bag. Sam smiled at her, “I’ll see you day after tomorrow then?”

 

She nodded her head and smiled. “Have a good night Sam!”

 

Hermione walked out of the package store and began walking back to her flat.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Harry was sitting just in front of Hermione’s front door. He had been waiting for hours, having left the Burrow sooner then he had expected. He just couldn’t take the looks Molly kept giving him. I’m not going there without Ginny ever again!

 

Harry had begun to hum to himself when suddenly Charlie appeared with a pop.

 

Charlie looked down at him, smiling. “Hey Harry! Fancy meeting you here.”

 

Harry stood up. “What’re you doing here?”

 

Charlie eyed him suspiciously, “What are you doing here?”

 

Harry scowled at him, “Hey, I asked you first!”

 

“I just needed to talk to Hermione about… about a work related…um…thing.”

 

“You talked to Ron eh?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

Harry groaned. “I was there today, Charlie, when Hermione more or less confessed that she was shagging your Captain.”

 

“So you do know?” Harry nodded. “Ron told me not to mention it. I came over here to try and talk some reason into her.”

 

“So you never suspected that Hermione and your Captain were together?”

 

Charlie’s eyes widened. “Shite no! I’m as bloody surprised as the two of you are!”

 

They were both silent for a moment. Harry put his hands behind his back and started pacing in front of Charlie.

 

Charlie rolled his eyes. “Oh Merlin you only start that pacing thing when you’re all worked up over something!”

 

“I just can’t understand how you didn’t know about the affair or how you have chosen to completely ignore the obvious fact that Hermione seems to enjoy drinking lately!”

 

“Well, Harry…I- I really only see Hermione at work. See, Padma got pissed off months back because she felt I was spending too much time at Hermione’s flat.”

 

Harry started to pace faster. “You’re telling me that you completely abandoned her?!”

 

Charlie waved his hands frantically. “Stop that bloody pacing Harry! It’s driving me crazy!”

 

Harry stopped right in front of him. “Well? Did you abandon her!?”

 

“I suppose I let her down, alright. But before you go totally ape-shite on me perhaps you should take a good look in the mirror there mate!”

 

Harry’s face screwed up in anger, “What do you mean?”

 

Charlie looked at him in disbelief. “I wasn’t the only one who abandoned her as you put it!” Charlie barked at him. “Where the hell were you? Your her best friend you bloody prick!”

 

Realization hit Harry and he looked down sadly. Truth was he didn’t have a retort for Charlie because he knew damn well it was true.

 

Charlie put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry Harry. I shouldn’t of said that.”

 

Harry shook his head. “No, you’re right. I haven’t nearly been there enough for her as I should of. I just thought she’d pulled herself together before I left. She never let on that she wasn’t okay.”

 

About that time, Hermione appeared with a sack in her arms that clanked every time she moved.

 

Her eyes widened. “What the hell are you two doing here?”

 

Harry scowled at her. “Nice to see you too! Whatcha’ got in the bag?” He raised his eyebrows at her, “And don’t even try to lie and tell me it’s knitting supplies!”

 

She chuckled. “Knitting supplies?!”

 

Harry ignored her laughing. “Well?!”

 

“Guess!”

 

He pointed at the sack in her arms. “I’m certain there are alcoholic beverages in that bag!”

 

“Well done, Harry! And to think we never believed Trelawney about all that inner eye bullshite!” She smiled smugly at him.

 

“This isn’t funny! I want to talk to you about what’s in that bag and what happened this afternoon!”

 

Hermione, looking oddly bored, turned to Charlie. “I see he dragged you into this as well.”

 

Charlie bit his lip. “A-actually it was R-Ron who…um dragged me in.”

 

Her expression suddenly changed to one of fury. “I don’t give a damn what he told you Charlie and as my partner you shouldn’t either!”

 

She shifted the bag carefully to one arm as she pulled her wand out of her pocket. She waved her wand in front of the door handle and instantly the door opened. They both followed behind her as she made her way to the kitchen, sitting the bag down on the counter with a loud thump.

 

Charlie looked sadly at her. “Hermione I don’t think Ron would of said anything to me unless he was worried about you.”

 

“Worried? Please!” She bit her lip. “Have I ever let you down Charlie?”

 

“No, of course you haven’t but…”

 

“Then drop it! My personal life doesn’t concern you!” She turned to Harry, “Or you!”

 

Harry looked like she had slapped him in the face. “How can you say something like that? I’m your best friend for pity’s sake!”

 

Hermione didn’t reply right away, appearing to have grown flustered for a moment.

 

In a quiet voice she said to him, “People change Harry. People grow apart. It’s nobody’s fault…you know…it just… sort of happens sometimes.”

 

In a hurtful voice he asked, “What are you saying Hermione?”

 

She looked down at the floor. “Harry you made your choice between Ron and me when you moved away.”

 

Harry looked utterly perplexed. “My choice?! Are you fucking serious?! I only moved to be closer to Ginny! I thought you knew that?!”

 

Hermione raised her head up and smiled weakly at him. “It’s okay Harry. You don’t have to make something up to try and make me feel better.”

 

He shook his head in disbelief and turned to Charlie. “Help me out here Charlie! Don’t you remember me telling you how I hated for Ginny to be so far away?”

 

Charlie shrugged. “I guess you did.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes. Of all the times to be a clueless arsehole!

 

Harry took her hand. “Hermione, I swear to you that I only left to be with Ginny. I have always loved you like a sister. I’m so sorry if you felt I chose Ron over you because nothing could be further from the truth!”

 

Hermione chuckled. “Okay, okay Harry, let’s just drop it alright.”

 

“You do believe me, right?”

 

She shrugged causing Harry to have the uneasy feeling that she didn’t.

 

Charlie coughed loudly, causing both Harry and Hermione to look at him. “Are you seeing David, Hermione?”

 

Hermione looked livid, “What the hell else did Ron tell you?”

 

“That your going to be training to be a Shadow.”

 

Harry looked at her in shock, for he knew it was utter suicide being a Shadow.

 

She shook her head in disbelief. “Fine. No I’m not seeing David!”

 

“That’s a fucking lie Hermione!” Harry yelled.

 

She shot him a dirty look before turning back to Charlie. “Correction. I was seeing David, but not anymore! I ended it today.”

 

Charlie ran his hand through his hair. “Merlin Hermione you could of gotten kicked out of the Auror Department for that!”

 

Hermione ignored him. “As for becoming a Shadow…I am going to do it, yes.”

 

Charlie groaned. “Are you sure about this?”

 

“I’ve never been more sure. This is exactly what I want to do.”

 

“As being an Auror isn’t dangerous enough for you?” Harry asked sarcastically.

 

She smiled smugly at him. “Something like that.”

 

Charlie pleaded, “Please Hermione, don’t do it! You could wind up dead or worse go completely loopy!”

 

“Loopy?!” She giggled.

 

“I’m serious Hermione! I’ve seen some damn good Aurors go off to be Shadows to only come out of it all frightened and paranoid!” He took a deep breath, “You never can completely leave that world! Even when you retire you’ll have to keep looking over your shoulder! You’ll always wonder whether the Death Eaters you betrayed are watching you!”

 

She rolled her eyes. “You sound worse than my mum sometimes.”

 

“This is not a joke dammit!” Charlie roared at her. “You will be completely giving up your way of life forever! Do. You. Get. That-FOREVER!” 

 

She shrugged. “I get it.”

 

“And you still want to go through with it?!” Charlie looked at her wide-eyed.

 

Hermione started to take the Firewhiskey out of the bag. She spoke to him as if she didn’t have a concern in the world, “Yes. Now, could the two of you just go and get the hell out. I really had a crappy day and all I want is some peace and quiet.”

 

“Not yet!” Harry snarled at her.

 

Hermione groaned. “What now Harry?”

 

“How the hell are you shagging a bonded bloke?”

 

She lifted her hand up and began studying her nails intently. “What do you mean?”

 

“You heard me! I know for a fact that it’s impossible!”

 

Hermione looked up at him, clearly impressed that he knew about such things, “Really?”

 

Harry scowled at her. “How’re you doing it? Or do you fancy large blokes with itty bitty dicks now?”

 

She bit her lip before replying quietly, “The Master Codex.”

 

Charlie looked completely horrified before saying, “Bloody hell!”

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Please note, this chapter contains strong sexual content and is meant to demonstrate Hermione’s unstable emotional state.  It is not my intent to be vulgar, but to highlight Hermione’s loss of control. 

 

 

A special thanks to Brandedfaithfully for the beta! I don't know what I'd do without you!!! I really am the luckiest writer to have you as a beta!!!!! I thank you for your input and your friendship! You mean the world to me! *hugs*


Harry looked at her perplexed. “Master what?”

 

Charlie paled in comparison, appearing totally shocked. “How the hell did you get a hold of the Master Codex, Hermione?”

 

She shrugged. “It really wasn’t that hard.”

 

“Do you know what kind of trouble you’d be in if someone found out?” Charlie asked fearfully. “You could very well get your wand broken in half over it!”

 

“No worries.  Nobody will ever find out unless of course you two arseholes rat me out!”

 

“Will somebody please explain what the hell you’re both going on about?!” Harry roared.

 

Charlie ran a hand through his hair. “The Master Codex is an ancient book that holds all original copies of magical contracts and proclamations.  It also is said to contain every single potion recipe plus every single spell and curse ever known.  It’s sometimes referred to as ‘the book of wizard knowledge’ or simply ‘the code’.”

 

Harry shook his head. “How come I never heard of this book before?”

 

Ignoring Harry, Charlie spat at Hermione, “How the hell did you get a look at the Master Codex?!  It’s under heavy guard at the Wizengamot Museum for pity’s sakes!”

 

Hermione smiled sheepishly.  “I met the curator for dinner one night and well…I sort of got my knees dirty!”

 

Charlie grimmaced.  “Please tell me it isn’t the same curator I’m thinking of? You know the one that looks like he’s my great, great grandfather.”

 

Hermione winked at him. “I dare say that I’ve never made a guy come so fast in my life!”

 

Harry scrunched up his nose in disgust. “That’s fucking sick!”

 

She turned to him. “It really wasn’t that dreadful. I mean in exchange for a five minute knob job, I got to look at the Code for the entire night!  I’d say it was well worth it.”

 

With utter bewilderment, Harry stammered a reply. “But you don’t do those kinds of things, Hermione!”  He rubbed a hand over his forehead as if an excruciatingly painful headache had suddenly come on.  “The Hermione I know always goes on about doing the right thing and being moral and the rest of that bullshite!”

 

Hermione sighed, her voice steady but somewhat sorrowful. “Morality can only get you so far, Harry.”

 

Harry mouthed like a fish out of water for a few moments before his complexion moved from pink to a much brighter flush. “Okay, I’ve heard enough!” He practically screamed at her, making Hermione jump. “I want you to pack a bag and come and stay with me and Ginny…tonight!”

 

Harry panted heavily even as Hermione remained strangely stoic. “No, I don’t think I will.”

 

Harry practically leaped at her, gripping her shoulders fiercely. “You need some help here Hermione! Let me help you!”

 

She swatted his hands away.  “How dare you! I’m not a fucking child anymore!”  Turning from him, she strode purposefully to the cabinet and pulled out a glass.  “Will both of you just go and leave me the hell alone!”

 

Charlie’s eyes darted sadly at a bewildered looking Harry for several silent moments.

 

Harry choked on his words.  “Fine, if that’s the way you want it.”

 

She waved the glass at him, her reply cold and unwavering.  “Yeah, that’s the way I want it.”

 

With a heavy heart, Harry and Charlie left her flat in total silence.

 

They walked for quite a while before Charlie sighed wearily.  “What do you want to do?”

 

“To tell you the truth, I dunno’ what to do.  I feel like total dog shite right now.”

 

“Yeah, me too.”

 

“Look, I’m going to head home and talk to Ginny about all this. Maybe she can help in some way.”

 

Charlie nodded. “Wanna’ have a drink before you go?”

 

Harry shook his head. “I think Hermione is going to drink enough for both of us.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

As soon as the two men exited her flat, Hermione opened the bottle of Firewhiskey and poured herself a quite full glass. She tipped the glass to her mouth, gulping it down without stopping.  The burn was a welcome sensation, reminding her that soon her inhibitions would be blurred. But with her current tolerance for alcohol, she knew she’d need much more than just Firewhiskey to get her through the night.

 

Hermione went to her bedroom and walked into her closet, scooting the hangers around until she found the perfect low cut, very short, red dress.  She hung it on a hook on her closet door and then reached down and grabbed a pair of high heeled stiletto black pumps.

 

Stripping off her clothes, she showered quickly. After performing a drying spell on her hair, she opened a drawer to the bureau where she kept her knickers.

 

Hermione thumbed through the choices, pulling out both a silky red pair and a black satin pair. She studied them intently until she decided to forgo any underwear altogether.

 

My dress is so damn tight; I don’t want any panty-lines!

 

 It seemed like a good enough excuse, although Hermione knew her goal for the evening and it wouldn’t matter the color of style of knickers.

 

She slipped the dress on and stood in front of her full-length mirror.

 

Something’s missing.

 

Reaching on top of her bureau, she grabbed a tube of lipstick.  The deep red color complimented the dress and unequivocally screamed sex.  Stepping back, she smiled at herself approvingly.

 

Perfect! I shouldn’t have any trouble getting fucked tonight!   

 

For the briefest moment, Hermione cringed at her own crassness.  This was not the Hermione of two years ago.  She had been swallowed up in a mire of pain and anger – the old her gone forever.  Snatching her purse off the bedside table, she put herself in the mood, strutting atop her stiletto’s to the fireplace. Clutching a fistful of Floo powder, she stepped in and yelled, “Ministry of Magic!” She was engulfed in brilliant green flames and disappeared.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Meanwhile, Ron had finally made his way back to his flat. Approaching the door, he cringed internally anticipating Shannon’s comments.  He truly didn’t feel like putting up with her bull shite tonight.

 

There was no question that she would be all over him as soon as he walked in, begging for him to forgive her.  Her uncertainty, something that once had driven Ron to feel pity for her, now drove him mad.  She couldn’t think or act for herself.  She never argued with him. Instead, she kept the flat pristine and literally waited on him hand and foot without complaint.  When they had first gotten together, the way she took care of him had endeared her to him.  In fact, a lot of blokes would probably feel lucky to have a girl like her.

 

But it soon got old.  He wanted someone to argue with him, to push back and tell him to can his bull shite now and then.  He needed a stronger personality in his life.

 

Ron unlocked the door and just as he suspected, Shannon stood there with tears in her eyes and soon jumped into his arms.  “I’m so sorry I made you angry earlier!” She sobbed.

 

Ron patted her on the back awkwardly, loosing a bit of his anger.  “Forget about it, alright?”  She might not be his type, but she was his wife and he couldn’t be totally cold-hearted toward her.

 

Gripping his shirt with trembling hands, she shook her head into his chest. “I was scared you wouldn’t come home tonight! I’m so sorry sweetheart! I won’t mention children again!”

 

This is pathetic.

 

Ron sighed.  He had seen her act like this so many times that it truly annoyed him, but he struggled to remain calm. “Look, I just want to get a bite to eat and head to bed.”

 

“What do you want? I’ll make you anything you want!” She withdrew with a watery smile.

 

He rolled his eyes. “I’m perfectly capable of making myself something, Shannon!”  His control was slipping.  “Just please, for once in your life will you leave me alone!”

 

With wide-eyed sadness, she replied. “Okay Ronnie. I’ll just leave you be.”

 

Shuffling slowly, her soft sobs continued down the hallway toward their bedroom.

 

Ron wanted to feel bad for his coarse words, but the cold truth hit him deep in the stomach.  He didn’t feel a bit of remorse.  The feelings just weren’t there any more and he thought to himself, the sooner I end this, the better off we’ll both be.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The Ministry sat eerily quiet, only a sparse shift of personnel working in a few key locations.  Hermione took a lift to Auror Headquarters.  However, this time she veered left toward the Aurors’ locker room.

 

A rather bored looking witch covered the security desk as Hermione approached, waving her ID casually. The witch waved her in without even really looking at her identification.  Any other time, Hermione might have questioned the behavior, but tonight she was just relieved to be on her way.  

 

Approaching the locker room, she quickly checked her watch and noted it was almost six o’clock.

 

About time for a shift change! Perfect! He should be there!

 

The room contained rows and rows of lockers. Hermione crossed several of those rows before approaching the lane that housed her own locker.  She knew he’d be there, too -   the young dark-haired man she had in mind for the evening’s festivities.  Rounding the corner, she met the shocked gaze of two male Aurors, both with damp hair.  The fresh smell of soap and cologne hit her.  It was quite appealing and only heightened her mood.   

 

 The dress and heels had obviously captured their attention just as she hoped they would.  She could almost hear the blood change course and rush south.

 

The blonde man swallowed roughly.  “Hey there Hermione!” He studied her body with wide-eyed surprise.

 

She smiled sweetly, “Hi there Mike! Heading home?”

 

“What?” He said looking dumbstruck as if this had been a trick question.

 

“I said are you heading home?”

 

“Oh yes, yes I am.” He fumbled nervously with a towel he was about to stuff in his locker. “Are you working tonight?”

 

Hermione smiled to herself.

 

You have no idea.

 

She lied innocently.  “No, I think I left my Apparition License in my pocket the other night. I just stopped by to get it out of my locker.”

 

Hermione stepped up to her locker and glanced at the other Auror who had suddenly realized his mouth was hanging open and snapped it shut. This tall one had been on her radar  for a few weeks now.  His dark brown hair and muscular build were only bested by his somewhat adolescent features.  Despite the scattering of hair on his face, she knew he couldn’t be more than twenty or twenty one.

 

A new recruit!

 

She smiled coyly at the dark haired wizard and held out her hand.  “I don’t think we’ve met.  I’m Hermione Granger.  And you are?”

 

“I’m J-Jack W-Wood.” He sputtered, wiping his hand on his towel hastily before reaching out to shake hers.

 

She licked her lips slowly, watching for his reaction. “It’s a real pleasure to meet you, Jack.”

 

Jack gasped, his adam’s apple bobbing in this throat.  “L-likewise!”

 

Mike turned to Jack somewhat nervously. “Well, I’m out of here.  My wife’s expecting me home.” Mike waved at Hermione with a blank smile indicating his desire for a speedy exit.

 

“Uh, Mike where’s the rest of your squad?” Hermione asked quickly.

 

“Oh, they took off already. They’re getting together over at the Leaky Cauldron for drinks.  Why?  Were you hunting for someone in particular?”

 

“No, just asking.  Well, good night Mike!” Hermione smiled sweetly and wiggled her fingers in a flirty wave as he darted toward the exit.  

 

Finding herself alone with Jack, she walked with an intentional sway to her locker and opened it with her wand, running a hand slowly down her hip and kept the gorgeous specimen on her right in her periphery.

 

Jack walked closer to her and spoke hesitantly.  “I-I hope you don’t think this is too forward of me, but are you seeing anybody?”

 

She pretended to dig in her locker and slyly opened her purse that she had set inside.  Spinning back to face him, she flashed the Apparition License in her hand.  “Found it! And no I’m not seeing anybody. In fact,” she closed her locker and eyed him quite clearly, “I’m liking what I see right in front of me now!”  Hermione punctuated her meaning with a slow lick of her lips and a tilted look directly at his crotch.  

 

Smiling seductively, she shifted her hips and draped an arm over his shoulder, twirling a piece of hair on the nape of his neck. “Do you see anything you like, Jack?”  His lip trembled as he nodded enthusiastically.  Hermione moved in for the kill, gripping his shirt firmly and pulling his lips to her in a violet kiss.

 

Hermione channeled every bit of rage and frustration into that kiss, bruising his lips as he moaned and ran his hands up and down her back.  He was young and she knew it wouldn’t take much for her to get the release she so desperately needed.  Without remorse, she released his neck and slipped a hand slowly down to his crotch, stroking him eagerly through his trousers.

 

Jack broke apart from her, panting and nearly terrified at the intensity.  “W-what are you doing?”

 

“What does it look like I’m doing?”  She bit her lip enticingly and leaned in to lick the side of his neck.  It smelled woodsy and she inhaled deeply allowing herself the briefest flash of memory as she recalled an encounter with the man who originated that smell.

 

Jack stepped back, his panicked expression pulling her from her blissful daydream. “Wait!  Shouldn’t we go some place more…you know… private?”

 

Hermione shook her head slowly as she stepped toward him.  Her hands inched under the hem of his shirt, pulling it up forcefully as he slammed into the metal door of the locker.  With his arms twisted in the shirt above his head, she held him firmly against the door and engulfed one of his nipples in her mouth, the soft hairs on his chest tickling her nose as he cried out.

 

“Oh sweet Merlin.”

 

Gripping his belt buckle with her free hand, she held him firmly and licked a path across his chest and then slowly down his torso.  He didn’t have the same sculpted muscles or freckled skin that danced before her eyes in her daydream, but her goal was release and she unbuckled his trousers, letting them fall down around his ankles.

 

Releasing his raised arms, she stripped his boxers down in one swift motion and knelt before him, smiling approvingly at his cock.  For being so young, he was clearly endowed with ample equipment and appeared ready to use it.  He seemed to be paralyzed by the moment, his arms landing on the top of his head, still wrapped in the shirt, but otherwise unable to move.  Hermione looked up at him seductively before leaning forward and taking him in her mouth.

 

“Holy crap!”  He cried, his knees wobbling for a second as he tried to regain some movement.  Hermione’s mind fell into a blur, going through the motions she knew would give her the results she wanted.  Conscious of his youth and apparent inexperience, she began gently squeezing his balls with one hand while moving her mouth up and down.

 

Jack finally untangled an arm and grabbed her head as he mumbled a series of curses under his breath.  His eyes fluttered closed as he shook, his other hand trying to grasp the flat metal wall of the locker door for some kind of support.  His youthful control eroded quickly and he began pistoning his hips toward her mouth, his bare arse bumping the metal in synchronicity to this strokes.

 

With a high pitched cry, he slipped over the edge and Hermione dutifully swallowed it all, nearly holding him up as he shuddered against the door.

 

She stood up to see him panting heavily and purposefully whispered  in his ear. “Was that all right?”

 

His mumbled response seemed in the affirmative and she decided to move forward with her plan.

 

“So, do you want to taste me?”  She asked as she leaned over and took one of his nipples in her mouth again.

 

His face went completely red.  “I’ve never…um…went down on a woman before.”

 

Hermione whipped her head up. “Are you a virgin, Jack?”  She smiled mischievously, almost hoping his answer would be yes.

 

“Oh, shite no!  It’s just I haven’t been with many women.”

 

“How many have you been with exactly?”  She kissed the hallow of this throat.

 

He swallowed hard and looked up at the ceiling, squeaking out an answer. “One.”

 

“And exactly how old are you, Jack?”

 

“I-I’ll be tw-twenty n-next month.”

 

“Oh.” Hermione said quietly, internally congratulating herself on her guess..

 

She knew he was embarrassed as he didn’t want to seem to look at her anymore.

 

It was just her rotten luck to pick a bloke with no experience.  Hermione thought for a moment as a wide smile began to form on her face. Youth did have its benefits.  He might be a bit quick, but at least he’d be eager to please and pleasure was the word of the night.

 

This could be interesting!  

 

“Do you want me to teach you what to do Jack?”

 

He looked down at her quickly, a fresh instance of panic in his eyes. “What do you mean?”

 

Hermione shrugged and turned around slowly, pressing her arse against his weeping cock.  It began its recovery almost immediately.  “Lift my skirt up.”

 

When he appeared hesitant, Hermione said more forcefully, “I said lift my damn skirt up!”

 

He jerked at her demand and reached down with two shaky hands to slip the red satin up her hips.  She looked over her shoulder at him until she felt the fabric bunch around her waist.

 

“Look down, Jack.”

 

Jack did as she asked.  “Fuck!  You don’t have any…shite!”

 

Suddenly, just knowing she was in control gave her the strongest turn on and she bent slowly over, resting her palms on the bench in front of her.

 

She spread her legs slightly. “Now touch me, Jack.”

 

His hand slid up her thigh and she pictured a set of long freckled fingers delving between her legs, rubbing back and forth through the course hair.

 

Her mind was shifting uncontrollably from fantasies of the man she wished were there to the boy she was trying to instruct and her hand came to rest on top of his.

 

“Like this.”  She directed his fingertip to her clit and began to rotate it in small circles..

 

Hermione allowed her eyes to close and licked her lips as she moved her hand off of his. “That feels good Jack. Now slip one of your fingers inside me while rubbing that spot I showed you with your thumb.”

 

He dutifully followed her instructions and Hermione moaned softly in response, her breathing quickening. “Add another finger.”

 

Her eager student complied, his breathing becoming audibly aroused.

 

“Move it in and out slowly.”  Once again, he followed instructions.  “Now take your fingers out and taste me.”

 

He stilled and Hermione opened her eyes to look back at him, surprised at his lack of response. Jack stared at her bewilderedly, his face flushed as if he didn’t hear her correctly. She coaxed him along.  “Go ahead, put them in your mouth.”

 

His eyes shifted down to watch his coated fingers slip out of her and finally brought them to his mouth, glancing back at Hermione’s face once as he licked them clean.

 

“Very good, Jack.  Good, hmm?”  He nodded.  Standing back up, she threw her leg over the bench and sat down at the far end, her dress up around her waist.   

 

“I’m waiting Jack.” She said breathlessly and he shifted a step or two to his right. “It’s not nice to keep a lady waiting.”  That seemed to prompt him to move and he walked somewhat zombie-like to the end of the bench.  “Put your tongue,” she put her finger on her clit, “right here.”

 

“Um…okay.”  He knelt down, staring at her with complete awe before hesitantly positioning himself.  His tongue darted out and Hermione’s eyes rolled into her head. “That’s it…nice and slow…round and round…that’s…right.”

 

Jack’s tongue felt wonderful, a week’s worth of tension stood at the precipice, just waiting to be released.  She slipped a hand into his hair, imagining it fiery red as her other hand crawled toward her breasts, increasing the sensations.

 

“Faster…more pressure…oh yeah.” Excited by her control over him and the increasingly hot fantasy in her mind, Hermione moaned in delight and arched her back as her orgasm began to build.  A tingling sensation emanated from her center and Hermione grabbed his head with both hands, pressing him into her. She began to shake and scream as an intense orgasm took hold of her.

 

“Holy fuck” he exclaimed as soon as he was able to pull his face back from her.  She collapsed back onto the bench, allowing the blissful sensation to roll over her. 

 

Catching a breath, she felt she had to compliment him for his efforts.  After all, what kind of teacher would she be.  “Not bad for your first time.”  Already she was planning for stage two and knowing it would excite him to no end, she added, “Now kiss me so I can taste myself.”

 

Jack eyes looked wild with arousal as he leaned over her and she knew he was more than ready for his second go. As soon as his lips touched hers, she forcefully rammed her tongue into his mouth, making him moan.  Even in the haze of post-orgasmic relaxation, her body still wanted more – still craved the feeling of fullness, of belonging to someone.  If she couldn’t have the body she wanted, she would have to settle for this eager one above her.  Her mind would have to pull off the rest.  “Now fuck me,” she murmured.

 

She felt his stiff arousal pressing into her stomach as he slid down her body, but suddenly he stopped to reach for his wand that had somehow fallen to the floor.

 

Hermione had to give him credit for remembering.  At this point, her body was so demanding that she may have actually forgotten herself.  With wand in hand, he appeared confused and she put her hand on his chest to stop him.  “Haven’t used that spell in a while, huh?  It’s alright, just go and get my wand and I’ll do it.”

 

With a thick swallow, he crawled off her and found her wand on the floor underneath the bench.  She sat back up as he handed it to her and backed away, his cock at full attention and hair tousled from her deadly grip.

 

“This won’t hurt a bit.” She waved it in front of him as she said the incantation in her head and then dropped it back to the ground as she gestured to him with her finger, “Take me, Jack.” 

 

The young man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head with excitement as he approached her, once again straddling the bench and sliding his tip to her entrance.  Hermione closed her eyes, her body screaming to feel, to belong to someone, to join with the warmth of a lover’s body.  She should have felt guilt at using the boy for her own needs, but then again, he was enjoying it, too and who was she to deny him the same pleasure.  With inexperienced abandon, he pushed in completely, shaking out some words that had little meaning.  “Oh, oh…”  He began moving hard and fast for he couldn’t seem to help himself.

 

Shite! The way he’s going about it he’ll leave me hanging for sure!

 

Despite enjoying the sensation, she couldn’t help but be just a bit disappointed when he didn’t last more than a minute, groaning quite noticeably as he spilled himself inside her. Hermione hadn’t had time to bring herself off again, something she truly desired with him inside of her.   

 

Still, Jack had done his job, collapsing on top of her with breathless fulfillment.

 

After a few moments, ones where Hermione struggled to breathe herself, he finally came to his senses and raised up, his cock slipping free of her.   His youthful face was ecstatic with satisfaction. “That was bloody brilliant!”

 

Hermione flashed him a fake smile back.  “It sure was!” She lied, although she had to admit it had been somewhat satisfying to her as well, just not to the level he exclaimed.

 

Jack bent down and gave her a chaste kiss, full of thankfulness and genuine tenderness. “And I thought my last leg of training would be boring!  Damn but I was wrong!”

 

She smiled at him, feeling somewhat amused at this statement, but then eager to wrap things up.  She pushed back against his chest and Jack stood up, looking extremely pleased with himself.  Hermione reached down for her wand and then stood up, calling out a quick cleaning charm on them both.  Jack sat down on the bench watching her intently as she pulled the straps of her dress over her shoulders and smoothed her skirt back down her hips.

 

Sounding giddy, Jack grinned.  “You are so bloody gorgeous!  I can’t believe my luck tonight!”

 

Hermione bit her lip. “Yeah…lucky. You better get your self put back right before somebody comes in.”

 

Jack stood up. “You weren’t worried about that before.” Nevertheless, he dutifully  pulled his shirt back down and then reached for his boxers and trousers.

 

“Well, I was horny before.” Hermione said matter-of-factly.

 

When he had dressed, Hermione smiled smugly at him as she whipped her wand in front of his face. “Obliviate!”  She couldn’t very well allow him to remember their little foray into intimacy.  This young man couldn’t be trusted to keep his mouth shut,  not when he had just experience his second sexual encounter and performed some very risqué acts with an older woman in a public location.

 

Instantly his face became expressionless.  His eyes looked empty.

 

“Sorry, Jack.”

 

Jack nodded blankly. She walked over to her locker and opened it back up, allowing a moment for the spell’s time to elapse.  Ten seconds ought to do it and she turned her wand toward him and released him from the spell.

 

He shook his head, clearly looking confused.

 

Hermione peered around her locker. “Alright there, Jack?”

 

He looked uneasy. “Um…yeah it’s just I got this strange feeling all of a sudden.”

 

Hermione shrugged as she pretended to be sifting through her locker. 

 

Jack approached her just as he did before. “I hope you don’t think this is to forward of me, but are you seeing anybody?”

 

Hermione shut her locker and looked at him sadly, “As a matter of fact I am.”

 

She walked out of the locker room feeling only slightly better as she prepared to head home to her Firewhiskey.

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

As always I'd like to thank my beautiful beta Brandedfaithfully! Her wonderful suggestions and input never cease to amaze me!  To all the readers, I hope you like my Ginny. I would think she might be a bit fiery and absolutely wouldn't put up with any crap from Harry! Let me know what you think!

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 8  “ I See Red”

 

Harry arrived home feeling depressed and aggravated.  Sighing, he really hoped Ginny could help him sort out the whole mess with Hermione.  The few times he’d been to see Hermione, he could feel something had changed each and every time.  Unfortunately, he chose to ignore the signs and now he was paying for it.

 

Harry walked into the kitchen to see Ginny waving her wand as knives cut vegetables by themselves and a pot of chicken broth stirred itself magically with a spoon.

 

Ginny stopped her wand work when she spotted Harry. “Harry!  Where in the world have you been?  It’s nearly seven thirty!”

 

She walked up to him and put her arms around his neck, reaching up to give him a kiss.

 

Ginny’s eyebrows furrowed as she pulled back and noticed the sad expression on his face. “What’s up love?”

 

Harry sighed again as he wrapped his hands around her waist. “It’s Hermione.”

 

Looking fearful, she said, “Is she alright?”

 

He shook his head.

 

When Harry didn’t answer her right away she said in a voice laced with panic, “Oh Merlin-please don’t tell me something happened to her!”

 

“No, no it’s nothing like that, love.”  Harry disengaged himself and walked over and sat in one of the chairs at their dining table.

 

He bowed his head and brought his hands to his face, covering it.

 

Ginny walked over and sat down in the chair next to him. “Well, let’s hear it then!  What’s got your knickers in such a twist over Hermione?!”

 

He looked up at her, nodding his head. “She’s changed Ginny and not for the better.”

 

“How?”

 

Harry suddenly felt uncomfortable, shifting in his seat as he eyed Ginny. “Well, she’s shagging a married bloke for starters.”

 

Ginny acted dumbfounded. “Hermione’s doing that?”

 

“Yeah. And I think she’s probably drinking… a lot!”

 

“Well, I know Hermione started drinking when Ron left her but I thought you said she only drank occasionally?”

 

“Unfortunately I think every day has become an occasion for her to drink!”  He jumped out of the chair and started pacing in front of her.

 

Ginny looked alarmed. “If you’re pacing then this can’t be good.”

 

Harry began wringing his hands. “Right you are!”

 

“Did you talk to her?”

 

“Of course!”  He stopped in front of her, placing his hands on his hips. “And you know what she had the nerve to say to me?”

 

“Go on.”

 

Harry raised his hands in frustration. “She thinks I bloody well chose Ron over her!”

 

“Because you moved here?”

 

“Yes!”

 

Ginny chuckled. “Well we both know that’s complete rubbish as the only reason you moved here was to get into my knickers!”

 

“Exactly!  But, no she doesn’t see it that way!” Harry started pacing again. “I just don’t understand what’s gotten into her!   She once was this innocent bookworm and now she’s…she’s turned into some sort of drunken party girl!”

 

“Harry!” Ginny scolded.

 

“No Ginny, it’s true!  She’s completely mental!  She even went and gave a knob job to a man older than most trees so she could look at the Mister Codex!”

 

Ginny looked confused. “Mister Codex?”

 

Harry started gesticulating his arms wildly, “You know that wizard book that has all the answers to potions and spell bullshite!”

 

Ginny looked alarmed and said worriedly, “You don’t mean the Master Codex do you?”

 

“One and the same!”

 

“Merlin Harry!  She could get her wand…”

 

Harry finished for her, “Broken in half!  Yes, yes I know!”

 

Ginny said sadly, “My brother sure did a number on her, eh?”

 

“Speaking of your brother, to top it all off the stupid arsehole just happened to join us at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch!”

 

Ginny looked alarmed. “What the hell was Ron doing there?  How did Hermione react?”

 

Harry walked over and leaned against the kitchen wall looking dejected.  He whined, “I don’t know why he was there.” 

 

Harry seemed to stare into space for a moment.  “It was so odd at first.  Hermione acted like he was some long, lost acquaintance.  She was actually having a conversation with him!”

 

Ginny looked perplexed. “You mean to tell me that after what he did to her she just sat there calmly and talked to him?”

 

“Yeah.  She looked at me funny, you know.  I think she thought I set her up.”

 

“You didn’t, did you?”

 

“No!  I didn’t know he’d be there!” He said defensively.

 

“Let me get this all straight.  So you suspect Hermione is a drunk?”

 

“Damn straight!”

 

“You think she’s fooling around with a married man?”

 

“She is!”

 

“She’s giving knob jobs to senior citizens?”

 

“Right again!”

 

“Hermione risked losing her wand to get a look at the Master Codex?”

 

“Yes!” Harry said impatiently.

 

“Anything else?”

 

Harry ran his hand through his hair. “She’s training to be a Shadow, too.”

 

Ginny looked horrified. “A-a Shadow?”

 

They were both silent for awhile.  Harry, clearly nervous and upset, started wringing his hands together while Ginny sat in deep thought.

 

Not able to stand the silence anymore, Harry blurted out, “Well Gin, what do I do?”

 

Ginny sighed. “I don’t know, Harry.  Hermione has always been stubborn, you know.”

She shook her head.  “Apart from locking her up until she sees reason, I just don’t have any answers for you right now.  I feel like I’ve had my broom pulled out from under me!”

 

With a look of disbelief on his face, Harry said, “You of all people don’t know how to fix this?!”

 

Ginny arched her eyebrow at him, making Harry cower slightly. “I don’t pretend to know how to fix everything Harry!  I need to think this over.”

 

“Well let me know when you come up with some answers Gin because I can’t let her down again.” Harry said sadly.

 

“Again?  What are you on about?”

 

“I left her Gin.  I left her all alone with nobody to talk to. It’s all my bloody fault.”

 

“You owled her regularly didn’t you?  And you go and see her when you can?”

 

Harry looked down at his shoes. “You of all people know what rubbish I am at writing letters.”

 

Ginny covered her mouth in disbelief, “You mean to tell me you didn’t owl her regularly?”

 

In a quiet voice Harry replied, “I owled her…periodically.”

 

Her voice rose in anger, “How many letters have you written her Harry since you moved here?”

 

Harry started looking at his fingernails intently, “I dunno’.”

 

“Harry?!” Ginny asked warningly. 

 

Harry groaned as he looked up at her, “Okay, okay five letters alright!  I wrote her exactly five letters!”

 

“You bastard!  What’s the matter is your hand broken or something?”

 

“What?” Harry looked at her accusingly, “How many letters have you written her?!”

 

Ginny shot back, “I owl her at least once a week you wanker!”

 

Harry looked at her in awe. “You do?”

 

Ginny scowled at him, “Yes.”

 

“And does she owl you back?”

 

“Yes.  Though she’s certainly never mentioned doing any of the things you just told me about.”

 

“Well she probably didn’t want you or me to know about her dark side, I’m sure!”

 

“Did you ever once stop to consider why Hermione might be doing all these dark things in the first place?”

 

“Well, she did mention something along the lines that being a proper girl got her no where.”  Harry chuckled bitterly.  “I don’t know.  Maybe she decided to shag her way to the top.  Maybe she thinks being a tart will eventually allow her to nab the Minister of Magic’s job!”  Harry looked to see Ginny’s face turn a deep shade of magenta.  Uh oh!  “Well, I mean that is to say that I think Hermione has decided that there are other ways to …um…obtain her ambitions.”   He winked at her.

 

“I am sooo close to coming over there and punching you in the bloody mouth!”

 

Harry gulped.  “What?  Why?!”

 

“Did Hermione ever once let you down while you were still in school?!”  Her voice rose higher.  “Was it not Hermione who helped you to bring down the darkest wizard in history?!”

 

“Yes, but…”

 

“Did Hermione ever once abandon you when people thought you were Salazar Slytherin’s heir?!”

 

“No, but…”

 

Ginny rose to her feet, her voice shaking with rage.  “And yet you just called Hermione- your best friend Hermione -a bloody tart!”

 

Harry shrunk back from her like an animal being cornered. “I didn’t mean it.  You know I always put my foot in my mouth at least a hundred bloody times a day!”

 

Ginny smiled dangerously.  “I think I know what advice I have for you now Harry.”

 

Harry knew that smile…it meant she was out for blood.  “Yes?”

 

“I think you should pull the shoe from your mouth and stick it up your arse as far as it will go!” 

 

“If that makes you happy love.”  Harry said with a gulp.   

 

Ginny shook her head and turned to flick her wand at the vegetables causing them to soar across the room and into the pot. “The vegetable soup will be ready in a few minutes.” She said in a huff.  “Make sure to clean your dishes when you’re done!”

 

“Aren’t you going to eat with me?”

 

“No!  I’ve suddenly lost my appetite!  I’m going to bed!”

 

Harry looked at the clock on the wall. “But it’s only eight o’clock!”

 

“I’ve got an important match tomorrow and I need some rest.  I also need to think on this situation with Hermione.  Merlin knows you’ll only end up making it fucking worse!”

 

Harry walked carefully by her to the stove.  “Well I’ll just eat and tidy up and be to bed in a bit.  You know, give you time to cool off!”

 

“Cool off?  Cool off!  Trust me when I tell you that for your own safety you best not step one foot into our bedroom tonight arsehole!”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“What I mean is that I don’t want you anywhere near me for a long while!  You can kip out on the couch tonight and every other night until you stop being such an insensitive git!”

 

Harry looked at her in disbelief, “But that could be bloody forever!”

 

“So be it!  Good to know you have such high expectations for yourself!”

 

Harry sputtered,  “B-but w-we always h-have crazy sex before you have an important match un-unless I’m gone!  You said it was good luck!”  He pointed his finger at her.  “And you need all the luck you can get to win that match tomorrow!”

 

Ginny’s eyes went wide and her face started growing redder by the minute, “Oh, don’t even try it, Potter.  I think I’ll take my chances!  Do you really think I’d want to shag you after having told me about what a shite friend you’ve been to Hermione?!  And after you called her a whore?”

 

“I never called her that!”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry…a tart!  That’s completely different, is it Harry?”

 

Harry groaned. “Oh c’mon Gin, you know I didn’t mean it!”  Harry shook his head in disgust.  “This whole bloody day has been shite!   First I find out that Hermione’s went and gone off the deep end.  Then your mum hates my bloody guts because we’re having sex!  And to top it all, now you’re cutting me off!  Next thing you know Ron will tell me his dick fell off and Voldemort will rise from the dead!”

 

“Are you through?”  Ginny said dryly.

 

“Do I really have to sleep on the couch?” Harry whined.

 

“Yep!  You need to sort out your priorities and stop being such a prick!”

 

Ginny started walking toward their bedroom, Harry followed close behind.

“Look, I’m sorry okay Gin?  Please don’t take away the one thing that’ll at least have made this day semi-bearable!” Harry pleaded.

 

Ginny turned around, still looking furious. “I am not your little shag toy!” 

 

“I never said you were!  How did this all of a sudden become about you?  Hermione is the one shagging everyone, not you.”

 

“No, instead I’m just your own personal little stress reliever, right?”  She spun back and shoved her index finger into Harry’s chest.  “Oh, no, wait…you’re just donating your dick for the cause so that I’ll have good luck!  You’re a real piece of work Harry ‘the prick’ Potter!  You know, sex is not the only thing in life.  Did you ever stop to think that Hermione is hurting bad enough that she has turned to something meaningless and physical just to force the pain from her heart?  She’s so desensitized that even sex means nothing to her!”  Ginny advanced on him, Harry retreating as she continued to rant.  “Unlike pigheaded boys, like yourself, who consider a shag a convenience…it means much, much more to women.”

 

“What women?  I’m not shagging other women!”  Harry was reeling, trying to understand where Ginny’s rage had come from.

 

“You might as well because it doesn’t seem to mean anything to you.  You honestly think that you deserve to feel better?  What about Hermione?!    You inconsiderate pig!”

 

“No!  Wait!  That came out all wrong.  I’m not trying to be selfish here, I swear!”

 

She snarled at him, “Oh yes you are!  You’re obviously more worried about satisfying your sexual needs than your own best friend, the tart!”

 

“Dammit Ginny I didn’t mean it!  How the hell many times do you want me to tell you how sorry I am!”

 

“You’re only sorry because you want sex so why not just admit it you big coward!”

 

“You’re wrong!”

 

“Well until you start using the head you think with properly, you are hereby ‘cut off’ as you put it until further notice!” 

 

Harry looked horrified, “No sex?”

 

She shouted, “Not from me you’re not!  Put it this way…now you’ll have one less worry.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“My mum won’t be mad at you anymore!  If you want to get off you’re just going to have to get Rosie Palmer to do it for you!”

 

With that she opened up the bedroom door and slammed it shut in his face.

 

Harry stared around for a moment looking utterly confused before muttering to himself, “Who the hell is Rosie Palmer?”

                                                

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I'd like to thank the wonderful brandedfaithfully for the beta work. I apologize for the long wait between updates. I hope you all enjoy this chapter. *smiles*

*hugs*

missgranger2

Napchic has created another photo for this story. I am so touched and overwhelmed that she would go to all this trouble. You can view it here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/18593462@N06/2988132045/in/photostream/?addedcomment=1#comment72157608576610473

Thanks so much Napchic! *big squeeze*


Chapter 9- “Crime Scenes and Mind Games”    

 

Hermione woke up the next morning in a terrible panic, as she realized she had overslept and had to be to work soon.  Having a hangover didn’t help matters as she painfully searched her living room for her wand.  After performing a hangover charm, she made herself a strong cup of coffee and hurriedly got ready for work.

 

Flooing to Headquarters, her arrival came twenty minutes late.  Walking quickly down the hall hunting for Charlie, she finally found him in one of the strategy rooms looking at several crime scene photos and a map.

 

Hermione’s entrance was met with a scowl and she buffeted any comments with a quick apology.  “I know, I know!  I’m sorry I’m running late, alright!”

 

Charlie didn’t say anything to her as he went back to looking at the photos that were laid out on the table.

 

Hermione set her purse down on a chair and walked over to stand next to him. “What do we have?”

 

Keeping his focus down, Charlie replied, “A series of Death Eater attacks are occurring just south of us.  Oh, that’s right-you missed the debriefing!”  Charlie rolled his eyes at her. “Seems our Captain wants us to go and check it out.”

 

Hermione rubbed her eyes with her free hand.  “Look Charlie let’s just focus on the job at hand, alright?”

 

This time he looked at her with a great deal of annoyance. “What do you think I’m doing-having a bloody tea party?”

 

Hermione snapped at him.  “I heard the way you said captain and I want you to just drop it, okay?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re going on about.  I’m just trying to do my job ‘s all.”

 

Hermione studied his eyes briefly before focusing her attention back on the table. “So how many attacks are we looking at?”

 

“Three for sure.  We need to check out if the fourth reported attack was indeed carried out by Death Eaters or not.”

 

“Well surely those first on the scene would have been able to ascertain that.”

 

Charlie shook his head. “Apparently not.  This type of torture could have been carried out by anyone.  Poor Muggles had their heads chopped off you see.”

 

Charlie handed her the photo of the corpses. Hermione looked horrified, “Goodness!”

Charlie nodded in agreement as she continued. “We need to get down there and look over the scene. Looking at the map, I wouldn’t put it past a Death Eater as it’s clearly in close proximity to where the other three occurred.”

 

Charlie stuffed the photos and map in his satchel. “I’ll just go and grab the case file from the Records Department.”

 

Hermione began looking around all of sudden.  “Wait a minute!  Where’s the rest of our squad?”

 

“Seems you and me are the only ones going this time around.  Apparently we’ve been hand picked to look the scene over from one of the higher-ups.”

 

Hermione shrugged.  “Right.   I’ll just throw my purse in my locker. I’ll meet you at the lifts and we can head over.”

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Ginny left early to give herself plenty of time to reach the stadium.  Hearing their bedroom door open, Harry had bolted off the couch hoping to make-up with his wife, but Ginny wasn’t having any of it. Even though Harry followed her around the flat like a little lost pup, she didn’t even say three words to him before she left.

 

Even as the sound of the slamming door echoed in his ears, Harry began rummaging through the cabinets looking for something to eat.  He had just settled on a box of cereal when he heard a loud pop coming from his living room.  Ever cautious, he picked up his wand from the counter and shouted, “Who’s there?”

 

“Moaning Myrtle!”

 

Harry lowered his wand as Ron walked into the kitchen. “What the hell are you doing over here this early?” Harry asked, exchanging his wand for a spoon.

 

“I couldn’t sleep so I decided to come on over. We have to be up at the stadium in a few hours anyway.”

 

Ron sat down in a chair as Harry went to fetch a bowl out of the cabinet offering some to his friend. “Want some, mate?”

 

“No, thanks.” Ron said yawning. “Where’s the paper?”

 

Harry, who was leaning into the refrigerator to get some milk, said heatedly, “It’s sitting there on the table!  But as this is my house I’m reading it first you hear!”

 

Harry stood up and shut the refrigerator door.  He turned to see Ron unfolding The Daily Prophet. “I said to leave it arsehole! Go get your own!”

 

“No.  I like looking at your paper, mate.” Ron smiled at him.

 

Harry fixed himself a bowl of cereal and stomped over to the table. “Give me the paper Ron!”

 

Still smiling Ron said a bit sing-songy, “And what’re you going to do if I don’t?”

 

Harry scowled teasingly at him. “Give it back or you’ll find out!”

 

Ron chuckled as he folded the newsprint back up and pushed it over to Harry. “Fighting with my sister again, eh?”

 

“Yeah, how’d you guess?”

 

Ron shrugged. “You always act like an arsehole when you have a fight with my sister. Not to mention there’s a pillow and blanket lying on your couch.”

 

“Oh.” Harry began unfolding the paper.

 

“So, what were you two fighting about this time?”

 

He took a bite of his cereal and shrugged.

 

Ron looked at him curiously, “You don’t know what you were arguing about with my sister?”

 

Harry swallowed his food before snarling at Ron, “Yes, of course I know what we were arguing about alright!  It’s just it’s none of your ruddy business, okay?”

 

Ron arched his eyebrows.  “Fine, you don’t have to tell me anything,” Ron said coolly knowing full well Harry’s resolve wouldn’t last.  

 

Any minute now he’ll be spilling his guts!

 

Right on cue, Harry said from behind his paper, “For starters, she thinks I’m having an affair!”  Harry slammed the paper down looking disgusted.

 

“Why does she think that mate?” Ron said, trying not to smile.

 

“Last night she told me to go sleep on the couch with Rosie Palmer!  I don’t even know a bird named Rosie for pity’s sake!”

 

Ron smiled sheepishly at him. “Oh I think you’ve known Rosie for a long time now.”

 

Harry looked at him perplexed, “I have?”

 

Ron chuckled. “I’m pretty sure you have, yes!”

 

Harry glared at him, “Well, clue me in arsehole as I assure you I‘ve never known a Rosie Palmer!”

 

Ron had a wide grin on his face, “Look Harry, Ginny was telling you to basically go and fuck yourself.”

 

“How’s that?”

 

Ron covered his eyes with his hand and shook his head. Harry can be such a clueless idiot sometimes!  “She’s talking about jacking off Harry, you know mas-ter-ba-ting?!”

 

“Oh!  Well I never heard that before!  Why’d she call it Rosie Palmer?  Why didn’t she say just go and masturbate!”

 

Ron shrugged. “I dunno’.  So what did you do so wrong that you had to sleep on the couch?”

 

Harry looked up at the ceiling. “Um…well we were arguing about Hermione, you see.”

 

The grin left Ron’s face. “What about her?”

 

Harry sighed. “The thing is she doesn’t think I’ve been a very good best friend to her.” He covered his eyes with his hands. “I think she’s right.”

 

Ron eyed him coolly, “How’s that?”

 

“Well, for one thing I haven’t written to her like I should have.  And due to Ginny and my schedules I haven’t been to see her like I should.”  Harry sighed.  “I suppose I sort of pushed her to the side.”

 

Ron sighed.  “Neither one of us has been a saint when it comes to Hermione.  I know I sure as hell would win first place if there were a prick contest.”   Ron bit his lip for a moment.  “But I never thought you’d go and screw her over too.”

 

Harry’s face grew angry.  “Hey!  Don’t you start in on me too!  Besides, you’re the one who went off and broke her heart to pieces!”  

 

Ron scowled at him.  “I wasn’t trying to break her heart.  I was trying to protect her you prick!”  

 

“Protect her?”  Harry snorted.  “Define protection for me Ron!  If I’m not mistaken it doesn’t have anything to do with running off with another woman you hardly knew and throwing it up in her face!”   Harry’s eyes blazed.  “Never mind that it was me who had to try and pick up the pieces when you fucked her over!”

 

Ron spoke through gritted teeth.  “There’s much more to it Harry!”

 

“Like what Ron?!  What the fuck was so horrible that made you throw Hermione out like a piece a rubbish?!”  Harry looked at him in disgust and shakily pointed an accusing finger at him.  “You ruined her life Ron!  Because of you Hermione is not the moral bookworm we once loved!  She’s turned into a complete slag!”

 

“Hermione is not a slag!  How could you say that about her?”  Ron snorted.  “You’re right about being a crappy friend.  Besides, I didn’t drop her off on the street corner and introduce her to the nearest pimp.  She made her own choices!”

 

Harry replied sarcastically, “Sure.  It’s Hermione’s fault that she’s sleeping around with every willing warm-blooded dirt bag available.  Completely in character, wouldn’t you say?  How daft of me to think you had anything to do with it!”

 

“I wasn’t talking about Hermione being at fault you idiot!  I’m talking about you!”

 

“I did not turn Hermione into a whore Ron!  It was you that strung her along like all those  cheap tarts you’ve bedded!”

 

Ron’s face was beginning to turn red in anger.  “Watch it Harry!”

 

“No!  I won’t watch it!  You took her virginity Ron and then you completely shite all over her!  You only cared about getting into her pants and once that happened you didn’t have anymore use for her!”

 

The vein began to pop in Ron’s neck as he struggled to remain in control.  “I’m warning you Harry!”

 

Oblivious to the growing threat from his mate, Harry continued on his tirade.  “And then you go off and leave me to clean up your mess!”  Harry walked up to Ron and poked him in the chest with his index finger.  His goal may have been to reinforce his emotion-filled point, but it only served to enrage Ron more.  “She started falling apart the moment you walked out of her life and you didn’t care!”  This was followed by a large foot entering Harry’s mouth.  “You treated your fucking broom with more respect then you did her and you rode her harder than it!”       

 

Something inside Ron snapped at that moment and he jumped up out of his seat. “FUCK YOU HARRY!”  Ron tackled Harry, knocking over the table with cereal and milk flying everywhere.

 

Their bodies slid across the tiled floor, Harry at the physical disadvantage as Ron went to punch him.  With his seeker’s reflexes, Harry grabbed Ron’s fist before it could make contact with his jaw. “Stop it Ron!  Get the hell off me!”

 

Ron seemed incapable of releasing his anger except by way of his fist and he struggled to push through Harry’s grip.  He shook with rage, his words sucking through clenched teeth.  “Let go of my fist Harry so I can knock you out!”

 

Harry felt around the floor frantically with his other hand, searching for the wand he had seen rolling off the table in the melee.  Feeling the handle, he quickly brought it up to Ron’s neck in a purely instinctual attempt at self-defense. “I said to get the hell off of me!  Now, dammit!”

 

Feeling the slender strip of wood grazing his neck, Ron stared at his friend in shock.  It may have been due to his own mis-directed rage, but more so from the dangerous look from his best mate’s face.  Exhaling through a growl, he clamored off him.

 

Harry stood up shakily, his wand still held in defense toward Ron. “Why the hell did you go and attack me?”

 

Ron roared at him, fearing any more physicality.  “You know damn well why!  Just because she’s all messed up and you’re feeling bad about the fact you’ve been a lousy friend doesn’t make it alright to lay all the blame on me!”

 

“Yes, I have been a lousy friend, but at least I’m admitting it!  You screwed her over for no good reason!”

 

Ron cut him off abruptly, stepping so close they were nearly nose to nose.  “You know nothing about it!  You don’t understand!”

 

“About what, Ron?  You won’t tell me what happened so how can I understand it?” Harry yelled back at him, his wand still in a tight grip, but now at his side.

 

Ron shook with rage, his fingers white as they dug into his palm. “I left her because I had too-not because I wanted too!”

 

 Spinning away, seemingly knowing his control was about to slip, Ron punched the wall, his fist slicing through the plaster like butter.

 

Harry pointed at the spot as if Ron didn’t realize what he had done.  “You’re going to set that right before Ginny sees it!”

 

A transfusion of energy occurred with Harry taking on the role of infuriation and Ron sinking into the depths of remorse, suddenly leaning his forehead against the wall, his jerking shoulders echoing the two quick sobs.  Harry’s accusatory index finger dropped to his side with shock.  It took him a moment for the mercury in his emotional thermostat to drop from heated rage to tepid remorse.

 

It seemed like several minutes, Ron’s now softer sniffs filling the awkward silence, and yet Harry knew it was only seconds.  In a much quieter voice, Harry asked, “Why the hell did you leave her Ron?  You left and took off with Shannon.  You can’t tell me that Shannon forced you to go.  Hermione was your friend.  More than your friend.  What the hell possessed you to do such a thing?”

 

Ron didn’t look at him. “I can’t tell you that, Harry.”

 

“I know it had something to do with that mission.”

 

When he didn’t respond and only sobbed harder, Harry took a hesitant step closer and reached a hand toward Ron’s shoulder.  “Ron?”

 

Ron turned his head toward Harry, but didn’t seem able to make eye contact as he spoke in a near whisper. “I did something really horrible on that mission.  I did something that…I hate myself for to this day.”

 

Harry thought back, unable to recall anything unusual about the mission.  “What did you do?”  When he got no reply, Harry tried another tactic.  “Ron, Webley and Ritter came back from that same mission and were completely fine!  It was only you who was acting all depressed.” He eyed Ron suspiciously, his forehead deeply creased. “Why is that Ron?”

 

Ron shrugged. “I suppose it didn’t affect them like it did me.”

 

“What didn’t affect them?  What the hell happened to you?!  What did you do that was so horrible that you broke it off with Hermione?”

 

Ron raised his head back up and faced Harry. “I…I can’t…don’t you understand?  It would have destroyed her if she had known the truth.”

 

Harry shook his head, “What truth?”  Again, he got no reply but a deeply mournful glare from his weary looking mate.  “Don’t you understand?  She’s already destroyed!  The Hermione we knew and loved is gone Ron!”  Harry pleaded, “Please talk to me Ron. Help me to understand once and for all!  It’s been so long.  You don’t need to hide this from me.”

 

Ron took a few breaths and sniffled. “No, it’s best to leave it.”

 

Harry said sadly, “You’ll never tell me what happened, will you?”

 

Ron shook his head miserably.

 

“Why don’t you trust me, Ron?”  The anger over Hermione’s situation was eclipsed briefly by Harry’s own hurt from Ron’s lack of trust.  A thin sheen of water began to rush over Harry’s eyes as he tried yet again to plead with his friend.  “I need to help her, Ron.  She’s completely lost all sense of right and wrong.”  Harry choked, “If someone could just tell me what to do!  I don’t know what to do to help her!  I feel so bloody useless!”

 

Ron walked over to Harry and wrapped his bruised and still bent knuckles around Harry’s neck, hugging him firmly, “You won’t be doing it alone, mate.  We’re going to figure this out.  Together we’ll make her right again.”

 

Harry pulled away and brought his hand up to his face, wiping away any evidence of the sincerity of his guilt. “There’s more she’s done that you don’t know about.  I don’t understand who she is anymore.”

 

Nodding his head sadly, Ron took his wand out and turned it toward the table.  Using a nonverbal spell, the mess reversed itself, milk, plates and spoon returning to their previous position.

 

Ron sat back down in his chair and gestured to the other, “Sit down Harry.”

 

Harry pulled the chair out and felt uneasy sitting down.  Ron’s tone told him something important was coming up and he braced himself for whatever news Ron might have to share with him.

 

“I’m going to put in for a transfer back to London tomorrow morning.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened, “You are?”

 

Ron nodded. “I’m going to sign up for that training course she’s in, too.”

 

“Hold on there, Ron!  Do you even know what kind of training we’re talking about?”

 

“Shadow training.  Charlie told me.”  Ron said nonchalantly, picking up an orphaned piece of cereal and tossing it into his mouth.

 

Harry looked at him in disbelief. “Why would you go and sign up to be a Shadow?  It’s suicide Ron!”

 

“It’s not suicide.  You think every recruit who joins the program is suicidal?”  Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “Look, I’ve really thought about this and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the only way I can get close to her.”

 

“Surely there’s another way!”  Harry demanded.

 

“No, there’s not!  I don’t think Hermione will listen to me otherwise.  If I’m in that training class with her, she’ll have to talk to me eventually!”

 

Harry studied Ron intently for a few moments. “Well what about Shannon?”

 

“What about her?”

 

Harry arched his eyebrows. “She’s your wife!  You’ll be gone for who knows how long for training.  Then, when you finally become a Shadow, you’ll hardly ever be home anymore!”

 

Ron sighed, his face reflecting resignation and regret.  “I’m ending it with Shannon.”

 

Harry looked horrified. “You can’t kill her Ron!  That’s just…wrong!”

 

Ron rolled his eyes. “Relax; I’m not going to do any such thing.  We were never Bonded okay?  We married in the Muggle way.”

 

Harry looked hurt. “Why didn’t you ever tell me that before now?  Bloody hell, I’ve worried myself sick!”

 

Ron gave Harry a strange look and then shrugged.

 

Harry shuddered. “I don’t think it will be that easy to end things with her.  You know I’d never insult your wife, but…well…she’s completely bananas that one!  Aren’t you afraid she’ll hang herself or something?”

 

Ron smiled at him. “I’m not worried in the least.  Trust me, she’ll get over it.”

 

Harry shifted uncomfortably.  “Maybe you should try and make it work Ron.  You took vows and all that.”

 

Ron let out a sigh and shook his head.  “I know, but it’s past all that for me Harry.”  He scrubbed the side of his head.  “I always pictured myself being married forever… like my parents.  I didn’t want this to happen and I certainly didn’t plan it, but it isn’t working out and I can’t lie to myself or Shannon anymore.”

 

“Is that why you married in the Muggle tradition?  To have a way out if you needed it?”

 

“I wasn’t in my right mind at the time.  I thought I loved her…but yeah maybe in hindsight that’s why I didn’t get Bonded with her.  I don’t know…I’ve been considering this for quite a while and honestly, I don’t think Shannon’s heart is in it either.”  

 

Harry nodded his head.  They were silent for a few moments before he suddenly smiled sheepishly back at Ron.  “Can I tell Ginny about you ending it with Shannon?”

 

Ron knew that Ginny couldn’t stand Shannon. In fact, his sister hated women that couldn’t think for themselves and Shannon fit that mold perfectly.

 

Ron shrugged.  “I guess so, why?”

 

“Not to make fun of your difficult situation, but this bit of information might just be enough to get me back in her good books!”

 

Ron laughed, cuffing Harry on the back of  the head, “You mean enough to get you back in her bed, you horny bastard!”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Charlie and Hermione arrived at the house where the Muggles had been found.  In front of the two-story home stood a small, nervous looking wizard.  The wizard held a clip board in one hand and his wand in the other.  He kept looking around as if he was waiting for someone to jump out and attack him.

 

Strangely, Muggle police cars kept moving back and forth on Wyndam Road, while Muggle policemen walked back and forth on the sidewalks.

 

Charlie and Hermione exchanged looks of curiosity as they walked up to the small wizard.

 

The wizard raised his wand, alarming them both. “Show me some identification!”  Charlie and Hermione dug in their red robes, pulling out their Auror cards.  The wizard looked at both IDs intently. “Very good.  I’m Milton Bradley.  I’m in charge of Muggle relations on the South side.”

 

Charlie, carrying his satchel, nodded his head. “We’re here to check out the crime scene.”

 

“Yes.  Look, you’re going to have to make it fast!  We made the house unplottable and the whole Muggle police force is going mad trying to find it!”

 

Hermione scowled, “How long do we have exactly?”

 

Milton checked his watch. “I’d say an hour or two at most.”

 

“That’s ridiculous!  How do you expect us to properly investigate the scene in that amount of time?!” Hermione said indignantly.

 

Milton suddenly looked very irritated. “Look missy, once we make it so the house can be found again by the Muggles I’m going to have to bring in all my people to modify who-knows-how-many memories!”

 

Hermione grabbed the small wizard by his robes. “Who are you calling missy there pal!”

 

“Calm down Hermione!” Charlie said as he tried to disentangle her hand from Milton’s robes.  Looking furious, she nevertheless released him.

 

Milton pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat off his brow. “As I was saying, we have to hurry this along!  Just look at them!”  He pointed at the Muggle policemen. “They’re running themselves ragged hunting for a house that suddenly disappeared!”

 

“We’ll try to be in and out as quickly as possible.” Charlie assured him as he shot a look of warning to Hermione.

 

Charlie and Hermione entered the dark house. Both of them held their wands out, saying Lumos in unison.  They had stepped into what appeared to be a cozy foyer.

 

“Where were the bodies found?” Hermione asked.

 

Charlie took the file folder out of his satchel. “It says that all four bodies were found in the dining room.”

 

They glanced around and saw that the dining room was just to the left of them.  Upon entering Hermione searched the wall nearest the entrance. “There has to be a light switch here somewhere…aha…got it!”

 

When she flipped the light on they were met with a very gruesome sight.  Blood splatters covered the pale blue walls, the wooden floor and the oak table.  It was as if someone had literally dumped buckets of red paint everywhere. 

 

Hermione’s eyes widened with shock and Charlie managed a somewhat audible gulp. “Have you ever seen so much blood, Charlie?”

 

“No, can’t say that I have.” He replied worriedly.

 

Charlie read from the file folder. “It says that Alfred Wright, 42, was found on the floor by the window over there.”  He pointed his finger wearily to the spot.  “Jenna Wright, 39, was found lying spread eagle on the table. The children Michael, 12, and Marissa, 8, were found sitting up right in chairs on either end of the table.”

 

Hermione began looking more closely at the walls.  “What about their heads, where were they found?”

 

Charlie glanced back down at the file. “Um…oh bloody hell that’s sick…”

 

Hermione glanced curiously at him. “What does it say Charlie?”

 

Charlie looked like he was going to be sick to his stomach. “Apparently their heads were found stuck to that wall…”  He pointed to the far wall.  “...held up there by nails!”

 

Hermione didn’t show any emotion as she walked up to the wall where Charlie pointed.  “That’s curious.  Do you think a Death Eater would think to use nails to throw us off?”

Hermione stared intently at the wall, waiting for Charlie to answer her. When she didn’t get a response from him, she turned to see he had suddenly disappeared.  “Charlie?!”   

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

  

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

   

        

 

 

 

    

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank the beautiful and talented brandedfaithfully for her beta work. She's the best!

*hugs*

missgranger2 


Hermione began to panic.

 

Where the hell did he go?

 

She made her way back to the front door that stood wide open.

 

I know I closed that damn door when we came in!

 

Raising her wand out in front of her, Hermione slowly walked toward the open door finding Charlie’s satchel lying just beyond it.  She went out on to the front porch and scanned the yard.  Just to the left, she found Charlie bent over with Milton patting his back.

 

She ran over to them. “Charlie, are you alright?”

 

Milton looked up at her. “Afraid he got sick.”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes.  “You’re sick?!  What the hell kind of Auror gets sick at a crime scene?”

 

Charlie stood up a bit and turned his head to glower at her.  “Fuck you Hermione!”

 

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

 

Charlie straightened up, wiping his eyes. “Just because you have a heart of steel doesn’t mean we all do!”

 

Hermione spat at him, “For your information, I do not have a heart of steel!  I simply don’t let things get to me!  We have to focus, Charlie!”

 

Charlie sunk down into the grass, his face still a sickly pale. “Look, would you just give me a minute!”

 

“Fine!  While you’re out here puking your brains out and wasting what little time we got, I’ll be inside doing our job!”  Hermione turned and began to walk hurriedly back into the house.

 

“She’s a peach that one, eh?” Milton said as he stared after her.

 

“You have no idea!” Charlie said bitterly.

  

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

After Harry finished his breakfast, Ron and him made their way to the living room. Harry put away the blanket and pillow and sat down on the couch drinking a cup of tea. Ron sat in the armchair reading over the Quidditch scores in the Daily Prophet.  Harry was still feeling miserable from his argument with Ginny.  He had been hoping to shag her senseless to take the edge off his worries over Hermione.  Not having sex last night was also wreaking havoc on Harry’s emotions.  He suddenly had this inexplicable urge to have a heart to heart talk with Ron as if to prove to Ginny that he did have a sensitive side after all.          

 

“Ron?”

 

“Hmm?” Ron replied as he continued to read the paper.

 

Harry stared over at him.  He hadn’t seen Ron lose control for ages.  He was sure it had to do with the change in Hermione.  She had deeply affected Ron- that much he was sure of.  

 

Harry decided to ask Ron a question he had avoided for years. “Ron, why do you sleep with so many women?”

 

Ron frowned as he looked up from his paper.  “What do you mean?”

 

Harry shrugged.  “It’s just that you’re always meeting up with some bird to get laid and I guess I just wandered why that is?”

 

Ron seemed to be searching for the right words. “I dunno… I suppose I’m never satisfied I guess.”

 

“Have you ever been faithful to one woman?”

 

“Yes; more than once actually.”

 

Harry looked skeptically at him. “Really?”

 

Ron started to play with a stray thread on the armchair. “I never slept around on Hermione… when I lived with her.  And…I didn’t fool around on Shannon when we dated.”

 

Harry already knew the answer to his next question, but couldn’t help himself, feeling a bit more like an emotionally charged woman than himself.

 

 “But when you didn’t live with Hermione, you did fool around on her, right?”

 

Ron ran his hand through his hair, saying defensively, “Only when she broke it off.”

 

Harry took another sip of his tea. “How is that?  Why were you faithful to her when you lived with her and unfaithful when you didn’t live with her?”

 

“I told you Harry, I only slept with other women each time Hermione broke up with me!”

 

“Why?!”

 

Ron sounded irritated, “What is this, twenty questions?  I dunno’.  I suppose I wanted to get back at her…somehow it made me feel better…okay?  Satisfied?”  His eyes burned and Harry knew he was treading on dangerous ground.

 

“You still haven’t told me why you didn’t shag other women when you lived with her.”

 

Ron laughed bitterly. “Can’t you guess?”

 

Harry shook his head.

 

“I loved her, alright?  I thought she was the one and I just wasn’t interested in other birds anymore.”

 

 Harry set his tea down on the coffee table, pausing for a moment to reflect on the appropriateness of his next question. “Do you still love her Ron?”   

 

Ron bowed his head, pondering Harry’s question, but his answer came swiftly enough that Harry realized he knew how he felt.  “Yes.”

 

Ron took a deep breath.  “I thought I was over her until I saw her again.  The truth is I don’t think I ever fell out of love with her really.”

 

Harry raised his eyebrows.  He thought since Ron seemed to be so keen to open up to him all of a sudden that he’d ask him something else he had wondered about for ages.

 

“Did you ever love Shannon?  I mean you just said you didn’t sleep around when the two of you were dating.”

 

Ron ran a hand through his hair as was his habit when contemplating a tough answer. “That’s a bit more complicated.”

 

Harry’s brows knitted together in bewilderment. “Complicated?!  You must have felt something for her as you married her for goodness sakes!”

 

“No…I mean I loved her but…well I guess I haven’t ever been in love with her.  There’s a difference.” He looked at Harry pointedly, scrubbing the side of his jaw. “You know I wasn’t really myself when we were dating.”

 

Harry nodded, remembering back to when Ron had been rescued and the physical and mental hoops he had to jump through at the time.  Indeed, he wasn’t his normal self.

 

Ron cleared his throat. “As for marrying her…it was just… something I felt obligated to do.”

 

“Obligated?  Why?”

 

Ron scowled at him. “I had my reasons.  Just leave it Harry.”   

  

Harry sighed, knowing it was no good to press him further on the whole Shannon issue.   Ron had always been aloof when it came to questions about his soon to be ex.  He frowned at Ron sadly.  “I just don’t know if Hermione will ever take you back Ron.  I mean you really hurt her!”

 

Ron sighed, now rubbing his temples.  “I know I did.  I just hope it’s not too late to fix it.”

 

Harry didn’t have the heart to tell him that he thought it was.

   

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

Later that afternoon, Harry and Ron made their way to their seats in the stadium.

 

“As usual, Ginny got us excellent seats!” Ron said happily, his earlier moodiness gone.

 

“That she did mate!”

 

A few moments later the players for both teams were introduced.  The Seeker for the Dublin Deltas was one of the best in the league.  Harry knew Ginny would have her work cut out for her.

 

The match got under way as Harry and Ron took out their ominoculars to watch the action up close.  It was a tough match for the Holyhead Harpies.  By halftime they were down four hundred and thirty points.

 

Sounding irritated, Harry said, “I sure hope Ginny gets the Snitch before that wanker does!”

 

Ron, who was on his fourth Butter Beer, added grumpily, “She best do something quick to end it before they get their arses beaten any worse than they are now!”

 

The second half didn’t go any better than the first.  By the time Ginny dove and caught the Snitch, it didn’t really matter that she had outdone the world’s greatest Seeker.  The Holyhead Harpies got steam rolled, leaving Harry and Ron in a very bad mood.

 

“I took the day off for this rubbish?” Ron complained.

 

Harry groaned.  “Ginny’s going to be a complete nightmare!”

 

Ron nodded his head. “Yeah.  It’s times like this I’m glad I don’t live with her anymore!”

 

They met Ginny after the match.  And true to Harry’s prediction, she was beyond miffed.

 

“I can’t believe we played so bloody bad!” Ginny roared.

 

Harry gave her a small smile as they walked to fetch their brooms. “Well, you played great, love!”  Harry was still trying to get back into her good graces and figured the phrases of affection couldn’t hurt.

 

However, Ginny shot him a dirty look. “Don’t try to butter me up arsehole!  I’m still very disappointed with you!”  She dug a fingertip into his chest. 

 

Harry looked at Ron.  “Ron, don’t you have something you’d like to tell your sister ?”

 

Ron looked at him perplexed.  “I thought you were…oh right, right.”

 

Ginny stopped and spun around to her brother. “Well?  What the hell do you want to tell me?”

 

“Oh, um…I’m ending it with Shannon.”

 

Harry licked his lips, looking excited all of a sudden.  Maybe the focus would now fall on Ron and he’d get a reprieve.

 

Ginny arched her eyebrow in suspicion, both hands going to her hips.  “Why?”

 

Ron shrugged and put his hands in his pockets. “It’s just not working out.”

 

She began tapping her foot in obvious agitation.  “Working out?  There is no ‘not working out’…you’re Bonded!”

 

“No, um…actually we were married in the Muggle way.”

 

Ginny suddenly stopped tapping her foot and the hands on the hips turned into fists, making Ron cower in anticipation of a mum-like scolding. 

 

Harry’s eyes went wide with fear.  This isn’t going to be good!

 

Ginny roared at him, “You mean to tell me that all this time you were never Bonded with her?”

 

Ron said as calmly as possible, “That’s what I’m telling you, yes.”

 

Ginny suddenly sprang forward and pushed an unprepared Ron down to the ground.  She wrapped her hands around his neck and began squeezing. “You lying piece of shite!  You had us all thinking you’d have to be with her for life when you knew that none of us could stand her?”

 

Ron brought his hands up trying to get Ginny’s hands from around his neck. To make matters worse, Harry grabbed Ginny’s waist and began trying to pull her off of Ron.

 

“Get off me Harry!” Ginny yelled.  When Harry wouldn’t let go, she released one of her hands from Ron’s neck and jabbed Harry hard in the stomach with her elbow.

 

“Ohhh! Bloody hell!” Harry fell down to the ground, clutching his stomach.

 

“Be glad it wasn’t your balls!”

 

Ron took the opportunity and grabbed her free hand, pulling it tightly behind her back. He used his weight to flip her over as he pinned her to the ground.

 

Ginny had no choice but to let go of his neck with her other hand and now grimaced in pain. “Get off me you big Hippogriff! You’re crushing me to death!”

 

“Fuck you Ginny!  You tried to choke me for pity’s sake!”

 

Harry finally regained his composure and stood back up. “Stop it the both of you!” He shouted.

 

When both of them ignored him and kept struggling, Harry pulled out his wand. “I mean it!  Stop it right now, or I’ll stun you both!”

 

They both stopped struggling and Ron got up off her slowly.  Ginny stood up shakily, smoothing her hair down.  They were both breathing heavily, staring daggers at one another.

 

Ginny turned to Harry. “Did you know he wasn’t Bonded to her?”

 

“Hell no!  I just found out about it this morning myself.”

 

She glared at him and arched her eyebrow. “You’re not lying to me are you Harry?”

 

Harry looked terrified. “Shite no!  I would never, ever lie to you, love!”

 

Rolling her eyes, she turned her attention back to Ron.  “I cannot believe you married Shannon in the Muggle way and never told me about it!”

 

Ron shouted back at her, “What the hell would it have mattered if I had told you?”

 

“For one thing, I definitely wouldn’t have gone out of my way to be nice to that total nut job wife of yours if I’d known!”

 

Ron yelled back, “You were never nice to her!”

 

Ginny ignored his comment and continued on her tirade.  “Here I thought you had to be with her forever, so I tried my best for you to be cordial and bite my tongue!”

 

“You were never cordial!”

 

“You’re a complete arsehole, you know that Ron?!  I couldn’t believe you up and left Hermione for that bag of rocks!”

 

Ron was starting to shake from his anger.  “Since you don’t know the whole story, I think it best that you shut your mouth-now!”

 

But Ginny wasn’t shutting up.

 

“You insisted your family use no magic around Shannon because it might make her uncomfortable or some bullshite!  It was like you were ashamed or something of being a wizard!  Not to mention mum has never gotten over the fact that you somehow “forgot” to invite her to your bloody wedding!”

 

“I’m warning you Ginny!”

 

“You’re nothing but a selfish bastard!  I hope you’re real bloody proud of yourself!” Ginny folded her arms, cocking her head to the side. “Tell me, how’s it make you feel to know you turned Hermione into a…” She turned to Harry.  “What did you call her?”

 

Harry shook his head frantically. “Nothing!  I didn’t call her anything!”

 

Ginny thought for a moment and then smiled smugly.  “Oh yes!”

 

Having realized she remembered what he called Hermione, Harry mumbled, “Oh shite!”

 

Ginny yelled loudly at Ron, “A drunk tart!”

 

Ron roared back at her, “You take that back Ginny!  You hear me!  You fucking take it back!”

 

“I will not take it back!  You fucked her over real good didn’t you Ron?” Ginny brought her hands down into fists at her sides.  “It’s all your bloody fault!  You ruined her life arsehole!  You hear me-you ruined her whole damn life because you were too bloody selfish to care about anybody but your self!”

 

Ron suddenly whipped his wand out and pointed it at her.  A purple light sprang from his wand, knocking Ginny off her feet.  She was gasping for breath as she began writhing around on the ground, clearly in pain.

 

Harry fell to his knees beside her.  “Ginny?  Are you alright?” He looked up at Ron, “What spell did you use on her arsehole?”

 

Shaking from anger, Ron put his wand in his back pocket.

 

Suddenly Ginny stood up on all fours looking like she was about to vomit.  Harry put his arm on her back trying desperately to figure out what to do.  She jerked forward, opening her mouth.  A large slug plopped out, landing on the ground.

 

Harry scrunched up his nose in disgust, “Eww!  What the hell!”

 

“You’ll need to get her a bucket as it’s going to last for hours!”  Ron said vindictively.

 

“Shite!” Harry said as he pointed his wand at the large slug.  “Don’t worry Ginny, I’ll get rid of it!”

 

Pale and shaking, Ginny looked up at Ron.  “I’ll get you back for this if it’s the last thing I do!”

 

Ron rolled his eyes. “Fuck you Ginny!  You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about when it comes to why I left Hermione!”  Ron glared at her. “I swear to Merlin himself if you ever accuse me of being selfish as the reason I left her I’ll have nothing more to do with you!”

 

With that,  Ron reached for his wand and Disasparated on the spot leaving a frantic Harry to worry over his sister.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Hermione and Charlie were winding up their investigation at the house.  Neither one of them could find any evidence that somebody had used a wand.  During the course of their Auror training, they had learned that magic left an indelible mark-you just had to know where to look for it.

 

Hermione sat down frustratedly in an armchair in the living room. “I don’t see any evidence of magic being used here, Charlie.”

 

Charlie strolled around the living room staring at the many Muggle photographs lining the walls.  “Nah, we’ve searched the entire house.  I guess the Muggles have a maniac on the loose after all.”

 

She stood up.  “Let’s do one last walk through and make sure we didn’t miss anything.”

 

Charlie nodded and followed Hermione back to the room splattered with blood.  They both re-examined the room, looking intently for anything they may have missed.  She walked up to the wall where the heads had been found, scanning it for clues.

 

Hermione was about to turn around and search elsewhere, when something caught her eye.  “Charlie come here and have a look at this!”

 

Charlie joined her quickly as Hermione pointed up to a spot on the crown molding.  “Do you see that?”

 

A faint, black burn scorched the white molding. “Blimey!  Do you reckon that’s a burn mark left by a wand?”

 

“There’s only one way to know for sure!”

 

Hermione found the light switch and flipped it off, pointing her wand up toward the molding. “Lumos!” Instantly, a dull, green light began to slowly glow where the black burn mark sliced through the wood trim.

 

Charlie shook his head in awe. “Well I’ll be damn!  We got ourselves another Death Eater murder!” 

 

Hermione, looking determined said, “There’s just one last thing we need to do to confirm it.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“I think it’s time to go and visit the Muggle morgue!” 

       

 

           

 

 

 

    

 

      

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank my beta, Brandedfaithfully. I am so lucky to have such a  brilliant beta! *smiles*

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 11 “The Wrath of David”

 

Milton was overjoyed when Charlie and Hermione told them they were through. They  decided to pay a visit to the Muggle morgue. Their previous investigations having led them their before on numerous occasions, they were able to Apparate where the bodies were being stored. Hermione determined straight away that no Muggle knife could have possibly severed the heads from the body so cleanly: it had to have been a wand.

 

They headed back to Auror Headquarters to look over the photos from the other crime scenes.  Soon, Hermione’s aggravation shown clearly, due to a substantial amount of missing files.  ”Why’d they only send crime scene photos? We need the files in order to determine if the others are related for sure!”

 

Charlie pulled out a manila envelope from his satchel. Unclasping it, he withdrew a few pieces of parchment. “They did send us a few case notes to work with.”

 

She huffed, “Case notes?! We need more than that if we’re going to figure out who did this!”

 

Nevertheless, they poured over what little information they did have for hours trying to get some leads as to who the perpetrators could possibly be. When it was almost six o’clock, Charlie, hungry and tired, decided it best to take a fresh look at the files the next day.  Hermione reluctantly agreed and they both set off for home. Hermione stopped by the liquor store on the way home and purchased her usual two bottles of Firewhiskey.

 

Frustrated, she entered her flat and shuffled wearily into the living area. Charlie and her had spent most of the day trying to figure out who could possibly do something so horrible and gruesome.  She could only hope that tomorrow they’d find something they overlooked.

 

Hermione plopped down in her armchair and placed the bag on the table beside her.  She removed one of the bottles, opened it and took a swig, not even bothering for a glass.

 

We’ll get you, you sick bastards!

 

She was just about to take another drink when she jerked at the sound of somebody pounding on her door.

 

“Hermione? Open up, love! I know you’re in there!”

 

Hermione froze. It’s Monday night! Shite! I told that arsehole we were done!

 

“Hermione I swear on my mother’s life that if you don’t open up this door, I’ll blast it into a million pieces right here!”

 

Hermione clunked the bottle down on the table. “I’d like to see you try arsehole!”

 

She got up, removing her wand from her robe pocket. She began waving her wand around the room as she muttered spells under her breath. 

 

“Come on Hermione, open up the fucking door!” David pleaded.

 

Hermione yelled loudly, “No David! I told you I don’t want to see you anymore and I damn well meant it!  And don’t even try to Apparate into here as I’ve put the wards up!”

 

David snickered, “You think that can stop me?”

 

“I’m warning you David!”

 

Everything fell silent for a moment, making Hermione uneasy. She crept slowly to the door and pressed her ear against it.

 

Nothing! Where the hell did he go?  

 

Suddenly, a loud bang sent Hermione flying through the air. She hit the brick surround of her fireplace and slowly slid down to the floor. She reached her hand up to her head shakily, feeling something warm. The last thing she saw and heard before passing out was David’s face leering down at her. “This is far from over love!”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

When Hermione came to, she stared at the ceiling above her own bed.  Her back ached and her head pounded.  She could hear voices coming from her living room and tried to get up, but found it too difficult to do so.

 

“Ohhh,” she moaned in pain as she reached her hand up to her head. She was surprised to feel bandages wrapped around it. Before she could even process that bit of information, her bedroom door opened and Charlie peeked his head in. He quickly walked over to her bed, deep concern in his eyes. 

 

He put his hand on hers. “Hey! Don’t try and get up.”

 

“Wh-what’s going on Charlie?” Hermione asked weakly.

 

“I was hoping you could tell me! I came by a few hours ago to find half your flat blasted apart!”

 

Hermione looked befuddled. “M-my flat bl-blasted a-apart?”

 

Charlie nodded his head. “Who attacked you Hermione?”

 

“Attacked?” Hermione said clearly dumbfounded.

 

“Never mind, just rest for now alright? I’m going to head back out there and see what’s going on.”

 

Charlie patted her hand and then turned and walked out, shutting the door behind him.  Hermione tried to remember what happened. Her headache grew worse by the second. She remembered going by the liquor store earlier and then everything seemed to go foggy on her.  What the hell?!  She started to feel dizzy and closed her eyes as sleep overtook her.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Ron had Apparated to the bar from the Quidditch stadium. He was royally pissed off at Ginny and needed a drink…or two. Going home was out of the question as he wasn’t in any mood to deal with Shannon. His anger sat at a level that prohibited any remorseful feelings for hexing his sister.

 

Always running her mouth off about things she knows nothing about!

 

Ron ordered a drink and sat at the bar looking surly. None of them understood how difficult of a decision it had been for him to up and leave Hermione.  That damn mission!  They had no idea how emotionally fucked up he was at the time. If any of them had experienced what he had…

 

A large, brown, barn owl flew in through the bar window and landed right in front of Ron. He recognized the owl immediately and knew it belonged to Charlie, removing the rolled up parchment from the owl’s leg.

 

Dear Ron,

     Hermione’s flat was nearly destroyed tonight.  She was hurt but will be alright. I’m with her now. I’ll owl you more later.

Charlie

 

Ron could feel his heart beating through his chest.

 

Hermione’s hurt!

 

Ron jumped up off his barstool and threw two sickles at Sam. Without asking, he grabbed some Floo powder and shouted, “The Leaky Cauldron!”

 

Like a man possessed, Ron jumped out of the Leaky Cauldron fireplace when he arrived. He suddenly stopped in horror, realizing that he had no idea where Hermione’s flat was.

 

He approached the bartender. “Excuse me sir?”

 

The short and very creepy bartender eyed him suspiciously. “Can I help you?”

 

Ron was frantic. “Look, I need to borrow an owl, parchment and a quill! It’s an emergency!”

 

The bartender looked at him like he was crazy. “What the hell for?”

 

Ron dug in his pocket for his wallet. He opened it up and flashed his Auror ID at him and spat at the man, “This is Ministry business!  I suggest you move your arse-now!”

 

 

The bar keeper said worriedly, “Okay, okay. Just put your ID away! I don’t want people to think I’m in some sort of trouble!”

 

Just as Ron was putting his ID away, someone tapped him on his shoulder. He turned to see who it was. “Harry!”

 

Harry looked furious. He said sarcastically to Ron, “Yes it’s me mate! You know the one who you left with a certain red-haired girl that’s puking out giant slugs all over the place!”

 

“Sorry about that okay! But she pushes me a little too far sometimes!” Ron said defensively.

 

Harry scowled at him. “Thanks to you my wrist is about to fall off from blasting slugs! Not to mention you completely blew my opportunity to get laid tonight!”

 

“Never mind all that! I reckon you heard from Charlie?”

 

Harry adjusted his glasses. “Yes, I did. I feel like total shite leaving Ginny when she’s in such poor shape, but I wanted to make sure Hermione was alright.”

 

“Well, I’m glad you showed up! I have no idea where she lives.”

 

Harry put his hands on his hips. “Wait a minute Ron. I’m not sure Hermione would be too keen on the idea of you showing up at her place!”

 

Ron’s face began to grow red with fury. “You know what Harry-I don’t give a damn if she wants me there or not! She might be in danger and I need to get to the bottom of it!”  When all Harry did was eye him wearily, Ron spat, “We’re going there together-now!”

 

They walked out of the Leaky Cauldron with Ron exuding determination and Harry looking very uneasy. As they approached her flat, they saw a large number of witches and wizards in red robes walking about. Harry stopped in his tracks as they got closer, noting how most of the front of her red-brick building now appeared like a junk pile.  The entire front was blown away.

 

Panicking, Harry ran toward the entrance of the building, terrible visions in his head. He looked horrified, “Merlin! Charlie wasn’t fucking around! I hope she’s alright!”

 

When they got to the entrance, they were met by an Auror who held her hand out to stop them.  “ID’s please, gentlemen!”

 

Ron blinked his eyes at the witch in recognition. “Oi Sofia, it’s Harry and me!”

 

She looked suspiciously at both of them. “I’m sure you’re both aware that I can’t be sure of that under the circumstances!  Identification please!”

 

Clearly irritated, both Harry and Ron dug around for their wallets and flashed their Auror ID’s. “Okay?!” Harry yelled at her as both he and Ron ran passed her, over a substantial pile of bricks and broken furniture that littered the front walk and up the still-intact stairs taking two steps at a time. They reached the spot where Hermione’s door had once been, now more of an archway and both of them gasped. The floor was still there, questionably sturdy, but most of the walls had been blown away leaving a large, gaping hole to nature.

 

Several Aurors mulled around, sifting through the rubble, obviously looking for clues. Harry noticed that Hermione’s bedroom door seemed unscathed, like some shield had wrapped it in a protective blanket before the blast. Remarkably the fireplace also still remained intact, the mantle now devoid of the numerous pictures which littered the floor.   Harry spotted Charlie kneeling by it, picking up a shattered photo and blowing off the dust.

 

“Charlie! Over here!”

 

Charlie walked quickly toward them, “What are you two doing here?”

 

Ron spoke up, “We’re here to check on Hermione and to find out what the hell happened!”

 

Charlie shook his head, “You two have no jurisdiction here anymore!”

 

Harry rolled his eyes, “Fuck that jurisdiction bullshite, Charlie! And as Ron said, we aim to find out who’s behind this!”

 

Charlie, clearly irritated, barked at them, “Trust me when I say we have it under control here! You think I don’t want to find the bastards as soon as possible?! She’s my fucking partner for pity sakes!”

 

Ron ran his hand through his hair, “Where is she?”

 

Charlie pointed to her bedroom door. “She’s in there resting. She’s pretty out of it and doesn’t seem to remember anything much.”

 

Harry looked around the destroyed remains of Hermione’s flat. “How bad are her injuries?”

 

Charlie sighed, “The Auror healers said she banged her head up real good and her lower back is badly bruised. Seeing how bad her place was blown apart I think she’s pretty damn lucky she wasn’t hurt any worse.”

 

Ron scowled. “Why the hell isn’t she at St. Mungos?”

 

Charlie bit his lip. “The healers did a Envinnerate on her and she refused to go.”

 

“Well, they should have just taken her there anyway!” Ron said indignantly.

 

Charlie shrugged. “You can’t force someone to go, Ron. Clearly they thought she was coherent enough at the time to make the decision or they would have taken her right off.”

 

Harry rubbed his nose, “I’m going to go check on her.”

 

Charlie nodded as both Harry and Ron made their way to her bedroom door. Harry knocked a few times.  He looked at Ron. “I suppose she’s sleeping.  Let’s just go on in.”   

 

They entered her room and made their way to her bed. Harry stood on one side of her and Ron the other, like two huge guardian angels gazing down at their subject.  Both immediately noticed her bandaged head and scraped face.  Ron glanced around nervously surprised at how truly unorganized her room was.  She was never like that when he lived with her.  Everything had a place, but now, every place had a thing.

 

The trash can overflowed.  He suspected that the door on the left led to her bathroom. The other door stood open.  He could see it was a rather large walk-in closet.  Hanging on the back of a door, a very slinky dress that seemed to be short on fabric in several key areas. Several pairs of high heeled shoes littered the floor of the closet.  It wasn’t what he expected to see in Hermione Granger’s room.

 

When he turned to his right, he saw a writing desk that had stacks of books upon it. Parchment was peeking out from the drawer, as if she had stuffed them in there.  It appeared as if several weeks of folded clothes had accumulated on her chair.  The tops of both of her nightstands held clutter of all sorts. Weirder still, the walls donned a coat of dull gray and sat completely bare.          

 

Harry took her hand. “Hermione?”

 

Hermione stirred and sleepily opened her eyes to find both Ron and Harry smiling down at her. She groaned.  “Oh shite!  I’ve died and went straight to hell!”

 

Harry started to panic. “It’s us Hermione!  It’s Harry and Ron!” He looked over at Ron. “You don’t think she’s lost her mind do you?”

 

Hermione closed her eyes and shook her head. “No, I haven’t lost my mind, Harry!”

 

“Thank goodness! You feel alright, then?”

 

Hermione replied sarcastically, “Never better Harry! I don’t think I’ve felt this good in ages!” She rolled her eyes at him. “Honestly, Harry you ask the most asinine questions sometimes!”

 

Harry replied defensively, “Hey, I’m just trying to make sure you’re okay! Excuse me for caring!”

 

Ron hadn’t said anything as he was struck dumb at the sight of her lying there hurt. He wanted more than anything to reach out and comfort her, but he knew she probably wouldn’t allow for him to do so.  If only she’d look into his eyes, perhaps she’d see how much he still loved her.  Could she even begin to know how much of a relief it had been to him to see she was alright.

 

If she only knew how badly I miss her!

 

Ron’s thoughts were interrupted by Charlie, whom he hadn’t even noticed standing beside him. “You can’t stay here Hermione.”

 

Hermione replied heatedly, “I’m not going anywhere Charlie!”

 

“You can come and stay at my place until they set yours right again!”

 

Hermione replied sarcastically, “Oh that would really make Padma’s day!”

 

Ron spoke up quietly, “Y-You could stay at Mum’s.”

 

Charlie smiled and thumped his brother on the back, “That’s a great idea! What do you say, Hermione?!”

 

She scowled. “I don’t need anyone fussing over me Charlie! I’m perfectly fine!”

 

The grin left Charlie’s face. “Don’t be difficult! You can’t stay here Hermione!  This room is the only one left standing in your flat for heaven sakes!  We shored it up a bit, but with all the damage, it’s possible it could collapse.  Even your neighbors have been evacuated.”

 

“I’ll find some place.” She said matter-of-factly, her bullheaded nature showing through like a beacon.

 

Charlie roared at her, “Quit being so bloody stubborn! You’re going to the Burrow and that’s that!”

 

Looking furious, Hermione yelled back at him, “Fuck you Charlie! I’m not a bloody five year old!  I’m perfectly capable of finding my own place to stay!”  Quite suddenly she pressed a hand over her bandages, the screaming apparently doing nothing to help her headache.

 

Ron interjected, “Look Hermione, I think you really should…”

 

Hermione cut him off, “Don’t you dare say another word to me!”

 

Ron stepped back, cowering slightly.  

 

Hermione pointed her finger up at him accusingly. “You come here acting as if everything is all sunshine and daisies! As if! Nothing you say matters to me anymore Ron, so go back home to your Muggle whore and leave me the fuck alone!”

 

Ron gaped at her in shock. Just days earlier, she had torn into him, using pretty strong words, enough that caused him to raise his eyebrows. And now here she was again-swearing at him like a sailor. The Hermione he knew would have never sworn at him like that or used that kind of language.  Perhaps she had hit her head too hard.

 

Oddly enough, Charlie didn’t seem phased by her colorful language in the very least.  

 

Ron bowed his head sadly. “I guess I’ll go then.”

 

Harry looked mortified as Hermione didn’t even acknowledge Ron and turned back to Charlie, “Go and get me a room at the inn down the street!”

 

Ron, feeling completely dejected, walked slowly out of her room. Harry followed him out.  “Look Ron, I’m going to stay with Hermione at the inn.  I think Ginny will understand.  I’ll see you at work in the morning, alright?”  Ron nodded and proceeded to head back down the stairs and through the stack of debris.

 

He began trudging through the crowd of Aurors that were still gathered in front of the building.  Suddenly, one of the Aurors called for him to stop.

 

Ron turned to him, “Yes?”

 

The tall bloke with blonde hair motioned for another Auror, a petite female with dark, brown hair to join him.  He took out a small notepad as his eyes moved up and down Ron’s body.

 

Ron was not in the mood to deal with their antics. “What the hell do you want?”   

 

The tall Auror eyed him suspiciously.  “We had a report from a Muggle witness that a bloke matching your description was seen banging on Auror Granger’s door earlier this evening. Could you tell us where you were tonight?”

 

Ron rolled his eyes. “At a bar in Durham!”

 

The female wizard tilted her head at him. “Can you prove it?”

 

Ron looked at them incredulously. “Un-fucking-believable! You think I had something to do with this?!”

 

The blonde wizard snarled at him, “Stranger things have happened.”

 

“Fine! Here!” Ron handed him his wand. “Do a priori incantatem on my wand to confirm it if you don’t fucking believe me arsehole!”

 

The male Auror snatched his wand out of his hands. “Do it Lori!”

 

The other Auror raised her wand and touched the tip of it to Ron’s. She muttered an incantation under her breath. A brilliant light emitted from Ron’s wand, shining up above them. A giant slug squeezed its way out and then disappeared with a pop.  Next, a Quidditch ticket squeezed itself out of Ron’s wand and started zooming about.  Lori pulled her wand away.  “The last two spells were a hex and a summoning charm, Clark.  I don’t think he’s our man.”

 

 

Ron snatched the wand out of Clark’s hand dramatically.  “Told you so dickheads!”  He scowled at them before stomping angrily back towards the Leaky Cauldron.    

 

                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

      

 

                                     

 

      

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank Brandedfaithfully for her brilliant beta work. She is wonderful to work with and is a lovely person to boot.

This was a difficult chapter to write. I was really upset after I wrote it. The inspiration from this chapter came from Linkin Park's "What I've Done".

"So let mercy come and wash away what I've done,

I'll face myself,

To cross out what I've become,

Erase myself.

And let go of what I've done." 

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 12 “Sins of the Past”

 

Charlie and Harry took Hermione by stretcher over to the Hard Night Inn.  They were able to book a room with two twin beds for a few nights.  Hermione had been almost unbearable on the way over, constantly complaining and insisting that she could stay alone.  When they finally transferred her to one of the twin beds, Hermione looked at Charlie pleadingly. “Could you please go and get me a bottle of Firewhiskey, Charlie?”

 

Charlie shook his head determinedly. “There is no fucking way I’d go and get you a bottle, Hermione!  The healers gave me a parchment with specific instructions!  You are not to drink any alcohol for forty eight hours while you take your potions- end of discussion!”

 

Hermione scowled at him.  “You really believe those healers over your partner?!  Believe me Charlie, when I say I need something to drink- I bloody well mean it!”

 

Charlie ignored her as he and Harry scooted her into the twin bed.  He turned to Harry, “Watch over her tonight.  Make sure she takes that purple colored potion soon.  And whatever you do…”He looked pointedly at him. “Do not give her any liquor-understood?!”

 

Harry saluted him. “No worries, mate.  I’ll handle it.”  Charlie gave Harry the instructions from the healers as Hermione glared at him. 

 

She huffed in indignation as Charlie chose to ignore her and promptly left.  “He’s such a bloody prat!”  She turned to Harry giving him the sweetest look.  “Don’t believe a word he says Harry.  Could you be a love and go and get me a bottle of Firewhiskey?”

 

Harry was in no mood for her stupid games.  He had lost his chance at having a shag fest with his girlfriend and Hermione had scared him to death.  His stern posture and wagging finger emphasized his mood.  “Absolutely no liquor!”

 

“Oh come on Harry, I really need something to drink!  I’ve had a really shitty night, if you haven’t noticed!”

 

Harry shook his head.  “To quote Charlie, ‘No fucking way!’  You need to take your potion and get some rest!”

 

One eye squinted at him annoyingly as he began to read the parchment left by the healers. “This is ridiculous Harry!  Just go on home to Ginny; I can assure you I’ll be perfectly fine!”

 

His head didn’t move, but his eyes shifted up from the parchment.  The color of his usually emerald eyes now pressed hard at her in hunter green that reiterated his muffled fury. “I’m not going anywhere.  You were almost killed tonight!”

 

“Oh please!” She rolled her eyes.  “I promise you I’ve faced far worse!”

 

Harry placed the parchment in his pocket and walked over to the nightstand where three bottles of potions sat.  He picked up the first bottle and examined the label.  “The parchment said you need to take the sleeping drought tonight.”  

 

“I don’t want to take a sleeping drought.”  She groaned.

 

“You have to if you want to get better.”  Again, his eyes shifted to her.  “Stop being difficult Hermione!”

 

Fetching a glass from the bathroom sink, he picked up the purple colored potion and poured a small amount into it.  As he brought the glass toward her, Hermione burst out, “By the way- what are you playing at?!”

 

Harry looked at her with a confused expression on his face. “What?!”

 

She snapped at him, “Bringing Ron around, that’s what!”

 

With a frustrating exhale, he sat the glass down on the nightstand and summoned a chair from across the room.  Sitting down, he rolled his eyes and shook his head.  “I knew this was going to come up sooner or later.”  But then he stared directly at her, his gaze the equivalent of swearing on a bible.  “I assure you I had nothing to do with him showing up at the Leaky or your flat tonight!  I swear!”

 

She studied him intently, looking for some sign that he was lying to her.  There wasn’t a hint of deceit there, for she knew him well enough to know.  Fussing with her bedcovers, she finally glanced away and replied in a quiet voice, “Then what’s he playing at?”

 

Harry fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair, not sure how much to tell her.  “I don’t know Hermione.  I think perhaps it’s all caught up with him, you know what he did to you and all.”

 

“I can’t go back, Harry.  I won’t go back!”  Hermione bit her lip.  Tucking her hair behind her ear, she spoke solemnly, still unable to meet his eyes.  “He’s dead to me.”

 

Harry tipped his head questioningly.  “You don’t mean that.”

 

She nodded her head slowly.  “I do… I really do mean it.  I don’t want him back in my life.”

 

Harry watched sadly as she began picking at a frayed thread on the comforter. Her expression worried him.  There wasn’t a hint of sadness in her eyes; only a steely determination.  And suddenly it hit him like a ton of bricks-she wasn’t going to cry over Ron anymore because she really had moved on.

 

“I wish Ron had never been such a prat to you Hermione.” He reached out and took her hand in his.  “I know he still loves you.”

 

“Loves me?!  Oh please!  The only person Ron loves is himself!” She spat. “I don’t want to talk about him anymore Harry!”

 

“But Hermione….”

 

“NO!” She roared. “Just hand me the damn potion!  I’d much rather go to sleep then to sit here and listen to you babble on and on about Ron.”  He released her hand and reached for the potion. Without another word, she snatched it from his grip, turned it up and drank. Within in minutes she was fast asleep and Harry was mentally rehearsing the next conversation with his best mate.

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

It was early in the morning and Ron walked the streets aimlessly in Durham.  He needed to think things through.  The last thing he wanted to do was go home.  What a nightmare I created!  Hermione hated him- that much he knew for certain.  There seemed to be no way to go back and make things right.  Why did I wait so bloody long?

 

A light mist of rain started to fall as Ron stopped and leaned back against the brick wall of a building.  Feeling dejected and lost, he sighed in frustration.  Everything was perfect between us until that bloody mission!  An overwhelming need suddenly overtook him.  All the baggage he had carried for so long had weighed him down; destroyed him from the inside out.  For the first time, he felt like he couldn’t keep it bottled up inside any longer. He needed to get it off his chest once and for all.

 

Ron felt desperate to talk to Harry and tell him everything right now, while the urge was fresh and strong.  He started cursing under his breath realizing that Harry most likely wasn’t home right now.

  

I need to get this out before I change my mind! 

 

Formulating a plan, he decided he would Apparate over to Harry and Ginny’s place.  First, he knew he would have to apologize to his sister and hope that she was in a forgiving mood.  He was sure both Charlie and Harry were with Hermione, so perhaps he could owl Harry straightaway to come home for a bit.  Ron had a fleeting image of himself being awarded the top prize for spilling ones guts at some annual convention of psychiatrists.  It was such an emotional, could he even think it…girly thing to do.  But his heart felt full to bursting with a need to unload.  He just hoped his plan would work.

 

With a heavy heart, he took his wand out of his back pocket and Apparated.   When he opened his eyes, he found himself standing in Harry’s lounge.  Ginny, who had evidently heard the familiar pop, called out weakly from her bedroom, “Is Hermione alright?”

 

Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “It’s me Gin.”   Ron stood uneasily, shifting nervously back and forth.  Being a Weasley himself, he was pretty sure his sister would be roaring at him at any moment.

 

Seconds later, the bedroom door burst open.  Ginny stood in the doorway looking pale and furious.  “You have a lot of nerve showing your ugly face around here!”

    

He said meekly, “Feeling better?”

 

Ginny scowled at him.  “I finally stopped throwing up slugs an hour ago!  And no I don’t feel better you insensitive prick!”

 

He bowed his head, unable to look his sister in the eye and shuffled a shoe against the wood floor.  “I’m very sorry I hexed you earlier alright?  I lost my temper Gin.”  He could feel her glaring at him, not believing an ounce of his apology because he wouldn’t look at her.  “I know that’s no excuse, but I just overreacted I suppose.”

 

 Ginny folded her arms.  “I’m not ready to forgive you just yet.”

 

Ron shrugged, finally meeting her piercing glare.  “That’s fine.  Look, I only came here because I need to talk to Harry about something important.”

 

“Oh, so you’re only apologizing because you want something!  That’s just lovely.  Well, guess what?  Harry’s not here!”

 

Ron sighed.  “I know.  He stayed with Hermione, and the apology was genuine, alright?”

 

Ginny’s tone softened a bit.  “You know about Hermione then?”

 

“Yeah.  I think she’s going to be al-alright…” Before he could stop himself, the tears came.  All the frustration, guilt and tension started to hit him and Ron couldn’t turn it off even if he tried.  He choked out his request.  “I just really need to talk to Harry.”

 

For all her fury, Ginny must have recognized the truth behind Ron’s pain.  She walked over to him with concern and spoke quietly, “Come and sit down.  What’s the matter? I’ve never seen you like this.”

 

Ron sat down on the couch, swiping at the wet patches on his face, as Ginny took a seat next to him.  “I-I’ve done such horrible things!  I can’t get it out of my head…I’ve tried so fucking hard to go on with my life.”

 

Suddenly he bowed his head and completely broke down, as Ginny looked on horrified.  “What did you do Ron?”

 

 He looked up at her, eyes rimmed in red.  “I really just want to talk to Harry…I don’t want you to know the truth.  I couldn’t bear you hating me, too.”

 

“I could never hate you, you’re family!”  She pleaded, “Please talk to me Ron.  You’re scaring me here!”

 

 Ron swallowed hard; Ginny wasn’t his first choice for confessor.  Harry had never judged him.  Would Ginny?  But she was his sister after all.  Maybe fate was trying to tell him something.  Perhaps it was Ginny he was supposed to confide in.  Besides, he felt that the longer he waited for Harry the more he’d lose his nerve by the time he got there.  

 

He felt tense until he looked into her worried eyes. Ron knew for sure that she cared about him and she loved him no matter what.  Making his mind up, he took her hand in his.  “What I’m about to tell you can’t go any further.”

 

Ginny nodded her head. “I won’t tell a soul, I swear it.”

 

Ron raised his voice slightly, “I-I have to have your word that you won’t tell anybody about this…not Harry, not mum-NOBODY!”

 

She looked scared as she said shakily, “N-No…you have my word.”

 

Ron took a deep breath.  “I need to get something off my chest…I want to talk about what happened on that mission.”  Ginny nodded, urging him on.  Ron seemed to struggle with himself for a moment before finally speaking up in a low, controlled voice. “My squad was assigned to raid a suspected Death Eater hideout just outside of London.  Four of us were to go on the raid, with two staying back to await further instructions. One partner drew straws like we always did and Harry happened to draw the short one and so Flannigan and him stayed behind.”

 

Ron looked down, as if trying to figure out whether he should go on.  He swallowed hard. “Well, it was supposed to be a routine mission.  You know in and out quickly, no complications.  So the four of us, Peter, Allen and of course Hermione and myself set out. We were almost there when Hermione was summoned back.”  Ron choked out, “Thank Merlin she was.”  Ginny squeezed his hand.  “Anyway, we arrived at what looked to be a farm and decided to enter the main house.  I was to go in from the front, while Peter went in from the back. Allen was to keep watch outside and make sure none of them escaped.  We never got to carry out the plan as we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a dozen Death Eaters.  It was like they were expecting us or something.”

 

“They disarmed us and took us all into the house.  We were bound and locked together inside a dark room upstairs.  One by one they took us downstairs, interrogating and torturing us.  Some of the things they did…well it’s a wonder none of us died at the time. Even though looking back, it might have been best.”  Ginny gasped in horror as Ron went on.  “I don’t know how much time passed before the door flew open and they carted us all downstairs.  They took us all into the basement and…and…”

 

 She squeezed his hand again to reassure him.  “Go on.”

 

Ron started to shake uncontrollably as the memories began to wash over him. “There was a woman lying upon an old mattress.  She was naked and her face was all bloody.” Ron stared off distantly, as if in a trance.  “Another woman sat tied to a chair. They had stripped her naked as well and there was a gag around her mouth.  Her face was all bloody too.”  He bit his lip.  “A man was hanging up from the ceiling.  H-his hands were bound together and pulled up over his head.  He was as bloody as the two women were…just h-hanging there looking at us.”

 

Ron yanked his hand away from hers and stood up abruptly, walking over to the fireplace.  He began to focus on the flames dancing about, as he couldn’t face Ginny with what came next.  “Next thing I know the sick bastards used the Imperious curse on us. They told us to do things…”

 

 “What do you mean Ron?” Ginny said sounding concerned.

 

Ron shrugged, still keeping his back to her.  When he spoke, it was just above a whisper and Ginny had to lean towards him to hear.  “I can still see the fear in her eyes. I was powerless to stop myself, but I still can remember how frightened she was…”

 

Ginny came over and turned him around, forcing him to look at her.  “What did they make you do?”

 

Ron began rocking back and forth.   “W-we were forced to take our clothes off and then w-we raped her…for hours…over and over…”  Beginning to feel sick to his stomach, he brought his hand up to his mouth.  Racing to the bathroom, he opened the toilet, kneeled down on his knees and began to throw up violently.

 

Ginny followed and knelt down beside him.  Rubbing his back soothingly she said, “Ron you were under a curse.”

 

Shaking his head, he pulled away from her and crawled over to the bathroom wall, slumping against it.  “She begged us to stop!  She fucking begged us! We did such disgusting things to her…I couldn’t stop…Peter and Allen couldn’t stop…”

 

Ginny began crying.  She crawled over to him and put her arms around him as Ron continued.  “The man hanging there was her fiancé.  H-he n-never stopped pleading for us to g-get off of her.  I-I can still hear him…I c-can still see his face…h-he looked so anguished Ginny.”  Ron broke away from her and buried his face in his hands, “Next thing you know the bloody bastards handed the three of us each a knife.  We were told to stab him.”  He wrenched his hands from his face and shouted at Ginny, “We fucking killed him!  All of us were stabbing him over and over as that poor woman screamed!”

 

Ron shook uncontrollably, his breathing coming fast and shallow. “The man…well he struggled at first.  And after all the woman had been through, she screamed at us to s-stop!”  Ron choked out, “We just continued stabbing at him even after he had long since died.”  Sobbing, Ginny reached out to him again, but Ron pushed her hands back.   Ron held his hands out, staring at them intently. “My hands were all bloody…his blood.  We were forced to rape her again and then…h-held her down so the Death Eaters could have a go at her…by the end of it she just s-sat there like a… like a rag doll.”

 

Tears were falling down his face as he said distantly, “I can still see his blood all over her body...she was covered with his blood that had gotten on us when we killed him.  She had started bleeding…you know…” He gestured to his lap. “down there.”  Ron rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.  “Then one of the bastards turned to us and fucking smiled-HE SMILED!”  Ron shuddered from the memory. “He took his wand out and he…we were powerless to stop him…he fucking decapitated her with it!”

 

Overcome with emotion, Ron started to rock with sobs and brought his hands up to cover his face.  Ginny hugged him tighter, not knowing what to say to ease his pain. After a few moments, Ron removed his hands shakily and sniffled.  “After it was over, they brought us still naked back upstairs.  None of us could speak we were so ashamed.  Peter was going to be married in a few weeks and A-Allen had just started seeing a girl and of…of course I was w-with Hermione…”

 

Tearfully, Ginny said, “B-but what about the woman in the chair?”

 

He wiped his nose with the back of his hand.  “I’m pretty sure she was next.  As luck would have it, she was rescued before any physical harm could come to her.”

 

Realization hit Ginny all of a sudden.  “It was Shannon tied to that chair!”

 

Ron nodded his head slowly.  “The Aurors that found us ended up killing four of the bastards while the rest got away.”  Ron bit his lip and continued, “We got our wands back and our clothes.  I asked the bloke in charge if he could give us some privacy to get cleaned up and dressed before we were debriefed.”  Ron began to cry again.  “It was awful Ginny.  Peter wanted to kill himself over it and Allen was like a shell of a person, he was completely broken.  As the most senior Auror out of the three of us, I had to make a decision.  I decided it best to modify their minds.”

 

Ginny shook her head in disbelief.  “You shouldn’t have done that Ron!  You left yourself alone with those horrible memories!  Why did you do that?!”

 

“I had to do something…I just couldn’t leave them that way.  I made up a story to cover our arses as we were covered in blood when they found us…not to mention being starkers.”

   

“What about Shannon?”

 

Ron took a deep breath.  “I went to St. Mungos to check on her.  I found out the other woman had been her sister and that her sister was to be married to the bloke we killed.” Shakily, he brought his hand to his chin as if contemplating to say anything more.  He looked remorsefully at Ginny.  “Her sister had miscarried…explaining all the blood.” Ron choked, “I felt so guilty.”  Sinking lower to the floor, he held his stomach feeling nauseous once again. “As dazed and in shock as she was, she recognized me.  She knew I had been one of the pricks who violated her sister…who caused her to loose the b-baby.”

 

Ginny, whose face was wet from her tears, closed her eyes and looked downward.  “Did you modify her mind as well?”

 

He nodded. “It was the right thing to do.”

 

She opened her eyes and looked at him curiously. “I don’t understand how you ended up with Shannon, Ron.  I mean after…you know.”

 

“I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.  Don’t you understand?” Ron’s voice began to rise as he suddenly exploded, “I had to prove to her and myself that I wasn’t a fucking monster!  I would never rape a woman!  And I couldn’t touch Hermione.  I knew all she wanted to do was hold me, make love to me…but I couldn’t Ginny.”  Ron stood up suddenly.  He clenched his fist and swung it around hitting the bathroom wall over and over.  “I had to fix it!  I was the only one who could bloody well fix it Ginny!”

 

Ginny pounced on him, grabbing his fist with all her might. “Stop it Ron!  It wasn’t your fault!” She shouted, “There’s nothing to forgive you hear me!  The only thing you did wrong was to keep this to yourself!  You should have told somebody Ron!”  Ron quit trying to drive his fist against the wall and collapsed into her arms.  Ginny whispered, “I would have helped you through it if you had just told me! You didn’t have to suffer this all alone!”

 

His body was wracked with sobs, the burden he had carried for so long had finally been released.  Wave after wave of hurt, guilt and anger washed over him until finally he let it go, sinking to the floor.  Ginny embraced him, allowing him to cry until he couldn’t anymore.  She embraced him so that he knew she didn’t judge, she loved him… unconditionally, regardless of what he had done.

 

 A while later, feeling gutted and weak, Ron said quietly to her, “I really bullocks things up real good with Hermione, huh?”

 

Ginny let go of him and looked into his face. “You hurt her Ron.  You should have told her.  She would have understood.”

 

“I couldn’t.  I couldn’t face her. Instead I disappeared for hours sitting at Shannon’s bedside.  For some strange reason I felt this connection to Shannon.”

 

“You felt guilty Ron.”

 

He shrugged.  “All I know is that I felt this overwhelming need to set things right!” Ron smiled solemnly at her.  “I courted her properly you know?  I wanted to show her that not all wizards were scum.”  He rubbed his forehead wearily.  “Then one day, after a few months of going out with her, I took my wand out and decided to levitate a glass to her. She totally lost it.”  Ron shook his head.  “Apparently there are some memories that no amount of magic can erase.  I couldn’t take away the fear she had of magic. That’s why I pretended to be something I wasn’t.”

 

Ron sighed.  “I kept thinking I could make her accept my world, but soon after I married her I realized it wasn’t ever going to happen.”

 

Ginny looked perplexed.  “Why did you stay married to her for this long?”

 

 “I…I don’t bloody well know that myself.”  He chuckled bitterly and ran his hand through his hair.  “I suppose I felt obligated to her.”

 

“Ron, Hermione would have helped you through all this. I know she would have!”

 

He looked at her sadly.  “I was ashamed to tell her, alright.  I still am.  She mustn’t ever find out.”

 

“Do you still love her Ron?”

 

Ron nodded.  “I love her, but I don’t know if that’ll be enough to get her back.”

 

“So that’s why you’re leaving Shannon.”

 

Ron bowed his head.  “Partly, I suppose.  I’ve come to realize that I need to let go of the past.  I also think it’s time for Shannon to find somebody who will love her in the way she deserves.” He looked ashamed.   “I haven’t been faithful to her Gin. What’s worse is I’ve kept her so sheltered she can’t even think for herself.”  Ron took a deep breath. “I buggered things up good, eh?”  Ginny gave him a watery smile that he weakly returned.  “I can’t understand why you’d even give me the time of day as I was the one that had you vomiting up slugs earlier.”

 

“I love you- that’s why.” She hugged him.

 

“I love you too!” He said against her shoulder.

 

Ginny sat silently for a long moment. Not looking up from where her head lay upon his shoulder.  “I’ll help you in anyway I can Ron…you know with Hermione or even ending things with Shannon.  I’m here for you.”

 

Ron smiled grimly. “I appreciate that very much as I have the feeling the next few weeks are going to be the worst ever.  I’m pretty certain I’m going to need all the help I can get.”

 

For Ron, coming apart in his sister’s arms was like being reborn.  He had already begun setting things in motion to break the bonds with the sins of his past.  Getting everything out in the open that had plagued his soul for so long spurred him on.  It was time to make amends and rectify wrongs he had created.  It was time to rescue Hermione, the woman he truly loved.      

 

 

 

       

 

 

             

 

 

 

      

                      

 

  

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank my lovely friend, Brandedfaithfully for the beta work! She's the best!

*hugs*

missgranger2


 

 

      Harry lie in the twin bed beside Hermione, unable to fall to sleep. He had owled Ginny that he most likely wouldn’t be home until later that day. His eyes traveled over to the sleeping form beside him. She had practically fallen asleep a minute after he gave her the sleeping drought.

 

     Harry sighed. He wanted to fix things with Ron and Hermione and with himself and Hermione. How had everything turned to such rubbish? The three of them used to be inseparable. Why did he just assume that Ron and Hermione would end up together? How could he have ever foreseen how she would turn out?  She was always the smart, prim and proper one.

 

      Harry kicked the bedpost in frustration, then immediately regretted the action, hoping his flare of temper hadn’t disturbed her. What the hell should I do?

 

     Desperate for a solution, his eyes looked upward and he folded his hands behind his head, thinking.  He had always been the bridge between his two best friends.  The common denominator, the person they both confided in.  There just had to be a way for him to mend fences.  Then it came to him. I’ll become a Shadow, too!  He smiled to himself for a moment before the grin slowly left his face. What about Ginny?  She’d never go for that!   He eased off the bed and began to pace back and forth. She’ll understand!  I’ll make her understand!  His pace quickened as did the beating of his heart.  Who am I kidding!  She’ll bloody well kill me over it!  And at this point, Harry wasn’t up for the argument.

 

     A chair sat idly by the door to the loo and a grumpy Harry sat down in it. He ran his hand through his hair and then reached up; taking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes. The sounds of rustling and soft moans caught his attention and his head snapped up, a restless Hermione beginning to stir.

 

     Fighting his own grogginess, Harry stood up and walked over to where she lay.  Her eyes slowly fluttered open. “Wh-where the hell am I?” she yawned.

 

     “At the Hard Night’s Inn, remember?”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

     She looked at him quizzically for a moment, blinking away sleep. “I’m here with you?”

 

    “Yeah, I stayed with you.  How are you feeling?”

 

    Frantically, she lifted her bedcovers and peeked under them.  I’m wearing a nightdress, that’s good!   Hermione raised herself up on her elbows looking at Harry in horror. “Did we…” she wiggled her fingers between the two of them “…did we sleep together last night?”

 

    Harry’s eyes grew wide. “No!  You were hurt when your flat got blasted apart and insisted that Charlie and I bring you here!”

 

    Feeling relieved, Hermione said heartily. “Thank goodness!”

 

    He huffed and rolled his eyes. “Sleep together?  Really, Hermione!”

 

     She lay back down, a headache beginning to form.  Hermione brought her hand up to her head and rubbed slowly.  The fogginess was lifting and she began to remember the sequence of events from the night before.

 

     Harry rummaged in his pocket for the parchment from the healers, “It says here you’re to take two sips of the Headache Potion and one sip of the Backache Potion.”  His eyes darted quickly to the table where the potions sat, and he lifted them one by one.  “Shite! Shite!  There’s no bloody labels on the bottles!”

 

     Hermione groaned. “What color are they?”

 

     “One’s green and the other’s blue.”  He straightened up, pushing his chest out proudly, adding, “The purple colored one is Sleeping Drought!”

 

     “You only know what kind of potion that is because Charlie told you, Harry!” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Honestly, I don’t understand how you can be an Auror and not be able to identify medicinal potions!”

 

     “I’ve never needed to know any of that rubbish!” Harry said defensively. “Besides if I do need a…a…what did you call them?”

 

     “Medicinal potions!”

 

     “Right. Well if I ever needed those I’d just owl a healer and they’d bring them to me!”

 

     She shook her head at him in disbelief.  Through gritted teeth she said, “The green one is for my back and the blue one is for my head.”

 

     “Green for back, blue for head-got it!”  He lifted up the green colored liquid and handed to Hermione.  When she took the required amount, he handed her the other.       “Hermione, I have to go and check in at headquarters in Durham.  I won’t be long.  Do you need anything?  Do you want me to bring you back something?”

 

     “No.” She sighed and bit her lip. “Look, you don’t have to come back.  I’m perfectly fine.  Besides, Charlie will come around soon I’m sure.”

 

      “Perhaps he will, but I am coming back!”

 

     Feeling like somebody was taking a hammer to her head, Hermione didn’t have the strength to argue with him.  “Suit yourself.”

 

     Harry reached over and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be back soon.  Just get some rest; I’m sure the potions will take affect soon.”  Hermione shook her head, closing her eyes. Taking out his wand, he Apparated, Hermione assumed back to the Leaky Cauldron in order to use the Floo connection there.

 

     She began to shift in her bed uncomfortably.  She hated being stuck in a ruddy bed unless it was for pleasure.  The memories of the day before started running through her mind.  Charlie and her were working on a gruesome Muggle murder case and were hitting a brick wall every time they tried to find a lead.  I stopped by the package store…as I always do.

 

     She knew she came home and then…what? What the hell happened next?

 

     The throbbing lessened just a bit and Hermione felt encouraged knowing the potion was beginning to work.  Her headache would fade away in minutes.  As if coming out of a daze, her mind became clearer.  It was Monday night…and he always comes…on Monday night!   She sat up wearing an expression like a deer in headlights. “David!”

 

     His face and voice were so clear in her mind now.  He was the one that hurled a curse at her door.  He was the last face she saw before passing out.  Bloody bastard! I’ll get him back if it’s the last thing I do!

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

      After having broken down completely, Ron fell asleep on the couch.  Though he had confessed his sins, he still couldn’t rest properly.  Terrible images flashed in his subconscious.  In his dream he ran toward a blood-covered Hermione, broken and lying on the ground.  His mind seemed to be in a constant state of replay, the same scene repeating itself over and over and Ron echoed it by tossing and turning until finally the scene began too gruesome for even his subconscious to handle and he bolted away on the couch.

 

“No!”  Heart racing, he began looking around his sister’s lounge with wide, frightened eyes.  Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead and he raised a shaky hand to wipe it away.

 

     Glancing at the clock on the wall, he saw it was only half past five in the morning, yet  he knew he just couldn’t go back to sleep now.  Slowly he got up and made his way to the bathroom in the hallway.  He looked at himself in the mirror before running some water and splashing it on his face.  Coming back out into the hallway, he stared at Ginny’s bedroom door, knowing she wasn’t going to get up anytime soon.  Ron took a deep breath and leaned against the wall before slumping down onto the floor.

 

     What the hell do I do? I need to bloody well do something!

 

     Hermione had made it abundantly clear that she didn’t want him around.  Still, he couldn’t help himself.  He was still in love with her.  Shannon was probably in a right state seeing as he hadn’t come home last night.  He had always told her when he’d be gone for the night in the past.   Whether it was telling Ginny everything or scared out of his mind over Hermione, Ron had no desire to go home.  He just couldn’t handle Shannon’s antics nor could he bear lying to her anymore just now.

    

     Rubbing his hands across his eyes, he suddenly had a strong desire to go into work. Even though he wasn’t due to be there until later that day, he felt it was his best option at the moment.  He had to do something constructive to get his mind off of all his problems.  If he stayed at Ginny’s, he’d probably just rummage through Harry’s liquor cabinet, get pissed and feel shitty the rest of the day.

 

      Making up his mind, he rose from the floor with determination.  Ron never was able to track down the sick bastards that ruined his life, but perhaps he could find out who was trying to end Hermione’s.  He walked over to where Ginny’s owl, Cupid, sat.  Grabbing some parchment and a quill off the counter, he quickly wrote Charlie a note.  He tied it to Cupid and the owl flew off into the dark morning sky.  He set out for his office and hoped to hear back from Charlie soon.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

     Harry arrived back at Durham around seven in the morning.  Feeling tired and emotionally miserable  he approached a phone booth on the mostly deserted street. When he entered, he stared around groggily through the glass to the street, making sure he wasn’t being watched.   Dialing a number he knew all to well, a rather chipper woman’s voice came on the line. “Good morning!  Auror Headquarters for the city of Durham, please enter your security clearance number.”

 

    Harry punched in his number and waited.  The jovial witch’s voice filled his ear again. “Thank you Mr. Harry James Potter.  You may hang up the phone now and have a wonderful day!”

 

    Harry hung the phone up and the telephone booth began to move under ground.  It took several twists and turns before arriving at the lobby.  Harry stepped out and walked to his office.   He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw that his door was ajar.  Who the hell would be in my bloody office this early in the morning!  Taking his wand out, he crept slowly toward his office door.  Pressing his back against the wall, he heard the sound of papers rustling.   

 

     Making his mind up, he raised his wand and pushed the door open swiftly. “What the hell do…” Harry lowered his wand and placed his hands on his hips. “Ron!  You scared the shite out of me!  What are you doing here?  We’re not due in until noon!”

    

     “Nice to see you to Harry!” Ron said dryly, sitting in Harry’s chair with his feet propped up on his desk looking through a file.

 

     “You have your own office you know arsehole!” Harry went and sat in one of the chairs in front of his desk. He took his glasses off wearily and used his robes to clean them off. “Why are you here so bloody early?”

 

     “I could ask you the same thing, but…” Ron threw the file on the desk, bringing his feet back to the floor. “I couldn’t sleep.” He shrugged.  “I’ve been waiting for word from Charlie about any other information he might have.”  Running his hand through his hair he looked as Harry shakily put his glasses back on.  “Is Hermione alright?”

 

    Harry sighed. “Yeah, she’s fine.  I’m heading back soon to the inn, I just wanted to get the okay from upstairs.”

 

     “That’s good.” Ron’s eyes drifted around Harry’s office. “I suppose I shouldn’t go back with you, huh?”

 

     Sounding tired, Harry looked sadly at him.  “No Ron, I don’t think that would be a very good idea.”

 

     Ron nodded weakly.

 

     Harry arched an eyebrow at him.  “So, exactly why are you in my office?”

 

     Ron replied grumpily, “I’ve been waiting nearly two hours for Charlie’s reply!  I’m going mad!  I came in here because I needed a drink, okay?  Unfortunately, you put a hell of a locking charm on your bottom drawer.”

 

     Harry scowled at him.  “Don’t you have your own liquor supply?”

 

     Ron smirked at him. “No!  Remember we drank those two bottles the night we finally arrested those two Death Eaters on Dorchester Street a few weeks back.”

 

     Harry thought a moment. “Yeah, I guess we did.”  He got up and walked over to the drawer in question.  Waving his wand, he said an incantation under his breath and the drawer opened.  “I could use a drink myself.”

 

     Ron waved his wand at the door which promptly closed.  Pulling out two glasses from the drawer, Harry poured Ron and himself some Firewhiskey.  Harry went back to the chair he had occupied a few minutes earlier and sighed as he took a drink. “I am so fucking tired.”

 

     “Me, too.” Ron said wearily.

 

     They drank in silence for several moments, Ron resting his feet back up on the desk, his chair tipped backward. Harry shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “I wanted to talk something over with you mate.”

 

    “Go on.”

 

    “I’ve been thinking that perhaps…um…” Harry brought a finger up, pushing his glasses back on the bridge of his nose.  “I think I want to become a Shadow, Ron.”

 

    Ron, who had just took a sip of his drink, swallowed  down hard,  his eyes growing wide.“What?!  Are you out of your mind?!  Ginny would never go for that in a million years!”

 

    “I’m going to work that part out, mate.”

 

     Ron looked at him unconvinced.  “There’s no fucking way my sister would allow you to be a Shadow!”

 

     Harry tipped his cup up and drank it down in one gulp. Using his wand, he levitated the bottle over to him and poured himself another drink.  “You make it sound like she controls everything I do!  I’m not totally under her thumb, you know.  She’ll just have to accept it!” Harry said matter-of-factly.

 

     “Right!” Ron snorted at him. “You tell her that bit of news and you’ll wind up with your wand sticking out of your arse!”

 

     Harry set the bottle down on the floor and began swirling his glass, as if mesmerized by it.  “I’m going to ask Ginny to marry me first.”

 

     Ron’s mouth went wide with shock. “You are?”

 

     “Well, yeah.  I do love her and this way she’ll know I won’t stay a Shadow forever.  We’ll make the decision together.”

 

     Ron shook his head.  “Just because you ask her to marry you, doesn’t mean she’ll go for it, mate.  You know Ginny’s a lot smarter than that!”

 

     He tipped his cup and again drank it down in one gulp. “I need to do this for Hermione, Ron.  If Ginny doesn’t get that then…well…I dunno…”

 

     Ron flicked his wand towards Harry.  The bottle of Firewhiskey rose off the floor, beginning to come towards Ron when Harry reached out and grabbed it. “Hey!  You’ve already had two glasses!”

 

     “It’s my liquor arsehole!” Scowling at Ron, he tipped the bottle and poured himself another drink.

 

      Ron began tapping his glass on the desk impatiently.  Again, Harry placed the bottle on the floor and quick as lightening Ron summoned it to him.  Giving Harry a triumphant smile, he began to pour himself a glass.  Shaking the almost empty bottle, his smile began to fade. “What the hell?  You know damn well once I start drinking I can’t stop.” Ron whined, “It’s almost empty!”

 

     The alcohol was starting to have an affect on Harry. “Use th-that charm. You know the one where you make more of the shite!”

 

     “Oh yeah-a refilling charm!  You’re brilliant!”

 

     Harry started to smile widely.  “Yes, I fucking am!  I am a bloody brilliant wiz…wiz…” He pointed his finger at himself and began tapping his own chest, “wizard! Me!  Harry Fucking Potter!”

 

     Laughing, Ron said, “You alright there mate?”

 

     His face had begun to redden from the alcohol. “Never fucking better!” He raised his cup to Ron.  “Cheers!”

 

     They both began to use the refilling charm, but within two more glasses they were both totally pissed and unable to produce the charm with any degree of accuracy.  Ron’s last attempt shattered the bottle and both men sat laughing at their own drunken stupidity.  Ron stood up, placing his hands on Harry’s desk to steady himself.  “I think I wanna’ go talk to those bloody pricks up stairs about a transfer!”

 

     Harry stood up and bursted out laughing.  “Yeah!  Let’s go talk to those…um…dicks!”

 

    “Pricks!” Ron corrected him.

 

    “Yeah those dick pricks!”

 

     They both started roaring with laughter as they made there way clumsily to the lifts. A group of Aurors were standing in the hallway and waved as Ron and Harry approached them. Ron sneered at them, “Get the fuck out of our way!”

 

    Harry started to giggle. “You heard the man!  We’re on our way to see a dickless prick upstairs, dammit!”

 

     One of the Aurors, who looked to be in his early sixties, looked at them both with detest.  “Have you two been drinking?”

 

     Ron folded his arms and burped out something foul and alcoholic smelling as he swayed back and forth. “What’s it to ya’, ya’ ole’ fart!”

 

     Harry started to snort with laughter, his eyes watering as he staggered.

 

     “What did you call me?!” The Auror took his wand out of his robes and held it high in front of him, causing Ron and Harry to burst out laughing, pointing at his wand.

 

     “Oooooo!” Harry said, holding his side.  “You best watch yourself before old graybeard here knocks you on your arse!”

 

    The older Auror looked about ready to strike until Harry and Ron’s Captain happened to come around the corner.  A rather short, stout man with a receding hairline roared at them all, “What the hell is going on here!”

 

     Ron and Harry had always made fun of Captain Gable’s short stature behind his back. Captain Gable couldn’t have been more than five foot tall.  Clearly having no inhibitions, they looked at each other and started laughing harder as Harry pointed a shaky finger at Gable. 

 

     All the Aurors present, barring Ron and Harry, were cowering in his presence as he commanded respect.  He fixed Harry with a pointed stare. “What’s up with you Potter?”

 

     Harry swayed, and bent his knees so that he could look face to face with the much shorter Gable.  “Since when did they allow house elves to be Aurors?”   

 

     Ron burst out laughing, causing Gable to lash out, “Think its funny Weasley when Potter disrespects me, do you?!”

 

     Harry stood back up and reached his hand out, patting Gable on the head.  “Oh my Ron!  We have ourselves one mean tempered house elf here!”

 

     Ron began howling with laughter.  

 

    Gable shoved Harry’s hand away, scrunching up his nose. “Whew!  You smell like a liquor bottle!” He scowled at Harry, “Are you drunk Potter?!”

 

     Harry shrugged, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.”

 

     The Captain shook his head in disgust. “The both of you are bloody pissed!  I think it best the two of you leave this instant before I have you both suspended!”

 

     Ron, who was recovering from laughing so hard, sighed.  “Afraid we can’t do that peanut!  We have something important to discuss with the bastards up stairs, right Harry?”

 

    “Right you are!” Harry pointed to Gable. “Perhaps this house elf can take us to see the pricks right now!”

 

     Gable gave them both a reproachable look. The corners of his mouth began to twitch slightly.  “You know, I think I will take you two straight up there… right now!”

 

       

 

    

 

       

 

        

 

          

 

                   

 

      

 

                

 

 

 

            

 

 

                          

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank the lovely Brandedfaithfully for her fabulous editing work!!! She is lovely to work! She added "Honk! Honk!" to it and I thought it was perfect!  *giggles*

*hugs*

missgranger2 

 


Chapter 14

 

Charlie arrived soon after Harry left, becoming positively livid when he realized Harry wasn’t there with her.  “Bloody bastard!  Doesn’t he realize you’re in danger?”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh honestly, Charlie!  I can take care of myself!”

 

“Yeah I’m sure you can do just that when you’re unable to get out of bed and all!” He said sarcastically.

 

Hermione sighed.  “Actually, I am starting to feel better.”

 

Charlie rubbed his eyes in frustration.  He had grown accustomed to Hermione’s stubbornness, yet he hated it when she acted nonchalant over serious matters.   Charlie took a deep breath.  “Do you remember anything more about what happened?”

 

“No.” She lied.

 

“There are about a dozen Aurors working on trying to find out who’s responsible.” Charlie averted his eyes from hers for a moment.  “Look Hermione, there’s something I neglected to mention about the case we’re working on.”  He pulled a chair over and sat down looking uneasy. “I’m afraid I wasn’t totally straight up with you.”

 

Hermione squinted at him suspiciously. “What do you mean?”

 

Charlie sighed.  “I wasn’t sure if the Muggle murder was related to the others.  But after what happened to you last night…”  He trailed off and bit his lip.

 

Hermione raised herself up straighter, clearly annoyed.  “Just spit it out!  You know I hate when you talk in circles.”

 

“Every other team of Aurors that’s worked on those cases has had something bad happen to either them or their families.”

 

Strangely unconcerned, she asked, “So you think we’re being watched?”      

 

“Yes I do!”  He ran a hand through his already tussled hair.  “And I think we should back off!”

 

Hermione laughed at him in disbelief.  “You should know by now that I don’t scare easily, Charlie!”

 

“It’s not just you and me that I worry about here.  What if the bastards try to come after Padma or my parents?”

 

Hermione shrugged.  “All the more reason not to back off!”

 

Charlie stood up, rattling the chair as he did so.  “What the hell are you trying to say?!  Oh, I see, it’s okay that you don’t have anyone to worry over, isn’t it?!” He began breathing heavily.  “Well, go to hell Hermione because I’m not willing to sacrifice my family!”

 

His words seem to have had an impression on her, for she grew flustered for a moment.  He watched as she began wringing the bed sheets in her hands.  Her voice was calm.“Sit down Charlie.”  When he didn’t move, Hermione said more adamantly, “Sit!”

 

He sat down slowly, his angry muscles tense as he glared at her.  She took a deep breath. “Just listen to me for a moment.  I didn’t mean to anger you by suggesting that putting your family at risk was alright.  All I meant was that I personally would like to bring the bastards down.” Charlie was about to say something, but she cut him off.  “Somebody has to stop them before more people die!”

 

She pushed her hair back with one hand, tucking it behind her ear, “You’re right, I don’t have as much to lose as you do.  I mean I have my parents but I think I’ve made it pretty near impossible for them to be touched.”

 

Charlie said in a quiet voice, “I don’t know if I’m willing to take the risk.”

 

“Then maybe you shouldn’t.”  Hermione started smoothing down her bedcovers.

 

“What do you mean by that?” Charlie asked.

 

“What I mean is that perhaps I should go it alone.”  A sad smile froze on her face as she looked directly into his eyes.  “I mean you said it yourself-I really don’t have anyone to worry over.”

 

Charlie sputtered, “I-I didn’t mean it.  I’m just tired is all.   And you know you can’t just work on a case alone.  It’s standard protocol that all cases be handled by at least two Aurors.”

 

Hermione bit her lip, customary when she was struggling with a dilemma. “Look, just bring me the files and let me go through them.”  She managed a small smile.  “You know me-I need something to do or I’ll go spare.”

 

He looked sympathetically at her, “I am sorry for what I said.”

 

Hermione waved him off, doing her best to keep smiling. “No worries!  Just get me those files, okay.”

 

Charlie nodded. He watched as she began picking stray threads from her blanket and knew it was because he had brought up an uncomfortable truth.  Hearing a tapping sound at the window, he strode over and pulled the curtain back slightly to see Cupid perched on the windowsill.  He turned to Hermione. “It looks like a message from Ginny.  I’ll let Cupid in so he can get it to you.”   Charlie opened the window and was surprised when Cupid came up and lightly nudged his hand with her beak. His face reddened as he turned to Hermione. “Oh, I guess it’s a message for me.”  Charlie felt a lump in his throat as he watched Hermione, who tried and failed to hide her obvious disappointed, slowly nod her head. I feel like I’m stomping salt into her wounds.

 

After removing the parchment, he opened it hurriedly and instantly recognized Ron’s disjointed handwriting.  Scanning the note quickly, he wasn’t surprised to hear Hermione’s strained voice, “Is everything alright with Ginny?”

 

Charlie decided it best not to tell her the note was from Ron, seeing how she treated him the night before.  “Um, yeah.  She just wanted to know what she could do to help.”  Charlie folded the parchment back up and stuck it inside the pocket of his robes. He turned to Cupid.  “Up for another trip, girl?”

 

The owl hooted at him, indicating that she was.  He took a quill and a piece of parchment from a pocket inside his robes and wrote a quick message.  Tying the parchment back to Cupid’s leg, he watched for a moment as the owl flew off before closing the window.   Returning to his chair, he tried to put on his best mock cheery face, “I owled headquarters to have Billings bring those files over.”

 

Sounding remarkably like her usual self, she scowled at Charlie.  “You could of just went and gotten them for heaven sakes.”

 

He gave her a genuine smile then. “I’m not leaving you here alone.  I’ll wait until Harry comes back.”

 

Hermione smiled and rolled her eyes at him, not saying a word. He knew it was her way of thanking him.  Charlie had an incredible urge to reach out and touch her hand, but didn’t.  It suddenly hit him about how wrong he had been earlier; she wasn’t alone, she still had him.

 

************************************************************************

 

 

 

Captain Gable ushered two very sloshed Aurors into the lift.  Harry and Ron stumbled in together, laughing merrily.  Once inside, Harry threw an arm around his mate and began to sing a rather vulgar song about a tart and a cow from the top of his lungs.  Ron didn’t sing, but swayed happily to the tune with Harry, the lift walls catching his fall on more than one occasion.

 

Gable shook his head as the lift opened and he shouted over Harry’s raucous melody. “Follow me boys!”

 

A pretty dark-haired witch sporting plenty of cleavage sat at the reception desk.  Having segued from vulgar lyrics to dirty jokes, the two drunks raised a shocked look from the receptionist.  Apprehensively, she spoke to the Captain, the only one who appeared sober in the group, “Good morning Captain Gable…um h-how may I help you?”

 

He gestured to Harry and Ron.  “Please just ignore them, miss.”  He brought his hand up, rubbing his forehead wearily. “Is it possible for us to see Director Green?”

 

She began shifting some papers around.  “Let me just check his schedule.  Yes, he is free this morning.  I’ll just send him an interoffice memo to let him know you’re here.”

 

Harry smiled at the witch and then tried to nudge Ron in the ribs, but missed and tipped into him instead.  “Nice knockers on that bird, eh?”  Ron laughed, catching his friend.

 

The witch gasped in outrage as Ron replied, “Damn straight- Rhonda, you have such nice titties!  Has anyone ever told you that?”  Harry snorted and Ron laughed harder.

 

Gable turned to them and snapped, “Watch your mouth the both of you!” He looked over at Rhonda apologetically. “I am so sorry miss.  They’re both pissed out of their minds!”

 

Ron waved his hand at him, and turned his attention to Rhonda. “I might be pissed, but I still remember your titties darling!”  Her face started to turn scarlet as she lowered her eyes in embarrassment. “Actually, besides myself, at least a dozen other blokes around here have had the pleasure of touching your titties, eh?!”  He reached out in the air in front of him as if squeezing the subject of his insult.  “Honk, honk.”

 

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Gable roared at Ron who merely shrugged.

 

Harry swayed slightly pointing a finger at Gable. “I was going to set you free you know. But I’ve decided you’ll not be getting any clothes from me, house elf!”

 

Ron, who was chuckling at Harry’s latest comment, nodded his head toward Rhonda, “Maybe the tart could give him her bra!”  Clearly humiliated, Rhonda rose from her desk hurriedly and scurried away.

 

Gable stared up uneasily at the ceiling muttering, “Sweet Merlin, give me strength!” 

 

Moments later the memo came back, landing on her desk. Gable reached for it and read it quickly.  He turned and smiled smugly at them.  “Come along you two arseholes.  The director is waiting for you.”

 

Ron turned to Harry. “What did that little shite just call us?!”

 

Gable’s nostrils began to flare. “I’ve honestly had enough of you two!  Shut your mouths and follow me before I hex you both into oblivion!”

 

“OOoooo!” Harry groaned, lurching forward.

 

Ron raised his eyebrows. Laughing, he raised his middle finger up at Gable.  “Yes, sir!”

 

Stumbling, Ron and Harry followed Gable to the Director’s office.  Upon entering, they both fell to the floor causing Gable to lash out at them, “Get your stupid arses off the ground-now!” 

 

Director Green watched bewilderedly from behind his desk at the scene forming before him.  Green was a tall, thin man who sported a graying goatee and mustache.  He rose and walked around the desk, looking to Gable for some kind of explanation and clearly finding there wasn’t one.  Green looked down at red-faced Ron and Harry who were laughing and struggling to get up.  “And what may I ask do we have here, Captain?”

 

“Aurors Potter and Weasley, sir.  They desired to have an audience with…um…what did you call the Director Potter?”

 

Harry finally managed to get to his feet and brought his feet together in what appeared to be an attempt at standing at attention, but then he pointed a finger straight up in the air, recalling his earlier quote.  “A prickless dick!”  Without his feet apart to steady him, he tipped over and crashed into the back of a nearby chair.

 

Green raised his eyebrows and turned to Gable.  “Are they drunk?”

 

“Quite drunk, yes sir.” He said smugly.

 

“I see.” The director studied them for a moment, a small grin on his face. “Well, come on in boys,” he gestured to two chairs, “and have a seat before you fall over again.”

 

The Captain looked scandalous and said in disbelief, “But did you not hear what he just called you, sir!”

 

Green waved him off.  “I suspect they’ve had a rather rough night.”  Harry and Ron plopped down unceremoniously into the two cushiony armchairs in front of the Director’s desk.  “You may go, Captain.”

 

Gable started to protest, “But sir!”

 

“No buts Captain!  Auror Granger, whom you know helped them to defeat Voldemort, was attacked last night.  I can’t say as I blame the blokes for having a few drinks.” 

Gable was about to say something when the Director cut him off, “I said go, Roger!”

    

Being called by his first name, Gable knew it was fruitless to continue.  His shoulders visibly slumped.  “Very well.”  He shot Harry and Ron a dirty look.  Nodding curtly at Green, he walked out of the office, practically slamming the door behind him.

 

The director walked back behind his desk.  Harry and Ron begun arguing and didn’t seem to even notice that he was standing there.

 

“It’s a fact Ron!” Harry shouted, his arms now hanging limp from the chair.

 

“You’re full of shite!” Ron said back, barely keeping himself vertical.

 

“Am not!” Harry said even louder.

 

Ron was about to retort when the Director startled them by saying loudly, “Gentlemen!”

They both scowled at each other before turning their eyes to Green.  “I hate to interrupt your little discussion but unfortunately I’m on a tight schedule here.  So, what can I do for you two lads?”  Green sat down, folding his hands together and placing them on the desk.

 

Harry spoke up, “We want to transfer back to London, Director Mean.”

 

“Green!” The director corrected him.

 

Harry raised his hands in disgust. “Why the hell are you shouting colors at me man!”

 

The director chuckled.  “Never mind.”  He lifted his hand to his forehead.  “I figure the reason for the request is because Auror Granger was attacked last night?”

 

Ron said grumpily, “Ah…yup.”

 

Green sighed. “Under the circumstances, I think that can be arranged.”

 

“It would have to be today mind you!” Harry said.

 

Green leaned back in his chair staring bemusedly at them.  “Well, first I really think you two should head down to the Healer’s Clinic and take a sobering potion before I allow for you to go anywhere.”

 

Ron groaned.  “Bloody hell, I don’t want to be sober!  That’s like the opposite of being drunk.”

 

“Nevertheless, I can’t have you two traveling to Auror Headquarters in London in the state your in now.  Wouldn’t make me look good now would it?”

 

“Guess not.” Ron said sadly.

 

Green watched the two of them for a moment before asking, “So, what were you two arguing about anyway?”

 

Harry gestured toward Ron.  “The git here…”

 

Ron whipped his head around and spat, “Watch it Harry!”

 

Harry ignored him.  “Anyway…he doesn’t believe that his brother told me he saw an actual shrunken dick!”

 

The Director chuckled.  “Really?”

 

Ron smiled smugly at Harry. “See! Even his majesty here thinks you’re full of crap!”

 

Harry hit the arms of his chair with his fists in frustration.  “There is such a thing as a shrunken dick!”

 

 “Not possible!  Not to mention you expect me to believe that my brother, who has only ever fancied women, would be anywhere near a man’s bits!”

 

 Through gritted teeth Harry said, “I told you the other bloke dropped his pants and showed him-I fucking swear it!”

 

 Director Green, who had been laughing at the two of them throughout the exchange, said with great difficulty, “B-boys…just go to the clinic and t-take the potion.”

 

Ron seemed not to hear him and continued, “So you’d have me believe that there are these mysterious dickless wizards living amongst us?!”

 

Wiping the tears from his eyes, the Director began howling with laughter.

 

Harry shook his head in disgust.  “Are you not listening to a word I say?!  They still have a dick, dumb arse!  It simply just gets...smaller.”

 

“It’s a mini-dick!” Ron laughed again.  As the two of them slowly stood up, Ron sighed. “You are so bloody gullible Harry!  I grew up with Charlie-remember?!  He’s always feeding anyone who will listen, a load of quaffle!”   

     

Harry looked at Ron, shooting daggers at him as they made their way to the door. “You know, I was going to tell you what causes it!  But seeing as how you think I’m some misinformed dolt, you can forget all about it!”

 

Ron shrugged nonchalantly. “Fine!  I don’t want you looking at my private bits anyway!”

 

Harry held a swaying hand up to Ron’s face.  “I hope you wind up with a dick the size of my pinkie!  And when it does happen don’t you dare come crying to me for help because you won’t get it!”

 

Opening the office door, Ron said clearly exasperated, “Believe me you’re the last person I’d come to if my dick started shrinking all of a sudden!”

 

As the door slammed shut, the Director fell into a chair, laughing hysterically.  It was hard for him to believe that the two Aurors, who had just been sitting in front of him arguing over shrunken dicks, had been responsible for the downfall of Voldemort.  How in the hell did those two ever manage such a feat?  He sighed and wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes, trying to regain his composure.  It was no good, as he burst out laughing once again.              

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank the brilliant Brandedfaithfully for the beta work. It really means so much!  

This chapter is dedicated to a friend of mine in regards to a certain "Chipmunk" shirt. The story she told me was hilarious! In fear of being hexed, I'll keep her name and the story safely under wraps. *giggles*

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 15 “Search and Destroy”

 

     Charlie looked on as Hermione read a book on Transfiguration that the innkeeper had let her borrow.  It amazed him how she could immerse herself in a book when everything was going to hell around them.

 

     She suddenly turned to him. “Do you know when I can go back to my flat?”

 

     Charlie sighed. “No word yet. You know it’ll take a few days.  Even with magic, we can’t completely repair a destroyed flat just like that.”  He rubbed his eyes wearily.  “The Aurors will set it right, of course.” 

     Hermione didn’t respond, instead she lowered her head, going back to her book.  Charlie bit his lip.  “Hermione?”

 

     Never taking her eyes off the page, she replied, “Yeah?”

 

     “You’re not worried they’ll be coming for you again?”

 

     Hermione blinked a few times and then turned toward him. “No Charlie, I’m really not that concerned about it.”

 

     Charlie looked at her in disbelief.  “After what happened at your flat I’d think you should be a little concerned!”

 

     There was no way she was going to tell Charlie about what really happened and who was behind it.  This was something between David and herself.  Thinking quickly, Hermione decided it was best to lie to Charlie. “Well, of course it upset me…but I just want to find out who’s behind it. I mean I can’t allow for them to think they’ve beaten me down.”

 

     Clearly agitated by her nonchalant attitude, Charlie started to pace . “But you could have been killed! And by the looks of those crime scene photos, I’d say you were damn lucky.”

 

    Completely baffling him, Hermione simply nodded her head and then went back to reading her book. Charlie was just about to open his mouth when there was an urgent knock at the door.  He sprang up out of his chair, whipping his wand out from his robes. “Grab your wand Hermione!” he hissed at her.

 

    Rolling her eyes, she dropped her book down on her lap and reached over to the nightstand to get her wand.

 

    Charlie walked over to the door and said in a commanding voice, “Who is it?”

 

    A squeaky voice replied back, “Billings! I got the files you requested.”

 

    Gripping his wand tighter, Charlie yelled out, “Password!”

 

    “Oh um…the password is horntail I believe.”

 

    Charlie ran his free hand through his hair before reaching down to unlock the door. Slowly he opened the door to see a short, balding man standing before him.

 

    “Hello, Charlie.” The man said weakly as he saw the tip of a wand aimed at his chest.

 

    Just as quickly, Charlie lowered his weapon and shoved it back into his robes.  “Hey Rupert.  Sorry…you just can’t be too careful you know?” He ushered him inside.

 

    Billings waved at Hermione who had already set her wand back on the nightstand. “How are you feeling Auror Granger?”

 

    She smiled at him. “I’m just fine.”

 

    Billings rubbed his forehead wearily. “Gave us a fright you did!”

 

    Charlie spoke up, “You got the files then?”

 

    “Oh sure, I brought them all just as you requested.  But I’m not really sure it’ll be worth your time.”

 

    “Why’s that?”

 

    Billings lowered his voice dramatically, “Word has it that the case is being sent on to the Shadows to handle.”

 

   “About bloody time!” Charlie said, relieved.

 

   “What do you mean about bloody time? I’m not ready to hand over this case yet!” Hermione said angrily from the bed.

 

    “This case is too dangerous, Hermione!  The Shadows should be the ones handling it.”

 

     “Not if I figure it out first.”

 

     Charlie saw the smirk and the fire in her eyes.  She’s too bloody stubborn for her own good.  Charlie’s face  turned red with anger. “It doesn’t fucking matter if you’re not ready to hand it over or not!  If the powers that be are sending the case to the Shadows then there’s not a blasted thing you can do about it!”

 

    Hermione was frustrated but didn’t respond.  There was no way she could mention that she had been accepted into Shadow training in front of Billings.  She’d already unwittingly let Charlie in on it, a mistake she wasn’t going to repeat.  As Charlie took the files from Billings, the wheels in her head turned.  Hermione started Shadow training in another week.  If indeed the case was being taken away from them, then perhaps she’d be able to have a go at it after all.

 

    Looking smug because he knew she was pissed off, Charlie handed the files to her. Billings said good bye to her as Charlie walked him to the door, speaking in a hushed voice.

 

    Suspicious, she arched her eyebrow at Charlie, wondering what he was whispering about to Billings. Deciding the files were more important, she held her tongue once again. Sifting through the stack she scanned over the dates written on them.  Finding the earliest date, she began cycling through the rest, searching for related records.

 

    Laying the two oldest files aside, she sat the others carefully on her nightstand.  Hermione opened the first file, finding pictures of the crime scene along with notes written by two Aurors by the names of Ramsey and Fuller.  Biting the inside of her cheek, she tried not to wince at the gruesome  pictures.  A Muggle couple had been viciously killed. And like the most recent murders, they had been found decapitated.

 

    She faintly heard the door close as Charlie came and sat back down in the chair. “Find anything of interest?”

 

    Hermione shook her head.  “Not so far but I’ve only just started.”  She closed the file and handed it over to him. “The way the bodies were found and how they were killed is pretty much the same as the murder we’re working on.”

 

    “You mean the one we were working on!” Charlie corrected her annoyingly.

 

    She scowled at him as she reached for the other file labeled “Suspects in Case M71”. As she opened it she nearly gasped at the picture lying on top.  “I don’t believe it!”

 

    “What?”

 

   “Apparently one of the suspects in the first murder was none other than Theodore Nott.”

 

    “Who the hell is that?”

 

    “Harry and I went to school with him.  He was the Keeper for Slytherin.”

 

    He shrugged. “Figures.”

 

     Charlie went back to reading case notes as she set Nott’s picture aside.  There were only two other photos.  Flipping one of the moving headshots over, she saw the name “Alvin Nott” written in scraggly handwriting.  Looking at the back of the other photo, the name “Simon Nott” was written in the same disjointed writing.  There was a piece of parchment with information on all three suspects.

 

     “According to this, they were pretty sure the Nott brothers had something to do with it.” She sighed.  “But alas, they didn’t have enough tangible evidence to convict Simon, Alvin and Theodore.”

 

    “Well, what evidence did they have?”

 

    “Um…it says here it was mostly circumstantial.  For one thing, they were reportedly seen near the residence on the evening the murders took place.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “But you know how the brass at headquarters dismisses eyewitness accounts.”

 

    Hermione paused for a moment and then continued.  “Secondly, a pair of glasses belonging to Simon was found at the crime scene.”

 

    “How’d he say they got there?”

 

    “It says here he informed them that they disappeared a few days before.”

 

    “How ruddy convenient.”  Charlie said sarcastically. “I take it there was no blood evidence found on them then?”

 

    “No.  But I do find it strange that there were no priori incantatem reports on their wands in here.  I mean isn’t that standard procedure in a case like this?”

 

    Charlie frowned.  “Yeah, it is.  But you and I have been doing this long enough to know that not everyone follows procedure.”

 

    Hermione closed the file and looked uneasily at the rest lying on the nightstand.  “Well let’s hope that whoever handled the rest of the cases followed procedures so we can find the bastards responsible.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

    Ron grimaced in pain.  “Oh Merlin, my head aches so fucking bad!”

 

    Harry, who looked a little green under the gills, moaned, “I feel like dragon dung myself, mate.”

 

    The two of them sat inside the waiting room at the Auror Healer Clinic, having been given some Sobering potion.  A healer came bristling from out of one of the examination rooms, stopping when he approached them.  “Alright there gentlemen?”

 

    “No, I’m bloody well not alright!” Ron snapped. “When are you giving us a Hangover potion?  I have a fucking bad headache!”

 

     The healer smiled smugly at them. “Sorry, but I can’t do that until your captain gives me permission to do so.”

 

    “What?!” Ron shouted in disbelief and then winced at the pain his own noise had caused.

 

     Harry scowled at him. “Will you keep your damn voice down Ron?!  I’m fucking dying over here!”

 

     Grunting at his own stupidity, Ron addressed the healer, “Why do we have to wait until the captain gives you permission to get a simple Hangover potion?”

 

    “Apparently the captain thinks you both deserve to feel like shite after the stunt you pulled earlier.  He said something about the both of you being…um… how did he put it?” The healer tapped his head with his finger, “Ah yes-complete arseholes!”  The healer started laughing heartedly, annoying them both.   The healer turned and walked away.   

 

    Agitated and feeling like total shite, Ron made a gesture at the healer with his middle finger, causing Harry to say weakly, “Here, here mate!”  Harry was holding his stomach and slumped down further into his chair. “What the hell time is it anyway?”

 

    Rubbing his head, Ron glanced around the room looking for a clock. Spotting one straight across from them on the wall, he replied while clearly wincing in pain, “It’s a little after ten.”

 

    Harry sat bolt upright.  “Shite!  Shite!”

 

    “What’s with you?”

 

    “I’ve been gone for over three fucking hours!  Shite!”

 

    Ron frowned. “So what?  Did Charlie want you back at a certain time?”

 

    “Um…”  Suddenly he grew quite pale as realization hit him.  Harry really didn’t want to answer Ron.

 

    Ron stared pointedly at him.  “How long did you tell Charlie you’d be gone?”

 

    Harry hesitated for a moment until finally saying, “I didn’t tell Charlie anything.”

 

   “Why?  Please tell me you weren’t daft and left while he was sleeping!”

 

    Harry swallowed, and said quickly, “HewasnttherewhenIleft.”

 

    Ron shook his head.  “Come again, Harry?”

 

     He bit his lip.  “Charlie wasn’t there, Ron.”

 

    There was a great billowing silence and Ron’s face began to redden in anger.  “You mean to tell me you left Hermione there all alone?”

 

    Sounding panicked, Harry replied, “I wasn’t supposed to be gone for more than thirty bloody minutes!”

 

    Ron roared at him, “Somebody is after her!  Why would you leave her all alone when she’s in danger you dumb arse?!”

 

    “I didn’t get any sleep last night!  I wasn’t thinking clearly!”

 

    Ron held his head with one hand and used the other to push himself up out of his chair. Standing directly in front of Harry, he looked down at him, his brows furrowed in anger. “As bad as I feel I still have a mind to punch you square in the nose!”

 

     Harry cowered slightly.  “I’m sorry, alright?  I told you I wasn’t thinking clearly!”

 

     Ron bent down slightly and grabbed a startled Harry by his collar.  “If anything happens to her because of your stupidity I swear on my mother’s life that I’ll beat the living shite out of you!”

 

     Harry sputtered back at him, “Oh l-like y-you haven’t ever done anything stupid yourself in our line of work, arsehole!”

 

     Ron let go of Harry, his eyes narrowing.  “What are you on about?”

 

   “How bout’ the time you blew a ten month operation because you decided to fart at the wrong time!”

 

   Ron rolled his eyes and groaned in aggravation.  “Bloody hell- not that again!”

 

   “Did you think I’d ever let you live it down?” Harry smiled evilly at him, “I’ll never forget it!  There we were hiding behind a dumpster getting ready to arrest those two Death Eaters when all of a sudden you let one go!”

 

   “I told you I ate three fucking bowls of spicy chili earlier…there wasn’t anyway to stop it!” Ron said defensively.  

 

   Ignoring him, Harry continued, “Because you farted, those two pricks came around the dumpster, saw who we were and Apparated away never to be seen or heard from again.”  Harry rolled his eyes.  “Or how bout’ the time you abandoned your post when we were tailing that psycho chap from Prague because you were too busy getting a knob job, eh?”    

 

    Ron scowled at him for a moment.  His eyes suddenly went wide as realization hit him.    “Quit trying to change the bloody subject!  Admit it-you fucked up royally today!”

 

    Harry stared up at the ceiling and shrugged.  “I suppose I should have done things differently.”

 

    “Humph!  Some fucking friend you are!”

 

    Harry stood up, facing Ron.  “And what the hell do you mean by that?!”

 

    “Exactly what I said!”  Ron pushed his finger into Harry’s chest.  “I cannot believe you’d up and leave her all alone knowing damn well that somebody’s after her!”

 

    Harry smacked Ron’s finger away.  “I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE GONE THIS LONG!”

 

    Ron roared back at him, “SHE’S PROBABLY FUCKING DEAD BY NOW HARRY!”

 

    Harry started to shake with anger. “Shut it Ron!”

 

    Ron snarled back at him, “No, I will not shut it!  If she’s been hurt or killed it’s on your head, arsehole!”

 

     Harry knew he was right.  Whether it was guilt or being defensive he didn’t know, but he just couldn’t resist hitting Ron below the belt at that moment.  “You’re one to talk!  You left her and now you see the results of your actions!  She’s all fucked up now Ron!  She’s all fucked up thanks to you!” 

 

    “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

 

     Harry’s tirade ignited what he’d been feeling for awhile now.  “You have the nerve to get pissed at me when it was you that destroyed who she was in the first place?!  You insensitive, selfish fucking prick!”

 

     “I did what I thought was right at the time!”  Ron’s eyes narrowed dangerously.  “You should have been there to help her through it but as usual your dick was more important!”           

 

    That did it.

 

     Harry pulled back with his right fist and brought it up, hitting Ron square in the jaw.  Ron looked shocked for a moment, bringing his hand up to rub the spot that Harry hit.  Then Ron’s eyes narrowed dangerously.  “Shouldn’t have done that arsehole!”

 

     Ron was taller and larger than Harry and easily picked him up and slammed him against the wall.  Though Harry was clearly in pain, he fought to get back up and ran at full speed yelling something unintelligible at Ron, knocking him down to the floor.

 

     The healer came running back to the waiting room, looking horrified.  “Stop it you two, this instant!” He took his wand out, waving it around warningly.  When Harry and Ron ignored him and continued to fight, he muttered helplessly, “Shite!”  He ran frantically out the door and into the hallway.  Spotting a group of Aurors walking toward the third floor conference rooms, he yelled out to them, “I need some help-QUICK!  I got two Aurors in here having a bloody brawl!”

 

     The group of Aurors came running.  The healer pulled the door open swiftly as the Aurors piled into the small waiting room.  Harry and Ron were now rolling about the floor; their fists were flying as they shouted obscenities at each other.  Several chairs had been unceremoniously knocked over.  A small table lay completely smashed in a corner of the room and wizard magazines littered the floor.

 

     Two of the Aurors came quickly, trying to stop the fight before a commanding voice piped up, “Let me through!”  The Aurors parted, allowing Gable to enter  the room.  Gable shook his head in disgust and said to the other Aurors, “Save me a lot of bloody paper work if I  just allow the two of them to kill each other.”

 

     Ron, pinning Harry to the floor with his advantageous weight, was poised to strike, his fist ready to swing as Harry covered his face protectively with his hands.  Gable pulled his wand out from his robes and pointed it at the combatants.  “Immobilis!”  Instantly, both froze mid-strike.

 

     Gable sneered, lowering his wand.  “Separate the two of them, boys!” A few Aurors lifted Ron off of Harry, hoisting him up with great difficulty.  Two other Aurors hauled Harry up as Gable flicked his wand again, releasing them from his spell.

 

    “The both of you disgust me!  If I had my way I’d take both your Auror licenses and tear them up right now!”  Gable stuffed his wand back into his robes and folded his arms. “What the hell do you have to say for yourselves?!”

 

     Harry, who sported a black eye and cut lip, cleared his throat. “We were just having a discussion, sir.”

 

     “A discussion?” Gable said in disbelief. “Looks to me like the two of you were having one hell of a discussion as you call it!”  Gable walked to the middle of the room, staring dangerously back and forth between them.  “You’re both a ruddy disgrace.  You are both hereby suspended for twenty four hours without pay!”

 

    “But, Sir!” Harry piped up.

 

    Gable snarled at him. “No ‘buts’ Potter!  You should be grateful it’s only for one day.  Maybe you’ll use those hard skulls to think next time instead of bashing them in with your fists.”

 

     “But Ron and I are to be transferred to London headquarters at noon today.”

 

     “I’m afraid your transfers won’t be going through until tomorrow.”  Gable smiled smugly at Harry.  “And believe me I’ll make damn sure of it!”  He turned to Ron, “You first Weasley!” He pointed toward the hallway. “Head straight to the lifts and get the bloody hell out of my sight!”

 

    Ron shook himself out of the clutches of the two Aurors that held him, scowling at Harry as he walked to the lifts.  His head was hurting even worse than before and his ribs were now aching.  He pushed the button wearily thinking things couldn’t possibly get any worse.  The lift opened and of all people to be occupying it was the pretty witch with the huge cleavage-Rhonda!

 

    Ron’s eyes widened in fear.  Shite…it just got worse!

 

     He could tell she was seething in anger for her eyes had narrowed dangerously.  Ron lifted his hands up in surrender and sputtered, “H-hey there R-Rhonda!  Look, I’m terribly sorry about…”

 

     Before Ron could finish his apology, she brought her hand up and slapped him hard across the cheek.  The force of the impact made his head whip to the side and he stumbled back a few steps. Rhonda roared at him, “ARSEHOLE!”  She punched a floor button ferociously and the lift doors closed shut right in front of a bewildered Ron’s face.

 

    Ron stared at the doors of the elevator, rubbing his cheek that now had a large red handprint on it.  The doors opened up once more and Ron peered in cautiously.  He sighed in relief when he saw that the lift was empty and stepped in.  Ron pushed the button for the first floor and leaned back against the wall. 

 

     His head throbbed and his body ached, bruises popping up in places he’d never been bruised.  Harry wasn’t as big as him, but he had one hell of a punch.  Still, he knew he had so much to do and now his time and abilities had been curtailed.  His first priority was to go and check to see if Hermione was alright.  I cannot believe Harry just up and left her there alone.  Ron shook his head and felt the lift jolting to the right and then sharp to the left; the movement not helping his headache at all. 

 

     He pulled the folded piece of paper out of his pocket containing the names of potential relatives of Shannon.  Unfolding it, he began to map out where he’d go after checking on Hermione.  The lift came to a stop and the doors opened.  Ron shoved the paper into his pocket and stepped out into the lobby. 

 

     Striding toward the exit, Ron tried to gather his composure.  He had twenty four hours to set things right.  A plan began to formulate in his head.  If all went well, Shannon would be back where she should have been all along.  She would have no memory of him or their marriage.  Ron sighed as he stepped out onto the busy street.  The sun was so bright that he had to shield his eyes for a moment.

 

      A nearby pub seemed like the best place to Floo to London.  Walking briskly, his thoughts focused on her.  He hoped that Hermione was safe and sound.  He also hoped that by this time tomorrow Shannon would be back with her loved ones and moving on with her life.  It was time for him to let go of the last link to the most horrible time of his existence.  It was time to say good-bye to Shannon Weasley.                       

 

              

 

 

 

  

 

     

 

        

 

   

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

             

 

 

 

 

 

       

 

           

 

         

               

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank Brandedfaithfully for her editing work.  I have finally, finally finished the chapters (seven in all) in between the Shadow chapters! (starting at chapter 23) I hope you all enjoy it and I thank you so much for your support!

XXX,

missgranger2 


Chapter 16 “Discovery and Deceit” 

     Someone knocked furiously at the door.  Charlie stood up and whipped his wand from his robes.  He looked from Hermione and back to the door again.  “Grab your wand!” he hissed at her.

     Hermione sighed and non-chalantly picked up her wand from the night stand.  “Yes, dad.”

    Charlie crept to the door as the pounding grew louder.  “Who’s there?”   The pounding ceased at once leaving a deafening silence.  Charlie glanced back at Hermione who held her wand vertical with one hand while reading a parchment held in her other.  He snapped his fingers at her cavalier attitude.  “Get down on the floor- now!”

     Hermione wrinkled her nose at him, clearly not as concerned.  Still clutching the parchment and her wand, she started to scoot to the edge of the bed.  She suddenly stopped when a muffled voice she knew all too well spoke through the door.  “Charlie, are you there?  It’s me.”

     Hermione frowned.  “What the hell is he doing here?”

     Charlie shrugged.  “What’s the password?”

     “Damned if I know.  Look, just open the bloody door, it really is me!”

    “Hmm… so you claim.  What was it that the twins transformed your teddy bear into when you were little that scared the shite out of you?”

    There was a familiar groan.  “A fucking spider.  C’mon, Charlie!  Quit humiliating me and open up the door as I don’t have much time.”

    Charlie nodded his head and turned to Hermione.  “I’ll just be right outside in the hallway if you need me.”  Hermione sighed and dropped her wand on the bed as Charlie slowly unlocked the door and opened it.  Ron stood in the doorway looking thoroughly agitated, his eyes immediately darting past Charlie to the other occupant of the room.  Obviously wanting a private word with his sibling, Charlie slipped outside and closed the door behind him.  “What in the hell you doing here little brother?”

    “I was just making sure Hermione was alright seeing as Harry left her alone.”   Ron ran a hand through his hair, his typical gesture for extreme frustration.  “So, is she alright?”

    Charlie lowered his wand.  “Yeah.  I’ll probably be kicking Harry’s arse when I see him.  It was a stupid move on his part to up and leave her alone like that- the arsehole!”

     Ron nodded his head.  “We already sort of discussed it.  I suspect he’ll probably be here soon.”  He glanced down.  “So, have you got any leads as to who was responsible?”

    “Nothing concrete, but we’re looking through some old case files that might be related somehow.”  Charlie frowned.  “You know, you look like shite, little brother!  What the hell happened to you anyway?”

    “Zero sleep, a bit too much to drink and a boxing match with my best friend.”  Ron rubbed his eyes wearily.  “Harry and I asked for a transfer back here and we start tomorrow at noon.  I’ll be moving back to the Burrow… without Shannon.”

    Charlie raised his eyebrows.  “So, you and Shannon are calling it quits?”

    “Something like that, yeah.”

    “I’m sorry, Ron, that it didn’t work out between you two.”  He surveyed his brother a moment before his eyes went wide.  “How the hell are you going to explain all this to mum and dad?  I mean they have no idea that you weren’t bonded.”

    Ron took a deep breath.  “For once, I’m going to be straight with them as I think I’ve already dug myself a hole too deep to get out of.”  He leaned back against the wall, looking tired and solemn.  Staring at a spot over Charlie’s shoulder he said quietly as if to himself, “It’s time I face up to all the shite I caused.  I don’t want to run away anymore.”

    Charlie was about to say something to him when Harry appeared on the landing looking as haggard as Ron did.  Charlie furrowed his eyebrows.  “So… decided to come back you little prick?  How fucking dare you leave her alone like that!”

     Harry clutched his stomach with one hand, and shakily held his other up.  “I know I shouldn’t have left her… but, honestly, I didn’t think I’d be gone so bloody long...  HEY!”  Charlie lifted Harry up by the collar of his robes, throwing him against the door.  “What the hell?  Is the entire Weasley clan gonna’ try and kick my arse today?!”

     The door rattled behind him and Charlie quickly let go of Harry’s collar, letting him fall unceremoniously to the floor.  The door swung open, Hermione looking rather pale save for the redness of fury growing upon her cheeks.  “What in the hell is going on here?!”

     “Get back in bed, Hermione.”  Charlie said, as he glared down at Harry.

      Wand clutched in her fist, she folded her arms tightly.  “I will not go back to bed until you answer my bloody  question!” 

     Harry rolled to his hands and knees and with great difficulty, pushed up from the floor, groaning as he did.  “We were just having a little discussion.” 

    “Do you often have discussions on the floor?”  Then she stared at him more intently.  “For goodness sake, you look like death warmed over.”  She spotted Ron standing nearby and Charlie’s angry expression.  “Both of you do.  What the hell happened?”  Without warning, she suddenly swayed, her eyes closing.  Harry was about to reach his hands out to her but Ron got there first.

    Placing his hands around her waist, Ron steadied her.  “You alright?”  Hermione nodded unconvincingly, bowing her head and shaking it back and forth.  Her hands fell limply to her sides and she dropped her wand with a clank.  Ron bent his knees and lifted her up in one fluid motion.  “Let’s get you back to bed.”

     He laid her down in the bed atop several folders, parchment and pictures that had been scattered about.  Looking concerned, he backed up a few steps staring at her as Charlie and Harry stepped up behind him.

    With eyes still closed, Hermione’s took a few deep breaths.  After a few moments, her eyes fluttered open and she sighed.   “Bloody hell, I don’t understand why I felt so weak all of a sudden.”

    “I think it best that you get some rest, Hermione.”  Ron waved his hand at the items littering her bed.  “From the looks of it, I think you might be overdoing it.”

     She glared at Ron, her feelings toward him immediate and hard.  Her voice was laced with sarcasm, “I thank you for your concern but I think that last time I checked you were an Auror and not a healer.”

     Ron could feel his temper rising, something she had always been able to bring out of him.  Before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “Dammit Hermione.”   He ran his hand through his hair, trying to get a grip on his emotions, aware of the affect she still had on him.  Ron cleared his throat.  “Just get some rest, alright?”

    Ever defiant, Hermione pulled herself up and lay back against the headboard.  She cocked her head to the side and smiled at him as his face began to redden in fury.  “I think I’ll rest when I’m good and damn ready.”

    Ron turned to Charlie and Harry, his temper barely contained.  “Could you give us a minute alone?”

    Charlie looked at Hermione who merely shrugged.  “Fine.  We’ll just be in the hallway.”  He smiled evilly at Harry.  “Besides, I’m not done with you yet.” 

     Harry sighed and rolled his eyes.  “Trust me when I tell you I’ve been punished enough for one day.”    

    When the door closed, Ron fished his wand out of his robes and put a silencing charm on the room.  He shoved the wand back into his robes and rounded on her.  “Why do you always have to be so bloody stubborn, Hermione?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The smug smile left her face at once and she shuddered.  She didn’t like how he was making her feel, drawing her into an argument like he used too.  Emotions that had long since been buried began to stir deep inside her.   She didn’t want to go back… couldn’t go back.  Things were supposed to be dead between them because it was easier that way.  Ronald Weasley had fucked up her life and there was no way in hell she was ever going to forgive him- not ever! 

    Hermione drew on that anger, fighting the intense comfort of familiarity that she didn’t know she had missed. “Just go and get the fuck out of here!”  Ron began to chuckle bitterly, making her seethe with anger.   “What in the hell are you laughing about?!”

    “You.  The Hermione Granger I knew would never in a million years say the word fuck.” 

     “I am not that silly, uptight witch anymore.”  The smug smile returned.  “I should thank you for that, really.  It was you that showed me that nice girls finish last.”

     Ron stopped laughing and rubbed his eyes wearily.  “For once we agree on something- I am the one to blame for who you are now, aren’t I?”  Hermione lifted up a piece of parchment up off the bed and began to study it intently.  Ron sighed.  “You’ll never know how sorry I am Hermione for what I did to you... to us.  If I could go back and make things right, I would.”

    She looked at him then.  Her voice was low, steady.  “Well, you can’t.  I can’t.  It’s too late for apologies, Ron.”  Hermione bit her lip.  “This is who I am now.  I am never again going to be the Hermione Granger you once knew.”

    Ron shook his head.   “I think she’s still there, hidden, but inside you somewhere.”   They stared at one another in complete silence for a long moment.  “I need to go.  I’m transferring back here, Hermione and I’m moving back to the Burrow alone.”   Her eyes widened in surprise for a moment, but she quickly tapped them back down.  “That’s right.  I’m going to be here now.  And I’m going to try my damnedest to make you trust me again.”

    Hermione arched her eyebrow at him.  She began to read the parchment once more as Ron took his wand out and lifted the silencing spell.  Just as he was about to reach for the knob, she called out to him, “You’re wasting your time, you know.”

    Ron turned around, smiling at her thoughtfully as she looked back at him, her expression stoic.  “We’ll see about that.  You might recall that I liked nothing more than proving you wrong.”   He winked at her causing Hermione to tut at him. 

     Opening the door, he began to roar with laughter at the sight that greeted him.  Charlie held a squirming Harry by the collar over the staircase.  Harry’s feet were bound with rope and Ron nearly doubled over with laughter watching Harry try to lift his legs up.  He closed the door and walked over to the banister.  “My brother sure is strong, isn’t he Harry?”

     Harry stopped squirming and looked down at Ron.  “Don’t just stand there- help me out!”

     “Why would I want do that for?”  He shrugged.  “Besides, I’m interested to see if shite can bounce down the stairs.”

   “Arsehole!  C’mon Charlie, stop fucking with me and let me go!”

    There was a twinkle in Charlie’s eye.  “Hey Ron, did he just say let go?”

    “He sure as hell did.”  They both began to laugh. 

     Harry scowled at them.  “Alright, that’s it!  As soon as you let me down from here I’m kicking both your arses!  No fucking mercy!”

    “Oooooo!”  Charlie taunted.  “I think he’s good and pissed off, Ron.  What do you think?”

    Ron shook his head and smiled.  “I gotta’ go.”  He started down the stairs, pausing for a moment to look up at Harry.  “ And uh Harry… a word of advice from someone who’s known Charlie a lot longer than you.  If you want Charlie to let you down I think you best start groveling.  The more you fight it, the longer he’ll hold you there.”  He began to snicker as he descended, hearing Harry begging for his life.

~*~*~*~*~*~

     Hermione stared at the door for a long time after Ron left.   She didn’t like hearing Ron’s plans.  She had carefully remade herself when he broke her heart.  Hermione couldn’t imagine returning to the person she once was… doing the things she had done since then.  Ron was a painful reminder of her good side, her pure side.  That Hermione had long since died, a stronger woman taking her place.  A woman that didn’t need a man’s love and didn’t trust anybody as much as she trusted herself.  She lived a secret life now… a darker life perhaps… but she sure as hell didn’t have to answer to anybody. 

    She took a deep breath and lifted up another folder from the bed.  Work will get your mind off it all.  Opening the folder she began to frown.  This parchment was different from the others in that the Aurors and the victims’ names had been blackened out.  Twisting her jaw, she raised her wand and tried to lift the blackout with a spell she had recently learned, but the dark lines remained.  Curious, she began to read through the report, discovering that the location of the murders had also been blacked out.  There were three photos inside the folder.  One was of a woman with child, who had been viciously decapitated, her body stabbed numerous times. The other photo, just as gruesome, showed a man, his hands tied up above his head, stabbed repeatedly. 

     The last photo contained a woman tied to a chair, she bobbed her head up and down, and Hermione thought there was something vaguely familiar about her face but couldn’t place her.  Her long hair was partially covering her face and her body was visibly shaking.  A survivor!  But who the hell was she?  If there had been a survivor why on earth hadn’t they interrogated her?  Hermione flipped through the file once more, thinking she had missed the interrogation report. It wasn’t there.  A small piece of parchment fell out from the folder.  Hermione picked it up and saw that it was a formal request to have certain pieces of information removed.  It was stamped with the official Auror seal of the director.  Oddly, it wasn’t signed by the petitioner which was usually standard procedure.

     Hermione dropped the file and stared at the note more intently.  Something was familiar about the writing though she couldn’t quite place it.  Her thoughts were interrupted when the door flew open and Charlie and Harry clamored in. 

    Harry’s face was red with fury.  “You could have killed me you prick!  Not to mention I am positive that I have rope burns all over my legs now!”

     Charlie smirked and sat down in a chair near Hermione’s bed.  “Serves you right.  I should have dropped your arse.”

     Hermione scowled at Charlie.   “What are you two going on about?”

    Charlie shrugged.  “I just decided to teach the little shite a lesson for leaving you alone is all.”

    “He fucking hung me by ropes over the open staircase!” Harry clarified.

Hermione sighed.  “Isn’t that a little extreme, Charlie?  I was perfectly fine.  Besides, I don’t need a babysitter twenty four hours a day for heaven sakes.”

     “Like hell you don’t!  Need I remind you that you could have been killed the other night?”  

     “No, I’m not likely to forget since you keep going on and on about it.”

    Harry began to chuckle, making Charlie glare at him.  “Shut the fuck up!  I’m still pissed at you.” 

    Harry rolled his eyes and flopped down on the bed beside Hermione.  He spotted the parchment in her hand and yanked it out.  “Hey!  I wasn’t done reading that yet.”  Harry shrugged and began to read the note.  When he finished, he frowned and began scratching his head.  Hermione took the opportunity to yank the note out of his hand.  “Would you please go and annoy somebody else, Harry.  I’m trying to concentrate here.”

    Harry blinked his eyes a few times.  “That’s odd.”

    “What’s odd?  That you annoy the shite out of me?”

    He frowned at her.  “No.  What’s odd is that Ron never told me about that parchment.”

    Hermione shook her head.  “Wait a minute.  What does Ron have to do with it?”

    “That’s his writing.  I’d recognize that scraggily handwriting anywhere.”

     Charlie’s eyes went wide.  “Let me see that!”  Hermione handed it to him.  He looked at the parchment for a few moments before fishing out a note from Ron from his pockets.  Charlie held both pieces of parchment up and began looking from one to the other.  “Blimey!  I think this is Ron’s handwriting.”

    Harry smiled smugly.  “Told you so!” 

    Looking like a deer in headlights, Hermione opened and closed her mouth a few times before speaking.  “I suppose it could have been him as very few wizards would have been permitted not to sign such a petition.  It would have had to been somebody with some sort of status or clout.”

    “I’d say helping to bring Voldemort’s down would have been enough clout, eh?”  Harry waggled his eyebrows. 

    “Wait a minute.”  Hermione picked up the photo of the mystery woman in the chair and held it so Harry could see it too, recognition coming fast.  “Is this… Shannon?”

    Harry shrugged.  “I suppose it could be.  She has long blonde hair like the woman in the photo, but so do a million other women.”

     “No, I’m pretty sure this is her,” Hermione declared staring at the tortured woman.  The pieces seemed to fit; Ron’s handwriting and how he had come to meet Shannon somehow on that mission.  

     Harry picked up the other two photos, grimacing as he looked at them.  “Bloody hell!  No wonder Ron never talked about it.  It sure as hell explains a lot about the poor bastard.”

    Charlie reached his hand out towards Hermione.  “Let me see the report.”

   “Just a minute, I have an idea!” Hermione snapped at him.  “I tried this before and it didn’t work, but…”  She picked up her wand from the night stand and touched it to the blacked-out information.  Nothing happened.  “Damn, I was sure it would work this time.”  Hermione bit her lip and touched her wand to the parchment once more.  Again, nothing happened.  Frustrated, she tightly folded her arms.  “Dammit!  There must be some sort of a spell that will restore the information.”

     Harry yanked his wand out from his robes and snatched the parchment from the folder.  Just as he placed the tip of his wand to the paper, Hermione snatched it from out of his hand.  “Hey!  I’m trying to help!”

    “No fucking way.  You’ll most likely set the whole damn thing on fire.”  She threw his wand across the room and grabbed the parchment.   Hurriedly, she placed the paper back in the file and closed it.  Harry scowled at her and reached his hand out.

     “Accio wand.” 

     Hermione paid no mind to him as she thought aloud.  “It would have to be some sort of revealing spell now wouldn’t it?  I only know of two that work on documents.”  She sighed.  “Of course there are others I’m sure.”

     Charlie stood up and took the folder from her lap as Harry tucked his wand away.  “There are other spells.  In this case it involves a password.”

    Unfolding her arms, Hermione looked at him skeptically.  “And how do you know that?”

    Harry cleared his throat.  “Well, because I once petitioned for my name to be erased from a report.”  Hermione arched her eyebrow at him.  “I had to say an incantation first.  But what actually keeps it hidden away is the password you give after saying the incantation.”

     Charlie looked up from the report he was reading.  “And why exactly did you have your name blacked-out from a report?”

     Harry shrugged, looking rather uncomfortable all of a sudden.  He took a deep breath.  “A while back I got a bit of bad information from an informant of mine.  He told me an arsehole I was after was holed up at some pure-blood owned mansion.”  Harry reached his hand up and rubbed his forehead wearily.  “Without back-up, I entered the mansion and thought I had the bastard cornered in the lounge.  It was dark, mind you, but I could plainly see a man that fit his description hiding behind a giant vase.  I gave him fair warning before I started throwing hexes in his direction.  The idiot never said anything back, but kept dodging behind furniture which I kept blowing apart with my wand.”  Harry smiled slightly, looking embarrassed rather than proud.  “I chased the man into the dining room next and was throwing hexes like mad.  Finally, he crawled out from the large oak table I destroyed begging for his life.”  Harry sighed.  “Turned out the poor bloke was the butler.”

     Charlie started to chuckle.  “I bet you were in some deep shite, eh?”

    Harry nodded.  “My captain wasn’t too happy, especially when the owners demanded to know who was responsible for several thousand galleons worth of damage.  It was a complete embarrassment to be sure.  Trying to resolve the whole bloody fiasco as quickly as possible, it was he who suggested I petition for my name to be erased from the file.”

     “He was worried that the owners would sue your arse, eh?”  Charlie said with a smirk.

     “No.  I think he was more concerned for his job.”  Harry sighed.  “See, the owner of the house was the Minister of Magic.”   Charlie started to roar with laughter and even Hermione started to laugh.  “It’s not funny!  My entire squad could have been chucked.  And that large vase I destroyed was nearly three hundred years old.  That poor butler suffered a complete mental breakdown afterwards.”  Harry sighed.  “I tried to go and see him at St. Mungos to apologize.  He took one look at me and went totally bonkers.  The poor bloke pissed himself and began crawling under his bed screaming like a mad man.  It was horrible!”

     Hermione wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and cleared her throat.  “So you’re saying that if we figure out Ron’s password, the missing information will reveal itself?”  Harry nodded.  She turned to Charlie who was still laughing heartily.  “How long do we have before Billings comes and gets the files?”

     Charlie sniffled a few times.  “I’m not sure, but I s-suspect he’ll be back for them before his shift ends.”  He looked at Harry and began to laugh once more.  “Only you’d go off and destroy the Minister of Magic’s house!”  He began to whoop.  “That was brilliant, Harry!”

      Hermione began to laugh along with Charlie, making Harry scowl at the both of them.  “The both of you are nothing but insensitive arseholes!”

    Charlie piped up, “Better to be an arsehole than a whole arse!”  He winked at Harry who stomped into the small bathroom and slammed the door shut behind him.  Charlie and Hermione laughed even harder.

~*~*~*~*~**~*~

     Ron flew through the air on his broom, a magical compass in his hand, heading towards Northampton.  There had been seven Edna Marsdons listed on the paper he had the Muggle print out for him.  The first one on the list, an Edna N. Marsdon, lived at 42 Red Cherry Way in Northampton. Ron sighed as he thought of the tremendous undertaking he had in store for him today.  He felt like utter crap and really didn’t feel like zig-zagging all over Britain.  Ron hoped that the Edna Marsdon he was hunting for wouldn’t have him flying around all bloody day long.

    Finally reaching his destination, Ron touched down in a wooded area.  He transfigured his broom into what resembled a small twig and stuffed it into his jeans pocket.  Ron left his robes behind a tree in the outskirts of London before taking off so as not to call attention to himself.  Holding his compass out before him, he followed the direction of the arrow through the woods and down a dirt road.  The arrow pointed right onto a paved road lined with houses on either side. 

    Walking slowly, he moved his eyes up and down, looking from the compass’s straight arrow and to the sidewalk in front of him.  The arrow suddenly swung hard right, making Ron stop.  He turned to the right and saw a well kept house with a beautiful manicured lawn.  Ron slipped the compass into his pocket and walked down the cobbled path towards the porch.  He climbed the stairs and knocked on the door. 

   A few minutes later, the door opened to reveal a young woman, heavy with child.  “Yes?”

   “Um… hello.  I’m hunting for Edna Marsdon.  Do you know if she’s here?”

     The young woman eyed him suspiciously.  “Just who are you?”

    “My name is Ron Wea… Wilson.  I’m trying to find a relative of my wife’s.”  He smiled slightly.  “My wife’s name is Shannon and her maiden name is Marsdon.  Anyway, she lost her parents in a car crash a while back and I am trying to track down her aunt… her Aunt Edna.”

     The woman rubbed her swollen belly.  “Well, I’m Edna Marsdon.  But I assure you that I don’t have a niece named Shannon.” 

    Ron sighed in spite of himself.  “Well, I thank you for your time, ma’am.”  He barely got the words out before the door quickly shut in his face.  Ron shook his head and pulled the list from his pocket.  The next name, Edna P. Marsdon, was listed in Ipswich.  He began to walk back to the woods.  Pulling the magical compass from his pocket, he brought it up to his mouth and whispered the address.  The compass pulsed with yellow light a few times, the arrow inside spinning around like mad. 

    A few moments later the arrow stilled, pointing due East.  Ron ran his hand through his hair as he reached the dirt road.  Once concealed within the woods, he removed the twig from his pocket, transfiguring it back to his broom.  Straddling it, he pushed off from the ground and headed in the direction that the arrow was pointing; hoping that the Edna he was hunting for would indeed be in Ipswich.

~*~*~*~*~*~

     Back at the inn, things were quiet save for Harry.  When he had finally emerged from the loo some thirty minutes later, he had calmed down enough to reveal to Hermione how the petitioner’s password worked.  “It could be anything.”

    “Anything?”  Hermione said, sounding alarmed.

   “It could be a sentence, one word, a series of numbers or letters- anything!”  As Hermione grumbled to herself, Harry took the file from Charlie and sat down crossed legged on the floor.  He took the report out and touched his wand to one of the blacked-out names, muttering all sorts of things that he thought might be Ron’s password.

    Charlie sat in the same chair with a folder in hand, a small stack of files at his feet.  Hermione had a folder opened and tried to read it but found herself growing increasingly distracted by her thoughts.  Why didn’t Ron ever tell her or Harry about that mission?  And if the unidentified woman was Shannon, how exactly had she gotten herself caught up in it all?   The questions kept circulating through her mind over and over.  The pictures were horrible and the image of the woman she believed to be Shannon kept playing over and over in her mind.  Why on earth would he have kept it all quiet?  Was he protecting somebody… himself or maybe somebody else?  What was his role in all this? 

     Frustrated, Hermione snapped the folder shut and lay down.  Her head was pounding; more from what she thought was aggravation than from her injuries.  She drifted off to sleep straightaway.  Horrible visions of mounds of mutilated bodies haunted her dreams.  Hermione found herself walking in a large white room, the bodies stacked in grotesque pyramids.   And in the midst of it all was Ron standing on top of one of the mounds, a dirk dripping in blood held in his hand.  He looked down from the mound at her, a look of anguish on his face.   The Ron in her nightmare mouthed the words, “I’m sorry” to her as he drove the dirk straight into his heart, crumpling down atop the mass of bodies below.                 

              

             

     

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank Brandedfaithfully for her brilliant editing work and putting up with my barmy ideas. Also a special thank you to tqpannie for putting up with my bat-shit crazy self!

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 17 “Lost and Found”

So far the search for Shannon’s aunt had turned up nothing.  Ron had been to Ipswich, Oxford and Canterbury and each time it was the wrong Edna Marsden.  He was presently flying to Liverpool and hoped like hell he’d find her aunt this time.   Twenty minutes later, his compass indicated that he had arrived.  Hidden among the clouds, Ron navigated his broom downward and could see the spectacular lights of the metropolitan city shining into the evening sky. 

With darkness fast approaching and his time running out, Ron quickly performed an invisibility charm on himself and his broom.  He wouldn’t be knocking on any more doors from here on out.  If she wasn’t here, he’d still have two more possibilities to investigate.  Ron had to get the matter settled quickly for he was due to report at Auror Headquarters in London by noon tomorrow.

Ron touched down just at the end of Newdown Road.  He looked down the street to see that both sides were lined with identical townhouses, all hooked together to form one long building. Transfiguring his broom to something smaller, he shoved what now looked like a thick toothpick into his pocket.  Using his compass, he walked down the street until he saw the arrow move swiftly to the right.  Ron opened the white, steel gate and proceeded up to the house.

There was a single light shining from the front window that looked like it was possibly the lounge.  A long, thin shingled roof protruded out, covering the front door and downstairs window.  Ron looked up to see a large rectangular window on the top floor, just above the small roof.  Shoving the compass in his pocket, Ron pulled his wand out and levitated himself up towards the window.  He landed precariously on the slanted roof and then used his wand to banish the glass from the window.

Ron climbed into a sparsely-furnished, immaculate bedroom.  There was a twin bed situated in the center of the room, its headboard pushed against the pale pink walls.  A long bureau looking to be made of mahogany set along another wall.  There was also a small nightstand by the bed with a lamp and a few pictures frames sitting on it.  Ron picked up the photos one by one.

The third one showed a family of four- a father and mother plus two daughters with blonde hair.  He studied the picture of the girls intently as he felt his heartbeat begin to speed up.  One of the girls looked like it could be a much younger Shannon, but he couldn’t be certain.  Ron set the frame back down and walked to the open door, stepping into the hallway.  There were two more bedrooms and a bathroom.  He searched through the rooms and came up empty handed as the bedrooms were nothing more than what appeared to be guestrooms.

Sighing, he quietly went down the stairs.  A lounge was on one side of the staircase with a small kitchen to the left.  Ron spotted an older woman sitting in a wing backed chair reading a book.  He walked into the room, careful not to bump into anything.  There was a fireplace whose brick surround had been painted white.  On top of the mantle were dozens of pictures, along with several lit candles in small clear glass jars.  

Curious, he moved closer to get a better look.  He covered his mouth to muffle his gasp as there in the middle of all the pictures was a framed copy of the same obituary he had.  Ron looked over at the older woman who was engrossed in her book and smiled in relief.  I finally found you Aunt Edna.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Harry had been at it for hours.  He tried to think of every single password or phrase that Ron would have used.  So far, nothing he’d come up with had worked.  Charlie had been meticulously going through all the files one more time, his interest greatly increasing once he found out his brother was somehow involved.  Frustrated and tired, Harry slammed the file shut and trudged over to the other bed. 

Hermione had been sleeping for awhile now.  Charlie scowled at Harry as he took his glasses off and lay down on the bed.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Harry rubbed his eyes wearily.  “Oh, piss off, Charlie.  I didn’t sleep at all last night and I feel like shite!”

He looked at his watch.  “Billings shift will probably be over soon.  You don’t have time to be tired.”

Harry sat up and leaned back against the headboard.  He narrowed his eyes at Charlie.  “I have been working like a House Elf for fucking hours trying to guess what the hell your brother might have used for a password.  I need a break!”

“No, you don’t need a break.  What you need to do is get your arse out of that bed and keep trying to figure out Ron’s password before Billings gets here!”

Harry sighed.  “Oh c’mon Charlie, I’m dying here.  Just ask Billings to bring em’ back tomorrow for pity sakes!”

“We probably don’t have tomorrow you tosser!  All these files are being handed over to the Shadows according to Billings.”

Harry groaned.  “Then why not just let them handle it then?”

Charlie threw the file folder down and stalked over to the bed.  He grabbed Harry by the collar and pulled him out of bed.  “My brother- your best friend is somehow involved in all this and I want to know why dammit!”

Harry straightened his shoulders and ran his hand through his hair.  “Why don’t I just ask him?  I mean he can’t exactly deny that nothing happened since we’ve seen the file now.”

Charlie shook his head and chuckled bitterly.  “Ronnie isn’t going to tell you a thing and you know it.  It’s been what?  Two years?  He would have told you by now.”  He pointed over to the file Harry had left on the floor.  “I need to know what that report says because there’s no guarantee that Ron will tell you anything.”

Harry grumpily picked up his glasses from the nightstand.  “I have no fucking clue what he used for password!  I’ve thought of anything and everything he could have used.”

Charlie cocked his eyebrow at him.  “You sure about that?”

“Yes, I’m sure!”  Harry snapped at him as he walked to where he left the report.  Harry stooped down and picked it up, eyeing it with disgust.  “This is impossible, Charlie!”

Charlie sat down on the bed and patted the space beside him.  “Bring the folder over here and I’ll try and help you figure it out before Billings gets here.  Let’s hope he had to work a double shift.”

~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~

Ron flew as fast as his broom could carry him back to Durham.  It was close to eight when he finally reached their apartment.  His palms were sweaty and he felt far more nervous than he thought he would be.  This is the best thing to do… for both of us.  Ron stared at the door for a long time before entering.   Shannon came out from the kitchen wiping her hands on a dish rag.  “Oh Ron, you’re home!”

She dropped the dish towel and dashed toward him.  Shannon jumped up and wrenched her hands around his neck.  Just as she was about to kiss him, Ron spoke up, “We need to talk.”  She looked confused as she released him and stood before him.  He hastily grabbed her hand and started pulling her toward the kitchen.  “Let’s go and sit down at the kitchen table.”

Shannon tugged on his hand.  “Why?”

Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “Just, please come and sit.  I’ll explain everything.”

In the kitchen, Ron pulled a chair out and gestured for her to sit.  He released her hand and took a seat across from her.  Hesitantly, he took one her hands in his.  “Shannon, I haven’t exactly been honest with you.  And lately, I’ve come to realize that telling a lie and living a lie hasn’t been fair to you.”

Shannon gasped and covered her mouth with her free hand.  Tears began to fall from her eyes.  “Are you having an affair?”

“What?  No, it’s… no.”  Ron released her hand and stood up, walking over to the counter.  He leaned on it and folded his arms.  “I just need you to please listen before I lose my nerve here.”  Shannon sniffled and nodded her head.  “Do you remember when we met?”

“The hospital?”

“No, before that.  Do you ever remember meeting me before I visited you in the hospital?”  Shannon shrugged.  “You know why that is?”

She shrugged.  “Because we hadn’t met yet?”

“No, we had met before you were in the hospital.”  Ron pulled his wand out from his back pocket, making her gasp when she saw it.  “You don’t remember anything because I made sure that you didn’t with this- my wand.”

“A what?”  Her eyes flashed to the long twig in his hand.

“Wand, Shannon.”  She smiled briefly, thinking him joking, but almost immediately recoiled as if sensing danger.  Frightened, Shannon stood up and started to back up.  “Stop!”

Ron began to walk toward her.  “I’m a wizard Shannon.”  He aimed his wand at a cabinet containing the glasses.  It opened up and he levitated them one by one out of the cabinet and onto the counter as Shannon’s mouth fell open in a combination of shock and realization. 

Shannon covered her eyes with shaking hands.  “STOP!”

Despite everything, Ron’s heart sunk at causing her such fear.  “And even though I know you don’t remember why you’re scared of my wand or the magic I can do, trust me when I tell you it’s well warranted.”  Ron calmly placed his wand back in his pocket, trying not to frighten her anymore.  “You don’t belong in my world.  You never did.”  Shannon was positively terrified and hugged her arms to her chest, her eyes wide and fixed on him.  “Your sister and her fiancé were murdered by wizards.”  Including myself.

“You lie!  They died in a house fire!”

“That’s the story I put in your head to make you forget what really happened that night.” 

“Put in my head?” she asked, cupping the side of her head as if some scar or disfigurement might confirm what he had said.

Ron nodded and bit his lip.  “But try as I might, you still fear magic.  I reckon you fear me and my kind because it was wizards that traumatized you… and did such awful things to your family.” 

“I don’t fear you,” she replied, but the minute Ron took another step toward her she jerked back.

“No?”  Recalling the murders, Ron wiped the wetness from his eyes with the back of his hand.  “We’re not all bad you know.  There are good wizards and bad wizards just as there are good Mug… people and bad people.  Hell, some of us try and do the right thing and still fuck it all up.”

Shannon was crying full out now.  “And me loving you… did you plant that in my head as well?”

“No, I didn’t.  I just felt obligated to erase those horrible memories from your mind.  Maybe obligated isn’t the right word.  I felt bad for you.”

She sniffled.  “You were obligated.  So, this whole marriage has been nothing but you doing your duty?  You trying to make up for someone else’s cruelty?  Maybe a cover-up?”

“No, not a cover up.  I acted impulsively.  You were hurt and and I…”

“You did what you had to do.”

“Shannon, I….”

“Did you ever really love me?” she asked, trembling as if knowing what his answer was going to be and yet dreading the thought of hearing the truth.

Ron swallowed hard.  This wasn’t something he wanted to answer but he knew that he had to.  “I care for you very much but… I don’t think I was ever truly in love with you.  I’m so sorry Shannon.”  He sat down at the table and dropped his head.  “I’m sorry for everything.”

Shannon hastily wiped her eyes.  “So, you want a divorce then.”

That won’t be necessary as I’ve already handled it.  Ignoring her question, Ron folded his hands on the table.  “I found your Aunt Edna living in Liverpool. I think it’s best you go and live with her.”

“And why would I want to do that?”

“Because she’s the only family you got left.”

Shannon chuckled bitterly.  “My Aunt Edna and father were estranged for years before he died in that car crash, Ron.  She wouldn’t want me there.”

“I think you might be wrong about that.”  Ron stood up.  “Look, Shannon I cannot just leave you on your own.  You’ve never had a job nor have you ever handled the bills.”

“In other words, having my aunt take me in wouldn’t make me your problem anymore… is that right?  If you want a divorce, then you should move out.  This is my home.”

Ron was trying to keep his temper under control.  After all, it wasn’t her fault that he’d been such a son of a bitch.  “It’s my home, too, Shannon, but you don’t belong in this environment.  I would feel better if you were living in Liverpool with your aunt.  You’re not ready to be alone in this world and you know it.”  Shannon sat down at the table and folded her arms.  “I’m sorry, but I have to take you to Liverpool… tonight.”

“Tonight?”

Ron nodded.  “We’re going to fly there on my broom.”

She looked horrified.  “Fly?  On a broom?”

“You’ll be completely safe, trust me.”

Shannon snapped. “TRUST YOU?  Oh that’s rich.  You’ll probably push me off and let me plunge to my death.”  She shook her head frantically.  “I’m not getting on a broom with you.  In fact, I’m not going anywhere with you!”  She stood up, her eyes blazing.  “GET OUT!”  She began to pound at his chest with her fists.  “JUST GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

Reacting, Ron pulled his wand out and quickly stupefied her.  She fell into his arms and he sighed.  “I knew there was a temper hiding in there somewhere.”  He brushed the hair out of her eyes and took a deep breath, his eyes watering over at the pain he had caused.  He kissed her forehead.  “I’m truly sorry Shannon, but it’s time to take you home now… where you always belonged.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~

“Firewhiskey?”

“Already tried that.”  Harry mumbled.

“How about his Auror identification number?”

“Already tried it.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows in surprise.  “You really memorized that long arse number?”

“Yep.  I had to when we became partners in Durham.”  Harry groaned.  “Oh hell, we’re never going to figure it out!”

“Figure what out?”  Hermione said sleepily.

“The password.”  Harry tapped his wand to the parchment.  “Bloody hell?”  He scratched his head and placed the tip on the parchment again.  “Puddlemere sucks!  Ah fuck me, nothing we come up with is working!”

Hermione rose up and stretched.  “He probably didn’t use a password that was obvious.”

Harry snapped at her sarcastically, “No shite, Hermione.  Thanks for that bit of useful and obvious information!”

Hermione started to laugh.  “All I’m saying is that you should try thinking out of the box.”

Harry scowled at her and turned the report over.  He roughly pulled a quill from the pocket of his robes and drew a small square on it.  He held it up to Hermione.  “What the hell do you see outside the box?”  She rolled her eyes.  “That’s right- nothing!”

Hermione shook her head.  “I had the most awful dream.  I think those potions I have to take might be causing it.”

Harry turned the parchment back over and began to try some more passwords as Charlie looked at her in concern.  “What kind of dreams?”

“Well, I was in this large room of some sort and Ron was standing atop a mountain of dead bodies.”  She scrunched up her nose in disgust.  “It was really quite bizarre.”

Charlie shrugged.  “No wonder you’re dreaming about such things after staring at all these morbid photos all day.”

“It was odd though.  I mean I felt like I was really there.  And…”  Hermione didn’t want to tell Charlie about how the dream Ron had stabbed himself.  “… and then he said “I’m sorry” which I thought was weird.  What do you think it means?”

“Who knows?  The stuff that happens in your dreams comes from your subconscious.  Did you know that if you see a house in your dream, that it actually has something to do with sexual urges?”

Harry snorted.  “Sexual urges.”

Charlie whipped his head around.  “It’s true!”

“All I know is when I dream of sexual urges, I don’t see a house, but I do see your sister.”

“Oh, shut the hell up, Harry.”  Charlie rolled his eyes.  “You just keep trying to work on that report.”

“I am.”  Harry looked up at Hermione.  “What did you say Ron said again in your dream?”

“Oh, he said ‘I’m sorry’.”

“Probably because he is, you know?”  Harry sighed when Hermione simply shrugged and then placed his wand on the report.  “Well, I know I’m sorry that the two of you ever broke up in the first….place.  Bloody hell!  The blackened out parts are starting to melt away!”

Charlie frowned.  “What the hell was the password then?”

Hermione bit her lip.  “I think it was I’m sorry.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Shannon began to come around as he traveled through the night sky.  Ron had placed her front of him on the broom and had been holding her as he flew to Liverpool.  Shannon gasped when she realized where she was and turned around, gripping Ron’s neck fiercely.  “Whoa, there.  I got you and I promise that I’m not going to let you fall.”  Shannon nodded her head that she had hidden against his chest. 

Twenty minutes later, Ron descended to the ground right in front of the townhouse he had visited earlier that evening.  He helped a shaking Shannon off the broom and opened up the metal gate.  He was sure she had more to say to him, but was too overwhelmed by the broom ride to speak.  Owing to it being almost midnight, there wasn’t a light on in any of the houses that he could see. They walked up to the front door and holding his broom he turned to look down at her.  “You’re going to be happy here.”

Tears began to pour from Shannon’s eyes. 

“You know it’s crazy… but even after all you put me through I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving you Ron.”

“I know you’re confused, but you’ll feel better soon with me out of your life.”

“How can you say that?” she asked.  “You’re my husband.  You’ll always be a part of my life, even if I don’t understand all of this.  What if I refuse to sign the divorce papers?  What if I don’t want to get divorced?  We can go to counseling and work things out.”

It was inconsequential to him, but he knew it was important to her and somehow he wanted to leave her with some tidbit of happiness.  “Alright.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Ron dropped his broom and took her in his arms.  He bent his head down to kiss her one last time while pulling his wand out.  Quickly he cast the charm that he knew only too well and broke away from her.  Shannon stood before him looking dazed and confused.  Ron gently took her left hand and removed her wedding band, stowing it in his pocket.  “You will forget all about me and you won’t have ever loved me.”  She blinked her eyes once or twice.  “You lost your job and your belongings will be arriving here in a couple of days.  You’re making a fresh start.  You will find happiness, Shannon.”  He kissed her forehead and rang the doorbell twice before reaching for his broom and flying off into the night.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They had each read over the now revealed report.  It was Ron that had provided all the details while the other two Aurors hadn’t even been interviewed.  Hermione thought that strange, as usually it was standard protocol for all Aurors involved in such a case to each give a statement.  According to the report, Ron and the others had stumbled upon some sort of Death Eater sex trafficking case involving Muggles.   Ron and his men had been forced to perform various sexual acts that he didn’t bother to describe in detail.

It also said that the Death Eaters had first killed a Muggle man and then a pregnant Muggle woman.  He hadn’t identified any of the victims by name and mentioned briefly that the other Muggle woman had been taken to the hospital for psychological evaluation.  There were no descriptions of the perpetrators anywhere in the report.

Hermione frowned as she read it over one last time.  She threw down on the bed in disgust.  “Well, this doesn’t really tell us anything of any value.”

“Well, it does explain a lot about why my brother was so fucked up after that mission.”  Charlie shook his head.  “Dammit, I wish he would have came to me and talked about it.  Damn, making him do sexual stuff…that had to be awful.”  He met Hermione’s eyes for a moment, but she quickly looked away.

Looking solemn, Harry nodded and picked up the report.  He opened the file and tapped his wand to the parchment.  “I’m sorry.”  The information slowly began to become blackened out once more.  “What should we do?  Should we confront him?”

Charlie shook his head.  “No, I’ll be the one asking him about it.  I want you lot to say nothing for now.”  He rubbed his eyes wearily.  “But first, I suppose I think I might interview those two Aurors just to see if they might be able to tell me anything else.”  Charlie looked at his watch.  “Bloody hell, it’s almost midnight!”

“Where’s Billings?”  Harry asked sleepily.

“Who knows?  He probably did have had to work a double shift because there’s a shite load of our people still sifting through Hermione’s flat.”  Charlie yawned.  “I gotta’ get home before Padma kicks my arse.”  He looked at Harry.  “You staying then?”

“I’ll stay.  Besides, I’m exhausted.”  He yawned.  “Ginny knows I’m here.  I really should go home in the morning though.”

“I wanted to go interview those guys first thing in the morning.”

Hermione, who had been strangely quiet, suddenly piped up.  “The both of you can go and do your errands.  I’ll be fine.”

Ignoring her, Charlie stood up and walked to the door.  “Someone will be here in the morning, Harry.”

Waving his hand in response, Harry sauntered over to the other bed and fell into it, glasses and all.   

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank Brandedfaithfully for her wonderful beta work. I know she's asking herself, "WTF?" everytime I send her another crazy chapter. *laughs*

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 18 “Double Trouble”

Ron returned to the apartment that he and Shannon had once shared.  It was eerily quiet but also very peaceful and blissfully calming.  He sat on the couch in the lounge with a bottle of Firewhiskey and the contents of Shannon’s purse sprawled out on the coffee table.  The fireplace was going, making the room feel warm.  Not bothering with a glass, Ron lifted the bottle to his lips and took a swig.  He picked up the Muggle checkbook and threw it into the fireplace and watched it burn.  He made a mental note to himself to go the Muggle bank in the morning and close out their account.

The next casualty were several photos of Shannon and him that he always thought were barmy since they didn’t move.  He worked his way methodically through all the contents of her purse, tossing each and every object into the fire, one by one.  Then he pulled the ring from his pocket and looked at it for a long moment before pitching it casually into the fire as well. 

Ron sighed before taking another drink.  In the morning he’d be packing up all of his things and moving back to the Burrow.  He laughed at the thought of having to explain it all to his parents.  They’ll probably shite themselves for sure.  The rest of Shannon’s things would remain, along with the furniture they had picked out together and he’d let the landlord sort it all out.  And then he was going to report to Headquarters at noon.  Exhausted, he leaned his head back on the couch, hoping that he had finally put to rest some of the demons that had been haunting him for so long.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Charlie can’t be serious.”  Hermione looked up at two of them, smiling back at her with identical smirks.  “He really asked dumb and dumber to keep me company?”

George gasped in mock indignation.  “Why Hermione, you wound me.   I’ll have you know that Fred and I are missing a very important conference in Holland just to be here with you.”

Hermione folded her arms.  “And just exactly what kind of conference were you two idiots going to?”

Fred bent his fingers in front of him and began examining his fingernails.  “A business conference, of course.  George and I are trying to set up a joke shop in Amsterdam and were set to do a presentation and everything.”

“Really?”  Hermione arched her eyebrow at him.

“Yes, really.  Me and George are becoming quite a phenomenon if I do say so myself.”

“We’re extremely popular with the birds, too!”  George winked at her.

“Well I’m sure both Angelina and Katie are thrilled.”  Hermione said dryly.   She motioned over to the other bed.  “I suppose you better get him up.”

Fred and George smiled wickedly at each other before running and jumping up on Harry’s bed.  They started jumping up and down and shouting “GET UP!” at the top of their lungs.  Hermione shook her head at their antics and picked her book up from the nightstand.

Startled, Harry bolted upright.  “What the…” 

George and Fred jumped off the bed.  “Time to get up you tosser!”

Harry began feeling around the bed for his glasses.  Hermione glanced over at him before returning her attention to her book.  “They’re on the nightstand.”

“Thanks.”  Harry grabbed his glasses and hurriedly put them on.  He stared daggers at the twins.  “Why in the hell were you two jumping on my bed like a couple of maniacs?”

Fred smiled.  “Maniacs, eh?  Have we ever been called such a thing, George?””

“No, I don’t think we have.  I know we’ve been called arseholes, dimwits, tossers….”

Fred continued for him. “…losers, shite heads, fuckwits, bastards…”

George began counting off on his fingers. “…dipshits, wankers, morons and Hermione called us…” He wrapped his arm around Fred’s shoulder and they said together, “dumb and dumber!”

Harry got up out of the bed.  “Well, I certainly wouldn’t try to guess which is which.”  The twins winked at him, making him more annoyed.  “You know the both of you are completely mental!”

Hermione called out, “I second that motion.”

Harry stretched his arms up over his head and yawned.  He frowned at Hermione.  “Where the hell is your bandage?”

Not looking up from her book, she replied nonchalantly, “It was causing my scalp to itch so I took it off.  Besides, it’s all pretty much healed up now.”

He turned back to the twins.  “And why are you two here?”

“We came to babysit…”

“…until either you or Charlie get back from your errands.”

“Babysit, eh?”  Harry scratched his forehead.  “Why’d he have you two come over here?  I mean you aren’t Aurors for pity sakes.”

Fred sneered at him.  “Another one who thinks that just because he’s an Auror that he’s better than everybody else.”  George nodded in agreement.

“I didn’t say that.”  Harry said defensively.  “It’s just we think Hermione is being targeted by Death Eaters.  What the hell are you two going to do if a dozen Death Eaters suddenly appear?”

George narrowed his eyes at Harry.  “I’ll have you know that Fred and I have all sorts of weapons in our arsenal.”

 “You two actually stuff weapons up your arseholes?”  Harry chuckled and Hermione began to giggle as well.

“I said arsenal you little prick and you know it!”  George rolled his eyes.  “At any rate, I assure you that we are well equipped to handle the situation so, you needn’t worry.”

Not wanting to carry on with the twins any further, Harry mumbled, “Fine.”  He looked curiously around the room.  “Hermione?”

“Yes.”

“Where’d the files go?”

She put the book down.  “Billings came and got them early this morning.”

“Why the hell didn’t you wake me?” 

Hermione hadn’t slept hardly at all as a matter of fact.  The file on Ron had haunted her.  Though she tried to reason that her interest was purely based on needing to find more information to catch the persons responsible, deep down she knew it was more…much more.   

Fred piped up in a condescending voice, “Fell asleep on the job, eh?”  He turned to George.  “And the little bastard has the nerve to doubt our ability.”

Ignoring the twins, Hermione folded her arms.  “I didn’t wake you because there was no need.  Billings simply came in, grabbed the files and was on his way.”  She tilted her head slightly.  “Although, he did mention that I might be able to return to my flat sometime today.”

“Well, I guess I better get out of here.  If Charlie gets here first, tell him I’ll be back as soon as I can.”  He walked to the door, ignoring the evil stares the twins were giving him.  “Oh, and owl me if you go back to your flat.”

“Will do.”  The door slammed shut and Hermione looked up at the twins.  “You know you two really don’t need to stay.”

“Another one on her high horse.”  Fred sat down on the other bed.  “We’re staying right here.”

George sat down beside him.  “We certainly are.”  He narrowed his eyes and turned to Fred.  “What exactly do you think a high horse is?”

Fred smiled.  “I don’t reckon I know.”

“Have you ever seen a horse that was tall?”

“No.  Of course, I don’t think that’s what the chap meant when he made up that saying.”

“No, I reckon it wouldn’t sound the same to tell somebody to get off their tall horse.”

“Or huge horse.”

“Or giant horse.”

The twins erupted in laughter, making Hermione roll her eyes.  Even on the best day, she had always hated listening to their mindless banter.  Picking her book back up, she began to try and tune them out as she read.   Charlie and Harry better hurry back soon before I end up strangling the both of them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ron sipped a cup of tea while reading The Daily Prophet at the Wizard café.  He had packed all his belongings into a duffel bag that was charmed to hold more than normal.  Ron decided to have a cup of tea rather than whiskey to try and calm his nerves.  He’d much rather of had the whiskey, but knew it would add fuel to the fire if his mum smelled it on his breath when he went there. 

Ron sighed and ran his hand through his hair.  The prospect of telling his parents about the end of his marriage seemed like a good idea up until now.  They’ll both be fit to be tied.  He was also hoping they’d be receptive to the idea of him moving back in as well.  And then there was Hermione.  Now he’d be back at Auror Headquarters in London.  Whether I’m assigned to her squad or not, I’m bound to run into her now that I’m going to be living there permanently. Will she give me a second chance?  Ron folded up the newspaper and threw it on the table.  He had a feeling that the next couple of days were going to be a living hell.

Glancing at his watch, he noted it was eight o’clock.  The Muggle bank didn’t open until nine and he really wanted to close his account before he left.  Sighing in frustration, he decided he’d head over to Ginny’s until the bank opened.  He wanted to say good-bye anyway.  And perhaps, she would help calm his nerves as well.    

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Harry arrived home a little after eight in the morning.  He hadn’t discussed anything with Ginny about transferring to Auror Headquarters in London and knew she probably wasn’t going to be too pleased.  Harry reasoned to himself that they could still live in Durham so she could practice with her team and he’d just have to start using a Portkey from now on.  Then there was also the fact that he was going to try and become a Shadow.  Harry shuddered at the thought of telling her about that.

For the moment though, all he wanted to do was to have mad passionate sex and wait to talk about everything else afterwards.  Shagging first, arguing second.   He found Ginny sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of tea.  “I’m home!”  Harry hurried over, bent his knees, closed his eyes and puckered up.  After a few moments, he opened his eyes and frowned.  “Well, aren’t you going to give me a kiss, love?”

Ginny rolled her eyes.  “Why should I do that when I haven’t heard from you for Merlin knows how long?”

“Oh, come on Gin, you knew I was with Hermione.”

“You still should have Owled Harry.”  He sat down and Ginny bit her lip.  “How’s Hermione doing?”

Harry shrugged.  “I guess she’s fine.  I think she might be going home today.”  Harry put on his best pouty face.  “I’m sorry I didn’t owl you, love.  Can I please have a kiss now?”

Ginny smiled.  “I suppose.”  She reached over and pressed her lips to his.  Harry instantly deepened the kiss, making Ginny moan into his mouth.  Before she knew what was happening, Harry had risen out of his chair and lifted her up and onto the table.  She broke apart from his mouth, panting.  “Wha-What are you doing?”

Harry began to nibble on her neck.  “I want to try something I saw in a Muggle movie once.”  He reached down with one hand and unbuckled his pants and then unzipped his fly. 

Ginny had closed her eyes slightly as he feasted on her neck.  “What did you see in a Muggle movie?”

He pushed her down gently on the table and waggled his eyebrows.  “You’ll see.”  Grinning wickedly at her, he unbuttoned his robes. Harry reached down and untied her dressing gown and bent down to suck on a nipple through her flimsy gown.  Surprised by his own coordination, he snaked his hands underneath her gown and pulled her knickers off as he continued to keep his mouth firmly on her breast.  With some effort, he managed to pull down his boxers and kicked them off.

He moved her bum right down to the edge of the table and stood back up.  “Damn, but you look so fucking hot!”  Harry pushed her thighs apart and placed one of his knees on the table for leverage.  He pushed himself into her in one swoop, making Ginny alternately gasp and mew.  “Yes!  Bloody hell!  Yes!”  Harry yelled in triumph as he began to move in and out of her.

He was pumping like a mad man, having gone without sex for awhile, until he suddenly cried out and stopped his movements.  Ginny, who had had her eyes closed, opened them to see that Harry was clearly in pain.  “Harry!  Are you alright?” 

She tried to get up, but he raised his hands up quickly to stop her.  “D-Don’t move.  I think I pulled something in my back.”  He tried to pull out of her but couldn’t move as it triggered the most excruciating pain he’d ever felt.  “Shite!  Holy hell but that hurts like a son of a bitch!”

“What can I do Harry?”

“Is your wand nearby?”

Ginny shook her head.  “Dammit!  I left it on the counter.  What about yours?”

Harry grimaced.  “In the right pocket of my robes.”

“Alright.  Can you reach it?”

Harry started to move his hand back and then began shaking his head.  “Damn!  Son of a bitch!  Every time I try and move the pain starts up again!  Damn it all to hell!”

“Alright.  Here’s what we’ll do.  I’m going to try and get your wand.”  Ginny took a deep breath.  “Are you ready?” 

Harry shut his eyes tight and gritted his teeth.  “R-Ready.”

“On three.  One, two…. Three!”  Ginny rose up slowly as Harry groaned in pain.  “Just a bit more and I think I’ll be able to reach your pocket.”  Ginny bit her lip as she stretched her arm downwards.  Unbeknownst to both of them, Ron had let himself in, having known the password for the lock to the front door.  He set his bag down and was about to yell for Ginny when he heard Harry’s voice coming from the kitchen.

“Ow! Ow! Ow! STOP!”

“But Harry…”

“Please stop.  Please.”

“But I’m almost there.”

“I can’t take it Ginny.  Any minute I’ll be screaming like a bloody girl!”

Ron heard Ginny sigh in frustration.  Curiosity getting the best of him, he inched closer to the doorway of the kitchen.  “We have to do something Harry.  I can’t lay here on the kitchen table all day attached to you like this.”

“I don’t know what the hell to do.”  He groaned in pain.  “I can’t move a bloody muscle without seeing stars behind my eyes.”

“What’s going…..on?”  Ron’s eye widened in shock and he turned around hurriedly.  “Shite.  I’m sorry.  I’ll just be leaving now.”

“RON WAIT!”

Ron didn’t turn around, clearly embarrassed to have walked in on them shagging on the table.  “I’m truly sorry Ginny.  I’ll just go.”

“No, Ron, you don’t understand.  Harry’s thrown his back out and can’t move.  I know this is terribly awkward but could you use your wand and try to levitate Harry backwards.”  Ginny covered her eyes with her hand in humiliation.

Still not turning around, Ron said, “So, you need me to levitate Harry away from you?”

“Yes.  We were in the middle of something and…oh, could you please just do as I ask?”

Ron turned around slowly and thanked Merlin that Harry’s back was facing him.  He took a deep breath and aimed his wand at Harry.  Slowly, Harry began to move backwards.  “Ow!  Oh… shite!”

“It’s alright sweetheart!  Ron is using his wand, just try not to move.”  As soon as Harry was disentangled and far enough away from her she yelled to Ron.  “Alright, just hold him there with your wand until I figure out what to do.”

Ron thought that Harry looked like a bat, hanging in the air with his robes on and one leg hanging down.  “You alright, mate?”

“No.  Bloody hell no- I’m not alright.”

Ginny had pushed her gown down and tied her dressing gown closed.  She walked toward Ron, avoiding his eyes, her face as red as a cherry.  “I think we should levitate him to our bed, Ron.  Let me just grab my wand.”  The two of them began to move him in the air with their wands out of the kitchen, down the hallway and then finally to the bedroom.  “This is going to be tricky.  We need to try and lay him down as carefully as possible and then I’ll Floo call a healer.”

Ron nodded as Ginny and he carefully turned Harry until he was floating on his back in the air.  Harry began to mutter, “Bloody hell.  Bloody hell. Bloody hell.”

Ginny talked to him like he was a small child, her tone soothing as she could manage.  “It’s alright Harry.  You’re going to be just fine.  Just try and relax.  We’re going to lower you to the bed now.”

“Relax?  Relax?  Are you mad?”

Worried that Harry might get Ginny riled up, Ron tried to pacify his sister.  “Just ignore him, Gin.  He’s just in pain and doesn’t mean it.”

Harry practically screamed as his back hit the bed.  “NO!  I can’t lay like this!  Shite!  Shite!”

Ron quickly turned Harry on his side.  “Is this better?”

“Yeah.”  Harry was sweating and panting.  “Dammit, I still can’t bloody move though.”

Ginny walked closer to Ron.  “I’m going to go and Floo call a healer.  Can you stay with him?”

“Sure.”  Ron sat down on the edge of the bed, all his nervousness forgotten for now.  

~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~

Hermione couldn’t block them out as hard as she tried.  Her book lying on the night stand, she now sat in the bed and was forced to listen to Fred and George’s animated conversation about a golden Pygmy-Puff.

“So I bought Angelina the golden Pygmy Puff because I hadn’t ever seen one that color before.” 

George smiled at Hermione who looked bored.  “He positively refused to put it in with the others even though I about had him convinced that we could sell it for double or even triple the price.”

“Angelina thought it was gorgeous and named it Snitch.  I didn’t turn the little bugger over to see whether it was male or female because I only planned on keeping the one.  And so we went to bed and guess what had happened the next morning?”

George grinned at Hermione.  “This is the good part.”

“The tank we had it in was filled with like a dozen of the little golden buggers.  It turns out that the golden Pygmy-Puff was a hermaphrodite.”  He waggled his eyebrows at her.   “Know what that is Hermione?”

“A hermaphrodite is an animal that has both male and female reproductive organs.” 

George laughed.  “She’s still like a walking encyclopedia, eh Fred?”

Hermione sighed.  “Don’t you two have anything more interesting to talk about?”

Fred folded his arms.  “Like what?”

“What’s Bill up to?”

The twins shared a knowing look.  “Bill is just fine but his marriage is supposedly on the rocks.”

Hermione bit her lip.  “Charlie said something along those lines.  So, what exactly happened?”

George piped up, “This is strictly secondhand information from mum, but we heard that Fleur isn’t exactly satisfied in the bedroom.”

“You don’t say.  Is it something that Bill is doing or isn’t doing?”

Fred laughed and waved his finger at her.  “Charlie said you had gone a bit wild.  And, as to the answer to your question, I heard it’s what he isn’t doing.”

Hermione shrugged.  “Maybe he just married the wrong woman.”

“Do you have a slight crush on another one of our brothers?”

“What?  No.  Don’t be ridiculous.  I don’t have a crush on any of your idiot brothers or you two for that matter.”

George began to chuckle.  “So, since it didn’t work out with Ronnie, you think we’re all idiots now?”

Fred smiled at her sheepishly.  “It’s gossip you like then?  You want to hear a bit of scandal about Charlie and Padma?”

Hermione sounded exasperated.  “Go on.”

“Charlie and Padma had a wicked row over you.”

“Really?”

Fred nodded his head.  “Charlie got completely pissed and spilled his guts to the two of us.”  He smirked at his twin.  “Big mistake as he should have known better.  Anyway, apparently Charlie actually said your name when he was in the throes of passion.”

Hermione’s eyes widened.  “He what?”

“Yep!  Padma went barking mad and threw him out of the house over it.  It took almost three weeks of kissing her arse until she let him come back.”

Hermione frowned.  “I suppose that explains a lot.”

George chuckled.  “She hates your guts over it, that’s for sure.”

“I don’t really care to tell you the truth.” 

“We don’t care either, do we George?”

“Not in the least.  Padma is a pain in the arse and nothing more than a conniving little minx.  I wish she hated our guts so she’d bloody well leave us alone at family gatherings.”

The door suddenly opened and Charlie strode in.  Startled, the twins had risen up off the bed and shielded Hermione, their wands raised.  “And to think I trusted you two arseholes?  I would have killed her by the time it took you two idiots to shield her.”

“Fuck you, Charlie!”  The twins said together.

Charlie scowled at them for a moment before speaking to Hermione.  “You can go home now.  Your flat is repaired and the Aurors tried to restore all of your personal items that were destroyed.”  Hermione nodded and didn’t meet his eyes.  “What’s the matter?”

She began to smooth her covers down.  The information the twins had revealed to her had made her uncomfortable all of a sudden.  “Oh, um nothing.  I’m glad that I can go home.”

Charlie mistook her odd behavior for worry.  “Auror guards will be posted outside your door until further notice.”

Hermione waved her hand dismissively.  “There’s really no need Charlie.”

“The hell there isn’t!”

Hermione sighed.  “Did you interview those two Aurors?”

“No.  Unfortunately, they’re on an assignment in Norway.”

“Are hot shit Aurors now assigned to look after crazed Vikings?”

Charlie sneered at Fred.  “For your information arsehole, there are Death Eaters living all over the world- not just here in England.”

George smiled sheepishly at his twin.  “Could you imagine Charlie in a Viking hat?”

Fred chuckled.  “He’d look like a bull.  And then, of course, he’d be wielding a large axe and probably would fancy ship building.”

“Padma would kick him out for good if he started building a giant Viking ship in their backyard!”

“ENOUGH!  You two could drive a sober person to drink with all your nonsense.”

“We do actually.  Angelina and Katie get pissed together every Saturday night.”  Fred smiled at George.  “Afterwards they both come home expecting a good rogering.  Perhaps we can get them to persuade Padma to join them and maybe help loosen her up for you.”  They both waggled their eyebrows at Charlie.

Hermione cleared her throat.  “As fascinating as this all is, I’d like to go home now.”

Charlie scowled at the twins for a moment before turning to Hermione.  “I see you took your bandage off.  Are you well enough to Apparate over there alone or do you want me to do a side-a-long?”

Hermione got up from the bed.  “I can do it alone.  I don’t even need any more of the pain potion.  I actually feel like my old self again.”

“I suppose we’ll Apparate over there together.”  He rounded on the twins and said sarcastically, “As for you two- it’s been a real fucking pleasure as always.”

Fred turned to George.  “I think Charlie’s pissed at us, what do you think?”

George smiled sheepishly at Fred.  “I think you’re right.”

“Be sure to ask Padma to keep Saturday night open.  While our girlfriends may not be fully qualified to remove the stick from her arse, they can surely try!”  Fred winked at Charlie.

“Why you little pricks!”  As Charlie lunged forward, the twins erupted into laughter and promptly Apparated away before he could grab them.  

                 

            

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I'd like to thank the lovely Brandedfaithfully for her beta work. And thank you to all those who have stuck by me and this crazy story.  It's been fun! *laughs* 

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 19  “Changes and Second Chances”

The Healer gave Harry a powerful muscle relaxing potion that took away the pain immediately.  He told Ginny that Harry would probably be quite out of it for a couple of hours.  Presently, Harry sat with Ron and Ginny in the lounge.  He slumped in his favorite recliner grinning at them like a fool.  If he didn’t know better, Ron might have thought Harry was completely plastered!  Ron had told Ginny about taking Shannon to her aunt’s house in Liverpool and she seemed to be relieved for him.  However, Ron couldn’t tell if Harry had actually heard a word he’d said about the matter.

Ginny frowned at Harry and whispered to Ron who was sitting by her on the couch.  “He sure is acting strange, don’t you think?”

“I’ll say.”  Ron cleared his throat.  “Feeling alright there, mate?”

“Never better.  All is good in the world.  Everything is completely and utterly brilliant.”

“You don’t say?”  Ron chuckled.  “I just hope you get yourself pulled together before noon today.”

“You’re both due at work then?” Ginny asked.

Ron nodded.  “We’ll be meeting with the director, meeting our new captain and making sure all our paperwork is in order.”  He sighed.  “It’ll probably be the most boring day ever.”

Ginny appeared a bit confused.  “What are you talking about, Ron?”

“Harry and I transferred back to the London office.  Didn’t Harry tell you?”

“No, he didn’t.”  She fixed Harry with an evil stare.  In response he merely smiled lazily back at her.  “Why didn’t you discuss this with me first, Harry?”

“Hmm?  Oh, well it sort of just came up all of a sudden.”  Harry beamed at her.  “Besides, we have to transfer back as soon as possible before sign-ups for Shadow training are closed.”

“Harry!”  Ron said in warning.

Ginny’s eyes narrowed.  “What do you mean Shadow training?”  She turned to Ron.  “Tell me the two of you aren’t seriously considering such a thing.  Does this have to do with Hermione wanting to be a Shadow?”

“Look Gin…”

Ginny bolted up and punched her hands on her hips.  “It’ll be over my dead body before I’d just sit by and allow for my brother and my boyfriend to sign up for something so completely dangerous!”

Ron’s retort was just as forceful.  “It’s the only way to get closer to Hermione.   She needs our help and this time we aren’t going to turn our backs on her.”

She folded her arms.  “Find another way, Ron or I swear to Merlin I’ll go and tell Mum!”

Ron decided to call her bluff.  “Fine.  Go on and tell Mum.  Harry and I are adults and there isn’t a damn thing she can do about it.”  He ran his hand through his hair.  “Nor can you for that matter.”

Ginny shook with rage.  Stomping over to Harry, she grabbed him by the shoulders.  “If you sign up for Shadow training, I swear we’re through.”

Harry brought his hand up and lazily patted her arm, his face still relaxed.  “It’ll be alright.  Besides, I planned on marrying you before I do it.  We’ll keep it a secret and I’ll come and visit you when I can.”  Ginny shook her head and marched to the fireplace.

Ron narrowed his eyes at him.  “But you can’t be a Shadow if you’re bonded-they’ll know.”

“I got it all figured out.  It was you that gave me the idea, really.  See, Ginny and I will marry in the Muggle way for now.  And when we help Hermione get herself back together, I’ll leave the Shadows and we’ll have the bonding ceremony.”

Ginny turned and snapped at him.  “If I marry you, it will be in the Wizard tradition, Harry.”

Harry shrugged.  “You’re only saying that because then you’d be sure I couldn’t join up.”  He blew her a kiss.  “Such a smart woman I have.”

Ron rolled his eyes, wishing the potion would wear off of Harry.  He was talking himself into a deeper and deeper hole.  “You know damn well it’s not that easy to leave once you joined up, Harry.  It’s for life.”

Harry waved his hand dismissively at him and buzzed his lips in a saliva-filled raspberry.  “Bah!  Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

“What are you on about?”

“There are these things called loopholes.  I bet you a hundred thousand galleons that there is some sort of loophole that would give me a way out.”

Ginny scowled at him.  “Not bloody likely as I’m sure they have you sign some sort of magically binding contract or say some sort of oath that’s sealed by magic.”

Harry started drawing large circles in the air with his hands.  “Loopholes.”

“Well, I dunno’ about loopholes, but I do reckon that potion has made you completely loopy.”  Ron stood up.  “I need to get going.  Keep an eye on him until that stuff wears off.”

Ginny walked over and took his hand.  “Please Ron, don’t do this and don’t let Harry do this.  Please.”

Ron squeezed her hand and then pulled her close to him to give her a hug.  “Love you.”  He kissed her on the top of her head.  “I have to do this, Gin.”  He pulled back from her and seeing how torn up she was, he leaned down and whispered in her ear.  “Do try and talk Harry out of it.  I know he’ll go mad without you.”

Tears began to pour from her eyes.  “I’ll go mad if either of you become Shadows.”  She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.  “Please reconsider, Ron.”

Ron smiled down at her before picking up his duffle bag and walking out the door.  Ginny watched him go and began to sob.  Harry stopped making his circles and smiled kindly at her.  “Do I make you cry like that when I leave?” 

Ginny slumped down on the couch.  Even though she knew Harry wasn’t in his right mind, she replied sadly, “I have a feeling that when you leave today, I’ll be crying ten times worse.”     

    

~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~

It was good to be home.  Everything was pretty much back to the way it was before David had destroyed her flat.  Charlie had hung around until the guards showed up.  He was due back at Headquarters by noon for some sort of meeting and wanted to finish up some paperwork he had let lapse since the attack on Hermione.

Hermione sat in her favorite red armchair in front of the fireplace with a glass of Firewhiskey.  Merlin she had missed being alone with her “best friend”  - the one that she could count on to make all her problems melt away.   She sighed happily and took a drink, feeling the warmth of the alcohol wash over her. 

Hermione hadn’t thought about David for awhile.  Now, being back in her flat, she couldn’t help but not think about him.    He’ll know I’ll be planning on getting him back.  She smiled as she ran her finger around the rim of her glass.  I need to make sure that I have the element of surprise on my side.  Hermione set her glass down on the small table beside her and picked up her wand.  What hex should I use on him?  Hermione bit her lip and began to tap her wand on the arm of the chair.  Or maybe I should sneak him some sort of horrible potion.  She chuckled at the thought of David’s skin breaking out into a nasty rash. 

Hermione laid the wand back down and picked up her glass once again.  She’d think of a plan as she was going back to work tomorrow come hell or high water.  For his sake, David would have to be careful. Smiling, Hermione raised the glass up at the fireplace.  “Here’s to revenge.”  She brought the whiskey to her lips and downed it in one gulp.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ron Flooed to the Burrow as soon as he had finished his business at the Muggle bank.  He stepped out of the fireplace in the kitchen and dropped his duffle bag to the floor.  Molly and Arthur were sitting at the kitchen table having breakfast.  Arthur eyed the duffel bag and cleared his throat.  “Hello, son.  What brings you here?”

“Good morning, Dad.”  In typical Ron fashion, he raked  his hand through his hair before sitting down and joining them.  “Good morning, Mum.”

“You want something to eat, Ronnie?”

“Oh…uh no.  I’m fine.”  Ron took a deep breath as Molly and Arthur stared at him suspiciously.  Here it goes.  “Well, I have some things I need to discuss with both of you.”  He could feel his palms growing sweaty and hastily wiped them off on his jeans.  He hadn’t noticed his heart beating in this throat until he tried to take a breath and had to swallow it back down.  “First off, I’ve ended things with Shannon.”

Molly raised her eyebrows.  “What do you mean ended?  You’re not together anymore?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.  Our marriage is over.”

She clutched her heart.  “Is Shannon dead?”

“What?”

“I know what vows you take when you’re bonded.”

“Shannon isn’t dead.”

“Then how can you not be married anymore?  The only way a Wizard marriage can end is when either the man or woman dies.”  Molly’s face suddenly turned pale.  “Oh, sweet Merlin, are you dying, Ronald?”

“No!”  Ron sighed.  “I didn’t do a bonding ceremony with Shannon.  We wed in the Muggle tradition.”

Arthur frowned.  “What do you mean Muggle tradition?”

“As in a Muggle wedding ceremony… or in our case before a Justice of the Peace… we just said our vows and I placed a ring on her finger.  We signed some Muggle paperwork and boom we were married.”

Molly’s expression turned from panicked to livid.  “Ronald Weasley, are you telling us that you were never actually legally married to that girl all this time?”

Ron shifted in his seat uncomfortably.  “Well, it was legal in the Muggle world.”

“But you are not a Muggle and as a wizard you know how sacred a bonding ceremony is supposed to be.  Marriage is for life.  How could you Ronald?  You’ve been living in sin!”

“Oh, for pity’s sakes, Mum.  Did you not hear one word I said?  I was never bonded to Shannon.”

Arthur piped up.  “Why’d you marry her in the Muggle way and why didn’t you tell us all this at the time, Ron?”

“Truthfully, I knew deep down that I didn’t want to perform a bonding ceremony with Shannon.  It just didn’t feel right.”  Ron rubbed his eyes wearily.  “I thought perhaps later I would change my mind and marry her properly in our world.  And as to why I didn’t tell you, I suppose I knew damn well you’d both be disappointed.”

Molly sneered at him.  “That’s the understatement of the year.  I’m sure that even in the Muggle world, what you did is frowned upon.  You don’t just leave your wife after making vows.  Where is the poor girl now?”

“I took her to live with her aunt in Liverpool.  She’s fine.”  Ron sighed.  “I also transferred back to London and I wondered if I could possibly stay here until I find a place of my own.”

Arthur shrugged.  “You know you’re always welcome here.  I do suggest that in the future you be more straight forward with us though, son.”  He placed his hand over Molly’s.  “Your mother and I realize that you’re an adult now and have your own life.  Yet, I think we raised you with more moral fiber than you’ve displayed.  Wizards take the institution of marriage very serious, and frankly you’ve made a mockery out of it.”

Ron bowed his head shamefully.  “I’m sorry.  I know you both taught me better.”

Molly sighed.  “And why exactly did you end things with Shannon?”

Ron shrugged.  “It just wasn’t working out is all.” 

Molly cleared her throat.  “And I expect you to keep your room clean while you’re here young man.  Don’t expect your father or I to pick up after you and you will help with chores around the house even if you have a full time job.  Understood?”

“Yes.”  Ron slowly rose from the table.  “I’m just going to head upstairs and unpack.  I have to go to work at noon.  I expect I’ll be home around six as I should only have to make sure everything is in order for the transfer.”  Ron picked up his duffel bag and walked out of the kitchen. 

They heard him trudge up the stairs and then a door open and close.  Molly smiled and stood up, humming a tune as she cleared the table.  Arthur smiled back at her.  “You wouldn’t be relieved about something dear?”

“Between you and me-yes.”  She levitated the dishes into the sink with her wand.  “And as luck would have it-Charlie owled me this morning to say that Hermione was feeling better and was back home.  I think I might just invite her for dinner.”

Arthur took a sip of his tea and grinned to himself.  “You wouldn’t be trying to get them back together would you dear?”

Molly shrugged.  “I simply want to see with my own eyes that Hermione is truly alright is all.”

“Right.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was another hour before the effects of the potion wore off of Harry.  His back felt much better physically, but with the lessening of the medication came a sharp awareness of the looseness of his tongue in the earlier conversation.  He knew Ginny was itching to discuss his transfer and more importantly him becoming a Shadow.  Still sitting on the couch, she was sniffling when Harry came and sat down by her.  “Everything will be alright.”

“You’re back to your normal self now?”

“Yes.”  He took her in his arms.  “Come on, love, cheer up.  I’ve never seen you like this.”

“That’s because I haven’t felt like I might lose people I love in a long time.”

Harry pulled back.  “Before we discuss the Shadow thing, are you alright with the transfer?  I know I should have told you sooner but it sort of just all happened so fast.”

“It’s not the transfer that’s got me upset and you know it.”

“Gin, I really think you’re overreacting.  I won’t be a Shadow for life, I swear it.”

“There are some things in the Wizard world that you are very ignorant of, Harry.  You cannot just quit being a Shadow.  It doesn’t work that way.”

Harry raised his eyebrows.  “I may be ignorant of some things but I know who I am and so does everybody else for that matter.”

“What are you on about?”

“I’m the great Harry Potter, the one that Voldemort couldn’t kill.  I defeated the darkest wizard ever, along with Ron and Hermione’s help.  I have never used my celebrity to get my way but, I promise you I will when I want to quit being a Shadow.” 

“Do you really think that would work?”

Harry shrugged.  “I don’t see why not.  I went to hell and back to get rid of Voldemort and as far as I’m concerned the Wizard world owes me at least one favor.”

“And about us getting married.  Did you mean it?”

He smiled.  “Yes, I mean it.  I’d love to do a secret Muggle ceremony as soon as possible.”  He hugged her close to him.  “It may not be recognized in the Wizard world but we’d know we’re husband and wife and that’s all that matters.”

“And you would do the bonding ceremony soon as you left the Shadows?”

“Yes.  You can do whatever you want, too, as you know I have the galleons.”

Ginny pulled back from him.  “You haven’t asked me properly, you know.”  Her cheeks reddened slightly.  “You know to marry you.”

“You want me on one knee?” Harry started to dip, but Ginny obviously thought of his sore back and grabbed his hand.

“No, but this is important and you shouldn’t just assume…”

Harry lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it reverently.  “Ginevra Weasley, would you do me the honor of being my wife?”

“Yes.”  She beamed at him before lunging at him, his sore back forgotten, knocking him back onto the couch and kissing him soundly.  “You want to finish what we started earlier?”

“As long as it doesn’t involve a kitchen table, I’m game!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~

A few minutes before twelve, Ron arrived at Headquarters.  He spotted Harry leaning against the wall and walked over to him.  “Feeling better, Harry?”

“Oh…yes.  Much better, actually.”  Harry cleared his throat.  “Charlie owled me earlier and said that we needed to report to administration straight-away for a meeting with the director.”

They began to walk down the long hallway.  “So, tell me, how exactly did you throw out your back?”

Harry rolled his eyes when he saw the smirk on Ron’s face.  “I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

“Oh c’mon, Harry it’s me you’re talking to.  It’s best just to tell me or you know I’ll pester you to death until you do.”

Harry stopped and sighed in frustration.  He lowered his voice, “Fine.  I was trying to take your sister on the kitchen table and my back went out for some reason, alright?”  Ron busted out laughing.  “Oh, that’s right, go ahead and laugh about it.  I hope you throw your back out the next time you’re shagging a bird and then we’ll see if it’s so damn funny anymore.”

Ron wiped his eyes.  “I’ve done it plenty of times on a kitchen table and never once had a problem with my back, mate.”

“I think in retrospect I shouldn’t have placed my knee up on the table.  I had to angle myself to the right slightly and I think that’s what did it.”

Ron was trying to stop himself from laughing by chewing on the inside of his cheek.   “And why exactly did you have your knee up on the table?”

“I saw a Muggle actor do it in a movie and he told the woman he was shagging that he had to bring his knee up to use as leverage.”  Ron couldn’t hold it in any longer and started to snort with laughter.   “And I better not here a word about this from any of your brothers either.”

“No worries there, as we’re all terrified of Ginny when she loses her temper.”

Harry rolled his eyes and started walking once more.  He’d only gone a few paces when he stopped dead in his tracks.  “Oh, shite!”

Ron wiped his eyes and the smile left his face immediately when he realized what Harry was talking about.  “Euphelia Ringstopper.”  Ron narrowed his eyes at the woman seated just ahead of them.  “I thought surely she’d be dead by now.”

“I have come to the conclusion that evil people don’t die so easily.  It took almost twenty years to kill Voldemort.”

“Then that old bat must truly be evil.  What is she, like a hundred years old now?”

“At least.”  Harry groaned.  “Best get our Auror IDs out.  And for the love of Merlin, please behave yourself.”

An evil grin appeared on Ron’s face.  “I’ll behave if she does.”

“Bloody hell.”

Ron and Harry cautiously approached the woman’s desk and held their identification out to her.  Euphelia eyed them suspiciously through her red spectacles and then snatched Harry’s card from his hand.  “State your full name!”

“Harry James Potter.”

She shoved his I.D. back at him before snatching Ron’s out of his hand.  “State your full name.”

“Ronald Bilius Weasley.”

Mrs. Ringstopper threw his card at him and waved her wand.  Both of their files jumped out from one of the dozens of filing cabinets behind her.  She opened one of the files and held it up so that they wouldn’t be able to see it.  “You first.”  She said to Harry.  “Auror identification number.”

“HP 456832900373”

“Auror squad number and insignia.”

“Number 591. The insignia is a red Horntail dragon atop a blue background.”

“What special training did you elect to take when you first enrolled in the Auror program?”

“Oh, I did two actually-transfiguration and tracking.”

She slammed the folder shut and opened the other one.  “Auror identification number.”

“RW 333785999777”

“Auror squad number and insignia.”

“The same as his.”

Her voice grew louder.  “I said Auror squad and insignia.”

Ron rolled his eyes.  “Number 591.  The insignia is a scary red Horntail dragon atop a brilliant cobalt blue background.”  Harry began to chuckle.

“Mother’s maiden name?”

“That would be Prewett last time I checked.” 

Euphelia slammed the folder shut.  “You know I could keep asking you questions if I chose to do so and keep you standing out here all day.”

Ron shrugged.  “And I bet I could answer every single one of your barmy questions correctly, too.”  Harry kicked him.  “Ow! What?”  Harry shook his head, trying to get Ron to shut his mouth.  Ron rolled his eyes at him before turning back to his old nemesis.  “Ask me what color my arse is or how often I fart.  Ask whatever the hell you want to and I’ll stand here all fucking day and tell you anything you want to know.”  Old bat!

Euphelia smiled at him.  “I remembered who you were as soon as I laid eyes on you.  You’re the one that used to give me all sorts of trouble a few years back.  I thought perhaps you might have been discharged for such a smart mouth.”  She sneered at him.  “Or, at least have learned some manners while you were away.  Unfortunately, looks like I was wrong on both counts.”

Ron smiled at her.  “That’s right, I’m back.  And I am going to make it my mission to try and drive you insane until you finally retire or keel over.”

Harry looked horrified.  “Shut it Ron!  For pity’s sake we’re already late for our appointment.”

Glaring at Ron, Mrs. Ringstopper rose up out of her seat.  “The both of you stay…”

Ron cut her off.  “Yes, yes we know the drill.”

Mrs. Ringstopper was mumbling under her breath as she tapped her wand to the wall.  The wall began to recede, making an opening.  “Follow me.”  They trailed behind her, with Harry scowling at Ron the whole way.  She stopped at one of the doors and knocked, before opening it.  “Aurors Potter and Weasley are here for their appointment, Director Taylor.”  She turned on her heel and with one last glare at Ron, hurried down the hallway.

They entered the large conference room.  A massive table was in the middle and seated around the table were the director, two other administrators that they didn’t know and Charlie.  As they approached the table, Charlie said sarcastically, “Nice of you two to decide to join us.”

Ignoring his brother quip, Ron extended his hand out to Director Taylor.  “I’m Auror Ronald Weasley, sir.”  The director shook his hand and nodded.  “And this is Auror Harry Potter.”  He shook Harry’s hand and they all sat down at the table.

The director was younger than most they had worked for.  He had dark hair and was of medium build.  “I’d like to introduce you to Captains Jonas Agard and Franklin Mint.  And of course I think you both know Charlie.”

Ron leaned into his brother and whispered, “You didn’t tell me you’d been made a captain.  Congratulations!” 

Charlie didn’t bother to whisper and spoke out loud.  “I’m not.  My captain is on holiday and so I’m filling in for him.”

The Director spoke up.  “Yes, Captain David Langley unfortunately had a family emergency to attend to but should be back sometime next week.”   Ron bristled slightly when he heard his name.  “Now, you two gentlemen have requested a transfer here from Durham as I understand it.”

“Yes, sir.”  They said together.

“I understand you boys were here before.  Any particular reason for wanting to transfer back now?”

Ron spoke up.  “Yes, sir.  I am very interested in signing up for the Shadow program and they only offer it here at London Headquarters.”  Charlie frowned and sighed, but said nothing.

Taylor narrowed his eyes at him.  “So, you’re interested in the Shadow program then?  The sign-up deadline has passed, but I suppose we could fit you in.  I could have sworn I heard somewhere that you were married.  You do realize that you cannot participate in the selection process if you are?”

Ron smiled.  “No, I’m not married but, I had been shacking up for a few years.  I have no ties now that would make me change my mind.”

Taylor chuckled and shook his head.  “And what about you Auror Potter?  What are your reasons for transferring back here?”

“Oh, um same as Auror Weasley’s reasons.”  Harry’s reply made Charlie whip his head around and stare at him like he’d lost his mind.

“And you have no ties that might hold you back?”

“He certainly does-my sister!”  Charlie hit Harry on the back of the head.  “Have you lost your damn mind?”  He scowled at Ron.  “Did you know about this?”

“Charlie, you’re out of order.  You’ll calm down this instant or else I’ll have to ask you to leave this meeting.”  The director admonished him before turning back to Harry.  “I’ll ask you again, are there any ties that you have that you aren’t willing to give up?  Because if you are selected, it’s forever and you simply can’t just walk away.”

“I’m certain that I have no ties.”

“Why you little heartless prick!”  Charlie shouted at him before he grabbed him by the collar of the shirt.  “I am going to beat the living shite out of you when we get out of here!”

“Help me out, Ron!”

“No, I won’t help you because I happen to think he may be right this time.”

“Auror Weasley you let go of him this instant!”  The director was standing with his wand pointed straight at Charlie.   Still seething, Charlie reluctantly let go of Harry.  “And now you are hereby excused from the rest of this meeting.”

“Wait!”  Harry straightened the collar of his robes.  “Could I perhaps have a private word with Auror Weasley and Auror Weasley?  Just five minutes, sir?”

The director licked his lips.  “Fine, I’ll give you five minutes.”  He turned to the other captains who were clearly enjoying the levity of this usually dull meeting.  “You two, take a five minute break.”  The director started to walk toward the door, pausing when he was next to the chair Harry was sitting in.  “I hope to see you alive when I return, Auror Potter.” 

    

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Many thanks to Brandedfaithfully for her editing work and friendship!

*hugs*

missgranger2


Chapter 20 “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”

The door slammed shut and Harry turned to see both of the Weasley brothers glaring at him.  “I know a way out of the Shadows.  I talked to Ginny about all this and she thinks it’ll work.”  They continued to scowl at him, making Harry shudder slightly.  “Ginny and I are going to marry in a Muggle ceremony before I join.  And then when I leave the Shadows, we’re going to do the bonding ceremony.”

“You are not marrying my sister in a Muggle ceremony.  You will marry her in the proper way and that means a bonding ceremony.”

“But Charlie if I do that, then there’s no way I could be a Shadow.”

“Are you telling me that being a Shadow is far more important than my sister?”

“NO!  It’s just that…oh dammit, it’s complicated.”

“I bet it is.”  Charlie turned to Ron.  “And did you know about Harry wanting to be a Shadow, too?”

“He mentioned it but I didn’t think there was any way that Ginny would actually let him do it.”

“The both of you make me bloody sick to my stomach.”  Charlie glared at Harry.  “And what exactly did you tell my sister to convince her to go along with your little plan?”

Harry took a deep breath.  “I told her I was going to use my celebrity status to get myself out of it when I needed to go.”

“And you really think that would work?”

Ron piped up.  “Actually it makes some sense as none of us have ever asked for anything.  I mean the Wizard world does owe Harry something, don’t they?”

“You might be on to something, but I still don’t like it.”  Charlie folded his arms as they all fell silent for a long moment.  “You know what?  Do what you want Harry but keep this in mind-if you decide you don’t want to come back or that you can’t come back and break Ginny’s heart, I will track your arse down.  And trust me when I tell you I’ll kill you with my bare hands.”

Harry swallowed hard.  “Trust me, if I broke your sister’s heart you wouldn’t have to track me down to kill me, I’d find you so you could bloody well do the job.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~

Hermione had drunk half the bottle when she got the dinner invitation from Molly and Arthur.  Apparently, Ginny was also coming to have dinner and wanted to see her, too.  I don’t really want to go.  Hermione smiled lazily at the bottle of Firewhiskey.  They don’t make me as happy as you do.  She began to chuckle and then stopped abruptly.  Maybe I should go.  I’ve been putting Molly off for weeks now and Ginny will be there.  Hermione looked down at her clothes and saw that she was still in her pajamas.  I can’t go dressed like this. I suppose I better get ready.  She lifted herself up out of the chair and walked unsteadily to her bedroom.  I’m not staying too long though.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ron arrived back at the Burrow, along with Harry, a little after six.  Harry had received a note from Ginny that they were eating dinner there tonight.  Stepping out of the fireplace, Ron took a whiff of the air and smiled.  “Beef stew!  Thank Merlin.”  He saw his mother standing at the stove stirring her pot with her wand and she smiled.  

“Hello, son.  You best get upstairs and get cleaned up for dinner.”  Harry stepped out behind him.  “Hello, Harry!  Ginny’s in the lounge with Arthur.  I’ll call everybody to the table in a few minutes.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.  That stew smells delicious!”  He walked over and gave her a hug before walking to the lounge.

“I’ll be down in a minute, Mum.” 

“Take your time.”  Molly smiled at him again.  “And you might want to comb your hair.”

“Why?”

“Oh, no reason, I just like us all to look presentable for dinner is all.”

Ron shrugged.  “I’ll comb my hair then.”  He gave his mother a quick peck on the cheek and left the kitchen.

Molly watched him go and then hurried to the back door.  She wrung her hands together as she peered out the screen door waiting for Hermione to arrive.  She said she’d come.  Molly glanced at the clock and sighed.  I’m sure I told her to be here at six and it’s almost a quarter after.  She looked out the window once more and finally saw her Apparate in near the garden and smiled.  Thank goodness!

Molly bolted out the door and ran towards her.  When she reached her, she engulfed her in a hug.  Molly could smell the faint aroma of Firewhiskey, but kept smiling.  “Oh, Hermione it’s so good to see you.  How are you dear?”

“I’m fine Mrs. Weasley.”  She held out a small bouquet to her.  “These are for you.”

“They’re just lovely!”

“I’m sorry to be running late, but I wanted to stop by the florist before I came.”

“It was very thoughtful of you.”  Molly took her by the hand and guided her to the house.  “Arthur and Ginny are going to be so excited to see you again.”  They walked into the kitchen.  “I’ll just put these in a vase.  Go and say hi to everyone in the lounge.”

Hermione took a deep breath and smiled.  “Are you sure you don’t need any help?”

“Oh, no dear.  I’ll serve dinner in a few minutes.  You go sit and relax.  Harry’s here, too.”

~*~*~*~*~*~**~

“Alright.”  What had used to come so naturally seemed so hard for her now.  You don’t have to stay long.  She hated pretending she was still that goody-goody girl who would never do anything that wasn’t prim or proper.  Biting her lip, she walked into the lounge, wishing she had drunk a bit more before coming.

Harry sat on the couch with Ginny and frowned the moment he saw her.  “What are you doing here, Hermione?”

“Hello to you too, Harry.”

Ginny nudged him angrily in the ribs.  “Hello, Hermione!”  She stood up and gave her a hug.  “Just ignore the insensitive prat!  It’s so good to see you again.”

“It’s nice to see you too, Ginny.” 

“You got a hug for me?”

“Of course, Mr. Weasley.”  He hugged her tightly to him, making her feel strangely uncomfortable.

When they pulled apart he gestured to the couch.  “Come and sit down.”  Hermione sat down on one side of Harry and Ginny sat down on the other.  “So, how are you?”

“I’m good.”

“My, but it’s been a long time since I saw you last.”  He smiled kindly at her as Hermione shifted uncomfortably.  “I heard about your flat.  Molly and I are so glad you’re alright.  Charlie said you were able to return home today.”

“Yes.”  Hermione pushed her hair behind her ear.  “I’m glad to be home.”

Ron suddenly came barreling down the stairs.  “Hey Mum is dinner ready yet?”  He didn’t even notice Hermione was sitting on the couch as he made a beeline to the kitchen.

Hermione saw him though.  “Ron’s here?”  Shite.

Arthur smiled sheepishly at her.  “He’s staying here until he finds a flat.  He just transferred back to London today.”

“I see.”  Hermione began quietly berating herself for ever having come over in the first place.  I should have known something was up.  She looked at Ginny who averted her eyes quickly.  There all in on it… that’s just brilliant.  Where the hell is his wife?

~*~*~*~*~**~~*~

Ron saw that his mother had set the table.  She had placed the flowers Hermione had brought her in the middle of the table.  Ron picked up a slice of bread and began eating it.  “Where’d you get the flowers?”

Molly was pulling out some cloth napkins from the sideboard and hadn’t noticed he’d come into the kitchen.  “Oh, um a dinner guest brought them.”

Ron arched an eyebrow.  “A dinner guest?”

Molly quickly placed the napkins around the table.  “Dinner’s ready!”

Hermione was the first one to enter the kitchen and Ron nearly choked on the piece of bread he was chewing.  “Hello, Ronald.”  She looked up at Molly.  “Where would you like me to sit, Mrs. Weasley?”  By Ron, of course. 

“Oh, you can sit beside Ron on that side of the table.”

Knew it. 

Ron pulled a chair out for her and gestured for her to sit down.  “Are you feeling better, Hermione?”

“Yes, thank you.”  She sat down and he scooted her chair up to the table and sat down beside her.  “So, you’ve transferred back here?”

“Yeah.  Actually, Harry and I both did.”

She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  “Did you just say that the both of you transferred back to London?”

“Yeah.  We just started today as a matter of fact.”

Brilliant.

Molly began ladling the stew into bowls.  Arthur passed the first bowl down to Hermione.  She began to pass it on to Ron but he stopped her.  “You go ahead and start eating, I can wait.”  Hermione nodded her head at him and placed the napkin in her lap.  She picked up her spoon and began to eat her stew.   “Do you want a slice of bread?”

“No, thank you.”  Where is Shannon? 

“So how did your first day back go, Son?”

Ron shrugged.  “It was actually quite boring to tell you the truth.  Harry and I had mounds of paper work to fill out.” 

Arthur swallowed a bite of his stew. “Do the two of you have to go in tomorrow then?”

“No.  I don’t think we have to go back until the day after tomorrow actually.”

Molly buttered a slice of bread. “And Hermione, when do you go back to work, dear?”

“I start back tomorrow.”

Ron frowned.  “That’s kind of soon isn’t it?”

“I need to get back to work.”  Hermione pushed the vegetables around in her stew.  Bloody hell, I need a fucking drink.  I wish everybody would just shut-up.

“Hermione?”

She raised her head up.  “Yes?”

Ginny smiled at her.  “I was asking if you’d like to come to my game tomorrow night.  I could get you a box seat.”

“Oh, well I’ll have to think about it.”  Hell no.  She wiped her mouth hastily with her napkin and stood up.  “Excuse me.”

“You alright, dear?”

“Yes, Mrs. Weasley.  I just need to use the loo is all.”  And get the fuck away from this madness.

Alright dear.”

Hermione walked swiftly out of the room and up the stairs.  She hurried into the bathroom and locked the door with her wand.  Hermione closed the lid on the toilet and sat down.   Why in the hell did I come here?  She covered her hands with her face.  I don’t want to do this… I don’t want to do this..I don’t want...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Molly glanced upstairs.  “You know Hermione has been up there a long time now.”

Ron sighed.  “I’m sure she’s just trying to hide herself away.”

“Why on earth would she do that?”

“I think maybe because she didn’t have a clue I was staying here when you invited her over for dinner.”  Molly shrugged.   “You really shouldn’t have done that, Mum.”

“Why don’t you go and check on her, Ronnie.”

“Please stop it Mum.  You’re just making it worse.”

“I really think you should check on her.  The poor girl was seriously injured only a few days ago.”

He rolled his eyes and looked at Ginny who smiled back at him.  “I think Mum’s right.  You really should go and check up on her.”

Realizing he was outnumbered, he shoved his chair back in a huff and threw his napkin down by his plate.  He stomped out of the kitchen and then lightened his steps as he went upstairs.  Standing outside the bathroom door, he took a deep breath and knocked.  “Hermione?  Mum wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“I’m fine.”  She called back.

“Look Hermione, I’m sorry about my mum.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, for inviting you over without telling you I was here.”  Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “I can tell you’re uncomfortable.”  When she didn’t answer he sighed.  “Alright, I’ll just go downstairs now.  Take as much time as you need.”

As he turned around, he heard her unlocking the bathroom door.  She stepped out, smoothing down her deep blue skirt.  “I know your mum means well, Ron.  And your right, I am uncomfortable.  But as much of a bitch I can be, I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”  She turned her head and stared at the door to his bedroom for a moment.  “So is Shannon with you?”

Ron shook his head.  “I told you I was ending it and I did.”

Hermione nodded her head and pushed her hair behind her ear.  “Do you have any Firewhiskey?”

“Yeah.  Why?”

“Would you mind if I had a glass?”  She rubbed her head wearily.  “I’m just having a hell of a time dealing with all this and I know your mother will insist I have dessert before I can leave.”

“Sure.”  Ron walked past her and pushed the door to his old bedroom open.  Hermione followed him in and sat down on the bed.  He pulled a bottle from his duffel bag and set it on the floor.  Using his wand, he summoned a glass from the depths of his bag, catching it as it hovered out.  He opened the bottle and poured her a glass.  “Here.”

Hermione took it from him and immediately begin to drink.  “Thank you.” 

“You drink a lot?”  When Hermione frowned at him, he quickly added, “I’m not judging you or anything.”

Hermione shrugged and took another long drink.  “I like to drink…it helps me deal with the job.”  Among other things.

Ron absently took a swig from the bottle.  “I suppose it does help deal with the things we see on the job.”

“You’d surely know all about that.”  She lifted her glass to him and downed the rest.  “Can I have another glass?”

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough?  My mum will probably come up here next.”

She held the glass out and smiled seductively at him.  “I need more Ronald.”

Ron licked his lips.  “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to get drunk.”

“Oh hell, Ronald, it’s only two glasses and besides it takes a lot more than that to get me pissed.”

Against his better judgment, he reluctantly poured her another glass.  “By the way, what did you mean by I’d surly know all about that?”

“Oh no, Charlie is supposed to talk to you.  My lips are sealed.”  She laughed and then took a drink.

“He is, is he?”  Ron took a drink from the bottle.  “Tell me what you’re talking about Hermione.”

She arched her eyebrow at him.  “No.  Charlie would kill me.”

Ron took another swig from the bottle.  “But, I need to know.”

Hermione took a large gulp from her glass.  “You’ve been keeping secrets that might help us break this case.”  She tilted her head and smiled at him.  “Horrible secrets.”

Bottle in hand, Ron came and sat down beside her on the bed.  “And what exactly are these horrible secrets?”

Hermione drained her glass and then yanked the bottle from his hand.  She moved her face toward him, until her lips were just inches away from his.  Hermione whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Ron knew exactly what she was talking about and felt himself starting to panic.  She didn’t know the whole story and she sure didn’t have a clue about the sadistic bastards she was dealing with. 

Ron’s eyes widened and he gasped as she pulled away and took a long swig from the bottle.  “You saw the file?”  She nodded her head and smiled at him.  “Shite.”  Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “You mustn’t pursue it, Hermione.  Promise me you’ll let it go.”

Hermione chuckled.  “You have information, don’t you?”

Ron grabbed the bottle out of her hand.  “We need to get downstairs.”  She began running her hand up and down her thigh, slowly inching her skirt upward.  Ron was watching her hand closely and then suddenly snapped out of the trance he was in.  “What the hell are you doing?”

“Nothing.”   She stilled her hand and then slowly pushed her skirt back down.  I feel so bloody horny right now.

Ron got up off the bed and sealed the bottle back up with his wand and chucked it back into his duffel bag.  “It’s time we go downstairs-now.”

“But…”

“No buts.  You’re pretty buzzed and I really don’t want you to end up doing something that might cause you considerable embarrassment in the morning.”

“What?”  Hell, he really doesn’t know me at all anymore. 

Ron walked over and grabbed her hand, pulling her off the bed.  “You sure you only had two glasses of Firewhiskey?”

Hermione shrugged.  “I might have had few drinks before I came over.”

“Maybe I should do a sobering charm on you, Hermione.”

“NO!”  She wrenched her hand from his and folded her arms.  “I can’t deal with all this shite being sober.”      

Ron shook his head.  “Fine.  But you know you’re going to hate yourself in the morning if you do something stupid in front of my parents.”

“I’ll take my chances.”  She huffed before stumbling out of his bedroom.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They all had dessert in the lounge.  Ron had purposely sat down by Hermione on the couch in order to  keep an eye on her.  So far, she hadn’t done anything too barmy and was actually chatting animatedly with everyone else.  Ron guessed that the two drinks she had upstairs had something to do with her suddenly being quite sociable.  Molly had made a decadent chocolate cake and Hermione had eaten nearly half of a slice before sitting her plate down on the coffee table.

Hermione was talking about the recent legislation passed on House Elf rights when Charlie suddenly appeared with Padma in tow.  “Thank Merlin!”

Hermione looked confusedly at him.  “What are you on about, Charlie?”

“I was out at a restaurant with Padma when an owl arrived.  Apparently the guards posted outside your door got worried when you failed to answer when they knocked!”

Hermione covered her mouth with her hand for a moment.  “I forgot to tell them I was going anywhere.”

“I left the restaurant with Padma and we Apparated over there straight away!  You’re lucky I saw the note from Mum or I would have sounded the alert.”

Looking positively livid, Padma, who had her robes draped over arm, stepped out from behind Charlie.  “Thanks to the alcoholic whore our whole night’s been ruined!”

Alarmed, Arthur stood up.  “Perhaps you should take Padma home now, Charlie.”

Ron looked on as Hermione’s posture grew rigid for a moment.  She eyed Padma with great distain and then rolled her shoulders and began to laugh.  “It’s fine Mr. Weasley.  Apparently, Padma thinks I’m having an affair with Charlie, which is most certainly not true.”

Padma tried to lunge at her and Charlie grabbed her by the waist.  He glared at her.  “Shut it, Hermione!”

Hermione casually picked up her wand from the coffee table.  Fearing the worse, Ron quickly snatched it away from her and threw it to the floor.  “Hermione, don’t”

She scowled at him for a moment before fixing Padma with a cold stare.  “So, I heard from the twins that you’re going to have an operation soon, Padma.”

Padma stopped struggling for a moment.  “What are you talking about?  I’m not having an operation!”

Hermione smiled smugly.  “That’s not the way I heard it.  According to them, you’re in dire need of having a stick removed from your arse.”  The room instantly erupted in giggles.  Charlie was trying to not laugh and failing miserably.

Padma sneered at her.  “YOU BITCH!”

Arthur wiped the tears from his eyes, trying desperately to look serious.   “Just take her home, Charlie.”

With great effort, Charlie was able to get his wand from his back pocket and quickly Apparated them away.  Ginny was laughing hysterically.  “Finally, somebody put her in her place.”

A moment later, Charlie Apparated back into the lounge, looking livid.  “Thanks a hell of a lot, Hermione!”  He had a red imprint of a hand mark on his cheek.  “She kicked me out again.  Couldn’t you just keep your mouth shut?”

Ginny piped up indignantly, “But Padma was the one that started it.  You heard what she called her.”  

Hermione shrugged, looking completely nonchalant about what had just happened.  “I’m sorry she threw you out again Charlie, but she was getting on my nerves.”  Hermione forgot where she was for a moment.  “I was about to hex her if you want to know the truth.”  She turned and rolled her eyes at Ron.  “And I would have if somebody hadn’t tossed my wand away.”

Ginny smiled wickedly.  “Oh, how I would have loved to have seen that!”

“Ginny!”  Molly admonished her, sounding scandalized.  “How could you say such a thing?”

“Oh, c’mon Mum, you know the whole family can’t stand her.”  She looked apologetically at Charlie.   “I’m sorry, Charlie but it’s true.”

Charlie rubbed his eyes wearily.  “I know she’s a pain in the arse but due to magical law I’m stuck with her until one of us kicks the bucket.”  He sighed.  “I don’t know how the hell I’m going to make it through the next forty years if she keeps this up.”

Hermione stood up and walked over to where Ron had tossed her wand.  She stooped down and picked it up.  “Well, I think I’ll be going home now.”

Molly set her tea down with a soft clank.  “You sure you don’t want to stay a bit longer?  You haven’t even finished your dessert.”

Hermione smiled kindly at her.  “I’m feeling tired Mrs. Weasley.  I thank you for having me over for dinner and I’m terribly sorry about my behavior.”

“No one here blames you, as we’re quite used to her antics by now.”  Molly stood up and gestured to the couch.  “Please come and sit down and have just one more cup of tea before you go.”

Hermione bit her lip.  For the love of Merlin, I just want to go home and be alone. Molly smiled at her kindly and looked like she might burst out in tears at any moment.   Shite, stop looking at me like that.  Before she could stop herself, Hermione went and sat back down by Ron.  Looking relieved, Molly quickly went and got Hermione another cup of tea and set it on the coffee table in front of her.

Molly sat back down, looking immensely pleased.  “So, you’re planning on going back to work tomorrow then?”

Charlie, who was sitting on a chair he dragged from the kitchen, whipped his head around at Hermione at once.  “You aren’t seriously thinking of going back in tomorrow, are you?”

“Yes, I am.”  Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.  “Though I got a nasty bump on my head, I still can recall that we were working on a case.”

Charlie sighed.  “Just take the extra day off for pity’s sake.”

Hermione spoke to him through gritted teeth, “I don’t want to take the day off!”

“How are your parents, Hermione?” Molly piped up, trying to change the subject.

She shrugged.  “I suppose they’re fine.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to go and see them in quite a while.”  Not since my dad and I had that horrible argument six months ago.

“Charlie told us that they’re taking care of Crookshanks now.”

Hermione took a sip of her tea.  “Yes, they are.  I was always gone so much and it didn’t seem fair to him.”  She set her tea down.  “He’s much happier there.”   What is this… twenty questions?  Hermione folded her hands in her lap and shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

Molly asked her a dozen more questions and Hermione painfully answered each and every one.  When she asked her if she was dating anyone, Hermione didn’t answer her and said, “I really should be going, Mrs. Weasley.”   She stood up and looked around the lounge.  “Well, good-night everybody.”

There was a chorus of good-nights from everyone save Charlie and Ron who just nodded.  Hermione walked into the kitchen and dumped the rest of her tea into the sink and set it on the counter.  Molly had followed her in and engulfed her in a hug.  “It was so lovely to see you again, dear.”  She released her and smiled.  “You know you’re welcome here anytime.”

Hermione smiled back at her.  “Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.  I had a lovely time.”  And I won’t be back anytime soon.  She was surprised to see Ron standing behind his mother.  “Good night, Ronald.”

“Good night.”  Hermione had decided to Floo home and was just about to step into the fireplace when Ron laid his hand on her arm.  “Could I talk to you for a moment in private?”  Hermione bit her lip and seemed to hesitate.  “Come with me outside for just a moment.  It won’t take long.”

She sighed and nodded her head, following him out the back door and over to the garden.  He turned to face her and Hermione protectively folded her arms.  “So, what is it you wanted to talk to me about?”

“About that file… I really want you to forget about it and not try to pursue any of the information you found.”

“You know I can’t do that, Ron.  There’s information in that report that is related to at least a dozen other cases involving the murder of Muggles.  Rumor has it that the Shadows are taking over the case and I need to find out as much information as quickly as possible. It’s my job to follow the evidence and take down the bastards.”

Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “You don’t understand who you’re dealing with or what they’re capable of.”

“As I told Charlie, I don’t scare that easily.”

Ron grabbed her by the shoulders.  “You should be scared this time!”  He stared at her for a moment before releasing her and wiping his eyes wearily.  “If the murders are related then you are dealing with a group of very sick individuals.  You already had a close call for fuck’s sake.”

“Close call?”

“Yes, a close call, as in your flat getting blown up.”

“Trust me when I tell you that my flat getting blown up as nothing to do with Death Eaters.”  Hermione’s eyes widened briefly as she quickly realized what she let slip.  Hoping Ron didn’t catch it, she dropped her hands to her sides and made to leave.  “I gotta’ go.”

As Hermione turned, Ron grabbed her by the wrist.  “What do you mean your flat wasn’t blown up by Death Eaters?”

Shite.  “Nothing, it doesn’t matter.”  She tried to wrench her wrist away from him, but he wouldn’t let go. 

He narrowed his eyes at her.  “You know who did it, don’t you?”

“Maybe.” 

“If you know who the person or persons are, then you need to report it straight away.  Your whole bloody office is still on alert for pity’s sake.”

“It’s personal, Ronald.  I’m going to take care of him myself.”  Shite, what the hell is the matter with me?

Still holding her wrist, he pulled her toward him until their bodies were almost touching.  “Tell me his name.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“It’s…it’s complicated.”  Hermione swallowed hard.  Standing so close to him was affecting her and she hated herself for it.  Ron clutching her wrist and pulling her close wasn’t helping her to stay in control either.  She licked her lips.  “Let me go, Ron.”

Ron shook his head and demanded, “I want his name.”

She was about to tell him, too.  But then reason finally took hold of her and she reacted swiftly.  Hermione suddenly pushed back from him, bent her other arm and crashed her elbow down upon his forearm.  The blow caught him off guard and he winced from the pain, letting go immediately of her wrist. 

“Dammit, Hermione.”  Ron rubbed his forearm and then brought his arms down to his sides and fisted his hands.  “Just tell me the fucker’s name!”

“NO!”

“What the hell is going on here?”

Hermione was breathing hard.  “Nothing, Charlie.”  She fixed Ron with a glare before walking toward the house.

Charlie called after her, “Hermione?”  She didn’t turn around and kept walking.  He turned to Ron and folded his arms.  “You want to tell me exactly what the hell that was all about?”

Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “Like Hermione said-nothing.”

Charlie began to chuckle.  “I saw her through the kitchen window beating you up.”

“She sure can pack a punch, that’s for sure.”  Ron pulled his wand out of his back pocket.  “Lumos.”  He moved it closer to the spot where she hit him and saw that she had left a very nasty bruise.  “One hell of a punch, actually.”  Ron extinguished the light and slipped his wand back into his pocket.

“Why don’t you take a walk with me down to the lake?  I’d like to talk to you about some information I came across today and I’m hoping you can help me out.”

“I know what this is about and I really don’t want to talk about it right now, Charlie.”

“What do mean you know what this is about?  Did Harry say something to you?”

“Actually it was Hermione that said something to me.”  He sighed.  “What I really want to do right now is get good and pissed.  I’ll tell you everything you want to know, but not tonight, alright? ”

Charlie nodded.  “After dealing with my barmy wife, I suppose I could use a drink myself.”  He placed an arm around Ron’s shoulder and grinned.  “Let’s head upstairs, crack open a few bottles of Firewhiskey and try to piss all our problems away, eh?”

Ron chuckled in spite of himself.  “Sounds like a plan.”  He was secretly determined to get Hermione to tell him who destroyed her flat.  And come hell or high water, he was going find out before she got herself killed.  

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Thank you to brandedfaithfully for her wonderful editing work. I got a bit naughty on this one. *winks*

XXX,

missgranger2


Chapter 21 “Busy Fingers and Idle Resolutions”

Hermione was fit to be tied when she finally Flooed home.  Not only had she said too much, she shamefully allowed her defenses down.  Eyeing the half-full bottle of Firewhiskey, Hermione picked it up  and took a long, hard swig.  Damn him!  It had been easier when he was living far away in Durham.  She slammed the bottle down and used her wand to light a fire in the fireplace.  Placing her wand on the table, she snatched up the bottle and fell into the chair, staring absently into the flames.  You cannot allow for him to affect you like that!  You’ve worked so damn hard to forget him… to move on.  She took another drink and sighed as the warmth of the alcohol trickled down her throat.  It felt good.  The burn distracted her from the twisting sensation in her stomach.  Silently, Hermione worked her way through the rest of the bottle and started on another one.

Before long, she was feeling quite giddy and extremely naughty.  She vacated her chair, flipped on the CD player and closed her eyes, swaying around the room.  The more she danced, the randier she got.  Bloody hell, I need a man right now. She thought about the guards standing outside her door.  I’m sure one of them could probably help me out.  When she gave the matter more thought, she nixed the idea, knowing she was far too drunk to obliviate one person, let alone two.  I couldn’t take a chance that the other guard wouldn’t blab.

Her thoughts turned to Ron.  Damn, but he had looked so hot in his t-shirt and jeans.  Hermione smiled to herself, thinking of his muscular body and his prominent bulge.  She remembered how close her lips were to his in his bedroom and dragged her drunken fingertips over her lips.  He was such a fantastic kisser.  Her fingers traveled from her lips, down her neck and to her breasts.  And when he grabbed my wrist like that… and pulled me close.  She set the bottle down on the table with a wobble and closed her eyes, using both hands to massage her breasts as she swayed and staggered, finally stumbling back into the chair.

Going with her current mood, Hermione lifted her legs up and placed each one on the arms of the chair.  Her skirt was bunched around her hips and she moved one hand downward to the inside her knickers, while the other continued to knead her breast.  She remembered how his fingers felt when he touched her intimately, and she began to move her fingers in and out of her center, trying to recreate the sensation.  Recalling the feel of his mouth, she slid her fingers higher, searching for the spot that would take her excitement to the next level.  Images of him plunging into her deeply and roughly made her groan. 

She rubbed her clit in a circular motion, pretending that it was Ron’s fingers.  Her movements began to quicken as she imagined his mouth on her once more.  It wasn’t long before she came, biting her lip until she practically drew blood to stifle her long moan.   Her rapid heartbeat began to return to normal and she smiled lazily at her own daydream.

Her legs slipped from the arms of the chair, weak, a bit achy from being bent so far back.  She stretched them out.  For once, she felt strangely sated without the help of a man and laid her head back against the chair, falling into a deep sleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Charlie was a fun drunk.  He loved to tell stories and particularly loved to gossip about other members of the family.  Ron had told him all about how he had finally ended it with Shannon and how he leveled with their parents over the uncomfortable details.  Ron brought a few bottles of Firewhiskey along for extra courage and Charlie had added to the supply by taking out the bottles he had hidden in his old bureau.  Both of them were completely pissed, having spent several hours in Charlie’s old room marinating in guilt .

Charlie was presently telling him about the “private” conversation he had had with Bill a few weeks back.  “And so since Bill has such an aversion to oral sex, Fleur is completely done with him.”

“Ruddy bastard,” Ron mumbled, nearly missing his lips with the bottle’s opening.

Charlie raised his own bottle at a nearly ninety degree angle.  “Here, here!”  He took a swig.  “I told em’ that a real man eats pussy and that he was just going to have to buck up and do it.”

“And what did he say to that?”

“He said that just because he didn’t like to do it, that it didn’t make him any less of a man.”  Charlie rolled his eyes.  “The idiot is clueless.”  Charlie accentuated his point by thrusting the bottle toward Ron and splashing him with some of the contents.

“Women love oral sex.”

“That they do little bro, that they do.”  Charlie winked at him.   “At least I have one brother who knows what the hell they’re doing.”

Ron took a drink from his bottle.  “So why does Padma hate Hermione?”

Charlie belched.  “I let a few things slip about Hermione that I shouldn’t have told her about.  And of course she’ll never trust Hermione around me on account of my big mouth.”

“What the hell did you’d tell her?”

Charlie’s lips twitched slightly and he sighed.  “I said Hermione’s name when I came.”

Ron choked on the drink he had just taken of his whiskey.  “You what?!”

“I know, I know.”  Charlie shook his head.  “I don’t know why the hell I did that.”

“So, you’re attracted to Hermione?”  Ron asked suspiciously.

Charlie grinned at him and blushed.  “If I wasn’t married I’d probably pursue her, yes.”  He didn’t meet Ron’s eyes and took another drink.  “Hermione is so different from Padma.  She’s smart, doesn’t take any shite off of people, she’s incredibly complicated, stubborn and damn but if she isn’t sexy, too.”

Ron frowned at him.  “But you are married.”

Seeming to sense that he was treading on dangerous ground, Charlie nodded his head.  “I am.”  He lifted up his ring finger, his eyes squinting as he tried to focus on the gold band.  “Til death do I fart…I mean part.”  He laughed at himself before taking a long swig from the bottle and then did his best to appear serious as he looked at Ron.  “I guess I shouldn’t have even brought that up.”

“I guess you shouldn’t ‘av.”  The jovial mood grew tense at once and both men drank in silence.

After a while, Charlie cleared his throat.  “What were you two arguing about tonight anyway?”

Ron shrugged.  “Stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

Ron absently looked at the bruise Hermione had given him earlier.  “Let’s just say I’m not the only one that feels it’s necessary to keep secrets.”

~*~*~*~*~*~**~

Hermione was having the worst morning ever.  Not only had she woke up feeling like she had been run over by a locomotive, she had also been subjected to Mrs. Ringstopper’s nonsense only to find out that David was on holiday.  Insisting that Director Taylor see her, she had been informed by him that her squad was pursuing a lead involving the destruction of her flat in  Chuddley.  Furthermore, she had been assigned to desk duty until further notice.   To top it off, the case her and Charlie were working on had been handed over to the Shadows-along with all the evidence they had collected.  Being assigned to handle paperwork incensed Hermione to no end and she let Taylor know in no uncertain terms how she felt about it.  In the end, facing charges of insubordination and possible suspension, she regrettably caved in.  She started her Shadow training the following Friday and didn’t want to take the chance that she couldn’t go due to having to attend a disciplinary hearing.

Presently, she was sitting in one of the conference rooms, arms folded, with a large stack of folders in front of her.  She eyed the files with great disdain, wanting nothing more than to set fire to them with her wand.  Paperwork was a tedious, mindless job in her opinion.  Auror notes were stuffed into each file and she had to read through them and decide what information was pertinent to the case the Auror was working on.  She then had to transfer the information in a section on the bottom of the report parchment inside the file.  This is bullshite.  I belong in the field, dammit.

“Good morning, Hermione.”  Ron walked in, dressed in his Auror robes, a cup of tea in each hand.

“What the hell are you doing here?  You said you didn’t have to report in until tomorrow.”

Ron shrugged.  “It usually takes a day for the transfer paperwork to go through.  I decided to come in and see if everything got processed and as luck would have it, it did.”  He sat down in the chair beside her and set one of the cups of tea in front of her.  “You still take two sugars and three creams in your tea?”

“Yes.”

Ron grinned.  “I got it right, then.” 

She didn’t reach for her tea and continued to keep her arms folded.  “If your paperwork went through, then shouldn’t you be starting with your new squad today?”  Ron took a small sip of his tea and nodded.  “Well then why on earth are you sitting in here with me drinking a cup of fucking tea?”

Ron chuckled.  “It seems the squad I was assigned to is gone to Chuddley.  And since I missed the debriefing earlier this morning, I was told to go and help out the member of my squad that remained behind.”  He winked at her.  “In other words-you.”

“But our squad is full!”  Hermione protested.  “They can’t do that.”

“Apparently every squad is full according to Taylor.  Relax, Hermione, it’s only temporary until they can find a place for us.”  Unbeknownst to Hermione, Ron was only telling her half the truth.  Taylor decided not to assign Harry and him permanently to any squad owing to the fact that they were set to start Shadow training in one week.

“Well he should have found you another squad to temporarily join.”

Ron took another sip of his tea and smiled at her.  “Drink your tea Hermione, before it gets cold.”  He set his cup down and took a file from the stack.  Ron opened it and sighed.  “Transferring notes are we?”  He took his wand from his robes and began to read over the parchment where an Auror had written their comments.  “I suppose that could be relevant.”  He mused aloud and tapped the note with his wand.   Ron read some more.  “And that, too.”  He tapped it again and then placed his wand on the bottom of the report.  Saying an incantation in his head, the information he had chosen from the note instantly appeared there.  Ron closed the file and set it, along with the note, off to the side.  “Well, that’s one down, only like fifty or so more to go, eh?”

Hermione frowned at him.   “Whatever you’re up to isn’t going to work.”  Still smiling, he grabbed another file and opened it, reading over the notes and effectively ignoring her comments and sour disposition.  She crossed her legs and began to tap her foot.  “I am well versed in all the ways an Auror tries to extort information from people.”

Ron snorted and set the file and note off to the side and grabbed another file.  He continued to smile as he read over the notes.  “Paranoid, are we?”

“I’m not telling you his name.  This little game you’re playing of trying to make me feel at ease so I’ll open up to you isn’t going to work.”

He reached for another file.  “Are you going to help me out at all or are you going to sit there all day and try to figure out what I’m supposedly plotting?”  Ron chuckled.  “This would certainly go a lot faster if you’d help me out, you know.”

“I hate paperwork.”

Ron turned to look at her.  “I don’t like paperwork either but orders are orders.”  He returned his attention back to the file in front of him.  “Besides, the faster we get this done, the faster we can go home.”

Hermione huffed and finally took a file.  “I suppose the sooner I get out of here, the better.  This entire morning has been nothing but a damn nightmare so far.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

By afternoon, they had almost completed their task.  Hermione was diligently working on a file when Ron noticed her full cup of tea and frowned.  “You don’t like tea anymore?”

She raised her head up.  “What?  Oh, no I still like tea, I just didn’t feel it smart to drink something you brought me.”

“Why’s that?”

She shrugged.  “You probably put something in there like Veritaserum.”

Ron raised his eyebrows.  “You really are paranoid.”

“Not paranoid, just cautious.”  She continued with her work. 

Scowling, Ron watched her work for a moment and then reached over, grabbing her cup.  She looked on as he took a large gulp of her stone cold tea and then set the cup down with a thud on the table.  “See!  It was perfectly safe to drink!”

Hermione’s eyes went wide and then narrowed dangerously.  “But I couldn’t be sure about that considering the circumstances now could I?”

Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “Why in the hell do you have to make things so bloody difficult, Hermione?”  He took a deep breath and blew it out slowly.  “I’m really trying here and all you do is throw everything back in my face.”

She slammed the folder shut.  “Tough shite!  You made your fucking bed two years ago and now you have to lie in it!”  Ron’s eyes suddenly blazed with anger and he stood up and threw the chair he was sitting in across the room.  Hermione stood up, taunting him.  “Go ahead and act like a fucking child!  You can destroy the entire room and it still won’t change a thing.  You’ll still be nothing but a selfish, lying two-timing bastard!”

“From the things I’ve heard, Padma had it right last night.  You are nothing but a drunk who likes to go whoring around!”

Hermione punched him with all her might.  Not expecting it, the impact made his head whip to the side and he actually stumbled back a few steps.  Hermione was getting ready to hit him again but this time he was ready.  He caught her fist and used both of his hands to lock her arms to her sides.  Hermione began to try and kick him and Ron pushed her back into the wall, wrapping one of his long legs around hers.

He used his body weight to pin her against the wall, but Hermione wasn’t making it easy for him as she squirmed around, trying to break free.  They were both breathing heavily, their faces inches away.  Her hair was a mess and she was sweating profusely.  She yelled at him, “Let me go!”

Ron shook his head.  “Dammit, I can’t.”  He looked at her a moment before suddenly crushing his lips roughly to hers.  Hermione bit his lip causing Ron to grimace as he broke away.  Instead of looking angry, his face looked anguished.  “I can’t let you go, Hermione.  I just can’t.”  She stopped struggling and swallowed hard.  He licked his lips, tasting the metallic blood she had drawn from his lip and brought his face gradually closer and covered her mouth with his own.  This time she did kiss him back.  Ron released her arms and she snaked her hands around his neck while he grabbed her waist tightly with his own.

He released her legs and pulled her towards him so she could feel how badly he wanted her.  Hermione arched her back and moaned into his mouth, spurring him on.   Like a man possessed, Ron moved one of his hands to the small of her back and placed his other on one on her breasts, kneading it through her robes. 

Coming to her senses, Hermione suddenly broke the kiss and brought her palms down to his chest, pushing him away.  “Stop,” she said breathlessly.

Ron removed his hands immediately from her body and stepped away from her.  His voice was just above a whisper.  “Why did you want me to stop?”

She looked down at her hands and then back up at his face, seemingly at a loss for words. Hermione bit her lip and pushed a stray hair behind her ear.  “I have to go.”  She hurried over to the table and picked up her wand.  Ron stood at the door, blocking her way.  “Please let me by, Ron.”

“Don’t go.  Let’s sit and talk and try to sort this all out, Hermione.  Please.”

“No, I can’t.  I just… I just can’t.”  Hermione took a deep breath.  “What happened between us today shouldn’t have ever happened.”

“But it did.  You can’t stand there and tell me you didn’t feel anything at all when we kissed.”

She frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“The pull, the lust, the wanting…it’s still there between us, isn’t it?”

Hermione studied his eyes for a moment and then bowed her head.  “I really just want to be alone right now.”

“I’m not going anywhere this time and I mean it.”  He watched her for a moment as she studied her feet. Ron sighed and finally stepped aside to let her by.

Hermione bit her lip and refused to meet his eyes.  “That’s what I’m afraid of.”  She walked past him and out the door, leaving a bewildered Ron behind.

~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~

Hermione walked towards the break room, berating herself the whole way there.  Stupid.  What in the hell were you thinking?  She stomped into the break room and ignored the two Aurors who waved at her.  Standing before the massive bulletin board, she tore a piece of parchment from a notepad under the heading “Leave Requests” that was hanging there.  She grabbed a quill that was lying nearby and quickly filled it out. 

There was too much to sort out, too much to think about and she just had to get away.  She still hadn’t come up with a good plan to get back at David, she was now on desk duty and to top it all off she was having a hard time keeping herself in control with Ron.  Why does he still have such an effect on me?   Blast!  It’s over between us.  Hermione tapped the leave slip with her wand.  The slip folded itself into a paper airplane and whizzed away.  She sat down at one of the tables and drummed her fingers impatiently.  Minutes later, the paper airplane flew back into the room and she caught it in her hand.  She unfolded it and saw that her leave was approved and sighed in relief.

She was going somewhere in order to clear her head and not coming back until the day she had to report for Shadow training.  Hermione knew the perfect place, even though she probably wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms.  She bit her lip and sighed.  It was time to go and visit her parents and try to set things right with her father.  For once she became a Shadow, she would have to disappear and never see them again.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It had taken Ron a few minutes to pull himself together when she left.  When they had kissed, it had felt like they were picking up right where they had left off, for the intense feelings were all still there.  He had grown hard thinking about how he had wanted to rip her clothes off and explore every part of her body with his fingers and his mouth. He licked his lips and could taste the blood from where she had bit him and he shuddered at how much it had turned him on. 

He sat down at the table and held his face in his hands, trying desperately to calm his body down.  Bloody hell.  This is insane.  Trying to reign in his sexual urges, Ron tried to think of anything to get his mind off the situation.  Mum and Dad having sex.  Yuck.  Going down on Umbridge.  Double yuck and hell no.  He took a deep breath and started to feel little Ron calming down. 

Ron cleared his throat and stood back up.  Using his wand, he repaired the chair and levitated it back to where it had originally been.  He went and sat back down in it and picked up one of the four files they hadn’t reviewed.  Ron suddenly smiled to himself, hoping that what had happened today between them, might be the beginning of the reconciliation he so desperately wanted. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~

Ron returned to the Burrow in the afternoon.  Charlie was sitting at the kitchen table looking a bit green around the gills.  “Alright there, Charlie?”

“No, I’m not alright.  I feel like I’ve been run over by a herd of Hypogriffs.”

Molly came into the kitchen.  “I thought I heard your voice, Ron.”  She looked him over.  “I thought you didn’t have to go into work today?”

Ron shrugged.  “Change of plans.”  He began rifling through the cabinets, hunting for something to eat.

“What happened to your face?”

“What?”  Ron turned around.

Molly pointed her finger at him.  “Your face.  Your lip is a little swollen and you have a bruise on your cheek.”

“Oh…um…training.”

Charlie looked confused.  “Training?  What kind of training?”

Ron cleared his throat.  “You know the training…at work.”  He widened his eyes at him for a moment. “Anyway, I’ll just do a few healing charms on myself.  No big deal, Mum.”

Molly shrugged.  “Alright then, I’m off to go and pick up a few groceries.  I’ll be back in a bit.”

“See you later then.”  Ron smiled and Charlie waved to her as she stepped into the fireplace and Flooed away.  Ron rounded on Charlie.  “Next time when I’m telling a lie to mum about work, do you reckon you could just play along?”

“Well, I didn’t know what the hell you were talking about.  And who’d you get into a brawl with anyway?”

“Never you mind.”  Ron walked back over to the cabinet and pulled out a box of biscuits.  He sat down at the table with the box in one hand, while he began digging in the box with the other.  “Looks like Hermione’s been assigned to desk duty.”

“Well that explains a lot.”

Ron swallowed the biscuit he was chewing.  “How’s that?”

“I got a message from Hermione about an hour ago.  She put in for leave and said she was going to be out of town and wouldn’t be returning until Friday.”

“She did?”  Ron set the box down on the table and frowned.  Shite.

Charlie started to chuckle.  “I’m sure she must have had her knickers all in a twist when they wouldn’t let her go out in the field.”

“She wasn’t too happy about it, that’s for sure.”  Hearing she was gone for the whole week, took the wind out of his sails and he slumped back in his chair looking dejected.  Dammit, Hermione.

“Sneaky little minx also petitioned Taylor to get rid of the guards and, of course, he said yes.”  Charlie rolled his eyes. “Hey Ron, since mum and dad aren’t around, do you think we can have that talk now?”  He rubbed his eyes wearily.  “I go back to work tomorrow and want to try and pursue a few leads even though I’ve been informed that all the cases have been officially given over to the Shadows.”

Ron ran his hand through his hair.  “What do you want to know about that report?”

“Tell me everything, Ron.”

~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~**~

Hermione carried her duffel bag up the steps to her parent’s townhouse. Here we go.  She took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.  A few minutes later, the door opened.  Mrs. Granger smiled broadly at her.  “Hermione!  You didn’t tell us you were coming for a visit!”  She engulfed her into a hug.  “Goodness, how I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you too, Mum.”

“Come in, come in.  You’re just in time for dinner.”

“How’s Crookshanks?”

“He’s fine.  He’s gone out to hunt.  I expect he’ll be back soon.”

Hermione set her bag down.  “Is he here?”

Mrs. Granger nodded her head and grabbed Hermione’s hand, giving it a squeeze.  “It’ll be alright.”

“I take it he’s still not forgiven me.”

Her mother shrugged.  “He’ll get over it, eventually.  Just give him some time.”  Hermione nodded and followed her mum into the lounge.   “Look who’s here, Eddie?”Her father looked up at her from his armchair, and then turned his attention back to the television.  Hermione looked at her mum who patted her arm sympathetically.  She whispered to her, “I’m going to check on dinner.  Go and try to talk to him, alright?”

She walked cautiously into the lounge and sat down on the couch.  “Hello, Dad.”

He kept his attention focused on the television screen.  “Hermione.”

Wringing her hands, she bit her lip.  “So, how have you been?”

He turned to her then.  “Better than I was the last time you were here, that’s for sure.”

“I told you I was sorry.  I don’t know what more you want me to say.”  She sighed.  “Can’t we just forget about it and move on?”

“Forget about it?  Are you mad?”  He used the remote control to turn the television off and threw it down on the side table.  “I come home from having a lovely dinner with your mum to find you shagging in our bed with the next door neighbor-a married man-and you just want me to forget it?”  He huffed. “Not bloody likely, Hermione.”

“I modified his mind, he doesn’t even remember any of it.”

Her father pushed the footrest down with a large snap and rounded on her.  “That is inexcusable, playing with somebody’s mind like that! And though he may not remember any of it,  I do.  You disrespected your mother and I!  You disrespected that man’s poor wife!  And worst of all, you disrespected yourself!  What you did was completely disgusting and totally inexcusable, Hermione!” 

“Eddie, please.”  Mrs. Granger had stepped back into the lounge.

He pointed at her.  “Your poor mother was so sick over it, that she went out and bought a new bed the very next day.  Not to mention the shame she felt that her own daughter would go sleeping around with a married man!”

“Eddie, that’s enough!”

“Perhaps you should have modified my mind that night too, Hermione, because I will never forgive you for it for as long as I live!”

She had actually planned on doing just that but ended up leaving after arguing with him.  He had said some pretty hurtful things that night and in hindsight she’d probably deserved it.  Yet, even if she had modified his mind, she wouldn’t have been able to forget the things he said or the names he’d called her.  Having no contact had been the best solution for both of them.

Hermione cleared her throat.  “Well, I can obviously see that it was a mistake for me to come here.”

Mrs. Granger hurried over to her.  “No.  This is your home and you are always welcome here.”

Hermione stood up.  “I think it best that I go, Mum.”

“And so do I.”  Her father glared at her before standing up and walking to the dining room.

Mrs. Granger pleaded with her, “Please, don’t go.  I haven’t seen you in months.”  She began to cry.  “I miss you, Hermione.  I miss having you here.”

Hermione felt torn.  She sighed and hugged her mother.  “I’ll stay…for you.” 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Charlie had been amazed at how matter-of-fact Ron had sounded when he told him everything about the mission.   His face was strangely neutral, as if he was being debriefed by another Auror.  The whole story had sickened Charlie and now he wanted badly to catch the bastards responsible.  “You could have come to me, you know?”

Ron shrugged.  “I did what I felt was right at the time.”

“And you’re sure you never saw their faces?”

“I’m sure.”  Ron stood up.  “Well, I think I’ll just go and grab a quick shower.”

Charlie sighed, realizing Ron was done talking about it.  “Don’t forget to heal your face.”  Ron nodded and walked hurriedly out of the kitchen.  Charlie watched him go and felt his heart sink.  He would have never guessed that Ron had gone through so something so traumatic.  It suddenly pained him to know that all that time Ron had kept it buried inside of him.  He waited until he heard the bathroom door open and close and then he buried his face in his hands and cried for what his brother had been put through.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~

Ron shut the bathroom door and leaned back against it.  He had been able to hold it together when he told Charlie probably because he had already fallen apart when he told Ginny.  As he related the story to Charlie, it had brought all the bad memories back.  If he had stayed a moment longer downstairs, he knew he wouldn’t have been able to stay in control.  Ron turned on the spray and stripped his clothes off.  He quickly climbed into the shower and began to sob as the hot water washed over him.  He couldn’t help hating himself for what he had done while wishing he had the strength to forgive himself.  Why wasn’t I stronger?

After finally gathering himself back together, he shut the water off.  Ron stepped out from the shower and grabbed the towel from the rack and dried off.  He wrapped the towel around his waist and stood before the mirror above the sink.  Examining his face, he could see that she really had hit him hard.  He leaned in closer and pulled his swollen lip down, and could just make out where she had bitten him.

I wonder if she’s aggressive like that now in bed?  Hermione had been an attentive lover when he was with her, but he always felt like she was holding back.   After all, he had been her first and she hadn’t had much experience with men in general before him.  Ron took a deep breath, feeling himself growing hard as he imagined what she might do with him now. 

He closed his eyes and saw her in bed with him, naked and taking charge.  She plunged her tongue into his mouth and then dragged it down his chin and then his neck.  Shite!  He removed the towel and licked his lips when he imagined her biting his nipples and nipping her way downward until she got to his…

Ron began to stroke himself, seeing all the naughty and brilliant things she was doing with her mouth in his mind.  It wasn’t long before he was pumping himself like a man possessed.  He came hard, his semen spilling out onto the floor as he grabbed the side of the sink with his free hand in order to brace himself.  Panting, he smiled and opened his eyes and saw his reflection once more.  After such an intense orgasm, he decided that while he’d heal the bruise on his cheek, the injury to his lip was staying put.

~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~

Dinner was a somber affair at the Grangers.  Her mother had taken her father into the kitchen for a “private word” beforehand.  When they returned, Eddie took his place at the head of the table, not looking or talking to Hermione as he ate.

Mrs. Granger took a sip of tea.  “How is work going?”

“It’s fine.  I’m actually going through some training next Friday.  If I get chosen, I’ll be getting a promotion of sorts.”

“That sounds exciting.”

Hermione smiled and nodded.  She took a bite of her potatoes and wiped her lips with her napkin.  “Actually, that’s sort of the reason I’m here.”  She pushed her hair behind her ear.  “If I get the promotion, I’ll probably be gone for some time.”

“How long are we talking about?”

“A long time, Mum.”  She took a drink of her tea and began fiddling with one of the buttons on her shirt.

“I see.”  Mrs. Granger put her fork down, looking like a deer in the headlights.

“I really want to do this, Mum.  It’s a chance of a life time, really.”

“Hermione, you know that I am very proud of you.  I just worry about how you seem to put work before anything else.”

“Like what?”

“Like settling down and having a family of your own.”

“I don’t want to go into all that again, Mum.”  She took a sip of her tea, wishing it was something far more stronger.  “Truthfully, this might be the last time I’ll be able to visit and I want to leave here with happy memories.”

Her father suddenly dropped his napkin on top of his plate and pushed himself roughly from the table.  He stood up and glared at Hermione for a moment before walking into the lounge.

Hermione chuckled bitterly.  “That probably made his day.”

 Mrs. Granger took a deep breath.  “Hermione, he didn’t even finish his dinner.  He’s worried about you.  And I think it really upset him that this might be your last visit.”

“Right.”

“He does love you, Hermione.” 

Hermione folded her napkin and set it down by her plate.  She stood up and began to lift her plate up when her mother stopped her.  “I’ll get it.”

Hermione nodded her.  “I’m feeling really tired, I think I’m going to just go on to bed.”

“Alright.”  Mrs. Granger stood up and walked over and gave her a hug.  “Good night, dear.”

“Good night.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hermione stood at her window of her old bedroom, a glass of Firewhiskey in her hand.  She hadn’t been with a man for a while now.  She longed for a man to ease the ache between her thighs and help relieve her of all the stress she was under.  Hermione wandered over to the swivel mirror that had occupied her room for as long as she could remember.  She turned to the left and then to the right and smiled in approval.  The black leather mini skirt she had chosen along with the cream colored halter top that tied behind her neck was perfect for what she had in mind.  Hermione picked up her wand and performed a contraception spell on herself, not wanting to have to bother trying to explain to a Muggle why she was waving a stick at his bits later.  She picked up her black leather purse that matched perfectly with her stiletto heels and placed her wand inside.

Downing the rest of her Firewhiskey,  Hermione set the empty glass on her nightstand and headed downstairs. It was almost one o’clock in the morning and she knew her parents wouldn’t be up.   She opened the front door and stepped out, happy to finally end her sexual hunger.  Hermione failed to notice that her father was wide awake, sitting in the lounge in his armchair with Crookshanks curled at his feet.  

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank Brandedfaithfully for editing this crazy story for me. Thanks to Sandrinha for giving me some points to ponder. And a big thank you to ykickamoocow who keeps me giggling at what he thinks is going to happen next.

*hugs*

missgranger2   


Chapter 22 “Burnt Bridges and Bumpy Roads”

Hermione ended up going to a Muggle biker bar.  She was hit upon by several men, but she ended up hooking up with a man called Thor.  Hermione thought he was perfect for what she needed.  He was a big man with a muscular body, long hair tied into a ponytail and covered in tattoos.  When he spoke to her, he talked about all the wicked things he’d love to do with her body and Hermione couldn’t help but be aroused by his vulgar language and directness.

They ended up in the alleyway by the bar, a dim light shining down upon them from a streetlight nearby. Thor plundered her mouth, untying her top as he did so, his mouth left hers and he latched first onto one breast and then the other.  Hermione moaned in ecstasy, proud of the fact she had actually chosen a man who knew what the hell he was doing.  Thor moved his hand down under her short skirt and into her knickers.  He rubbed her there and then plunged his fingers into her wetness, causing Hermione to cry out.

Thor pulled back from her and unbuckled his jeans and hastily pulled his denims down along with his pants.  The sight that greeted Hermione stopped her in her tracks.  His penis looked disproportionately small in comparison to his bulging muscles, disappointedly thin in appearance.  She shook her head.  Well maybe at the very least, he’ll know how to use it.  Hermione pulled herself together while Thor pulled her knickers down forcefully.  Hermione kicked them away and he backed her into the wall and used his hand to pin one of her thighs against it.  He plunged himself into her and Hermione faked a gasp, not at all impressed and more importantly-not satisfied.

He pumped into her fast and hard, but it wasn’t quenching the ache.  When he came a few minutes later, she faked her own orgasm and laid her head on his shoulder and frowned.  What rotten luck I’m having lately.  I could have stayed at my parents’ house and stuck my wand up my crotch and it would have felt the same for goodness sakes.  Hermione removed her head from his shoulder and Thor smiled at her before giving her a long kiss.  When they broke apart, Hermione pushed her skirt back down while Thor picked up her knickers for her.  Hermione told him he could keep them as a souvenir and he happily balled them up in his big hand and stuffed them in his pocket.  Before they parted, Thor asked for her phone number and she wrote down a fake one on the back of his hand.   

She felt absolutely miserable as she trudged back to her parents’ house in the early morning hours.  The stickiness between her thighs usually meant that everything was right in the world, but not tonight.  As she grew closer to her parents’ house, she couldn’t abide the wetness anymore as it reminded her of the failure of her encounter tonight.  Spotting a good sized bush, she hid behind it and used her wand to perform a quick cleansing charm on herself. 

Hermione pulled her set of house keys out of her purse as she climbed the steps up to the front door.  She slipped the key into the lock and was startled when the door swung open, causing the keys to fall to the ground.  Her father was standing there looking livid.  “Where the hell have you been?”

“Out.”

“Out where?!”

Hermione bit her lip.  “That’s really none of your business, dad.”  She strode past him and made a beeline toward the staircase, hearing the front door slam.

“Go and gather your things this instant and get the hell out of my house!”

Hermione paused just as she reached the staircase and turned around.  “What?”

Even though it was dark, she could see that her father’s eyes were blazing.  He pointed his finger at her accusingly.  “I know what you are and I don’t want your kind of filth in my home for a second longer.”

I know what you are.  She knew what he meant by that and his words stung just as much as they had the last time he’d called her a whore.  Hermione pushed aside her hurt and chose to be angry instead.  Anger was safe.  Anger was something she could control and that wouldn’t make her appear weak or that she cared.   “And I don’t want stay here one moment longer either!  You have never been nothing more than a sorry excuse for a father anyway!  You have no right to stand there and judge me, Dad.  You act as if you have morals, knowing damn well that you cheated on Mum with one of your dental assistants years ago!  YOU’RE NOTHING BUT A FUCKING HYPOCRITE!”

Her father took three steps forward and smacked her hard across the face.  “GET OUT!”

Hermione touched her cheek in shock as she heard her mum yelling from the top of the stairs.  “What the devil is going on here?”  Hermione turned and quickly walked up the stairs.  “Hermione?”

“I’m leaving.  I’m sorry Mum but I just can’t do this.”

“But Hermione…”

She hugged her mother briefly and let go.  “I love you Mother and I’m so sorry about all this.  But it’s too much.”

Her mother began to cry.  “I love you, too.  I always will.  Please don’t go.”

“I have to.”  Not being comfortable seeing her mother break down, Hermione walked to her room and closed the door behind her, realizing that it had been a horrible mistake to come here after all.   She packed quickly, wanting nothing more to get away.  But where will I go?  She decided she’d figure that all out on the way.  All she knew was that she wasn’t going anywhere near London.  She placed her duffel bag on her shoulder and surveyed her childhood bedroom, knowing somehow it would be the last time she’d ever lay eyes on it.  When she Apparated away there was no way she could have known that it was the last time she’d see her parents alive as well.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hermione appeared some distance from her parents’ home at a park she was familiar with.  She sat down on one of the park benches and sighed.  It really wasn’t how she had wanted the visit to go.  And of course, she should have said more to her mother before she left, but didn’t want to subject herself to emotions that she just wasn’t comfortable with anymore.  Hermione stared up at the dark sky, musing how the darkness fit her mood so well.  Going over things in her mind, she thought she might just try to find a Muggle hotel to stay at for the night… or perhaps the week.  She didn’t have any friends she could visit or in truth, wanted to visit, and now apparently she had no family either. 

She needed privacy and she needed space.  In the end, she knew she could only find that kind of solace in the privacy of her own flat.  Everybody thinks I’m out of town anyway.  Hermione took her wand and a tennis shoe out from her duffel bag and began to make herself a Portkey. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Harry was as a happy as a clam when Ron saw him at Headquarters the next day.  Apparently, not only did Ginny’s team win their match against the Nottingham Needles, but he and Ginny were now an officially  married couple according to the Muggle world.  Harry had told Ron about the ten minute ceremony at the Justice of the Peace and how Ginny loved the ring he had picked out for her.    

“You best keep that bit of information to yourself.  Charlie will rip your head off if he finds out.”

Harry waved his hand dismissively.  “Whatever, what’s done is done and he can’t do a damn thing about it.”  Harry frowned for a moment.  “Remind me why we’ve been assigned to do paperwork again?”

 “The squad is still gone from what I heard.”  Ron sighed as he looked over the file in front of him.  “Not to mention since the attack on Hermione’s flat the Aurors around here have been focused on catching whose responsible and apparently don’t have the time to catch up on last week’s paperwork.”

“This is stuff from last week?”

“Yep.”

“Director Green would have never let us get away with that.”

“According to Charlie, Taylor doesn’t think paperwork is as important as catching the crooks.”

“Then why the hell aren’t we out on the street ’catching some crooks‘ too?”

Ron shrugged.  “I got the feeling that they didn’t really know what the hell to do with us since we’re actually here for Shadow training.”

“But this is so bloody boring,” Harry complained.  “I need some action before I go spare here.”

“Look at it this way, as soon as we’re done with these files, we can go home.  When you’re out in the field you never know when you’re going to be able go home.”  Ron smiled sheepishly at him.  “Besides, think of all the extra time you’ll actually be able to spend with my sister before we report for training-newlywed.”

Harry smiled at that.  “I didn’t think of that.  Perhaps I do like paperwork after all.”  They worked on the  files in silence for a few moments.  “By the way, did Charlie happen to talk to you about something?”

Ron glanced at him briefly, knowing full well what he was referring to.  “He did.”

“I saw the pictures and read over the report.  It really must have been awful for you.”

Ron ran a hand through his hair, keeping his eyes focused on the file in front of him.  “It was.”

Harry began drumming his fingers on the table.  “Was the woman sitting in the chair in the photograph Shannon?”

Ron suddenly snapped the folder shut and rounded on him.  “You know, I really don’t want to discuss this anymore.  I already told Charlie everything he needed to know.  Besides, the report along with all the other files you looked over have been handed over to the Shadows.”  Ron pointed his finger at him accusingly.  “And you are a shite best friend for not telling me straight away that you all had seen that report.”

Harry shrugged.  “Charlie said to keep quiet until he talked to you first.”

The door opened and both Ron and Harry turned to see who it was.  A tall, muscular man with ginger hair strode in wearing the insignia of a griffin on his robes.  He extended a hand out, “I’m Captain David Langely.  I heard you two were assigned to my squad temporarily.”

Ron and Harry looked at each for a moment before Harry stood up and took his hand and shook it.  “Auror Harry Potter, it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

Ron stood up, folded his arms and merely nodded his head at him.  “Auror Ron Weasley.”  He was pleased that he was a few inches taller than David and that his biceps were bigger, too.

David lowered his hand and smiled.  “Are you Charlie’s brother then?”

“Yep.”  Ron didn’t smile back and continued to stare at him with obvious disdain.

“Well, I see you two have been given the shitty job of handling paperwork.”  He smiled sheepishly at them.  “Did you two do something to piss off the director already?”

“Nope.” 

There was an uncomfortable silence before David spoke up again.  “Would you know where your brother and Hermione have gone off to?”

Harry pushed the rim of his glasses up.  “I’m not sure where Charlie went, but Hermione is out of town until Friday.”

“I see.”

Ron’s voice was laced with sarcasm.  “Shouldn’t you already know all this since you are, after all, the captain of their squad, Sir?”

David pursed his lips for a minute and then chuckled.  “You know, I think I can see why it looks like somebody recently hit you in the mouth.”

“That’s all the bastard got away with, I assure you.”  Ron lied.

David slowly nodded, eyeing him dangerously.   “For your information, Weasley, my family and I had to leave the country the night that Hermione’s flat was attacked for a family emergency and I just got back today.  I heard from another captain in the hallway that I had two temps in here doing paperwork and I haven’t been debriefed yet.”

“Well don’t let us keep you then.”

David took a few steps forward.  “What the hell is your problem, Weasley?”

Ron shrugged.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about, maybe you’re the one with the problem, Sir.

“You better lose the attitude right now or I’ll have your arse suspended, understood?”

“No worries there, as when I do get suspended it won’t be for something as trivial as my attitude I can assure you.”  Ron took a step forward and dropped his arms to his sides.

David eyed him coldly.  “And what the hell is that supposed to mean exactly?”

Looking worried, Harry suddenly stood between them.  “He doesn’t mean anything, Sir.”  He turned to look at Ron, his eyes wide.  “Isn’t that right, Ron?”

Ron didn’t say anything but continued to stare at David, clearly wanting to take a swing at him.  David took a deep breath.  “I’m due to report to administration.  This isn’t over by a long shot, Weasley.  I’ll come and find you after I’m done.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

As soon as the door closed behind him, Harry rounded on Ron, looking livid.  “Are you insane?”

“What?”

“You just basically set up a fight with the captain of our Auror squad!  If you lay one hand on him, you’ll be suspended for Merlin knows how long!”

“Frankly, I don’t really give a shite.”  Ron folded his arms, looking surly.

“You need to give a shite as if you fuck up now, you’ll never be allowed to attend that training on Friday.”

Ron sighed.  “Oh c’mon Harry, you know that’s the married bastard that Hermione’s been fucking around with.”

Was fucking around with.  She said she wasn’t seeing him anymore.”

“It doesn’t matter, he’s still an arsehole and I hate his bloody guts.”

“Fine, go and defend her honor or whatever it is you’re doing.  But consider this-if you really want to get back with Hermione you’d be doing everything you could to make sure you’d be there for that training on Friday.” 

Harry went back and sat down while Ron rolled his eyes at him.  He took his seat by Harry and they worked in silence for the rest of the afternoon.  Harry was relieved that David hadn’t shown back up by the time they finished their work and left to go home.  In fact, he didn’t show up for the rest of the week, as according to Charlie, David had gone to Dublin for some sort of specialized secret training.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was the last night of her leave, and Hermione was packing her duffel bag as best as she could considering she had just polished off a whole bottle of Ogden’s.  She was humming a tune and smiling as she rummaged through her lingerie drawer and picked out several pairs of knickers.  Most of the outfits she had put in were what she wore to work.  Still, she couldn’t resist slipping in a few racier numbers just in case.

It had been extremely therapeutic for her to have been off the whole week.  She was back to her old self now, having put the encounter with Ron and the sordid affair with her father behind her.  It hadn’t been easy at first, but with her best friend Firewhiskey and second best friend Ogden’s, she was able to make it through.  She shoved a few pairs of sweat pants into her bag and then looked up proudly at one of her gray walls covered with several sheets of parchment affixed there with Spellotape.

These were all the plans she had come up with to get back at David.  Night after night she sat at her desk for a few hours and plotted as she scoured various books on potions, spells and hexes for ideas.  Each sheet of parchment on her wall had a plan she felt would do the job.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t seem to choose one and so she had kept them all.  Her rubbish bin was overflowing with balled up pieces of parchment that contained the beginnings of plans that she scrapped.

Hermione walked over to the wall and began pulling the parchment off one by one.  When she was through, she placed them all in a folder and shoved them into her duffel bag.   Someday she’d carry out one of those plans but for now she wanted David to feel he had to be looking over his shoulder.  I’ll have the element of surprise this time you bastard.

She packed the last of her things and then set her duffel bag down on the floor.  Hermione adjusted her short skirt and ran her hands through her hair a few times as she looked at herself in the mirror.    Tonight was her last night of freedom and she wasn’t going to waste it.  Having gone through the rigors of Auror training, she knew that she’d likely be subjected to a strict schedule and worst of all-a curfew. Planning on going to a local Muggle bar to pick up a man or two, she giggled to herself and stepped out of her flat.  She locked her door with her wand, and sauntered down the hallway toward the stairs, feeling more confident than she had in days. 

Tomorrow would be the start of a brand new life where she wouldn’t have to deal with the bullshite anymore.  Her disappointments and the people that drove her mental would be gone… forever.  Hermione looked forward to disappearing off the face of the earth and leaving the past behind her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~

“So just to be clear- if Mum and Dad ask, I was sent on a mission to…”

“Northhampton.”  Charlie belched and rolled his eyes.  “You act like I’m deaf or something.  For the hundredth time- I know what to tell them in order to cover your arse.”

Ron took a long drink of Firewhiskey and scowled at his brother.  “I’m just making sure as I know you have to be as pissed as I am.”

“I am good and pissed and it feels brilliant.”  He lifted his bottle to Ron.  “Cheers!”

Ron watched as Charlie tipped back his almost empty to his lips.  “So I gather that things didn’t go well with Padma tonight?”

“That’s an understatement.  I made an arse of myself going over there with a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates.”  Charlie rubbed his eyes.  “Crazy bitch pointed her wand at the roses and before I knew it I was holding like ten rattlesnakes in my hand.  It scared the complete and utter shite out of me and I ended up throwing the whole lot at Padma.”

“On purpose?”  Ron grinned and took a swig from his bottle.

“No, not on purpose.  I just reacted.”  Charlie snapped and began refilling his bottle with his wand.  “Of course she thought I meant to do it and so she grabbed the box of chocolates out of my hand and transfigured it into an axe.  She chased me all around the damn house with the bloody thing.  Meanwhile, I kept stepping on a rattlesnake or two that in turn would try to strike at me.”  He sighed.  “It was complete and utter hell at the Charlie Weasley house tonight, that’s for sure.”

“Why’d you allow for her to chase you around the house with an axe?  Why didn’t you just stun her or something?”

Charlie began to blush.  Averting his eyes, he said quickly, “Shedisarmedme.”

“What was that?  Speak clearly, I’m drunk here.” 

“I said, she disarmed me.”  Ron busted out laughing.  “It’s not funny as I was fighting for my life and I couldn’t very well leave there without my wand.”

“How’d you manage to get it back from her?”  Charlie shrugged and took another drink.  “Oh c’mon and tell me.”

He cleared his throat and rolled his eyes.  “She quit chasing me with the axe after she realized that whatever spell she’d hit that bouquet with was causing the snakes to multiply.  She handed me my wand and told me to help her get rid of them and so like a bloody poof, that’s exactly what I did.”

“The woman is mental.”  Charlie nodded in agreement and took another drink.  “Why the hell don’t you ever defend yourself?”

“I’d never attack a woman, unless she was a Death Eater.”

“I didn’t say attack, I said defend.  You’re a fully trained Auror for pity sakes.  We know all sorts of way to deflect spells or did you not have the same training as I had?”

“I had the same training you little prick, it’s just that she’s my wife and I’m afraid I could hurt her even if I wasn’t really trying to.”

“Well, you better do something before she bloody well kills your arse.”  Ron took a drink and scowled at his brother.  “The whole fucking family thinks she’s psychotic you know.”

“I know.”  Charlie looked positively miserable.  They drank in silence for a long while.  “In other news, I actually had a bit of breakthrough in following up on a lead today on who might have destroyed Hermione’s flat.”

Ron sat up a little straighter, clearly interested.  “What did you find out?”

“With a little persuasion, a Muggle witness that lives down the hallway from Hermione described a man  she said she saw outside Hermione’s door the night of the attack .”  Ron knew that Charlie probably had somehow slipped the woman Veritaserum. 

“But shouldn’t the Aurors had already interviewed all the residents and then the containment crew would have wiped their memories?”

“Well in this case, the woman had been frightened by what she saw and had fled shortly after the man left and went and stayed with her sister for a week.”

“What did she say he looked like then?”

“She said she got a look at him through the crack of her door and that he was a tall man with orange hair, wearing a red cloak of some kind.”  Charlie arched his eyebrow at Ron.  “Obviously, she was describing Auror robes.  The woman said he was shouting, as was Hermione, but couldn’t remember exactly what they were saying.  Moments later he lifted a stick up at the door and the whole place shook from an explosion.  When she saw him coming down the hallway, she quickly shut her door and was scared he might have seen her.  She waited fifteen minutes and then ran from the place with only the clothes on her back.”

“You say she didn’t know what they were arguing about?”

Charlie shook his head.  “I think she was too frightened to remember actually.”  He took a long drink.  “To tell you the truth, I thought she might be describing you for a minute but I realized you didn’t even know where Hermione lived at the time.”  He quickly added, “No offense.”

“Could it possibly be another red headed man that she argued with frequently and who would definitely know where she lived seeing as he has access to his squad’s personnel files?”

Charlie whipped his head around.  “You think it might be David?”

“It all fits.  Harry mentioned something about them not seeing each other anymore.  Maybe she ended it and he wasn’t ready to.”  Not to mention she said that it was “personal”.

Charlie waved his hand dismissively at him.  “David may be a lot of things but he’s no Death Eater.”

“People change their loyalties all the time, Charlie.  You and I both know it happens as we’ve seen enough of it over the years.”

Charlie frowned.  “Well, if I find out he had anything to do with it, believe me I’ll break his fucking neck that’s for sure.”

“Not if I get to him first.” 

      

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

I would like to thank Brandedfaithfully for her beta work, plus the additions in describing Flannigan Flumes. I think she likes the nutty guy! *grins* Another chapter full of craziness lovely people. I hope you enjoy it!

XXX,

missgranger2


 Chapter 23 "So You Want to be a Shadow?" 

 

     Hermione entered the training room located on the 10th floor of the Ministry.  With the four long rows of desks and a pedestal in front of the room, she immediately felt a wave of familiarity from her Hogwarts days and frowned.  This is where Shadow training is taking place?  She had expected something more adventurous given their clandestine reputation.  Hermione sat in a desk in the front row and watched as several Aurors entered.  A lone sheet of parchment rested on each vacant desk and Hermione began to read over hers.

 

   Apparently it was some sort of requisite sheet that listed the totals of what each recruit needed to receive in various areas in order to be considered.  Hermione smiled smugly, thinking that she’d have no problems passing any test they threw at her. She flipped the paper over to find a schedule printed on the other side.  Three Aurors, a man and two women who Hermione didn’t recognize, entered the classroom. 

 

     The tall dark haired man sat down next to her and extended his hand out to her.  “Hello, I’m Stephan Rees.”

 

   Hermione took his hand and shook it but didn’t smile, hoping for some combination of professionalism and a unwillingness to show any emotions that might jeopardize her reputation.  “Hermione Granger.”

 

   His eyes went wide.  “The Hermione Granger?!”

 

   Hermione replied dryly, “Yep, one in the same.”  She positively hated the blokes that fell all over themselves when they recognized her name.  Hermione had been out with a fair few and found them annoying as they agreed with everything she said.  She just knew that this one would be like all the others, but was forced to suffer the few agonizing seconds of dread.  

 

   Her stomach rolled the moment it happened.  He donned the charming smile, the flirtatious demeanor and leaned in to her.  Spineless piece of shite!  “So you’re training to be a Shadow, too?”

 

   No shite Sherlock! She was tempted to ram the tip of her wand through her hand just so she wouldn’t have to go through the torture, but then an idea hit her that made her change her mind. “Is this Shadow training?”  Wearing a phony expression of confusion, she started looking around the room.  “Oh dear, I’m in the wrong room!”  It was such a poor acting job, she never suspected he would actually believe her, but her knight in shining armor turned out to be ‘Sir Obvious.’

 

   “Well, perhaps I can help.  What room are you looking for?” he asked in a somewhat condescending tone.

 

   “Any room you’re not!”  Hermione smirked, the sarcasm so thick it nearly covered up the disdain in her voice.

 

   After a moment where Stephan’s mouth hung open, he managed to straighten up and grunt out a “oh.”  Stephan bowed his head in defeat before getting up from his desk and heading toward the back row of the class.  Hermione rolled her eyes, but then felt a subtle pang as she realized the cruelty in her comments.  Unfortunately, the events in her life had nearly killed any regret.

 

   She took a deep breath before bending down to fetch a quill and parchment from her bag.  The sound of the door opening drew her attention back up and she froze as Harry and Ron entered the classroom.  Their eyes locked for a moment before Hermione shook herself slightly and looked purposely away.  She set the quill and parchment on her desk and clasped her hands tightly together in order to keep herself from strangling both of them.

 

   Harry took a seat beside her with the same friendly expression she’d seen in him for years.  But she also knew that he was expecting no less than full outrage from her.

 

   “Hey there, Hermione!”  She didn’t answer him, looking down at her hands as she played out several conversations in her head.  She didn’t want to sound as cruel to Harry as she had to the arsewipe now cowering in the back.  “Oh, come on now, don’t be like that.”  Harry whined, the remnants of a smile still on his face.

 

   Unable to keep her fury under control, Hermione turned to him.  “What the hell are you two doing here?”

 

   Ron slipped into the seat next to Harry and ran his hand through his hair.  Hermione immediately recognized the difference between them, Harry smiling widely at her, his gesture of friendship and uneasiness nearly as clear as the transparency of Ron’s no care attitude.  “We…”  Harry wagged a thumb between himself and Ron. “…have decided to become Shadows as well!”

  

     Hermione arched her eyebrow at him.  “What a coincidence!” she exclaimed and quickly noticed Ron’s hard stare.  “And why, pray tell, would you decide to do that?”

 

   Harry shrugged uncomfortably.  “Well, Ron and I discussed it and we think it would be a brilliant opportunity for the both of us to do something more with our lives.”  Harry smiled as if pleased with himself for coming up with such a brilliant response, but Hermione’s eyes narrowed at the falseness behind the innocent expressions.

 

   “Since when have you ever thought beyond the present, Harry?  Now quit fucking with me and tell me why you’re really here.”

 

   Ron leaned his head over Harry’s desk, nothing but seriousness in his response.  “We aren’t letting you do this alone, Hermione.”  His blue eyes burned with a sincerity that took her back for a second, but she quickly recovered.

 

   Her scowl seemed to break his concentration and he sat back up right and turned his attention toward the front.  Slowly her frown turned into a sheepish grin, a certain serendipity forming over the whole idea.  “It doesn’t matter.”  She shrugged.  “The two of you will never make it through the training anyway.”

 

   Harry tutted at her.  “We certainly will.  Ron and I are damn good Aurors!”

 

   Hermione shook her head.  “Neither of you will make it through the potions portion of the training.”  Harry turned to look at Ron in shock, but Ron’s eyes were still focused on her.  Hermione picked up the score sheet from Harry’s desk and waved it in the air before placing it back down.  “And I‘ll tell you both right now that I’m not going to help you out one bit!”  Ron quickly picked up his score sheet and began to read it intensely.

 

   Harry rolled his eyes at her and then shrugged.  “That’s fine.  Ron and I will make it.  We’re competent potion makers.”

 

   Hermione laughed.  “Like hell you are!”

 

   Ron leaned into Harry and whispered into his ear.  “She’s right mate.  The score sheet says you need a 500 or better.”  Ron’s eyes shifted back to her again.  “We’ll never make it without her.  Remember how she saved our arses during Auror training?”

 

  Harry groaned and turned back to Hermione who sat looking smug.  “Just to clarify, this time Ron and I are on our own as far as potions go?”

 

   Hermione nodded her head, looking triumphant.  “The first official potions class is  tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to watching the door hit your arses on the way out.”

 

   “I’m not going anywhere.  And neither is Ron.”  He folded his arms and scowled at her.

 

   “Oh, by all means, please stay as I surely don’t want to miss it when the both of you fall flat on your arse!”  Hermione giggled and sighed.

 

    Harry was just about to say something back to Hermione when Ron thumped him on the shoulder.  “Why the hell are you hitting me?”

 

    Ron gestured his head to the door.  “Look who it is!”

  

     Harry glanced at the door and his mouth fell open as he whispered to Ron in a low voice, “What the hell is Flannigan Flumes doing here?!  Shite!  He’s coming this way.”

 

   Flannigan stopped right in front of Harry.  He smiled, revealing that he had lost even more teeth than when Harry had been his partner.  “What the hell are you doing here man?”

 

   Harry hated to show fear, but it felt like his Adam’s Apple was the size of a watermelon as it bobbed in his throat.  Flannigan scared the shite out of him.  The man’s hair was long and gray with purple and pink highlights.  At first glance you’d think he’d fallen off the circus train, but upon closer inspection, there were dozens of scars on his face.  The gruesome scar that ran across his eye and cut into his cheek was damn frightening.  It had the effect of turning one eye down in a constant expression of depravity.  When he smiled, it looked obscene and when he was angry or frustrated, he seemed like a possessed clown.  Flannigan also wore dark red lipstick and fake eyelashes, making his appearance even more shocking. The bloke had creeped Harry out in the past and today was no different.  “H-how are you Flannigan?”

 

   “Can’t complain.  I’m feeling quite excited actually!  You know my fondness for killing people.”  He winked at Harry before turning his attention to Ron.  “So, how goes it Weasley?  I heard you got married, so how the hell did you get into Shadow training?”

 

   Ron cleared his throat, not nearly as fazed as Harry.  “You must of heard wrong then because I’m not married.”  Ron began to grin. “Still seeing that tart that likes you to wear her knickers?”

 

   Flannigan laughed heartily.  “No, no I ended that one after I got a yeast infection from her.   I scratched my balls so much I thought they were going to fall off.”    Hermione rolled her eyes and Flannigan noticed.  “Sorry, does my colorful language offend you?”

 

    “Say whatever you want.  I’m not your mum.”

 

    Flannigan knelt down and folded his arms on her desk, the slight stubble on his jaw a rough contrast to the ruby lips and rainbow hair.  As he studied her face, he said, “I wouldn’t want you to be my mum…but I sure as hell could think of somebody else I’d like you to be.”

 

   Ron yelled, “Shove off you ruddy pervert!”

 

   Flumes turned his head and grinned at Ron.  “What’s the matter there, Weasley?  Not willing to share your plaything with me, eh?”

 

   Hermione suddenly grabbed Flumes by his collar.  Before he could grab her she slammed his head sideways down upon the hard desktop eliciting a painful groan from the freak. Keeping one hand on top of his head firmly, Hermione used her other to pull her wand out and held it in front of his face.  “What did you just call me you sick, twisted piece of shite?!”

 

  The room suddenly grew quiet as all eyes turned to the scene before them.

 

   Flumes panted heavily, his arms still flailing about trying to get free.  “Bl-bloody h-hell!  L-let me go you crazy bitch!”

  

   Hermione laughed at the insult and couldn’t help but notice Ron’s stare of amazement.  She leaned down slightly, totally oblivious to everyone around her.  “You know I could make that scar over your eye a bit deeper…maybe even take your eye out.”  She shrugged.  “After all, I’m a crazy bitch right?”

 

   Ron was just about to intervene when an authoritative voice interrupted.  “Even though I’m impressed by your nerve, Miss Granger, I suggest you release him now before you find yourself kicked out of training.”

 

   Hermione didn’t take her eyes or her wand off of Flumes.  “Maybe he deserves it, sir.”

 

   David crossed the room and stood right by her.  “Let him go, Hermione!”

 

   She bit her lip before lowering her wand and removing her hand.  Hermione stood up and glared at him.  “Satisfied?”

 

   Flumes stood up shakily and said to David.  “She could have fucking killed me.”   He rubbed the side of his face wearily and eyed Hermione with great disdain.

 

   “Well, I guess it’s lucky for you that I got here when I did then.”  David turned to the other Aurors.  “I want everyone to take a seat while I have a word with Miss Granger.”  All the Aurors complied…except Ron, who suddenly bolted up out of his chair and glared at him. 

 

   Hermione spat at David.  “I’m not going anywhere with you.  You aren’t in charge here.” 

 

   David smiled smugly.  “I forgot to mention that I am overseeing this week’s training session.  So you’re wrong-I am in charge here.”

 

   “Unbelievable!”  Hermione sat down in her desk and folded her arms.  “I’m still not going anywhere with you.  If you have something to say then say it here!”

 

   David pulled his wand out.  “Don’t make me take you out of this classroom by force, Hermione!  And you know I’m damn well not bluffing.”

 

   As David pointed his wand at Hermione, Ron came around his desk, his own wand pointing at David.  “You try using your wand on her and I’ll make sure it’s the last thing you fucking do!”

 

   David curled his lip.  “Going to try and defend her Weasley?”  He pointed his wand at Ron.  “Come and give it your best shot!”

 

   Hermione rose up out of her desk and stood in front of Ron.  “Stop it!  I’ll go and talk with you just…stop.”  She didn’t look at Ron, keeping her eyes firmly planted on David’s.

 

   David started to laugh and said to Ron, “Lucky she intervened before I hexed you so badly you’d never be able to walk again.” 

 

   “Think so?  I would have gotten you before you got me and you’d never breathe again.”

 

   Hermione turned around to Ron.  “That’s enough.”  Ron acted like he didn’t hear her and kept his wand pointed at David.  Using the element of surprise, Hermione grabbed his wand with her hand and threw it on his desk and then boldly reprimanded David, “Don’t even think it!”

 

   “Hermione!”  Ron protested as David took a small step back.

 

   She leaned in closer and took a deep breath.  “Just stop, alright?  David could make things very hard for you…so just leave it.  Please.” Ron frowned at her for a moment before reluctantly going back around his desk, neatly slipping his wand in his pocket and sitting down in a huff.  Hermione turned to David.  “Let’s go talk then.”

 

   Hermione walked out of the classroom with David following closely behind her.  As he passed by Ron, he looked down at him and smiled broadly, making Ron even more livid.  David closed the door and rounded on Hermione.  “You know better than to treat me that way in front of the other Aurors!”

 

   “You should know by now that I don’t give a shite, David!” she replied, her fingers still defensively near her wand.

 

   David sighed in frustration.  “As your superior I expect to be treated with respect, Hermione,” He emphasized her name just as she had used his a moment before.

 

   “Superior?!”  Hermione rolled her eyes.  “The only thing superior about you is the amount of testosterone you can display in a room full of men.  And as for respect-you’ll get none from me arsehole.  I don’t respect people that try to kill me.”

 

   David’s eyes went wide.  “What are you on about?” he asked, but his eyes glanced to her wand hand.

 

   She realized that he thought she might have hit her head hard enough to not remember that night for she hadn't turned him in.  Hermione smiled and leaned into him and whispered, “I know it was you that destroyed my flat that night.”  She pulled back, strangely fascinated by the look of worry on his face.  “You need to watch your back because you never know when I might…repay you.”

 

    David nodded and chewed on his bottom lip before smiling smugly back at her.  “Well, thank you for the warning.  But truthfully I don’t think you’d do such a thing to your fuck buddy.”

 

   Hermione eyed him in disgust. “You mean my former fuck buddy.  I’ve moved on to bigger and better things,” she smiled at the inference.

 

    “Right.”  He stepped closer to her and Hermione couldn’t help the small tremble in her hand.  “You’ll come back to me for more.  I know how you like to be fucked.”  He brought his finger up and traced a line down her cheek.  “I know how to make you come completely undone.”  David moved his finger to her lips, tracing them back and forth.  Hermione suddenly opened her mouth and bit his finger as hard as she could.  David screeched.

 

   She released his finger and he quickly held it with his other hand.  Hermione smiled smugly at him.  “Stay the hell away from me or next time I’ll bite something else clean off!”  With that she opened the door and headed back inside the classroom.

 

   David shook his head and began to laugh.  He took his wand and performed a healing charm on his finger before coming back into the room.  Looking composed, David walked to the front of the class and stood behind the podium.  He locked eyes with Hermione a moment and smiled affectionately at her before clearing his throat as if the pain had given him some masochistic thrill.

 

   “Sorry about the delay.  I am David Langley.  I will be overseeing your training this week and am in charge of administering your personality tests today.  Over the next week you will be undergoing various tests-some written and some hands on.  Today is strictly an orientation day and no points will be accrued for each area as listed in the parchment you received.”

 

    “There are currently twelve of you enrolled in this training session.  By the end of the week only half of you will remain, as some of you will not be able to move on if you fail to master any component of the training.”  Hermione turned and smiled at Harry who scowled back at her.  “At the end of the week, a panel made up of various members of the Shadows and the training team-myself included-will evaluate the candidates who are left.  We will only choose four candidates to become Shadows, so I suggest that each of you give it your all if you want to be considered.”

 

   David waved his wand and at a pile of parchment started to fly toward the Aurors.  A packet of parchment landed gracefully on each desk and a quill and a bottle of ink appeared.  “I want you all to take your time and fill out this personality test this morning. It is important to be completely honest in your answers.  If you are one of the chosen four, it will help to match you to a partner that you will probably be with for life.  When you are done, turn it in to me and then head down to examination room 110 for your physical.  Any questions?”  The Aurors shook their heads.  “You may begin.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Harry rolled his eyes as he answered what seemed to be the silliest questions for a test to become a Shadow.  Presently, he was on number fourteen.  The question read:

 

     ‘If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only bring one thing with you, what would that item be?  Explain your answer.’ 

 

     Harry knew how he wanted to answer the question but didn’t know if Ginny would be classified as an object.  He shrugged to himself and wrote her name down anyway. 

 

   Explain your answer?  Hmm…got it!  He grinned to himself as he dutifully wrote; “Ginny can provide sex for me which will help me think clearer in order to find my way off the island.”  Satisfied, Harry nodded his head and moved on to the next question.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

   Ron was on the same question as Harry.  What the hell kind of barmy question is that?!  He sighed to himself in frustration thinking that this personality test was the stupidest thing ever.  Ron ran his hand through his hair and tried to come up with an answer.  One thing, one thing, one…well it would have to be something I can’t live without.  Hmm…sex is one thing I can’t live without.  He chanced a glance at Hermione who was biting the end of her quill and felt himself getting hard .  Okay…sex and what else…hmm chocolate-I can’t live without chocolate!  Now choose one-sex or chocolate? 

 

   Ron dropped his quill on the desk and rubbed his eyes wearily with his hands.  Make a decision Ron!  Bloody hell!  Wait a minute…got it!  Ron smiled and picked his quill back up and wrote; Herm … A particular woman wearing a bathing suit made of chocolate."  He sniggered to himself making Harry turn and scowl at him for a moment before returning his attention back to his test.  Okay, now I have to explain.  Bloody hell why can’t they just take an answer…I hate explaining myself!  Ron frowned for a moment before cocking his head slightly and grinning.  He wrote; “It’s none of your damn business!”  Smiling smugly he went on to the next question.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

    Hermione didn’t hesitate with number fourteen.  She wrote; “My wand.”  For her explanation she quickly scribbled, “Because I could Apparate myself off the island or conjure up what I needed to get off the island.”  Happy with her answer she moved on to number fifteen and frowned.  “What do you consider to be your best and worst attributes?”  Hermione bit her lip.

 

   She wrote; “My best attribute would be my ability to think clearly in a crisis.  My worst attribute would be the excesses of certain indulgences.”  Hermione was just about to read the next question when she felt Harry poke her in the arm.

 

   She whipped her head around at him and whispered through clenched teeth, “What?!”

 

   Harry looked around to see that David wasn’t paying them the slightest attention.  He whispered hurriedly, “Tell me what an a-ttri-boot means.”

 

   Hermione smiled at him and whispered back at him.  “You don't know what "attri boots" are, Harry?  You really need to get with the times."  She glanced up at the podium and then whispered, "Attri boots are the hottest thing going right now.  I have several pairs myself."

 

    He frowned.  "If it's some sort of brand of shoes, then why isn't it capitalized?"

 

     Hermione shrugged.  "The witch that designed them wanted it that way.  I suppose you could owl her and ask her why." 

 

   Harry tutted.  "What do they look like?"

 

   "They come in all different colors and are thigh-high.  They can also glow in the dark."

 

   Harry was about to ask her another question but was cut off by David, "Quite enough chatter over there!  You both shut your mouths right now or you're out of here!"  

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

   Harry swallowed hard.  "Yes, sir."  He sighed and stared down at his paper.  The hottest boots around?  And she said something about them being in all colors and glowing in the dark.  Even though he had never seen or heard of the boots, he decided it probably wasn't a good idea to leave a question unanswered.  Harry gritted his teeth and wrote, "My greatest attributes are my pair of orange boots.  My worst attributes are my green boots because they don't glow in the dark anymore."  Shrugging to himself, Harry went onto the next question, feeling eternally grateful that Hermione had helped him out.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

   Harry and Ron finished at the same time and left together to proceed to the examination room where they would be getting a physical.  Hermione had finished long before they did and wasn’t anywhere in sight.  Ron sighed. “That was a stupid test don’t you think?”

 

   Harry shrugged.  “I suppose.  I guess somehow it’s relevant.  I don’t know about you but I tried to be a bit more creative with some of my answers.”  He turned and smiled sheepishly at Ron.  “You know…build myself up and all that.”

 

   Ron looked at him curiously.  “What kind of answers?”

 

   “Well for instance the question that asked what your favorite color was I went with chartreuse.”

 

   “Chartreuse?  Ron chuckled.  “Your favorite color is red!”

 

   “I know, I know but I thought it sounded more…mysterious somehow.”

 

   Ron snickered.  “You’re mental!  I bet you couldn’t even tell me exactly what color chartreuse is.”

 

   Harry scowled at him.  “That’s not the point.  Like I told you, I was trying to be more creative and set myself apart from the pack.”

 

  Ron smiled sheepishly at him.  “I put black down, I guess that’ll take me out of the running for sure.  Damn but I won’t be able to sleep a wink tonight because I wrote black down instead of charcoal or some other nonsense.”

 

   “Quit making fun of me, arsehole!  And black is not your favorite color-orange is!”

 

   Ron shrugged.  “It was the color of my shite this morning and since I thought that test was full of shite it seemed appropriate.”

 

   “You’re fucking weird you know that?”         

 

   Ron rolled his eyes.  “All I’m saying is that I doubt that just because you said that chartreuse was your favorite color would make you have an edge over anybody Harry.”

 

   Harry held his head up high.  “We’ll see.”

 

  ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

   They met back up in the hallway after their physicals, both looking positively livid.

“Can you believe they stuck that probity probe thing up our arses?!”

 

   Ron rubbed his arse wearily.  “All I want to know is what the hell they expected to find up there!  I tried reasoning with that evil healer for a good ten minutes.  I told him it wasn’t possible to stick something as big as a corn cob into an opening the size of a galleon. It wasn’t logical.  He refused to listen and claimed he just had to check every square inch of my body.”  Ron groaned.  “I think he used an engorgement charm on the probe he stuck up my arse after I accused him of being a pervert.”

 

   Harry glanced around nervously. “Not a word about this to anybody, Ron!”

 

   “Trust me when I say what happened in that room stays in that room.  I have never been so fucking humiliated in all my life.  And that healer better hope I never meet up with him on the street.  I’ll conjure up a beater’s bat and stick it up his arse and see how he likes it!”

 

   Harry and Ron began to walk carefully toward the café to get some lunch.  They were told to report to yet another room at one o’clock sharp.  “Poor Hermione.  I wonder how she’s feeling after her physical.”

 

   Ron sighed.  “I don’t think she’d talk about it with us.  I know I’m not bloody well bringing it up ever again.”

 

     Ron and Harry grabbed a tray of food from the food cart in the café.  They spotted Hermione sitting at one of the small square tables reading a book.  Harry looked at Ron apprehensively.  “Should we go and sit with her?”

 

   Ron sighed.  “Well, I suppose it was my idea to sign up for Shadow training in order to get into her good books again.  Besides, the day can’t get any worse.  At least I doubt she’ll stick something up our arses.”

 

   Harry shuddered at the thought.  “That’s true.  Sweet Merlin I don’t think I’ll be able to push anything out the chute without grimacing in pain for at least a bloody week!”

 

   The two of them approached the table.  Harry cleared his throat making Hermione look up from her book.  “Mind if we sit with you?”

 

   Hermione eyed them both suspiciously before shrugging.  “Suit yourselves.”  She went back to reading as Harry and Ron sat down and began eating their food.

 

   Ron noticed that she hadn’t touched her tray of food at all.  “Hermione?”  Ron said hesitantly.  She looked at him but didn’t respond.  “Um…aren’t you going to eat?”

 

   “I’m not hungry.”  Hermione snapped at him and went back to her book.

 

   Harry had just swallowed down a bite of his sandwich.  “You know Hermione you really should eat something.  Dinner isn’t served until six o’clock.”

 

   Hermione slammed her book down making Harry jump slightly.  “Quit trying to be my bloody father Harry!  I‘ll eat when I’m damn ready!”

 

   Harry rolled his eyes. “Well excuse the hell out of me for caring about your health.”

 

   “Why don’t you twits go and sit somewhere else so I can read my damn book in peace?”

 

   “Fine, we won’t try and talk to you anymore.”  Harry rolled his eyes again and took another bite of his sandwich.  Hermione scowled at him for a long moment before picking up her book and reading again.  Harry looked at Ron and raised his eyebrows.  “This sandwich is bloody fantastic.”  His mouth full, Ron nodded his head slightly.  “I just love a roast beef sandwich.”  He sighed.  “Yes indeed this place makes the best ruddy roast beef sandwiches I’ve ever tasted in my whole bloody life.”

 

   “THAT”S IT!”  Hermione screeched before standing up in a huff.  “Going on about how good the sandwich tastes is not going to make me eat it Harry Potter.  Do not sit anywhere near me at dinner or I swear I’ll use my wand to seal your lips permanently shut.”  Hermione grabbed her book and stomped off to the exit.

 

   “Geesh.  Her temper is far worse than when we were in school.”  Ron said as he wiped his grinning mouth with his napkin.

 

    “I just can’t believe she isn’t hungry.”  Harry eyed her forgotten sandwich before snatching it off her plate.   “No sense in wasting a perfectly good sandwich.  I’m sure there are wizards and witches everywhere starving to death for pity’s sake.”

 

   “Damn straight.”  Ron grabbed the bag of crisps and chocolate éclair off her plate as well.

 

   "I wonder what the bastards have planned for us the rest of the day."

 

    Ron took a sip of his butterbeer and pulled out the folded schedule from the pocket of his robes.  "All it says here is a room number and a time.  Merlin knows what we'll be  required to do next."

 

  Harry sighed.  "I think it's safe to say that I count this as one of the ten worst days of my life."

 

   "We just have to suck it up, mate."  Ron opened the bag of crisps and plopped one in his mouth.  "Hermione needs us even if she thinks she doesn't."

 

    They ate in silence for a few moments.  "Do you really think this is going to work?"

 

   "Maybe. I for one am not giving up on her."  Ron picked up the éclair and eyed it appreciatively.  "Being in love can make a man do the most barmy things."  He shrugged nonchalantly.  "If the Shadows want me to cut my arm off, I'll do it... for her." 

 

   Harry looked on as his friend took a large bite from his éclair.  He didn't have the heart to tell Ron that he honestly thought he'd never have a relationship with Hermione again.  And that the only one to truly save Hermione was Hermione herself.             

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Thank you to brandedfaithfully for her editing work and suggestions! This is one hell of a long chapter as I couldn't find a place to split it up. *curses self* (Sorry about that) Be prepared for more craziness, good people! *laughs* 

XXX,

missgranger2


Chapter 24 "Angels and Demons"    

 

     Hermione went to the next room listed on the agenda.  Those idiots!  If they think they can just pick up where we left off they’re sorely mistaken.  Arseholes! She entered the room to see David sitting there.  He smiled at her before rising from a chair.  “What the hell are you doing here?!” she demanded.

 

   David swaggered up to her, a sort of masochistic confidence in his demeanor, until he stood only inches away.  “Now what kind of greeting is that love?”

 

   Hermione’s eyes narrowed as she spoke through clenched teeth.  “Don’t you dare call me 'love'!”

 

   David smiled at her, sickly sweet.  “And why not?  Gods but you do so turn me on when you’re angry!”  His hand moved toward her arm but Hermione swatted it away with cat-like reflexes.  “Oh come on now…” he chided, “…be nice.”

 

   “I told you to stay the hell away from me and I bloody well mean it!”  She pulled her wand out and pointed it at him.  “You best back off before I hex you into next week you bloody prick.”

 

   “Merlin, you’re making me hard.”  With one eye on her wand, he dared to lean in.  “I’d love to just bend you over one of these desks and take you good and hard right here, right now.”   He smiled and licked his lips.  “And I know how you like it rough.”   

 

   Hermione stared at him in disbelief.  He doesn’t get it…he really thinks I still want him!  Hermione gave him a twisted smile as she trailed the point of her wand down his torso until it rested on his crotch.  “I’ll give you exactly ten seconds to get the hell out of here before I transform your dick into a sausage and bite it the hell off!”

 

   Undeterred, David moved closer to her, her wicked smile seemed to inflame him even more.  “I absolutely love it when you talk dirty to me.”  Hermione flicked her wrist and David’s eyes popped with disbelief.  “You crazy bitch!  What the hell did you do to me?!”  He weaved his hand into his robes and clutched his crotch as Hermione took a slow step back.

 

  She smiled smugly at him.  “I turned your dick into a sausage.”  She fell to her knees and tried to pry his fingers off his bits.  “Move your hand so I can make good on my word.”

 

   David grabbed Hermione’s hair roughly with his other hand.  “Stop this right now, Hermione!”  He pulled on her hair harder.  “I mean it!  Get the hell up!”

 

   Even though Hermione could feel the pain as he pulled her hair, she wasn’t going to back down.  “I’m not standing up until I’ve had a bite David.”

 

    “What the hell is going on here?!” demanded Ron as he entered the classroom followed by Harry. 

 

    David let go of her hair, moisture developing on his forehead as he panicked over the condition of his package.  Hermione stood up, whipping her head around to Ron and Harry and snapped, “None of your fucking business.”

 

    Ron frowned.  “Fine.  If your boyfriend wants a knob job then we’ll just leave you to it.”  He turned to Harry.  “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

 

   David glared at Ron.  “What did you just say?”

 

   Ron folded his arms.  “You heard me!”

 

   David looked at Hermione in horror.  “You told them about us?!  Are you out of your fucking mind?”  David went to grab Hermione by the shoulders but was thwarted when Ron suddenly rushed forward and knocked him to the ground.  David looked up at him, his face full of rage.  “How dare you lay a hand on a Captain!  I should damn well report your arse!”

 

   Ron smirked at him wickedly.  “You go ahead and do that.  Meanwhile I’ll inform the director himself that you’ve been having an affair with a former member of your squad for Merlin knows how long.”

 

   “I need a word with you Ronald- now.”  Turning on her heel, Hermione began to walk towards the hallway. 

 

    David stood up and looked at Ron with obvious disgust.  “You best keep your mouth shut, Weasley.”

 

   Ron arched his eyebrow at him.  “And if I don’t?”

 

   “You’ll see.  Nobody fucks with me- nobody.” 

 

   Hermione stuck her head back into the classroom.  “RON!”

 

   Ron grinned at David, letting him know without words that his threats didn’t scare him in the least.  “I’m coming.”  Ron turned and walked slowly out of the classroom. 

 

   David turned to see Harry smirking at him.  “What are you looking at Potter?”

 

   “A prick.”

 

   David took a deep breath and pointed his finger at him.  “I don’t give a shite who you or your friend is you know.  I’ll make both your lives a living hell if you don’t mind your fucking business, got it?!”

 

    Harry shrugged.  “You don’t scare Ron or me.  We killed Voldemort for Merlin’s sake.  You’re just an insignificant bug on the wall.”

 

   David moved closer and leaned his head toward him.  “Fuck with me and I guarantee the both of you will be scared.”

 

   Harry laughed dryly.  “There’s only one person that scares me and she doesn’t have a dick.”  He glared at David, his voice low and strong.  “Do me a favor and go and fuck yourself and leave Hermione the hell alone.”

 

   David didn’t say anything more before stalking off in a huff.  Harry turned and watched him go, holding his middle finger up nice and high.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

   Hermione looked positively livid.  When Ron walked into the hall, it appeared she was fighting the urge to throttle him right then and there.  Ron could almost hear her thoughts.  Stupid arse just had to open his big mouth!  Shite!  “Follow me!”  Hermione walked briskly down the hallway and used her wand to open up one of the deserted classrooms.  She entered the room with Ron right on her heels.

 

   As soon as the door closed behind them, Hermione used her wand to imperturb the room and rounded on him.  “Stay the hell out of my business Ronald.”

 

   Ron bit his lip for a moment, trying to remain calm.  He took a deep breath.  “I wasn’t trying to meddle in your business, Hermione.”

 

   “Bullshite!”  Hermione’s face was turning red from anger.  “Stop trying to get me to go back to the way things were before, because it’s not going to work.”

 

   Ron studied her face for a moment.  He could tell she was on the verge of a complete meltdown and he didn’t want that right now.  “I’m sorry I told David I knew about the two of you, alright?”

 

    “Quit fucking with me Ronald.”  He winced at her colorful language, but she continued.  “You wanted him to know that you knew about us, didn’t you?”

 

    Ron tried so hard not to lose his temper, but she was beginning to push him too far.  “What the hell are you doing fucking a married man Hermione?”

 

    “Like I said before it’s none of your bloody business who I’m fucking.  You lost that right when you ended it!”

   

     Ron groaned, once again reminded of his indiscretions.  “Hermione I only want to try and be friends again.”  That was a lie, but right now he would take what he could get.  “And as your friend I want to try and…help you!”  He stepped closer to her, trying not to sound too needy, but nearly pleading.  “This person you’ve become is not who you are.  It’s all my fault…please let me help you…let me set this right.”

 

    Hermione roared.  “YOU WANT TO BE FRIENDS AFTER WHAT YOU DID?!”  She suddenly shoved him hard against the wall taking Ron completely by surprise.  “I will never be your friend again-ever.

 

    Ron put his hands up, not daring to defend himself.  “I’m sorry for what I did Hermione.  I was a complete arse-no I am an arse.”  He sighed as Hermione continued to glare at him.  “I really miss you Hermione and our friendship.”

 

   Hermione shook her head.  Her voice, though still laced with anger, was softer.  “I told you before that we can’t go back Ron.  It’s too late.”  She took a deep breath and bit her lip.  “I can’t forgive and forget…not this time.”

 

   Ron brought his hands down to his sides looking defeated.  He sighed.  “Can we please try Hermione?  Please?”

 

   “I just can’t.”  Hermione bowed her head slightly before turning and releasing the spells she cast on the room.  She tucked a stray hair behind her ear, something so familiar that it made Ron’s gut twist.  “I’m going to head back to class now.  Please just stay out of my business from now on.”

 

    It took a moment for Ron to respond.  “I’m not giving up you know.”  She kept walking.  “If I have to spend the rest of my life showing you how sorry I am, then that’s what I’ll do.”

 

   Hermione stopped in her tracks, but didn’t turn around.  “And you should know that you’re wasting your time because I’m not going to give in.”  With that she opened the door and left, slamming it behind her.  Ron smiled to himself.  We’ll see Hermione.  We’ll see.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

    All the trainees sat down at a desk.  Hermione put on her most studious expression, but couldn’t help the perturbed, sideways glances at Harry and Ron, who chose to sit next to her.  A very short, older witch stood up at the podium.  Her hair was brown, graying in some places and she wore a pair of horn rimmed purple glasses.  The witch cleared her throat and the trainees ceased their conversation immediately.

 

   “I am Ruby Hill.  I am a mind healer that works for both the Auror and Shadow headquarters.  I have been asked to talk to you today about the psychological effects you may experience if you become a Shadow.”

 

   Ruby smiled kindly and came around the podium with her hands clasped together in front of her.  “A new Shadow can be slightly overwhelmed by the experience.  A new Shadow will have to sign a magically binding contract and I am going to discuss some of the obligations found in that contract.  You will be required to sever all ties to your family and friends for their own safety.  This will be a difficult decision but nevertheless will be necessary in your line of work.”  Ruby raised her hand and brushed a stray hair out of her face.  “You will be living a solitary life devoid of those people that Shadow protocol feel may cloud or impair your judgment and trust me when I tell you it’s for the best.”

 

    Ruby walked back behind the podium.  “Your family will be other Shadows from now on.  It is with other Shadows that you may develop attachments or seek out sexual needs from.  You must never, however, get another Shadow pregnant or become pregnant.  To do so will make the contract null and void."  Ruby cleared her throat and lowered her voice dramatically. "And besides the contract being null and void, I warn you that there are other repercussions for becoming pregnant or getting another Shadow pregnant.  Let's just say that if any of you find yourself in such a situation…well, you have been warned.”

 

   Someone raised their hand, Ruby looked up and smiled.  “Yes?”

 

   Flannigan stood up.  “I just want to be clear- we will still be able to satisfy our shagging needs then?”  Ms. Hill nodded her head.  “Thank Merlin!”  Flannigan sat down as the room erupted in giggles.

 

    Ruby cleared her throat.  “Speaking of shagging you need to be aware that while you are deep undercover you may have to have sexual relations with complete strangers-including Death Eaters.”  The giggles stopped at once.  “It could happen, has happened. You need to consider such a possibility before you elect to become a Shadow.”

 

    “Another obligation on the contract requires that you always follow through on a case, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what you are asked to do in order to not blow your cover.”  She cleared her throat.  “In other words if you are put into the position of having to kill an innocent person or persons you will have to do it regardless of how morally wrong it is.  You must do whatever it takes to take down the criminal or criminals…that is your first priority.  It can be a very traumatic experience and I have had to counsel a fair amount of Shadows in my time.”

 

    Harry leaned toward Ron and whispered, “This is insane!”

 

    Ron whispered back.  “Yeah, completely mental.”

 

    “I don’t know about this Ron.”  Harry sighed.

 

    Ron looked over at Hermione who was totally engrossed in what Ms. Hill was saying.  “I have to do what I have to do…but you don’t.”  Ron looked seriously at Harry.  “If you have to, drop out now before it’s too late.”

 

    “Is there something you two gentlemen would like to share with the rest of us?” 

 

   Ron shook his head as Harry scowled at her.  “No.”

 

   “I ask that you please cease your little discussion while I talk as you need to be aware of a great many things.  Am I making myself clear?”

 

   Ron and Harry replied in unison as if back at Hogwarts.  “Yes, ma’am.”

 

   Ms. Hill glared at them for a moment before continuing.  “Another rather traumatic experience that a Shadow will face is the death or loss of other Shadows.  Even though you have a partner, there will be times that you will be told to go undercover on a case alone.  In some cases, that will mean you will have little or no contact with your partner for weeks, months or even years.”

 

   Flannigan raised his hand again.  “Yes?”

 

   “Then why the hell would we have a partner?  I mean if we are expected to work on a case by ourselves from time to time, then why bother?”

 

   Ruby smiled kindly at him.  “In most cases you will work with your partner.  However, the death or desertion of another Shadow could mean that you and your partner will temporarily split up to cover a case.”

 

   Hermione raised her hand and Ruby nodded for her to speak.  “How can a Shadow walk away after having signed a magically binding contract?  I mean aren’t there repercussions?”

 

    “Yes there are.  They will become marked-targets if you will.  If another Shadow happens to come upon them, then they could be killed for desertion.  Shadows take the brotherhood of the organization very seriously…to heart.  Any Shadow that betrays that trust does so at his or her own risk.”

 

    “Shadows desert for various reasons.  The most common being that they have fallen in love with the person they were ordered to investigate.  Another reason for desertion is that they have literally become the person they’re impersonating or have created.”  She shrugged.  “I suppose the relationships formed while being so deeply undercover fills a void.  My advice to you is to try and refrain from forming such attachments with the enemy as it may cost you your life.”  

 

    “You will also be required to give up all worldly possessions save your wand when you enter the Shadow world.  This way you have no reminders lying about of who you were.  Sentimental attachments to objects tend to muddle the brain and make you lose focus at critical times.”

 

    “I have a few more things to discuss before I dismiss you.”  Ruby walked around the podium and began to pace back and forth slowly in front of the class.  “First and foremost understand that if you fail any aspect of the training you will be dropped from the program and your mind obliviated.”  Ruby stopped and turned to face the class.  “If at any time you have any doubts about becoming a Shadow, I would suggest you quit.  Being a Shadow is not for the faint of heart.  The life you once had will be over once you’re inducted.  I ask you to think carefully over all I told you today before proceeding tomorrow.  Any questions?”  A witch from the back row raised her hand.  “Yes?”

 

   “What are the conditions or circumstances that would permit a witch or wizard to leave the Shadow world without any repercussions?”

 

   “In a few cases, getting pregnant can be one situation.  Of course, as I explained that is not the case most of the time.  Severe illness, mental or physical, that cannot be treated or cured by the physicians in the organization would also be grounds for dismissal without repercussions.  Of course, you would have to be evaluated by a Mind Healer extensively.  So, don’t think you can just fake your way through a case of paranoia or stick your finger down your throat and get out.  Lastly, you can plead your case in front of a panel made up of senior Shadow and Auror officials.  Though I warn you ahead of time that they rarely listen and more times than not deny your request to leave.”  Ruby scanned the room.  “Any more questions?  No?  Alright then you are to report to room 705 in exactly ten minutes for your next session.  Good luck!” 

 

   As Ruby left the room, Harry turned to Ron.  “Un-fucking believable.”  He groaned.  “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this shite you know?”

 

   Ron nodded sympathetically.  “It is a lot to take in that’s for sure.”

 

   Hermione chimed in, obviously having overheard.  “Well, maybe the both of you should quit then-if you’re having second thoughts.”  She smirked, and Harry frowned back at her.

 

   Ron stood up and folded his arms.  “Nobody is quitting Hermione.” 

 

   She stood up and looked down at Harry who wore a look of bewilderment on his face.  Hermione chuckled before looking back at Ron.  “Are you sure about that?  Seems your best mate here is having second thoughts!”

 

    Harry glared up at her.  “Am not!”

 

   Hermione rolled her eyes.  “Are too!  There is no way you’d leave Ginny and you know it.”  She began to walk towards the door leaving the two of them.

 

   Harry stood up, looking visibly upset.  “You know Ron she does have a point.  I know I had a plan worked out but what if I can’t come back?  I’ll go mental.”

 

   Ron sighed.  “I knew it was a bad idea for you to sign up for this.  You can’t hurt my sister like that Harry.”  They began to walk out of the classroom.  “It just wouldn’t be right.”

 

   Harry nodded his head.  “I sure as hell do have a lot to think about.  I really do love Ginny.” 

 

    Ron stopped in his tracks and faced him.  He laid a hand on his shoulder.  “Then don’t fuck it up!  You see how badly I hurt Hermione and what it did to her.  Don’t make the same mistake, Harry.”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

    When Ron and Harry entered the next classroom, they saw Hermione sitting between two male Aurors in the second row.  Harry arched his eyebrow at Ron and leaned into him.  “I suppose she doesn’t want us sitting next to her this time, eh?”

 

   Ron sighed as he watched how the two men were completely fawning all over her.  “Whatever.  Let’s just go and sit.” 

 

   They wound up sitting in the first row again, right in front of Hermione.  She was having an animated conversation with the two Aurors flanking her.  “You don’t say?”  Hermione giggled.

 

   One of the Aurors, a tall, broad shouldered man with blonde hair grinned widely at her.  “I most certainly do.”  He leaned over Hermione and spoke to the Auror on her left.  “Isn’t she even more gorgeous in person, Harold?”

 

   Harold nodded his head enthusiastically.  “The pictures published of you do not begin to do you justice.”

 

   Ron listened to the entire exchange, growing more aggravated by the minute.  Unbeknownst to him, Hermione was merely playing along as she hated her celebrity status.  As the men continued their compliments, she was working out a way to teach them both a lesson.  Time for the shock factor!  Hermione giggled before saying, “We simply have to get together after dinner tonight.  You two are just too bloody mouth watering to pass up.”  

 

   “W-we are?”  Harold said excitedly. 

 

   This should be interesting!  “Oh yes!  I could imagine myself sandwiched between you two.”  Hermione moaned causing Ron and Harry’s eyes to widen in alarm.  “It’s always been a fantasy of mine you know.”

 

   Ron could hear the other Auror practically panting.  “How about we skip the class and make your fantasy come true right now?”

 

   “That’s it!”  Ron shouted before standing up and turning around.  “You two tossers get the fuck away from her before I beat the living shite out of both of you!”

 

    Harold laughed dryly.  “What are you, her father?”

 

    “No…” Ron stepped closer, “I’m going to be your worst nightmare if you keep acting like a walking hard on.  We don’t need to hear about it, mate.”

 

   “Then don’t listen, mate.” Harold replied, emphasizing the last word.  “Piss off!  This is none of your damn business.”

 

   Harry stood up and turned around, looking menacing.  “But it is our business and he won’t be alone.  I’ll help him tear both your ruddy heads off right here, right now!”

 

   The two Aurors stood up suddenly and eyed them coolly.  Harold, who kept his eyes on Ron and Harry the whole time said, “Come on Calvin, let’s find another seat before we get kicked out of the program!”  He looked down at Hermione and smiled slightly.  “Perhaps we’ll see you later?”

 

   Ron suddenly reached over and grabbed Harold by the collar of his shirt.  “Keep your dick in your pants or Harry and I will be glad to raise your voice an octave.”

 

   “That’s enough, Ronald!  The instructor will be here any minute.”  Hermione snapped.

 

   Ron released Harold roughly.  “This isn’t over by a long shot you piece of shite!”

 

   Harold glared at him.  “It certainly isn’t!  You best watch your back from now on!”  He looked at Harry.  “That goes for you, too!”

 

   Harry called after him sarcastically.  “We’re so bloody scared!”  He gave a fake shiver of fright and smiled at Ron. 

 

   “Will you cut it out, Harry?”  Hermione rolled her eyes as both Ron and Harry took the now vacant seats on either side of her.  “The both of you just need to butt the hell out of my business.”

 

    Harry looked at her in disbelief.  “You actually were going to be the bologna between two slices of squishy bread?!”

 

    Hermione shrugged.  “So what if I was?  Besides, isn’t it like the pot calling the kettle black?”

 

    “What are you on about?”

 

     Hermione smirked.  “Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t you the bologna when you hooked up with those blonde twins in Switzerland?”

 

   Harry gasped.  “You knew about that?!”  Hermione nodded.  Harry bit his lip, his face turning scarlet.  “W-well…um that was a long time ago and it was stupid and reckless of me.”  Harry chewed on his bottom lip for a moment.  “Besides, it was like I was more of an open faced sandwich at the time and not in between the two of them.”

 

   “Right.”  Hermione bent down and took a quill out of her bag. 

 

    Ron was still seething. He continuously ran his hand through his hair.  “Hermione, you weren’t seriously going to meet up with those two tossers were you?”

 

    Hermione sighed.  “No.  Well, I mean I am going to meet with them but I planned on teaching them a lesson.”  She groaned.  “Of course, you two idiots probably blew that completely out of the water.”

 

    Ron suddenly piped up.  “I don’t think it’s a good idea to meet those two randy pricks alone, Hermione.  Merlin knows what they’ll do to you since you’ll be outnumbered.  I mean what the hell were you thinking?!”

 

   Hermione eyed him coolly.  “I can take care of myself Ronald.”  She turned her head and winked at Harold who smiled back.  “I’ll be waiting for them tonight.  And they’ll wish they’d never met me by the time I get through with them.”

 

   Ron placed his hand on top of Hermione’s.  “Don’t.”

 

   Hermione quickly removed her hand out from under his and hissed, “Piss off.” 

 

   Ron rolled his eyes and groaned as a large, dark wizard entered the room.  He was tall, nearly seven feet.  There were scars all about his face and arms. The wizard didn’t bother with the podium but stood directly in front of it, his arms crossed in front of him. 

 

   “I am Tom Gray.  I will be in charge of your physical combat and curse training.  I will start off by telling you fuck-offs that I do not tolerate weakness!”  He straightened up slightly and raised his chin.  “If you’re a pussy you best leave right now.”  He eyed the room arrogantly for a moment and nodded his head as no one made to leave.  “Very well then.  We will be meeting several times this week, along with some of my other associates.  Sometimes you will be training in hand to hand combat while other times you’ll be learning how to throw off the worst curses imaginable.”

 

    “I’d like to do a little demonstration.”  Tom smirked.  “Any volunteers?”  Hermione shot her hand up.  “Yes, please come up and join me miss.” 

 

    Hermione started to stand up when Ron placed a hand on her arm.  She looked down at him and frowned as he shook his head, silently pleading for her to stay put.  Hermione wrestled her arm away and maneuvered around the desks and to the front of the room.

 

   “Introduce yourself if you would.”

 

   “I’m Hermione Granger.”

 

   The wizard’s eyes widened for a moment as his lips slowly curled into a devious grin.  “Part of the famous Golden Trio?  Lucky me!”  He licked his lips as Hermione stared at him stoically.  “Well, Miss Granger, today I am going to throw an Imperious Curse at you and I want to see how well you can block it.”  He arched his eyebrow at her.  “Ready?”

 

   “Ready.”  Hermione watched him closely as he pulled his wand from his robes. 

 

   Tom aimed his wand at her.  “Imperio!”  He chuckled slightly as her eyes glossed over.  “Remove your robes, Miss Granger!”   Hermione gasped.

 

   Ron suddenly jumped up from his seat.  “Hey!  What are you playing at?!”

 

   “Sit the hell down before I kick your arse out of here!”  Ron didn’t move as the wizard turned his attention back to Hermione.  “Miss Granger you are to remove your robes right now!”   She didn’t move an inch as sweat started to gather on her forehead.  Tom raised his voice.  “I said remove your damn robes right now!”

 

   “NO!”  Hermione had begun to tremble at the effort to keep her hands down by her sides.

 

   “Fine, I’ll remove them for you!” 

 

   Ron was on the verge of pouncing on him as Tom stepped closer to her.  As soon as he placed his hands on her robes, Hermione roared with rage and brought her knee swiftly up to his crotch.  She nearly had to hop due to his height, but it struck the right spot. 

 

   “SHITE!”  Tom brought his hands down to his crotch and bent over in pain as Hermione advanced on him.  She turned around and put his head in a headlock.  Tom began to gasp for air.  “H-help m-me!”

 

   Tom was on the verge of collapsing as Ron and Harry ran forward to intervene.  Harry began yelling at Hermione.  “Let him go!  You’re killing him Hermione!” 

  

    Ron tried to pry her arm from around his neck making Hermione use her other elbow to strike him hard to his chest.  Ron winced in pain and shouted, “Dammit, Hermione let go of him!”   Hermione shook her head a few times before releasing Tom who fell to the floor.

 

   Ron grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her gently.  “Hermione?!”

 

  “W-what?”  Hermione swallowed hard a few times before realization finally took over.  “Get your hands off me!”  Ron let go as Hermione looked down to the floor to see Harry trying to revive Tom.  She frowned.  “What the hell is going on?”

 

    Flannigan, who had made his way up front with the others, smiled broadly at her.  “I think you may have killed our teacher!”  He winked at her.  “That was bloody brilliant you little minx!”

 

   Ron glared at Flannigan.  “Shut the hell up!”  He looked down at Harry.  “Is he going to be alright?!”

 

   Harry was on the floor leaning over Tom.  “He’s starting to come around!” 

 

   Tom began to cough violently and raised himself upright with help from Harry.  He looked up at Hermione in utter awe.  His voice was hoarse and scratchy.  “Incredible!  If I was on a suicide mission I’d definitely take you with me!  That was fucking brilliant!”

 

   As the crowd began to talk amongst themselves, Ron, Hermione and Harry went back to their desks.  Hermione sat down, sweaty and shaking slightly.  Ron was shifting uncomfortably in his chair.  “How did you throw off the Imperious Curse, Hermione?”

 

   She shrugged.  “Practice.”

 

   Ron frowned.  “Practice?”

 

   “I practiced for months with Da…anyway I learned how to throw off the Imperious.  It’s simple really- mind over matter.”

 

   Ron huffed.  “Yeah…mind over matter.”  He stood up looking aggravated all of a sudden and began to walk towards the door as the Aurors returned to their seats.

 

   Tom stopped him on the way out.  “Just where in the hell do you think you're going you little prick?”

 

   Ron was not in the mood to bark back.  “I have to go take a piss.  Is that alright?”

 

   “Hmm.  Just make it fast!”

 

   Ron saluted him.  “Yes, sir!”

 

   He trudged to the bathroom feeling utterly depressed.  Ron thought back to the mission that had gone horribly wrong.  Why the hell couldn’t I have learned to throw off that curse!  Shite, I still don’t know how!  He walked into the loo and stopped at the row of sinks that lined the wall.  Grasping the sides of the basin with both hands, he stared at himself in the mirror.  “You could have saved her from becoming what she is now!”  Ron suddenly stepped back from the sink and fisted his right hand.  Using all his strength he slammed his fist hard into the mirror, shattering the glass.  “FUCK!” 

 

   He looked down at his hand to see that his knuckles were bruised and bleeding.  Ron pulled his wand from his robes and hesitated slightly before healing his wound.  I deserve to feel pain for what I put her through…for not being strong enough.  Cursing under his breath, Ron slumped down to the floor.  Harry warned me about how different she had become.  You did this to her…you’re the one that fucked her brain up!  He sat there for a long time trying to gather his thoughts.  I’m going to set this right!  Nodding his head, he stood up and slowly walked back to the classroom. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

   The last classroom they had to go to for orientation was for potions.  Harry walked with Ron to the class looking worried.  “Ron, are you alright?  You’re awfully quiet.”

 

   “What?  Oh, um, yeah I’m fine.”   Ron ran his hand through his hair and fixed his eyes intently to the back of Hermione’s who was right in front of him. 

 

   ‘You don’t seem fine!” Harry said, clearly concerned.

 

   “It’s nothing Harry.  I’m just tired is all.”

 

   “Well, if you say so.” 

 

    Hermione sat down at one of the tables and gestured to the seats around her.  “Go ahead you two and take a seat so you can annoy the hell out of me some more.”

 

   Harry scowled at her as he sat down.  “We aren’t annoying, Hermione.”

 

   Ron tried hard to manage a small smile.  “Yeah, only when we want to be!”

 

   A small dainty witch entered the classroom.  She had mousy colored hair and wore deep magenta robes.  “Ahem.”  The room quieted down immediately.  “I am Marigold Stem.  I will be your potions instructor.  As a Shadow you will often be required to create potions on the spot while out on a mission.” 

 

   She smiled kindly, looking strangely like a grandmother.  “Shadows use potions for the very things witches and wizards use them for.  The difference is that Shadows use them more frequently due to the dangerous nature of their jobs.”  Marigold smoothed her robes down.  “It is imperative that you pass all components of the potions course in order to be considered to be a candidate.”

 

   Hermione smirked at both Ron and Harry.  She said in a low voice, “I guarantee you’ll both be out on your arses by tomorrow!”

 

   Harry rolled his eyes at her and whispered back to her.  “And I guarantee you that we won’t!”

 

   Marigold pulled her wand out and waved it at a door to a storeroom.  The door opened and several cauldrons, phials, small bottles of liquids, burners, cutting tools and roots made their way out.  She carefully levitated equal amounts of the various items to each table.  “For fun, I’d like for each table to try and produce a phial of Ragonia.  Starting tomorrow you will be on your own and I will be evaluating your work.  Can anyone tell me what Ragonia is used for?”  Hermione shot her hand up in the air at once.  “Yes?”

 

   “Ragonia is used to treat women who suffer from Pre-Menstrual Syndrome.”

 

   She smiled.  “Well done!  Ragonia has certainly been proven affective for women who suffer monthly of such an affliction.”

 

   Harry leaned over to Ron.  “What the bloody hell is Pre-Menstrual Syndrome?”

 

   Ron smirked at him.  “You know-it’s how Ginny acts all barmy right before she gets her monthly bill.”

 

   Harry frowned for a moment.  “Well, having to pay the rent once a month does piss her off.  But I didn’t know that it was a condition that only women suffered from for pity’s sakes!”  Harry crossed his arms.  “I mean what the hell?!  I get mad at having to fork over all those galleons on rent, too.  Why the hell don’t they have a potion for a bloke suffering from this Pre-Menstrual Syndrome?”

 

   Ron’s eyes went wide in astonishment.  “Is that what you think I’m talking about-paying the rent?!”

 

   “That’s what you just said.”

 

   Ron rolled his eyes as Hermione chimed in.  “Do you even know what menstruation is Harry?”

 

   “Yeah.  They’re the bosses…the higher-ups!”

 

   Hermione huffed.  “Honestly Harry!  That’s administration, not menstruation!”

   

  “Oh, enough bloody games!  Just tell me what the hell you’re talking about!”

 

    “Menstruation is when a woman is on her period you moron.”  Hermione said through gritted teeth. 

 

    Ron started to chuckle as Harry’s cheeks turned red.  “Oh.  So Pre-Menstrual means the time when a women is about to get her period.”

 

    Hermione arched her eyebrow.  “Very good.  Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is a condition that affects many witches.  Witches become irritable, bloated and suffer from maddening mood swings.”

 

    Harry blinked his eyes a few times, as if trying to make sense of something.  “Well, I don’t know about the bloated part but most women act like that all the time!”   He stared at her intently.  “No one attaches a condition to when a bloke is acting like an arsehole for pity’s sakes.”

 

    Marigold spoke up before Hermione could retort.  “You have a half an hour!”  She went up to the desk in the front of the room where several hourglasses sat.  She picked up one and turned it over.  “You may begin!”

 

    Hermione rested a hand on the table and began to idly drum her fingers.  “Well, do the two of you have any idea how to make Ragonia?”

 

    Harry scowled at her.  “You know we don’t!”  Harry pursed his lips and looked over at a completely bewildered Ron.  “Do you know how to make a proper Ragonia potion?”

 

    Ron sighed.  “I’m as good as you when it comes to making a potion- so what do you think?”

 

    Hermione rolled her eyes. “You best come up with something before our half hour is over.”

 

    Harry opened and closed his mouth a few times.  “You’re not going to help us are you?”

 

    “Nope!  I thought I’d just sit by and watch you two royally fuck up this time.”

 

    “That’s just wrong, Hermione!”  Harry pointed his finger at her.  “And since you’re sitting at our table you’ll look like an idiot, too.”

 

    Hermione shrugged.  “This assignment doesn’t count so I don’t give a shite really.”

 

    “Fine!”  Harry looked at Ron.  “What the hell should we do first?”

 

    “Beats the shite out of me?”  Ron turned the burner on and set the cauldron on top.  He picked up one of the small bottles of liquid and poured a small amount in.  “What do you want to put in next?”

 

    Harry pointed to a large black root.  “How about I cut some of that root off and throw it in?”

 

    “Sounds good!”  Ron lifted a small bottle of green liquid.  “How about a few drops of this stuff?”

 

    “Sure!”  Harry picked up a cutting tool and sliced off a small amount of the root and threw it in the cauldron.  He wrinkled up his nose.  “Bah!  That’s smells really foul.”

Hermione started chuckling and shaking her head.  Harry glared at her before picking up a bottle holding some pink liquid.  He pulled the stopper out of the bottle and took a sniff.  “Hmm it smells like roses.  This should help make it smell better.”

 

   Hermione suddenly stopped smiling.  “DON’T ADD TOO MUCH OF THAT HARRY!”

 

   “Piss off!  It’s our bloody potion-not yours!”  He scowled at her.  “And since you refuse to help us, I’m pouring in the whole damn bottle.”  As he reached across the table with the bottle in his hand, Hermione came up off her stool and stood back.

 

   Ron gulped.  “Uh, Harry, maybe you should listen to Hermione.”

 

   Harry ignored him and gamely poured the entire bottle of pink liquid into the cauldron.  Hermione yelled, “SHITE!”  She grabbed her bag and ran towards the door as Ron watched in alarm.  The whole room grew quiet as the other Aurors looked towards their table to see why Hermione suddenly bolted. 

 

   Marigold walked swiftly over to Harry.  “What’s going on here?” 

 

   Before Harry could answer Ron piped up.  “He just dumped that whole bottle of pink stuff into the cauldron!”

 

   Marigold’s eyes widened.  “Th-the whole bottle?!”  Harry smiled and nodded his head looking proud of himself.  “Bloody hell!  EVERYONE GET OUT OF HERE-NOW!”

 

   Harry’s grin disappeared and he began to run with the throng of people towards the exit.  He was two feet away from the door when the cauldron on his table exploded.  Harry, along with Ron and several other Aurors who hadn’t made it out yet, were thrown to the floor by the blast.  After a few minutes there was nothing but silence and Harry lifted his head up, gasping and coughing like mad.

 

   Ron pulled himself off the floor, coughing as well.  “What the hell just happened?”

 

   Harry and Ron looked up to see that the table was gone.  Black soot was covering several chairs and tables. There was a large hole in the ceiling and pink smoke was slowly filling the room.   Harry cleared his throat and pointed up to the ceiling.  “That’s not good.”

 

   Marigold came back into the room and glared at Harry.  “What in the name of Merlin were you thinking dumping an entire bottle of Menstrual Essence into your cauldron?  You could have killed us all!”

 

   Harry scowled at her.  “Menstrual Essence?  But it smelled like roses for pity sakes!”  Harry frowned at Ron.  “Your sister never smells like flowers when she’s on the rag.”

 

   Marigold placed her hands on her hips.  “Just because it smells nice doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous!  You should never use more than a drop of Menstrual Essence in any potion!  It’s highly combustible!”   Marigold waved her wand around the room and set it back right.  She took a deep breath as the other Aurors started filing into the room.  Before they could sit back down she spoke up.  “I think I’ve had enough for today.”  She rubbed her forehead wearily.  “You may all go to your barracks.  Dinner will be served at six.”

 

    Harry and Ron were walking towards the door when she stopped them.  “I’d like a word with you two in private.”

 

   Ron whispered to him.  “Bloody hell, Harry.  Now we’re in for it.”

 

   As soon as the room was empty, Marigold rounded on them.  “Next time you will stop before proceeding to add a full bottle of any liquid to a cauldron!  Do I make myself clear?!”

 

   “Yes, ma’am,” they both said in unison.

 

   She pointed her finger at Harry, her eyes wild.  “You are damn lucky that nothing worse happened!  Do you have any idea how many people could have been killed if you had had a bigger bottle?!”

 

   Harry shrugged uneasily.  “I suppose a lot.”

 

  “That’s right.”  She took a deep breath.  “Tomorrow I will be watching the two of you very closely!”  Marigold glared at Harry.  “Especially you!”  She gave them another dirty look before walking angrily out of the room.

 

   Hermione came through the door wearing a smirk on her face.  “Get your arse chewed out Harry?!”

 

   Harry cleared his throat.  “I might have.”   He walked closer to her followed by Ron.  “You should have helped us Hermione.”

 

   “Think so?  Nah, I wanted to get a preview of what was to come tomorrow and of course the both of you didn’t disappoint me in the least.”  She chuckled.  “The two of you will never make it through the first official potions class and I couldn’t be happier.”

 

   Hermione turned and strode out of the room still laughing.  Harry took a deep breath and sighed.  “She’s right you know.  Tomorrow we’ll each be getting our own cauldron and not have a bloody clue how to make a damn thing.  We’re completely fucked!”

 

   Ron, who was frowning, shrugged.  “It’s time to come up with something creative so we can wipe that shite-eating grin right off of Hermione’s face.”

 

    “So what exactly do you have in mind?”

 

    “Give me a minute-I’m thinking.”  Ron leaned back against the wall and shook his head a few times until he suddenly stood up straighter and snapped his fingers.  “That’s it!”

 

    “You have an idea?”  Harry asked, his eyes wide with excitement.

 

   Ron had a smirk on his face.  “Who are two blokes we know that love to break the rules and are brilliant at making potions?”  Harry shrugged.  “Fred and George, Harry!”

 

    “Ah yes-that bloody brilliant!”  The jovial expression on Harry’s face suddenly was replaced with a frown.  “The only thing is, how do we get their help when we’re not allowed any contact with the outside world?”

 

    Ron looked around and leaned into Harry and whispered, “I happen to have a two way mirror up in my rucksack.”

 

    “Bloody hell!  How did you manage to smuggle that in as they thoroughly searched all our shite when we got here?”

 

    Ron shrugged.  “I transfigured it into a comb when I packed.”

 

    “That’s genius, mate!”

 

    Ron shrugged again trying not to look too pleased with himself.  “We’ll contact my brothers tonight and come up with a plan as I’m sure they’ll have loads of ideas.”

 

    Grinning, Harry nodded.   “Oh, it’ll make my day to see Hermione shite all over herself when we actually make a correct potion.”    

 

  

        

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello All!

  Thank you to brandedfaithfully for her editing work. Still a lot of craziness but I sure enjoy writing it.

XXX,

missgranger2


Chapter 25 "The Bane of Hermione's Existence"

Ron and Harry loaded up their trays during dinner; the buffet line offered several tasty selections that they just couldn't pass up.  Sitting down at a table, Ron picked up his fork and dug right into the beef stew.  "You know everything about this place has been completely mental today except for the food."  Harry nodded.  "I swear this beef stew tastes as good as my mum's and that's saying something."

Harry gestured with his head toward the food line.  "It's Hermione.  You think she'll come and sit with us?"

Ron chuckled slightly.  "I seriously doubt it."

Harry stood up and began waving his hand frantically in the air.  "Hermione!  Hermione-over here!" Hermione scowled at them for a moment before walking slowly over to their table.  Harry sat down and grinned in apparent triumph at Ron.

Looking annoyed, she set her tray down on the table, along with a book she had tucked under her arm and sat down.  Ron's eyes went wide as he looked down at her tray.  "Is that all you're having-soup and a sandwich?"

"Yes.  So?" 

Ron shrugged.  "Just doesn't seem like a dinner that would fill a person up is all."

"Well, unlike you two bottomless pits, I don't need to eat as much to feel full."  She opened up her book and began to thumb through the pages, stopping when she found where she had left off. 

"You know it's kind of rude to read a book at the dinner table, Hermione."

She whipped her head around at Harry, giving him a look of great disdain.  "Since when did somebody go and appoint you Mr. Manners?"

"All I'm saying is, it would be nice of you to put your book away and join us in conversation." 

Hermione frowned at him for a moment before closing her book with a loud snap.  "Fine.  What is it that you two twits want to talk about?"

Harry wiped the corners of his mouth with his napkin.  "First off, are you still a hundred percent sure you want to be a Shadow?"

"Yes."  Hermione picked up her spoon and began eating her soup.  "Quite sure, actually."

"It doesn't bother you that you'd be cut off from your family and your friends possibly for life?" 

"I'm already… I mean… no, it wouldn't matter."  Staring blankly across the room, she picked up her sandwich and took a bite.   Harry and Ron looked pointedly at each other. 

"Well, I for one am having trouble with that particular part."  Harry sighed.  "The thought of being away from Ginny tears me all up inside, you know?"

"Then perhaps you should drop out of the program."  Hermione said, not a hint of sarcasm in her voice.   

"I couldn't agree more as you know Ginny couldn't take it."  Ron took a sip from his Pumpkin Juice.  "And above all else, Ginny doesn't deserve any of that from you."

"No, I suppose she doesn't."  They all ate in silence for a few moments, each seemingly engrossed in their thoughts.  Harry suddenly smiled.  "I must say, I was impressed how you were able to fight off the Imperius Curse today, Hermione.  That was bloody brilliant!"

She shrugged.  "It's not a big deal.  Even an idiot like yourself could do it if you practiced enough."

Ron took a deep breath before changing the subject once more.  "Still planning on meeting with those two gits tonight?"

"Maybe.  Like I told you earlier-it's none of your ruddy business." 

Ron ran his hand through his hair, the now obvious indication that something was bothering him.  Combing his fingers through the fringe seemed to give him a moment to think, a way of comforting his nerves or trying to sort through the puzzle pieces. 

Harry and Hermione’s eyes met briefly, seemingly both recognizing the gesture before turning them back down to their food.  He knew his reaction told them that he was either frustrated, angry or worried and the tense set of his jaw had to give it away.  He was actively trying to hold his temper in check.  Of course Hermione had never made it easy for him to do so.  

Harry flashed an anticipatory glance, like he was wondering what might come out of his mouth next.  Ron noticed it, but was too lost in the haze of jealous images to care.  He knew he shouldn’t say it, but it came out anyway.  "Hermione, I don't want you to meet with them."

Hermione laughed, dropping her spoon with a clang into her bowl.  "Excuse me?"

He managed a courageous swallow and jumped in.  "You heard me.  It's dangerous and completely stupid and you bloody well know it!"

"I knew this was a stupid idea to come and sit with you two."  She stood up and grabbed her book off the table.  "Next time, I'll know better!"  Hermione stomped off toward the exit.

"That went well, eh?"  Harry said sarcastically and rolled his eyes at Ron.  "Why in the name of Merlin couldn't you just keep your mouth shut as we were actually making some real progress, dickhead?"

Ron shoved his tray away in a huff, the food suddenly unappealing.  "She shouldn't be meeting with those two perverts all alone."  He folded his arms tightly across his chest and leaned back in his chair.  "And yet she doesn't have to be….all alone."

"What the hell are you rambling on about?"

Ron sat up straight in his chair and leaned across the table.  "You and I are going to be there tonight when she meets those two pricks, Harry."

"What?  How do you figure as we don't even know where she's meeting them or at what time you idiot."

Ron shrugged, looking undeterred.  "We set up surveillance on her right after dinner."  Seeing that Harry didn't look completely convinced, Ron piped up, "Look, it's just like what we do all the bloody time being an Auror."

Harry sighed.  "I dunno' about this…"

"If you don't want to help then I'll just do it myself.  Of course you know that already, don't you?"  Ron said matter-of-factly.   Harry sighed rather loudly, squinting at Ron in frustration.  “Oh, so you’d be fine if she runs off and meets those two and they have their way with her all night, over and over and…”

"Enough!  Fine!  You don’t have to be graphic about it.  I'll participate in this barmy plan of yours."  Harry picked up his knife and began cutting his steak viscously.  "I don't know what's worse- getting caught sneaking around by one of the Shadow trainers or getting cursed by Hermione when she finds out we tailed her."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The two of them had been hiding in a classroom near the door to the women's dormitory for nearly an hour and a half.  The classroom door was slightly opened, but not enough that would cause much attention by somebody walking by.  Ron perched on his knees, looking anxiously through the thin opening, waiting for Hermione to emerge.

Meanwhile, Harry sat on the floor beside him, looking through a book he had found on potion making in one of the many cabinets that lined the walls.  "Did you know there's a potion that can make a person cry for forty eight hours straight?"  He frowned for a moment.  "Why the hell would you want to make yourself cry for forty eight hours?"

Ron rolled his eyes.  Here he goes.  He was quite used to Harry's barmy behavior when he was bored.  Still, it annoyed the hell out of him.  Deciding it best to go along for the ride for now, Ron replied, "Maybe some people aren't able to cry and want to experience it or something."

"Yes, that's possible I suppose.  Or maybe their tear ducts need to be cleaned out or something."  Harry gasped.  "That's probably why people have bags under their eyes, right?"

"Sure."  Ron said back to him absently, though he knew damn well that not being able to cry had nothing to do at all with bags under the eyes.  Just keep humoring him.

"Blimey!  Here's a potion that will actually give you an erection for twenty four hours straight!"

"You don't say?"

"That's brilliant!"

Ron chuckled.  "In theory, it sounds brilliant, but wouldn't it be a bit painful to have an erection for twenty four hours straight?"

"Not if you're with a woman who likes sex as much as you do."

"But what if you weren't and you developed blue balls?  Could be painful, mate."

"I'm not worried as I know Ginny would go for it.  You got a quill and a bit of parchment handy?"

Ron turned around and frowned at him.  "What the hell for?" 

"To write down how to make this potion, of course."

Ron sighed in annoyance and turned his attention back to the dormitory door.  "No, I don't have a quill and a piece of parchment on me."

"Dammit."

"Why not just tear the page out if you want to know how to make it so badly."

"Oh no, I don't dare do that.  Hermione gave me a lecture once about how you shouldn't ever deface a book.  I just can't."

Trying hard not to snap at him, Ron replied as calmly as he could, "Is Hermione here now?"

"No, but…"

"Then how would she ever know?  Tear the damn page out of the book!"

"Still…it's just so wrong to do.   Hermione said…."

Ron turned his head around and snapped at him.  "Just take the whole damn book then!"

"But then I'd be stealing."  Tired of Harry's ridiculous nonsense, Ron reached over and grabbed the book out of his hands, ripping the page out himself.  Harry gasped.  "Ron!"

At his limit, Ron smiled dangerously as he held the ripped page out to him.  "That's right-I defaced the book-not you.  So you don't have to worry over it now and you'll know how to make the potion."

Harry looked at Ron like he'd lost his mind for a moment before taking the page from him.  "You better hope Hermione never finds out about this."

"Frankly, I don't give a shite.  Just go and search the cabinets for another book as I'm sick to death of hearing you babbling on and on about potions."

Harry scowled at him.  "Fine."

"Fine!"  Ron shouted back even though he didn't know why he was shouting.  As Harry stood up with a huff, Ron turned his attention back to the door.  About three minutes later he finally saw Hermione come out.   He waited a few moments as she walked past the classroom and finally turned to look for Harry.  Spotting him rummaging in a cabinet across the room, he called out in a strong whisper, "Harry!" 

Harry looked over at him. 

"C'mon-she's on the move!" he gestured, waving Harry toward him.

Harry hurried over as Ron slowly opened the door.  "Which way did she go?"

Ron stepped out and looked left and then right before gesturing with his head down the hallway.  "This way.  Let's go."  They began to walk down the corridor, stopping when they came to another hallway adjacent to the one they were in.  Ron put his finger up to his lip and then carefully glanced down the hallway first to his left and then his right.  He whispered to Harry, "I can see a door open down there.  That has to be where she went."

"Let's go and check it out then."  Harry pulled out his wand.

"Put that away, Harry!"

"Why?  I mean aren't we going to use them on 'frick' and 'frack'?"

"We'll pull them out when we're sure it's them in there first.  How'd you think it would look if somebody caught us traipsing around this place holding our wand in the standard Auror attack position?"

"We could say we're trying to protect ourselves from Flannigan Flumes."  Ron rolled his eyes as Harry stowed his wand away in his robes.  "Alright, let's go."

They quietly traversed the hallway, stopping just at the frame of the open door.  They could hear voices and knew right away that it was indeed Hermione and the two arseholes from class.  Ron pulled his wand out and Harry followed suit.  He leaned over and whispered to Harry, "Wait for my signal and then move in, got it?"

"Alright.  What's the signal?"

"You'll know it when you see it."

~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~

"You two really sure know how to flatter a girl, don't you?"  Hermione batted her eyes at the pair of imbeciles.  She was sitting atop a large wooden desk, Harold and Calvin standing before her.  "So, have either of you ever been part of a threesome before?"

Calvin, who was clearly nervous, swallowed hard.  "No….no, I haven't."

Harold on the other hand was almost giddy with excitement.  "Neither have I but I'm so looking forward to it."  He licked his lips.  "How about you take your clothes off and let us have a look at you, love?"

"I have a better idea.  How bout' the two of you remove your clothes first so I can get a look at your equipment."  Hermione leaned in seductively, allowing for the two men to get an eyeful   down her low-cut blouse.  "Please don't make me beg.  I promise I'll make it well worth it for both of you."  She wiggled her eyebrows up and down and then placed two her fingers in her mouth, sucking them slowly.

"Bloody fucking hell!  Hurry up Calvin, and do as she asks."

As Harold scrambled to remove his shirt, Calvin suddenly froze as he unbuttoned his trousers.  "What's the matter there, Calvin?  I promise I won't bite…. at least not yet."   Calvin bit his lip and pointed nervously over to the opened door.   "Oh, is that what's bothering you?"  Hermione winked at him and then hopped up off the desk and began to walk towards the door.  "I'll take care of the door while you take care of getting completely starkers for me, alright?"

Meanwhile in the hallway, Ron and Harry were growing anxious-especially Harry.  "What the hell do we do if she magically seals the door and puts an impenetrable on the room?"

"Shh!  Let me think a minute."  Ron ran his hand through his hair.  Harry, thinking that was the signal, suddenly bolted past him and inside the room.  "Harry-wait!  Shite!"

"What the hell?"  Hermione's eyes went wide.  "What on earth are you doing here?"

"Get the hell out the way, Hermione!"  Harry pushed her to the side and aimed his wand at Harold and Calvin who were completely naked.  Their backs to him, they raised their arms in unison.     

"Put your wand down this instant, Harry!"  Just then, Ron came through the door.  "Ron?!"

"Keep your wand on them, mate."  Ron aimed his wand at the two naked men as well.  "Get out of here, Hermione."

"I most certainly will do no such a thing!  You two are the ones that need to get the hell out of here."  She pulled her wand out of her back pocket and aimed it at Harry's back.   

"You wouldn't dare!"  Ron said.

"Watch me!"  Ron quickly aimed his wand at Hermione causing her to gasp.  "Put your wand down this instant, Hermione!"

"How dare you aim your wand at me, Ronald Weasley."

"You got yours aimed at Harry for pity sakes."

"Could I say something?"  Calvin called out in a shaky voice.  With arms still raised, he turned slightly to face them, lowering one hand to cover his bits.  "Look, obviously this was a mistake.  Please just let us get our clothes and get out of here, alright?"

"The two of you aren't going anywhere until Harry and I say so."  Ron scowled at Calvin a moment before turning his attention back to Hermione.  "Will you please just go, Hermione."   She shook her head.  Ron sighed.  "Fine, I'll just have to stupify your arse."

"Go ahead!  Just know that I'll have cursed Harry long before I hit the ground you giant prick."

Just then, the ripped page that Harry had stuffed in the pockets of his robes fell out, floating aimlessly to the ground.  "Shite!  Shite!  Don't look at it, Hermione!" 

As Harry scrambled to pick up the page from the floor, Hermione gasped once more.  "I don't fucking believe it-you defaced a book!  How could you, Harry?"  Eyes blazing, Hermione fired off a curse, hitting Harry straight in the head.  It didn't do anything right away and Harry began to teeter back and forth.   

Ron yelled, "Stupify!" and Hermione fell unceremoniously to the floor.   "Harry, you alright?"

His eyes were wild looking and he looked positively scared out of his mind.  "There's hundreds and hundreds of them!"

"Hundreds of what?"

Harry began speaking Parseltongue.  He jerked his leg up as if something were striking him.  "Not a very friendly lot, are you?"

"What on earth are you on about, Harry?"

"Snakes!  They're everywhere!  Big ones, small ones, and their yellow eyes are all glowing.  There's a huge one trying to attack you, Ron!  See it!"  Harry pointed at a spot just above Ron's head and then raised his wand shakily towards Ron. 

Ron's eyes went wide.  "What the hell are you doing?"

"Keep still.  I got him, mate.  Just. Don't. Move. A. Muscle."

"For Merlin sakes, put your fucking wand down, Harry!"

"Stupify!"  Ron went down hard, his legs crumbling under him as he toppled over Hermione.   Harry blinked once or twice before he fell face first down atop the both of them.

Calvin's mouth moved like a fish in water before he muttered to Harold, "Let's get dressed and get the hell out of here."

Harold nodded his head as he pulled on his trousers.  "They're all completely mental!"

"I'll say."

Harold and Calvin walked past the three of them lying in a heap on the floor.  Harold shook his head in disbelief.  "And to think it was these three idiots that actually were the ones that defeated Voldemort."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was Hermione who woke up first.  As her eyes fluttered open, she was aware of something heavy lying on top of her.  "What the…?"  Hermione sighed and tried to push Harry’s dead weight off of her.  Raising up onto her forearms, she saw that Ron was also lying on the floor apparently knocked out, his long legs pinning hers to the floor.  "Un-fucking-believable."  She shook her head and flopped back to the floor.  "I just wish the two of them would stay out of my business.  Dammit but they ruined my plan!"

"What plan was that?"  Ron said, not opening his eyes and not moving his legs.

"Never mind."  She said with a huff, now ready to chew him out for landing on top of her.

Ron rubbed his face a few times with his hands before sitting up, still not moving his legs.  He winced and began to rub the back of his head.  "What the hell did you hit Harry with anyway?"

Still horizontal, she shrugged.  "A hallucination charm I read about.  Did it work?"

"Did it ever.  Harry thought the whole room was filled with snakes.  He said one was about to attack me and I guess he was trying to stupify it but ended up stupifying me instead."  

Hermione smiled smugly.  "Serves you both right.  Maybe next time you'll listen when I tell you to keep your big fat noses out of my business.  Now, will you please get those two lead weights off of me so I can get up?" 

Ron appeared like he was about to move, but then suddenly his expression changed as he tilted his head toward her.  “I’m sorry…” he spoke sarcastically, “I’ve just been stupified and my legs aren’t quite working yet.  I supposed you’ll just have to sit here for a minute while I recover,” Ron smiled sardonically.

Hermione pushed at Harry’s body again, managing to shift him more to her hips and she sat up.  “You do know this is all your fault?”

“Quite possibly,” Ron replied, “…but it was worth it.”  Ron finally moved his legs, but it had the effect of shifting Harry’s weight back onto Hermione’s torso and she thudded back to the floor as Ron stood up.  She knew he had done it intentionally.

“You’re an arsehole,” she sighed, trying to catch her breath again.  When she was able to reach her wand, she was going to…

“Again, quite possibly…” he rubbed his sore head for a moment and finally stepped closer so that he stood almost directly over the two bodies.  His arm dropped to the side of his body and still he stood there.  She hated to look into his eyes, avoiding his gaze was so much easier, but he kept looking down at her.  As much as she didn’t want to care, she felt her jaw unclenching as she watched his expression soften, his eyes trained on her intently.  “I’d rather be an arsehole in your eyes than to allow those two undeserving idiots to touch you.”

The sentence had the effect of knocking the remaining wind out of her.  It shouldn’t have mattered…it didn’t matter.  He was still an arsehole!  But she found herself glancing back to his resolute expression briefly before he knelt down and carefully rolled Harry off of her. 

She got up from off the floor and stretched her arms high above her head, hoping to appear completely unfazed by the whole incident.  "I'm going to bed."

Ron rested Harry’s head back to the floor. "Wait a minute, what about Harry?"

Hermione frowned.  "What about him?"

"If I'm not mistaken, you said you did some sort of hallucination charm on him.  Are you certain it wasn't a sleeping charm as he's out cold."

"He was probably so frightened that he passed out is all."

"Well, aren't you going to stay until he wakes up and make sure he's alright?"

She shrugged.  "I see no need as he could be out for Merlin knows how long and I need my rest.  Besides, he'll be fine when the charm wears off.  At least according to the book I read he will."

"Wears off?  How long exactly does the book say that the charm will wear off?"

"It depends on the person and how deep seated their fear is of what the charm caused them to see."

"So, in other words, you have no bloody clue."  Ron took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair.  "That's just fucking brilliant."

Hermione laughed.  "It should be an interesting night, that's for sure.  I do hope that you'll both be able to get some rest before morning as the first official training day starts tomorrow."

"Don't you worry-Harry and I'll be ready."

"We'll see."  Looking smug, she waved at him as she left the classroom, but paused for one tense half of a step as the tiniest tinge of regret tickled her stomach.  Lifting her chin proudly, she walked towards the dormitory, confident that Harry and Ron would never make it through training tomorrow.  Finally, she'd be able to get them out of her hair and out of her life once for all.

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello!

  I would like to thank brandedfaithfully for her beta work. I am having another 'go' at Harry. (I can't help myself!) I PROMISE to focus more on our boy and girl in the next chapter.  Thank you for all the support and so sorry for the late update!

XXX,

missgranger2  


Chapter 26  "The Boy Who Killed Serpents" 

 

Harry finally had come around.  Much to Ron's aggravation, he was still seeing snakes.  "I'm telling you Harry, you have to get a grip on yourself!  There are no snakes.  Hermione hit you with a hallucination charm is all."

Harry lifted himself shakily off the floor, his eyes wide in fear.  "B-but I see them everywhere."  He swallowed hard and jerked his head fast to the right.  "Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"That bastard just tried to strike me in the face!"  He began to pat frantically at the front of his robes.  "Where the hell is my wand?"

"I have it."

"Hand it over, Ron!"  Harry began to punch and kick at the air, defending himself against the snakes Ron couldn't see.  Beads of sweat started to form on his upper lip and forehead as he held his hands out in front of him as if he were choking something.   "Some help would be appreciated!"

Ron shook his head in disbelief.  "I told you-There.  Are.  No.  Snakes."

Harry shoved his hands outward and stumbled back a few paces.  Breathing heavily, he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and shot Ron a dirty look.  "I can't believe you just stood there while I strangled what had to be at least a seventeen foot Anaconda!"  Harry gasped and pointed to a spot across the room.  "Fuck me!  Now the whole lot is coming this way!"  Looking completely terrified, he backed up until his body was flush against the wall.  "RUN!  SAVE YOURSELF, MATE!  IT'S ME THEY WANT!"

"That's it!"  Ron angrily pulled his wand out and pointed it at Harry.  "Stupify!"   Harry crumpled down to the floor.  He ran his hand through his hair and sighed.  "This is just bloody brilliant."  Not only was he going to have to deal with Harry's hallucinations for Merlin knew how long, he still needed to get in touch with Fred and George about how to get through Potions tomorrow.  This is going to be a LONG night that's for sure.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hermione lie in her bed up in the dormitory.  Upon her return, the other witches had tried to engage her in conversation.  Frankly, she found them boring and ridiculous.  All they could seem to talk about was their obsession with high priced robes and the latest hairdo.  She had politely excused herself, saying she needed to get some rest.  Much to her annoyance, it was sometime before the other witches finally went to bed. 

As she waited for them to fall asleep, Hermione thought back to the incident in the abandoned classroom.  She had had no intention of sleeping with those two dorks.  And because Harry and Ron showed up, she hadn't been able to teach them a lesson.  Hermione rose up and pounded her pillow with her fist before lying back down.  I wish they would just go away.  She thought about the conversation between Ron and herself and shook her head frantically.  He has no claim on me anymore!  Hermione took a deep breath and stared around at the other beds.  No one was stirring and she could hear the witches' even breathing.  They must all be asleep by now. 

Quietly, she pushed the covers off and sat up, moving until she was sitting on the edge of her bed.  Reaching down, she pulled her knapsack from under the bed and slowly pulled out three perfume bottles, setting each one on the bed beside her.  Pushing her knapsack back under the bed, she looked around one more time before smiling.

It had been an ingenious plan if she said so herself.  According to the rules, the consumption of alcohol was not allowed during their week of training.  There was no way she was going to last a week without her beloved Fire Whiskey and so she came up with an idea.  Hermione had purchased several perfume bottles and filled each of them with Fire Whiskey, charming it to smell like various floral scents.  

During check-in, her bag had been thoroughly searched.  She was questioned as to why she had so many perfume bottles with her and not missing a beat, told the inspectors that she simply liked to smell good.  They bought her explanation hook, line and sinker.  Suckers!   

Hermione moved her pillow, so that it lay back against the headboard.  She shimmied her body back and then reached for one of the perfume bottles.  After unscrewing the top, she tipped the bottle up and took a large swig.  Merlin, how I needed that! 

~*~*~*~*~**~*~

Ron had dragged Harry down the hallway and back to the door to the dormitory.  Just as Ron managed to get Harry inside, he noticed Flannigan Flumes standing by the stairs, smoking a cigarette.   "What the hell is all this about, Weasley?" 

Thinking fast, Ron piped up with the first thing that came into his head.  "Well, see Harry and I were dueling.  Um…you know getting some practice in.  I a… I sort of hit him with a hallucination charm and he was rather frightened and passed out." 

"Hallucination charm, eh?"  Flannigan smiled as he took another drag off his cigarette.  "And what is it that the boy wonder sees?"

"Snakes-tons of snakes.   And he thinks they're trying to attack him or something."

Flannigan dropped his butt to the floor and ground it with his shoe.  "Oh, this should be fun!"

"What do you mean?"

"We're bored as hell and could use some entertainment.  Let me help you get him upstairs!  The boys are going love this!"

"Right."  They carried Harry up the stairs and lay him down on the one of the beds. 

"Gather around boys!"  Flumes waved the other wizards over.   They stood around the bed, looking confused.   "Weasley hit Potter here with a hallucination charm.  Apparently, he thinks snakes are trying to kill him.  Watch this!"  Flannigan leaned down and hissed into Harry's ear. 

To Ron's amazement, Harry sat bolt upright, his eyes wide in fear.   "Shit!  Get em' off me!"  Harry began to wipe his body off as if he were covered in snakes.  As the Aurors roared in laughter, Harry jumped up from off the bed.  His eyes were wild as he stared at the bed.  With a yell, he jumped back up on the bed and began to wrestle frantically with his pillow and blankets.  "DIE YOU BASTARDS!  DIEEEEEE!"

Flumes was laughing so hard, he had to wipe the tears from his eyes.  "That's right, Potter-kill all those nasty serpents!"

Ron shook his head.  He noticed that Harold and Calvin weren't about and scanned the room until he found them sitting at a table playing a card game.  Those two won't say anything as they'd implicate themselves in the process.    Ron needed to get in touch with his brothers and found that this was the perfect opportunity as the Aurors were clearly enjoying watching Harry go berserk.

Just as Harry dove to the floor, his arms apparently wrapped around an invisible large snake, Ron grabbed his bag and walked over towards the lavatory.  Flannigan shouted after him, "Eh-where you going, Weasley?  This is getting good!"

Ron stopped and turned around just in time to see Harry standing atop one of the nightstands and hurling an unlit gas lamp to the floor.  "HA!  Knocked you out cold, you evil yellow-eyed hissing bitch!"

"Just make sure he doesn't hurt himself, Flannigan!"  Ron rolled his eyes and continued on to the lavatory as the other Aurors cheered Harry on.  Upon entering, he was surprised to see that there were several private stalls lining the walls, each complete with a sink, toilet and small, but efficient, shower.  A bit of privacy-perfect!   Ron entered the small room And locking the door behind him, he rummaged through his bag and found the transfigured comb.

Uttering an incantation in his head, the comb transformed back into his two way mirror.  "Fred?  George?  You there?"

Fred's face appeared in the mirror.  "What the bloody hell do you want?"

"Hello to you, too!"  Ron replied sarcastically.  "Look, I don't have much time.  I need some help getting through a Potions class tomorrow."

George's face appeared beside Fred's.  "A potion's class?  Why the hell are you enrolled in a potion's class?"

"It's part of this special training I'm doing."

"What do you mean special training?"

"It's this new re-certification process that Harry and I have to take every few years.  Now-can the two of you please help me?  You know damn well that Harry and I are rubbish at Potions."

Fred smirked at him.  "We do indeed.  So what is it that you need George and I to do?"

"Well, to be honest, I don't exactly know.  I mean I can't bring in the two way mirror to help me out as they'd catch me cheating straight away."

George nodded.  "True, true." 

"Do you two know of some way Harry and I can cheat without getting caught?  Is there a spell you two are aware of or something you sell at your shop that can help us out?"  Ron sighed.  "Wait a minute-scratch the product idea as we aren't allowed to get mail here."

George spoke up, "That does present a slight…"

"Problem."  His twin finished for him.

"So you two don't know of a spell that might help us?"

"Unfortunately, we aren't a walking encyclopedia of spells like Hermione."  Fred took a deep breath.    "Truthfully, I think you're both fucked, little brother."

"Dammit!"

"Unless…"

"Yes?" 

"Well, there are ways of ensuring you make a proper potion.  Of course, by the means in which you ensure that you made a proper potion may be dependent upon somebody else's ability"

"Stop talking in circles, Fred and tell me what you mean!"

Both twins said together, "Stealing!"

"Stealing?"

George nodded.  "If you were to create a small distraction, then I see no reason that you couldn't use your wand to pull off an old switch-a-roo and thus trade somebody else's potion for yours."

Ron suddenly smiled.  "That's bloody brilliant!"

Fred smiled.  "Very.  Think you could manage to pull it off, little brother?"

"Yeah, actually I do think it's possible.  I'll just need to come up with a distraction is all."

"I think we'll let you figure that part out on your own as we're trying to finish inventorying the store so we can get the hell out of here!"

"Thanks a million, Fred and George!"  Their faces slowly faded and Ron transformed the mirror back into a comb.  I think it could actually work!  Feeling more confident, he had a grin on his face as he took a quick shower and then slipped into his pajamas. 

Stepping out of the lavatory, the smile on his face melted away as soon as he surveyed the damage before him.  Beds had been knocked over along with several chairs that were missing legs.  Glass littered the floor as well as drawers from the nightstands and wardrobes.   In the middle of the room the group of Aurors had made a circle and were still laughing heartedly.  He could guess who was in the center of the circle.

Dropping his bag, he pushed through the Aurors to get to Harry, hoping he hadn't managed to injure himself too badly.  There was blood dripping out of his nose and several cuts on his face that were bleeding profusely.  Alarmed, Ron grabbed him by the shoulders.  "Harry, are you alright?"

There was a smile on Harry's face and he looked as if he were proud of himself.  He pumped his fist high into the air and the wizards cheered.  "I defeated those bloody snakes, mate!  First, I wrestled off those small little buggers and then those two boa constrictors came at me and I smashed their heads together."    Harry took a deep breath and pointed down to the floor.  "Then these two tried to kill me but I wasn't having any of it.  I told them I wasn't afraid of them and broke their bloody necks!"

Ron nodded his head slowly.  "Riggghhhht."

"I didn't even need a bloody sword this time, mate.  And what witch or wizard do you know whose slaughtered three Basilisks in their lifetime-nobody!"  Harry pointed toward the door.  "Look at the little chicken bastards scurrying away!"  He suddenly shouted at the Aurors who were clearly laughing at him.  Ron suspected that poor Harry, however, didn't have a clue.  "That's right lads-no wand, no sword-just these!"  He bent his arms and flexed his muscles as the men roared with laughter.

Flannigan stepped forward and put his arm around Harry, his eyes wet from laughing so hard.  "Let's have a last round of applause for Harry 'don't fuck with me snake' Potter!"  The men clapped and cheered before going about setting the room back right with their wands. 

Ron looked on as drawers flew back into place and broken furniture was repaired.  The Aurors were still laughing as they continued tidying up the room.  "Well, I think I'm going to call it a night.  We got a long day tomorrow."  Thinking it was safe to do so, he pulled Harry's wand from the pocket of pajamas and handed it over to him.  "Here you go, mate.  I suppose you should go and heal your face up."

"Yeah."  Harry yawned and stretched his hands high over his head.  "I think I'll just grab my bag and get changed for bed, too.  Taking on all those bloody snakes took a lot out of me, you know?"

"Sure."  Ron looked on as Harry grabbed his bag and strutted like a peacock toward the lavatory. 

Flannigan shook his head.  "Little shite sure is proud of himself, eh?"

Ron frowned.  "I thought I told you to make sure he didn't hurt himself you prick!"

Flannigan shrugged.  "I tried but he was moving his arms around like a bloody windmill and jumping all about.  And when he started to throw the chairs and the drawers, I decided it best to stay shot of him."

Ron rubbed his eyes wearily.  "What a day."  He trudged over to where he had dropped his bag and picked it up.  At the first bed he came to, he shoved the bag underneath.   Falling into the bed, Ron sighed.  "I'm physically and mentally exhausted."  He said aloud to nobody in particular.

Ron lay there for several minutes and was just about to nod off when he heard Harry.  "It's a safety hazard!   If one of us were to trip and accidentally fall onto one of the fangs of these horrible creatures, I can tell you from experience that the venom will start to work straight away!"

Groaning in frustration, Ron sat up and saw Harry pointing to the floor, as he continued on his tirade with two Aurors.  "Furthermore, all these snake carcasses will start to smell soon!  We need to get them out of here right now!"  The two Aurors backed away quickly as Harry raised his wand.

"Wait, Harry!" 

He looked at Ron and frowned.  "What do you mean wait?  You know as well as I do that Basilisks stink to high heaven.  Or was I imagining that you were indeed with me in the Chamber of Secrets?"

Ron clamored out of bed.  Truthfully, he really didn't want to deal with anymore of Harry's nonsense. Yet, he didn't want Harry to end up causing serious damage with his wand.  "Look, mate, I think you've had enough excitement for one day.  Besides, Flannigan said he'd take care of the carcasses."

Harry put his hands on hips.  "And you believe him?"

Ron was beginning to become exasperated.  "Yes!  Now will you please just come and lie down for pity sakes?"

"Not until I do a freshening charm, first.  I don't want to take the chance of him not getting rid of them until morning."

"FINE!  Do the fucking freshening charm and then get your arse to bed!"  Ron turned and stomped back over to the bed.  He climbed in and roughly pulled up the blankets. 

Harry did the incantation and then walked over to the bed beside Ron's.  He laid his glasses and wand on the night stand and slid into bed.  Ron could hear him sighing and he turned so his back was to him, trying to ignore him.   After several minutes, Harry spoke up.  "You know, you didn't have to yell at me like I was a five year old or something.  I just didn't think it was neither safe nor sanitary to have the Basilisk carcasses lying about is all."

"For my own sanity…will you please just go to sleep, Harry."  He said through gritted teeth. 

"Yeah… alright…. good night then."

Ron closed his eyes and finally went off to sleep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Five o'clock came too fast for Hermione.  An instructor that she was too groggy to recognize, came into the dormitory ringing a small bell that made a noise larger than Big Ben.  She climbed out of bed and grabbed her wand out from under her pillow.  It was with great effort that she dragged herself to the lavatory.  I shouldn't have charmed those perfume bottles to hold so much fucking whiskey.  Hermione sighed as she splashed cold water on her face, before performing a quick sobering up charm on herself.  That's a bit better, though I still feel slightly sick to my stomach.

"Hurry up and get your sweats on and then get your arses to the gym located in room 119!  You got ten minutes-move it!"

I forgot about physical training being so early in the damn morning!  Hermione groaned as she ran back to her bed and pulled her bag out from underneath.  Rummaging through it, she pulled out a sweat shirt and pants, along with a pair of socks and trainers.  As bad she was feeling, she was determined to get through physical training no matter what.

~*~*~**~*~*~*~

The men were roused in the same matter.  Ron shot up out of bed, "What the fuck is going on?"

David smiled dangerously at him as he rang the bell once more.  "Physical training is what's going on!  Get your sweats on and get your lazy arses to room 119!  You got ten minutes!"  He laughed as he walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

"I'd sure like to shove that bell up his arse!"  Ron yawned and rubbed his eyes before retrieving his bag from underneath the bed. 

Harry slowly climbed out of his bed and groaned.  "I don't know how well I'll do this morning as every muscle in my bloody body aches."  He rubbed his neck wearily.  "Bloody hell but my neck is stiff as a damn board!"

Ron shrugged as he pulled his pajama top off and quickly put on a garish orange Chuddley Cannon's sweatshirt.  "I suppose you could have pulled something fighting off all those snakes last night."  He rolled his eyes and pulled off his pajama bottoms, changing into a pair of orange sweat pants. 

"I expect you're probably right." 

Ron pulled his socks on and then slipped into his trainers.  "I'll meet you at the gym then?"

"Yeah, I'll be along in a minute…or two."

Ron purposely patted him roughly on his back, causing Harry to wince in pain.  "See you there, mate."  He ran down the steps and out the door, followed by three other Aurors.  Within minutes, they had arrived at the door to the gym and walked in. 

Flannigan was standing nearby dressed in a neon purple sweatshirt and yellow shorts that were far too tight.  Finishing off the hideous look, were long green socks and red trainers.  He smiled as Ron looked him up and down in disbelief.  "Borrowed my clothes from a woman I was shagging last week."

"Damn but those are some tight shorts you're wearing there, mate.  Won't that make physical training difficult?"

"Nah!  Besides, I'm not wearing any underwear and I kind of like how it feels down there when I move a certain way."

Shaking his head, he stared across the room and caught sight of Hermione standing by a set of wooden bleachers.  "Excuse me."  Ron walked over to her.  She didn't acknowledge him in the least and stared aimlessly across the room.  "Good morning, Hermione."

"Morning."

"You're looking a bit tired-too early for you?"

"No!"  Hermione said defensively.

"If you say so."  Ron folded his arms and noticed that she was looking white as a ghost.  "You sure you're alright?"

She whipped her head around.  "I'm fine!"

"Look, you don't have to bite my head off.  I'm just concerned.  You look a bit pale."

"Well, there's no need to be concerned as I'm perfectly fine."  They stood in silence and watched as Harry ambled toward them, looking like a robot as he moved.   "What the hell is the matter with you?"

"I had to physically fight off dozens of vicious snakes last night and it took a toll on my body."

Hermione burst out laughing.  "Really?"

"Yes, really!  You try fighting off a bunch of nasty serpents and see how you feel!" 

Hermione turned to Ron.  "Did he really fight off a bunch of snakes?" 

"He sure did and made an awful mess up in the men's dormitory in the process."

She laughed harder.  "Oh, that's the funniest thing I've heard in ages!"  Hermione began to howl in laughter.  "You actually fought off imaginary snakes?  That's bloody brilliant!"

Harry frowned at her as Ron was finding it hard to keep a straight face himself.  "For your information, I was attacked by no less than four anacondas and two Basilisks!  I barely made it out alive!"

 "But there were no snakes, Harry.  I hit you with a hallucination charm and you just thought you were seeing snakes!"  Ron could no longer contain himself and started to laugh right along with Hermione.  She struggled to catch her breath and held her stomach.  "Oh my sides are aching from laughing so hard!  Shite but I wish I could have been there."

"It wasn't funny and I assure you those snakes were real, dammit!  Thankfully they were no match for me and snake carcasses littered the floor when I was through with them!"

Hermione roared with laughter.  "Stop!  Oh, just stop!  Don't say another word or else I'll pee on myself!"

Harry scowled at her.  "Fuck you, Hermione!"  He then shot Ron a look of great disdain.  "And fuck you too, Ron!"  The pair of them chuckled heartedly, making him even madder.  Still moving like a robot, he stomped slowly to the other side of the room.  Once there, he turned and glared at them a moment before giving them the finger. 

Hermione wiped her eyes.  "He truly believes they were real, doesn’t he?"

"Yep, and I don't think anyone is ever going to convince him that they weren't real."   Ron sighed and grinned down at Hermione.  "You know it's nice to hear you laughing again.  I've missed that."

"I laugh."  She shrugged as her face began to grow serious once more.

Ron didn't say anything else as they waited in silence for the instructor to arrive.  For a moment she had shown him that his Hermione was still in there somewhere.  He didn't want to argue with her and ruin the overwhelming feeling that was hope.     

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello All!

  Yeah, this has taken awhile to post. SO incredibly sorry for that. (circumstances beyond my control-I assure you.) I am almost done with the next chapter and I hope you all enjoy this one. In regards to our boy and girl, I think I'm ready to get the ball rolling now. *winks*  

Much love!

Tammy (>:

And a/n to Lilly: I know something in this chapter doesn't line up with the one I sent you, but I sort of changed my mind about something. I hope you enjoy it, dear. (>:  


Chapter 27 "I'll Show You Mine, If You Show Me Yours"

Physical training had been a piece of cake for Ron, but unfortunately it had taken its toll on Harry. On the way back to their dorms, Ron noticed he looked a bit green around the gills. "You alright there, mate?" Harry refused to talk to him. Ron knew part of it had to do with the fact that he and Hermione had laughed at Harry over the snake incident, but he was sure that Harry was also avoiding conversation to allow his breathing to return to normal and he probably deserved the frown he received in response.

After they showered and changed, Harry lay down on his bed apparently unashamed to moan in apparent agony. Seeing his best friend in such a pathetic state, Ron began to feel a bit guilty for his earlier behavior. "Look, Harry I'm sorry I laughed at you earlier." He sighed as Harry didn't respond and draped his arm dramatically over his eyes. "Well, it's obvious that you're in no shape to attend any classes today. Can you think of anything I could tell them to cover your arse?"

"No." Harry removed his arm and sat up slowly, grimacing in pain as he did. "It’s not like I don’t ever work out…” Harry began to retort and Ron nodded agreeably, “…but I’m just not used to this level, I guess. The reality is, is that I am going to have to grit my teeth and just bloody do it." He picked up his glasses off the nightstand and put them on. "It's times like this I wish Voldemort would kill me all over again." He smiled and took a deep breath. "That hour was the most at peace I had ever been in my life."

“Don’t say that…it was the worst hour of mine and I’d rather not remember it again.”

Harry gave him a hard, understanding stare and finally shifted his eyes away from his mate, trying to push the memory aside.

Ron fished a piece of parchment out of his pocket. "We have two hours of combat training this morning after breakfast."

"Brilliant." Harry said sarcastically, grimacing as he stretched his legs.

Ron scratched his head and frowned. "I have no bloody clue what the next course is about exactly."

"What's it called?"

"Dramatic Play."

"But we're Aurors, not actors for pity's sake."

"It lasts an hour and then we go to lunch." Ron shoved the parchment back into his pocket and ran his hand through his hair. "The worst news is that we have two hours of Potions afterwards."

Harry eyes went wide in shock and he bolted up. "TWO HOURS!” Then he realized the error of putting sudden weight on his seized up muscles and sat back down, rubbing his calf. “Bloody hell! It's like they're purposely giving people extra time to try and burn the building down or something."

Ron leaned in and whispered to him, "Don't worry-I got our arses covered. You just sit back and follow my lead in Potions class today." Harry’s look was anything but assured.

~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~

Upon entering the Combat Training room, Hermione spotted Ron and Harry sitting in the front row. There was a vacant desk between them and she knew it was obvious they were saving it for her. She rolled her eyes and begrudgingly sat down between them. "Sorry we missed you at breakfast, Hermione."

She looked at Harry suspiciously. "You're awfully chipper. I thought you'd still be angry with me."

He shrugged. "I'm not one to hold grudges."

"Right." She turned to her right and saw Ron was staring at her intently. "What?"

"Nothing." He cleared his throat and began to look around the room. "This is quite a set-up they have, eh?" He pointed to the other side of the room where mats were lying all about. There were also shelves lining the walls filled with various magical objects an Auror would use in different situations. "It kind of reminds me of the Room of Requirement when we were in the DA."

"I suppose." Hermione turned her attention back to the front of the room as a very small man-not more than five foot, approached the podium.

He was an old man, his hair completely gray. He wore thick glasses that made his eyes appear larger than they really were. "I am Max Meeger, former highly decorated Auror, retired Shadow and a master combat specialist." His voice was high pitched, causing both Harry and Ron to try and stifle their giggles. "This morning you will be paired up with a partner. I will then be asking each of you to show me various techniques with your wands, along with various physical moves against your partner." Max reached his hand up and scratched his nose before continuing. "I will be walking around to each pair, evaluating how well you can perform the specific task or move that I ask you to perform."

"We'll begin by separating you into partners." He came around the podium, carrying a small red hat. "I will have each of you draw out a piece of parchment that has a color on it from this hat. After all the parchments have been drawn, I want you to go and search for the person that has the same color and choose a mat on the other side of the room. Any questions?" He stared around for a moment before stopping at Harry's desk. "Very well, let us begin."

Harry drew out a piece of parchment, then Hermione and Ron. As Max moved onto the second row, Harry held his parchment up to them. "I have yellow. What did you two get?"

"Orange." Hermione replied.

Ron began to chuckle. "Looks like I'm your partner, Hermione."

"Brilliant." She said, sounding annoyed.

"I just hope to hell I don't get saddled with Flannigan!" Harry looked up toward the ceiling. "Please, please not Flannigan!"

"All parchments have been drawn. Find your partner and head over to the mats now."

"Who the hell has yellow?" Flannigan bellowed from the back of the room.

"Bloody hell! One of you needs to trade me-please!" Harry begged.

Hermione smiled at him and shook her head. "If it was anybody else, I would." She stood up and patted him on the shoulder. "Good luck!"

As Hermione walked towards one of the mats, Ron stood up and whispered over to him. "Sorry, mate but you know the situation I'm in. I need to get closer to her."

"Maybe I can find somebody who'll trade colors with me."

Ron grinned at him before calling out. "Harry has yellow, Flannigan!"

Harry frowned at him and hissed, "Arsehole!" Ron winked at him as he walked over to where Hermione was standing.

Flannigan stopped right in front of Harry's desk and smiled wide. "It looks like it's me and the snake charmer, eh?" He rubbed his hands together, looking quite excited. "Come on lad and show me what you got!"

Harry stood up and swallowed hard. "I can hardly wait."

~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~

Meeger first went and wrote the names down of each pair of partners in a book of parchment. The spells and hexes that Meeger had asked them to perform on one another for the first hour had been simple. Flannigan and Harry had taken the mat beside Ron and Hermione. "Stupify me again, Potter! That rather tickled!" Flannigan's eyes were wild looking as he was clearly enjoying himself. Harry, on the other hand, did not trust Flannigan. He asked Meeger again and again –with no success- if he could switch partners because he was seriously scared that Flannigan might accidentally kill him.

"We are now going to move onto Legilimency. Those who have mastered Occlumency should have no problems what so ever. Full marks to those who can keep the other from seeing their thoughts."

Hermione, who knew how to perform Occlumency perfectly, smiled when she saw how worried Ron looked all of a sudden. "You can go first." She folded her arms and waited. "Well? Anytime today, Ron."

"You go first, Hermione."

She knew he didn't have a clue about either of these disciplines. Smirking, she also knew he was waiting for her to show him how to do it. "Fine." Hermione pointed her wand at him and could have easily performed the spell nonverbally. At the last second, she decided not to, wanting to show how she could block him. "Legilimens!"

Hermione saw a woman that she didn't know, mewing in delight as Ron pumped into her. The memory evaporated, and she saw another woman lying underneath him as they made love. Then that memory faded and she saw yet another woman he was pleasuring. "STOP!" He suddenly shouted to her.

The images she saw had sickened and angered her, yet it was the images she had summoned on purpose. She wanted to see them to remind her and him why she never wanted to be together again. A sudden strong need to seek revenge, she waited for Ron to perform the spell on her, deciding that instead of blocking him, she'd show him exactly how his actions had hurt her.

Ron pointed his wand at her and shouted, "Legilimens!" Blocking everything else out to his mind, she latched onto one memory and pulled that to the forefront o f her mind for him to see. The memory was one of right after she'd found out he'd married Shannon. Hermione was staring at herself in a full length mirror, an empty bottle of whiskey dangling from her hand.

"Why would he do that to me…to us? Will he ever know how much he broke my heart?" She said to her reflection. Taking a deep breath, she screamed at the top of her lungs, "I FUCKING HATE YOU RONALD WEASLEY!" Hermione took a step back and smashed the mirror to pieces with the bottle.

Ron gasped and lowered his wand. He had a pained expression on his face as she stared coldly at him on purpose. Ron walked right up to her and said in a low voice, "I know you're an expert at Occlumency and could have shown me nothing. You wanted me to see that memory, didn't you?"

Frankly, she was amazed at how calm he sounded, almost sad even. Somehow, she managed to sound harsh when she replied, "Yes, I did."

Ron nodded. "I want you to give me a minute to focus and then I want you to take a look at one particular memory." His eyes watered slightly. "I need you to understand what happened. I keep waiting for the right time to explain things." He hastily wiped his eyes. "I want to show you before I lose my nerve." Hermione looked on as he turned and walked back. She didn't have a clue what he was talking about and frankly didn't care. Facing her once more, he closed his eyes for a moment before opening them and taking a deep breath. "Alright, I'm ready."

Hermione took aim with her wand and this time did the spell nonverbally. Horrible images began to fill her mind from Ron's mission. She saw the masked men using the Imperious curse. Every sickening detail from the rape to the murders was revealed to her in flashes of memories ran together like she was watching a horror film. It was then that she could feel the bile rising up in her throat and quickly broke the spell. Clutching her stomach, she stooped over and couldn't stop the vomit from coming.

Ron was at her side in a flash, trying to hold her hair back from out of her face. "It's alright."

The others had stopped the exercise as Max hurried over. "What's going on here?"

"She had a stomach ache this morning…I suppose she might have a bug or something," Ron lied.

"Take her to the infirmary down the hallway and let them have a look at her."

"No! No, I'm alright." Hermione lifted her head. She could feel the sweat on her forehead and upper lip and hastily wiped her face off with the sleeve of her robes. "I'll just clean this up and continue. I'm terribly sorry, sir."

Meeger sighed. "After you clean it up, I still insist you go to the infirmary and let them check you out. miss."

"But going to the infirmary could ruin my final scores!" Hermione protested.

"Nonsense, as I know that you know both Legilimency and Occlumency." He leaned in closer and whispered. "I know you were showing him a certain memory and blocking out the others for I'm a gifted Occlumens myself." He pointed toward the door. "Now go! Weasley, go and make sure she does indeed go straight to the infirmary! "

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"You haven't said a word about what you saw, Hermione." Ron said as he walked beside her towards the infirmary. Her silence wasn't what he expected when she saw his memory of his real life nightmare. "Please say something."

She stopped just outside the door of the infirmary and looked up at him. "Honestly, I really don't know what to say right now. I just don't understand why you didn't tell me when you got back. Why on earth would you keep something like that from me of all people?"

Ron stuffed his hands in his pockets, working to get past the hesitance in his response. "I wasn't thinking clearly at the time and…” he let out a breath and tried to regroup. “I was so ashamed of myself and what I had done,” he said looking down as his feet twisted against the concrete floor. “Truth is, the guilt has never gone away." He sighed. "I don't think it ever will go away, really."

Hermione bit her lip. "I still can't understand why you just wouldn't have told me to begin with. Did you not trust me enough to know that I would have stood behind you, no matter what you were forced to do?"

Ron squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, knowing what he was about to say would be either a breakthrough moment or just another crushing defeat. He couldn’t look up for fear of her expression. "Truth is, I loved you too much to tell you the truth and I didn't want to hurt you."

Hermione's voice rose slightly. "But you did end up hurting me, didn't you?"

"Yes… I did." Ron reached across and took her hand in his, his eyes lifting just far enough to admire how soft and small they seemed and how much he loved seeing it in his. Surprising him, she didn't resist and merely bowed her head. He finally lifted his head and swallowed roughly realizing their proximity and the quiet of the hallway. "Why don't we meet later and talk more on this. I'll tell you anything you want to know." When she shrugged, he let go of one her hands and gently raised her chin up so she'd have to look at him. Her eyes wandered, but finally met his and at that same moment he was sure his heart skipped a beat. "I want you to trust me again, Hermione. Please say you'll meet me later and let's start to try and fix things between us.” The truth of his next statement hit him so hard, he had to swallow down a lump and blink rapidly to keep himself in check. “I miss you so much."

Her voice was soft; almost a whisper and he could see her own eyes glassing up. "Irreparable damage has already been done."

Ron frowned, not liking what he was hearing one bit. "I don't believe that for one minute. We have known each other since we were children and have been through so much together." He moved his hand from her chin and ran his thumb back and forth along her jaw. "I swear on my mother's life that I am trying to change for the better. I want you back in my life, Hermione. I want that more than anything in the world. "

She shook her head and blinked just like him, trying to keep the emotions at bay. "It's not just about you. There is so much that I've…" Hermione stopped, seeming to struggle for the right words. "I think it's better for the both of us if we just went on with our lives…alone."

"You're wrong." Ron closed his eyes a minute and sighed. "Meet me tonight outside the dorms after dinner and we'll go find a quiet place to talk about all this."

Hermione removed her hand from his. "Let me think about it. I really need to get inside the infirmary and you need to get back to class."

She turned to leave, but Ron hastily grabbed her hand to stop her. "Be there tonight, alright?" Hermione didn't respond and simply opened the door to the infirmary, closing it behind her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Dramatic Play" was the most bizarre class Ron had ever attended. According to the very hot instructor, Faith Williams, a Shadow needed to learn how to be an actor in order to survive. "Though Shadows are considered darn clever and deadly, it is their ability to literally blend in with their surroundings that makes them the most successful." Faith pulled out a flask from her bag and took a swig. "As a Shadow myself, there have been several times that being completely in character most assuredly saved my arse."

The pretty blonde witch was sitting down atop a large desk in the front of the room. She opened her bag again and pulled out a fancy cigarette case, along with a lighter. "Always remember to stay in character every second of the day." She lit a cigarette and took a long drag. "There will always be somebody waiting and watching for you to let your guard down. Don't do it!" She smiled at Harry and winked.

Harry leaned over towards Ron. "Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"She winked at me is what!"

Ron rolled his eyes and lowered his voice. "A pretty woman like that? Sure she did, mate."

"I know what I saw, arsehole."

"There may be times you'll be forced to sleep with a Death Eater." A collective sound of gasps filled the room. Faith chuckled. "It isn't always as bad as it sounds. Some of them are actually damn good looking!" She took a hit off her cigarette and her expression grew more serious. "You need to understand that there are times you have to do what you have to do. It doesn't matter if it's moral or right. If what you do takes down the bad guys, then you have done your job."

She hiccupped and smiled. "Now for some role playing!" Faith scanned the classroom and pointed at Harry. "You there!" Harry pointed to himself and shrugged. "Yes you! Come on up here!"

Harry gave Ron a smug look. "See, I told you so!" He walked up to where she sat and began to cough violently.

"What's the matter? My cigarette smoke bothering you?"

"No, it's fine." He coughed again.

"For this scenario, we are going to pretend that I am a Death Eater whore who thinks this bloke is up to something." She hopped up off the desk and spread her arms out dramatically. "Act as if this is a brothel full of Death Eaters and other scum." She looked at Harry. "What's your name?"

"Harry."

"Harry here is trying to infiltrate a Death Eater sleeper cell. While one of the Death Eaters is getting serviced by yours truly, Harry here is going to try and dig in his discarded robes for any evidence."

"What, would I be in the same room with you or something?" Harry said, sounding stunned.

"You'll find that a lot of brothels out there are nothing but a giant orgy." She dropped her cigarette butt to the ground, smashing it with her shoe. Faith dug in her bag once more, pulling out a set of robes. "Now, I'm going to lay this on the desk and I want you to try and act like you're snooping in the pockets. Got it?"

Harry nodded and began to run his hand into one of the pockets when he suddenly froze and gasped. "What are you doing?" Faith had grabbed him by the crotch, smiling sweetly at him.

"I think the question is- is what are you doing?"

"I thought I was helping out in a demonstration and instead I'm getting molested!' Harry removed her hand from his crotch. "I'll ask you to keep your hands off my private bits, thank you very much."

Faith shook her head. "You need to play along. Now, think of what you could say or do to cover your arse."

"I'd simply tell her that I liked the bloke's robes, so I wanted to check the label to see where he bought them from."

Obviously back in character, Faith replied, "I don't buy that for one minute." She pouted. "I'd hate to go to tell Mr. 'so and so' that you were searching his pockets." She began to grind up against him, making Harry stumble backwards until his arse was pressed right into the desk. "I don't think he'd be too happy about it, you know." Faith wrapped one of her legs tightly around his calf. "Of course there is something you could do for me if you wanted to buy my silence." Smiling, she leaned her head forward.

As soon as Faith's lips touched Harry's, he completely lost it. "NO! Get off me!" Harry shoved her backwards, making Faith fall back like a tree being cut by a lumberjack. He stood over her, wand in hand, moving his arms wildly as he spoke. "I am not your plaything! For pity sakes you're a woman and you should know that no means bloody no!" The room erupted in giggles.

Groaning, Faith sat up. "You're not going to last long out there being frigid like that." She gestured with her head toward his desk. "Please just go and sit down."

Harry, nose in the air, promptly stomped back over to his desk and sat down. He whispered over to Ron and Hermione. "That was completely rude!"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "She's right, you know."

"I'm not frigid! I just don't like women touching me unless they have red hair and wear a sweater with a large 'g' on it!"

Hermione raised her voice slightly. "I'm not referring to you being frigid-you idiot! I'm talking about that if you aren't willing to play along and do whatever you need to do, you'll just end up getting yourself killed!"

"Well said there, miss!" Faith called out. Holding the small of her back, she crept over to the chair behind the desk and sat down. "Come on up here, Miss…?"

"Granger. Hermione Granger." Hermione stood up and walked over to the front of the desk.

"Do you think you could do better than our frigid friend sitting over there?"

Harry scowled at her as she smiled smugly back at him. "Definitely."

"You there in the front row with the ginger hair- come on up here." Ron walked up and stood by Hermione, looking uncomfortable. "Same scenario, but this time Hermione will be searching the pockets of the robes while…" She looked at Ron.

"Oh, um Ron."

"While Ron here catches you at it. What are you going to do to make sure you keep your identity secret and most importantly-survive?"

Hermione took a deep breath and turned around. She began to check the pockets of the robes like Harry did. Ron stood there for a few minutes just watching her. He ran his hand through his hair and piped up, "Excuse me, miss."

Hermione turned around. "Yes?"

"I couldn't help but notice that you're searching my friend's robes."

She looked at him coyly. "Whatever do you mean? I wouldn't do any such thing."

Ron folded his arms, deciding to play along. "Don't give me that! Who are you working for?"

"Why, I'm not working for anybody. I'm on your side."

Ron unfolded his arms and stepped forward. He placed his arms on either side of her, trapping Hermione. "Personally, I think you are up to something." He looked her body up and down, licking his lips. "But I'm willing to act like I didn't see anything for a price."

Hermione hesitated for a moment before speaking up. "I'm willing to do anything you ask if you let me get a look in his robes." She hopped up on top of the desk and wrapped her hands around his neck, pulling him closer. With her lips just inches from his, she said in a low voice, "And I assure you I can do anything you want me to do."

It was too much. Ron hungrily devoured her lips, moaning as he did so. He pressed his tongue to her lips and Hermione opened them for him. As his tongue plundered her mouth, his hand moved to the back of her head, holding her there as he continued to kiss her.

"Ahem!" They ignored Faith and continued to kiss. "AHEM! Hey you two!"

Ron and Hermione broke apart. They were both breathless and stared intently at each other. Ron backed off as if he were in slow motion. After a few minutes, Hermione hopped down off the desk and brushed off her robes. Ron didn't miss the blush on her cheeks and couldn't help but smile.

"You can both go and sit down now, thank you. Let's give a round of applause!" The others clapped as Ron and Hermione walked over and took their seats. "Who do you think had the upper hand in this situation?"

As Faith called on students to answer, Ron whispered to Hermione. "You alright?"

She didn't look at him and instead was fussing unnecessarily with a frayed string on her robes. "I'm fine-why wouldn't I be." Harry was grinning at the two of them like a Cheshire cat and couldn't stifle a chuckle. "What the hell are you so damn happy about?"

"Nothing." Harry winked at Ron and Hermione didn't miss it.

"Why are you winking at Ron?"

"No reason."

"We were simply acting out a scenario, so don't try reading more into this than what it really is, arsehole!"

Ron's heart sank a little. Yet, he knew he wasn't imagining how receptive she had been to the kiss, nor how she seemed as starry eyed as he was afterwards. Watching her try to rip off the stray thread once more, Ron grabbed her arm and used his wand to remove the bothersome thread.

"Thank you." Hermione replied, her voice completely monotone. She returned her attention to Harry, seeming to be itching for a fight. "At least Ron and I had the balls to actually go through with what we needed to do!"

Harry shrugged. "At least I was faithful to Ginny and that's all that matters."

~*~*~*~**~*~*~

Hermione was completely oblivious to who the other Aurors thought had the upper hand. She couldn't look at Ron, wanting the feelings of longing and lust to just go the hell away. Seeing the images in his mind on the mission that had ultimately destroyed their relationship had sickened her beyond all comprehension. Why hadn't he just told her? And why did go he and marry Shannon?

Worse still was the fact that he wanted to talk about it and work things out. It had almost been better to think he had left her for another woman. But now, she knew the truth. What Ron didn't know -and would never know- was that because of her activities for the past two years, she felt that her immoral actions had somehow surpassed his. Ron didn't have a choice, where she did. She didn't have to sleep with those other men and do underhanded things and yet she chose to do so.

There was also the fact that she was planning to get her revenge on David. I'm not that wholesome young girl anymore. If she could have cried, she would have. Yet, it just wasn't in her anymore to cry. I don't let things consume me like I used to. I have no tears left to shed. She looked over at Ron and sighed. He wanted to try and better himself, where she had given up on herself a long, long time ago. He was the reason she had spiraled so out of control and yet, now seeing his memories for herself, she realized that circumstances beyond his control had most likely chosen his path for him.

She knew she would end up talking to him tonight and get to the bottom of what had happened. However unfair it was, there was no way she would answer any questions he had for her. I don't want him to know everything…not now. It wasn't shame or even guilt. If she could put her finger on it, it was more like anger at herself. It was too late for her, plain and simple. She had made her bed and now…. she had to lie in it.

~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~

Ron and Harry sat down in the cafeteria, their trays loaded to the hilt with food. "Wonder where Hermione went off to?"

Ron shrugged. "I guess she wasn't hungry."

"That was quite a show the two of you put on in Dramatic Play." Harry took a sip of his Pumpkin Juice. "I bet you hope that class is on our schedule for the rest of the week, eh?" He waggled his eyebrows and picked up his roast beef sandwich.

"Actually things are a bit more complicated now." Ron popped a crisp into his mouth.

"I'll say!"

"It's not in the way you think. I let her see my memories of that mission back in Combat Training this morning." He sighed. "She knows what happened now…for the most part."

"Blimey!" Harry's eyes were wide as saucers as he took a bite off of his sandwich.

"I really hope it was the right thing to do. I asked her to meet me tonight, so we can hash things out. Problem is I don't know if she'll show up or not." He picked up his fork and dove half-heartedly into his Sheppard's Pie.

"Well, I think you're going about this in the right direction at least."

"I sure the hell hope so."

After lunch, Ron and Harry walked slowly over to the classroom for Potions. Much to Ron's annoyance, Harry was acting like a complete nervous wreck. "Bloody hell but this time we're getting evaluated. We are so beyond fucked."

"Will you please stop acting like a 'nervous nelly' and settle down. I already told you I got it handled."

"It's a two hour class….what kind of potion takes two hours to make for pity sakes? I can't even whip up a simple potion that takes ten minutes to make."

Aggravated, Ron barked at him, "Will you please just shut it! For the hundredth millionth time- I have a plan to save our arses!"

Harry scowled at him for a moment. "What is this plan of yours about anyway?"

Ron wasn't about to tell him as he knew how Harry felt about stealing. "Never you mind. Like I said before, all you have to is sit there and let me handle it."

"But what if the instructor sees me doing nothing and chucks me out?"

"Fine-correction-I'll tell you what to do." They stopped just right outside the classroom. Ron put his hand on Harry's shoulder and pointed at him accusingly with his finger. "I want this to be very clear-you are not to touch, pour or cut anything, unless I give you permission to do so first! It is beyond critical that we make it through the next two hours-understand?"

"Yes." Harry took a deep breath as Ron backed off. "Still, I wish you'd fill me in on what you're up to so we could be on the same page."

"Trust me when I tell you mate that it's better that you don't know." He opened the door to the classroom and ushered Harry in. "You just do exactly as I tell you." Ron warned him one last time as they walked over to a vacant table with two chairs.

On top of the small round table set several small bottles of various colors of liquids, plus a set of scales, roots and hand tools. Harry was just about to pick up the bottle containing a deep violet liquid when Ron slapped his hand. "Hey!"

"You dare try and touch anything again and I'll chop your hand clean off!" Ron casually looked around the room and frowned. "Where the hell is Hermione at?"

Harry was rubbing his hand and staring daggers at him. "I wasn't going to do anything but look at it, Ron!"

He rolled his eyes and stared down at his watch. "Class is about to start. Surely she would never ever think of being late for a class?" He's was growing worried and was about to leave and try to find her, when she stepped in. He watched her as she walked quickly over to one of the vacant tables on the other side of the room and took a seat.

Something about the way she was acting seemed off to him. Her head was bowed and he noticed that she was continuously wringing her hands. She's looks nervous about something. Ron was just about to walk over and ask her if she was alright when Marigold Stem took the podium.

"Good afternoon. As noted on the board," she pointed to it, "you will be working in pairs today. Each pair will be responsible for creating the potion I assign. You will each receive the same amount of points. With-"

Flannigan bolted into the room, his eyes wild. "Bloody hell, sorry that I'm late, miss."

Marigold nodded. "Find a seat Mr. Flumes and please make an effort in the future to be on time." She cleared her throat as Flannigan sat down at the table where Hermione was. "Where was I? Oh…um today's assignment will be worth 150 points. It is to your advantage to get the full set of points as you must have 500 total in order to be considered a potential candidate."

"Before we get to potion making, I think it prudent of me to review potion making safety protocols." She looked directly at Ron and Harry as a pile of parchment flew off her desk toward the class. One sheet landed neatly on everybody's table "Rule number one…"

Harry whispered to him, "I feel like I'm in first year all over again."

Ron nodded as he stared once again in Hermione's direction. He could see Flannigan saying something to her. Hermione never raised her head up and gave a halfhearted shrug in response to whatever he had said. "Mr. Weasley!" Marigold shouted as she snapped her fingers.

"What?"

"Kindly pay attention, please!"

"Oh…um….right." As she continued to drone on, Ron couldn't help but to steal a glance every now and then at Hermione. What the hell is wrong with her? A half hour later instructor Stem finally finished going through the list of rules. And a half hour later, Hermione still had her head bowed and was wringing her hands together. "Harry, something isn't right about Hermione."

Harry looked over at her table and then back at him and shrugged. "She's probably worrying herself sick over the fact that she has Flannigan for a partner. I know if it were me, I'd want to impale myself on a sword or something."

"And now it's potion making time!" A cabinet along the wall opened and books began to fly out, landing quietly on each of the tables. "Please open your books to page 376." Marigold gave them a moment before continuing on. "On this page, you will find half of the instructions and half of the ingredients to make a really nasty potion called Hell's Fury. You will have an hour." She was just about to turn over an extremely large hour glass when a group of men dressed in the signature green emerald Shadow robes burst in. "What the devil?"

An older man, his head balding spoke up. "Excuse the interruption but something very serious has happened." His expression was grave as he looked around the room. "I'm afraid that an Auror has been found murdered in the women's lavatory just down the hall." There were several gasps as he continued on. "This entire floor will be thoroughly searched for clues by an Auror squad at this time. The Shadows will also be involved in trying to track down who's responsible. We need you all to return to your dorms and remain there until we give you the all clear." He pointed to the other Shadows. "They will lead you there and will be posted outside your dorms until we get this all squared away."

The Shadows leading, the Aurors stood up and began to file out of the room. Ron purposely waited for Hermione who lagged behind the others. As she walked past, Ron got in line behind her, bringing up the rear. As he was about to step out into the hall, he heard Marigold ask the older Shadow, "Who was it that was found dead?"

"David Langley."              

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello!

Thank you to daisymaeevans for her beta work! (She's such a sweetheart!) I hope you all enjoy this and sorry it's such a late update. 

XXX,

Tammy (>: 


Chapter 28 "A Game of Clue"

     David is the Auror who was found dead?  Ron followed after Hermione, feeling slightly dazed and confused.  And Hermione was acting rather…strange.  Starting to feel panicked, he sped up, walking beside her.  Hermione's arms were crossed tightly as if she were hanging on for dear life and her head still bowed.  "Do you know who it was they found dead?"  Ron whispered to her.

     Her head shot up and whipped around to face him.  "No, I don't.  Why would you think I'd know anything?" 

    Ron could see she was shaking slightly.  "Bloody hell, Hermione- you're trembling.  What's the matter?"

    "Nothing is the matter!  Just leave me alone, Ron."   She increased her pace, leaving him to walk alone behind her once more.

     He had a sinking suspicion that Hermione did know something about what had happened to David.  Ron had been an Auror long enough to know how to read people's reactions.  He couldn't help but feel like he'd been hit in the gut.  What if she was responsible for David's death?  Ron ran his hand through his hair and sighed.   Merlin, but I hope she had nothing to do with this.  (The way you had it is okay, I just thought this sounded a little cleaner.)

~*~*~*~*~**~~

     Hermione bolted up the stairs to the women's dormitory.  She sat down on her bed as the other witches sat around a table talking about the situation.  "I wonder who it was?" one of the witches asked as another piped up, "I can't believe an Auror would be killed right under the Shadows’ noses."

     Hermione retrieved her bag from underneath the bed.  The other witches paid her no mind as she walked slowly to the bathroom.  Opening one of the private bathrooms within, she walked in, closed the door and locked it.  Hermione dropped her bag to the floor and rubbed her forehead wearily.  Leaning back against the door, she held her hands out in front of her, staring at them intently. 

    She hurried over to the sink, turned on the faucet and picked up the bar of soap and washed her hands over and over again.

~*~*~*~*~**~*~

     "Good evening, director."

     "Good to see you, Charlie., he sighed.  "I wish it was under better circumstances."

     He nodded.  "What exactly was David doing here?"  Charlie leaned into the director.  "And why are the Shadows involved?" 

    "David was put in charge of the training for the Shadows for the week."

    Charlie frowned.  "But he wasn't a Shadow.  Why the hell would he be in charge of their training?"

    The director lowered his voice.  "Apparently there was some major shake-up that happened a few weeks back.  Rumor has it that several Shadows changed sides."  He gestured with his head towards an older looking man in green robes.  "Their director, Gene Hackman, is an old friend of mine.  He came to me a few weeks back and asked if the Aurors could possibly provide him with somebody who had strong organizational skills and could make sure that things ran smoothly.  I suggested David."  He sighed.  "And unfortunately, David took the job and is now dead."

    "You can be sure that his squad will do everything in their power to catch who did this, sir."

   "That's why I called on you all."  He began to walk towards the women's bathroom.  "Let me show you the crime scene.  I warn you, it isn't pretty."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

      Hermione turned off the water and dried her hands once more.  No matter how much she tried to wash them, she couldn't get her hands to feel clean.  She walked back to where she had dropped her bag and sank down to the floor.  Still shaking, she took out several small bottles of Fire Whiskey she had cleverly disguised as perfume bottles.  This will make it better. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

     Charlie entered the bathroom to find several members of his squad searching the room.  A coroner from St. Mungos, who Charlie knew, was kneeling on the floor by David's body.  "Do know what the cause of death was, Mary?"

    She looked up at him and shrugged.  "My preliminary findings indicate that he didn't die from a curse."  Mary pointed to his neck.  "Have a look at this."

   Charlie knelt down, shuddering slightly as he looked upon David's face.  His eyes were wide open and glazed over and he was white as a sheet.  Charlie looked at his neck and saw what looked to be handprints left on the skin of his neck.   "Are those handprints?"

    "Yep.  Notice how small they are?  It could possibly be the handprints of a man small in stature but frankly, I think the perpetrator you're looking for is a woman.  Furthermore, the broken blood vessels that are in his eyes supports my theory of how I think he died."

    A woman.  Instantly, for whatever reason, Hermione's face popped into his head.  Charlie knew she was here training.  But would she really do something like this?   He cleared his throat and stood back up.  "Take the body to St. Mungos and keep me informed of anything else you find."  Mary nodded.  Charlie began surveying the floor.  "Has anyone found his wand?"

   One of the squad members, who was taking pictures of the scorch marks along the wall, spoke up, "Yeah.  Hailey took it to Headquarters for a full inspection.  She said she'd be back as soon as she got the results."

     "Has anyone found anything else of interest?"

     Todd, a tall, lanky blonde fellow held up a piece of parchment.  "All we found so far was this."  He stepped closer to Charlie and handed it over to him.  "It looks like some sort of schedule."

     "Who would be carrying a schedule around?" he asked aloud to nobody in particular. It took him all of two seconds to figure it out on his own, his eyes going wide in realization.  "I think I should interview the Aurors in Shadow training."  Charlie walked out of the bathroom and over to Gene Hackman.  "I need to speak individually to the Aurors in training."

    "Very well.  There's a classroom down near their dormitories you can use.  Follow me."   He began to walk towards the dormitories with Charlie following closely behind.

    "Sir."

   Gene turned around.  "Yes?"

   "I'll need to interview the women first."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Hermione felt much better.  She dumped the last empty bottle back into her bag and smiled.  Fire Whiskey is the greatest invention ever.  Giggling as she stood up, Hermione wasn't completely pissed, but pretty close to it.  Walking back into the dormitory, she saw that the other women were still discussing what had happened.  Rolling her eyes, she arrived at her bed, stuffing her bag underneath, before sitting down. 

    There was a knock at the door and one of the Shadows, a clipboard in hand, entered.  "Your attention please!"  The four other witches stood up from the table and came closer.  "The Aurors have requested to interview each of you individually.  They have also requested that you each bring a copy of the training schedule that was handed out the first day.  Your cooperation in this matter will be most appreciated.  You will be interviewed in alphabetical order."  He looked down at his clipboard.  "Amandra Cooper, you will go first.  Come with me.  I'll be back for the next person momentarily."

    As the Shadow closed the door, Hermione's happy mood evaporated immediately.  You must keep it together.  She took a deep breath and glanced at the nightstand, where a copy of The Daily Prophet was lying.  I need a distraction.  Damn but I should have drank more.  "Excuse me!"  The witches turned and looked at her.  "I don't know who this newspaper belongs to and wondered if I could have a look at it."

   One of the witches shrugged.  "It's mine.  I don't care if you read it."

    "Thank you."  Grabbing the paper, she sat back against the headboard of the bed and began to try and read.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Charlie had so far interviewed two of the female Aurors.  They obviously had no involvement and had tried in vain to get him to divulge more information on what had happened.  He knew he was about to interview Hermione and felt his palms starting to grow wetter by the minute.  If she can show me her schedule, I'll have no physical evidence at the moment that could place her there. 

    The door opened and Hermione walked in.  Charlie, who was sitting behind a large desk, gestured to the lone seat just in the front of it.  "Hello Hermione!  Please come and have a seat."

    She sat down and smiled at him.  "It's nice to see you again, Charlie."

    "You as well."  He cleared his throat and fidgeted in his seat.  "Well, I guess we better get down to business.  You heard of course that an Auror had been found dead in the women's bathroom earlier?"

   "Yes."

   "Did you witness anything or know anything about what may have happened?"

    "Of course not."

    Charlie took a deep breath and lowered his voice.  "Look, Hermione I'm going to level with you.  The Auror they found dead on the bathroom floor was David."

    Her eyes went wide in apparent shock.  "Really?"

   "Yes really.  Please tell me you have your schedule on you as it's important."

    Hermione dug into the pockets of her robe and frowned.  "No, I…I don't."

    "Check them again!" 

    She stood up and placed her wand on the desk and then turned her pockets out.  "There's nothing in my pockets, Charlie!"  Hermione sat down with a huff.  "Why the hell is it so bloody important that I show you my schedule?"

    He moved a few pieces of parchment aside and held up the schedule Todd had found in the bathroom.  "It's important because we found this in the bathroom."

    "So?"

    Charlie was growing aggravated.  "So, it's possible that whoever did this accidentally dropped their schedule, Hermione."  He pounded his fist on the desk.  "Do you know how fucking serious this is?  If you're the only Auror without a schedule, it could place you at the fucking scene of the crime!"

    Hermione chuckled and rolled her eyes.  "Oh please!"

    "Don't sit there and laugh this off!  You could be in some major fucking hot water, do you understand?"

     "Did it ever occur to you that somebody could be trying to frame me, Charlie?  Not to mention that I have no idea how that schedule got there."  Hermione shook her head.  "Bloody hell but you can't even be certain that it's actually mine.  Circumstantial evidence doesn't make a solid case-you fucking know that as well as I do."

     Charlie lay down the schedule and folded his arms.  "We think it was a woman that killed him you know?"  She shrugged, looking bored even.  For some reason, he had the sudden strong urge to reach over the desk and slap her.    "You know I've seen a lot of dead bodies in my time but never one that had been strangled to death." 

     Hermione bit her lip.  "There's a first time for everything, I suppose."

     "The curious thing was…" He unfolded his arms and held his hands up, turning them up and down as he continued on.  "…that the impressions of the handprints of the person who choked him, were still visible upon his neck."

     "You don't say?"  For the first time, he noticed her demeanor beginning to change from smug confidence to slight worry.  

    "I wonder if the perpetrator's hands would actually line up perfectly with those handprints."  He smiled at her.  "What do you think?  Think it's possible to do that, Hermione?"

    "I didn't kill him, Charlie."

    "Prove it then-come with me to the coroner's office right now."

     She smiled at him.  "Fine." 

     Hermione picked up her wand and was about to put it back in her pocket when Charlie piped up.  "I think I better hold onto to that it you don't mind."

    "Why? Don't tell me you don't trust your former partner,"  she chuckled.

   "Let's just say I know how brilliant you are with magic.  Because of the seriousness of what happened and possible charges being brought against you, I need to be a hundred percent sure that you're being completely honest."  He also knew that if her hands matched up with the impressions on David's neck that her wand would have to be thoroughly examined. 

    Hermione shrugged and casually handed her wand over to him.  "When you find how completely wrong you are-don't forget that I told you so, alright?"

    Charlie called in one of the Shadows and asked that he go and get another member of his squad to take over the interviews.  As soon as the Shadow closed the door, he walked around the desk and stood next to her.  "Grab on."  Hermione lay her hand on his arm and Charlie Apparated them to the coroner's office at St. Mungos.  "Follow me."  He walked up to a desk where a young witch was busily writing on a notepad.  "Excuse me."

   "Yes, how can I help you?" 

   Charlie flashed his ID at her.  "I'm Charlie Weasley and am here on official Auror business. I need to speak to Mary about a case we're working on."

   "One moment."  The girl stood and walked through a door leading to the examination rooms.   A few minutes later, she returned.  "She said to go on back.  She's in examination room 3 on the right."

   "Thank you."  Hermione followed Charlie into the room. 

    Mary, clutching a clipboard in her hands, stood by the examination table where the body of David lay.  "Why Hermione this is a nice surprise-I didn't know you'd be coming with Charlie!"

   "It's nice to see you too, Mary."

   "Well, I suppose you two need me to debrief you on my findings?"

   "Actually, I was wondering if you could give us a moment first.  As you know, Hermione and I worked under David and well, we wanted to say our good-byes…um…. in private."

    "Oh, but of course.  You two take as long as you need and then come down to my office."

   Mary walked out, closing the door behind her.  "I suppose we best get on with it." Charlie lifted up the blanket, uncovering David from the shoulders up.  "Now, place your hands directly on top of those handprints around his neck."  Hermione hesitated for a moment before slowly doing as he asked.  His eyes widened as her hands were clearly larger than the impressions left on his pale skin.   "Blimey but they don't match up.  Thank goodness!"

   She quickly pulled her hands off David's ice cold neck and breathed a sigh of relief.  "See!"

   "I know, I know- you told me so."  Charlie started to chuckle.  "You don't know how bloody relieved I am right now."

   Actually, she was more relieved than he was at that moment.   Lucky for her, she had managed to do a quick engorgement charm on her hands when she had handed Charlie her wand.  "I think you owe me an apology, arsehole."  Hermione folded her arms and tapped her foot.

    Charlie covered David back up and sighed.  "I'm sorry, but you must understand I had to make sure."  He handed back her wand.  "Go and head back to Shadow training and I'm going to see if Mary found out anything useful.  Take care, Hermione."

    "You too, Charlie."  She looked on as he quickly exited the examination room.  She was about to Apparate away but, instead, walked to the doorway and looked up and down the hall.  Nobody was in sight and she shut the door.  Hermione walked to the table where David's body lay and pulled the blanket down, uncovering his face once more.  Taking a deep breath, she stared intently at him for a few moments before hastily pulling the cover back up.  "I hope you burn in hell for what you did to me."  Hermione bit her lip and Apparated away, desperately needing another drink.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Several hours later, the all clear was given.  It was nearly dinner time and much to Harry's relief, it was announced that potions was canceled for the day and the total needed points were going to be reduced.   Ron and Harry were walking down the stairs of the dormitory.  "Hell, but that nap I took, did me some good. And I am so bloody happy we don't have to go back to potions class tonight!  It's like my luck has changed all of a sudden."

   Ron managed a smile and shook his head.  "I suppose."  While Harry had been sleeping, he had been worrying about Hermione the whole time.  Charlie had shown up during his interview, asking the Auror questioning him to step outside while he had a word with his brother.  Charlie had told him everything that was going on, even his little side trip with Hermione.  He had also told Ron that the last five spells cast by David's wand had been a full body binding charm, a killing curse, another full body binding charm, ending with two cleansing charms. 

     Charlie said that for now, Hermione had been cleared from any involvement whatsoever.  Yet, they both agreed that the time of death as determined by the coroner still could put her under suspicion.  Hermione wasn't anywhere in sight during lunch, when the murder took place.  Charlie was also alarmed at how Ron had told him Hermione was acting during potions class.  Something didn't feel right, though neither Ron nor Charlie could prove anything.  Charlie told him he'd keep investigating and asked Ron to try and see if he could get Hermione to reveal anything about what she was doing during the time of David's death.  As no outside contact was allowed, Charlie said he'd return by the end of the week on the pretense of re-checking the bathroom for evidence.  He told Ron he'd find a way to try and talk to him then.

     Stepping out into the hallway, Ron and Harry walked towards the cafeteria.  Ron glanced over his shoulder and spotted the back of somebody familiar walking in the opposite direction.  "Shite I forgot my wand back up in the dorm.  Go on ahead and I'll catch up."

    "When it comes to food, I sure as hell wouldn't care if I had my wand on me or not.  I'll see you in the cafeteria, mate."

    Ron walked quickly, desperate to catch up to her.  "Hermione!"

    She stopped in her tracks and turned around.  "Yes?"

    "It's dinner time.  Why aren't you heading to the cafeteria with everybody else?"

    "What are you, the food police?"  she chuckled.  "If you must know, I'm waiting for it to clear the hell out as I fancy eating alone tonight."  She began to giggle and started to sway slightly to the left and right. 

    Ron could smell the whiskey on her breath.  "Bloody hell!"  He grabbed her arm and began to pull her toward the nearest vacant classrooms.

   "Hey!  You let go of my arm this instant, Ronald!"  Hermione tried to pull away, but he was stronger and she was drunk.  He entered a room and pulled her in, slamming and then locking the door with his wand behind them.   "What in the hell do you think you're doing?"

    Ron rounded on her.  "You're completely pissed!"

    "Am not!"

    "You're lying as I can smell it on your breath for pity sakes!  Not to mention you look to be having quite a bit of trouble trying to stand up straight."

    "So what if I'm pissed?"  She practically fell into a nearby chair and folded her arms, staring daggers at Ron.

    "You know you could get thrown out of here if you're caught drinking."  He arched his eyebrow at her.  "And exactly how the hell are you getting the whiskey anyway?"

    "I may have smuggled it in."  She shrugged.  "Are we through here?   I was on my way up to my dorm to masturbate in peace before you so rudely interrupted me."

    Ron could feel the blood rushing to his groin and cursed himself inwardly for allowing her words to make him grow hard.  He took a deep breath.  "No Hermione, I have a better idea."  He stepped forward with his wand and waved it front of her face.   Hermione slumped forward as he grabbed her by the shoulders, holding her up.  "Hermione?" 

     After a few moments, she lifted her head up, blinking a few times.  "What's going on?"

    "I just had to do a sobering up charm on you is what's going on.”  he sighed.  "Let me help you up and get you walking.  The charm works faster if you're moving around."

     "No!  No, I just want to sit here."  She rubbed her eyes with her fists.  "You…you  can go onto the cafeteria."

    "I could, but I think I'll go to the cafeteria when you go as I'm not leaving you here alone."  Using his wand, he levitated a chair from a few feet away, setting it down beside her.  He sat down in the chair and remembering his conversation with Charlie earlier, spoke up.  "You know, you can tell me anything at all, no matter how horrible and I would never judge you."

     She frowned at him.  "What do you mean?"

    "I'm just…I mean after what you saw of my memories, I just…I just wanted you to know that."  He ran his hand through his hair.  "I think we all do things that we aren't especially proud of and sometimes it helps to sort of get it all off your chest."

     Hermione chuckled slightly.  "You don't say?  Well, there are lots of things that you don't need to know, nor will you ever find out about, I'm afraid." 

     Seeing her growing defensive, Ron tried a different strategy.   I tell her what she wants to know and maybe she'll do the same for me.  "I told you earlier that you could ask me anything you wanted and I'd answer it.  I meant it."

     She stared at him for a few moments, as if working something out in her mind.  "Alright, I would like to know why you married Shannon.  You didn't know her very long and I know she was there on that mission with you.  Even though I was able to see your memories, sometimes they don't tell a person everything."

     "After what we did to her sister, I felt this overwhelming shame.  I wanted to set things right in some way and I wanted to show her I wasn't this horrible monster after all."  He shrugged.  "I suppose the short answer would be because I felt incredibly guilty and had this need to try and save her."

    "And yet, it was easy to turn your back on somebody you'd known since you were a child."

     He knew she was talking about herself.  "No, it was never easy.  You represented everything that was good in my life.  You were innocence, you were love, you were safety and you were happiness."  Ron swallowed hard.  "And at the time, I felt like I didn't deserve any of it after what I had done."  His eyes began to tear up and he hastily wiped them with the back of his hand.  "Do you know how much it has torn me apart to know that in trying to distance myself from what would have truly have made me happy, ended up hurting the person I loved the most?"

     Hermione was quiet for a moment.  Her voice was just above a whisper when she responded.  "I think it's safe to say that I haven't been all those things in a long, long time."  She bit her lip.  "It's been easier for me to forget and not to look back at what might have been."

     "I still love you no matter what." 

     Hermione sighed.  "No.  You're still in love with that girl you left for Shannon."

    "All I know is that there is only one Hermione Granger."  He could see the pain in her eyes clear as day.

    Hermione suddenly stood up.  "I think it's time I eat something.  Damn but I'm feeling a bit weak as I  haven't eaten a thing all day."

    Ron stood up.  "Harry and I missed you at lunch.  Where were you anyway?"

    "I was….um….I was busy."

    "Busy doing what?"

    "It's not important."  She walked over to the door and unlocked it with her wand.  "I sure hope they're serving Shepherd's Pie tonight."

     "Always was your favorite."  Accepting the fact that he wasn't probably going to get any answers tonight, Ron smiled and followed her out into the hallway.  He sensed that somehow he had been able to chip away somewhat at the cold exterior she had so carefully created.  Still, he couldn't help but believe that he had a long way to go.

~*~*~*~*~*~~*~

     Hermione woke up early on Friday morning, finding it hard to sleep with so much on her mind.  She had changed into her sweats and was sitting on her bed.  The room was totally dark with the only sound heard being the even breathing of the other female Auror that still remained.  Two witches had dropped out, thinking it immoral and disgusting to possibly have to ever sleep with a Death Eater to maintain their cover.  The other female was forced to leave last night, as it was apparent there was no way she'd have the points she needed to make the final cut.

    Hermione was positively shocked and a tad suspicious at how well Harry and Ron had done in Potions.  She had a feeling it was Ron who was doing something unethical as Harry seemed genuinely surprised that they had actually made a correct potion each and every time.  She had also been meeting up with Ron after dinner in one of the empty classrooms.  They talked mostly about his failed mission and little else.  Hermione wasn't ready to divulge much of anything about herself to him just yet.  Judging by Ron's demeanor, she knew it was aggravating him to no end.  Still, he didn't push her.

    Even feeling a tad better about their relationship, she didn't quite know how to learn to trust him again.  And she knew there was no way he'd ever look at her the same again if she revealed anything of what she had done when he left.  Hermione sighed and rubbed her eyes wearily.  For the first time in a long time she knew she was on her way to somehow forgiving Ron and that scared the hell out of her.  The anger and sadness he had caused her was what had pushed her over the edge and made her become the person she'd never thought of being in a thousand years.  Never in her wildest dreams did she think that she'd ever feel so conflicted on the inside.  She had carefully crafted a whole new Hermione and now was starting to wonder if she might have made the biggest mistake of her life.

     She looked up at the clock.  There was ten minutes left before the Shadows would come in ringing their loud bell to wake them up for physical training.  Her feelings about Ron weren't the only thing keeping her up at night.  As much as she tried to block it out, images of David's face as he was dying popped into her head over and over.   To overcome the guilt, she'd tell herself that she was justified in her actions.  After what he did…he deserved to die.  Hermione took a deep breath and nodded.  He did deserve it! He had no fucking right….the bastard.  The deep-seeded hatred for what David had done to her helped her to stay focused.  More importantly, the memories of what he did justified in her mind that she had been right in killing him.  Still, she knew she had to be careful and not to slip-up.  I sure as hell don't want to wind up in Azkaban for the rest of my life.  With a slight shudder, she got up and stood by the door, waiting for the Shadows to come barreling in.

~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~*~

   Physical training that morning was far more informal than those that had taken place previously.  The instructor told them to choose an activity of their choice.  As long as the remaining potential candidates- two women and four men- were exercising in some way, he was fine with it.   Hermione was in the corner of the room where boxing equipment was located, punching the shite out of a stuffed burlap bag suspended in the air by magic.  The other female Auror was running around the track with Flannigan on her heels.  Ron couldn't help but think the poor woman was actually trying to get away from him and that was why she was moving so fast.

   The other remaining male Auror was doing a series of stretches in the middle of the track. Ron and Harry decided to work with weights.  There had been seven men altogether when training started.  One had dropped out of the program the day after David had been found dead.  As for the two randy idiots that Hermione had met up with that first night, Ron had made sure early on that they wouldn't be around by the end of the week.  It was their potion that he switched Harry's and his with.  Much to his delight, they were sent packing late last night.

    Ron was bench pressing a considerable amount of weight, while Harry did curls with a set of dumbbells.  "I honestly can't believe that Flannigan is still around, you know?" 

    "Well, he is a complete lunatic.  And after some of the barmy training we had to do, I'm beginning to  think he probably should have become a Shadow a long time ago."  Ron set the bar up and sat up, wiping his forehead with a small towel.  "I think I've had enough weight training this morning."

    "Me too., Harry sighed and set the dumbbells down on the floor.

   "You're not even a breaking a sweat working out with those sissy dumbbells for pity sakes."

    "They are not sissy as you call them," Harry shrugged.  "I merely felt like taking it easy today."  He looked down at his watch.  "We got like ten minutes left.  What should we do now?"

     "What do you feel like doing?"

    "I don't know-that's why I asked you first, arsehole."  Harry rolled his eyes.

     "I got something we can all do, Potter!"  Flannigan was standing there grinning like a mad man.  He was wearing the same ridiculous outfit he had worn all week.  The only difference in his appearance this morning was that he had decided to put his hair into two ponytails.  "Since we only got a few minutes, how's about me, you and Weasley have a bit of a contest?"

    "What kind of contest?" Harry asked, sounding apprehensive.

     "Something that'll prove you’re a real man, Potter."

     Harry put his hands on his hips.  "As far as I'm concerned, I've already proved that I am a real man as you put it!  Last I heard it was Potter-not Flumes- that killed Voldemort, arsehole!"

    Flannigan smiled dangerously at him.  "Did you just call me an arsehole?"

    "Maybe."  Harry folded his arms, scowling at Flumes.  

   "Feeling braver all of a sudden are we lad?"  Harry shrugged and Ron could clearly see the beads of sweat appearing on his forehead .  There was a billowing silence for a few moments before Flannigan began to laugh heartily.  Flannigan's burst of laughter clearly scared the hell out of Harry who jumped slightly.  "Well, well, well I guess there is a heart of lion in you after all, eh?"       

    Flannigan looked him up and down for a moment before taking a small leap toward him.  "BOO!"  Reacting, Harry let out a scream before trying to turn and run.  He ended up tripping over his own feet and falling to the floor.   Flannigan was standing over him, laughing harder than ever.  "Oh but how I love to take the mickey out of you, lad!"

    Ron was trying and failing miserably to stifle his own laughter.  Clearly not amused, Harry stood up and brushed off his pants.  "Alright that's it!"  Harry pulled his wand from his pocket and began to wave it dramatically back and forth at them.  "I'm going to hex the shite out of both of you!  Which of you pricks wants to go first?"  Ron and Flannigan continued to laugh, causing Harry to grow more and more livid by the minute.  "I'm not fucking around this time!  We'll see who's laughing when I turn both your arses into a bloody chicken!” Harry warned.        

    Harry was forced to lower his wand when the instructor suddenly appeared beside them.  He waved the others over.  "Physical training is now over.  You may all return to your dormitories to shower and change."  The instructor cleared his throat before continuing on.  "Afterwards, you will report to the cafeteria for breakfast.  You are all to remain there until we have met with each of you individually."

    As the instructor walked away, Harry seemed to have been distracted from whatever he was planning to do to Ron and Flannigan.  "Bloody hell, I can hardly believe that today is the day."   They began to walk towards their dormitories.  "Are you nervous, mate?"

    Ron shrugged and sighed.  Truthfully he was a bit nervous, but wanted to keep it to himself just now.  "Nah.  I either made the cut or I didn't-simple as that."  He glanced back at Hermione who was walking alongside the other female Auror.  "I only hope that if Hermione made it then I'm in.  If she becomes a Shadow and I don't…well…I could lose her for forever and I don't want that."

   "And if you make it and she doesn't, then what are you going to do?"

   "Stay an Auror, I suppose."  Ron said matter-of-factly.  

   "But what if you can't go back?  What if you have to pledge your allegiance right then and there after  they interview you?"

    He hadn't really thought of that and could barely hide his agitation.  "Whatever happens, I'll figure it out, Harry."  He glanced back at Hermione one last time.  "Besides, this isn't about me…. it's about her.  Hermione is my number one priority and nothing else."                            

  

            

     

          

    

      

     

                            

                               

    

 

    

       

              

          

   

             

         

          

 

                    

          

      

  

         

        

    

            

                                

         

               

    

 

        

        

    

                             

     

              

    

    

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello All!

  Yes-I really am alive! (just incredibly snowed with R/L stuff right now.) I'd like to thank DaisyMaeEvans for her beta work and most of all for her friendship. Love you, Daisy!!!!

XXX,

missgranger2


Chapter 29 "Fate and Circumstances"

     After breakfast, the remaining candidates were told that they would be called on in alphabetical order.  They were allowed ten minutes to retrieve something that would keep them occupied.   Apparently it was going to be a long day.  The other male Auror had been called first, led out by two Shadows that none of them had ever seen before.    When he returned, it was Flannigan's turn.  Presently Ron, Harry and Hermione were sitting at a table.  The other two Aurors were off in the corner of the room listening to the wireless.  Hermione was reading a book from the small stack she had brought back with her.  Ron had grabbed his chess set that thankfully he had shoved in his bag at the last minute.  Harry and Ron chatted away about everything from Quidditch to dueling techniques as they played a game of chess.

     "So, you think the larger the person's girth, the easier it is to out duel them?"  Ron said as he eyed his pieces on the board, planning his next move.

   "Well yes.  I don't think larger people are as agile as skinnier people and their stature would obviously make them a sizable target."  Ron half nodded as he moved his rook.  "I don't think there's a weight limit for an Auror, though."

   Hermione set her book down with a thump.  "That's because it doesn't matter if the dueler is a large or thin person.  A master dueler only has to have the skill to outwit his or her opponent.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the person's weight, moron."

    Harry frowned at her.  "Can you honestly sit there and say that you wouldn't be the least bit wary of having a large person as a partner versus one that was fit?"

   Hermione folded her arms.  "That's exactly what I'm saying-yes."

   "It's your move, Harry."

   "What?  Oh, right."  Harry scanned the board, trying to decide what move to make next.  His choices were limited as he had only five chess pieces left on the board.  He moved his queen one space and turned his attention back to Hermione.  "So I take it that you have worked with an overweight Auror before, then?"

   "I most certainly have.  Her name was Cheddar Bendleshnitz and she had to have weighed at least close to twenty one stone if not more.  She was very skilled with a wand and just so happen to have saved my arse on quite a few occasions." 

   "Check!"

   "Dammit!"  Harry scratched his head and looked down at the chess board.  "Well, personally I would never name any daughter of mine 'Cheddar'.  It brings about horrible visions of giant hunks of cheese traipsing about."

   As Ron and Harry laughed, Hermione continued on.  "It was a nickname, you idiot.  Her real name was Chelsea."  She rolled her eyes.  "Furthermore, I've worked with dozens upon dozens of fit Aurors as you call them who couldn't hit the side of a bloody house with their wands."

   "She's got a point there, mate."

   "Will the both of you just be quiet?  Can't you see I need to concentrate here?"  Harry began to move his king a space backwards.

   "Sure you want to do that?"  Ron asked, smiling at him.  Harry rolled his eyes and moved his king to the space to the left.   Ron moved his queen and it was all over.  "Check fucking mate!" 

   "What?" 

   "It doesn't matter what you move now.  Your king is doomed." 

   "Wait a minute!  You mean to tell me I could have at least made it another round if I had moved my king where I was going to move it to begin with?"  Looking triumphant, Ron nodded as Harry sputtered at him, "Why-but that's cheating!"

   "No, it's not cheating, Harry.  It's called strategy."

   All eyes were on Flannigan as he entered the room.  He looked as scary as always as he casually walked over to a vacant table and set down a satchel he had retrieved earlier upon it.  Harry's eyes widened in alarm as Flannigan opened the satchel, removing several knives of various sizes from it.  "What the hell is he doing?"

   Ron turned and looked at Flannigan and shrugged.  "Looks like he's sharpening his knives." 

   One of the Shadows spoke up.  "Hermione Granger?"

   "Yes?"  She stood up.

   "Follow us, please."  

   As soon as Hermione had exited the room, Harry called over to Flannigan.  "Well?  How'd it go?"

   "Afraid I can't say anything-Shadow's orders."   Flannigan picked up two of the knives and began to grind the blades against each other.  "I can tell you that it was pretty intense in there.  Nearly pissed in my pants- that's for damn sure."

   Harry shuddered and lowered his voice.  "Bloody hell!  If the likes of Flannigan is all weirded out, then were all screwed."

   Ron was just about to say something when he spotted Charlie standing in the hallway.  Charlie gestured slightly to the right with his head and moved on.  "Harry, I need to go and use the loo."

    "Right.  I'll set the board back up and we'll play another game when you get back."  He furrowed his eyebrows at him.  "And this time around I'm going to kick your arse!"

   "We'll see about that."  Ron chuckled as he walked up to one of the Shadows posted outside.  "I need to use the loo."  The shadow nodded.  Ron entered the women's lavatory and saw Charlie leaning back against the wall.  "Any new information?"

    "No, not a damn thing."  Charlie walked over and gave Ron a hug.  "And has Hermione told you anything?"

   "No.  She said she was busy during lunch and that's why she wasn't there."

    "Busy?  Busy doing what exactly?"

   "She wouldn't say."  Ron sighed.  "In fact, she won't say anything about a lot of things.  She knows about that mission I was on now."  Ron let that sink in before he continued on.  "We've been meeting after dinner and I've been trying to explain it all to her.  Thing is, I agreed to answer her questions and I'm not really pushing her to do the same for me right now."   

    "Well, I suppose that's about the best you can hope for, considering what happened between you two."  Charlie cleared his throat.  "Still, in the future if she reveals anything to you about David's murder, I want to know little brother."  Ron frowned.  "Hey-I know David wasn't the most upstanding person, but he was a fellow Auror and a damn good Captain.  I love Hermione like a sister, but if she did have anything to do with his death, she needs to answer for it, Ron."

   "I understand what you're saying, but what if she had no choice but to kill him?"

   Charlie shook his head.  "It still doesn't make it right.  And if she did kill him to defend herself then she should have come forward straightaway."  Charlie checked his watch.  "I got to get back to the office.  You take care of yourself, Ron."

   "You do the same."  The brothers hugged once more as first Charlie and then five minutes later, Ron exited the restroom.   Even though he told Charlie he would relay any possible information that he got from Hermione, he knew in his heart he never would.  There was no way Ron would allow for Hermione to be sent to Azkaban.  And if Hermione really had killed David, the truth wouldn't bring him back to life anyway.  

~*~*~*~*~*~*~~

   Hermione returned after having been gone for nearly an hour.  Nothing seemed off about her as she returned to her seat and promptly picked up her book and began to read.   The other female Auror's name was called.

   As soon as she left the room with the two Shadows, Harry could barely contain himself.  "Well?"

   "Well what?"  Hermione said as she read.

   "Tell us everything that happened is what."

   Never looking up from her book, she smiled, "Sorry, not allowed to, I'm afraid."

   Harry scowled at her before continuing yet another chess game with Ron.   Whatever Hermione had experienced was weighing heavily on his mind and he began to feel nervous and anxious.  He kept shooting glances her way and was growing increasingly irritated for she paid him no mind what so ever.  As time went by, he couldn't contain himself anymore.  He stood up and quickly snatched the book out of her hands.  "Hey!"

   He lowered his voice.  "Now, stop with the bullshite and tell us everything that happened.  You were gone an awfully long time."  Ron said nothing as he began placing the chess pieces back into a small velvet bag.

    She frowned at him a few moments.  "Fine."  Her frown turned into a smug smile.  "First of all, they lead you into this really creepy room.  There must have been a hundred bats flying all about."

   "Bats?" Harry's eyes widened in shock. 

   "It's terrifying, I assure you.  Next, you're told to remove all of your clothes and to get into this giant black cauldron.  They take the cauldron- with you inside- and sit it inside a massive fireplace, where they proceed to…"  Hermione paused.  "Well, perhaps I shouldn’t tell you about the next part as it really was horrible."

   "I don't care how horrible it was, dammit-I want to know!"  Harry demanded.

   She sighed.  "Fine, but I warn you that it's completely awful."  Hermione shuddered dramatically.  "One of them lit a fire underneath the cauldron, Harry!"

   Harry placed his hands on top of his head and squeezed.  "Bloody fucking hell!  What did you do?"

   "Well, there was nothing I could do, really."  She lifted up slightly and groaned.  "Oh but my arse is still burning."

   "But…why…I mean… how the hell did you escape?"

   "Well, one of the blokes in the room said that if I could tell them exactly how many sweets were inside this large jar on the desk, that they would let me live.  I told him I couldn't possibly know something like that.  He then said that my guess couldn't be off by more than fifty."  Hermione looked left, then right and leaned into Harry.  "I guessed one hundred and fifty, but there were actually one hundred thirty seven sweets in that jar."

   "That's good to know."  Harry swallowed hard.  "Then what?"

    "They let me put my clothes back on.   I was asked a ton of questions.  Thinking I was safe, I began to relax."  Hermione laid her hand atop of Harry's and gave it a small squeeze.  "But I was wrong-dead wrong.   They offered me a brandy and of course you know how I love to drink now and so I said yes."  Her eyes began to tear up.  "After I drank it, I had the strangest sensation ever.  It was like my mind went blank or something.  One of them asked me to sing ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ and I couldn't remember the words."

   Hermione wiped her eyes and sniffled.  "They…they said I was one of the most idiotic candidates ever not knowing that song and so they threw stones at me!  Look!"  She pulled up her sleeve, showing him several black and blue marks on her upper arm.

   Harry was completely horrified.  "The animals!" 

   "Make sure you tell them that you know that song straight off, Harry!"

   "Harry Potter?"  One of the Shadows called out, making Harry jump.

   Scared out of his mind now, Harry stood up, his face as white as a sheet.  "Y-Yes?"

   "Follow us, please."

   "Remember what I told you, Harry."  Hermione whispered frantically to him as he hurried out of the room.

~*~*~*~*~**~*~

    Ron shook his head and chuckled.  "You're so full of shite.  Still, you really shouldn't have told him all that nonsense, Hermione.  Now he's wound up tighter than a drum." 

    "Well, I had to tell him something or I know he would have driven me stark raving mad.  It wasn't all entirely lies, but he didn't need to know that."  Hermione laughed and picked up her book and began to read.

   "True."  Ron was twirling his wand between his fingers.  "By the way, how did you really get those bruises on your arm?"

   "Oh…um….during training." 

   Ron didn't look at her, keeping his attention on his wand as he continued to twirl it.  "And what day was it exactly that you got those bruises?  I mean, surely you'd remember everything about getting nasty bruises like that?"

   She shot him a dirty look.  "I don't know, alright.  Just drop it."

   Realizing she wasn't going to tell him anything, after several moments he replied, "Fine, I'll drop it."

   "Good."  Hermione turned her attention back to her book.

   Ron knew there was more to it and wished she'd open up to him about it.  The bruises had caught his attention because it was on her upper arm, wrapping around as if somebody had held her there tightly.  Perhaps David?  Merlin but he wished she'd talk to him like she used to.  I'd help you if you'd just let me in.

~*~*~*~*~*~**~~*

     Harry entered the room, lit only by two gas lamps.  He kept ducking and staring up at the ceiling, fearful that the bats would swoop down at any moment.  Behind an enormous desk sat three figures that Harry couldn't see very clearly due to the darkness of the room.  A deep voice called out to him, "Please take a seat, Mr. Potter."

   Harry sat down and stared up at the ceiling.  Thinking he saw something move, he cowered down into his chair.  "I don't fancy bats much."

   "That's good to know, Mr. Potter."  The deep-voiced man cleared his throat.  "Now, let us get down to business, shall we?"

   Harry spotted the jar of sweets on the desk, just like Hermione said.  "There are one hundred and thirty seven sweets in that jar, sir!"

   A woman's voice piped up.  "Excuse me, but are you ill, Mr. Potter?"

   "What? No, I'm not ill….just cautious."  Harry turned his head and saw a massive stone fireplace.  The dimmed gas lights gave out just enough light that he could make out a giant black cauldron hanging idly inside.

   "Cautious?"  The woman said.

   "Let me be perfectly frank."  Harry stood up and pointed his finger shakily toward the fireplace.  "There is no way in hell that you'll ever get me into that cauldron!"  He pulled his wand out and aimed it at them.  "I'll curse the utter shite out of all you bastards before I would ever in a million years allow for that to happen!  Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

   Another man's voice spoke up.  "This is the wizard that actually killed Voldemort?"

   "You bet your arse it is!  And another thing-I damn well know that I know all the fucking words to ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’."

   "This is ridiculous! Mr. Potter, put your wand away this instant!"  The woman sighed in the darkness.  "This young man is not stable, Hershel!"

   The deep voiced man, Hershel, replied, "He's fine.  I think he just a bit nervous.  Have a seat Mr. Potter and we'll get you a drink."

   Harry hadn't lowered his wand.  "And what drink do you plan on serving me, exactly?"

   "We have a few choices.  There's Mead, Fire Whiskey or brandy-"

  "HA!  You just want to fuck me up so you can all hurl rocks at me!  Empty out your pockets or I'll hex the lot of you!" 

    The other male voice said, "And to think I thought Mr. Flumes would be the strangest of the lot today?" 

    Harry looked up at the ceiling once more, fearful that at any moment the bats would attack him.  It was then that the woman promptly disarmed him.  "Sit your arse down this instant, Mr. Potter!"

    "But the bats…"

   "Bloody hell- there are no bats!"

   Harry pointed at the ceiling.  "But I can see them up there….moving about."  The room was suddenly illuminated in light.  Harry looked up and saw that there were indeed no bats on the ceiling.  He looked at the three people behind the desk and could tell by their expressions that they were positively livid.  "Well, I guess I'll just a….I'll just a have a seat now."

   The woman, dressed in dark green robes, stared daggers at him.  "In over two thousand years the final Shadow selection ceremony has been performed in complete darkness, representing the Shadow world.  That is until today."

    Harry cleared his throat, realizing only now that Hermione had made up the story about the cauldron, the sweets, the bats and London Bridges.  Feeling slightly foolish, he cleared his throat.  "I would like to apologize for my behavior.  It has been a rather stressful week as I haven't been able to have anything to drink nor been able to have sex with red headed women.  I also sort of went on a snake hunt and that took a lot out of me."  He rubbed his forehead wearily.  "I guess I sort of went over the deep end a moment ago, but it all just sort of got to me all of a sudden.  I assure you that I have all my faculties about me and am one hundred and ten percent qualified to be a Shadow."  He shrugged.  "I am only human after all."

   "Yes, you're only human after all."  Hershel repeated and then looked at the others.  "We are the Commanders for the Shadows.  I am Hershel Chocolate.  This is Wilma Dearing and Buck Rogers.  Well, Wilma and Buck, would you care to ask Potter any questions before we make our final decision?"

    Wilma sat down.  "Very well.   Do you have any history of mental illness in your family, Mr. Potter?"

   "None that I'm aware of.  I lived with my uncle, aunt and cousin for a period of time.  My uncle- who is married to my mother's sister- wasn't entirely stable, but I don’t think that would count, right?"  Harry sighed and shrugged.  "Truthfully, I've only ever known two blood relatives from my entire family, so I suppose I can't be completely certain." 

    Buck spoke next.  "Do you have any attachments that would hinder your allegiance to the Shadows?"

    Harry mouthed like a fish out of water for a few moments.   The honest answer to Buck's question was yes.  He had Ginny and he knew that not being with her would weigh heavily on his mind and his heart.  She may not have been his wife legally in the Wizard world, but she was on paper in the Muggle world and that was good enough for him.  Still, he wanted to be there for Hermione this time.  He felt that he had let her down and that he had also contributed to what she had become now.  He still felt he could play 'The Boy Who Lived' card and get himself out of the Shadows if he needed to.  Taking a deep breath, he replied, "No, I do not have any attachments at the present time."

    "You seemed hesitant, Mr. Potter.  Are you certain that you have no attachments?"

   "Yes, I have no attachments."  Harry answered half-heartedly.

   Hershel nodded.  "We shall begin the vote now."  All the instructors suddenly Apparated into the small room.  Hershel silently counted them all.  "Everyone is here.  Wilma, will you kindly pass out a ballot to each of the instructors?"  Wilma stood up and picked up a stack of small pieces of parchment from off the desk.  She passed one piece to each of the instructors and sat back down in her chair.  "Mark yes or no and then kindly place your ballot face down in front of me, please."

   After several moments, all the votes had been cast.  Harry waited with baited breath as Hershel picked up the first of the ballots.  "Yes."  He picked up another one.  "Yes."   The next vote was a 'no' and Harry frowned.  After having read all the votes, Hershel nodded.  "Per the instructors' votes, he is cleared to go on to be a Shadow.  Now it's our turn to cast a vote."  He looked pointedly at Harry. "You must not only have the consent of your instructors, but of the Commanders as well.  As it is for the instructors' votes, it has to be a Commander majority in order for you to become a Shadow.  Would you please go first, Wilma?"

     "My vote is absolutely, one hundred percent no."

    "For the record, could you please explain your vote?" 

    "I most certainly will.  He is not Shadow material in my opinion.  For starters he is far too high strung and that makes him dangerous not only to himself but to others that are working with him."  She looked at Harry with great disdain, causing him to cower slightly.  "Secondly, I think his behavior is extremely bizarre and that he will stick out like a sore thumb when he's undercover, putting everybody's life at risk"

   Hershel nodded.  "Buck, may we have your opinion?"

   "I think he has potential if paired up with the right partner.  It has been my experience that crazy or odd people make for good Shadows.  My vote is yes."

   Harry frowned at Buck, not liking the fact that he considered him odd.  Arsehole!   

    "It is left up to me to cast the final vote.  I dare say that I've been the tiebreaker more times than I can count."  He looked intently at Harry.  "Will the candidate please stand."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Harry returned to the cafeteria.  Hermione looked up from her book and smiled.  He fixed her with a cold stare, wishing that looks could kill a person at the moment.  Ron's name was called and he stood up and walked out of the room with the two Shadows as Harry took a seat. 

    "So, how did it go, Harry?"

    Harry rolled his eyes at her.  "You're a complete jerk, you know that?"

    Hermione chuckled, making Harry's blood boil.  "I take it you made a complete arse out of yourself in there?  Merlin but that's brilliant!"

    "It most certainly was not brilliant!  I felt completely embarrassed!"  She began to laugh harder.  "In fact, I don't think that I have ever been so humiliated in all my life."

    "Oh come on now we both know that's not true.  I can remember lots of times when you acted like a complete idiot."

   "Oh yeah-name one!"

   She closed her book, sat up straighter and cleared her throat.  "There was that time right before a press conference when George put ink in your tea and nobody bothered to tell you."  Hermione held her sides and snorted.  "I'll never forget that picture of you in The Daily Prophet!"  She wiped her eyes.  "You just had to smile big and wide and your lips and teeth were completely black!"  She giggled harder.  "Oh and how about the time you and Ginny had that horrible row and so you went and got all pissed at that pub and wound up going home with that transvestite!"  Hermione roared with laughter.

   Harry's eyes went wide and he glanced nervously around the room.  "Bloody hell-keep your voice down."  He leaned into her.  "And I told you a million times that nothing happened!"

     "Sure." 

     "Fine, you're right; there may have been a time or two that I felt more humiliated.  Now just drop it!" 

    Hermione shrugged and sank back down into her chair.  A smile still on her face, she opened up her book and began to read once more.  Harry took a deep breath and stared blankly at the door of the cafeteria.  He wondered if Ron was going to be let into the Shadows.   Digging into his robes, he pulled out a simple ring-his wedding ring- and held it tightly in his hand.  His life was about to be turned upside down and he could only hope that Ginny would understand.

~*~*~*~**~*~*~

    The votes had been cast and Ronald Weasley was now a Shadow.  As he stood before the desk, a large goblet appeared.  The Commanders placed all the votes into it and Hershel aimed his wand at it.  "Incendio!"  Ron looked on as the fire produced from Hershel's wand quickly reduced the parchment to ash.  Hershel placed his wand into the enormous goblet.  Like a vacuum, the wand sucked up all the ashes. 

    He came around the desk and stood in front of Ron.  "Hold out your right arm."  Ron ran his hand through his hair and then did as he asked.  Hershel placed his wand on the Ron's forearm.  "The ashes of your votes will be used to mark you as that of a Shadow."  He suddenly felt an incredible burning sensation on his arm and couldn't help but wince at the searing pain.  He removed his wand from Ron's arm and returned to stand behind the desk.

   Ron looked down at his arm and saw that he now had a small red dragon there.  From the mouth of the dragon, flames billowed out and he thought it actually looked rather cool.  Within seconds, the image of the dragon completely disappeared.  Dumbfounded, Ron looked at the Commanders for an explanation.

    Buck cleared his throat.  "The ashes of the votes are now running through your veins."  Ron shuddered slightly.  "The parchment was specially charmed to take into account every recommendation from the staff about where to place you.   It is the ashes that choose who you would be most suitable to pair up with.  That image of the dragon you saw would be the exact image that would have appeared on your future partner."

   "And who exactly would that be?  Um, that is if I'm allowed to know right now."

    Hershel spoke up, "Seeing as you're the last of the recruits to appear before us and that the swearing ceremony will begin in a few minutes, I suppose we can go ahead and divulge that information."  He turned quickly to the others.  "And if it is fine with the other Commanders of course."  Buck and Wilma nodded.  "Very well then.  According to the ashes, the person most deemed to be a suitable partner for you is none other than ….

      

                                      

 

  

             

        

    

                   

 

                 

      

            

    

              

              

    

             

   

     

           

                 

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello All!

  I would like to thank the super talented daisymaeevans for her brilliant beta work. (LOVE her) And this chapter is dedicated to the very talented mugglemama. It is not exactly what she was asking for...but I hope it was close! *winks*

XXX,

missgranger2


Chapter 30 "Damn That Voice of Reason"     

     Ron was standing in the dark room, waiting for the others to arrive.  The Commanders were talking to one another in hushed voices behind the desk.  He was feeling both elated and apprehensive. How would Hermione take the news?  The door opened behind him and in walked Harry, Flannigan and Hermione, followed by two Shadow guards.  For whatever reason, he couldn't bring himself to look at her and instead, stared blankly at the Commanders. 

    The commanders stood up.  Wilma cleared her throat.  "Congratulations!  You four have been chosen to be inducted into the Shadows."  She fixed her eyes on Harry for a minute and shuddered slightly.  "Hiram and Clancy."

   One of the Shadow guards said, "Yes, ma'am?"

   "Please tend to the other two candidates.  Make certain that their memories from this week are wiped clean." 

   "As you wish, ma'am." 

   Right before the guards left the room, Hershel piped up, "See to it that you make sure to replace this week with a happy memory, gentleman."   Wilma rolled her eyes.  "Now on to the business at hand."  Hershel waved his wand toward the side of the room.  Ron turned his head and could just make out a large wardrobe that he hadn't noticed earlier.  The door swung open and four cloaks floated out, stopping in midair before each of them.  "These are your Shadow robes.  Of course, you will not be wearing them most of the time as you'll be deep undercover.  Please put them on now."

   Ron reached out, taking the robes in his hands.  Unlike his former Auror robes, the material felt like velvet.  He pulled it on, along with the others.  "Notice that the insignia on your robes is that of a Yale."  Ron looked down and could see an embroidered creature glowing in the darkness.  It was a strange looking creature resembling that of a cross between an antelope, a goat and a dragon.  The horns on its head were also bizarre, with one pointing forward and the other turned backward.

   "The Yale hails from Ethiopia.  It is a fierce animal that is not afraid, nor backs down, from a fight against any other magical creature.  It is also the mortal enemy of the Basilisk."  Hershel smiled slightly.  "The Yale insignia was chosen to represent your Shadow squad."  The large desk suddenly disappeared and Hershel stepped closer to them.  "Harry, would you please reveal the identity of your magical tattoo?"

   "Um, it was a Manticore."

   "And who else had the deadly Manticore tattoo appear on their arm?"

   "Well, that would ave' been me, sir."  Flannigan said.

   "Mr. Potter and Mr. Flumes that means the two of you are partners."

   Harry mumbled something under his breath that Ron was pretty sure sounded like, "Bloody hell".  "And Miss Granger I believe you're tattoo was that of a dragon?"

    "Yes." 

   "The dragon also appeared on Mr. Weasley's arm as well…meaning that you two are now partners."  Ron glanced at Hermione to see her reaction and was surprised that she was showing no reaction at all.  "Keep in mind that the magical tattoos you share not only found that your abilities and personalities for working together were compatible, but also serve a very unique and grim purpose."  Hershel cleared his throat.  "You'll know straightaway when your partner is dead."

    Ron swallowed hard and looked at Hermione once more.  She was standing there looking stoic, not a hint of emotion on her face.  "And now it is time to take your vows and swear your allegiance to the Shadows for the remainder of your life."  He nodded to Buck who was holding a large book in his hands. 

   Buck nodded back.  "Please hold up your wands and repeat after me… I pledge my eternal allegiance to the Shadows."  The four of them repeated the words back.  "I forsake all my worldly possessions, my family and my friends and give myself willingly over to the Shadow world."  Again they repeated what Buck said.  "I swear on my life that I will uphold this pledge until the day I die." 

    As they repeated the last words, Ron watched in utter astonishment as a deep green light crept slowly from their wands.  The light formed a large emerald ball that pulsed briefly in midair before bursting.  Ron had to shield his eyes from the light coming off the enormous glowing form of the Yale hovering in front of him.  After a few minutes the light began to wane.

   "The swearing ceremony is hereby over.  You are now officially Shadows."  Hershel paused a moment, as if for allowing this to sink in.  "You will have three days to get your affairs in order.  Look for a Portkey to arrive by owl on the fourth day at sunset.  A word of advice before I dismiss you…make certain that you cut all ties from the people you care about.  Contacting them while you're deep undercover would put them in extreme danger."  Hershel took a deep breath.  "The criminals you will come in contact with are of the sort that does not value human life whatsoever." 

    Hershel took his pocket watch from his robes and sighed.  "We had best be off.   Good luck to you all."  Hershel, Buck and Wilma Disapparated away.  Ron looked on as the outline of the Yale glowed one final time before petering out, submerging them in darkness once more.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The four of them walked in variable silence on the way back to their dormitories.  The realization that he was now a Shadow had hit Ron all at once, causing a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.  "Make certain that you cut all ties from the people you care about" kept playing over and over again in his mind.  He would have no contact with his family anymore.  Things that usually annoyed him about members of his family didn't seem as important now.  He couldn't help but think that he would miss his mother's nagging, the twin's shenanigans and even his loony sister-in-law Padma's antics.

    He looked over his shoulder at Hermione who was trailing far behind the three of them.  At first she didn't look back at him, but then suddenly shot him a dirty look.  Ron sighed and leaned into Harry.  "I need to talk to Hermione for a minute alone.  I won't be long."

    "Fine.  I'll be up in the dorm working on my Shield Charm." 

   "Shield Charm?"

   "Yes, my Shield Charm as I know your sister is going to hex the hell out of me when I get back!"  Harry snapped.   He began to moan and whispered back to Ron.  "And of all the things to happen but Flannigan is my partner to boot!  My life has become beyond fucked up, you know?"

   Ron glanced at Flannigan who was now humming to himself.  "I do feel for you, mate."

   "I'm so fucking screwed.  All my worst nightmares have absolutely come true." 

   Ron did feel sorry for Harry, but he wasn't in the mood to listen to his ranting just then.  "Look, we'll talk about all this when I get done having a word with Hermione, alright?"

   "Whatever.  Just make it quick as I need to get some of this shite off my chest before I have a complete nervous fucking breakdown."  Arriving at the door to the men's dormitory, Harry opened it, stepped in and slammed the door behind him, causing Flannigan to chuckle.

    "What's the little bastard so angry about?"

   Ron ran his hand through his hair.  "Just give him some space, Flannigan.  I'll be up shortly to sort him out."

   He shrugged.  "Will do." 

   Ron turned around as Hermione drew closer.  "We need to talk, Hermione."

   She stopped dead in her tracks, folded her arms, scowling at him.  "Frankly, I really don't want to talk to you right now."

   "Well, eventually you're going to have to talk to me, seeing as we're partners."

    She smiled dangerously at him.  "For now we're partners."

   Ron stepped closer, frowning at her.  "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

   "What that means is that there are always ways of getting around things.  I'll have a new partner by the time that Portkey arrives, I assure you."  She rolled her eyes at him and began to walk toward the door to the women's dormitory.

   He was so annoyed by her behavior.  Did she not realize what he was giving up for her?  Ron thought that the talks they had had  were bringing them closer.  Was I just imagining it?  These feelings coupled with the unbearable thought of never seeing his family again, made him blurt out, "And just who are you going to fuck now, Hermione, to make that happen?"

   She suddenly whipped around.  Ron could tell she was angry.  Her face had turned a deep crimson and her eyes were staring daggers at him.  "What did you just say?"

    Ron shouted back at her, "You fucking heard me!"

   A Shadow guard suddenly appeared.  "Is there a problem here?"  He looked back between the two of them and getting no answer said in an irritated voice, "Well?!"

    Never taking her eyes off of Ron, she said to the guard through gritted teeth, "No.  No problem here."

    The guard looked between the two of them one last time.  "Very well."  He began to walk swiftly toward the cafeteria.

   Hearing the guard's footsteps fade, Ron glanced behind him to see the man was nowhere in sight.  He looked at Hermione and motioned with his head to one of the empty classrooms.  "We're not done here - follow me!"

    Using his wand, he opened the door to the classroom and walked in.  Hermione followed, slamming the door behind them.   As he rounded on her, Hermione went into a complete tirade, "For your fucking information, I don't have to use sex to get everything I want!  There are plenty of manuals and books on Shadow law that I can get my hands on."

    "Manuals?  Books on Shadow law?  What the hell are you talking about?"

   "I'm certain there is some sort of loophole that I can find that will get you and Harry kicked out of the Shadows.  I know damn well you both were cheating in potions class!"

   "Prove it!"

   "Oh don't you worry-I will!"

    Ron took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down.  Running his hand through his hair, he decided on a different tactic.  "Alright, let's just cut the bullshite out between us.  I'm telling you, that there is no way in hell that I'm not going to be your partner."  She frowned and shook her head.  "This is some serious shite we're getting ourselves into and there's no way I would trust anybody else with your life but me." 

   "That's completely ridiculous.  Besides, I can take care of myself."

    Ron took another deep breath, trying to keep his anger in check.  "Perhaps.  Look- you have to know by now how much I care for you and that I'd…I'd have your back out there, Hermione.  I'll be doing everything possible to make certain that you stay alive."  Ron sat down atop a nearby desk.  "I will never let you down again...not ever."

    There was a long billowing silence between them.  "Look, you and Harry should have remained Aurors, Ron."  Hermione bit her lip.  "You both are walking away from people who you love and who care about you for me."  She sat down on the desk beside him and sighed. "Don't you understand?  I'm not worth it, Ron.  If anything happens to you or Harry…then...it'll be my fault.  The both of you need to get out - now-before it's too late."

    Hermione's behavior became crystal clear to Ron.  The anger she was displaying was actually because she was worried for both Harry and him.  Knowing that she really did care touched Ron.  Impulsively, he took her hand and held it.  "You can try to figure a way to get Harry out of the Shadows, but I'm sticking by you, alright?"  Acting on impulse once more, he raised her hand to his lips and brushed her knuckles with a gentle kiss.  "I'm not going anywhere without you."

   He felt her move her hand from his and worried that he had gone too far.  To his astonishment, she brought her hand up, cupping his cheek.  Gently, she extended her thumb and began to run it back and forth across his bottom lip like she used to.  Ron stared at her, seeing the wonderment and innocence in her eyes from so long ago.  He had to strain to hear her voice that was just above a whisper, "You need to move on and let me go, Ron."

    Ron brought his hand up, covering hers.  He moved it so that he could place soft kisses on her palm.  Hermione closed her eyes for a minute, as if she were deep in thought.  And Ron couldn't help but think she might be reliving some beautiful moment from their past.  He had a lump in his throat, as he closed his eyes and continued to softly kiss her palm.  And he had never been more honest when he said, "I can't let you go, Hermione.  I love you.  I've always loved you."

    His eyes fluttered open as she slowly pulled her hand away.  "Don't." 

    "Don't what?"  Looking flustered, Hermione quickly hopped up off the desk, causing Ron to smile slightly. 

    "I’ve got to…to go and get packed." 

   Ron stood up, brushing the back of his Shadow robes off.  "Need any help?"

    "What?  No, I do not need any help."  Seemingly gathering her wits about her, she turned to open the door, and Ron stepped forward, holding it shut with his hand.  Hermione turned and looked up at him, clearly not amused.  "Move your hand this instant, Ronald."

   "Not until you promise me you'll come by the Burrow to visit with my family before we leave out."

    "Fine, I'll come by in a few days.  Now just move your hand before I have to get physically violent and move it for you."

   Ron chuckled and removed his hand from the door.  He followed her out into the hallway and over to the door to women's dormitory.  "So, I expect you'll be visiting with your parents then?"

   "No, I won't actually."

    "Hermione, you really should.  Who knows how long before you'll be able to see them again."

    "I have too much to do and besides I don't think my father would be very happy to see me anyway."  She opened the door.

   "Why?"  As far as he knew, Hermione had always had a great relationship with her parents.  Wonder what happened?

    "He just won't, alright?"  She promptly shut the door in his face, making Ron shake his head in complete bewilderment.  

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     For several hours, Ron had tried to reason with Harry.  "Just come to the Burrow with me and that way you can buy yourself some time.  I bet by morning, you'll be brave enough to face my sister."

    "You're mum will let Ginny know that I'm there straight away and you know it!"

     "You can't hide forever from her, Harry."     

     To make matters worse, since Harry didn't want to face Ginny, he had performed a complicated binding spell and was now apparently forever stuck to one of the beds in the dormitory.   "It's not going be alright, Ron.  You're sister is going to do something completely horrible to me, I just know it!" 

   Completely frustrated, Ron yelled at him.  "I told you before, we need to get going.   Reverse the damn spell - now!" 

    "I would, but like I told you before, I don't recall exactly how to undo it."

    Ron took a deep breath, trying to hold himself back from throttling him.  Ron had tried every spell he knew to try and get Harry unstuck from the bed.   "Tell me the exact spell you used and perhaps I can figure it out from there."

    "Well, now see there's a problem with that."

    "What do you mean?"

    "I didn't actually perform the spell.  See, I asked Flannigan if he could help me out and so…well…here we are."  Harry giggled slightly and cleared his throat.

   "You mean to tell me that all this time you've known it was Flannigan that could release you and you've said nothing at all?"  Ron said through clenched teeth. 

    "When people are scared out of their mind they do desperate and bizarre things, alright?"

    "Flannigan has been gone for hours, you prick.  He's probably passed out at some pub by now. "Ron stood up, removing his emerald robes and throwing them to the floor in disgust; he began to pace back and forth.  An idea came to him, stopping him dead in his tracks. "Let me go and see if Hermione is still hanging around.  If not, I'm going to have to call Headquarters and see if they can send somebody that can get you unstuck."

    "I'll be waiting right here."

    Shaking his head in disgust, Ron marched down the stairs and over to the women's dormitory.  He went in and climbed the stairs.  Irritated with Harry, he pounded on the door.  "Hermione?  You still here?"

    He heard footsteps and then her voice through the door. "Yes.  Why are you still here?"

   "Flannigan performed some sort of sticking spell on Harry and now he's stuck to the bed."

 "Sticking spell?  What was it?"  Hermione burped and giggled.  "Sorry."

   "I don't know and neither does Harry.  Flannigan is gone and we could really use your help."  Ron rubbed his eyes wearily.  "Bloody hell, but I just want to get the hell out of here."   The door opened and Ron was surprised to see her in a dressing gown.  "Are you staying here, tonight?"  Ron peered over her shoulder suspiciously into the room.

   "Yeah."  Smiling, she walked past him and headed down the stairs as Ron followed.

   "But don't you want to go home?  I mean the Commander said we were free to go."

    "I had a few things to take care of and unlike you I'm not in a big hurry to get back to my flat tonight."

    Not believing her story, as soon as she stepped into the men's dormitory, Ron quickly made-up an excuse to leave. "Bloody hell!  I think I might have left my chess set back in the cafeteria.  I tell you what - you go and get Harry unstuck and I'm going to go and grab my chess set."

   Hermione shrugged.  "Suit yourself." 

   As Hermione disappeared up the stairway, Ron bolted out into the hallway and headed to the women's dormitory.  As soon as he reached the top of the stairs, he pointed his wand at the room, "Homelis revelio!"  Nothing happened.  Not satisfied, he stooped down slightly and peered under the beds while walking toward the lavatory.   "If somebody's in here you better show yourself now."

     He checked every inch of the lavatory and then walked back into the spacious room to see Hermione standing there.  "What on earth are you doing, Ron?"

    He cleared his throat and put his wand away, saying the first thing that popped into his head.  "I had to use the loo."

   Hermione folded her arms and arched her eyebrow.  "So you came all the way up here to use the loo?"

   Ron shrugged.  "Yeah, I guess I did.  I take it you were able to free Harry?" 

   She smiled smugly and came and stood before him.  "Yes, I did free Harry.  Tell me…did you think that there was someone up here with me?"

    "What?  No, of course not."  Ron lied.

    To his astonishment, she suddenly stood up on her toes and wrapped her hands around his neck.  Ron actually stooped down a bit as she whispered into his ear, "I think you're lying."

    It was then that he finally noticed that her breath smelled of liquor, causing Ron to wrinkle his nose in disgust.  "Been drinking again?"

    "Maybe."  She whispered against his skin as she began to feast on the side of his neck.  "Damn but you smell amazing."

   Bloody hell!  Ron could feel himself growing hard.  He wanted nothing more than to throw her down on the floor and make love to her, but not like this.  "Stop it, Hermione."  He brought his hands up, removing hers from around his neck and gently pushing her away.  "You're drunk."

   Hermione shook her head.  "No, not drunk, just a bit…relaxed."  She began to chuckle and then with some difficulty, untied her dressing gown, letting it fall off her arms and onto the floor.  She was wearing an oversized thin white shirt and obviously nothing else underneath.  Ron had to stifle a groan at the sight of her.  Taking him off guard, she haphazardly dropped to her knees before him.  "I need something, Ron."  Hermione fanned her fingers out over his crotch and squeezed, causing Ron to gasp in surprise.  She then began to try and unbuckle his pants.

   Ron hastily pushed her hands away.  "NO!" 

   A pout on her face, she stood up, swaying ever so slightly.  "But I thought you liked it when I used to take you in my mouth?"

    Ron closed his eyes and let out a long breath.  You're killing me. "Hermione we're not doing this, alright?  When we make love it will be when both of us are completely sober."

    "But I need you right now!"  Hermione protested and stepped closer.  Before he could react, she grabbed his hand, placing it between her legs.  Staring seductively at him, she slowly licked her lips.  "Feel how much I want you right now."

    Cursing himself inwardly, he couldn't help but not touch her there.  She was sopping wet and this time there was no way he could stifle his groan.  There was a distinct musky, sweet smell that began to permeate his nose.  He knew instantly it was the smell of Hermione's sex.  The urge to bring his moistened fingers to his lips to his taste her was driving him mad.  To make matters worse, she was moving with him, her breasts rubbing against him through the flimsy material, making him shudder in delight.  Pull yourself together, you randy bastard!  Adding to his frustration, she let out a long sigh and slowly removed her night shirt.   Shocking the hell out of him, she began massaging her breasts-something that she had never done when they were together before.   Bloody fucking hell!

   He very nearly gave in when she started making those delicious noises he'd hear when they used to make love.   "Make me come, Ron.  Please…I'm so close….please…"  Ron swallowed hard as it had always been him-not her-that would say such things when they were being intimate.  He almost latched his mouth onto one of her hardened nipples, but somehow stopped himself at the last second.  Removing his hand from between her legs, he stepped back from her trying to catch his breath. 

    "Ron?" 

   He looked at her hungrily.  Standing there completely naked before him, Hermione was still clutching her breasts.   His eyes traveled up and down her body.  Her thighs were toned, her breasts beautiful and if she turned around he could bet her arse was just as smooth and round as he remembered.  Ron licked his lips.  It took him a few minutes to get control of himself but finally the voice of reason prevailed.   "No, we're not…I can't….no."  He turned around, not being able to look upon her gorgeous body a second anymore.  "Put your night shirt back on, along with your dressing gown."

    "But I don't want to get dressed."

    He raised his voice.  "Put your fucking clothes on now!"  

   "FINE!  If you're not man enough to fuck me, then I'll find somebody else who will!" 

    Her words enraged him.  Livid, he turned around as she pulled her dressing gown on, leaving her night shirt lying on the floor.    "The hell you will!"  Removing his wand quickly from his back pocket, it took less than a second for him to stupify her.  He moved swiftly toward her, catching her before she hit the ground.  Picking her up, he carried her over to the nearest bed and laid her down upon it.  Stepping back from her, he noticed that he was shaking slightly for the whole encounter had rattled him to the core.      "Dammit, Hermione."  He wasn't quite sure what to do now.  All he knew was that there was no way he was leaving her there alone in the state she was in.  And there was no way in hell she was going to be with another man tonight.       

   Then he heard Harry's voice.  "Hermione?"  Harry walked into the dormitory, his eyes widening in alarm.  "What the hell is going on here?"

    Deciding to just tell Harry the truth, Ron explained, "She was drunk and started coming on to me, so I sort of stupefied her."

   Harry eyed him suspiciously.   "Riggghhhttt.  You're full of shite!"

   "Am not."

   "Are too.  You're telling me that you actually stupefied Hermione for trying to make a pass at you?"

   "That's what I'm saying, yes."

    "I don't understand.  Isn't that sort of what you were hoping for?"

   "If she had been sober."  Ron ran his hand through his hair.  "Bloody hell, but it took every bit of strength I had to resist her."

   Harry rolled his eyes.  "I bang Ginny all the time when she's pissed.  Best sex ever!  In fact, I'm amazed with the shite she does to me and herself when she's had one too many Firewhiskeys." 

    Ron waved his hand in disgust.  "I really don't want to hear about anything sexual you do with my sister for pity’s sake.  I need to figure out what to do about Hermione." 

    "What do you mean?  You said you only stupefied her, so she should be coming around soon."

    "Yeah, but I don't want to leave her here alone."

    "Why is she staying here and not heading back to her flat?"

    Ron sighed.  "To tell you the truth I really don't know.  All I do know is that she probably wouldn't have been able to Apparate for fear of splinching or Floo home without possibly arriving Merlin knows where."

   Harry put his hand on his hips.  "Why didn’t she just ask one of us to Apparate or Floo her home?"

   "I don’t know."  Ron plopped down on the bed beside Hermione.  "I guess my only option is to take her back to the Burrow with me."

   "I honestly don't think that's a very smart idea.   I think it best if you Apparate her back to her flat.  I don’t think she'll be too happy when she wakes up and finds herself at the Burrow, mate." 

    Not wanting to explain to Harry that he wanted her back at the Burrow so that he could keep his eye on her, Ron replied, "I suppose I'll just have to deal with her anger when she wakes up."      

    Harry shuddered slightly.  "An angry Hermione can be a dangerous Hermione.  Better you than me."  

                            

    

   

  

         

    

                      

    

             

   

            

      

   

      

    

     

   

   

                       

        

     

       

   

      

      

     

  

        

                 

                                                         

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello!

  Thank you to the lovely and talented Daisymaeevans for her beta work! She is such a breath of fresh air to work with. (LOVE her) I sort of deviated from my original plan in this chapter. I hope you all enjoy it and thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support! *hugs*

Much love!

Tammy (>:


Chapter 31 "Sometimes the Truth Hurts"

     After working out an explanation on Hermione's condition to tell Mrs. Weasley, Ron and Harry finally decided it was time to Floo back to the Burrow.   Ron carried a still passed out Hermione over to the fireplace in the men's dormitory, leaving Harry to have to carry all their bags.

    He stumbled with great difficulty over to the fireplace.  "I swear but I think Hermione is lugging around a few boulders in her bag.  Why the hell is it so damn heavy?"

    Ron shrugged.  "Knowing Hermione, she probably packed every single thing she thought she might need in a week's time and then some."  With some difficulty, he took a small amount of Floo Powder from a tiny clay pot resting on the mantle and then stepped into the fireplace.  He turned around and looked pointedly at Harry.  "We've got our stories straight, right?"

    The heaviness of Hermione's bag was causing Harry's body to tip slightly to the right.  "Yes!"

   "Just to be sure, remember to tell my Mum that Hermione became very ill…"

   "After eating dinner!"  he snapped.   "Yes, yes, I know what to say, alright?"  Harry sighed.  "Could you just go on and Floo before my shoulder gets pulled out from its socket?  Can't you see I'm dying over here?"

    Ron nodded and allowed the Floo Powder to drop from his hand as he shouted, "The Burrow!"  The kitchen was dark and silent as he stepped out of the fireplace.  Hopefully with it being so late, my Mum is sound asleep.  He took a few steps toward the staircase when he heard her voice from above. 

   "Who's there?!"

   Ron cleared his throat and yelled back.  "It's just me, Mum!  You can go on back to bed as I know it's rather late!"  He waited a few moments, hoping that she would indeed just go back to sleep.  Hearing footsteps on the staircase, he knew that wasn't going to happen and began to curse silently to himself. 

   Molly waved her wand, lighting the gas lamps in the kitchen.  "Ronnie?  What on earth happened?"

   Ron couldn't help but feel like he was ten years old and being caught sneaking into the larder.  "Well, um…the thing is that we were out celebrating something that went well at work and Hermione sort of became ill after eating dinner.  I…well that is Harry and I…decided it would be best to bring her back here to the Burrow instead of bringing her back to her flat.  You know, so that she…um…so that we could make sure she was alright."

    Molly looked at him suspiciously, making Ron cringe slightly.  "You say that she became ill after eating dinner?"  Ron nodded.  "Tell me her symptoms and I'll whip up a tonic for her."

    "Well, actually Harry and I already gave her a tonic and now she just needs some rest."

    "You and Harry made her a tonic?  Good heavens but I hope you didn't end up poisoning the poor girl!"

    Aggravated that his mother chose this moment to remind him of Harry and his lack of potion making skills, Ron was about to defend himself, when Harry stumbled backwards out of the fireplace, startling him.    "Bloody hell!  You alright, mate?" 

    Harry landed spread eagle on his back onto the kitchen floor.  Covered in ash and Floo Powder, he coughed and lifted his head slightly.  "What a complete nightmare!" 

    Molly frowned.  "What happened to you, Harry?"

    He stood up slowly, allowing for the bags to roll off his arms and land with a loud thud onto the floor.  "I was struggling to get some Floo Powder out of the little pot, so I dropped Hermione's bag and got a handful.  I then turned around and picked up her bag and slung it over my shoulder."  Harry rubbed his head wearily.  "I guess the weight of the bag must have caused me to fall backwards.   I managed to yell 'The Burrow' and arrived here and basically slid out of the fireplace."  Placing one hand on the small of his back, Harry sighed in agony.  "Oh but that really hurt." 

    "Why didn't you just use your wand to carry the bags?" 

    Harry shook his head in disgust.  "Why didn't I think of that?"

    "Well at least you're alright.  I suppose you'll want to Floo call Ginny and let her know you're here?"

    "Uh no.  I mean it's awfully late, Mrs. Weasley, and besides I came here to help Ron with Hermione.  I think I'll just head home in the morning when I'm sure that Hermione is feeling better."

    There was a billowing silence as Molly continued to eye them both suspiciously.  "Well, Mum, I think I'll just go and lay Hermione down in Percy's old room if that's alright with you?"

    "That will be fine."  Molly rubbed her eyes and yawned.  "I guess I'll just head back to bed then and we'll talk in the morning."  She turned and headed back upstairs.

   "Good night, Mum!"

   "Good night, Mrs. Weasley!"  Harry leaned into Ron and whispered.  "So I take it she believed our story, then?"

   "Looks that way, but I'm sure she'll grill me in the morning after she's more awake."  Ron jerked his head toward where the bags were sitting.  "Levitate the bags up the stairs, while I get her into Percy's room, alright?"

   "I still can't believe I didn't think to use my wand."  Harry grumbled as he followed Ron up the stairs.

   Arriving at Percy's room, Ron asked Harry to open the door for him.  He carried her in and laid her down on the bed.  "Just drop her bag here.  I'm going to try and bring her around.  You can go onto bed, I'll handle this."

    Harry shuddered.  "Good luck, mate."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     She could hear Ron's muddled voice in the darkness.  Why is he performing some sort of incantation? Truthfully, she didn't want to open her eyes, feeling tired and spent.  It was only when she heard him shout out her name that her eyes fluttered open.  "Ron?" 

    Though the room was dark, the moonlight shining through the window gave off just enough light for her to see his face.  "You alright?"

    "Yeah."  She rose up slightly and looked around the room.  "What happened?  Where am I?"

    "You're in Percy's old room at the Burrow."  He sighed.  "We were in the women's dormitory back at the Ministry, remember?"

    Fuzzy images began to appear in her mind.  Feeling completely drained, she just didn't have the strength to try and remember and lay back down.  "Damn, but I'm so tired."

    He chuckled slightly.  "I expect you would be.  Go on and get some sleep then and I'll see you in the morning."   Ron leaned down, seeming to hesitate for a second before placing a lingering kiss on her forehead.  "Feel better, alright?  If there's anything you need, I'll just be up in my old room."

    Even though she knew it was wrong of her, she couldn't help but feel comforted by the genuine concern he seemed to have for her.  She looked at his eyes and was moved by the love she could so clearly see as he looked down at her.  A strange thing happened just then - a single tear fell slowly from the corner of her eye.  The wetness falling down her face felt foreign and odd.   She was about to wipe it away when he ran his thumb gently across her cheek. 

   Hermione closed her eyes, as he continued to stroke her face with his thumb.  His soft touch was lulling her to sleep.  Her voice was above just above a whisper, "What a wonderful, wonderful dream."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Ron sat on the edge of her bed, watching her as she slept.  He had performed a sobering up charm on her.  Apparently the after-effects of the Stupefy spell, coupled with the charm, had made her completely out of it.  How else could he explain why she hadn't yelled at him for bringing her here?  He ran his hand through his hair and bent down, placing a chaste kiss upon her lips.  "I love you."  Slowly, he came up off the bed, not wanting to disturb her.  He left Percy's room, knowing that tomorrow they'd probably end up having a horrible row.

~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~

    It was Mrs. Weasley's voice that woke her up.  "Breakfast is ready!"  Hermione moaned and rubbed her eyes.  What the hell?  She looked around the room - the same room she saw in her dreams - and shook her head in disgust.  Apparently, she hadn't been dreaming at all.  That's just great.  Why in the hell am I at the Burrow?  Suddenly she remembered what had happened back at the woman's dormitory and shot up in bed.  Fuck!  What in the hell were you thinking?  Hermione rubbed her face wearily.  Honestly, she had wanted Ron, but still…none of that should have ever happened.  Can you make things anymore complicated, Hermione?  Shite! 

    There was a knock on her door.  "Hermione, dear, are you feeling alright?"

    "I'm fine, Mrs. Weasley."

     "Are you up for a spot of breakfast?"  She asked through the door.

    Hermione rolled her eyes.  "I'm not hungry, but thanks anyway."

    "Well, if you change your mind, I made plenty!"

    Of course you did.  "Thank you.  I'm just going to get changed.  I'll be down in a moment as I really should be getting home."  Knowing Molly was probably feeling very put out because she wouldn't stay and eat breakfast, Hermione sighed.  Mrs. Weasley didn't say anything more and Hermione could hear her footsteps on the staircase.  That's just great!  Now I've gone and hurt her feelings because I won't have a bite to eat!  This is all Ron's fault, I'm sure. The prick!     She got out of bed and spotted her bag on the floor.  Stripping out of her night clothes, she pulled out a fresh set of clothes from her bag and dressed quickly.  Hermione lifted her bag up and placed it on the bed.  She opened it wide as she hurriedly rummaged through it.  Where the hell is my bloody hairbrush? 

    There was another knock at the door.  "Yes?!"

    "Hermione it's me."  She froze in place.  "Can we talk for a moment?"

    Honestly, she didn't want to talk to him at all, nor did she want to face him after what had transpired between them last night.  Yet, she needed to make sure he wasn't reading more into it.  I can't let him think that I still care…or that I….  Hermione shook her head and stomped over to the door, pulling it open in one fluid motion.  "What the hell do you want to talk about?"

     "Well, good morning to you too,” he smiled at her.  "I take it that you're feeling like your old self again?"

     "What the hell is that supposed to mean, exactly?"

     Ron lowered his voice slightly.  "You do know that my Mum and Dad, plus any other members of my family that may be downstairs at this very moment, can hear every word you say, right?"  She frowned, turning and walking over to the bed where she took a seat.  Ron stepped into the room and closed the door behind them.  She looked on as he put a privacy spell upon the room.  Still smiling, he placed his wand in his back pocket before sitting down on Percy's old trunk.  "Now- where were we?"

    "How dare you bring me here, Ronald!" 

    "Well seeing as how you were in no state to be on your own, it seemed only logical."

    "I can take care of myself, thank you very much!"

    "Let me put it another way…there was no way in hell that I going to let another man finish what we started."

    Hermione didn't like the sound of that one bit.  As far as she was concerned, she would never belong to any man ever again after what he had put her through.  "Last time I checked  I am a single woman who can be with whomever she wants to be with.  You have no say whatsoever about whom I fuck around with, Ron."  She smiled dangerously, hoping that her words would sting.

    She was surprised when he simply shrugged.  "Normally, that would hurt a bloke, but I think you know by now that I'm not normal,"  he chuckled.

    "That's an understatement."   Ron moved from the trunk, taking a seat down on the bed next to her.  Hermione didn't like it one bit.  "What are you doing?"

    "What?  Does me sitting down by you make you uncomfortable or something?"

   "No."  Actually, it did, but she wasn't going to let him know it.

   "I could have taken you last night but that's not what I want.  See, when we do make love it will be because A-you're sober and B-because it's for the right reasons."

   Hermione folded her arms tightly; his words making her feel very uncomfortable.   "And what reasons would those be, exactly?"

    "That we love and completely trust one another."

    Frowning, she turned and looked up at him, surprised to see that there was no hint of sarcasm etched onto his face.  If anything, he looked determined and completely serious.  And so, she decided to be honest with him.   "I don't see that happening between us, Ron."

   He brought his hand up and began to rub her bottom lip gently with his thumb.  "It will happen.  I told you before, I'm not going anywhere.  As long as it takes for you to forgive me…I'll be here waiting for you."  Ron brought his hand down and sighed.  "I need to ask a favor of you."

   "Go on."

   "Could you please hang around until after breakfast?  I need to tell my Mum and Dad that I'm a Shadow now.  I think they may take it better if you were there and told them that you were my partner."

   "What about Harry?"

   "Harry Flooed back to Durham early this morning to talk things over with Ginny."

    "I have a feeling that won't go over too well."  Hermione bit her lip.  "I guess I can stay while you talk to your parents.  But then I really do need to go."

   Ron smiled.  "Thanks!  I can return the favor if you'd like when you go and tell your parents."

   She stood up. "No, that won't be necessary."

   "But don't you think it might give them some comfort to know that Harry and I will be with you?"  Ron stood up and placed a hand on her shoulder.  "You don't have to tell them about this on your own.  Let me - or Harry - accompany you."

   "You don't understand.  See, it won't be necessary because I don't have any contact with my parents anymore.  We…we sort of had a bit of a falling out, I'm afraid."

   "Bloody hell, Hermione!  I'm so sorry.  What happened?"

    Hermione chuckled slightly, feeling uneasy about telling him exactly what had happened and trying to cover up her hurt.  "Let's just say, that I fucked up royally."  She forced a smile.  "Because of my actions, the relationship between my father and myself is completely broken."  She shrugged.  "Besides, neither of them never really understood the wizarding world…my world."

    "What about your Mum?"

   "She is with my father.  I mean, I think it's unfair of me to make her choose sides and so I don't talk to either of them.  It's just easier this way."  

    "How long have you been estranged from them?"

   "For quite some time."  She was shocked when Ron took her in his arms, hugging her tightly.   "It's alright, Ron.  I'm fine, really."

    "For once, don't bullshite me.  I know this must be killing you."  He broke the embrace and gently pushed a few strands of her hair behind her ear.  "I never realized until this moment how truly alone you were."  He cleared his throat and Hermione thought he looked as if he were trying not to cry in front of her. 

   Her heart sank and she hated herself for wanting to comfort him.  After all, he needn't feel sorry for her as she had a lot to answer for. It was with great difficulty that she managed to say, "I was alone because of the choices I made.  I didn't need anybody…I still don't.  I honestly have no one to blame more….than myself." 

     Ron wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.  Hermione couldn't help but feel sorry for him, for she knew he was struggling to hold his emotions in check.   "Never again, will you have to face things alone.  Nor does the blame lie squarely on your shoulders." 

    "But don't you see?  After you left, I could have chosen a much different path.  But I didn't."  She frowned as a sudden realization hit her all at once.  "I hated you for ruining my life and yet… I had the power to stop myself from becoming what I am today.  How very different things could have been if I had channeled all that hatred into something more… positive." 

    He hastily wiped his eyes and said in a soft voice.  "And do you hate me now, Hermione?"

    "No.  I haven't forgiven you, but I don't hate you anymore."  She bit her lip and stared deeply into his eyes.  "Now, I guess I only hate myself."  She saw a tear fall from his eye and knew that she had revealed too much during their conversation.   Clearing her throat, she gestured with her head toward the door.  "Well, you should go and eat breakfast while I finish getting ready.  Just come and get me when you want to talk to your parents."

   She was trying her best to appear normal, for she didn't want him to know just how much their conversation had affected her.  Thankfully, Hermione had become an expert at burying her emotions and stood there with a look of complete indifference.  She would sort this all out herself later at her flat with a bottle of Firewhiskey…or two.

   "Yeah, I guess I better go downstairs.   I'll be back for you in a little while."  He walked quickly and directly towards the door, removing the privacy spells before leaving.  Hermione stared at the closed door for a long time afterwards.  She had vowed to never have anything to do with Ronald Weasley and here he was in her life once more.  The walls were slowly breaking down between them and that realization scared her more than any Death Eater ever could.

~*~*~*~*~*~

   Ron didn't go downstairs.  Instead, he headed to the loo, hoping that nobody was in there right now.   Thankfully, it wasn't occupied and he stepped in, closing the door behind him.  His back against the door, he sank to the floor and began to cry.  He cried because he felt guilty and more than anything he cried for her because he knew she never would.  Hermione had become this shell of her former self.  Emotions didn't come easy for her anymore and he hated that he had played a part in making her into the person she was today. 

    Worse still, her words kept playing over and over in his mind.  Now, I guess I only hate myself.  And he knew she meant it.  She's probably hated herself all along…probably blamed herself for everything going so wrong.  He wiped his eyes and sniffled.  His Hermione was a good person no matter what she had done.  It was up to him to make her see all the good inside that he knew she still possessed.  Standing up, he went to the sink and turned the tap on, splashing water on his face.  He reached for a towel and dried his face off, taking a deep breath. 

   Knowing that he couldn't face his family just now, Ron left the bathroom and went back upstairs to his bedroom.  He needed to be alone with his thoughts for a while and to reign in his emotions.  There was nobody on earth that could affect him as profoundly as Hermione always did.  Opening his door, he came upon a very pitiful sight.

   There in the middle of the floor sat Harry with a half bottle of whiskey crying his eyes out.  "Harry?"  Ron shut the door and knelt down beside him.  "What the hell happened?"

    "Ginny chucked me, Ron!  Told me to fuck off and never return."  Harry wailed, sounding like a wounded animal.  "I told her I was sorry but she wouldn't listen!"  He took a long swig from the bottle.

   "Well, I know my sister wasn't too crazy about the idea of you becoming a Shadow, Harry.  She loves you and right now she's probably just angry because she's afraid you'll go and get yourself killed."

    "I told her I'd be careful."  Harry belched.  "I told her if a maniac like Voldemort couldn't kill me-then there was absolutely nothing to worry about for pity sakes!"

    "You wouldn't be able to see her either and I'm sure that upset her as well."

    Harry dangled his finger in midair.  "I told her that I would find a way to come and see her as there was no fucking way I could last more than a week without having sex."

    "I'm sure she found that incredibly touching."  Ron rolled his eyes.

    "Nope.  She told me I was being an insensitive prick."  Harry took another drink.  "Then she threw me to the curb like a piece of rubbish."  He set the bottle down and buried his face in his hands.  "My life is ruined.  I'm completely devastated!"

     "Come on, now.  Ginny will come around."

    "No, I don't think she will this time.  Oh but I feel like flying my broom up as high as I can and jumping off!"

   "Stop that foolish talk."  Ron sighed.  "Maybe you should just tell those Shadow commanders to go and fuck themselves and go back to being an Auror, Harry."

    "I honestly think it's too late for all that, seeing as I went through that swearing in ceremony.  Bloody hell but I'm totally screwed!" 

    Ron picked up the bottle and took a long drink.  "Didn't you say you were going to try and use your influence as a celebrity to get you out?"

   "Yes, but I'm starting to think that it won't be as simple as it sounds."

    Ron shrugged.  "It's worth a try."

   The door suddenly burst open, startling both Ron and Harry.  There stood Molly Weasley looking angrier then they'd ever seen her before.  "My daughter is down stairs crying her eyes out because of something incredibly stupid you two decided to do!"

   "Did she tell you anything about this incredibly stupid thing we decided to do?" 

   "No, she didn't Harry Potter, but it must be horrible because she had me gather the entire family so that the two of you could tell all of us!"

   Ron's eyes widened in alarm. "Did you just say the entire family?"  

   "I sure did."

   "Bloody hell!"

   "You watch your mouth young man and as for you…" she pointed her finger at Harry making him cower slightly, "You best get Ron to do a Sobering-Up Charm on you this instant!"  She took a deep breath.  "I expect to see the two of you downstairs as soon as Harry is sorted out!"  With that, Molly slammed the door closed, and stomped away.

   Harry groaned.  "Shite but the two of us are so in much trouble right now."

   "Make that three."  Ron said as he pulled his wand from his pocket to perform the charm.

  "Three?  You mean Hermione is still here?"  Ron nodded.  "You think we should get her to join us downstairs?"

   Ron smiled.  "She already said she would."

   Harry picked up the bottle, taking one last drink.  "No offense to your family, but it sure feels kind of like the three of us are going to face Fluffy the three-headed dog again."

   Ron chuckled.  "Yeah, except that my mother's temper is far scarier than a three headed dog would ever be."   

   

         

                       

     

                            

            

          

                        

     

       

                     

                           

   

                            

 

   

    

            

                 

 

                           

                   

 

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello!

   I actually found some time to finally update this story. (I know-shocking, right?)I would like to thank daisymaeevans for her beta work and for hanging in there with me. I honestly love working with her!!!

Much love,

missgranger2  


     Chapter 32 "The Calm before the Storm"    

 

Ron and Harry, clad in their Shadow robes, crept down the staircase to where Hermione was staying. 

"I honestly don't have a good feeling about this, mate."   Harry took a deep breath.  "I feel like a lamb being led to slaughter or something."   

"Well, frankly I kind of knew it was probably going to come down to something like this.  Nothing is ever easy when it comes to my family."  Ron knocked on the door.  "Hermione it's us."   

The door opened and Hermione stared them up and down, frowning.  "Why on earth do the both of you have your Shadow robes on?"    

They stepped in the room, Ron closing the door quietly behind them.  "Afraid we've been ratted out by my lovely sister.  Well, I mean they don't all know for sure that we're Shadows but they know we did something that really big.  The whole family is downstairs right now waiting for us to come and sort of…uh…explain things."   

Hermione rolled her eyes.  "And whose idea was it exactly to wear your Shadow robes?  Are you trying to give Molly a heart attack before explaining yourselves?"   

Harry cleared his throat.  "It was my idea."   

"Of course it was."  

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"   

Hermione sighed and sat down on the bed.  "It means that you have always done things impulsively without any thought as to what the consequences might be.  I don't think wearing the robes is a very good idea."   

Harry placed his hands on his hips.  "I don't care what you think or do-but Ron and I are wearing our Shadow robes.  This way, we won't have to do much talking as they'll figure out what we've gone and done the second they see us."    

She shook her head in disgust before hopping up off the bed.  "You two go ahead and wear your robes then, but count me out.  I will walk downstairs dressed as I am, thank you very much."   

Harry pointed his finger at her accusingly.  "That's not on, Hermione!"    

She folded her arms.  "Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you just say that you didn't care one way or the other what I think or do?"    

"All I'm saying is that you should wear your Shadow robes in order for us to present a more united front.  You have no idea what awaits us downstairs."  Harry shuddered at the thought.    

"Personally, I have a feeling it doesn't matter what we wear.  Hell, the three of us could go downstairs completely starkers and I bet they'd still have plenty to say."   

"Starkers?"  Harry's eyes went wide for a moment.  "Hmmm…I wonder…"  

"Absolutely not!"  Ron turned to Hermione.  "Listen, I know sometimes it seems that Harry has some really hair brained ideas, but this time I happen to think he's right."  He sighed and ran his hand through his hair.  "Would you just please wear the robes?"   

She eyed him suspiciously for a moment before kneeling down and rifling through her duffel bag.  She pulled the robes out of the bag with a huff, putting them on.  "There!  Satisfied?"   

"Thank you."  Ron rubbed his forehead wearily.  "Oh but I have a feeling no matter what we do that this is all going to go horribly wrong.  Shite! Shite!"   

"Exactly," Hermione said as she opened the door and gestured them out into the hallway.  She slammed the door shut behind them with a loud bang, causing both Ron and Harry to jump.  

"Why the hell did you do that for?" Harry whispered to her urgently.     

"What the hell does it matter as they are expecting us anyway?"  Hermione said back to him, not bothering to lower her voice.   

"Shhh!  Keep your voice down!  They're going to hear you!"   

"We do hear you, Harry, loud and clear," George shouted up to them.    

"Shite!" Harry whispered to nobody in particular.     

It was Fred that shouted up to them next.  "My, my, my Harry Potter - what a foul mouth you have!"   

"Out of all your brothers, I hate those two the most."    

"Stuff it, Harry!" The twins said in unison.    

Harry stopped at the next landing and peered down the staircase.  He gasped and whispered to Ron.  "There they all are!  Bloody hell but they look like a mob gone mad."   

Ron shrugged.  "Well, it is my family after all." 

He could feel his palms growing sweaty as they walked down the last set of stairs and into the lounge.  There was a collective gasp and then a strange billowing silence.  He was finding it hard to look at any of them and instead looked down at the floor.      

It was Harry that finally broke the silence.  Clearing his throat, he piped up, "I suppose you can probably figure out our new line of work."      

"Bloody hell, but the two of you made the cut?" Charlie said, sounding rather astonished.     

"What do you mean the two of you?  If you hadn't noticed there are three Shadows standing before you!" Harry said, sounding annoyed.    

"I never had a doubt Hermione could handle it, but you…..and Ron…..that's….wow…that's…I don't know what to say, really."     

"Well, certainly not congratulations," Molly said, sounding livid.  "What on earth were the three of you thinking?  Shadows?  Have you all gone completely mad?" 

The three of them sat there in silence as she continued.

"Do you not realize what you have given up?"  

"Or whom," Ginny added angrily.     

"Allow me to put things in perspective," Arthur interjected.  "It is little known that my great Uncle Albert was a Shadow.  See, my family didn't like to talk about it much.  Albert was a highly decorated Shadow, serving for decades.  Though he occasionally did make contact with family members, it was sadly far and few in between."     Arthur paused a moment, wiping the corner of his eye.  "He became physically unable to serve and was granted a retirement at the age of seventy-five.  Albert returned home to find that his mother, father, sisters and brothers had all passed away years before.  He insisted that criminals he had put away had had something to do with all their deaths.  Albert died a few years later- an extremely paranoid and very, very broken man."   

Ron looked up at his father and could see the tears welling up in his eyes. 

"I implore the three of you to get out of the Shadows now before it's too late."     

"I'm not sure that's possible, dad."  Ron took a deep breath, feeling like he had been kicked in the gut.  Seeing his father upset like this was hard.  "You see, we've already been sworn in and gone through a swearing in ceremony.  I just….I just don't know."   

"I plan on using my celebrity to get myself out, sir.  And I'm sure that I can damn well use it to try and get Ron and Hermione out too."   

Hermione chuckled slightly and turned on Harry.  "Really?  Sorry, but you don't speak for me.  I don't have any plans on getting out anytime soon, if ever."    

Ginny flew out of her chair in apparent rage.  She walked up to Hermione, standing just in front of her.  "The only reason Ron and Harry joined up in the first place was to try and help you!"    

Hermione folded her arms.  "Oh, so you think this is all my fault?"   

"It certainly is your fault!  If you had not gone all off the deep end and signed up for that training, they would have never in a million years agreed to become Shadows!"  Ginny pulled her wand out.    

Hermoine smiled dangerously.  "I'm only going to warn you once - put your wand away, Ginny."   

Ron shook his head.  "Don't, Ginny."     

Ginny didn't seem to hear either of them and continued on her tirade. "I realize that you have given up on yourself and those around you.  Fine, go on be a Shadow and get yourself killed for all I care!  But how dare you drag my brother and Harry into your pathetic life!  I hate you, Hermione!  I absolutely hate you!"     

Ron and Harry pulled their wands out as Ginny took aim at her with her wand-but Hermione was faster. 

"Stupefy!" 

Harry caught Ginny before she hit the floor.     

"How dare you!" Padma shouted at her. 

Hermione aimed her wand at her as Charlie hurried over to his wife.  "What the hell are you doing?"   

"Something I should have done a long time ago!" 

All the Weasleys began scurrying around, trying to find a place to use for cover.  Fred and George, however, merely stood off to the side of the room looking amused by the whole spectacle before them.    

Ron finally stepped in front of her, blocking her view.  "Stop it this instant, Hermione!"    

"Get the hell out of my way, Ron!"   

"Yeah - get out of her way, Ronnie!" George shouted.       

"Give me your wand - now!"  Ron tried to wrestle her wand away, but Hermione was a lot stronger than she looked. 

She stomped on his foot good and hard, making him wince in pain. 

"Dammit, Hermione!"   

"Use your wand on Ronnie, Granger!"  Fred yelled.     

"THAT'S ENOUGH!"  Arthur suddenly shouted, making everybody stop dead in their tracks.      

"She's completely mental!"  Padma called out.    

Arthur rounded on her, "Shut up!" 

Padma looked as if she had been slapped in the face as the twins began to giggle. 

"And you two - go home this instant!"  

"But we are home," Fred said.  

"I'm not in the mood, Fred." 

The twins shrugged and left promptly with their wives in tow. 

Arthur wiped his eyes wearily.  "Now, I think we all need to just try and calm down."  He sat down in his recliner and took a deep breath.  "Actually, I want the whole lot of you to go home and let your mother and I deal with this."   

One could have heard a pin drop, as the rest of the family quietly left the room, Flooing and Apparating away. 

Molly shakily stood up, having been hunkered down behind the sofa.  She walked over to her chair and took a seat.  "I agree with Arthur - this was getting completely out of hand."  She clutched her heart.  "I swear that I very nearly had a heart attack.  Is Ginny alright?"   

Harry was sitting on the floor, Ginny's head resting on his lap.  "I think so.  Lucky I was able to catch her before she hit the floorboards."  He looked up at Hermione and frowned.  "Why did you go and do that for anyway?"  

Hermione shoved her wand into her robes, turned and started up the stairs. 

"Hermione, where are you going?"  Molly called after her.  "Hermione?" 

A few minutes later they heard a door slam.  "What on earth has gotten into her, Ron?  I've never seen her behave like this."   

Ron glanced up at the ceiling, knowing that she had probably decided to Apparate away.  Honestly, he couldn't blame her.  "I guess she just got angry and sort of reacted."  Ron ran his hand through his hair and sighed.  "I dunno.  I'll try and talk with her later and sort this all out."    

"Is this really what you and Harry want to do, son?"  Arthur said.     

"Yes.  Though I do think Harry could get us out, if need be.  In fact, I really think Harry should go and try to get himself out now."     

"I'm going to look into it," Harry said as he gazed down upon Ginny.  "It took me to see her lose it on Hermione to realize that some things are really just more important.  I love Hermione, but I love my Ginny more."   

"Thank goodness one of you has come to your senses.  You listen to Harry, Ronald, he's absolutely right."  Molly said. 

Ron didn't say anything back and simply turned to go upstairs. 

"Where are you going?  We're not done discussing this, Ronald." 

Ron continued up the staircase. 

"Ronald?"  Molly turned to Arthur.  "Why didn't you tell him to get back down here this instant?"   

"Because I realize I'd be fighting a losing battle, dear."  He gestured over to Harry, who had picked up Ginny and was carrying her over to the sofa.  "Ron is going to follow his heart, same as Harry.  And that means that where Hermione goes, Ron goes too."    

Molly looked up at the ceiling and sighed.  "Oh dear.

 

"~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~   

 

Ron didn't think she'd be in his brother's old room, but  he knocked on the door anyway.  "Hermione, you there?"   Not getting an answer after knocking once more, he opened the door and was surprised to see her sitting on the bed.  No longer in her Shadow robes, she was staring out the window as if lost in some sort of trance, her duffel bag sitting beside her.  Ron shut the door and sat down beside her.  "I thought you'd be gone."    

She didn't answer him, but continued to stare out the window.  "Hey, you alright?"      

Hermione took a deep breath and turned to look at him.  There was no hint of sarcasm in her face or her voice as she spoke.  "Ginny is right, you know?"    

"My sister was angry.  She didn't mean it, Hermione."   

"No, she did and she's right.  I have made choices that were not that hard for me because I only have to worry about myself.  Like she said I don't need anybody.  But you and Harry…you do.  You both have so much to live for…and people that genuinely love you.  Neither of you should turn your backs on all that."      

Ron took her hand in his.  "I'm not going to try and leave the Shadows unless you are going to try too."      

She shook her head.  "No, I don't want you to do that.  Don’t you understand how many people you are going to wind up hurting?"   

"It may be selfish of me, but right now, I'm only worried about hurting one person in particular."  He brought her hand up to his lips, giving it a gentle kiss.  "And she means me more to me than anything." 

Hermione gazed at him intently. 

Ron met her gaze, letting her know without words that he meant every word of what he said.     

Taking him completely off guard, she drew closer to him.  His heart began to race as she closed her eyes and placed a lingering kiss upon his lips. 

As she pulled back, Ron asked, "What was that for?"  

"I don't know." 

Hermione seemed uncomfortable all of a sudden, making Ron smile slightly.  He missed this side of her and hadn't seen it in forever. 

She was slightly frazzled as she began to ramble on. "I suppose I should get going.  I really need to get my affairs in order and it looks like I won't have much time.  I mean I'm keeping my flat, but I probably should just go and put all my stuff in storage…or not. Yes, I really should be getting back to my flat, I guess."    Hermione got up off the bed and Ron followed suit. 

"You need me to help you move anything?"  

"What?  Oh, no, no.  Please just be with your family.  I can handle things just fine."     

"Could you promise me something?" 

She shrugged. 

"Could you promise me that if you feel the need to drink, that you Owl or give me a Floo call?"     

"What for?" Hermione frowned.   

"I don't like you to drink alone, that's all."  That was a half truth.  Actually, he knew she tended to be quite horny when she was pissed.  Ron wanted to make damn sure that she wouldn't be looking to hook up with another bloke when in that condition.  "So, can you promise me, then?"   

She eyed him suspiciously for a moment.  "I guess."     

"You promise?" Ron asked once more.    

"Yes!" She snapped at him, sounding exasperated.  "Now if we're done here, I really do need to get going." 

Hermione was standing there, the strap of her duffel bag slung over her shoulder.  If Ron didn't know any better, it looked as if she were waiting for something.  But what?    

"You got everything?"     

"I think so, yes."  She bit her lip.  

"What's the matter then?"  Ron stepped closer.  "You sure you're alright?" 

She nodded and bit her lip once more, looking fidgety as ever.  

"Something is wrong!  Just tell me what the hell is bothering you."   

"It's Ginny.  I always liked your sister for as long as I could remember.  I really don't want her to hate me, you know?"    

Ron rolled his eyes.  "My sister always says barmy things when she's angry.  Don't worry about it."   

"It's been my experience that when people are angry, that they say things that they really do mean in the heat of the moment."  Hermione took a deep breath.  "Just tell her I'm very sorry for everything and that I honestly never wanted you and Harry involved in any of this."  

"Look, I'll talk to her, alright?"  Impulsively, he reached forward, pulling her closer and giving her a kiss on the forehead.  "Ginny will come around, you'll see."  Ron let go of her and stepped back slightly.  "Remember to let me know if you need any help at all."   

"Thanks, Ron."  Removing her wand from the pocket of her jeans, she Apparated away. 

Ron stood rooted to the spot, wondering what the hell had just happened between them.  He smiled and closed his eyes, savoring that even if for a moment, he had indeed seen the Hermione he once knew. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~**~    

 

Much to Harry's relief, Ginny had finally come around.  They had been sitting on the couch for nearly half an hour.  Arthur and Molly had quietly excused themselves, claiming that they had something to tend to outside.  Harry was beside himself because she hadn't said one word to him the entire time.  Instead, she preferred to stare at him like he had grown a second head when he did talk to her.  Telling her he was sorry hadn't convinced her talk to him, nor begging for her forgiveness.  Harry decided to try a new tactic, hoping she'd finally say something.        

"I have it all planned out, Ginny.  First thing tomorrow, I'm going to go to Shadow Headquarters and demand to see that Hershel fellow, the one in charge of all the bastards!"  Harry smiled and nodded his head as she shot him a dirty look in return.  "I will then demand that they release 'the boy who lived' from any further employment."      

Ron, sans his Shadow robes, came downstairs and took a seat in his dad's recliner.  He shot his sister a dirty look.  As he continued to scowl at Ginny, Harry had a feeling that whatever Ron was about to say was going to start a major argument between the two of them.  He didn't have to wait long.   

"You know Ginny, you really shouldn't have lost it like that with Hermione.  She didn't do anything wrong for pity sakes!"     

"Nothing wrongNothing wrong?  It's because of Hermione that the both of you are now Shadows!" she barked at him.   

"We still have free will.  Hermione doesn't control our destiny or make decisions for us."   

"Ha!  She sure as hell does, you lying sack of shite!  You and Harry were determined to do whatever it took to try and get back into her good books.  Admit it!  You both felt guilty for the sins of your past and would have followed her into a pit of flame to prove how sorry you were!"   Ginny folded her arms tightly. "The thing is, you two go and stick your neck out for her when she still hasn't forgiven you and still hasn't changed."         

Ron rose up out of his seat, his face fiery red.  "For your information - she has changed!"     

Ginny, never one to back down from any of her brothers, barreled up off the couch.  "How the hell has she exactly changed, Ron?  Hmm?  Ready to take you back already, is she?  Not drinking anymore or sleeping with complete strangers now?"     

"Shut the fuck up!"  Ron pulled his wand out, making Harry moan.    

"Our alcoholic brother let it slip that she might have been involved in some sort of murder plot.  It sure sounds like she's on the right track now!"       

His nerves wearing thin, Harry finally exploded, "That's enough the both of you!  Ginny please just sit down.  And Ron - for Merlin's sake, put your wand away!" 

They both scowled at him and each other before finally doing as he asked. 

"There has been enough mayhem today.  Can we please just talk to each other civilly about all this?"    

Ron shrugged and sat back down in the recliner. 

Harry removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes.  He put his glasses back on and turned to Ginny.  "Now, yes it is true that Ron and I felt very guilty for basically cutting Hermione out of our lives and seeing her go completely astray.  But you need to realize that Hermione has never wanted us to follow her into the Shadows.  She's made that crystal clear numerous times."   

"And yet, here we are." 

She rolled her eyes.   

"Yes.  I think I acted a bit impulsively and now more than ever, I do not have any desire to be a Shadow.  I have tried to tell you what I have in mind to get me out ever since you came around."    

"But will it really be that easy?"     

"I don't know if I don't try.  The only thing I do know for certain is that I want to be with you."  Harry sighed.  "I will get out of the Shadows even if I have to speak to the Minister of Magic himself.  I promise."      

She frowned at him for a few moments before turning her attention to Ron.  "And what about you?"   

Still clearly ticked off at her, he snapped back, "What about me?"     

"Are you going to try and get out of the Shadows to, then?"   

"Not unless Hermione gets out too."    

"Are you serious?  Come on, Ron this is nothing you need to be a part of and you know it!"   

"Hermione doesn't want me to stay.  She thinks I should try and get out with Harry.  But I just can't do that….not to her."   

Her voice was softer, "I see."  Tears began to well up in Ginny's eyes.  "I think the question you need to ask yourself, is whether you love your family…. or if you love Hermione…. more.  You can't just turn your back on your family, Ron.  You'll end up breaking all of our hearts."   

"I know," Ron answered back, his voice far calmer.  "If I abandon her this time, I know will never see her again.  And I also know that I would regret it for the rest of my life."   

"What about your family?  Would you not regret leaving us, Ron?"     

He didn't respond and the three of them sat in silence. 

Harry looked from Ginny to Ron and saw how sad they both were.  It was at that very moment that he decided that Ron was going to have to make perhaps one of the biggest decisions of his life without him this time.  Harry wasn't going to try and convince him to stay, nor was he going to encourage him to go.  Feeling guilty for reasons he didn’t fully understand, Harry couldn't look at either of them  just then and bowed his head. 

Truth was there wasn't any right answer.   Either way, Ron was going to end up hurting somebody both he and Harry loved in the end… no matter what.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Chapter Text


Author's notes:

Hello!

  I would like to thank the incredible Daisymaeevans for her beta work. This is a longer chapter than I normally write and bless her for putting up with my nonsense. As usual, I kind of deviated a bit from where I was originally going to go. I'm off to England for two weeks! I do apologize if this gets posted and you leave a comment and I do not respond in a timely matter. Thank you for all your support! 

*huggles*

missgranger2  


Chapter 33 "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire"

 

    It hadn't taken Hermione too long to come to a decision about her flat and belongings.  At first she was going to break her lease and put everything in storage, but the thought of having to move her things in the last days of freedom quickly turned her off from the idea.  She had more than enough money stored in her vault at Gringotts to pay the rent for years.  Hermione sent an Owl, giving the Goblins permission to send an allocated amount to her landlord on the first of each month.  The Shadows had ordered her to get rid of all her worldly possessions.  In her mind, she was still doing as ordered, by basically abandoning her flat. 

    Hermione had begun to unpack her duffel bag.  There was a pile of clothes lying on her bed, along with her hairbrush and a few books.  She removed garments from her dresser, laying them next to the pile of clothes.  She planned on re-packing her duffel bag and taking a few things with her regardless of the damn Shadow regulations.  Still, it was hard for her to figure out what to take with her.  So hard, in fact, that she had walked away, feeling strangely overwhelmed.  It also didn't help that the conversation she had with Ron earlier was racing through her mind.  She couldn't believe that she actually had talked to him the way she used to….and then acted on the urge to kiss him.  Shuddering at the thought, she decided it was time for a drink… or two.

    Hermione was relieved that she had stocked up on Firewhiskey before she left for training.  Stressed beyond belief, she didn't even bother with a glass and took a long drink from the bottle.  Merlin how I need to get good and pissed right now.  Bottle in hand, she sauntered over to her oversized chair in front of the fireplace.  Using her wand, she lit a fire and set it down on the table beside her, sighing before taking another drink.  She had let her defenses down today and wasn't too happy with herself.

    Ginny's friendship had always been important to her in the past, but honestly she hadn't had much contact with her when Ron and Harry moved away.  Why is it bothering me now?  And why on earth did I tell Ron of all people?  Hermione cursed under her breath and took a long swig of Firewhiskey.   She needed to get her head back on straight and stop allowing for any emotion to cloud her judgment.   What had happened in the past between her and Ron needed to stay there.  She couldn't afford to be vulnerable right now and wind up getting them both killed in the process.  You have got to be stronger, Hermione!  Bloody hell, you're a Shadow now and you can't let your guard down.  Hermione took a long breath and nodded.  You need to focus more than ever…love is not a burden you can carry right now.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Ron knocked again.  "Hermione?  Hermione, are you there?"  No answer.  He frowned at the door a few moments before casually glancing right, then left.  Pulling his wand out, he did a simple un-locking charm.  Turning the knob, he was surprised that it had been that easy to get into her flat.  I would have thought Hermione would have a dozen charms on the door.      Closing the door behind him, Hermione's flat was eerily silent.  "Hermione, you here?"  He looked around the lounge and spotted her unruly hair cascading down the back of the chair.  Relieved she wasn't out and doing Merlin knew what, Ron walked over to where she sat.  He came around the chair, his back to the warm fire burning.   He shook his head in disgust at the sight that greeted him.  Hermione was passed out in the chair, an empty bottle of Firewhiskey lying in her lap.  Ron ran his hand through his hair, before gently shaking her shoulders.  "Hermione.   Hermione wake up!"

     Her eyes fluttered open and she frowned up at him.  "What the hell?"

    Ron stood up and folded his arms.  "I came by to see if you needed any help moving, but I see that you decided to have yourself a little party instead."

     "So?"  Hermione moaned and rubbed her eyes.  "Oh bloody hell but my head won't stop pounding.  How the hell did you get in here anyway?"

    "I knocked first and then discovered that the door was unlocked," Ron lied.  "Seeing as you were attacked once before, I let myself in to see if you were alright."

    "I am alright so you can be on your way now," she huffed.   "Besides, I've decided not to move anything at all.  I'm just going to leave it all here because it's too much damn trouble to bother with."  Hermione sighed.  "I really need to figure out what to bring with me though."

    Ron checked his watch and shook his head.  "It's nearly three in the afternoon and you left the Burrow a little after nine this morning.  So did you start drinking as soon as you came home then?"

    "So what if I did?"  Hermione stood up and the empty bottle fell to the floor.  She took a step and nearly tripped over it.  Ron instinctively reached his hands out to keep her from falling, but she slapped them away.  "I have a lot to do, so will you please just leave."  She walked unsteadily to her bedroom, slamming the door shut behind her.

    Ron stood there feeling more confused than ever.  He knew he hadn't imagined what had transpired between them earlier.   Hermione had shown him that she really did still care about him.  It had given hope that they might be on their way to mending their relationship.  He looked down at the empty bottle on the floor.  Was I one of the problems you were trying to piss away, Hermione?  Not sure why, he could suddenly feel the anger building up inside him.  She doesn't want to face the fact that there still is something between us - but why?   I saw it in her eyes…I felt it in her kiss…why does she fight it?

     Ron pulled his wand from his back pocket as he walked to her bedroom door.  Aiming his wand at the door, it flew open before as he walked.  "What the hell are you doing?" Hermione yelled at him as he barged into her room. 

    "I'm sick of the fucking games, Hermione!" Ron yelled back.

    Holding a book in her hand, Hermione took him completely off guard by suddenly hurling it across the room.  It hit the wall with a loud bang, dropping to the floor.  "What the fuck are you talking about, Ron?"   She stared daggers at him, her chest heaving in anger.  "I told you to just go and leave me the hell alone!"

    "NO! I'm not going anywhere until we get this all sorted out here and now!" he shouted.  "You still love me, Hermione.  Why don't you just admit it?"

    "Admit what?  There's nothing to admit."  She bit her lip.  Ron stepped closer and Hermione moved backwards.  He kept moving closer to her until her back was pressed up against the wall.   She whipped her wand out and aimed it at him.  "You stay away from me, Ron - I mean it!"

    Purposely, he stared directly into her eyes, keeping his voice calm and steady.  "No, I don't think you do, Hermione and that's the problem."  Ever so slowly, he removed the wand from her hand, tossing in onto the bed, along with his own.  Her hands went up, palms pressed against the wall as if she were surrendering.  Ron interlocked his hands with hers and then pressed his body forward until she will flush against the wall.  He leaned his head down and whispered against her lips, "No more games."

    Hermione let out a small gasp as he planted feather-like kisses down the side of her neck, nipping at the sensitive skin there.  She tilted her head, and he knew she wanted him to suck her there like he used to.  "That feels so…so good." 

    He ran his tongue up the side of her neck, stopping at her ear.  "Tell me you love me, Hermione."  Ron raised his head up and felt himself growing hard.  Her eyes were closed, her mouth half open.  He moved in again, and whispered against her lips, "Tell me."

    She didn't tell him, but instead, hungrily began to kiss him.  Ron couldn't resist and began to kiss her back just as fervently.  He let go of her hands and moved them down to her waist, pulling her closer to him, wanting him to feel how much he wanted her.  Hermione was moving her body against his crotch, making him ache.  He broke the kiss, his voice sounding husky and breathless, "Tell me, dammit!"

    Hermione licked her lips.  "I…."

    "Hello?  Where the hell are you two?"  Harry called from the lounge.  They broke apart, with Ron cursing silently to himself as he turned around.  "There you two are."

    Ron cleared his throat.  He had half a mind to throttle Harry at that moment. "Yeah, you found us alright.  What do you need?"  Hermione moved away from Ron and began to shove some shirts into her duffel bag.

    Hands on his hips, Harry frowned. "I need you to go with me down to Shadow Headquarters so that I can get myself out of this bloody mess."

   "Then why didn't you come down stairs hours ago so we could handle it?"

   "Well, I finally got Ginny to talk to me and we sort of made up."  He smiled and waggled his eyebrows.  "You'll be happy to know that my back didn't go out on me this time, mate!"  Harry winked at Ron who scowled back.  "Anyway, I promised her I was going to try straight away to get myself out of the Shadows and well…here I am." 

     "Yeah, here you are."   Ron rolled his eyes and glanced at Hermione.  She paid them no mind, and continued to pack.  Damn you, Harry.  "Look, could you give us a minute?"

     Harry raised his eyebrows.  "What the hell for?"

    "Just go and wait in the hall and I'll be there in a few minutes," Ron said, trying not to raise his voice. 

     Harry looked suspiciously at Ron, then Hermione.  "If the two of you have something to say - then say it to my face!"

    Annoyed, Ron frowned. "What exactly do you mean?" 

    He pointed his finger accusingly at them both.  "You two are talking about me behind my back - admit it!"

    Ron was now close to his breaking point.  "Nobody is fucking talking about you!  Just get the hell out of here and wait for me in the hallway."

    Harry fixed him with a dirty look.  "Fine!  Say whatever it is you both have to say about me.  I'm sure my ears will be burning while I'm out there waiting in the hallway."  He turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him. 

    "What the hell's gotten into him?" Ron said, shaking his head.  "I mean I know he's always been a bit paranoid, but that was completely ridiculous."  Hermione didn't say anything as she folded a shirt.  Ron watched her for a few minutes and sighed.  "Hey, you alright?"

    She shrugged.  He stepped closer to her and gently pulled the shirt from her hands, letting it drop to the floor.  He took her hands in his own, rubbing his thumbs back and forth across her palms.  "Tell me what you were about to say."  Hermione kept her head slightly bowed.  Ron let go of one of her hands.  He placed his hand just under her chin, raising it slowly.  She looked up at him, her eyes wide in what he could only describe as fear.  "What are you afraid of?  I'm not going to hurt you again…if that's what you think."

    Hermione looked to have trouble speaking, seeming lost or confused.  "I…I don't know what to think."  She swallowed hard.  "All I know is that when I'm around you lately…I…I don't want to feel what I'm feeling.  I can't afford to be weak and lose my focus…not anymore."

     Ron impulsively grabbed her by the shoulders.  "How can you think that loving me could make you weaker and not stronger?"

    "Because I lived through it….and because… I never truly got over the hurt that love caused me."  Hermione bit her lip as Ron let go of her shoulders.  "Being a Shadow, it's more important than ever that I have my wits about me right now."

    Ron could see the vulnerability and uncertainty in her eyes.  Again, he was reminded of the Hermione he once knew and it nearly broke his heart.  "I love you."

    She nodded.  "I know." 

    It wasn't what he wanted to hear, but he knew that was all she was going to say right now.  He decided not to push her any further.  "I'll be back later.  Promise me you won't drink until I get back."

    "Very well then, I promise."  She rolled her eyes, smiling slightly.   

    "Thank you."  Ron placed his hand on the small of her back, pulling her closer.  He lowered his head, placing a lingering kiss on her lips.  "I'll see you later then."  Ron let go of her and grabbed his wand from off the bed.  He didn’t quite understand what was going on between them.  They were together but they weren't together.  Ron knew that for now, he was going to have to accept their relationship for as much as she would give him and nothing more.

    Harry was sitting on the floor in the hallway, his back against the wall.  "So, are your ears burning?"

    "Maybe," Harry said as he got up off the floor.

    "Where is all this coming from anyway?"  Ron walked toward the lift as Harry followed.

    "Ginny said-"

    Ron turned around, quickly cutting Harry off, "Wait a minute.  Did you just say Ginny said?"

    "Yes."

    Ron started laughing.  "You of all people should know my sister by now.  If she's angry at somebody, she wants the whole world to hate that person too.  Well you can tell her - or hell, I'll tell her myself - that she needs to mind her own fucking business and quit trying to cause trouble."

     Harry hadn't said another word as they approached the lift.  Ron pushed the button and the door slid open.  They stepped inside and Ron couldn't help but notice how fidgety Harry had become.  He was rubbing his palms on his pants and hopping to one foot, then the other.  "What the hell is the matter with you?  Got to use the loo or something?"

    "I guess I'm just a bit nervous.  Ginny told me not to bother coming back to the Burrow if I didn't get myself out today."  He sniffled, making Ron raise his eyebrows in alarm.  Oh bloody hell.   When it came to Ginny, Harry was the biggest poof ever.  "I have to get out, mate or lose my Ginny."  He took his glasses off and wiped his eyes off with the back of his hand.  "I can't imagine my life without Ginny."

     Harry started to cry, making Ron roll his eyes.  He honestly wanted to tell him to suck it up and be a man, but took a deep breath instead.  Stopping the lift, Ron placed his hand on his shoulder.  Try to sound sincere, Weasley.   "Look Harry, my sister says a lot of things she really doesn't mean."

     "Oh but she meant it, Ron…told me flat out before I left that it was over between us if I didn't take care of this today."  Harry positively wailed, making Ron grow increasingly uncomfortable.  "We're newlyweds for pity sakes!"

    A light bulb suddenly had been switched on in his head.  "Wait a minute - that's it!"

    "What's it?"

    "You're going to tell them that you lied on your application and that you are in fact-married!"  Ron nodded and smiled. 

    "But will they even recognize a Muggle marriage in our world?  I thought they only acknowledged a Bonding Ceremony." 

    "Well, I think it counts as an attachment and is worth a shot."  Ron pushed the button and the lift continued downward.

    Harry sniffled again and wiped his eyes before putting his glasses back on.  "You really think they'll let me out then if I tell them I'm completely attached to my Ginny?"

    Ron shrugged as the door to the lift opened.  "I don't see why not.  Telling them that, along with reminding them that you are the boy who lived, should make you a free man by this time tomorrow."

    Harry grinned at him as they walked out into the busy street.        

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

     Stop with the damn games.  Ron's words kept running through her mind.  Presently, she was sitting on her bed, staring aimlessly around the room.  She had been playing games with men for quite some time.  With Ron, it wasn't so much that she was playing games; the truth of the matter was that she was scared to give in.  The thought of being hurt by him once again had put an impenetrable wall between them.    Sure he seemed sincere now, but would he remain that way?  More importantly, would he be faithful to her or would he up and leave her for somebody else like he had before?

     There was only a few days left to figure out things between them.  Once they were in the Shadow world, she knew in her heart that it was going to be difficult.  Hermione had taken an oath to do whatever the Shadows asked of her.  If that meant seducing or sleeping with a total stranger to protect  her cover, then that was what she had to do.  This also applied to Ron as well.  Could a monogamous relationship really survive when you were asked to do something like that?  She didn't think so.

    Hermione sighed.  The reality of what Ron and she had signed up for her was beginning to hit her.  It had seemed like such a perfect idea a few weeks ago.  But now things were more complicated than ever and she hadn't seen any of it coming.  She had promised Ron that she wouldn't drink until he returned but damn did she ever need to escape from her problems right now.  It was easier to face difficult situations when she was drunk then sober.  And honestly, why should it matter if she made a promise to Ron or not?  She was an adult after all.  Still, she couldn't ignore the nagging feeling of guilt for wanting to drink even though she had promised him she wouldn't.

     With a heavy heart, she got up off the bed and walked to the kitchen.  Taking another bottle from out of the cabinet, she set it on the counter and bit her lip.  What if drank with somebody he trusted?  Then he couldn't dare be mad at me for breaking my promise, right?  Nodding, she quickly scribbled a short message on a piece of parchment lying nearby.  She just hoped that horrible bitch that Charlie was married to wouldn't get wind of it.

~*~*~~**~*~*~**~

     Harry had sent messages to all three leaders of the Shadows from the Owlery in the Ministry.  After a short time, Hershel had responded.  An address that neither of them recognized was written on a small piece of parchment and nothing else.  Ron and Harry touched their wands to the parchment, performing a location charm as they did so.  Their wands acted like a compass, an invisible force gently pushing them to where they needed to go. 

    Turned out, it was the seedier side of London.  Evening was upon them, and there were several prostitutes out and about, along with some scary looking characters standing at every corner.  Harry whispered to Ron, "Bloody hell but why would he have us meet him here?"

     "Beats the shite out of me," Ron whispered back.  "Just keep your wits about you in case one of these arseholes tries to attack us or something."

     A tall blonde wearing a very short black leather skirt was standing by a streetlight as they passed.  She called out to them, "You looking for a good time?"

    Harry stopped and turned.  "I happened to be a married man, thank you very much.  Moreover,  I don't quite fancy catching any sort of venereal disease you have."

     "Piss off, you little prick!  I wasn't talking to you."  Ron stopped and rolled his eyes, wishing that Harry would have just kept walking.  The prostitute stepped closer, in the light of the street lamp, Ron could see that her arms covered in needle tracks.  "So, what do you say you and I go down one of these alleys and I'll suck your great big dick for say…twenty pounds?"

     "Uh, no thanks."  Ron turned to Harry.  "Let's keep moving, shall we?"

     Harry scowled at the prostitute as he walked by her.  After they had walked a few minutes, he whispered to Ron, "That tart was absolutely disgusting.  The nerve!"

     Ron nodded.  "Looks like we're here."  They had arrived at an abandoned building.  "I guess we're supposed to go inside.  I don't think he would want to talk out here in the open."

     Entering the dark and dilapidated building, Ron and Harry used their wands to light the way for them.  "He could be bloody anywhere!  Does he really expect us to search every nook and cranny of this scary place?"

    "No, I do not."  Hershel's voice called out from somewhere to the right of them.  They entered what appeared to have once been a very small one room apartment.  Hershel was standing in the middle of the room, a smile on his face.  "Now what is that was so urgent that you needed to meet with me tonight, boys?"

    Harry cleared his throat.  "Well, sir, the thing is, is that I wasn't entirely honest.  I am in fact a married man.  My wife and I married in the Muggle way."

    "I see."  He waved his wand and a rather stately table and chairs appeared.  "Let's have a seat, gentlemen."   Hershel continued to smile as he removed a folder from his emerald robes.  Using his wand once more, the room was suddenly engulfed in light.  He opened the folder and read silently a few minutes before addressing Harry.  "According to your personnel file, we knew all along that you had married one Ginny Weasley in some sort of quick Muggle ceremony."  Harry gasped.  "However, you should know that we do not recognize the marriage because it was not a Bonding Ceremony."

    "You knew?  And even though it wasn't a Bonding Ceremony, it is still counts as an attachment! I cannot believe you allowed for me to go through the training and that swearing ceremony.  I lied, sir!  I should have been banned from joining from the start."

     Hershel closed the folder and sighed.  "We lied too.  See, we couldn't resist the PR your induction into the Shadows would bring to the organization.  In short, we didn't give a rat's arse if you weren't entirely qualified."  Hershel turned to Ron, "We knew the both of you had cheated in Potions class."  He cleared his throat.  "We just needed other Aurors to hear rumors that the great Harry Potter and his Golden Trio were going to a part of the organization.  Our numbers have been down for quite some time and so we needed you to help us recruit more soldiers."  His expression grew more serious.  "Voldemort may be dead, but there is still a war going on even as we speak."

    "You used me?"  Hershel nodded.  "You dirty rotten scoundrels!  I want the hell out-now!"

    "Afraid that's easier said than done."

    "What do you mean?" 

     "Did you forget that you took an oath - a magically binding oath at that?"

    "I don't give a shite - I take it back!"  Harry stood up and began to yell at the top of his lungs.  "I do not want to be a fucking Shadow and I will not be reporting for duty, arsehole!"

     "Oh, I think you will.  Right now things have been put into motion that would ensure your allegiance."

     Not liking what he was hearing one bit, Ron piped up, "And what things are you referring to exactly?"

     Hershel sighed.  "Let's just say that the Shadows know which people in Harry's life are important to him."  He smiled slightly at Harry.  "It would be a pity if your wife suddenly had an accident that resulted in her untimely death."

    "Why, you fucking bastard!"  Harry aimed his wand at Hershel.  "Any of you pricks dare touch one hair on Ginny's head and I swear on my life that I'll kill you all!"

    Ron stood up, kicking his chair away and aimed his wand at Hershel too.  "And I'll join Harry in hunting you all down if you even think of fucking with my sister."

    Hershel began to laugh, making Ron and Harry glance at each other in utter bewilderment.  "Put your wand down, boys, before my bodyguards are forced to act."  When they didn't do what he said, his expression turned more serious.  "I said put them down before you're both taken out."

    Ron and Harry frowned at each other.  They turned their heads slightly, seeing several people behind them dressed in emerald robes, their wands out.   "Dammit."  Ron was forced to drop his wand to the floor, followed by Harry. 

    "Take a seat, boys."  Scowling at him, both Ron and Harry sat back down.  "Now, I'm not totally heartless and am willing to cut a deal with the both of you."

    Ron didn't trust him one bit. "And what sort of deal did you have in mind exactly?"  Hershel removed a picture from the folder and laid it on the table before them.  Ron recognized the dead woman instantly.  A bead of sweat broke out on his forehead, as he remembered the painful memories that he would never be able to forget.  "Where the hell did you get this picture?"

    "From the Aurors.  Seems that they have been trying to hunt down this particular group of Death Eaters for years."  He leaned forward slightly, lowering his voice.  "You're not the only Auror that survived the horrors these bastards put you through.  There have been many before and after you."

    Ron shook his head.  "I'm not aware of another case involving any Aurors."

    "No, you wouldn't be.  The Shadows were called upon to take the investigation over not long after your mission.  There was a group of ten Aurors found tortured to death in Ireland just days after what happened to you and your squad." 

    "That can't be right.  We would have been informed immediately if we lost that many Aurors at once."

    "And you would have, if the director hadn't contacted us.  We decided it was best to keep it quiet, along with subsequent other attacks in the years that followed."

    "Why?"

     "These heathens feed on their crimes being reported.  They like the fear that their crimes instill in Wizard World.  We also are quite certain that this group is responsible for hundreds of Muggle deaths."  Hershel sighed.  "Unfortunately, those crimes have been reported in the Muggle newspapers."

    "Do you know their identities?"

    "Right now, we have several Shadows working under deep cover who have provided us names, yes."

    "And what are those names?"

    Hershel began to laugh.  "I bet you'd like to know.  All in good time, my boy….all in good time."

    "You said you have Shadows deep undercover.  Surely they have provided enough information by now for you to snuff out all these bastards."

    "We have been able to penetrate the outer fringes of the organization, but not the inner sanctum.  Whoever is running the whole show is very careful about revealing his true identity.  All we do know is that he loves to throw private parties and prefers beautiful brunettes.  The others are too scared of him to reveal much else."  Hershel's expression grew grave.   "We have reason to believe that one of our own is working for him because they are always one step ahead of us."

    Ron ran his hand through his hair.  "This would be the case we'd be working on then?"

   Hershel nodded.  "Your primary objective would be to find out who's ratting us out."  He looked pointedly at Harry.  "You provide that bit of information and I'll release you all from the Shadows, no questions asked."

    "But that could take months or years!"  Harry complained.

    "That's the offer - take it or leave it."

    "And how do we know that you'll keep your word?"

    "The Unbreakable Vow of course."  Hershel held his hand out, locking it with Harry's arm.  "Would you kindly do the honors, Mr. Weasley?"

~*~*~*~*~*~**~

     With a heavy heart, Ron began to walk back to Hermione's flat, Harry following behind him.  They walked in silence for they both had a lot on their minds.  Ron knew Harry probably wouldn't be going back to the Burrow tonight.  It wasn't his fault that he had let Ginny down, but Ron knew his sister wouldn't quite see it that way.  As for Ron, he was wrestling with the guilt of putting both Harry and Hermione in danger.  These bastards had no conscience whatsoever and he could only imagine what they'd be facing.  He wanted to take them down for what they had put him through, but wished this time that he were facing it alone.

     Stepping out from the lift, Ron and Harry trudged down the hallway.  Stopping at her door, he could hear laughter and several voices from within.  Realizing she wasn't alone, he could (?) all his pent-up emotions raging from within.  Ron turned the knob and found it was locked.  Instead of using his wand, he kicked the door open looking for a fight.

    The room grew quiet all at once as several pairs of eyes stared back at him in horror and amusement.  "Why the hell did you kick the door in, little brother?  Have you gone mad?"  Charlie waved his wand at the door, both fixing it and making it slam shut at the same time.  People began to talk once more as he walked over to Ron and Harry, brandishing a bottle of Firewhiskey in one of his hands.

    "What the hell is going on here, Charlie?"  Ron surveyed the room, hunting for Hermione in the crowd of people.

    "Well…"  He burped, "Hermione invited me over for a drink and I knew that if Padma got wind of me over here drinking with her alone, I'd be served my balls on a platter.  So, I took it upon myself to invite Fred and George and their wives, some Aurors and a few friends of mine to come and give Hermione the greatest good-bye party ever."  He began to sway slightly and raised the bottle up with a smile, shouting to the crowd, "To Hermione!" 

    The party-goers shouted back in unison, "To Hermione!" and they all took a drink. 

    "Where the hell is Hermione anyway?" Ron asked as continued to look around the room of wall to wall people.

    "Last I saw of her, she was in the kitchen playing a drinking game with a group of people." 

    Ron snatched the bottle out of Charlie's hand and took a drink.  "Thanks."

    As he walked toward the kitchen, Charlie called after him, "Hey go and get your own, you little prick!"

    Ron pushed his way through the drunken masses, finally spotting Hermione sitting at the table with several men he didn't recognize.  They were laughing heartedly as they each raised a glass of whiskey to their lips.  Somebody shouted, "Go!" and they began to drink as fast as they could.

     It was Hermione who set her empty glass down first with a clang.  "Ha!  Beat you all again!"  She looked around the table, swaying slightly as she pointed a finger at the wizard sitting across from her.  "I pick you!"  The young, brown-haired man winked at her as he picked up a small shot glass from a group of several in the middle of the table.  He brought the glass up to his lips and drank the contents down in one gulp, nearly choking when he was finished.

    Hermione was clapping merrily until she locked eyes with him.  Ron took another drink and then gestured with his head toward her bedroom.  He mouthed the word, "Now."  She nodded, as he turned and pushed his way back through the crowd.  Finally managing to make it to the door of her bedroom, he went in and slammed the door behind him.  Ron sat down on her bed and took another drink.  He was completely angry at her for breaking his promise to him.

     The door opened and in walked a very drunk Hermione, a large glass of whiskey in her hand.  "Whasup?"  She giggled as Ron got up off the bed and slammed the door shut once more.  "My, my, my… somebody's awfully grumpy."   She giggled and sighed.  "What's the matter, Ronnie - somebody piss on your Chocolate Frog or something?"

    "You made me a fucking promise, Hermione."   She shrugged and tried sitting down on the bed, missing it completely and landing on the floor.  Hermione managed to hold onto her glass of Firewhiskey and began to laugh hysterically.  "Sorry if I don't find any of this amusing."  He took another long swig of whiskey. 

    "You're no fun whatsoever.  Besides, I did keep my promise in that I'm not drinking alone."  She took a drink from her glass.  "It's my going away party for heaven’s sake."

    Ron began to feel the effects of the whiskey he had consumed.  The bottle was growing lighter and he knew he needed more.  He didn't want to lose the buzz and pissing away his problems sure sounded like a good idea all of a sudden.  Ron sat down beside her on the floor.  "I suppose since it is your going away party, perhaps I could try and be a bit more cheerful."

    "Now, that's more like it."  She grinned at him a moment before taking him off guard and kissing him soundly. 

    "What was that for?"

   Hermione shrugged.  "I like kissing you…I like it a lot actually."  She bit her lip, a habit that always drove him crazy.  The expression on her face was both playful and slightly naughty.  "The two of us could just stay here the rest of the night and celebrate privately.  Merlin, but it's been a long time, you know?"

    As much as Ron wanted to take her up on the offer, he knew his conscience wouldn't allow him to do so.   But he sure as hell wanted her.  "It has been a long time...too long."  Impulsively, Ron kissed her hungrily on the lips, savoring the feel and taste of her.  He wished more than anything that it didn't matter to him that she was drunk and vulnerable.  But it did.  Breaking the kiss, he stood up and reached his hand down to her, helping her to her feet.  Ron didn't miss the bewildered expression on her face and sighed.  He pulled her closer to him.  "I want to make love when we're both sober, Hermione.  I just can't…it doesn't feel right….not when you're like this."

     "Just because I'm a little drunk, doesn't mean I don't know what I want, Ron."   She drank the rest of the whiskey left in her glass.  "It has been my experience that alcohol is somewhat like a truth serum."

     Ron brought the bottle to his lips, taking another drink.  "If that's the case, then tell me right now if you love me or not."   

    Hermione smiled at him coyly before falling to her knees in front of him.  A gasp escaped his lips as she unbuttoned his trousers and began to slowly pull down the zipper.  He dropped the bottle, allowing it to fall to the floor with a loud bang.  Using her thumbs, Hermione pulled his pants and underwear down all at once. 

     There he was, his pants and underwear hanging down around his ankles, fully exposed to her.  Ron's heart was beating a mile a minute as Hermione began to touch to him there.   He closed his eyes, as she wrapped her fingers around his cock, and began to move up and down.  "Bloody hell,"  he mumbled.  "No….this isn't….bloody hell."  He wanted to stop her, but her actions were rendering his defenses useless.

     He cursed when she began to kiss him there, the tension killing him.  Ron opened his eyes and stared down at her when she spoke.  "Instead of me telling you whether I love you or not, why don't I just show you instead?"  Never breaking eye contact, she took the head of his cock in her mouth, sucking slowly. 

    Ron could feel his knees buckling under him and had to sit down on the bed before he fell over.  He reached his hands forward, grasping her hair and pulling her forward, egging her on even though he knew it wasn't right.   "Hmmm," Hermione murmured before taking him in her mouth.

   He hadn't been with a woman in so long.  And the fact that it was his Hermione doing this to him, brought Ron over the edge in no time.  He tried to warn her, but couldn't seem to get the words out fast enough.  As his cock erupted, he let go of her hair and fell back onto the bed.  His body felt like jelly and his mind was blissfully clear.  After a few minutes, he opened his eyes to see Hermione standing before him, a look of triumph on her face. 

    "Sure you still don't want to have a private celebration?"

    Ron quickly gathered his wits about him.  Kicking off his pants and shoes, he came up off the bed,  grabbing Hermione and kissing her passionately on the lips.  Never breaking the kiss, he maneuvered them around, pushing her down onto the bed.  They were both breathless when Ron finally broke away. Just as Hermione had done, Ron never broke eye contact with her as he licked his lips and moved his hand downward.  Finding the hem of her skirt, he raised it slightly before slowly running his hand up along her inner thigh.  He began to massage her between her legs, feeling the wetness seeping through her underwear.   "Damn but you're sopping wet, Hermione." 

    She was squirming beneath him and started to spread her legs.  "Please, Ron….please…"

    He smiled, before moving down her body.  Pushing her skirt up, he hooked his thumbs into the sides of her underwear and yanked them off in one fell swoop.  Ron positioned himself between her legs, eager to taste her and make her come like she had done to him.  He glanced up and locked eyes with Hermione one more time.  "Now it's my turn."  He was bound and determined to show Hermione just how much he loved her.