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A Bleeding Heart

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A Bleeding Heart

Chapter 1

"The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely."

- Charlotte Brontë

July 29th

Susan Bones bit her lip as she looked through the window of her favorite dress shop in Diagon Alley. The owner, a sweet young witch that came from a muggle family, used those muggle ties to influence her fashion ideas. Susan loved them. No dress robes in Wizarding Britain looked anywhere near as beautiful as these creations.

Susan wasn't particularly materialistic, but something about the way the slim waist was lined with lace in a shade of pink just slightly lighter than the fabric of the dress called to her in a way nothing did. This display of course was designed to draw the eye, bring in customers, but...

The dress made her sigh.

Even though, with hair as red as maraschino cherry and a parade of freckles that covered her from head to foot, pink was definitely not in her color palate. Ione, one of the Healers on Susan's team at St. Mungo's, would say to go for it, the feisty witch's clear voice rang in her head: "Susan, you have to live life before it leaves you!"

It wasn't like the dress would break the bank, as one of the Top Healers at the hospital, her salary was comfortable, to put it modestly. She had made Top Healer at the age of 25, about one year ago, and with it came a hefty pay raise and a hefty amount of hours added to her work day. Except for today. Her blessed day off.

Okay, where's the harm in trying it on? She thought as she found herself walking into the shop. A little bell chimed merrily as she entered. Then she bee-lined for the dress, knowing without a doubt that she could easily get lost in the shop all day if she let herself. Out of the corner of her eye, a whirlwind of colors and fabrics called to her.

But the pink dress stood out against all else. Sleeveless, with a high neck, the pink color reminded her of the most delicate of the pink peonies that her Aunt Amelia used to grow in their backyard.

The familiar pang of loneliness in her heart she got whenever she thought of the woman who raised her reminded her that it had been 10 years since Amelia Bones had lost her life, making Susan the last remaining member of her family...

And she had a thought: Aunt Amelia would have loved this dress.

Damn. And then she winced at her internal swearing, knowing Amelia would hate such language from her. She grabbed the hanger and made her way to the fitting room, nodding to the young man at the register and shutting the door firmly behind her before anymore inner swearing could convince her not to try the dress on.

Purse hung up, she stripped and shimmied into the dress, the fabric sliding over her freckled skin like water.

Double damn. She was right. The waistline made her look all that much slimmer, her hips flaring out with lace, the neckline sat perfectly across her collarbones in attractive angles that drew the eye, the fabric curved artfully over her breasts, making it perfect for a hospital event or even a nice date, and the color… looked horrible with her hair and freckles. Damn! It was even the perfect length on her long legs. Damn her height, she cursed. If she had been an inch or two shorter or an inch or two taller she wouldn't have nearly as many problems with finding clothing that fit. Regular sized clothing being just a touch too short, and the clothing listed as 'Tall' or 'Long' were just a touch to much.

Mournfully, she redressed and hung the dress back up where she found it, making her way to the door before another dress caught her eye when she heard a old but still familiar voice.

"Susan! Susan Bones!" It was Hannah Abbott.

She turned and saw a witch she hadn't seen since school. Oh Gods she was going to have to talk to people today wasn't she? Ugh...

"Hannah! How are you?" And somehow her voice sounded enthusiastic to her ears.

The witch had blonde hair just down to her shoulders and big brown eyes, just how Susan remembered her. She looked to be doing well, but… It wasn't that she was antisocial, it was just… her day off was precious to Susan, and any kind of obligatory small talk felt like an intrusion on the precious hours that she could call her own.

"What? Oh sure…" Damn she realized too late she was agreeing to go to lunch with Hannah and some people she didn't even know. "Or maybe just a cup of tea?" She suggested instead.

"Ohh! I know just the place!"

Susan had never been to this place, Witchy Tea Shop and Goods, but remembered it had showed up after the end of the second war in the wave of shops and restaurants that had popped up all over Wizarding Britain. Hannah chatted about nothing all the way there and when they reached the entrance squealed happily at the sight of the other witches she was meeting up with.

"This is Susan, you guys! She was in my year at Hogwart's, a Hufflepuff!"

They ooo'ed and aww'ed, fawned and squealed and even though Susan hated women like that, it was simultaneously nice to be part of a group even as she loathed ladies who lunched...

Together they walked into the shop and grabbed a table, the other witches saddled with shopping bags and already talking over each other in an attempt to catch up on as much gossip as they could, asking Susan if she was seeing anyone.

No, she wasn't.

Surely there was some fox in her life?

Well there was this one guy…

More ooo'ing and aww'ing.

But it's just so complicated.

Go for it girl. And for some reason, even though another witch said it, she heard it in Ione's voice.

It was as they were settling into their table that Susan noticed another witch at another table, a practiced habit of hers, to notice everyone in the room. She was standing and looking uncomfortably in their direction. It took her a few seconds but Susan finally recognized that face. The witch had lost most of her baby fat, and it somehow made her upturned nose look less pug-like and more like a button nose on a pleasantly round face, but it was definitely Pansy Parkinson.

She had incredibly long, shiny black hair that reached down to her waist and she dressed in a nice blue jumper and a pair of jeans.

Susan wanted to greet this witch as Hannah had greeted her earlier, but Pansy probably had no idea how much she had actually saved Susan's butt in Potion's those last few years of school, especially in NEWT levels. A Potion's NEWT had almost been the downfall to her dreams to become a Healer...

But she held back because of how very uncomfortable Pansy looked, probably because Hannah and her friends were still chatting and squealing loudly. So she nudged Hannah, who nudged her friends one by one until they were all staring at each other awkwardly.

Oops that didn't help did it? Okay… say something.

"I haven't seen you out and about much since school, Parkinson." She said it in the same tone they had used back in school, almost snarling, mostly it had been posturing, if they hadn't been in separate houses they might've had a friendship. So she added in a more friendly tone, "How are you doing?"

Pansy's face lost the awkward look and she looked about to respond when Hannah sneered meanly and said, "Why are you being nice to her, Susan? She's a traitor and a Death Eater's daughter."

It was a tone Susan had never heard from her fellow Hufflepuff and she was so taken back from it she almost missed what Pansy had said. Almost.

"The Bones come from a well respected wizarding family and were probably taught basic human manners." Her tone cutting, implying Hannah had none of the mentioned manners at all. She then turned to Susan with a much nicer smile and said, "I'm doing fine by the way, Susan. Thanks for asking."

And without another word, the dark haired witch turned, grabbed her clutch purse, and readied herself to leave. Just when door to the shop opened.

But it was with horror that Susan watched Hannah whip her wand out so quickly and cast a tripping jinx on the poor girl. "Hannah what are you doing?!" she couldn't help but shriek, standing from her chair and walking over to help Pansy up.

But someone, a man, had beaten her to it. "Put your damn wand away, Hannah. What are you thinking using your wand on her in front of me? She's wandless, too." Neville Longbottom had entered the shop and had his hands on Pansy, lifting her up as if she weighed nothing.

Hannah's face went from mean to meaner, if that was even possible. "Don't you dare boss me around Neville! I'm your wife and you have no right-"

Wife? Susan's eyes flashed to Hannah's left hand, seeing no ring there.

But Neville was clearly not paying any attention to Hannah, or anyone else. And Susan thought no one else noticed how when Neville's hands had gripped Pansy's shoulders, flecks of magic had sparkled off them in pretty blues and purples.

Pansy pushed her fallen bangs out of her eyes and looked up to thank her rescuer, except… she recognized exactly who had done the rescuing. "Longbottom…" she sneered.

And this is why Susan hated going out. Especially in Diagon Alley… everyone recognized each other and people from her year at Hogwart's had a lot of hostility… hostility and drama...

"Ahh, Parkinson…" Neville sneered back in the same tone. See? Drama.

There was a long moment of silence as the two just stood looking at each other before Neville turned to Hannah. "Hannah, what the fuck did you think you were doing?"

Hannah huffed, hands going to her hips in a defiant way. "Not that it's any of your business, but I thought a little jinx would put her snotty ass where it belongs, on the ground!"

Susan wanted no part of this, Hannah being nothing how she remembered from school. So she edged her way to the door, trying not to draw attention to herself. She reached the door and gently pried it open as the two continued to yell at each other, and when she heard someone yelling about being on a date that was now ruined she made a final break for it.

Drama! Her classmates from her year were beyond dramatic and this is why Susan hated seeing her former friends. Set her up with a good whiskey and a book any day over a social event.

If only she hadn't been enticed by that damn dress that didn't even look good on her! She decided ice cream was just what she needed to salvage this day off.

It took no time at all to reach the famous ice cream parlor, ordering a large caramel sundae, minus the cherry. She sat out on a bench and put her legs in the sun while she enjoyed the decadent treat.

She had made a promise to herself on a night long ago, after the crucible that was Healer's Training and after Terry Boot had left her, saying she was too dedicated to being a Healer, and that was okay with them both, that she would never think about work on her day off. But she didn't want to even touch on what she had just witnessed, the out of character wand assault on an unarmed witch by someone who Susan remembered as sweet and gentle. The sudden appearance of all her old classmates… she felt like she had been attending a play. She was still waiting for the punchline.

Shaking her head, she used breathing techniques to clear her mind. And…

Hannah's voice rang through her head: "Surely there's some fox in your life, Susan?"

Damn…he wasn't hers… not by any means, she just had the biggest crush on him.

The image of a dark skinned man came to her. It wasn't exactly thinking about work if she was thinking about Terrence… just because he worked for her… C'mon Susan he works for you...

It wasn't the first time she toed the line of her own rules, it wouldn't be the last either. It was just the first… okay the second time... she had thought of him in a sexual way.

But now her brain was completely set on thinking about Terrence Dane, the newest member of her team as of one week ago, and she knew no matter what she needed to see it through. She knew her own obsessive mind and how it worked. Until she thought it out, day dreamed her way through a sexual encounter between him and her, he would continue to plague her…

So she indulged, the sun on her legs, the breeze in her face, she sucked the caramel off her spoon and she imagined sucking the same from the smooth, chocolate dark skin of the man who was now working for her and looked every bit delicious as the caramel tasted. He was narcissistic and arrogant, and who wouldn't be when you made Healer at only age 20, but his smile melted her into puddles, and his eyes were a striking green that looked at her like sex.

The only problem was…

He would be all wrong for her. And she knew it. He was too outgoing, too in your face, too selfish. Too young, but was she really that old? 6 years wasn't that large of an age difference...

She absentmindedly scooped up more caramel and ice cream imaging the possible bed play between them… he was so fit… Intelligent, hard working, tall enough…

Not. Actually. Hers.

Never going to be hers.

She groaned… Rule number one: Never think about work on your day off.

August 25th

Susan Bones bright yellow Healer's robes had been clean and wrinkle free when she had showed up for her shift earlier in the day. The state of those robes now could only be described as disastrous, she thought, as she used to her wand to siphon off vomit from the bottom of her robes and her sensible black work shoes.

Not the first time I've been thrown up on… Certainly not the last…

Not that she minded so terribly. Susan loved her job. Even when she was scheduled to work the Block shift, as they called it. Block shift was all emergency work and on the spot healing. She would take Block shift any day over paper work.

Paper work is the devil's work… She hummed to herself as she looked over the clipboard. It arranged the patient's information according to the way her mind worked, in organized lines and the pertinent information first. Whenever Terrence picked up a clipboard, the words would jumble up in big, splotchy letters that made no sense, no order to it, at all. Terrence, Susan knew, was the exact opposite of her. Big and outgoing and narcissistic and loud and rude, yet smart enough to become a Healer at only 20 years of age and only a bare 3 years after graduating from Hogwart's, Terrence Dane was a thorn in her side from the first day she had met him. Whatever had possessed her to agree to a date, she would never understand. What made her think jumping into bed with a man 6 years younger than her was a good idea, okay maybe it was his striking green eyes rimmed with the thickest black lashes she had ever seen, or his mouth full of perfectly straight white teeth and the darkest, fullest lips... or his dark chocolate skin that beckoned her to lick… Argh!

The clipboard swirled and settled into tiny, neat black lettering that told her this particular patient was female, age 7, and her name. It then went on to list why she was brought it, by who, and what, if any, potions or spells had been in use recently.

She walked into the small, private room to see a very concerned father holding his daughter's hand.

"Hello, I'm Healer Susan." she greeted, setting the clipboard down on the nearby counter and imagining hitting Terrence's face with the broadside of that clipboard, the slapping sound it made when it hit the counter fitting in perfectly to her violent fantasy, and she knelt in front of the young child. Her leg was propped up, obviously broken, and tears ran down her face in rivers though she stayed silent. "Did you hurt yourself?"

The girl nodded, dark hair falling into her bright eyes. Her words jumbled together. "I fell down the stairs outside. There was a butterfly and Daddy was scared."

Susan's eyes flashed up to the father, his brow furrowed with worry and lips pinched. "I'm rotten with healing spells, so I gave her half of a pain potion and brought her here."

Susan nodded, having already noted it from the information on the clipboard. "Okay, Darla? Do you know the Hippogriff song?"

Darla's eyes brightened as she nodded, Susan knowing it was becoming one of the more popular children's songs of late.

"Me too, it's my favorite!" Susan smiled and readied her wand. "Okay, on three I want you to sing the Hippogriff song for me. Sound good? Okay, one… two… three…H is for how tall can the Hippogriff get..."

And Darla let it out in her tiny voice, singing about Huge Hippogriffs and how very proud they were while Susan set the bone and mended the injury, flicking her wand exactly way she knew would hurt the least.

Afterwards, she gave Darla a high five and a mini candy quill for her brave efforts, informing the father to owl the front office if any problems arise.

Block shift continued for several more hours, Susan healing boils, burns, broken bones, and the worst of ouchy-boo-boo's. Like the Ministry, the hospital used to use owls to get their messages around, thankfully that didn't last long before they switched to paper owls. The twittering bits of parchment made getting messages around the hospital quick, easy, and way less messy. She knocked out clipboard after clipboard, wiped away tears, cleared up urine, and managed to avoid Terrence and his exploratory hands the whole day until…

Auror Harry Potter stormed into St. Mungo's with several of his people, and even more injured. Because she had a habit of hanging in the reception area when the workload was low, she was the first Healer on the scene and took charge, leading the haphazard group into the nearest fully operational room, calling for backup, and immediately got into Harry's face to figure out who needed help first. Several paper owls burst from her wand and took off out of the room in different directions.

He had two in critical condition, one Theodore Nott from her year, unresponsive, an unknown curse striking him dead in the heart, knocking him out cold. The other was Neville Longbottom, also from her year at Hogwart's, thankfully no magical damage done to him, just a heavy set of drawers that had fallen on his back causing major physical damage. Terrence had answered her owl call first and she directed him to Theo's bed, immediately assessing Terrence's skills with magical research, she knew he would be best to figure out what exactly had happened to the tall, dark haired man who had spent the majority of his family fortune and time on the St. Mungo's Children Charity.

Two other Healer's had shown up, Ione and Criscilia. Ione was a feisty witch with a temper, but she was an ace in a crisis and perfect with physical wounds so Susan pushed her to Neville's bed to get to work. Criscilia was sweet natured and gentle, and usually saw patterns others couldn't, so she went to Theo's bed with Terrence.

Susan also had a pair of Weasley's, though they were both older than she. George, who was coming around, obviously suffering from a concussion and a broken jaw, she pushed into a bed and told him to keep very still until she could get back to him. The other Weasley, Percy she believed was his name, she did the same with, pushing him into a bed and giving him a quick look over. Barely a bump on the head, he would be fine.

"But stay there." She warned with a stern finger she knew few dared disobey.

The last was Hannah Abbott, who she recalled briefly going out for a lunch with about a month ago, her distaste for the blonde witch and what she had done not forgotten… But she was a Healer, her soul only too happy when she was helping others.

Hannah was knocked out, but responsive Susan noted happily with a wave of her wand. Susan immediately began running test after test, finding out why the girl was knocked out so she could fix it quickly. After the 5th wave of her wand, the tests appearing magically to her Healer's mind, she realized exactly what was wrong with the girl.

"Lamia!" She called to the Aide she saw out of the corner of her eye. "I need 3 B.R.P.'s and a Hydrating Potion to this one, ASAP."

The Aide, a young brunette working towards her Healer Certificate, Lamia ran across the hallway to the nearest potion supply room. B.R.P.'s were Blood Replenishing Potions, a staple in the Healing community.

Mentally checking off the medications Ms. Abbott would need, Susan began searching for the reason why the witch had no blood and immediately found a huge open gash on the fleshy underside of her belly. But the wound was superficial, not designed to kill immediately, but to allow Hannah to slowly bleed out, with the help of a little magic. It would've hurt, the death would've been slow, but it was a snap to heal.

Susan's wand, a slim 7 ½ inch Ash, whipped out and mended the cut easily, just in time for Lamia to return with the potions.

"Get those into her and stay with her to make sure she stays stable." Susan ordered as she ran over to check on her critical patients. Lack of blood did odd things to witches and wizards.

Another Healer, Alban Reed had showed up, Susan's eyes landing on his dark hair and dark eyes. The man had a track record with coma patients, so she sent him to Theo's bed as well. She saw the four Healers, the majority of her team, waving their wands, checking for a response, and felt a quick jolt of pride. Even for that bastard, Terrence, they deserved her pride, they were fantastic Healers.

Neville's bed was the closest to her position, though she felt like she hadn't stopped moving, her eyes flicking over her shoulder to make sure Mr. Nott was being attended to, flicking back to Neville and the other Healer on her team, Ione. Ione was fighting to keep her patient alive. Neville Longbottom, she recalled from her days in school had been a lanky, awkward, stuttering boy who couldn't so much as lift a feather with his wand. Now, as a man, he had filled out, his arms and legs as thick as small tree trunks, his chest puffed out with muscle she imagined the men in her romance novel had in spades.

And, with a wave of her wand, she knew this man was close to death, his physical injuries pushing him to the brink. Ione grunted out, her wand unable to keep up with all the damage, so Susan added hers. The Healing streams melded together, expanding in a shade of yellows and reds and oranges.

"I have him…" she grunted too, the sheer need for healing his body pulled from her almost knocked her down. His entire back was broken, both arms, several ribs, one of which had punctured a lung, as well as several bone fractures in his neck and skull.

Ione actually growled out some foul, power words, channeling the healing magic into all the cuts and breaks of Neville's body and that's when Susan noticed another person: Pansy Parkinson standing at the end of the bed, looking down at Neville's broken, bloody body, the look on her face pure unmitigated agony.

Susan had seen the witch a month ago, at the tea shop she had had a impromptu lunch with Hannah at, hoping to catch up with her old classmate, she had instead seen a side of Hannah she would have never guessed the witch had. Hannah had used her wand to trip Pansy, all for a laugh.

Neville's need for healing pulled on her even harder, her mind focusing, while Lamia called out from behind her, "Susan! She's crashing!"

She couldn't leave Neville yet so she calmly barked out orders over her shoulder at the capable Aide. "Breathe for her, like I showed you. Hold her until I can get over there."

Another body had joined Pansy at the end of Neville's bed, but Susan barely noted it, focusing entirely on holding Neville from the edge of death, his body slowly coming back to her.

She twisted her wand, having learned a long time ago that when you channeled magic like this, into someone else, it flowed more effectively when you twisted with the stream of Healing, making the magic hurt less, and flow better.

"Ione… I got it-" Barely. "… go stabilize Ms. Abbott and get Lamia to bring me some B.R.P.'s and Skele-Grow for me, ASAP."

Ione dropped her wand, the healing stream loosing it's orange tint, and Susan felt the increase of pressure as all of Neville's need shifted to her. But she held it, she hadn't made Chief Healer by 25 for no reason, she didn't have her own team for no reason. She could do this.

As the magic continued to channel, Neville's skin and bones knitting together as every second passed, she noted Lamia and Ione stabilizing Hannah Abbott.

She noted Alban breaking away from the other group of Healers and walking over to George Weasley, setting his jaw bone and running diagnostic tests to make sure the wizard was otherwise okay.

Her mind when in five different directions, but she never stopped focusing on Neville.

She noted how Ginny Weasley and Pansy Parkinson stood side by side, looking down at Neville with terrified eyes. Neville didn't need her bedside manner, but they did.

So she said, "I have him." It took nothing from her to speak while she continued to heal. "All his injuries, while severe, were physical and I am healing them fully now."

She didn't think either of the witches had heard a word she had said, but Neville's need was lessening now, her magic winding down. It was hard to explain to non Healers exactly how her magic felt when she did intense healing like this, but she had always known that this is what she wanted to do with her life, her gift for healing apparent even as a child.

Aunt Amelia would be proud.

Alban walked up beside her, wand ready and sweat on his dark brow.

"Update." she said to him.

"Mr. and Mr. Weasley are fine, a minor concussion which has been taken care of and jaw bone was broken, but it's mending now. The other had a small bump on his head, but otherwise fine. Ms. Abbott is stable and resting now, once she wakes up we will know more."

She checked off their names in her mind. "Mr. Nott?"

"Unknown what hit him, not sure what to do. He's… not unstable… We need your opinion."

"Got it. Help Ione."

Though Alban was a decade older than her, he had never had any trouble following her orders or recognizing her authority over him. She liked Alban. She hated Terrence. Focus.

She felt Neville's body fully mend, the last bone knitting together, his body going fully slack as she gently released the channel of magic. Lamia ran over then, knowing exactly when she was needed, with the supplies Susan had barked out for.

"Monitor him, notify me immediately if there is even a slight change." She walked away, seeing Pansy collapse into a chair next to his bed as Lamia began administering the potions.

Her mind switched from Mr. Longbottom to Mr. Nott instantly.

With a practiced wave of her wand, she was running tests before she even reached his bed. Her mind taking in each of the results. Blood levels were good. No broken bones, torn muscles, or disrupted organs. Brain activity was fine. He wasn't in a coma, but he was unresponsive in a way she just hadn't ever seen before. Huh…

Physically… he was fine. But she could see the way a lump of green magic was sitting in his heart, not doing anything, not affecting him physically at all, just sitting there. And for some reason, he wasn't waking up.

Criscilia dropped her wand, "Not a coma, have you ever seen anything like this before?"

Terrence dropped his wand as well, both of them finally seeing what Susan had seen in only a minute. "No, that's odd… his readings are very odd."

Susan assessed the results and, now that things were winding down, as much as things could wind down in a hospital, thought about where her team was needed. "See the magic in his heart?" She asked them both, they took their time but finally they saw it.

"Criscilia, do you need to get back to Mrs. Imelda on the second floor?" she asked, referring to the long term patient her team had been assigned to.

Cris took a moment to think about it. "I should be getting back to her within the next ten minutes or so."

She nodded. "Ten minutes and then go. Terrence, go ahead and take over Block shift, I'll keep Ione and Alban here with me."

Terrence's green eyes flashed. "No way, send the old bat to deal with Block shift, my talents and time are much better spent here." The 'Old Bat' he was referring to was Ione, even though she was entering her 7th decade, she had no problem keeping up with the much younger team.

She saw Cris roll her eyes in the same way she wish she could. Damn this man. "Your talents are better spent wherever I tell you to go in this hospital, I was on Block shift, take over for me so I can handle things here. Ione is better with physical damage than you are so I need her here for Mr. Longbottom."

"Please I saw you working Mr. Longbottom, he's fine." It was a compliment and a dismissal. But a dismissal wasn't something he was allowed to give her. Gods he infuriated her.

"Are you really going to make me pull rank? Block shift, go." Susan said instead of what she really wanted to say. 'I'm an idiot for sleeping with you because now you think you can outrank me, boss me around, and/or ignore my orders. Go fuck yourself Terrence.'

But, with the steely control that helped her get to the position she was in today, she resisted the urge to tell him off and instead turned her back on the young man, focusing back on Mr. Nott.

All of this had happened in less than 15 minutes. Her day was far from over.

Theodore Nott, she knew, was a determined man who had astounded her time and time again with his generosity and unrelenting efforts he put towards the Hospital. But there wasn't anything she could do for him right now. She walked back over to Neville's bed, Pansy sitting in a chair watching his sleeping form. She waved her wand. "Just running some tests."

She didn't want the witch to worry, but it was obvious she wouldn't be okay until the man woke up. And from what she was seeing, he needed quite a lot of rest before that would happen, so she didn't waste her breath trying to make her better.

Even as she realized exactly what she was seeing. Bright, dancing threads.

A soul mate bond. To her Healer's mind, it stretched between the unconscious man and Pansy, a myriad of blues and purples. It was thin and new, barely formed, but seemed solid. She very rarely saw a soul mate bond, a gift to the magical community, between such young people. They usually popped up between older, married couples that had spent decades together… and from what Susan knew, these two had only been together a month. Interesting. But all his other stats were falling into what she would normally see, making her feel much better about his chances of waking up. "I'll be back in a bit."

She took the quick respite to check into her office but paperwork could always wait, so she went right back to Mr. Nott's side after checking on Ms. Abbott and the Weasley boys. Theo lay in his bed, breathing normally, everything functioning as it should. Ione and Alban flanked her sides and they worked in perfect harmony together, as they had for the past year. They just couldn't figure out what the hell kind of spell hit Mr. Nott.

As she worked, she noticed the other personnel in the room. Draco Malfoy, who she quickly figured out was an Auror working with Harry, Ron, and Neville. Hermione Granger was also here. And the other redheaded couple she shook hands with turned out to be Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

It was a full house.

After an hour or so, she said what she was thinking. "If I didn't know any better, I would say it was a nonverbal Killing Curse. Harry said it looked like a green bolt, but no one had actually said the words. Maybe our patient just needs a little encouragement?"

The other two looked at her wordlessly, neither of them having any idea what it could be.

But they could all agree on one thing, physically, Theo was fine. The magic in his heart was slowly retreating into nothingness. So she told them to inform her of any changes and made her way back over to Neville's bed. Now that the room had quieted down, she allowed her mind to remember the last time she had seen this man, before that day in the tea shop with Hannah and Pansy, back to the final Battle at Hogwart's. His arms holding up a long sword with a gold hilt, swinging down on a giant tarantula that was about to sink its fangs into her throat…

Yes, she thought. She needed to save him, as he had saved her. This man is brave.

"You Gryffindor's are so volatile!" Pansy's voice filtered through her thoughts as Ginny Weasley stomped away.

"What was that all about?" Draco Malfoy voiced the question in Susan's head.

"I have no fucking idea." Pansy spat out. Susan noticed how tired she really looked, noticed the bruising on her neck and shoulders(what the hell had happened to these people tonight?), how sad her brilliantly purple eyes looked…She recalled that Neville's eyes were a deep blue... That explained the purple and blues she saw in their soul mate bond.

"Why did she want you to look in the mirror?" Hermione Granger asked the witch. "Oh…would you look at that?"

"What are you two doing?" Pansy asked, jumping out of her chair and backing away from Draco and Hermione, who were looking at the witch intently. Susan had a feeling she knew why.

"Sweet Circe! Gryffindor's are so nosy! What are you looking at?!"

She couldn't help it. "I'm not a Gryffindor." No, Susan had been in Hufflepuff. Pansy's eyes landed on her and recognition flickered over her exhausted face. Susan was right. She couldn't help but reassure the woman. "And don't worry, it's just a physical influence of your soul mate bond."

Several of the others in the room said something to that, but Pansy stayed silent, an odd look on her face. The dark haired witch finally turned and brought the compact to her face, and Susan resisted the urge to giggle. She knew what Pansy was now seeing, one of the rare affects of having a soul mate, but it wasn't unheard of. Her already brilliant colored purple eyes had become even more unique, jagged edges of blue spiking through the violet. Susan had noticed it earlier, even if she hadn't realized she had noticed it.

Now Pansy knew. She dropped the compact, turning to face them again… and her face crumbled. She brought both of her fists down on the edge of Neville's bed, screaming at him.

"WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE UP!"

Susan's urge to laugh left her completely, seeing the already exhausted woman begin to freak out in a hopeless way. "Pansy, Ms. Parkinson, please Neville is going to be okay, we're positive he just needs some rest. All of his injuries were physical, no magic. Mostly broken bones…"

She watched as Pansy backed up from the bed, her frame trembling and face crumbling with despair. She took steps towards the door when her eyes landed on Theo, still unresponsive in his bed.

"And you!" she shrieked suddenly, jolting Susan. "Wake up!"

She shoved at Theo's barely breathing chest, causing Susan and Ione to scream out.

Alban went to grab the witch saying, "Ms. Parkinson!" when Draco Malfoy stopped him.

Pansy shoved at Theo over and over again yelling, "I will pour every bit of your expensive firewhiskey down the drain. Do you hear me Theo!? I will break every expensive decanter you have, smash every last of your expensive crystal! Theo! That poster of what's-his-name-chaser shirtless on the Tornado's you keep in your closet? I will shred it to pieces! All your Italian shoes? Theo! THEO!"

Susan rushed forward, wrapping her arms around the hysterical witch, who shoved at Theo with all the force her tiny frame could muster, her brain finally understanding that Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson were obviously very good friends… and if the witch was Neville's soul mates…

She couldn't imagine the kind of pain felt at having two people you loved in the hospital, not knowing if they would wake up again.

"Theodore Nott, I will put holes in every single one of your designer couches if you don't wake up right this second!"

The crazed words rattled in Susan's head Pansy had screamed them so loudly.

But nothing could drown out the sound of Theo's moan. Pansy fell back before Susan could hold onto her, but Draco Malfoy was there, wrapping his whole frame around the crying witch. She immediately switched gears to Mr. Nott.

He coughed up. "P-Percy."

Something inside of her sighed, knowing he could speak was a good sign. The Weasley that had been staying by Theo's side leaned forward, gripping their hands together.

"I'm here, Theodore… I'm here…" he said.

"Please…" Mr. Nott moaned in a way that told Susan he need fluids ASAP. She gestured for Lamia to come over, digging around in the witch's apron, pulling out spare potions. "Keep that wretched witch away from my couches…"

The words he spoke made Susan want to laugh, but she heard Pansy sob louder. She fingered one of the potions as an idea hit her. She turned and threw a Dreamless Sleep Potion towards Draco once she caught his eye. The witch was emotional and exhausted.

Theo coughed more, but she gave him the potion orally, waving her wand with her other hand. She gestured for Alban to help Ms. Parkinson, and Ione came to her side immediately, adding her help to Mr. Nott.

"Do you know your name?" she asked Theo.

His eyes blinked several times, the Hydrating Potion bringing color to his pallid skin. He coughed one more time before saying, "Theodore Anacus Nott, and if I wasn't into men, I would have accepted your drunken offer for marriage all those years ago, Susan Bones."

It was just the thing to lighten the mood in the room. She noted his readings returning to normal almost immediately, so she didn't stop the smile.

"I will never live down that night of karaoke will I?" she asked, remembering to never ever bet against a man who can drink an entire bar and knows all the lyrics to every Spice Girl song in existence.

Theo cracked a crooked smile before moaning loudly again.

"This is just my initial reading, but I think you'll be just fine. Get some rest." A small paper owl fluttered towards her and the message let her know she was needed on Block shift right away. "Ione." Susan tucked her wand back into her robes and turned to the other Healer. "Monitor the room, notify me immediately if anything changes and I'll be back shortly to do more tests."

"I'm on it boss." Ione took charge and everyone was stable, including Pansy who was now curled up with Neville Longbottom, so she exited the room.

She took two seconds to stop into the restroom and splash water on her face, her watch telling her it was close to 6 A.M. She dug around in her robe pocket for a granola bar as she took the stairs up to Block shift.

Emerging into the long hallway with multiple rooms, she noticed they were all available, no clipboards in sight and…

Two large hands gripped her waist and pulled her back suddenly. She would have squeaked in surprise, but she recognized the smell of cologne he wore, agarwood and balsam. Expensive. He wore very expensive cologne.

"Terrence what are you doing?" She would not sigh, she would not give in... Even though he had her front pressed into the door of the this floor's potion supply closet, his thighs pressed firmly against the backs of hers, his hands roaming up her front, lifting up her robes…

"Terrence…" she warned, biting down hard on her lip. What was it with dark rooms that lowered her inhibitions so?

"I love it so when you say my name, Susie." His voice sounded like her favorite of caramels, thick and rich and full of promise...

"My name is Susan." she fought him, because she knew if she gave any give, his head would get even bigger. Her hands spread out on the door in front of her as his hands played at the vee at the top of her thighs, slipping beneath the lace there...

"We were good together, Susie. Don't tell me you don't want a repeat-" his finger expertly found the sensitive bud between her legs "-performance?"

The memory of the one and only performance he spoke of swirled with the scent of his cologne, bombarding her mind with the images of just how well he played her body…

August 6th

Gods what was she thinking?

Dinner had been nice, their differences an awkward glare from minute one, but still… nice… how could it not when he dressed in such a smart looking suit and kissed her knuckles in such a charming way? Or the way he fed her bits of fish from his own fork?

But he had talked about nothing but himself the entire time and then ordered chocolate for dessert. She steeled herself against the door to the apartment she owned in London, his body expertly leaning in, and told herself that a goodbye kiss wasn't out of line, and then she could explain that they worked together, she was his boss, it just couldn't work. That she should have never agreed to the date in the first place… but when was the last time someone looked at her like that?

And then his full, dark set of lips was on hers, her body sighing beneath the little black dress she had worn, and he was sucking on her bottom lip like it was that chocolate cake he liked so much.

She hated chocolate.

"You know I'm coming in right?" His voice was silk and promise and yet so conceited and haughty, it grated against her as much as it drove her crazy with heat.

Ugh… she moaned with frustration into his mouth, her desire mixing with annoyance. Could he be anymore arrogant?

But he took her moan as sexual and wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her smaller body frame into his larger embrace, his lips doing magical things and his tongue leaving her breathless.

How was it possible to hate someone this much while wanting them just as badly?

It doesn't matter what you want, she thought to her body. This will never work in the long run.

She groaned out loud, confused as to why her body hummed with want for him when her mind was saying no, no, no.

"You want me, I can tell… I want to show you how good I am in bed, Susie." His large hands found their way into her messy hair, pulling at the strands of red. Fuck it felt good.

Her hands clenched on his upper arms but... what he said... she decided to add vain to the list of things she hated about him. The cons were weighing out the pros by now, weren't they? Terry Boot's face flashed in her mind, her first love and lover, his voice filled her mind. "You're the humblest woman I have met, Susan Bones. You will make the best Healer, I just worry you won't take care of yourself…"

Terry and Terrence… huh. The two men were as different as their names were similar, Terry being around Susan's height, his pale skin and even paler hair that that glinted in the sun. Their conflicting schedules had eventually led to them ending their relationship several years ago…

Several years since she had felt the touch of a man.

"...I just worry you won't take care of yourself…"

"Surely there's some fox in your life, Susan?"

Damn that Hannah Abbott. Damn that Terry Boot.

The fact that she was thinking of Terry while Terrence kissed her was not lost on Susan either…

But…

It had been so long, loneliness a dark thread inside of her needing to be addressed.

...

She let him in, the body's needs winning out over the mind's.

Because beneath it all, the fulfilling career, her aptitude for study and healing, she rarely went on dates, she had no true friends, and her family was dead, it left nothing but loneliness.

oOoOo

"Terrence, I told you…" she shook herself and put distance between them, as much as the small potion supply closet would allow. "I told you no."

Once had been… one too many. She pulled her panties back into place, straightened her robes, pushing back a frown.

"You want me so badly, Susie. Why do you deny us both?" He brought up a finger to lips, oh-so-gently running it along her bottom lip in a smooth move that made her body purr.

"Why do you want me? Don't you want to date someone your own age?" she whispered through the sexual haze he had ignited, just with that one touch of his finger. But while her body was responding, her mind was attempting to blackout his face. Because she did not like him.

"Age is nothing. We are both healthy and attractive people, we should be together." His words threw water to the fire. There was only so much of his arrogance she could take, she realized.

She pushed him away. "I don't want to, Terrence. And the next time you make me pull rank on you, we are going to have a huge problem. Get back to work. Understand?"

And she walked away before the gravitational force of his sexual need could pull her back in.

Her day was not over yet, but she suddenly felt exhausted. She retrieved her granola bar again and stuffed it into her mouth, knowing she would need all the energy she could get to endure the rest of her shift. She was chewing on the salty sweet snack, feeling pissed off for the first time about her and Terrence's relationship, when she opened the door the the staircase down to the floor below, where her office was located, when she ran headlong into a tall man, the majority of her granola bar flying from her hand and bouncing down the stairs and out of sight.

"Oi, sorry about that." She turned to the man, looking up… and up to the very tall, burly looking Ron Weasley.

Chapter Text

A Bleeding Heart

Chapter 2

The surest cure for vanity is loneliness. - Tom Wolfe

The feeling of loss from something so insignificant as a damn granola bar really spurred Susan into the scowl she learned from her Aunt Amelia, a woman so stern and driven she had made it on the Wizengamot in her early 30's. Spurred further by the sounds of the wrapper hitting the stairs as it continued to fall down the stairwell, she turned that scowl onto the man that had caused the loss, one Ron Weasley. She held firm in her scowl. Even if he was a foot… okay… easily two feet taller than her, and she wasn't exactly on the short side, she had yet to find a man or woman alive that was immune to her scowl.

She didn't meet anyone like that today either. Ron winced, taking a step back. "Sorry - er - I'm really sorry about that, was that… important?"

Important? No. Yes. Maybe. Her stomach growled angrily. Yes. It was important. "That was my breakfast and my lunch, thanks very much."

"Oh fuck - I can - uh - I -" she winced at his curse word while he stumbled over his words but she had the intense pleasure of realizing just how cowed he was by her. Well, her scowl at least.

She studied his face, a face she remembered being long and lanky, with a smattering of freckles across the nose. But the years since school had been good to this wizard, easy blue eyes peered down at her, sitting on a slightly tanned face framed by an attractive auburn beard that filled in his strong jaw, up the sides of his face to his temples. The color of his hair was nothing like hers, instead the reddish color was closer to wet clay, as it traveled up it grew darker until it was more red-brown at the top of his head. And not a single freckle in sight. He obviously spent too much time in the sun.

He filled out a white tee shirt over a dark pair of denim jeans in an attractive manner, his chest and shoulders thick, but his posture was atrocious and now he was backing up away from her. Or rather, backing up away from her scowl.

She took a deep breath, she was tired and hungry and mad at Terrence, she should not be taking out on this poor wizard just because he happened to run into her. Even if he was at fault for the loss of her favorite brand of granola bars. So she softened her face and apologized.

"Sorry I wasn't watching where I was going either." And with that she made her way down the stairs, and into her office. The door shut firmly behind her and she released the hard breath she had been holding. Fucking Terrence...

She had almost…

She had been that close to…

Jesus Christ she had almost had sex with her subordinate in a closet at work…

Her heart fluttered in a bad way, scared of what the consequences could have been. It wasn't about pride, or even about following the rules. It was simply that Susan was, and always had been, a good girl. She understood she was important, but also part of a bigger picture. The hospital functioned based off the work, and thus the work ethic, of it's employees. She didn't break rules because she understood rules were set in place for a reason. Especially her own rules…

Outside of work, the employees of the hospital were allowed to date and have relationships but were expected to remain professional in the workplace.

The way his fingers had played between her legs, brushing sensitive folds in a way that promised sex, hard, glorious sex, was the exact opposite of professional. It was so far from professional, she was ashamed.

And what the hell was she thinking? She didn't even like him! Why her body couldn't get on the same page as her mind was beyond her.

She buried her fingers in her hair, pulling roughly at the strands in her own self reprimand. The night they had spent together suddenly bombarding her and taking over. She collapsed into her chair and sighed.

oOoOo

The beautiful dark wooded door shut behind her, Terrence walking into her apartment and looking around appreciatively. She knew exactly what he saw, dark wainscoting and crown molding on the tall ceilings, old characteristic details, and expensive french oak hardwood flooring that made her apartment so damn expensive…

But she had bought it anyways, the decorative mantel over the fireplace had called to her from the moment she saw it, never having lusted over something so ornate and unique before. She couldn't resist. Her furniture was expensive and looked new, because she never used it, it wasn't like she had friends or family over… ever. Her apartment was big, airy, expensive, put together. It was a lie.

He turned to her, fingers coming up to the cuff links on his sleeve. "Beautiful place, Susie."

Oh how that annoyed her. Nicknames were for children. And she had barely ever been a child, her Aunt being entirely too pragmatic to allow her to forget where Susan had come from, great witches and wizards who had died fighting a tyrant. No, she had never really been a child.

"Susan, my name is Susan." She told him for the hundredth time. He just smiled, reminding her nothing short of a shark. And his eyes were on her. She may have been the boss, but she felt shockingly like prey right then.

And then he said, "Where would you like me to fuck you, Susan?"

She sucked in a breath at the hard words, his green eyes flashing with something she couldn't immediately identify, but it made her womb clench in anticipation. "Excuse me?"

She tried, honestly she did, to make it sound like a reprimand. "You heard me." was his chilly response.

And yet it inflamed her body, though her mind wanted to chide him for his language and push him away for his crudeness.

He took a step towards her, his large hands coming to rest on her hips. The fabric of her little black dress left little to the imagination, but she had a feeling she could've worn sweats and he would still make her body strum with sexual desire.

His fingers began rubbing slow circles into the edges of her hips, the silk rubbing against her skin, his fingers putting just the right pressure into the movements. He leaned down, and his lips were on hers, the glimmering gloss across her lips smeared against his and his tongue expertly dove into her mouth.

Her body so deprived of any contact…

It had been so long.

So, so long since the last time a man had touched her with want, since she had been held against the warmth of a hard body, since even the smallest of kisses…

But this was no small kiss, no chaste peck on the lips, this was a molten seduction that had its heated grasp on her.

When he lifted his face from hers, allowing fresh air to rush into her lungs, she felt her feet stagger back into the door behind her. No one had ever had this kind of affect on her before. Not even Terry, who had gently pulled her into the world of sex with his sweet laughs and gentle touches. They had been together for a couple of years and never, not once, had she ever felt this kind of heat.

"Are you going to make me repeat myself, Susan?" But it felt so bad.

Blinking several times in an attempt to clear her vision, she looked up at him. What had he said? Why couldn't she remember? Why couldn't she think straight?

His cologne was a delicate mix of agarwood and something sweet… maybe balsam and damned if it didn't just fill her head with need.

"Where would you like me to fuck you, Susan?"

He had said her proper name, in a tone designed to inform her exactly who was in charge here.

Terrence Dane with his smooth dark skin and kisses that had her wet between her thighs was going to have sex with her… no he was going to fuck her. And she had only known him a few weeks and what she did know about him…

"Susan?"

"No, no you don't have to repeat yourself. Wait here and count to 15." And the lonely dark void, the part of herself that she kept hidden from the world, that resided inside of Susan reached out, brushing her fingers against his bottom lip. His tongue darted out to taste that finger, his teeth coming down on the skin in a hotly sexual way that made her stomach clench.

"One…"

She sucked in a breath, the beginning of the countdown jumping her heart into overdrive. She rushed into her bedroom on his "Two…", looking around frantically, her mind understanding that she had chosen to participate in this sexual game between her and Terrence, even when she knew how wrong he would be for her.

But she couldn't show him this side of her, the only room she actually spent time in. It was a mess beyond what could ever be appropriate for an adult: clothes thrown about in every direction, piles of books ranging from fiction to non to romance to manuals, take out boxes and crumbled up pieces of parchment and papers, it was a mess that she had long ago stopped trying to contain. She whipped her wand out, sent clothes flying into her closet, the take out containers and pieces of trash into the rubbish bin, the books flying to their places on the floor-to-ceiling bookshelf the lined one wall. She straightened her desk, she used a cleaning charm on the sheets and watched as the large bed made itself for the first time in months.

Now it looked as if Susan Bones, power witch and head Healer lived here and not some rebellious teenager.

"Fifteen." His voice snapped up her spine, made her turn around. But again, she knew what he saw. A gorgeous, expensive mahogany sleigh bed with matching furniture set against a large arch window that overlooked the river.

The facade in place, she tried to calm her rushing heart, but he was coming towards her now with that young, arrogant smile on his face.

But damn he wanted her, and she could tell. It only fed the fire inside of her instead of annoying her like it should have.

"You've been a very bad girl, Susan."

She winced.

oOoOo

Unlike the mess of her room back home, her office was military organized. Three sturdy bookshelves filled with tomes and necessary reading materials, a solid wood desk, and a comfy couch in the corner in case she needed a nap filled the majority of the room. She even had a fake window that provided the illusion of sunlight during the day, and a softer glow that imitated the city during the night. Her desk was precisely set the way she needed it to function during her shift… except for the ever growing container of paperwork that needed attention. She winced. This was her least favorite part of her work days.

And with Terrence burning in the back of her mind, the knowledge of what they had almost done burning in the pit of her stomach, she just wasn't in the right state of mind to do any paperwork.

Because while she may be the head of her team, and one of the two Chief Healers in the hospital, even she had someone she answered too and she doubted Desmond would understand her reasons for engaging in a sexual relationship with a man on her team and 6 years younger than her.

'I haven't had sex in 4 years sir, you see? My vagina is sad.' she thought.

She slapped her hand over her face. "My vagina is sad? What kind of sane person thinks something like that?" she said to herself.

She laid her head on the desk, truly exhausted after the long shift she had. She slid her head to the side so she could have access to fresh air and began simple breathing exercises to calm to the mind.

In. In. Out. In. In. Out. In. In. Oouuut.

A quick 15 minute power nap sounded perfectly perfect at the moment, just a quick refresher to get her back on track and hopefully knock out some paperwork before she went home at noon.

Except the line of sight she had on the pile of paperwork made it seem so much bigger than it actually was. She growled and turned her face to the other direction, restarting her breathing exercises.

In. In. Out. In. In. Ooouuut.

It was working, her practiced mind clearing and relaxing at the same time. Her eyes fluttered shut, her fingers relaxed, her mind steadied….

In. In. Ooooouuu- Knock Knock Knock.

Fuck.

Fucking fuck.

She winced at her internal swearing. At least it hadn't been out loud.

She sat up and called out, "Come in." while she managed to redo her pony tail.

The other Chief Healer was named Myles Barton, his team a bit smaller with only 3 Healer's who resided under him, one of them being the petite witch that walked in now. The look on Pearl's face had dread setting in immediately.

"Pearl… don't you dare. Don't you even dare."

Her small, round face winced at Susan's tone, but Susan didn't feel even remotely bad. Myles Barton was an even bigger thorn in her side than Terrence was and constantly missed his shifts, getting Susan to cover for him. The coward had long ago learned that if he sent someone else to tell Susan the news, there wouldn't be violent repercussions.

"I'm sorry Susan! I'm just the messenger!" She held her hands up in surrender.

"He does this to me all the time, does he think I don't need sleep?" Susan rolled her eyes. "Does he not realize how much he owes me already? Tell him I am not covering for him, we're switching. He's taking my next Saturday and if he has a problem with that then he needs to come talk to me himself!"

Pearl backed out of the office as quickly as she had come in.

"I MEAN IT PEARL!"

The door closed shut with a small sound and Susan glared at the wood. She grabbed her wand, sending a paper owl to her each of her team, letting them know she was taking the next shift too, she needed to get some rest and not to disturb her for 4 hours unless it was necessary. Though she knew Ione and Cris should be finishing up by now, Terrence and Alban were on for another 6 hours.

With that, she wrote a quick note to the Supervising Healer on staff, Helen, a note that may have been just a touch on the passive-aggressive side and sent it off with a snap of her wand.

'I swear to all of Hogwart's founders, Merlin, Circe, and Morgana, to the God my Aunt Amelia prayed to, and any other Gods that may be listening, if I don't get some help dealing with these moronic men in my life soon, I. Will. Snap.'

It was with that almost vengeful thought she laid on the couch, turned her window off, and forced herself to sleep. In. In. Out. In. In. Out...

She dreamed of horses by the sea and a never ending vacation where a sexy redheaded but faceless man sucked on her toes. It was oddly satisfying and horribly weird at the same time. She woke up with a jolt, a paper owl sitting on her nose, it's blue pointed paper nose tapping her gently. And then… the smell of a full breakfast touched her nose and made her stomach growl in anger. She sat up and rubbed her tired eyes before looking over to her desk, where the breakfast sat untouched, most likely under a stasis charm to keep fresh. She could smell fresh basil and cooked sausages.

She almost thought she was dreaming again, it smelled so good. The owl fluttered around her lazily, which told her it wasn't an urgent message. She grabbed it and unfolded the paper. Terrence's blocky handwriting appeared across the blue paper.

"We let you sleep 5 hours, the next shift is coming on, breakfast on the table, and try not to be too mad at me for wanting you so badly, Susie." That was followed by a little smiley face.

An extra hour of sleep and breakfast? She almost forgave him the use of that silly nickname...

Until she saw a chocolate chip muffin next to a plate of sausages and eggs loaded with basil and tomatoes.

Honestly.

A chocolate. Chip. Muffin.

She grabbed a pen and edged the offending breakfast item off the side of her desk and into the garbage can. Then looked at the innocent ballpoint pen, she had discovered the item in a muggle shop and couldn't believe she had spent her whole life using ink and quill, and decided she could easily get more. She tossed the pen in the trash with the offensive muffin and quickly devoured the rest of her breakfast all while thinking about Terrence.

The man wasn't going to let her forget him, was he?

'Try not to be too mad at me for wanting you so badly, Susie.'

She wasn't mad at him at all… Sure he was driving her crazy, but it wasn't an anger issue. Her body wanted more sex with him, even though she hated having sex with him. If that made any sense at all... 'It doesn't, Susan. It makes no sense whatsoever.'

She thought of her rules. The first one was set up for her sanity, never think about work on your day off. It helped keep her mind from crumbling under the stress of her high pressure job.

But the second rule was set up because of advice one of the older Healer's had given her during her training. Edwina had been a Healer for over 50 years before she decided to retire and travel the world. She had sat down to help Susan through a particularly difficult study session and they some how ended up talking about lovers and Edwina had shared a story about herself from her younger days.

Edwina had loved a lot in her years, but never more than a man who had worked directly under her in a time when men still thought they were more capable than women. The story had ended so badly Susan had added the rule right then and there. Rule number two: Never date a man who works for you.

She hadn't broken this rule… exactly… sure her and Terrence had been to dinner together, but they, well he, talked mostly about work…

Just because they had sex once definitely didn't mean they were dating... right? Right.

No, the rule stood firm and unopposed. Just.

It had to continue on like that, because Susan knew in her heart this man was not for her. The dark void that was her loneliness needed human contact, but understood that Terrence made her feel just as alone as she always felt…

Why be with someone who made you feel like you were alone?

Sad vagina's aside, that wasn't any way to live. Not that she was an expert or anything.

She redid her ponytail again and cleaned the breakfast tray from her desk, walking from her office and into the nearest restroom to freshen up. 5 hours of sleep wasn't a full night's rest, but it was much better than nothing. Splashing cold water on her face helped, but the food helped the most. There was something to fresh and delicious about basil with tomatoes.

Now… now she could do paper work. Hours passed, and paperwork got sorted and completed and done. She emerged from her office with a pep in her step and met up with Pearl, who looked ready to flee.

"I'm alright Pearl, sorry I yelled at you."

Relief fell over the witch's face. "No, it's okay. Myles is such an asshole. Why does he get away with that shit?"

Susan kept her face deadpan. "He's sleeping with Helen."

Pearl's grayish eyes widened before she realized Susan was messing with her, and then she broke into a laugh. "Susan you're crazy."

"Shh it's supposed to be a secret." Susan took the clipboard from Pearl's outstretched hands. "Catch me up."

They began walking through the hall as Susan glanced over the schedule, seeing which Healers were on shift, as Pearl told her the basics of what went on while she rested.

"It's pretty slow, nothing going on on Block. Robby and Colton are cleaning out the lounge right now."

"How did you manage to get out of that?" Susan asked, thinking of the other two Healer's on Myles' team.

"Rock paper scissors. They have the same tell, and the same delusion that they can beat me."

"Ah, the days of Junior Healing…"

"Is Mr. Nott going to be okay?" They stopped outside of the shared room that held Susan's patients. Pearl's face held all the hints of concern. Of course all the Healer's and Aides knew who Theodore Nott was, he was the reason a lot of money came into the hospital and kept them running.

"I have no reason yet to believe otherwise." Susan mumbled as the clipboard swirled. "I see Ms. Abbott has requested a private room."

Pearl's face stretched as if she were about to smile. "I have the full gossip on her by the way."

Susan felt her eyebrows raise up, Pearl never having used that tone with her before. Mostly everyone knew how little Susan enjoyed gossip. "Alright?"

"So Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott had a muggle wedding ceremony because her dad is sick, some kind of muggle disease or something, but he left her. Then he started dating Pansy Parkinson and it made Hannah very angry."

Her face was very animated as she spoke. "Well you know Neville is an Auror with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley now, and they've been working on something, obviously since that Dark Mark was seen in Diagon Alley." Susan nodded, remembering the sheer panic that had gripped them just a few days ago, when the Dark Mark appeared again for the first time in eight years. Everyone had been so relieved after the second war, but most knew He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named wasn't really gone. He had just disappeared... again.

"Well the woman who was murdered that day was Hannah's best best friend AND happened to be Pansy's boss." Pearl continued.

Susan blinked several times as she listened to the story. How on earth did people deal with that kind of drama? "Well that's very interesting…"

"That's not all."

Of course there's not.

"So apparently Pansy is helping the Aurors figure out how to get rid of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his remaining Death Eaters and she was attacked by one last night and Neville rescued her, right? The Death Eater that attacked her? Hannah's best best friend's brother who was declared dead hours before the attack! Can you believe that?"

"No." Susan grimaced.

"So Pansy says to Neville, 'Hey what if Hannah isn't okay?' and so they rushed over to the Leaky Cauldron which Hannah owns now right? And no one knows exactly what happened, but apparently Ms. Parkinson saved them all. Like last woman standing kind of thing... Isn't that awesome!?"

The more she spoke, the quicker she spoke, and the more her Irish came out until the frenzied look in her round eyes on her round face made her look more like a bug than a witch.

Susan stood with a clipboard in her hand and a look on her face she knew would not be appreciated and she felt torn between wanting to ask, 'Hey did you just make that up?' and 'Wow am I still sleeping?'

Because what the fuck? She winced at her inner swearing. She really had to stop that before she started swearing out loud.

"Are you making that up?" Spilled from her mouth before she could take another thought.

"If I wasn't, I would write a book!"

Just as a snippy voice floated from the room. "Christ, someone shut her up already."

"I guess that's my cue. You on block for the rest of the shift?"

Pearl nodded as she walked past Susan. Another voice floated from the room, "Ms. Abbott, I have told you…"

"I have already asked to be moved rooms, thank you very much."

Well this is what they pay her for. She walked into the room with a smile plastered on her face.

"I'm here for checks ups." This was one of the bigger shared rooms, with about a dozen beds available. Thankfully, only three were in use. Her mind took note of everyone in the room. Neville Longbottom still in his assigned bed, with Pansy Parkinson sitting up next to him her face heavy with sleep. Hannah Abbott was in the bed closest to the door and a stern older witch stood in the middle of the room, her arms crossed dangerously. The other side of the room had Theo's bed, Percy Weasley sitting right by holding Theo's hand delicately. The clipboard in her hand let her know the middle aged couple with red hair sitting by the only window in the room was Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. And next to them, Harry Potter and his wife Ginny.

Susan made her way to Theo's bed first, as he had been in the worst condition of the three. She set the clipboard down and took out her Ash wand, waving it in the intricate designs that let her take his readings.

"Sit up for me Theo?" She braced her arm under his, helping him come into a sitting position. Percy, still on Theo's other side, helped as well.

Theo let out a long breath. "Uughh no more Susan, it hurts."

His tone was silly, and she knew him well enough to know he was being dramatic. Their paths crossed constantly, but the only time they ever spent time outside of work was at the Annual Healer's Ball that took place at the beginning of May every year. Though she didn't know when this relationship with Percy Weasley had started, she sensed it was solid.

"I know, poor baby." she winked at Percy. "I requested they move you to the children's ward but it was denied. I told them age was relative but, well you know how the Aides are."

Theo responded in kind by sticking his tongue out at her and she took the moment to look in his mouth, using her wand as a light source, she also checked his ears and, using her wand, checked to make sure there weren't any remains of magic left in his heart.

Satisfied with what she saw, she lowered her wand.

"I don't see any lingering effects from the curse that hit you, we still aren't sure what hit you to begin with but the magic has worked its way out of your system. Just get some rest. I'll be back." She informed them with a smile.

"Cheeky witch." was his reply, but the check up had obviously taken a lot of energy out of him, Percy helping him go back into a laying position.

Next, Susan turned to walk over to Hannah's bed. Her color had returned and her eyes looked clearer. "You're looking much better."

"I'm starting to feel better." the witch replied in a sweet voice, her face turning up with a smile. It was hilarious to Susan how she could remember this side of Hannah from school, but her actions at the lunch date had shown a whole other side Susan wished she hadn't seen. And she couldn't get it out of her head, but maybe it was just a one time thing. It didn't stop her from doing her job, however.

She took her readings and felt satisfied the witch was on the way to full recovery.

"It's a good thing Neville and his friends showed up, any longer and I believe you would've bled out completely." But her blood levels were normal now, her body recovering from the damage.

"I knew he would come." Hannah said, shooting a nasty glare at Pansy. Okay, maybe not. Pearl's story running through her head, Susan wondered if Hannah knew just who had saved her.

And then she heard Neville speak up in his rough sounding voice. "It was Pansy you know. She's the one who told me you might be in danger."

Susan resisted the urge to laugh. Hannah had used her wand to hurt Pansy at that lunch, and now Pansy had gotten Hannah help that had ultimately saved her life. The irony.

"Yep, without her we wouldn't have had a clue." Percy said from the other side of the room. She held the laugh back, barely. But Susan couldn't stop the grin that spread over her face as she watched Hannah digest the words.

"Well isn't that wonderful. You got her help just in time, Ms. Parkinson. Yes, I'm definitely reading healthy blood levels. I'd say we'll keep you overnight and get you some rest and fluids, and then you can go in the morning." Susan said, making her way to Neville's bed.

Pansy sat on the edge on the bed, her face still heavy with sleep, and the evidence of the night she had showed itself on her neck. "Ms. Parkinson, I'll do you first."

"Excuse me?"

"Just a checkup, hon." She replied to the confused look on her face as her wand went through the air. Her readings looked just fine and the soul mate bond presented itself to her Healer's mind easily, looking stronger and thicker than ever in a swirl of blues and purples that made her want to sigh. "Ahh much better. After you first went to sleep I was worried about your readings, but everything is looking better. Sleep is a cure all sometimes. The bond is fully functioning I see."

The mention of the bond caused a big smile to spread over Neville's face and he leaned in to kiss Pansy's cheeks. Damn that is cute… Terrence would never do something like that...

No, Terrence would just hold her down while he fucked her into the bed. There was nothing cute about that. 'Oh no, don't think about him.'

"I was quite impressed you know." Susan began, shoving all thoughts of Terrence and their night together from her mind. "I was telling the other Healers that I thought Mr. Nott just needed some encouragement, and there you were… not really encouraging as I had in mind, but it worked."

Somehow it had worked, she thought. Magic was tricky like that. Sometimes magic needed a little push. Pansy looked over at Theo and Susan had an aching feeling in her chest and throat. She had no one who would care about her that much if she were in the hospital. She shook herself.

"Now for you Mr. Longbottom. No need to get up Pansy, you can stay with him. Okay, yes. Your back is fully healed, head is all patched up… Your bond is functioning just fine, but we already knew that… blood levels much better. Looking like a full recovery, just as Ms. Abbott needs rest, you do too. Lots of rest. And water." She informed them. She was beyond happy at the recovery of her patients, having seen the damage that had been done to them when they first came in.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but what bond are you talking about?" Hannah asked from her bed.

Susan turned, tucking her wand into her robes. This will be fun. "Their soul mate bond of course."

Hannah looked physically ill, even though Susan knew she was fine. The clipboard in her hand swirled.

"And I believe your private room is available now, if you're ready?"

"Please." Hannah said, swinging her legs over the bed and pointedly ignoring everyone else in the room. Susan braced an arm under Hannah's and helped the witch to her feet. "Alright?"

She nodded as they walked out of the room. Susan took small steps, making sure Hannah was alright on her feet as they walked together down the hall. At the other end stood one of the Aide Stations, where several Aides stood, talking, and going through paperwork. One of the Aides, Stella, rushed up when she saw Susan and Heather.

"I was just coming for Ms. Abbott." she rushed out.

"That's alright, I have her." Susan said gently, helping Hannah take the small steps towards the end of the hall. "Hannah if you need anything though, just ask Stella here."

"Alright." she paused. "Thanks."

"Of course." Susan responded automatically.

"No I mean it. It was-" she took a ragged breath. "I was very scared. It was nice to see a friendly face when I woke up. Thank you."

Susan led Hannah into her room and got her situated into the bed, Stella wandering into the room with a water pitcher and some lunch for the witch.

"All set?" Susan asked.

Hannah nodded, sipping on her water.

"You're welcome by the way." Susan gave Hannah a small smile, before leaving the room. She really did love her job. There was always something to be said about helping people, but there were so many ways someone would accomplish that. Like what Theo had dedicated his life to, running the charity for the hospital helped get kids the attention they needed. Having the skills and the mindset to physically heal people though, there was something intensely satisfying about it that Susan relished in.

She was damn good at it.

It was with a happy sigh and a quick look at her clipboard that let her know nothing else was going on, the day being slow so far. She made her way back to her office. Her and Myles were the Chief Healers, but Desmond sat above them, being the Senior Healer of the building. Helen was the Supervising Healer, who also did all the Healer's schedules. The two generally worked more on the research part of the job. Generally, Susan worked with her own team, or like today while she was covering for Myles, she worked with his team. But together they all made a decent team and they certainly kept the hospital running, with the help of the Aides of course.

She also knew Desmond would want a full report on Mr. Nott, not just because of the work he did with the hospital, but because of the odd nature of his 'injury'. When she rounded the corner, the door of her office in sight, she also saw Ron Weasley of all people, leaning against the wall next to her office.

For whatever reason, the memory of her lost granola bar came immediately to mind. Unlike earlier however, she wanted to smile at the panicked look she remembered crossing his face when she had set her signature scowl on him. "Mr. Weasley?" she called as she continued walking towards her office, opening the door for him.

He looked up at her words and when his eyes met hers his face lit up with a nervous smile. "Hey, Healer Bones - Susan." He followed her into her office, still wearing the same clothes he had on earlier: a white tee shirt over dark denim jeans. But this time he had a grey satchel over his shoulder.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Weasley?"

She watched as he struggled with his words for a moment, taking the time to admire just how good looking and well kept his beard was, before he reached into his satchel and pulled out a box of granola bars. "I felt really badly about earlier and er - wanted you to have these…"

The familiar brand across the top of box let her know it was exactly the kind of sweet salty caramel flavor she loved and bought for herself on a regular basis. She was caught so completely off guard she felt her mouth part slightly and found no words.

"Uhhh…"

"Sorry, Hermione is always telling me to try to be more thoughtful and well..." he said, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, her eyes immediately went to the thickness of his upper arm before she forced herself to look back at his face. He let out a breath. "And I felt bad about running into you earlier and so… here you go."

He handed over the box, which she took with both hands. "I - thank you. That is very thoughtful."

He shrugged. "And I wanted to thank you for helping my brothers."

His brothers, George and Percy. She recalled he had many siblings, mostly brothers, but a sister too. The sudden thought she had, what would it be like to have so much family, shot through her like a Stupefy.

The dark, lonely void inside jumped to attention and she found her throat growing thick with want and tears threatened behind her eyes and she could only nod at him.

"Alright, said what I had to say. I'll see ya later." and he left her office just as quickly as he had come in. She had the feeling he was beyond uncomfortable around her and she had no idea why.

She stood there, looking at the empty space he had left behind, the box of granola bars feeling heavy in her hands, and wondered about what her life could've been like if her family hadn't all be murdered by Death Eaters.

Would the parents she couldn't even remember be proud of the woman she was today? Would they have continued growing their family, making Susan a big sister? Would those brothers and sisters have started having children of their own by now? She might've been an aunt herself. She wondered about her uncle she had never met, Eddie as Aunt Amelia had always called him affectionately, and his children. Cousins, her cousins all dead at the hands of Death Eaters.

And then her aunt Amelia, the woman who had raised Susan as her own, who loved her with everything she had, and died when Susan was 16.

She sighed and set her mind to compartmentalize the ragged emotions shooting through her. It only took a few moments, she had been doing it so long now she knew exactly how to shut down the loneliness.

Stashing the box in her desk, after taking a single wrapped bar out, she began writing her report on Mr. Nott and let her mind wonder if her boss would appreciate an essay on the benefits of yelling at patients until they got better.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.

—Dag Hammarskjold

August 27th, 2006

She had spent the morning finalizing her report on Theodore Nott, sending it off with her stamp to Desmond felt like a giant check mark on her long list of things to do. She stretched her torso and moved on to the next item on her list. A in depth research assignment on the prolonged use of the hospital's standard pain reliever potion. She thought of poor Mrs. Imelda and the amount of pain she suffered from daily, even with the use of their best Pain Potions. She was looking over Imelda's forms when a note appeared on her desk in the familiar blocky handwriting.

How long do you think you can ignore me, Susie?

The answer to that was possibly forever. She could be stubborn if she put her mind to it. Especially when he refused to stop that damned nickname.

She stashed away the forms for later use and research, grabbing the next bit of paper. She smiled.

Criscilla was getting married. This was a nice break in her paperwork, she said fingering the picture that had fallen out of the announcement, a delightful picture of Cris and her new fiance, smiling like love-fools. Her heart clenched, so beyond happy for the talented witch on her team, but also envious of the easy love and affection the picture showed between the two. Love never, ever came easily to her. She set the picture against a frame of her framed Healer's Certification. She wondered briefly what she would get the witch as a engagement gift before moving on to the next item. She pulled up the forms on Pansy Parkinson.

She just wanted to frown. The witch hadn't come in injured, other than some bruising around her neck she was fine. But fine was a relative term. Because of how quick and easy it was to take the scans with her wand and later take the imprint from her Healer's mind and transfer them to paper, it had become standard procedure to run the tests.

Now she held up a thick cut of white paper that showed just how badly damaged Pansy's reproductive organs were. Cuts and tears and gashes that had healed over on their own long, long ago. Susan would guess seven or maybe eight years ago… Gods that was their last year at Hogwart's.

She couldn't imagine the kind of pain that would go along with this kind of damage, and at such a young age... or the kind of situation she would find herself in to receive that kind of damage... It took a few minutes, but after examining the picture, she realized what was nagging at her. The damage had been repeated, over and over again.

She continued to stare at the paper, taking in all the lines and details.

It had all been untreated... her frown increased.

The image of a 17 year old Pansy Parkinson came to mind, short black hair, bright violet eyes, and a mean upturned face that sneered at anyone who dared get too close. But in NEWT level Potion's class, Pansy had been nice to Susan, helping her get through the toughest class she had ever taken. Even McGonagall's NEWT essays had nothing on that damn class... at least in Susan's opinion.

Even then, she knew she wanted to be a Healer, she knew she wanted to help people, her 'little gift' as Aunt Amelia liked to call it, would just help her along her journey to the career she wanted. Yet, she had no idea that the girl who got her through the class she needed in order to become a Healer was someone who needed her help so badly...

She blew out a breath, her brows furrowing and then her face fell. Pansy Parkinson wouldn't be able to carry a child to term, not without some major help.

It was hard looking at the kind of invasive damage. She pushed the papers aside and looked down at the note.

I always get what I want, Susie. And freckled flavor vanilla is my new favorite.

She groaned out loud, balling the note up and throwing it in the trash. Then she changed her mind and fished the note out, grabbing her new pack of ballpoint pens.

"I am not something to be eaten, I am your boss." she scribbled furiously.

"You're a woman and you deserve to be with someone as great as I am."

She rolled her eyes so hard, she was surprised they didn't fall out of her head. She balled up the paper again and threw it in the trash with more force than necessary.

Obviously there wasn't much going on, her team had too much time on their hands if Terrence was sending her messages. She wandered off to figure out what was going on.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No patients coming in, and all was quiet in the permanent ward. So she gathered her team, save Cris who was on Block, and sat around a large table in the Healer's lounge with Terrence, Alban, and Ione. She took the free time to have her team go over and reinforce their training. It was good for her to go over the material as well, further drilling in all their hard work and training they had all gone through.

The usual amount of training a witch or wizard went through took about 5 years. In Terrence's case it had taken a bare 3 years. In most cases, it took the 5 years of training, plus a few years working as an Aide to get the lay of the land. She knew the hospital in France worked the same way, having visited the location during her own training experience.

The first few hours had gone fairly steady and productively. The last 30 minutes or so had been the exact opposite of productive. Terrence, it turned out, did an amazing impression of Desmond that had them all in stitches.

"Do the bit about his tea cup again…" Alban had laughed out, holding his stomach as he chuckled.

Terrence gently slapped his face with his hands, attempting to reign in his own smile. "Okay, okay hold on." But they were all laughing too much.

He cleared his throat and shook his face. Then he looked Susan dead in the eye and said in a much lighter, but deadpan voice than his own, "Tea should be taken precisely at 3 P.M. and not a minute later, to do so indicates a lack of purpose in life."

Susan clapped her hand over her mouth to keep herself from laughing loudly, Terrence's impression so dead on, she had heard those exact ridiculous words out of Desmond's mouth so many times she had lost count.

Ione snorted in the middle of her too delicate laugh and it spurred them all further into giggles.

Susan felt so light, her heart filled with laughter when she met Terrence's eyes from across the table and she realized they had never acted like this before. No, their too hot, too cold relationship had never had such a light tone to it. His face looked even younger when he laughed like this, instead of that arrogant smile he always wore.

She thought of the way she had frantically cleaned her room before he had entered, thinking of the show she put on day to day to hide the lonely, mad thing that existed inside of her... and wondered if he did the same...

But all too soon, his eyes darkened and his lips smirked and it reminded her of the bad fluttering she felt during the days following their date that wasn't a date and the intense coupling they had in her bed.

oOoOo

His hands came down on her hips, lifting her to her toes as he took her in another kiss that seared her lips. But the words he had said rang in her head and hurt her heart.

"You've been a very bad girl, Susan."

She wasn't. She just wasn't. And furthermore she hated that kind of talk during sex, it killed all her desire like water on a fire. She backed away from him, looking up into his dark face and wondering not for the first, or even tenth time, what the hell she was doing. Her knees hit the back of the bed and the surprise had her falling over. She braced herself on her elbows, the softness of the comforter beneath her, and looked up to Terrence. He smirked at her as he slid his suit jacket off, folding it and placing it safely over the back of her desk chair.

Okay, her desire flared back to life as she watched him slowly undress, her breathing pushing up her chest.

He slowly, so slowly unbuttoned his shirt upwards, fingering his collar as he pushed it back off his shoulders. He folded it in half and gently set it over his jacket, never taking his eyes off her.

Next, his fingers came to the buckle of his belt, his stance suddenly making his shoulders look broader, his chest puffing out slightly. With a move that had her breath hitching, he removed his belt from the loops of his nice slacks and dropped the item to the floor carelessly, his eyes turning even darker. He wasn't as patient as before… the sexual heat between them was too thick.

She sucked in breath through her teeth, the feeling of being prey cementing itself.

As if reading her mind, he took a step forward and began untucking his undershirt and pulling the thin garment over his head. The muscles in his arms shifted with the movement, drawing her eye. His chest was wide and bare of any hair, his dark nipples pearled over his pecs, his torso molded with muscles. Heat was unfurling inside the pit of her stomach with every passing second, his hands coming to rest at the button at the top of his slacks. He used slow, graceful movements to unzip and push down the dark slacks from the edges of his hips.

As much as she knew he liked to talk, his sudden silence unnerved her. She worried her lips between her teeth as he continued to slowly undress, his feet stepping out of his leather shoes, stepping out from his slacks and his hands coming to the edges of his silk boxes. He took another step towards her, the skin of his calves brushing against hers. He stood over her, his eyes looking down on her. She sucked in another breath and sat up even further, as if rising up to meet him. With a fluid movement, he rid himself of his boxers and stood before her completely naked.

All dark skin and smooth muscles and arrogant smiles.

"I'm going to tear your dress off now."

Her thighs clenched together as his long fingers came down to the hem of her dress that rested just over the tops of her thighs.

Tear your dress off now…

He did, pulling it roughly over her body and over her head. "Terrence!"

He came down on her in graceful moves had had him between her legs and a hand in her hair, holding her face close to his.

"What's the matter, Susie?" he switched back to the nickname as he leaned the side, pressing hotly wet kisses along her neck.

And just like that, her desire turned molten. His body felt hard between her legs, and his kisses left goosebumps in its wake even as her heart pumped frantically at the sudden movements his mouth was making on her skin. He used his long arm to push the lace on her hips down, baring the most intimate parts of herself to him. The same hand came up to cup her bottom as his mouth trailed kisses up her throat and back to her mouth.

He slowly let go of his grip in her hair, bringing both hands to her back.

"You're an ace, Susan, that hair with your body…"

A body his hands were caressing with an unstoppable focus. She found her own hands mirroring his, running her fingers over his naked body as he did to her. Her heart pounded in her ears with every move of his hand until he was directly over her, his hands coming to rest on her stomach.

"Your skin is beautiful under all these freckles… you know you could magic them away… your skin would be flawless…"

oOoOo

She ended the session when it became apparent that no more studying would be done, but she recognized the benefits of having time to laugh together, recognized the bonds of friendship that had formed and cemented in the laughter between the members of her team. It was good, healthy even, for her team. Ione was the oldest of them, her 70th birthday right around the corner. She might have looked younger than her years, but she was wise beyond that 70. She had been doing this job for so long, she knew exactly how to function in a team, how to work with the other Healer's. Criscilla and Alban too, a young 40 and 36, had been doing this for years and had the same easy transition to Susan's team when she took over as Chief Healer the year before.

Terrence was the new guy, new to the field and new to the team, and the past month had Susan wondering exactly how well he would do.

Today she knew, he fit right in. Even as arrogant as he acted, he had the right skill set and demeanor for this job. Annoying though he was, she saw her team warming to him.

If only she hadn't ruined it, letting him flirt with her, letting him take her out to dinner, letting him in her apartment…

As she stood by the door, letting her people walk through to go off and work the rest of their shifts, Alban took off towards the 4th floor, Ione to the main supply storage room, Terrence stopped and gave her a look that said trouble. Trouble trouble.

"A late dinner tonight?" he asked in a husky voice, his stance all confidence, hands in his pockets, smirk in place.

"I can't."

"Tomorrow night, then?"

He stepped directly in front of her, crowding her, pushing her into the corner of the door. She shook her head, but he was talking again. "The next night, the next? What about the night after that?"

His body aligned against hers, the yellow of their robes mixed together until she didn't know where he ended and she began. Her heart started thumping. No one should be that attractive...

She wasn't sure how they were supposed to carry on like they were, he still thought there was a chance and she worried what would happen if she did the right thing, grew up, and told him exactly what she was thinking: that she didn't want to be in a relationship with him. It wasn't that they couldn't, which was glaringly obvious to her now, but it came back to the fact that she didn't want to be with someone who made her feel lonelier than she already was. The entirety of their dinner she had spent listening to him talk about himself. Not in a get-to-know kind of way either. Sure he was attracted to her...

But he didn't like her freckles. Her freckles which were just as much a part of her as anything else on her body.

"Terrence I -" whatever she had been about to say was lost under the booming thunder and rocking motion of the entire building that shook them from their position. Somewhere on the first floor, the floors under them, something big had just happened.

"Go! Get to the rest of the team and secure the patients!" She pushed him out the door and towards the other end of the hall.

She whipped her wand out and ran to the nearest stairwell and started jumping the stairs two at a time. The door to the second floor opened and two of the Aides, Stella and the other… Winnie was her name, rushed out, stuffing potions in her apron as she ran.

"What do you know?" Susan asked in a sharp tone as they turned down the stairs heading for the first floor.

"Nothing, just grabbed what I could!"

As they hit the last stair step another boom sounded followed immediately by a hard rumbling that pounded through the building. It knocked all three of the witches off their feet. Susan felt more than heard the bit of brick and wood that dislodged from the ceiling above them. She didn't have time to think, she simply pushed Winnie out of the way.

The Aide tumbled over, Susan going with her. Susan kept the motion going, rolling up to her feet, she immediately stretched her hand out to grab Winnie's hands and helped pull her up.

No words were spoken, both of them too focused on finding out what was happening. There was a loud scream from somewhere over top of them, followed by another, but smaller, rock through the building.

"Stella, go back up!"

Stella didn't question her, just turned on her feet and ran back up towards the ongoing screaming. Winnie and Susan turned towards the door that led to the reception area at the front of the building. Susan grabbed the doorknob and found it blocked, possibly by other debris that had fallen.

She stepped back and pointed her wand. Her nonverbal spell did nothing to break the door apart, and she didn't want to cause more damage to the surrounding wall, knowing another rumble could cause more debris to fall.

Winnie started running back up the stairs calling out, "We'll have to go up and around to the other staircase!"

"No wait!" Susan called while she pointed and curled her index and middle finger at the door, using her 'little secret' to pull the door open. "It's open!"

Grabbing the edge of the door, she wrenched it the rest of the way open and rushed into the reception area in the front of the hospital, Winnie behind her.

Good God…

She stood looking out through the large front windows that let her see maybe a dozen cloaked Death Eaters all with their wands out and pointed at the building.

Together they all cast at the same time and sent a huge ball of magic at the front area.

"GET DOWN!" Susan turned and tackled Winnie for the second time, pulling them both to the ground just as a huge crash sounded, glass broke, and vibrations shook the building for the third time.

After a few seconds, she lifted her head and looked around. The morning receptionist, Abby might've been her name, was visible under a large wooden plank. She looked over to Winnie, the Aide was unconscious a gash in her head from where she hit the ground.

Fuck! She didn't even stop to chide herself for the use of a swear word... Sometimes power words were necessary. Susan pulled her wand out and immediately healed the wound, running her hand through the girl's light colored hair to make sure she didn't miss any other injuries. When the healing finished channeling, she gripped the girl and moved her back to the safety in the stairwell. Then she lifted her wand to her throat and amplified her voice.

"This is Chief Healer Susan Bones. Why are you attacking this hospital?" As she spoke, she knelt to her knees and hands and crawled slowly along the wall towards the young receptionist, behind the massive desk that hid her from the front windows.

The long plank of wood that had fallen was bloody underneath, she used her little gift again, lifting the wood just enough for her to push it off safely, coming back down on her stomach to keep from being in their line of sight.

And then a loud voice floated in from outside.

"We want Pansy Parkinson, give her to us and we will leave. Refuse and we will enter the building and take her by force. Anyone that gets in our way will be eliminated."

'Why do you want Pansy? You can't have any of my patients...' Somehow she didn't think that would go over well with them. She reached the bloody body under the plank and winced. The receptionist had been mashed under the plank, her chest was caved in, her shoulders crushed inwards, her face a bloody pulp. But Susan had seen worse, she pressed her fingers to the pulse point of the girl's neck knowing there was too much damage done to the body to check for life with her wand.

The faintest of movement had her sucking breath, her wand coming to the girl's chest.

The problem was there was just so much damage, her magic felt splintered, threading into so many different directions. And it was just her chest. She hadn't even sent the magic to the injuries on the girl's head yet. Susan's ankle throbbed, and her mind wondered why Death Eaters were after her patient, why the resurgence of Death Eater activity... why now? Her mind fractured into a million directions.

The building rocked again, dust and brick falling on all sides of her, she whipped her wand up just in time to cast a Protego shield charm to keep a large brick from falling directly onto the receptionist, but she couldn't stop the pile of wood and brick that fell on her shoulder.

"You have 3 minutes to decide."

A different but equally loud voice floated through the front to her ears, but she pushed the lump of broken brick and wood off her with a grunt and refocused her energies on healing the witch beneath her. An internal clock began counting down in the back of her mind.

180 seconds.

3 minutes would be enough time to stabilize the witch, Gods what is her name? Abby...Allison...Avery...

From behind her she heard Stella moaning, shifting around. What Susan needed was back up, but she knew in the back of her mind that if no one else had showed up that meant they were needed elsewhere… thank the gods it had been a relatively slow day….

130 seconds.

The receptionist's chest was knitting together so she started spreading the healing up to the girl's neck and head. She shifted her aim upwards and … cried out, "Son of a bitch!"

She held the channel, barely, but she realized her left shoulder was surely broken as evident of the pain that radiated out in waves.

90 seconds.

She pushed back the pain and clenched her fingers, slick with blood, tighter around the wand, the yellow of her unique healing stream waved and glittered as it flowed to the Aide. "C'mon, c'mon…."

Like her face was being inflated, the receptionist's nose popped up as the bones righted themselves, the skin knitting back together under the blood.

And then the witch groaned, one of her arms flopping in a disoriented move.

30 seconds.

It would have to be good enough. Susan levitated the girl a bare few inches from the ground and moved her through the open door to the stairway she had come through, all while attempting to hold back the nausea that threatened to overtake her. She collapsed into a wall, taking a sitting position.

0 Seconds… She held the wand up to her throat.

What the fuck was she supposed to say?! Her mouth opened and...

"Do not attempt to enter the building. We do not negotiate with Death Eaters, we have several able bodied Healer's prepared to battle with you as well as Harry Potter, the Head of the Auror Department, on location with his team of Aurors. Do not attempt to enter the building."

A bluff was as good as she could do right then. At least it was only a partial bluff, Harry Potter was actually in the building. She rolled over to her knees and began crawling back towards the stairwell, jumping in when the desk could no longer conceal her. She rolled backwards, over her injured shoulder, coming down next to Winnie, and kicked the door shut behind her.

She held her wand out, prepared to blast anyone who came through the door, her other hand shaking Winnie gently as the building shook so violently, Susan almost came up off the ground for a second. Wand hand steady, she took deep, calming breaths. Then she heard loud footsteps coming from above her. Her eyes darted from the door to the turn of the staircase. There was no other entrance to the hospital, if they wanted to get in, they had to go through her…

And Harry Potter. He came down the stairs quickly, jumping the last several easily.

"I heard what you said."

"You should've been here 4 minutes ago." she snapped back at him, rolling to her feet.

Several others thundered down the stairs after Harry, all wearing their Auror badges.

"I'm here now. Pansy is hurt badly, can you help her? She's with Neville."

"Susan!"

She turned, Terrence and Stella rushing down the stairs, both of them with their wands out.

"Stella, help Winnie get upstairs. Terrence, I need you to help Amberly." That was the receptionist's name.

She ignored the spike of pain in her shoulder and took the steps two at a time.

"Susan your face!"

"Help. Her!" she shouted at Terrence as she ascended to the next floor. At his words, she lifted a hand up to the large cut across her face she hadn't even felt. It could be dealt with later. She burst through the door and ran down the hallway to the private room Neville had been placed in over night.

An Aide rushed past her, cradling supplies to her chest. "Downstairs!" Susan directed her automatically when the Aide acted like she was going to stop to help Susan. She was fine, her patients always came first. She did reach into the Aide's apron and grab a few potions though, just in case. She tore a hair band from her wrist and pushed her hair back into a messy bun as she turned into the room. She pushed the curtain back and saw Neville standing in front of a trembling Pansy Parkinson, tears streaming down her face.

"You lot sure are making things interesting around here, aren't you?" She couldn't help the words falling from her mouth, but it helped steel her nerves. Her eyes went straight to Pansy's upturned arm, the white skin there marred horribly by a deep, bloody gash that stretched from the inside of her elbow all the way to her wrist. "Okay, let me see this arm, dear."

She reached out and grasped the arm as gently as she could, watching as Pansy's face winced in obvious pain.

"This is very deep," Susan said, she ignored the splitting pain that came from moving her left shoulder, and brought her wand up to clear the blood away. It was too deep, it would scar and she didn't have anything to stop that. "I brought a blood replenishing potion, take it and I'll go grab something to keep it from scarring. Then I can heal it fully."

Pansy shook her head violently. "I want the scar. Just heal it."

"Pansy?" Neville's voice was rough and uncertain. Susan wondered what the hell had happened on the upper floors.

"Trust me… my mother… died to give me this… I need it…" Susan felt her face soften. Then she remembered the bit of information that had come on her clipboard during her earlier training session with her team, the information that let her know Harry was in the building, that Harry Potter admitted one Denise Parkinson into the permanent ward.

"That doesn't…Denise is dead?" Neville asked, leaning closer to Pansy. The look in his eyes made Susan's breath catch. So much love.

"I know it doesn't make sense, but just heal it Susan." Pansy said to her firmly.

She didn't have to be told twice, people could live with scars. She handed over the B.R.P, and immediately began channeling her magic into the gash, watching as the fleshy bits of her arm connected and knitted together. The curtain behind her opened again, but she didn't flinch, didn't distract from her duty.

"Hey, Harry wants you to go to Neville's apartment. I'm supposed to Guard you until you both get there safely." It was Ron Weasley's thick voice. Her brain immediately thought of his thick arms and attractive, auburn colored beard. It was such an odd jolt, to go from thinking about Pansy's wound, which she didn't have to focus on, to suddenly think about Ron Weasley. It caught her off guard. Was she attracted to this man?

"I can protect her just fine." Neville growled out in a tone that almost had Susan scared. Almost. But Ron didn't falter either. Interesting.

"Don't give me shit, Nev. You were hurt bad just two days ago." was his response. Susan almost felt impressed.

"Yeah, two days ago. I'm more than fine now. If something is going down, they need all the help they can get. Go. Be useful."

"Last I checked, Harry is my boss. Not you. He told me to stay and Guard Pansy."

Pansy's arm was healing just fine, Susan's magic almost finished… until Pansy shook herself and interrupted the point where the magic was flowing in. Susan almost lost it. Almost.

"Susan." Pansy asked in a small voice, ignoring the bickering going on between Ron Weasley and Neville Longbottom.

"Ms. Parkinson?" she responded, the magic close to completion.

"Call me Pansy. You've met my good friend Ron Weasley right?" Pansy asked, her tone light and … odd.

Susan raised her eyebrows in surprise at her question. "Of course, in school. It's been a few years though." She turned to look at the man in question, the visual impact stronger than she anticipated or it might've been the cut on her head... or her injured shoulder. His blue eyes were harder than they had been, but he was still taller than her by miles, muscles corded thick underneath a black tee shirt and tight denim jeans. She almost found herself feeling heated, feeling entirely attracted to this man… Until Ron shot out a fist and hit Neville in the lower ribs. Not hard. But not a good idea when the man had been treated for broken bones all over his back and ribs just a few days ago… She almost saw red. Except Neville was acting like this was normal… except for the pain. Men...

"See, you're still hurt. I'm escorting you. Get over it." Ron shrugged in a guy way.

As Neville leaned over, moaning in pain, Pansy gestured to Ron. "Ron! You're single right? You remember Susan Bones from school?"

Ron's face flushed pure red. "Er – hey Susan…"

"Hey Susan?" Was he joking?

"You just punched my Patient." She said in the sternest voice she could.

"Oh – er – I'm sorry… just… proving a point, ya know?"

She couldn't believe it. "Well next time you feel the need to prove a point, I'll have to ask you to leave the premises. This is a Hospital."

"Oh no, I wouldn't just randomly hurt your patients…"

"Glad to hear it. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of work I need to be doing." She snapped and turned towards Pansy again. "Ms. Parkinson, Pansy. I'm sorry to hear about your mum."

"Thank you." was her small response.

"What about your mum?" Neville moaned out, through his pain.

"I'll tell you in a minute."

"I had something else I wanted to talk to you about, in private, about some of the results I got from your initial testing, but with everything going on I think it could wait a bit. Might I owl you sometime later in the week?" Susan added in before she continued.

"Yes of course."

Neville moaned again, "Okay, ready to go Pansy?"

Anger renewed as she lifted up his tee shirt. "Let me see this first." She just couldn't believe that his 'friend' had punched him when he was already injured. "This bruise just doesn't want to go away does it? Hmm."

"I have Bruise Removal Cream back at the house." Pansy said.

"Harry told me to take you to Neville's apartment though." Ron said from beside her.

"I have some here. Let me get you a sample and then you can leave." Susan felt herself glaring at Ron before she took off across the hall to the supply closet there. She new exactly where the cream was, grabbing several small containers, she rushed back over to the room just in time to see Neville and Pansy rushing from the room.

"Here!" She called, shoving it into Neville's hands. "Where are you going?"

"We have to go! Thanks for everything!" Pansy called out over her shoulder and the two of them disappeared down the stairs, their hands interlaced.

Well at least they said thanks. 'Even though I have a mind to keep them here for another week...'

Her mind pushed the thoughts away when a small paper owl landed on her shoulder. She picked it up and unfolded the paper. The ceiling on the 5th floor had fallen in and crushed Criscilla…

Sweet natured Criscilla. Engaged Criscilla.

Susan found herself flying up the stairs, pushing through the door, emerging out into the hallway of the 5th floor and…

No.

Ione and Alban, along with several of the Aides, surrounded Cris' smashed body. Her head and face were visible, her eyes darting back and forth in frantic, disoriented movements. The Aides had their wands lifted in the air, hovering the giant piece of wood off her body and moving it away.

Susan sucked in a breath and rushed over, her hand reaching for her wand.

"Move, move. What happened?"

"It just… fell… the ceiling just fell in." Alban shook his head, his eyes rimmed with tears.

"Alban, hold it together. Go get Terrence. He was on the first floor. Go." Susan pointed, ignoring the dull throb in her shoulder.

Ione, ever the soldier, had her wand out and was doing what she could…

Cris' eyes fluttered shut. "Cris." Susan snapped. "Cris stay with me." She shoved a Bone Growth potion down Cris' throat, seeing the intense damage all across her torso.

Then she added her wand to Ione's, but the damage across Cris' body… it was worse than the receptionist's, worse than anything she had seen today…

"Fuck!" She swore out loud as Cris' body began to shut down, her magic alerted her, pinging against her inner ear in hard blares. "Ione keep going!"

She whipped her wand up and electrified Cris' heart, sending a hard jolt through the body. Ione, who specialized in physical injuries, was healing at a phenomenal speed…

She just had to keep Cris alive until then… Susan only hoped it would be enough as she did it again, electrifying the heart with a shock spell, watching Cris' body jump.

"C'mon baby girl." Ione said, her voice gruff as she channeled her magic, which looked redder than Susan's, into Cris' battered body. Ione wouldn't cry. Susan wouldn't either. Though she wanted to scream.

One more time. One more time… She shocked the heart, her chest cavity regaining some of its form as Ione continued to heal and...

Cris' eyes fluttered open again. "Ione…" she coughed up, looking around. "Ione… tell Danny..."

"Don't even try that shit with me Crissy, you hold on until I say otherwise." Ione's voice was a whip. Susan knew a part of her brain wanted to follow that thread... that encouragement... but she had to focus. She had to stay focused.

Susan added her healing magic to Ione's, her mind 100% on Cris' heart, watching for any sign it would stop again, any sign that anything else would fail.

… "I have her." Ione's usually feisty voice held so much relief, Susan physically felt it. Her own magic lessened, Cris' eyes fluttering shut again, except this time it was simply due to the amount of energy she needed to keep her body going, her mind knowing to send her to sleep.

"We did it." Susan gasped out when the thread of magic faded, Criscilla's body fully healed.

"Susan!" Terrence's voice hit her ears and she looked up to see him and Alban running over. She tried standing, but her hurt ankle choose that moment to stumble.

She went down hard on a knee, gasping out. "Fuck!"

Hands gripped her shoulders... both shoulders... her left shoulder was still broken. She cried out louder. "Watch it! Brick fell on my left shoulder bone earlier, it's broken."

Alban frowned, but Terrence's face turned mean. "What the fuck, how long have you been working with a broken shoulder and a broken ankle?"

They helped her to a standing position, Alban dropping to his knees to pull up the dark slacks that covered her ankle, his wand out and healing her ankle.

Terrence however, grabbed her face and yanked her head in his direction. "What is the matter with you?"

She had never seen him angry before, and never had he touched her in anger. He wouldn't ever again. "Terrence, get your hands off me right this second."

He winced at her tone and the shock surprised him enough that he dropped his hand from her face. "You have to take care of yourself too, Susan."

She shook her head. "I made the call, I knew what I could handle. If I had stopped, we would've lost lives today. Do not question me like that again. Understood?" Alban, Ione, and the Aides were all looking at them. She took a breath. "Get Cris downstairs, Ione. Terrence will go with you. Alban, organize the Aides to make sure the building is stable, see if you can make sure it won't start to fall apart next time someone tries to shake it. Everyone know where they are going?"

Her tone left no room for negotiation. They all got to work, scattering.

"That was well done Healer Bones." Desmond walked up beside her, his crane tapping the floor.

She blinked. "Thank you, sir. Are you injured?"

"Not at all. When I saw you had it under control, I went to the children's ward to keep the little ones occupied. Shall I heal your injuries for you?" He asked, indicating she should follow him into his office, which was located on this floor.

She did follow him but said, "No I can mend my shoulder. Thank you sir."

He sat down behind his old, black wooden desk and set his cane against the edge. She sat in front of him, and brought her wand up to her own shoulder, pushing strands of red hair out of the way. Healing magic, like what she did so easily, felt most like a fizzy, bubbly drink she once had called a Coca-cola. The sweet, syrupy drink had fizzed all the way down her throat and made her burp unattractively. Thankfully, this didn't make her burp. But it felt every bit as fizzy.

Desmond gave her a look she had learned to interpret as his way of smiling, his mouth not moving at all, but his eyes held a hint of laughter. "You did well today, Susan. I'm quite proud of you. I daresay the the Prophet tomorrow will likely use your quote as a headline."

"Sir?"

"'We do not negotiate with Death Eaters...' Healers take a stand. Some sensational line or the like." Desmond raised an eyebrow at her.

Had she really said that? No way that's what she actually said...

"Yes, you really said that." Desmond gave her that look again.

Damn he was laughing at her. It had really been a day.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.

-Lois Lowry

Susan took easy steps back to her office, after leaving Desmond and making sure the hospital was safe. Her ankle still felt sore, reminding her she needed to look over Alban's technique. The Aides had taken the building by a storm, securing each floor, and stabilizing the structure. The Children's Ward was safe, the Permanent Ward was safe, and the front reception room was already back in order. She could not have been prouder of the staff. Terrence found her at an Aide Station about an hour after she left Desmond's office and healed the cut on her face without a single word between them. His magic had channeled in pretty greens that mimicked the color of his eyes, the cool touch of his magic felt less fizzy and more like a bubbling stream.

Their personal relationship aside, this man, this wizard, was a good Healer. But the knowledge that they weren't meant to be together firmly cemented itself in her heart. The way he had grabbed her face in anger, no it didn't hurt, and no, she knew he would never hurt a woman, or her, in anger, it just wasn't his nature.

But, Susan knew he would never submit to her authority.

When he turned away from her, again without a word, she knew he was beginning to see the same thing.

Two hours after the event, the hospital was declared secure, safe, and stable and Susan found herself cheering with the rest of the staff.

She hadn't seen, but word had gotten out about how Harry Potter and his team drove back the group of Death Eaters and were now in the process of altering the memories of all the Muggles that had seen the event from the outside. When all was settled, she found herself walking into the private room set up for Criscilla and falling into one of the empty chairs by her bed. Gods it had been too close. Too, too close.

Her already pale skin shone under the dim lighting in the room, the long length of white blonde hair pulled into a messy bun on her head, her pale green eyes blinked open when Susan began waving her wand.

"Bones, you know Ione has already ran all the tests she could possibly think of." she said in a raspy voice.

"Yeah? Well, Ione isn't here." Susan snapped, dropping her wand and just letting the wavy lines of the scan hang in the air above them. It showed Cris' heart, a soft glow of red, pumping blood through all the tiny blood vessels and veins to the rest of her body. There was beauty in the movement.

"No one else can do that as well as you, you know?" Criscilla admired, her bright but tired eyes looking at the image above them.

"Just takes some practice." Susan mumbled automatically.

"Susan… I have been doing this for 18 years, mine don't look nearly that clear."

Susan felt the back of her neck flush but chose not to follow the line of this conversation. She instead placed her hand comfortingly over Criscilla's hand and together they watched as the gentle glow that was her heart beat softly, the lines of the scan showing her blood flowing to the rest of her body. She was okay. Everything looked fine. She just needed rest.

God if she had been even a second too late...

They sat for a long time, neither of them speaking, both of them watching the flowing red lines and the gentle glow of her heart.

When a tall, dark skinned man Susan recognized from the engagement announcement Criscilla had sent her walked into the room with a couple cups of coffee, Susan watched as the scan heart began beating faster, the soft thumping sound picking up tempo.

Susan stood, her own heart clenching in need. She held her hand out to the man. "Susan Bones."

"Danny Easton, nice to meet you. Coffee?"

"Thank you." she took the offering and sent another look at Cris. "Please get some rest. I'll be back to check up on you okay?"

She left the room, thinking of Terrence, of Ione, of Alban, thinking of Amberly, the receptionist who had almost lost her life and of Winnie who was up and running around as if she had never been hurt. She thought of Pansy Parkinson and Neville Longbottom, of their stunningly beautiful soul mate bond that had made her own heart stutter. She thought of Ron Weasley and his well trimmed, attractive beard. Could she possibly, maybe even just a little bit, have the tiniest of crushes on that man? ... Maybe.

'Okay maybe I am attracted to him, doesn't matter.'

It didn't matter because the one time they had been alone together, in her office, he had been so uncomfortable he had literally ran from the room. And then he had punched one of her patients…

Could she entertain the idea of dating him? He was famous, everyone in the the wizarding world knew his name.

Doesn't. Matter.

She pushed all thoughts of men out of her mind. Her day had been long and she needed to freshen up because it wasn't nearly over yet. She staggered into her office, tired and worn out, and fell immediately into her comfortable desk chair. She was exhausted and confused about Terrence... but she knew their relationship was not going any further...

Now her mind was supplying a plethora of images of Ron Weasley in a pair of jeans... and nothing else. Heat was slowly unfurling itself in the pit of her stomach...

'Oh c'mon... I can't live like this brain!'

A note appeared on her desk. Thankful for the distraction, she picked up the thick paper and smiled. Other than the incident with Denise Parkinson, the deranged woman having killed herself right before the attack, there wasn't one causality. A Death Eater attack, and not one causality. Of course, they weren't nearly as strong a group as they were during the second war. Thankfully.

But a dozen Death Eaters attacked the hospital, and the hospital was still standing, no one irreversibly damaged. Her Aunt Amelia would have been so proud of her. She knew it as surely as she knew her name.

Bones.

oOoOo

Susan sat down at her Aunt's desk, neat organized stacks of papers and parchments that would never be touched again. A planner, a inkwell and quill, a filled in calendar, books on politics, the economy, magic, a romance novel. None of it would used again. She unbuttoned the top of her fine, black dress robes and dropped it over the back of the chair carelessly. Underneath the garment she had worn to her Aunt's funeral, she had worn a silk, slim black dress over tights.

How many people had shaken her hand, how many had said how dear and loved Amelia Bones was, how many had offered their condolences? They all said the same things: Talented, a Duelist, a quick mind, a strong will. She died fighting of Lord Voldemort himself. But their faces had blurred together, their words bled into the next person's.

Not a single person had commented that she was now all alone. No one remembered how in the last war, the rest of her family had been murdered, by Death Eaters.

She was the last standing Bones. If she married, her name would change, and there would none left to carry on the name.

She gingerly placed both her hands on the wood of the desk. Her whole life she had spent in this house, outside of her terms at Hogwart's, and how many times had she sneaked up on her Aunt as the witch chewed on a Candy Quill and worked on some law, some bid, some stipend, some schedule, some… something as she sat at this very desk?

Why did she just assume Amelia would always be around? Why did she think she would be safe when Hannah Abbott's mom had been murdered? Megan Jones' mom and dad had been found dead. Muggles going missing, accidents happening, Voldemort returned... War was breaking out, and never had she thought she would lose her aunt.

She had already lost everything else… 'I am so stupid.'

She pushed the papers off the desk violently. They fluttered to the ground in waves. The calendar went next, notes about appointments and cards falling from the inner pages. She tore the planner the shreds. The inkwell went smashing to the ground in pieces, the hardwood floor stained black, the quill lost its feathers. She pulled all four of the drawers out of their compartments and threw them to the ground, watching as trinkets, items, papers, books, everything she could get her hands onto crashed and scattered loudly across the study floor. She turned in the chair and went for the next thing, anything she could break and found a framed picture. She picked it up with shaking hands.

A picture of herself, maybe five or six years old, hugging the leg of her Aunt Amelia with a toothless grin, her hair more blonde than red as it had been in her childhood. She watched as the younger version of herself looked up to her Aunt and giggled, Amelia looking down with a rare smile and a Chudley Cannon's badge on both their shirts.

She opened up the frame with soft fingers, taking the picture into her hands. On the back was written in the loopy cursive penmanship of her Aunt's, "My Susan and I, 1986."

Her lip trembled. There were no other pictures on this desk, the desk Amelia had spent her life at. No pictures of their family that had been long since murdered. Amelia never remarried after her husband died. She never had children of her own. She had loved her brothers, and when they were murdered, she took in Susan and raised her as her own.

And now she was gone.

Susan stood, the chair behind her scraping back loudly. She had to get out of here, she couldn't live here anymore. The memories were too much and she had no one to share them with. She took quick steps towards the door when she stepped on a thick envelope and slipped, landing painfully on her behind, but when she looked down down, she saw the letter was addressed to her in her Aunt's familiar script.

Oh Gods…

She lifted the thick letter and opened it with trembling fingers, crossing her legs underneath her for support.

It was the last will and testament of one Amelia Susan Bones. Everything was to be left to her surviving family member: Susan Eleanor Bones. The key to their Gringott's vault fell from the thick folded up parchment and…

A letter.

The first line read: "My Dearest Niece Susan, I fear my time here at the Ministry is coming to an end."

She looked away, tears threatening to spill freely from her eyes. She had known. Amelia had known they were after her. Of course they would be. Amelia was too outspoken against Death Eaters, too fair, too good at her job. She would never have fallen prey to an Imperius Curse either.

It felt as if her heart was opening up, tearing, shredding to pieces, bleeding.

'There is no one left on this earth that loves me.'

oOoOo

A small paper owl fluttered into her office then, coming to land on her desk right in front of her face. Desmond, informing her that someone from the Prophet was coming to interview her and she needed to cooperate, for the good of the Hospital of course. Her fake window shimmered with imitation afternoon light and turned to grayish rain at the same time her stomach growled. She opened the top drawer of her desk and pulled out a granola bar. Her mouth watered automatically, the smell of salt and caramel hitting her nose as she unwrapped a single bar.

As she chewed, she couldn't help but think of the man who brought them to her. Physically at least, Ron Weasley seemed to be in good health. She thought of an article she had read a couple years back, the reform that the Auror Program had gone under. She vaguely recalled how the training had changed… obviously the Ministry was putting more stock in physical training. The wizard on her mind was fit, his arms and shoulders had stretched beneath his tee shirt. Strangely, she realized all the men she she had dated in her life looked nothing alike. Terry Boot had been shorter, paler skin, with blonde hair and dark eyes. Terrence on the other hand was all dark skin and striking angles with those bright green eyes.

It was with a startling realization that she figured out she was lumping Terrence in with her ex, the usual heat that came with the thought of him different, less of a needy thing. After the day they had, she knew more than ever she wanted the talented Healer on her team, if and only if they could learn to be co-workers. She felt the echo of his hand on her face, the angry look in his eyes when he realized how hurt she was.

You have to take care of yourself too, Susan.

His words echoed something Terry had said to her long ago. Did Terrence care about her on more than just a sexual level?

Feeling confused and lost when it came to her feelings on Terrence, she made her way down to the front reception room, stopping briefly into the room that held the morning receptionist, Amberly.

The young witch was sitting up, with several pillows supporting her back, sipping from a water cup. When she caught sight of Susan, she broke out into smiles and thank-you's. The skin on her face was still raw looking, the flesh there with a reddish pink sheen. Looking over it, Susan was sure there wouldn't be any scarring.

"Alright there? Please don't thank me, I was just doing my job."

"Yeah? Well thank you for doing your job." she shot back with a snarky grin. "Here, I have this…"

And she held out a small silver pin, two hands interlaced engraved into the metal. "I want you to have it."

Susan immediately felt overwhelmed. "No no I couldn't."

"I insist!" Amberly said loudly, forcing the tiny pin into her hand. "Please."

Praying for strength, she took the pin and felt a delicate emotion fill her, but she was beyond happy that the girl would make it through just fine. She finished her journey to the reception area, fitting the pin onto the white collar of her yellow robes...

Just in time to hear yelling. "SUSAN BONES PLEASE!"

Well, no one could ever say her job was boring.

Two receptionists, the Aide Winnie, Ginny Potter, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, and a burned and crispy looking Pansy Parkinson all filled the small room.

"Weren't you two just here?!" Susan yelled, whipping her wand out and rushing to Pansy's side. It was bad. It was really bad. "Burns are tricky, everyone move. Set her down Neville," she summoned a chair. "... right here."

"What in the waiting room!?" Neville snapped angrily, obviously in a foul mood.

"Yes in the waiting room set her down!" she snapped back just as rudely. She didn't take shit from anyone and Pansy was obviously suffering, her face showing tremendous pain. Her wand ready, she assessed which areas of burnt flesh were the worst… but there was just so much, she made the decision to start with the hands and arms.

The worst part about healing burns however, was that when it got this bad, Susan had to remove the dead and burnt flesh first before healing anything. Potions too would have to wait because they would attempt to fix the dead flesh and then Pansy would have live skin fused with dead skin. A bad idea.

Susan gritted her teeth and used her little gift to separate the dead flesh from Pansy's body, simultaneously using her wand to heal the wounds after the flesh was gone. It took a delicate hand and an intense mental focus. She went over the hands first, knowing that would be the most painful, the hands and fingers loaded with nerve endings. Dead flesh fell to the floor as she worked, slowly making her way up the arms. When she separated a large piece of nasty burnt smelling skin from Pansy's wrist, the girl pushed away quickly before leaning over and throwing up on the floor.

Winnie rushed over, cleaning up the mess as Neville hovered over and held back Pansy's hair, not even flinching as Pansy threw up and cried and moaned in pain.

Susan's healing stream thinned, but she kept up the magic among the jousting and moving about.

"How did I get out of there?" Pansy asked when she leaned back, her stomach done heaving up.

Susan didn't have any idea what she was talking about so she figured the question was not for her, instead she grabbed the upper part of Pansy's arm, the undamaged part, and redoubled her magic.

"I broke that damn mirror into pieces." Neville growled out through clenched teeth, coming down on his haunches beside Pansy. "What the fuck were you thinking going in there like that?"

"Neville are we about to fight again?" Pansy asked in a trembling voice. Susan couldn't blame her, the damage was extensive, and she hadn't even gotten to the legs and feet.

"You're damn right we're going to fight again!" Neville yelled.

"I didn't go in on purpose – it sucked me in before I could stop it." Gods what had they been up to? They had just left the hospital a bare few hours ago!

"…Oh."

"And what do you mean you broke the mirror? Isn't that what we had just agreed not to do?!"

"Don't get mad at me, I had to sit there and watch you face off with Voldemort and I couldn't do anything about it! Idiot woman!"

Susan looked up in surprise, hearing Winnie gasp. She shook herself and refocused on healing Pansy's arms.

"Call me idiot woman one more time Neville Longbottom and I will knock all of your teeth in!" Pansy screeched.

"You don't even have a wand anymore! Because you caused Fiendfyre-"

"Fiendfyre?" Susan snapped her head up, disbelief crashing over her. Surely she had heard wrong… But the look on Neville's face…

Oh c'mon! "You cast Fiendfyre? Literally the day you got out of St. Mungo's you cast Fiendfyre!? I should have you all committed!"

Susan barely heard anything they said after that, vaguely noting Harry Potter rushing into the building. She finished the arms and switched to the feet. She didn't think anyone noticed her minor telekinetic gift in work, save maybe Winnie. But she didn't care, it was saving her time. Time she desperately needed. She curled her fingers, pulling the worst of the dead flesh off first. Her wand hand stayed steady, though she couldn't believe Pansy Parkinson had somehow faced of with Voldemort and come out of it alive...

They were still talking, but Susan saw how badly damaged the feet and ankles were, seeing how the clothes she had been wearing had fused with the skin... she had to warn Pansy.

"This is going to hurt!" She tried to do it as gently as she could, but the bit of fabric ripped from her flesh with a sickening sound.

Pansy immediately leaned to the side and threw up again.

"Susan-can't-you-do-anything-about-that?" Neville's voice dropped even lower, anger clipping at each of his words. She was not intimidated.

"Oh who me? The Healer? Pansy I can't give you anything right away until I get all the clothes off the burnt areas, so just suck it up."

"Holy fucking Hufflepuff, you were a lot nicer to me earlier..." Pansy mumbled, Susan felt horrible for causing her more pain. She had to switch position though, bracing her hand on Pansy's bare shoulder now that all the burnt clothes and dead flesh were removed, she further channeled her magic into the ankles, feet, and legs.

"That was when I thought you were an intelligent witch. Fiendfyre? Honestly." She huffed.

Then she heard Harry's voice behind her. "Fiendfyre? What were you four doing? I thought I told you to get somewhere safe?"

'Obviously they don't listen to you either, Harry.'

"Ask Theo, I am no good at listening to orders from Gryffindor's." The tone in her voice, the echoes of pain Susan heard, spurred her to move faster, Pansy would go into shock soon with this much pain.

"I'm almost finished, Pansy. Just hold it together okay?"

"Harry we'll talk about it in a minute okay? We need to wait for Pansy. We have to go." Hermione explained.

"Go where? Pansy isn't going anywhere." Susan argued immediately. I will not let her leave. "She needs rest and more medical attention!"

"No I have to. I have to be there. I can't explain why, but I do. Us, no one else..." She isn't even making sense!

Susan huffed again but continued to work. "Almost ... almost. Okay. I'm finished, your feet and legs got the worst of it and still might scar. But your arms and hands are fine."

Winnie rushed up to her side then, loaded with potions. Susan immediately began handing them to Pansy, a pain reliever, a skin growth, a skin softening potion which would help with the scars, a dreamless sleep. Seeing the labels on each of the bottles, she couldn't help but comment. "This is from the batch we bought from you, Ms. Parkinson. How funny."

Pansy shook her head. "I predicted my own stupidity apparently. I'm not taking this though, we have to go."

And she handed the Dreamless sleep potion back to her even though Susan was giving Pansy her best scowl. "24 hours. I don't want to see you for at least 24 hours, understood?"

Pansy smirked, "I can guarantee I won't see you until next Wednesday."

As quickly as the group had come in, they left leaving silence and smell of burnt flesh.

"Did she say…" Winnie started the question, looking from Susan to the other receptionists. "'Holy Fucking Hufflepuff'?"

Susan swayed when she stood up straight, but then she started laughing. "That's a nickname I could get behind…"

They all laughed.

That's when a young man in a khakis and a polo shirt walked in, though his face said he could smell the room, he kept his voice even. "Hi I'm looking for Healer Susan Bones?"

"You found her, what can I help you with?" Susan asked.

"I'm from the Prophet, here for an interview." He smiled, a perfectly straight row of teeth showed themselves.

Ahh I'd rather deal with burnt, dead flesh…

Winnie however had other ideas. "Oooh Susan, they're interviewing you? About what?"

The young man grinned, pushing dark bangs out of his eyes as he did so. "Mostly on the events that happened here earlier, but I also want to get the scoop on the witch who made Chief Healer by age 25."

Winnie giggled with the two receptionists. "Did you want to hear her new nickname?"

Susan turned, a look of mortification planted itself on her face. "No, no that's not... it's not my nickname-"

"I would love to hear it!" the man grinned again, entirely too overjoyed, pulling a quill out of nowhere and a notebook from his back pocket.

The three witches said at the same time, "Holy Hufflepuff!" and then burst into giggles.

It sounded even worse when said in concert... "No no, please no. Oh no don't write that down! Let's continue this in my office. This way."

He followed her up the stairs, much to her relief. "What was your name by the way?" she asked.

"Oh." he held out a hand as they took the steps up together. "Alexander Dorsey, nice to meet you."

"Likewise." she shook his hand and led him into her office a minute later. "Here we go. Can I get you something to drink?"

"Oh no, I'm fine. Let's get right into it, shall we? I would assume you are pressed for time." he transitioned into the question so well, she smiled. Maybe this wouldn't be too bad. She leaned back into her chair.

"I am, my job is fairly busy and time consuming." She answered.

"Do you feel like it impedes on your personal life?"

She snorted. "I don't have a personal life."

"I heard from a friend that you were one of the students in Dumbledore's Army in your 5th year at Hogwart's, is that true?"

"Who is your friend?"

"Hermione Granger... she's also my boss."

"Your boss?" That bit of information took her off guard.

"Yes, she owns the Daily Prophet now. She took it out of the Ministry's control so that the media would not be biased any longer. One of the main reasons I decided to work there."

"I had no idea. Yes, I was in Dumbledore's Army in my 5th year. It helped me a lot, helped me get through some of the hardest exams I took in my last years of school." His eyes lit up with her answer, his hand scribbling with his quill as quickly as he could.

"Do you think some of that training helped you today, with the attack?"

She considered that question. "Yes, but not in the way you might think."

"What way might I think?" he asked.

"I didn't duel any Death Eaters today. Harry was a great teacher, if I hadn't been involved in the D.A. I don't think I would have earned my NEWTs in Defense Against the Dark Arts, I wouldn't have been able to become a Healer." That was the truth.

"So you didn't duel today, but you did use your training as a Healer to save lives, didn't you?" he pulled out another sheet of paper. "I have a direct quote here, mind confirming it for me? 'Do not attempt to enter the building. We do not negotiate with Death Eaters, we have several able bodied Healers prepared to battle with you as well as Harry Potter, the Head of the Auror Department, on location with his team of Aurors. Do not attempt to enter the building.'"

"I believe that is what I said, yes." Susan wasn't one to fidget but she couldn't help the nervous motion in her hands as she played with her fingers. She wasn't sure where the words had come from, she just knew she was out of time and had to respond.

"And just to be clear, the Death Eaters were after what? What did they say?"

"They lined up outside and attacked the building in broad daylight. They said they wanted one of the patients, I had 3 minutes to respond or they were going to come in and forcibly remove the patient from the building."

"And which patient was it they were after?"

"You know I am not at liberty to answer that question."

"Alright I tried." he smiled. "St. Mungo's has never politically aligned with any faction or group before in the past, by saying you don't negotiate with Death Eaters, that's drawing a pretty clear line, don't you think? Would you say you've set a precedent?"

She took a deep breath and thought through the question. She thought of her family, of her Aunt. "It wouldn't be a secret to say I'm biased against Death Eaters, in the first War they murdered my entire family. Except for my Aunt- Madam Amelia Bones. In the second war, Voldemort himself murdered my Aunt. But you could also argue that this 'political group', the Death Eaters, have proved time and time again they are dangerous and mean to do harm." she paused for affect. "We are Healers, the safety and health of our patients will always come first."

He was silent as the scribbling filled the room. "You are an excellent interviewee." he said a moment later.

"Well, thank you. Even though I would prefer not to be featured in any articles, my boss made it pretty clear what was expected of me." she folded her arms over her chest to stop her fingers from fidgeting more.

"Oh? I'll attempt to hold back the urge to put in your nickname then." he laughed.

Oh Gods that nickname... She buried her face in her hands. "I can't believe they said that."

"So how does it feel being one of the top Healer's in the country?"

"I don't know, I feel the same as I always do. I just make sure I do my job and the staff that looks to me can do theirs."

"Alright... Last question. How would you briefly describe the event that happened today?"

Susan leaned forwards, crossing her arms over the desk. "I would say that a rogue group of people decided to attack this hospital, St. Mungo's, which is and always has been a safe place to be. My staff upheld that today and they will always make sure the hospital remains that way."

He raised his eyebrows briefly before going back to his natural smile. "Alright then. I think I got what I came for. Thank you for being so delightful to interview."

She stood up with him and shook his hand again. "I'll walk you down."

"Oh no need, I want to take a gander, I won't disturb a soul, promise." and like a rogue, he slipped out of her office and out of sight.

She let out a breath. That wasn't too bad...

But this...

The door to her office was open, but Terrence knocked on the frame. She met his eyes and nodded him in. He closed the door behind him before taking a seat across from her.

"I'm on my way out." he said slowly, all traces of his arrogant smile gone. His eyes looked tired for the first time she had ever seen.

She stood up and came around the desk, taking the other chair as a seat.

She thought of their night together, thought too of their time working together.

oOoOo

It almost felt like a blow. "I love my freckles."

His eyes were devouring her, at her words though, he looked up and met her own eyes. "Ah Susie, I didn't mean it like that. I think you're fucking beautiful."

She sucked in a breath. "Watch your mouth, Mr. Dane."

His body visibly trembled. "That... is a separate fantasy of mine. We'll have to revisit though, I'm afraid I don't have anymore patience tonight."

And his hands were on her, his body crushing her into the bed, his mouth descended onto hers and whatever she had been thinking was seared away by a sexual heat she knew she could never contain. And he didn't stop. He kissed her until she whimpered into his mouth, his body rubbing against hers in all the right places. When he leaned forward, letting all of his weight crush into her, his hands come up into her hair, holding her face in his kiss, he started making needy, wet sounds that hitched up her breath and made her heart go into overdrive.

Only when he decided she had had enough, her lips swollen and the place between her thighs slick with need, did he let go of his grip in her hair, bringing both hands between their bodies. He placed one hand on each of her thighs, hooking his elbows under her knees, he brought them up and quite suddenly...

She cried out as he slid his length inside of her, stretching the unused muscles there, with a sizzling ache that brought her entire body off the bed and closer to him.

"You feel as perfect as you look." his words were followed up with movement. His hips pounding against hers, his body all sleek muscle and hard, hot thrusts that drove her straight to insanity. His arms still held her knees pushed back, his hands firmly gripping her thighs. Beyond that, she couldn't think, she could only cry out with every thrust, until she shattered around him, her orgasm a sharp, vicious thing.

He came with her a moment later and then it was over.

oOoOo

"Terrence you did amazing today. You did exactly what I told you to do, secured the patients and kept them calm while the situation was being dealt with."

"And yet I bet if I asked you to dinner right now, you would say no again." his hand came up to her lip, his finger gently caressing her there.

It felt different. It wasn't hot, it didn't make her breath hitch. She leaned back away from the touch.

He sighed. "I'm not used to being denied." That, she thought, was the truest thing he had ever said to her.

"Get used to it. This job is tough..."

He raised his perfect set of eyebrows.

"I'm tough too." she admitted. "But I don't want to be in a relationship with you. I hope that won't affect our work though."

"If it does?" he asked. He looked so put out, it was almost adorable.

She took a breath, steeling herself. "I will accept the consequences. I'm the one who allowed you into my bed."

He shook his head. "No consequences, Susie. Though, I will probably always have a problem with you not taking good enough care of yourself."

"I had a feeling you were secretly a big sweetheart."

"Don't tell anyone." he said, standing up. She stood up with him, her chest feeling lighter, her mind at ease as they walked towards the door. He stepped out of the office and then turned back to her.

"Terrence?"

He leaned forward and she thought for a second he was going to kiss her. But instead his arms came around her smaller frame and he was hugging her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

We're all lonely for something we don't know we're lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we've never even met?

-David Foster Wallace

August 30th, 2006

This is not good…

Two days off in a row where Susan ate Chinese take out, practiced her Tai Chi, and worked on her long term research project had rejuvenated her and freshened her mind.

Coming in early in the morning for her shift and walking into her office only to see a literal mountainous pile of mail overflowing her desk had definitely caught her off guard. The mail was piled so high, it was falling off the edges of her desk, the intruding paper knocking off her books and folders.

Not good, not good at all.

She had been in the process of organizing what she had figured out was fan mail, the first envelope she had picked up only to open to a short paragraph about how heroic she had been and how her efforts had saved the wizarding world, when Pansy Parkinson walked into her office.

"Err… Gods where is my calendar? Did we have an appointment?" she asked frantically pushing mail out of the way looking for the large calendar she kept on her desk. She could've sworn her first appointment wasn't until 9 A.M., the clock on her wall telling her it was barely 6.

"No, but I knew you would need help." the witch smiled, and it was so unlike anything Susan had ever seen on her. Pansy Parkinson? She remembered a pug face full of mean sneers and even meaner words of bullying.

Now this witch stood, shorter than Susan, with long, curling waves of raven black hair down her back, her violet eyes, the unique color marking her as a witch, but it was the jagged blue shards that pierced the purple that truly made her unique. And a smile, a true smile that filled her round face. She approached the desk and immediately began sorting through the mail.

"How did you even know? I just got here myself..." Susan asked, turning away from the desk and grabbing a folded up box she had in one of the cabinets. She opened it up and they started throwing in the fan mail one at a time.

Pansy's eyes shimmered with hidden knowledge, her lips twitching in a smile. "I saw the article. Didn't you?" And suddenly she had a folded up copy of the Daily Prophet from two days ago in front of Susan.

And Susan was on the front page.

Oh no please this is not good!

"What. Is. This?" Susan dropped the piece of mail in her hand and grabbed the newspaper from Pansy, who kept her smile as she dropped more mail into the box.

"But… how did they even get this picture?"

A picture of her running down the hallway of the 4th floor, the large cut across her face, her features determined as she swooped around a corner, seemingly running off towards danger with her wand out… she hadn't been…

She had been running towards Cris, running towards a desperate situation.

The headline read: "No Bones About it! Chief Healer Takes Stand Versus A Dozen Death Eaters!"

"'No Bones About It?!" she yelled, reading through the article as quickly as she could. "He made it seem like I held the hospital up while fighting off the entire group of Death Eaters by myself!"

Her eyes scanned the lines so quickly, she had to go back to reread words she was accidentally skipping over. At the bottom of the page was a copy of the interview he did with Winnie, one with Amberly… Even the stoic tight lipped Desmond had made a comment...

Ughhh!

"No he didn't. I thought the article was well written." Pansy commented.

"Well written? Everyone must think I am a joke… it sounds like a dating ad… what is this?" The article about her blended right into another article, one that claimed Voldemort had been defeated once and for all at the private residence of the Malfoy's ancestral home.

"You really didn't know?" Pansy asked, meeting her eyes.

No, I had been hiding in my room for two days.

"Is that… what you did on Sunday?" Susan asked, thinking about Pansy's burns… how she let them rush off despite her better judgement.

"Look at the next page."

Susan flipped the paper open. Voldemort dead and the remainder of his Death Eaters awaiting trial. "Are you telling me that Voldemort was defeated finally and I'm the front page news?"

"Hermione's idea. Good versus Evil kind of thing. What hole were you living in the last two days?"

"My apartment. Alone. With my Chinese food." Susan fell into her chair and put her hands over her face, letting the Prophet fall into the pile of mail that somehow seemed bigger than when she first arrived. Two days of stress relieving Tai Chi and she felt just as stressed as she had when she fell into bed so late Sunday night, she hadn't even disrobed.

Pansy was still throwing mail into the box when she held up a letter. "I know this handwriting… Theo sent you fan mail!" she laughed out. "Can I please open this one?"

"Sure." Susan replied in a miserable voice, still covering her face with her hands. She was beyond mortified, so at a loss at what to do.
But then Pansy was laughing, a beautiful, ringing sound that made Susan look up. "He details a night spent at karaoke and a drunken marriage proposal he had to turn down because of his 'cursed sexuality' and he wants to know if you would be interested in being a 'Watcher' to him and Percy's sexual exploits."

Susan felt her entire face flush under her freckles. "That man!" No, she wasn't a prude by any means, having slept with Terrence on their first, and only, date. She was a Healer, and knew the health benefits of having sexual intercourse. Especially on a regular basis. Knew as in read about it, she didn't know first hand the experiences of having sexual intercourse on a regular basis... Oh brain just stop now.

She didn't know if 'Watching' as Theo had put it, counted under that logic.

"He mentioned to me once about you."

Susan dropped her hands from her face, looking over the mound of mail on her desk. "What did he say?"

"He said you were lonely." Pansy's tone changed as she spoke the words to something gentle. Something knowing….

She snapped her head back up, fully meeting the witch in the eye, her heart thumping painfully. "I'm sorry, I'm not usually so distracted." she mumbled out, attempting unsuccessfully to stop the dull ache of her heartbeat. "You came in for a reason."

Pansy just raised a dark eyebrow, maintaining eye contact, as she dumped more mail into the box. It was disconcerting, Susan thought, for someone to know her inner demons when she worked so hard to bury them. And what did she know about Pansy? She was 5'3, weighed 120, and her birthday was the 14th of February. Frivolous, cosmetic details. And yet this witch knew all about the lonely creature that lived in Susan's chest.

The creature that constantly felt deprived of light, of air. It made Susan miss her Aunt so terribly sometimes, made her miss a feeling, something she didn't even know she could miss... Something she had never experienced before. Something... whole and good.

"Two reasons. I'm here because you wanted to talk to me about my chances of having children and... and I need you to show me my brain." Pansy smiled. "Also you could just magic this mess into your box if you wanted. I would but I don't have a wand anymore."

Susan shook her head, feeling silly and exposed. "What happened to your wand? I remember Mr. Longbottom mentioning it while you were here…" she asked, doing as Pansy had suggested. She retrieved her wand from her robes and sent the mail into her fold up box in a straight, organized line.

"It ate Fiendfyre. Turns out wands don't like that. It broke." Pansy answered, flexing her right hand as she said the words.

The word Fiendfyre reminded Susan just how mad she was at the witch, her eyes darkening in Pansy's direction. "Let me examine your arms and legs then, while you're here."

So she did, taking the chair next to Pansy and looking over her delicate hands and feet as the witch told a tale about Horcruxes, Fiendfyre, a dark wizard named Voldemort, and running into an old enemy.

Hearing about what their old school mate Blaise had done to Pansy sent a red haze over Susan's vision, but Pansy had made it out. She had made it out stronger than she had been and fallen into the arms of Neville Longbottom in a whirlwind of events that made Susan sigh.

"I'm sorry I can't do anything about the scars on your ankles and feet, Pansy." Susan mumbled, running her wand delicately over the burn marks that were starting to settle. Dark Magic had caused them and Dark Magic made sure they stayed. If Susan had been faster… if she had seen Pansy sooner… maybe. But it was done.

"If you use a skin softening potion and lots of lotion you may be able to get the scarring to fade over time."

"I'm not worried about it, but I will use some lotion. I could toy with some Mandrake root."

"Do that, I'm sure Theodore could market it, like he does all your other potion products." Susan thought of the massive amount of inventory the hospital took in, knowing just how much was supplied by this single witch. She was an expert at potion making.

"I will. I'll send you some samples."

Susan smiled, but moved on to the next piece of nasty business that needed to be taken care of. She already had the scan done, so she projected the image out for Pansy and her to both see. The glowing lines showing the insides of her body in shimmering waves.

Pansy looked on with intrigue, the skills necessary to do this what made Susan a Healer. And a damn good one at that.

"So this is my body…"

"If you look here," Susan said pointing out the damage that had wrecked this woman's reproductive organs. Deep but faint lines where the flesh had been marred. Violently. "See these lines here, here, and here? These are all scars, where damage healed. I can tell it went untreated. And I can tell that the violence done to you was repeated. Why didn't you tell anyone you were being raped Pansy? How many men did this to you? This kind of invasive damage, you could've easily bled out and died. I know it happened at Hogwart's."

Pansy reached forward, placing her hand over Susan's in a gesture of comfort. And wasn't that the kicker, the patient comforting the Healer. Susan placed her other hand over Pansy's.

"It was mostly one man, and he's locked away right now. And I let him do that. But I'm okay now, I've been through worse and I would do it again if it meant I ended up where I am now."

It was said with such unequivocal, grounded way that left no room for argument. Susan knew Pansy meant it when she said she was okay. But Susan was still pissed off about the whole situation as she let the scanned image fade away. "I can only recommend the therapist on staff. And maybe with some long term treatments, I could possibly reverse some of the damage… but otherwise I would say your chances of carrying a child full term are very low."

Susan let the news set in, watching for the usual tells that the bad news had been understood, watching for any signs of an adverse reaction. Instead, Pansy just maintained eye contact.

"You already knew?" Susan asked.

The ghost of a smile. "No one had ever told me before."

With the strange feeling she was missing something but then Pansy said, "I need you to look at my brain now."

"Let me check your arm first." She said, reaching out to grab Pansy's arm, pushing up the sleeve of her sweater. She revealed the cut that marred her skin from the inside of her elbow all the way to her wrist, the mark an ugly, vicious purple. Unlike the burns, Susan could easily keep this mark from scarring… if the witch had wanted her to.

"No." Pansy shook her head, her bangs falling into her face. "I need this one."

"Why though? What does it mean to you?"

Pansy met her eyes and took a silent minute before answering. "The life my mother left for me."

Susan leaned back in the chair. "Fine. Why do you want me to look at your brain?"

"Just take a look and see if you see anything…?"

"Okay…" Ash wand in hand, Susan scanned Pansy, looking directly into the witch's brain.

"What do you see?"

"I see… a healthy brain." Susan admitted, projecting the image for Pansy to look at.

The shimmering grey image floated in the air in front of them, the curves of the organ giving away to a myriad of different colors that pulsed randomly as they watched.

"So you're telling me you don't see anything… out of the ordinary?" Pansy asked with a strange hitch in her voice.

"Why don't you tell me what you're looking for? It might help." Susan offered. "Is it magical or physical?"

Pansy shifted in her seat, though her eyes never left the image of her brain. "Definitely magical… let me try something first though."

And with a slow hand, she placed it gently on the top of Susan's hand, skin meeting, her eyes closing. Susan watched as tension flowed over her round face, her brows pinching together. But it was the colorful flashing from the hanging image that caught her eye, her head turning to fully observe the strange change.

Like a cosmos exploding out from the center of Pansy's brain, the sparkling star studded landscape of space spread through the image like ink mixing with water. And then it flickered into a mix of colors that reminded her of the stunning images she had seen in her Astronomy class.

Then it blinked away as quickly as it had appeared, leaving only the image of a human brain, Pansy's hand moving away from her own.

Susan had never seen anything like it before.

"What just happened?"

Susan had seen accidental magic, seen magic mix badly with other magic resulting in lost limbs and organs and even heads, seen physical injuries no normal human would survive. She had seen magic work miracles and she had seen a patient yell at another patient until he got better.

She had seen magical diseases eat through people's hearts and bodies and souls.

She had seen a woman's brain sparking with life and pain as she gave birth.

But she had never seen anything like Pansy before.

"Uh Susan? Don't go to the Thai place for lunch today."

What?

"Just trust me." Pansy said standing up. The scanned image faded and Susan felt beyond confused. "I should go now, Neville will be up soon. You should come by the house on Friday night. I'm having some people over for some drinks and fire before the weather turns too cold."

Staring blankly, she realized her mouth was hanging open. She snapped it shut and stood with the witch. "I have work…"

Pansy smiled that odd, knowing smile of hers and it further baffled Susan. "No you don't. Here's my address. I'll see you Friday. Thanks for… thanks for everything."

And the witch was gone as quickly as she had appeared. Susan retook her seat behind a desk that looked neater and more organized after Pansy's work. Her mind however felt like a jumbled up mess, her thoughts splintering in all different directions and unlike normally, she couldn't focus on any of the avenues. Her picture on the front page of the Prophet, Pansy's mind becoming a star studded galaxy, the potential for mandrake lotion, the long term damage people could inflict on others, Voldemort dead…

Her mind grabbed at a thread of thought, Pansy coming in on Susan's day set aside specifically for appointments, in a time slot that Susan was free. What had she said last Sunday, when she had run off with Harry Potter and his group of friends that were always saving the world?

I can guarantee I won't see you until next Wednesday.

Today.

Her mind jumbled again and she thought of the Prophet, she could agree that putting Voldemort on the second page of the newspaper definitely made a statement. He was gone, no longer tormenting them, and no longer deserving so much attention. Better wizards had prevailed. It was time to heal, to remember the victims, the heroes, the children...

But maybe she would have agreed with it more if she hadn't been the subject on the first page, she had simply taken a stand and made sure her people were safe. It had been the efforts of the hospital and Harry's Auror team that had kept the hospital safe, not her. Not just her.

She thought of her team, Terrence especially, running off towards the wards and making sure the patients were safe, stable. That the attack hadn't jostled them or their injuries, making sure they knew they were taken care.

She thought of the team of Aides, taking charge and making the building magically stable, securing it so any future attempts to bring down the building would fail. Thought of them running off with supplies of potions and badges and determination.

Not one of the staff had been scared. Not one of them had failed in their efforts. And yet it had been her face on the front page. The clock on the wall told her she had a quarter of an hour before her first 'scheduled' appointment for the day. Her mind settling on the topic, she withdrew a long bit of parchment and pulled her inkwell and quill out of a drawer and got to writing.

To Hermione Granger…

oOoOo

Of course, she couldn't hide herself in her office all day. Though none of her other appointments were nearly as emotional as the first one, she felt drained by the time her clock struck noon. With her stomach growling in protest, she thought the bowl of porridge and fruit she had devoured for breakfast that morning could go no further, she tentatively stepped out of her office and down the hall to the Healer's lounge with a sandwich on her mind.

Only to be tackled by a full group of arms and hands as soon as she entered the small room. It felt as if a hundred people were hugging her. All the Aides, her team of Healer's, Desmond and Helen, the staff of the hospital were all squished into the smaller lounge.

And they were cheering for her. Not since Ernie Macmillan had kissed her on the lips when she was 13 and had never been kissed before had her face turned as red as she knew it was now. They all shook her hand and pulled her into a tight hug, all while praising her a job well done. Terrence had grabbed her and kissed her full on the mouth before she broke away with a dazed feeling in her stomach before Alban did the same damn thing, grabbing her quickly and kissing her full on the mouth. The brown headed man released her with a grin and she found her standing in the middle of the room, the staff surrounding her as she caught up with herself.

"Three cheers for Susan!" Alban shouted. "Hip hip!"

The room pumped the air with the fists on the first, "Hooray!"

"Hip hip!" She buried her face in her hands on the second, "Hooray!"

"Hip hip!" She wished for the ground to open up and swallow her into its depths with the third, and thankfully final, "Hooray!"

Alban continued on. "Did she or did she not save the lives of not one... not two... but three of us on August 27th? Held off an entire group of Death Eaters?" he raised his hands, prompting the group to cheer.

And cheer they did. She felt her brain rattling inside her head. The back of her neck, under her ears, her entire face felt flushed and redder than the color of her hair. She dropped her hands, lifting her face, knowing she had to face them down despite her shyness.

"Did she, or did she not, hold off the attack long enough for the hospital to prepare and get ready? To make sure the patients were safe?" Amid their low chant of her name, "Susan! Susan! Susan!" she found herself channeling the same focus she used during her exercises, during her Tai Chi, until her face felt less red and her heart slowed to normal levels.

"Is she or is she not the Best Healer NO BONES ABOUT IT!" They burst into full applause, even Desmond bothered himself enough to raise his hands in a slow clap.

"I have something to say." Though she didn't raise her voice, the chanting stopped and everyone went silent, their eyes on her. Desmond stood against the wall in the back, his hands crossed over the top of his cane. He nodded at her once, a gesture of support of such magnitude.

"I wrote a letter to the Prophet... And I told them they were idiots."

Her eyes met Desmond's, his passive face showed nothing but she thought he might've looked amused. No doubt the hospital was getting plenty of attention now, thanks to the article. But she wouldn't stand by and let the world think she had carried the hospital on her shoulders.

"Why Susan?" Winnie the Aide asked from the front.

"Because, two full pages about me and there wasn't one mention of how the Aides stabilized the building, literally keeping it from falling in." The majority of the Aides all fisted the air and cheered following her words. So she continued. They were already pumped up. She could add to it easily.

"Not one mention about how my team kept our wards in order and safe." Alban, Ione, Criscilla, and Terrence all grouped together, all smiling at her. I'm so proud of them.

"Or how Desmond rushed off to the Children's ward to keep the little one's from panicking. The staff that day, frankly, you guys kicked ass and I have never been prouder of you."

The room burst into applause and cheers for the second time, crowding her. Cris wrapped both of her arms around Susan's middle and hugged her tight. "We got you Thai food! To celebrate!"

"Oh… uh…" Pansy's warning flashed in her mind.

How did she know?

"I already ate actually…"

It was a fun day.

oOoOo

September 1st, 2006

She hadn't lied to Pansy when she told her she had to work on Friday. But she was off for the evening, having worked the early shift again. She had spent the majority of her day working Block shift and doing more research on her project. Mrs. Imelda was old, had seen the turn of two centuries and somehow kept on going. But her body was slowly failing and there was simply nothing to be done about old age. No one thought twice about upping the dosage of Pain Potion she was taking.

But after only a few days in the hospital, having moved into a permanent room so she could be cared for, her health had begun deteriorating at twice the speed. The only difference was the Pain Potion. Susan's first thought had been that something must have been wrong with the batch of potions they had received and she switched it to a separate batch, but the same dosage. After noting there was no change, she lowered the dosage. Checking both batches has proved there was nothing wrong with either sets of the potions… But the damage had been done, and unfortunately without the potion, Mrs. Imelda was in so much pain. Now it was a question of ethics. There was nothing to be done for Mrs. Imelda, she was dying regardless. Susan believed her stay at the hospital should remain comfortable, but it was against hospital policy to harm.

That had birthed her project. She wanted to figure out why exactly the Pain Potion had accelerated Mrs. Imelda's timeline and explore the ethics behind it. She hadn't seen anything like it before.

The ice cream shop down the street from the hospital had the best caramel milkshakes and Susan couldn't help herself from stopping by before she Apparated home.

Nothing, nothing tasted better than caramel to Susan. Sticky sweet and rich. She had no control when it came to her favorite treat. Exiting from the shop with the largest size milkshake they would allow her to buy, having barely figured out how to deal with muggle money, she thought of Pansy Parkinson, not for the first time that day or even week, and had the idea that the witch could probably shed some insight on the potion making aspect of her project. She was an expert after all. Walking into her bedroom, she dropped her yellow robes and briefcase to the floor carelessly, kicking off her flats in whichever direction they ended up, she looked at the piece of paper that Pansy had scribbled an address across.

I'm having some people over for some drinks and fire before the weather turns too cold…

So rarely did anyone invite her out to a social event that didn't involve work or the hospital. She flopped down into her desk chair, spinning around while she sucked the thick, sticky ice cream through a straw. A gathering. Drinks and a fire for the beautiful late summer evening.

She was just used to being home alone, her research, her sleep pajamas, her bed were calling to her…

Except she did want to talk to Pansy about the Pain Potion.

She could always leave early. No one was making her go.

She stood, finishing off the milkshake, she threw the empty cup container onto her desk and went to her wardrobe. A pair of capris and a silk sleeveless top later, she grabbed her wand and slid her feet into a pair of white sandals. She let her hair down and thought that would be good enough. She ran through the questions she wanted to ask Pansy, more specifically, the process the potion went through while it was being made. She barely passed her NEWTs in Potions… but it was good enough to get her into the Healer program. She aced everything else: Herbology, Transfiguration, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Though, after the last year she had at Hogwart's she did go back and sit in some classes for D.A.D.A. in order to take the NEWT for that class.

With the address in her mind, she turned on the spot and prayed she wouldn't splinch her leg off like she did the first time she attempted to Apparate.

She appeared outside a small cottage house, flanked by tall trees that hid the small house from the view of the rest of the street. A narrow cobbled walkway led to the front door, though it broke off briefly and disappeared around the back of the house. She heard the sounds of faraway laughter and a soft melody of music, so she followed the path around back. A white gate that came up to her waist blocked off the back yard. But she could easily see several people, lounging on wicker furniture, chatting in a circle around a fire pit, a variety of drinks in their hands. George Weasley was throwing small rocks into the fire that turned it into different colors.

And then it hit her, she hadn't brought anything. She was walking into a tight-kit group of friends, mostly couples… Harry Potter with his wife Ginny on his lap, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy holding hands, Pansy and Neville sharing a loveseat, Theo and Percy sitting in a strange but intimate position where their legs crossed each other, George Weasley and a very pregnant Angelina Johnson…

It was all couples.

'This was the worst idea I have ever had'… She thought about turning around right then and making a clean break for her apartment and her pajamas. But it was too late.

"Susan!" Pansy called, jumping up and rushing over the green grass to the edge of the gate. "I'm so glad you came!"

"Oh I … yeah. Hi." Susan smiled as best she could, the witch grabbing her arm and dragging her through the gate and to the circle. The group all raised their glasses to her as she was forced into a small, but comfortable outdoor chair. There must have been a cushioning charm on it, it was actually really comfortable.

"Everyone, I'm sure you know Susan. Susan this is everyone."

A chorus of hellos and greetings filled the evening air.

She felt her face going red, but gave a wave to the group.

"What would you like to drink, Susan?" Neville asked as he rose from his seat and took the few steps to what looked like an outdoor bar table. It held a bowl of never melting ice and several bottles of wine and liquor, glasses, and a stand of straw umbrellas.

"Uhh do you have regular whiskey? With a lemon?"

A slight giggling went through the circle, she noticed. Hermione and Pansy grinning as George tried to contain his look of bewilderment… badly.

"I know it's a muggle drink, but firewhiskey gives me hiccoughs." Susan admitted, her face reddening further.

Neville shook his head, a big grin plastered over his square shaped face. "No no, it's fine. I luckily, actually do have a lemon."

Drink in her hand, she thanked her host but couldn't shake off the feeling she was missing something. And then she just felt distracted by the fact that she was basically a third no… eleventh wheel, even though everyone was being nice enough to her.

George talked about his brush with death, which was really just a broken jaw and a bump on the head, and Susan asked how far along Angelina was in her pregnancy, approving of the midwife she had chosen to help her deliver the baby. She actually got up and rearranged her seat so she could carry on the conversation with Angelina, listening as the curvy witch told her she was just about due and unlike her first pregnancy, this one had been a breeze.

"Do you know the gender of the baby yet?" Susan asked, sipping from her whiskey and enjoying the warmth and the slight zest the lemon gave to the overall taste.

"No, I didn't know there was a way to know?" Angelina said, shifting in her seat so George, who was rubbing the woman's back, could reach a particular spot.

"Oh, don't be mad. Most Healers and Midwives in the field can't project a clear enough scan to find out, but I can if you would like me to?"

"Yes! I would love - oh but you're not working, I'd hate to take advantage…"

"Oi speak for yourself woman, I want to know!" George said from behind her, his head resting on Angelina's shoulder.

"It's no trouble." Susan sat her whiskey down and pulled out her wand, scanning the giant bump of Angelina's stomach and projecting the image for the group to see.

The rest of the circle went silent as Angelina and George leaned in, watching the shimmering lines hang in the air.

"Wow…"

"That's our baby…"

The year Susan had spent working with a midwife had honestly been her favorite year of training. "Looks like … she is a healthy baby girl…" she said with a smile, the group all watching as the shimmering image of the curled up baby shifted, a leg kicking out. "Oophff!"

"A girl?"

"A girl!"

Angelina's face melted into pure joy, George bursting into a goofy grin. "A girl?" They said together.

"Roxanne…" Angelina said, rubbing the bump affectionately.

It was indescribable, their joy so absolute, and Susan had helped bring it about. It was just one of the many reasons she loved her job. Even when that job inadvertently spilled out into her personal life.

"To George and Angelina!" Ginny called out, raising her glass. The rest of the circle followed suit, Susan picking her whiskey up and cheering with the rest.

It was then that the gate slammed, catching her attention. And… Ron Weasley was stomping across the green towards them, a look of mean frustration across his face. Susan went absolutely still, the flickering feelings of infatuation she had felt for him had been muted to nothing since she last saw him, her mind almost forgetting about him completely.

Almost.

Now he wore a darker pair of jeans and a navy blue tee shirt that stretched across his chest, but his hair looked mussed, like the short auburn colored strands had been pulled at in frustration all day.

Her infatuation took a whole new life, flaring up until her throat grew thick and she could barely focus.

"Fuck, sorry I'm late." he grabbed Harry's outstretched hand in a quick arm brace that looked like they had been doing the same for years. Then he leaned down, kissing Ginny and then Hermione on their cheeks. He ignored Draco but collapsed into the other chair on the man's other side, directly across from Susan, huffing loudly. He did the same short arm brace with Neville before saying, "I am still trying to deal with the damn paperwork on McGee. He left a trail a mile long, there is so much evidence against him I still don't know where to begin."

Susan vaguely recalled from the Prophet article that this 'McGee' was one of the Death Eater's awaiting trial. She wondered if he had been one of the cloaked figures that attacked the hospital.

Neville stood up, kissing Pansy on the cheek with a wink, and asked, "Ron, something to drink? The usual?"

Ron looked up, nodding. "Whiskey and a lemon, ya. Anyways listen to this load of shit…" but he trailed off as his eyes met hers from across the fire.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.

—Norman Cousins

A blazing, fiery sizzle traveled up her spine and invaded her chest, making it harder to breath. Her hand gripped on her whiskey glass as his clear, bright blue eyes bore into hers, the circle dead silent as they watched on, she frantically tried to remember exactly when she developed these feelings for him.

She hardly knew a thing about him… he had a large family and worked as an Auror with Harry Potter… she knew he was famous and probably rich because of his feats… But money meant nothing to her, fame even less. He had just run into her and suddenly... It had to be his physical attributes that were drawing her in to him. And as she thought that, her heart rate rocketed until she thought the organ was about to shoot right out of her chest and jump into the fire George Weasley kept throwing a glittering dust into in order to change it's colors. A pale green… sunshine yellow… royal purple…

Judging from her pounding pulse and the heat licking between her thighs, it had to be his physical traits… a well trimmed, full beard dusted in dark auburn, thick shoulders and thicker arms, the stretch in his tee shirt across his chest… He was tall, taller, and looked amazing in a pair of jeans... oh jeez...

She had barely thought of Ron in the time since their last meeting, a meeting that had been so odd she still didn't know what to make of it. She didn't know what to make of this situation either. She was sitting in a circle, a circle full of his friends. With an intense heat blooming beneath her skin with every second his gaze bore into her... And the heated sizzle turned into a lump, hardening painfully as his stare turned accusing.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, his eyes narrowing and his tone cutting.

"Excuse me?" she sat up further in her seat, the lump falling into her stomach. What was his problem?

"What is the matter with you, Ron?" Ginny said, throwing her sandal at her brother's head. The shoe bounced comically against his face before falling to the floor. "Did you leave your manners at work?"

"Wha - no." Ron said, rubbing the side of his head where the shoe had hit him. His arm… it was thick like a tree branch and littered with freckles. "She yelled at 'Mione."

"Aww Ron, you're sticking up for me?" Hermione said from her chair, reaching her hand out to his in an affectionate but friendly gesture. He took her outstretched hand as the tips of his ears turned red, much in the same way Susan's did when she was embarrassed. His friends, at least, were choosing to tease him rather than her.

"Did I yell at you, Hermione Granger?" she asked, looking from her to Ron and back again. She didn't remember doing anything of the sort. Except for...

The witch smiled. "I found your letter to be… firm. But no I wouldn't call it yelling."

The letter she had sent Hermione Granger in regards to the article the Daily Prophet had written about her. Of course. Well, she was trying to get a point across. And she had. The next day, Hermione Granger had released an article she had written herself, detailing events at the hospital and pointing out what the first article had left out. Her staff had gotten the credit they deserved.

"Uh that is exactly what I would have called it." Ron said, shooting another glare in Susan's direction as Neville handed him his drink, the wedge of lemon swimming in a tumbler full of whiskey.

Wait a minute… whiskey and lemon.

It was unusual enough for magical folk to go beyond their preferred alcohol, but Aunt Amelia would come home on Friday's after a long week and make herself a whiskey with lemon without fail. She had done it all through Susan's childhood. When she had turned 16, Susan having been home for the Christmas Holiday, Aunt Amelia had made her one too. Then another.

Terry Boot and her had gone through many a bottle during their few years together, Susan needing the small stress relief from Healer training, Terry needing it from his extra studies when he decided to continue school in order to become a professor. She had gotten him into it, especially when it turned out to be so much cheaper than firewhiskey. She had found out he stopped drinking it after they split up.

To say it surprised her that Ron Weasley of all people enjoyed the same drink as her…

"I read that letter... " Ron said grunting as he drank from his glass. "It was definitely yelling. You might as well have sent her a bloody Howler."

"Ron, you received enough Howlers in your day to know the difference between a strong word and a Howler." Hermione said, winking at Susan as she snuggled deeper into Draco's arms. Her statement was followed by a loud round of laughter, especially from Ginny, and she felt the tension between her and Ron fade, just slightly. Though she could still feel the heat of her infatuation, she was more than annoyed at him. What the hell was his problem?

First he had accidentally run into her, resulting in him bringing her a box of her favorite granola bars. He had said it was because he was trying to be more thoughtful, but he had left her office so quickly with so little said between them, it was obvious he had a problem with her. Maybe he didn't like her for something she had done in school? She didn't know.

And then he had punched Neville in the ribs, it might've been "just a guy thing" at the time, but it had set her down the path to be annoyed at him. Neville had been her patient.

Now he had immediately jumped down her throat for a letter she hadn't even sent him. A letter she had sent to Hermione. Of course, everyone knew they were good friends. Those two and Harry Potter of course. Hermione Granger was currently kissing the spot under Draco Malfoy's ear and both of them were grinning like fools in love, so she couldn't possibly be dating Ron, right?

Sipping from her glass, Ron's bright blue eyes still bearing into her, she wondered why the hell she couldn't be attracted to men who were more her type. Men who wanted to date her, not fuck her. Men who didn't immediately hate her. Was that so much to ask?

Sitting around the fire with the darkening sky above them, a few stars beginning to pop out, she had watched the other couples interacting... Harry and Ginny's easy closeness, Draco and Hermione's affectionate caresses, Neville and Pansy's intense devotion, Percy and Theo's causal intimacy, and George and Angelina's open joy.

But no.

She was attracted to the glaring grump sitting across from her. 'Maybe if I imagine him without the beard...'

She pictured his face and mentally erased the beard, it left an oval shaped, tanned face with a downward angled jaw, a brushing of freckles began behind his ears and traveled down his neck and disappeared under his tee shirt.

And his eyes were still that piercing blue... The heat she had already been experiencing bloomed even more, warming up almost uncomfortably.

'Well… That didn't work… oh Gods it didn't help. Think of something else…'

And suddenly she was imagining him taking off his tee shirt.

Just stop! She crossed her leg over her knee and threw back the rest of her whiskey. "The head of the hospital, Desmond, was wanting the Prophet to do an interview with me of course, for the good of the hospital. I thought it would be better if the good of the hospital proved how good they really were instead." she said to distract herself from her infatuation. Surely she could get through this night. She had come for a reason... hadn't she?

'You wanted to ask Pansy questions about how to make the Pain Potion. She's an expert. You're a professional. Just ignore him...'

"Fortunately for me, I got the best of both. Thanks Susan." Hermione giggled in a young carefree way 16 year old Susan would never have expected from the witch.

"Another drink Susan?" Pansy asked from beside her.

She held out her empty glass. "Yes please, make it a double." Because, she realized, she could not ignore that man. The liquid poured into the glass with a swirl and still Ron kept his eyes on her. He looked even better with the beard… damnit. She couldn't help herself.

"Do you have a problem with that?" she could practically feel the sass drip from her words, the alcohol making her brave, the smell of the whiskey mixing with the delicate scent of the surrounding garden. Roses and gardenias and verbena and whiskey.

Finally it got the response she wanted from him though, he widened his eyes in surprise, no longer glaring at her. "What? No I don't have a problem."

Pansy handed her the glass and she tossed the drink back immediately. "Ah… uh another?"

Susan nodded quickly, passing her glass over again to the giggling witch. All of them were too damn happy.

Stop swearing Susan.

Ron shifted in his chair. "All I'm saying is… Hermione's paper featured you on the front page. You'd think you would be a bit more appreciative."

Pansy filled her glass and set it gently on the arm of the chair Susan was sitting. After another look, she set the bottle down as well.

"I only did the interview to get the hospital in the paper, instead the first article ran like a dating ad." Susan argued.

"It's kind of true… I saw all the fan mail she got." Pansy said laughing, retaking her seat by Neville. "Lots of letters from single wizards."

"Too many. Way too many." she thought of the several large boxes full of mail she had barely looked at. She was already annoyed, but the image of the boxes made her frown. This was not a good idea…

"Maybe you should take an offer. Might put you in a better mood." Her entire face turned flushed red under her freckles, her eyes jerking back to meet his from across the fire.

"Excuse me?"

"Ronald!"

"'Ey! Stop doing that!"

She grinned as Ginny threw her other shoe at his head, satisfaction spreading across her chest as it hit the same spot the previous one did. The movement caused the rest of his drink to spill all across his shirt.

"Stop being such a huge prat! What did she ever do to you?!" Ginny asked.

"I don't know! I just don't like it when people yell at Hermione! Stop throwing shoes at me!" he stood up, patting at the huge wet spot across his shirt.

"Yeah, would you rather I yell at you next time?" The alcohol warmed up her stomach, made her even bolder. And damn - she needed to stop her inner swearing - she was annoyed.

"The fuck is my wand? And ya - go ahead. Yell at me, I'm sure I can take anything you can throw." he snapped at her, looking for his wand.

She stood up and turned on her scowl, her hands curling into fists. 'That can be arranged' was on the tip of her tongue, her anger boiling in her stomach, mixing with the whiskey, when he placed his hands at the bottom of his shirt and lifted it over his head with a rough, "Fuck this."

He turned slightly as the wet tee shirt fell to the grass in a lump, the muscles in his arms rippling… oh fuck… The heat was too much, her entire body flushing red. She knew Ginny was yelling at her brother to put his shirt back on. She knew the group was laughing hysterically as Draco dramatically pretended to kill himself with his wand. The sight of Ron's chest repulsive... to him.

But she could only think that were two things she loved on men: a well trimmed beard and strong arms… connected to an equally nice chest… the well formed muscles there from Auror training arrowing down into his jeans…

And damned if he didn't have exactly those things. And covered in as many freckles as she had.

Damn damn damn! She turned to Pansy. "I gotta go."

Her mouth was dry, her heart was beating irregularly, and her face was so red she wondered if anyone could tell she even had freckles. She darted for the gate, her fist coming to her chest. She heard Draco laughing out, "I've never seen anyone run away faster from you Ron."

She was running from him.

With Terry her feelings had been calm and settled, even as she knew she wouldn't marry the man… he had loved the girl Susan had been and she had loved the boy.

Terrence had been a tornado, sucking her in and then disappearing altogether.

Loneliness, and her job, consumed her until dating wasn't something she had time for.

Ron… she was infatuated and confused to the max and pissed off enough to run away. The image of him shirtless was way better than imagination… and she wouldn't soon forget it.

She was rushing along the siding of the house, the sun fully set and nothing but moonlight was left to guide her path.

And then she heard it, "Susan wait!"

Was he chasing her?

"Susan… wait please."

Turning, the grass springy beneath her feet, she saw Ron coming through the gate, his wet shirt gripped in his hand. The heat on her face increased tenfold, fist still on her chest.

"Wait, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you…" he caught up to her easily. "I just…"

"You're not upsetting me." she interrupted him. Because he was shirtless, and because she was so attracted to him, because she was just panicking. But he continued speaking, his lips moving with his beard, his well trimmed, full beard... a beard she was imagining moving between her thighs.

"... get a little crazy about 'Mione sometimes and I shouldn't've-" he continued.

"I completely understand about being crazy-"

"...yelled at you and made you feel bad-"

"...and I had too much to drink, it made me act-"

"... and I'm sorry."

"...rude and I'm sorry."

They finished at the same time, their words combining. Her eyes darted between his lips and his bare chest. His chest dipped down into his abs, which weren't overly defined but arrowed into his dark jeans. How could she be so annoyed and drawn to him at the same time? Was that the allure? 'What is wrong with me? Why is my body doing this?'

This whatever this was… Terry had never invoked this reaction out of her, Ernie had made her feel shy, Terrance had just made her needy. Ron Weasley was melting her into a puddle just by taking his shirt off.

"Er … Susan?" he asked, giving her an odd look.

She spread her fisted hand over her heart, spreading the fingers slowly. She imagined kissing him and the heat became unbearable. She licked her lips and his eyes went to the movement before coming back to meet her stare. Oh my God I have to leave right now.

"Oh…" he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. "You weren't running away because I… upset you?"

She shook her head, feeling her ponytail go loose, sending strands of hair free down her back and over her shoulders.

"You were running because… I took off my shirt?"

She nodded, biting down on her lip.

"Not because you were… scared of me taking off my shirt?"

She shook her head. She was definitely not scared. Crazy, yes. Scared, no.

"Oh…" he breathed out and dropped his shirt. His bright blue eyes shifted in the moonlight as he took a step closer to her, understanding flittering across his face, his hands coming to rest on either side of her elbows. His touch sent shivers down her spine, goosebumps across her neck. He leaned in slightly, his head angled down towards hers, and she placed her hands on his bare chest, the heat spreading through her fingers. His beard tickled the sides of her face briefly before he pressed his lips into hers. The kiss he laid on her was soft and warm, and yet demanded all her attention. It made her knees tremble until he tightened his grip on her and brought her closer, one of his arms snaking around her waist. His lips moved against hers slowly, for a long, hot minute, until he leaned back and looked down at her.

She sucked in breath through her teeth as the cold, lonely creature in her chest burst out and latched onto him. "Oh fuck."

oOoOo

"C'mon it's New Years, we should be out with friends enjoying a night of drinking and camaraderie and celebrating. And it's your birthday. You have twice the reason to celebrate and I have twice the reason to add to your celebrating, if you catch my drift." Terry wiggled his eyebrows and stuck his tongue between his teeth to reinforce exactly what he meant by 'celebrating'.

"I would rather stay in, thank you very much." Susan sighed, snuggling deeper into the comfortable, pale blue quilt that had once belonged to her Aunt Amelia as she relaxed against the couch. She had turned the lights off and let the glow of the fairy lights on her Christmas tree warm the small living room she shared with Terry.

The last 6 months had been spent finishing up the last of her Healer training in preparation for apprenticeship at the French magical hospital she still couldn't pronounce the name of, and she wanted nothing more than to fall asleep bundled up on her couch with Chinese food, a bottle of wine, and the giant batch of the caramel candies she bought for herself. Birthday's since her aunt had passed 4 years ago just weren't the same, and this one was no different. Even Terry hadn't gotten her a present, she had woken up and he had already been gone. Her mentor for the month, a cheeky older witch named Ione from St. Mungo's, had slipped her a caramel candy the last day of her training and told her affectionately that Susan reminded her of her daughter, and to have a good birthday and a happy holiday.

And that was it.

Terry stomped over, coming to stand in front of her and interrupting her thoughts of birthday's past and the Old Fashioned Caramel cakes Aunt Amelia used to bake for her. He forced a cheery headband with sparkly silver "Happy New Years" lettering sticking up happily onto her head.

"Terry…" she growled, taking the band off and throwing it behind the couch. It hit the pile of boxes that sat next to the door. All 3 of them. Her whole life, packed up into 3 small boxes...

"Susan…" he mocked back at her with a grin. "Come out with me."

"I don't want to Terry, my feet hurt and I'm already in my pajamas and-" he hunched down on his knees, his hands coming to tops of her thighs.

"No no no. It's your birthday and it's New Years and you are coming out with me-" 'Yeah it's my birthday can't we do what I want to do?'

"And it's my birthday and I just want to cuddle with you on my couch." she said instead of repeating what she was thinking.

He sighed and leaned back. "Susan you're going to be gone for 6 months."

And she'd be lying if she said she wasn't excited about it. Even if it meant she wouldn't see Terry for the duration. What did that mean? "Exactly, let's just stay in and spend the time together alone. You said you wanted to celebrate."

Though the thought of them "celebrating" was sounding less and less appealing.

"Yes celebrate! With people and exploding snap and drinks and loud music." he stood up and began dancing goofy and out of rhythm. "Oh! I forgot! I got you something for your birthday!"

Hope exploded across her chest. "Really?" She sat up and let the quilt fall around her.

He disappeared into their small bedroom and returned with a small brown bag, his hand waving the bag in her face.

"Here you are. I just saw it in passing and knew you would want one."

Smiling, she peeled open the bag and brought out a… cupcake holder. With a chocolate cupcake with a swirl of chocolate frosting.

"Terry…"

"I know I shouldn't have." he said, flopping down on the couch next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Now can we please, please go out? Dancing and drinks and-"

"Terry… I hate chocolate." she stared at the wall, trying not to stuff the dessert in his face even as she imagined the frosting going up his nose. Seriously… they had been going out for 3 years. Seriously.

"Oh… right I forgot." he shrugged. "Okay, I got it. Come out with me and I'll get you another cupcake… strawberry?... Vanilla?"

"Terry!" she hit his shoulder. What did she want to say first? That there was only one thing on the earth she truly wanted to eat? That they had been dating and living together for 3 years and he had never gotten her a present until now, and it was as useless as he was acting? And then it hit her.

"Terry, go out and have a good time. And eat this." she forced the cupcake into his hand and snuggled back into her quilt.

"What? Without you? I couldn't… are you sure? You wouldn't be… mad?" he asked, taking a giant bite of the cupcake.

"I'm not mad. Go out, have a good time, play exploding snap, and have some drinks. I'll see you before I leave tomorrow."

"Awesome!" he smacked a kiss on her lips before darting through the front door. She frowned. He tasted like chocolate.

oOoOo

She had run from him, she wasn't too proud that she couldn't admit it. She had run like a big fat scaredy-cat. She darted through the grass and the moment her feet hit pavement she turned and Apparated into the hallway outside of her apartment. Seeing the dark wood of her front door had her finally taking a much needed breath, but the thing inside her felt denied. She leaned her forehead against the cool wood and immediately started a breathing exercise. In. In. Out. In. In. Out.

At this point, she thought it might've been more a placebo effect than anything. But it worked. Her heart rate returned to normal, her muscles relaxed, and her skin cooled as she pushed all thoughts of a shirtless Ron Weasley out of her mind. In. In. Out. In. In. Out.

She opened her eyes after a moment and her downward gaze landed on a giant box that sat outside her door. How she missed it, she didn't know… actually… Ron Weasley had distracted her enough that she hadn't even noticed the gigantic cardboard box that sat against the wall beside her front door, a box so big it was taking up half the hallway. A neatly folded note sat on top with her name addressed across the paper in bold letters.

Curious… she picked up the letter and unfolded it. It was from Kieran, the wife of Elliot Cropper, the couple that bought the house from Susan after Amelia had died. She crushed down the prickle of pain that always accompanied thoughts of her Aunt and instead focused on reading through the short note.

Hey Susan,

Beware! This box is the heaviest damned thing I have ever tried to carry. Don't be an idiot like me and just use your wand to carry it inside. I found it in the attic, behind that huge built in up there. It's definitely not ours and looks older than dirt so it must've been yours or your Aunt's. Hope you're doing well, stop by for tea sometime.

Kieran

Susan called forth the image of her old attic, picturing the giant built in shelf that stretched across one dusty wall. She could see how there could easily be room behind it and how it could've gone overlooked all these years since she moved out. She looked down at the box. What could be in it? Anything.

She took her wand out of her back pocket and levitated it with some difficulty, the box weighing way more than she expected. Opening the door, she had to concentrate fully on getting the box inside, where she set it down on the coffee table. She dropped her wand and shut the door behind her using her foot. When the table gave a warning groan, she cast a Feather Charm on the box to make it weightless. Then she pulled the hair tie from her head, freeing the rest of her hair and letting the bright red strands fall over her shoulder, blowing out a breath of frustration.

Warmth and pressure against her lips.

She brought a finger up to her bottom lip, the ghost of Ron's kiss making its home there to haunt forever, she knew. He hadn't stuck his tongue down her throat, he hadn't grabbed her and had his way with her, and yet it hadn't been some chaste thing between a boy and a girl. It had been hotly sexual in the way two people who had never kissed before stumble upon intimacy.

Stepping into her bedroom, she threw off her shoes and stripped, dropping the clothing to the floor as she walked across the cluttered floor to her bathroom.

She showered off her day and did everything she could not to think about that kiss or the way she ran from it. She turned the faucets off and stepped out of the bathroom, grabbing a towel as she went, determined not to remember the way Ron had banded an arm around her waist or the way his lips had moved against hers. She went through her after shower routine, brushing her hair, slathering lotion over her skin and face. She shimmied into a pair of sweats and a comfortable black tee shirt, braided her hair close to her skull, heated up leftovers, brushed her teeth twice.

She stared at herself in the mirror, taking in the tiny stress lines around her dark brown eyes, looking at the pale skin that peaked out behind millions of red and brown freckles and still she couldn't shake the feeling away. The lonely, dark thing inside of her had had a taste of Ron and it wanted more. And it made her wonder… was she attracted to him or did she just want to soothe the ache of loneliness?

Maybe it was both.

Maybe she was just a crazy witch.

Maybe she needed something else to think about.

She walked back into the kitchen to grab her file on Mrs. Imelda, mentally preparing herself to think about pain relief when she caught sight of the monstrous box on her rarely used coffee table. She had forgotten about it under the avalanche that was The Kiss.

Huh.

She flopped down on her couch, setting her file on the other cushion and delicately ran a finger under the edge of the cardboard, lifting up the flaps.

The smell of old paper and … Letters. Letters buried under letters and more letters buried even more letters. The box was completely stacked with them.

What the heck?

But on top was a single photograph. A couple, the woman had long, stick straight dirty blonde hair down her back, bright caramel colored eyes peaked out from a heart shaped face that matched Susan's. Her mother. It had to be. Her heart throbbed, having never seen a picture of the woman before. It had all been destroyed in the fire that had burned her first home down when she had only been a few weeks old, a fire started by Death Eater's. Susan only knew it was her because of the man next to the woman. A man she had seen from a single photograph that had belonged to Aunt Amelia.

His features matched her Aunt's and she had to admit it looked better on him than her Aunt. A masculine jawline, a hard square nose but friendly brown eyes that Susan had inherited. She looked more like the Bones' than her mother's side, but she could see herself in both of her parent's and it was a completely new feeling. She had had no idea. She just wondered where in the world her cherry red hair had come from, looking at the photograph she saw the dirty blonde color of her mother's hair and the dark brown of her father's… as far as she knew the Bone's were all dark haired. She picked up the photo and brought it even closer to her face. She thought maybe her smile was closer to her mother's, but the single dimple that appeared on her father's face when he smiled down to his wife... that he had passed on to Susan for sure.

She watched the movements of her parents as they looked to each other, their faces bursting into a smile. It looped over and over and still…

She had no memories of these people, no physical connection to them… until now. She recalled a night in youth when she had gone to Aunt Amelia, sobbing because of something petty another child had said to her. That her parent's hadn't loved her. Amelia had stomped that out so quickly she didn't leave any room for Susan not to believe her. Now she had a visual of her parents and her Aunt's assurance that they loved her, that they would not have left her willingly.

It was more than she had ever had.

She flipped the photo over and saw, written in a slanted handwriting that resembled her own, "Irvine and (Me) Charley, December 1975." 4 years before she was born. She studied the handwriting, so obviously feminine. The way the 'Y' looped, the start of the 'C', it was the way she wrote the letters too. She looked at the fat curve of the '5' and smiled. Her mother had existed, her mother had given her more than she realized.

It was incredible. She set the photo down on the cushion next to her and set her eyes on the letters. Who wrote them? Who were they addressed to? She picked up a stray sheet of paper, the edges frayed and bent. Only one sentence in the middle of the paper read, Left for a walk. Be back soon. Followed by several xoxo's. The handwriting was bigger, blockier, not like her mother's.

Hmm…

She fingered a thicker folded up letter, it proclaimed: "Read me First!" and was dated the 16th of July, 1979. As she opened up the pages a smell of blooming rudbeckia reached her nose, causing her to pause. It felt so familiar, yet she couldn't place why. She held the paper closer to her face and took a big sniff. It hit her hard. Sweet and floral, the yellow flower came to mind and she wondered if the writer had spent time in a garden or if it was a perfume, it was so concentrated. She smiled. Rudbeckia, Sweet Black Eyed Susan is what most people called the flower.

She continued opening up the pages of the letter and read the top line of the first page. The handwriting familiar now, the slanted script of her mother: 'To my baby, I don't know your gender yet, but I can feel you growing inside my belly.'

Could it possibly be… a letter to her? From her mother? Ron Weasley forgotten, Mrs. Imelda forgotten, she sat back and devoured the letter.

Irvine, your father, recommended that I begin to write you letters my dear little baby, so that when you reached a good age you could read them and know what we were like, know how we were. He also said it might help me learn to cope, I'm not sure I believe him yet but he has a knack for being right, your dad. So here I am, writing to my future child. A child that kicks only in the earliest of the morning and makes me crave caramel until I want to cry in want. A child that kept me up late with 'morning' sickness, as one of the neighboring women called it recently. You didn't bother to stick to that morning part, little baby. Thankfully that period of the pregnancy has passed. Now all I want is caramel candies. Your great-grandmother on my side, Delphia, would keep them in house sometimes, and I remember them tasting fine, remember only wanting one before it became too rich, too sweet. Your father brought home the biggest box he could find the other day and I ate them all in one sitting. They taste better than any other thing I've ever eaten in my life, little baby. But I'm begging you, you need vegetables. But the first bout of pregnancy sickness I had gotten came right after I had eaten a bit of radish. Maybe I will skip out of the vegetables for now, little baby. Shouldn't be too difficult, your dad is a meat and potatoes kind of man. Though I have seen him eat a brussel sprout once when we were at dinner with your Aunt Amelia and Uncle Edgar. That is your dad's older sister and younger brother, and they both couldn't be happier about you, little baby. When we told them, as well as your grandmother and grandfather, it was such a celebration. Edgar and Sherri are just beyond excited for their children to meet their new cousin, all three of my nieces came to visit just the other day. They brought a pair of hand knitted socks for you to wear, some flowers, and a hand painted sign that Edgar charmed to say 'Congratulations!'. They are so dear, I just know you will get along with them. Your father just got home from work at the Ministry little baby so I will end the letter with this. I love you.

Charley Bones (Your mother)

P.S. Your father brought more caramels. Gods I love him, little baby. But not as much as I love you.

It was with trembling fingers that Susan set the letter down, the idea that she had been so close to having a family, that she would've had cousins and siblings and family dinners and a mother and father… she felt something wet on her cheeks and brushed her hands over her face. She was crying.

She dove through the letters, frantically through through them. There were hundreds of them, dated all the way up to January 29th, 1980. The 30th was the day her house had burned down… She shook herself. Don't think about that. Start at the beginning...

Some had the same dates, some had photos in them. She wanted nothing more than to tear into the next letter, dated the 16th of July as well, but she knew she had to get them in order first. Strands of hair came loose from her braid but after a few hours, she had them all in order by date and a neat pile of photos she never knew existed. Photographs of her family, the belly of her mother getting bigger and bigger. Heart thumping, she picked up the next letter and started laughing.

Little baby, the caramels are all gone...

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

"Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives."

-Bertrand Russell

Susan devoured the letters, reading until her eyes hurt and even then she couldn't stop herself. She didn't want to stop herself. Letters from her mother… something that she hadn't even thought possibly existed. Letters that proved Susan had been wanted, had been loved. A way for her to see into the life she could've had… Letters that made her realize with pure light-hearted delight how smart and funny her mother had been, how much her parents had loved each other, how close her father was with his siblings. Letters that painted a picture in her mind and filled her heart in a way it never had been before.

Things she knew, but hearing it from Aunt Amelia was different from reading it directly from her own mother. A letter dated July 26th had been short and sweet, her mother detailing how Irvine always woken her up in the mornings with a kiss and oatmeal with honey in it. It was the sweetest agony, knowing how much love had been between her parents and knowing how it would've extended to her but never had it had the chance too.

She had barely made a dent in the box before she looked up and realized the sun had risen and she was going to be late for work. But the obsession had already begun. The sight of the big box, overflowing with letters and photographs... it called to her. She wanted, needed know every last word. For the first time in her life, she was thinking about not going to work...

But she couldn't skip work…

Even though she did have some personal days saved up…

'No, I couldn't.'

Frustrated beyond reason, her obsession threatening to take total control, she forced herself to put the letter in her hand down and go wash her face, scrubbing until her cheeks were pink.

All the new information in her head was making it spin… her father snored when he slept, told corny jokes, loved his job at the Ministry, his favorite subject in school was charms and he had had a pet rabbit named Gertrude. Her mother talked about her days at home, reading sappy romance novels about a witch named Feather, making fresh apple pies, and taking care of the menagerie of creatures her parents had kept in their backyard. Their backyard she was beginning to believe was actually a farm. Chickens and two cows, a couple of cats and dogs, rabbits and a well mannered Friesian mare that had belonged to Charley. The mare's name was Nuria, and Charley had ridden her every day across the acres of land behind their home.

At the end of one note, written in the bigger, blockier font she first read on that stray bit of parchment, was a short sentence that read, 'Baby, your mother loves that horse more than me.'

And then her mother's writing again: He is such a liar little baby! Followed by a detailed drawing of the horse, shaded in with a darker color to match the black coat of the mare.

It was then she realized her mother could draw, and draw well. Her mother, made apple pies and raised a farm, could draw and worked in her gardens. And her father, a hard working Ministry worker, who provided for their family and loved his wife silly. The small moment between her parents, the tone of her mother's writing, it made her believe how loving and goofy their relationship was. She thought of blue eyes shifting under the pale moonlight and the feeling of lips pressed against hers. No one had ever kissed her like that before. She wondered if Ron Weasley could be goofy.

'Little baby, when you grow up, find someone who makes you smile. Even if it is with corny farm jokes.'

And still a little voice in the back of her mind kept wondering… why hadn't her Aunt told her about the letters? Why were they in Amelia's house and not burnt to ash like her parent's house? Taking her grandparents, her mother and father, and his brother and nieces with them?

The way Amelia had always told the story, she had been running late for their weekly dinner, her husband having passed away quite suddenly a few months prior and she had compensated with working extra hours. She had arrived at her brother's farm house a quarter of an hour after she was supposed to, and found the house in flames and little baby Susan wrapped up on the stones that led to the front of the house. No one knew how she got out there and Amelia had always assumed it was just an early onset of accidental magic. Even if there had never been a recorded account of accidental magic that early in a child's life, Susan only being 4 weeks old at the time. Death Eater's had claimed the victory, easy to do, when there was a huge Dark Mark floating over the burning house.

A lump of long ago pain formed and settled in her chest, sitting heavy. She wanted to spend the rest of her day finishing the letters, learning as much as she could about parents she should've had, but she had to go to work…

She had an hour still… sleep be damned she told herself as she made her way back into the living room, sitting crossed legged on the cushion, and picking up the next letter, a letter dated September 20th. A photograph fell from this one, her parents with her Uncle Edgar and his wife Sherri, three little girls stood holding hands in front of their parent's legs, and a young Aunt Amelia and her husband that had long since passed. The girls all giggled as the picture was taken. On the back was written, "(Me) Charley, Irvine, Edgar, Sherri, Amelia, Sadie, Sabrina, Shoshana"

Her Aunt and Uncle had obviously liked 'S' names. She wondered about the gentle looking woman standing next to her Uncle Edgar, wondered about those giggling cousins. She looked back over to her parents, they weren't looking at each other, but she saw how her father had a hand on her mother's hip, the slight tilt in their bodies as they leaned towards each other, her mother's right hand resting against her baby bump. She set the photo down in the small container she was keeping the rest of the photos and turned to the letter the photo had fallen out of.

'Little baby, your bump is making it slightly difficult to ride Nuria but I think she knows my body is more fragile lately. Though I am the rider, she knew to take it easier and instead led me through the field today. We rode a lot longer than usual. I was and still am feeling melancholy today though, little baby. I have made choices in my life, and I wouldn't dare change a thing given the chance. But I miss my mother so much... today is her birthday...'

She turned at the quick tap-tap-tap sound at her window across the room, the outline of an owl making itself known through the sheer fabric of the curtain. Jumping up from her seat, she pushed the frame up and allowed in a small, rich brown colored owl she knew belonged to Myles. Prepared to be annoyed, she opened the small note the owl held out to her. But for once, Myles' constant need to change his schedule worked out for her. He wanted to switch, she would work for him tomorrow if he could work for her today. She took the owl into her kitchen, feeding him a small owl treat before letting him loose with her response. The timing couldn't be better, her day free now to indulge on the words her mother had written.

Her mother's letters called to her, a unique window in which she could look into her past. But she stopped herself from sitting back down on the couch and disappearing into that window. Instead she made a sandwich, poured a large glass of milk and pushed through the veil of the past, thinking if she needed to get anything else done today. Maybe even get the apartment clean for once. She was mid bite when there was a small knock at her door.

She looked down to her dark grey sweat pants and a black tee shirt, they looked clean enough, and her hair was still in the tight french braid she had put it in last night, though she could tell it had loosened over her sleepless night. It would have to do. She stepped to the door and unlocked the built in deadbolt, though she kept the chain fastened, and cracked the door open.

Damn….

Blue eyes peered back at her. "Susan?"

What is he doing here?

His voice was rough with sleep, but his eyes were clear and trained on her. "Susan?" he asked again, his face leaning closer. His breath smelled like cool mint.

"Uhh…" Gods just answer him, woman. "Hey?"

"Are you okay?" he asked, voice gentle.

Moonlight shifting over those blue eyes, heart thumping painfully hard, warm pressure against her lips. Damn, don't think about last night. She closed the door on his look of shock. What was he doing here? How did he even know where she lived? Could she deal with him right now?

Heart going into overdrive, she thought to herself '… what if he kissed me again?'

With that thought on her mind, she slid the chain out of its notch and opened the door. "What are you doing doing here?"

The words echoed what he had said to her just last night, and she saw the moment he realized it too. Of course, unlike the cutting tone he had used, she was just slightly curious.

He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, something he had done every time she had talked with him. It brought his thick arm to her attention every time as well. This morning he was wearing an attractive black jacket over his usual tee shirt and dark jeans.

"Ahh uhh… Pansy sent me. She said you needed help." he said, his gaze wondering away from hers.

Why was he always so nervous around her? "Why would she say that? I haven't seen her or talked to her since… last night…" When she had run from him, from his kiss.

He shrugged. "I just do what she tells me to do."

She stepped back. "How did you even know where I live?"

He leaned against the frame, his hands in his pockets. "Pansy." was all he said. He shrugged again and still his gaze lingered anywhere but on her.

"Well… how did she know where I live?" She leaned to her right, trying to put herself in his line of sight.

Another shrug. "How did she even know I was off today?"

He shrugged again, and it annoyed her. "She just knows." His eyes went further to the right as she leaned, trying to avoid her. When she was leaning against the opposite frame of the door, he turned his head completely.

"How does she know when I didn't even know I was off until just a few minutes ago? And don't shrug." she warned.

"I don't know! I just do what she tells me to do, trust me… it works out better that way."

"Well then I just have one more question for you. What the hell is your problem?" she snapped.

Surprise had him looking back at her, finally. "What? I don't…"

"You do, don't try to deny it. You can barely look me in the eye."

The door down the hall opened and her neighbor stuck her head out, glaring in her direction. "Sorry Mrs. Johnson…" Susan called. She stepped back and gestured for Ron to walk into her apartment. He hesitated but stepped in after only a moment.

With the door shut firmly behind her, she redid the chain and deadbolt and turned to look at him. He was staring directly at the design on her fireplace mantel with wide eyes. Little soldiers with bows and arrows fighting off a giant, the white wood carving was the main reason she bought the place. That and the view out of her bedroom.

She walked up and stood next to him. "So?"

"Er… so?" he turned to look at her, his arms crossing against his chest.

"We were talking about why you have a problem with me? What have I ever done to you?"

"Nothing. You never did anything to me."

"What is the problem then?" she couldn't help how her voice raised.

"Nothing. There is nothing wrong with you!" he shouted back, his hands going out.

"There's something wrong with you then?"

"No! I am just intimidated by you, okay?" he admitted, turning around and walking away with a huff. When he realized he didn't know where he was, he bee-lined for the kitchen, ducking his head under the low beam that separated the kitchen from the rest of the apartment.

Intimidated? By her? He was the tall one, he had to be almost 7 feet tall. Not only was he tall, but he was filled out, no longer the lanky kid he used to be in school. He was the celebrated war hero… he was the famous Auror… why on earth was he intimidated by her?

She followed him into the kitchen, watching as he paced around her island. "Is this what you are having for breakfast?" he asked angrily, pointing at her poor looking sandwich next to her glass of milk.

"So?"

"So that isn't a proper breakfast, is it?" he snapped, taking his jacket off. He threw it over the back of one of her kitchen chairs.

"So what?" she snapped back at him. 'Why is he yelling at me?'

"I'm going to make you breakfast." and he tossed her sandwich in the trash.

"Hey! You can't just come in here and start throwing away my food." she rushed around the island to the side he was on, looking down at her sandwich that sat at the bottom of the bag.

"That thing wasn't food, trust me." he growled at her, pushing in the cabinet, and her trashcan, back in and out of sight. "Do you eat this poorly all the time?"

He didn't wait for her to answer, instead walking over to the cooling cabinet and pulling out whatever he could find.

She was completely exasperated. There wasn't anything wrong with the sandwich, it was just basic. Just something to put in her stomach. She just wanted to know why he was 'intimidated' by her when he had done almost nothing but yell at her. So she asked him.

He ignored her at first, pulling out the few vegetables she had as well as a few eggs. He turned to the gas stove top that sat in the middle of her marble island and dumped out the items he had gathered. He moved around her kitchen like he had been there before, opening the right cabinets, knowing exactly where she kept her skillet, pulling out a mixing bowl and a whisk. His mouth was pinched tight like he was angry, but he moved with sure movements. He pulled out a knife and when he looked at the edge of the blade, ran his finger along the sharp curve, his eyes snapped back to her like she had done something wrong. He took his wand out from his back pocket and used a spell she hadn't heard before, the knife glowing slightly, and then the knife looked quite sharp.

Then he used it like an expert, chopping up the vegetables into even, thin bits. He cupped what looked like the tomatoes and peppers she had bought recently into his hands and threw them in the mixing bowl, whisking them in with the eggs and spices she didn't even know she had. He tested the heat of the pan with a drop of water and then poured the contents of the bowl in, tilting the pan just so.

It smelled amazing. By the time he flipped the omelet, she had cooled completely off and just felt mesmerized by his concise movements. No one had ever cooked in her kitchen before. She rarely used it, seeing as how terrible a cook she really was. And she would never make anything that tasted as good as the lo mein from the take out place down the street.

Then bread popped out of the toaster, he had it buttered and put on a plate. He flipped the omelet and slid it next to her toast, placing a fork and knife and a napkin by the plate. He slid the milk over and gestured for her to dig in before he turned and started cleaning up.

Sure… he was intimidated by her. Yeah right. War hero... Auror... Master Chef... She picked up the fork between her fingers and took a bite.

Perfectly fluffy, the vegetables cooked just right, the seasoning just enough, all of it just right together to make a perfect omelet. "Where did you learn to cook?" she asked instead of moaning in pleasure like she wanted.

His shoulders tensed, his back towards her. But he relaxed after only a second and finally, he answered one of her questions. "We spent most of 7th year starving, so I took a class so I would know how to cook if we ever had to go on the run again."

She almost wished he had started yelling at her again. Everyone knew what he had done with Harry Potter and Hermione Granger during their 7th year, camping out in the woods, dodging Snatchers as they tried to find a way to defeat Voldemort. She hadn't thought they had been starving though…

"My brothers will tell you it's because I realized my mum wouldn't be around to cook for me forever." he tried to laugh it off, but it sounded hollow to her ears.

She stuffed another bite in her mouth instead of saying anything as he went back to washing off the dishes he had used. It was oddly comforting, she thought as she sat on the high bar stool at the edge of the island, to watch him clean up as she ate her breakfast. It was nice having someone else in her space…

No, it was nice having him in her space.

"So tell me why Pansy sent me here." he said, throwing a dish towel in the sink after the counters were wiped clean.

"Tell me why you feel intimidated by me." she countered.

"Because you're obviously smart and obviously loaded and obviously beautiful." his hand came up to rub the back of his neck again as he said the words... the compliment she hadn't been expecting.

His honesty caught her off guard, her fork lingering in the air. And then she felt the flush under her skin come up behind her ears, under her cheeks. "You're joking? You're the war hero, the big famous Auror…"

"That doesn't make you any less…" he shrugged again.

Her throat threatened to close up. She wanted to ask why he thought it was obvious, but she didn't think she could take whatever he answered with. Instead she said, "I have no idea why Pansy would send you to me. I have no idea what to make of that woman."

"She said you needed help."

"Yeah, what else is new?" she joked, lifting the toast to her mouth. She watched his eyes light up, and for the first time, he smiled. Self deprecating humor? If it made him laugh, she would do it again. His smile was warmth against her bones.

She finished the last bite of her omelet and drank the last of her milk, setting her fork down on the plate. He walked around to her side of the island, going to pick up her dishes she realized. So she stopped him, putting a hand on his chest when he was close enough. He jumped slightly at her touch, but his eyes went right to hers. His hand came to her shoulder. "Why did Pansy send me here, Susan?"

His breath blew over her face, still smelling as minty as it had earlier. His hand pressed into her shoulder, his thumb rubbing circles there. She lifted her face closer to his, wanting… needing…

He leaned in and kissed her.

Gods it felt good. She recalled going into the girl's bathroom back in 6th year, listening as Lavender Brown told Parvati Patil that Ron Weasley was a good kisser.

She was wrong. She was dead wrong.

He was the best kisser. His beard tickled the sides of her cheeks, the skin above her lip. But his lips fit perfectly over hers, moving slowly against each other in a sweet but intimate way. Her heart thumped and her lip trembled as her eyes fluttered shut.

This. This is why you're here Ron Weasley. His hands came up to either side of her face as he leaned further into their kiss. She copied his movement, bringing a hand up to his cheek and digging her fingers into that auburn beard she was so attracted to.

It went on like that for a long, long minute before he gently released her lips from his and stood up straight, his blue eyes hooded with a heat she knew her own were mirroring. It was then she realized the lonely, dark thing inside her chest was nowhere to be found.

"Would you like to stay here for a bit?" she asked him, blowing out an unsteady breath.

He nodded, swallowing hard. "I'm free for the day."

So he stayed. He took his shoes off and placed them by the door while she went back to the mess of letters on her coffee table and couch. She thought about just magicking up the mess, but it didn't sit right with her to just file away her mother's letters. So she gently packed away the ones she had already read and further organized what she had left while Ron settled into one of the matching armchairs and took out a folded up pile of paperwork from his back jean pocket and began reading over it. Though his eyes constantly looked up to meet her own. And she looked often.

"You look tired, Susan." he commented after an hour or so.

"I didn't sleep last night." she admitted, and it felt easy. Easy to talk to him, to reveal herself to him.

"Why not?" he dropped the papers and focused on her.

"Sometimes I get obsessed with something and I can't sleep until I've seen it through."

It certainly hadn't been the first sleepless night she had had since she started her job at St. Mungo's. The research alone could keep her up for days, focused solely on a paper or an idea.

"These are letters from my mother, I just came into possession of them." she admitted. And it felt good. It felt right to talk about her parents to someone, to have another person know they existed.

"Where is your mother?" he asked, his papers forgotten for the time being.

"She died when I was very young. My father too, my whole family actually. All but my Aunt Amelia." The words just flowed out, the truth making itself known without her conscious decision.

She looked up and met his eyes, those bright blue eyes, and expected pity. Instead he just looked thoughtful, his lips pinched like he was thinking. She wondered what he was thinking about her.

"Amelia Bones right?" he asked after a long moment of silence.

She nodded, chest tight as it got when she thought of her dear Aunt. She knew the moment he remember that her Aunt too had died. Her named forever memorialized on the large smooth stone on the grounds at Hogwart's.

"C'mer Susan." he said instead. She walked over to him and he reached out, bringing her face down to his, kissing her as he had the night before. So soft and warm, yet it was heavy with a nameless, needy thing. She swallowed hard and pulled away, but the acceptance on his part felt... felt right. He just felt right.

A part of her wanted to completely immerse herself in the letters again, lose herself in a time 26 years ago, just before she had been born. But the rest of her wanted to see how this strange turn of events would turn out. Ron Weasley, sitting in her living room calmly, not glaring at her, not yelling at her, just enjoying her company silently. The burn of his kiss still against her lips, so she tidied up as best she could.

When the box was organized and pushed out of the way, her heart clenching slightly, she decided to keep going and clean up the living room, knowing it had been a hot minute since the last time she had done so. She used her wand to dust and clean the carpet. To clean the windows and clean out the fireplace. When she passed by Ron's chair, his ankle crossed over his knee and his paperwork propped against his leg, he reached out a hand to grab hers, tugging her down for another kiss. This time his tongue had slipped between her lips and the heat shocked her into a whimper. When they parted, seemingly at the same time, she stood up and felt how hot her face felt, felt the same heat between her legs and in her stomach.

No one, no man had ever made her feel like this before. "How do you do that, Ron Weasley?"

"Do what?"

Her lip trembled, she took a breath to steady herself. "Make me feel like that?"

"How d'you think I feel, Susan Bones?"

His words shocked her to her core, made her feel raw.

When she finished in the living room, she wandered into her bedroom and looked at the huge mess it was, a mess it always was. She started with no real goal in mind, slowly going through the piles of papers and books leading up to her desk. After a few minutes, Ron came through the door. He took one look at the mess before he flopped down on her bed and continued with whatever he was working on. It took a long time but she finished organizing her desk and the surrounding book shelves. She switched to gathering the piles of clothes all over the floor, stuffing them into her hamper to wash later. When she walked by the end of the bed going towards the hamper again, Ron reached out again to grab her hand, tugging her close. She leaned down to his mouth automatically and they shared another hot, long kiss.

When she stood up again, he looked quite happy with himself, his lips red from the way she had nipped at him. She continued on her way to the hamper, an armful of clothes still in her hand. The way her breasts rubbed against the inside of her shirt reminded her she wasn't wearing a bra. It spurred her to dig through the hamper, looking for the bra she had worn just last night. She knew it had to been in there somewhere. When she couldn't find it, she turned to look for it on the floor where she had surely thrown it. But Ron was looking right at her, his hand holding up the white, lacy bra she had just been looking for.

She flushed red all over, stomping over to yank the garment from his hand. He let go right away, but his other hand came out and he tugged her face down to his, his tongue thrusting into her mouth right away in the hottest kiss they had shared yet. He held her face close to his and her body melted, bra forgotten.

When he released her again, she stumbled back awkwardly, her stomach doing flips. She stumbled, again, into the bathroom and splashed water on her face to cool herself down. A hard breath later, and she started cleaning up the bathroom before she went back into her bedroom. The marble surfaces were shining by the time she had the courage to walk out again. He looked up at her and smiled.

oOoOo

France had been fun, and that was the best she could say about it. She still couldn't speak the language, but she had gotten through, learning as much as she could, and felt more comfortable with her career decision than she had previously. Being back in London, however, was even better. She loved it. She knew she wanted to live in the heart of the city, among the people and crowds and noise. Terry's cheap apartment loomed at her though, regardless of her feelings. They hadn't said a word to each other since her birthday. She had left the next day before he had returned.

She had an interview the next day at St. Mungo's, she just needed a place to stay while she looked for her own apartment. Knocking on Terry's door took a lot more than she realized, her stomach twisting painfully. She knew she didn't love him, not anymore. She knew she had outgrown his love, and from the last night they had shared, he had too.

But when the door opened, it was to an unfamiliar man she had never met before.

"Oooh, 'ello love. Who might you be?" he said to her, his eyes dipping distastefully to her breasts and then back up again.

"Is Terry here?" she asked, instead of answering him.

"Terry don't live here anymore, I took over the lease for him when he left. I dunno where he ended up. I'm sure I could help you find what you're lookin' for though, love."

She backed up. "Sorry to have bothered you."

She left before he could say anything else.

Money wasn't a problem, being the sole Bones left in the world, her vault at Gringotts was loaded enough for her to live comfortably the rest of her life, job or no job. When she had sold Aunt Amelia's house, having no desire to live in the place she had grown up in after her Aunt's death, she had received a great price for the old home.

No... money wasn't the problem. After a few weeks in France, surrounded by a language she struggled to get a grip on, it just drove home the realization that she was the last of her family, that she was alone.

Stupidly, she thought Terry could fill that new void in her chest.

A hole that had been left by her Aunt, and the years since Amelia's death had only worn away at the hole, making it bigger...

oOoOo

She smiled back and continued cleaning her bedroom, finding a pair of shoes that had been missing for months, take out that had probably been under the bed for the same amount of time, and the other half of a pair of earrings she had thought lost forever. She made all the trash disappear and all her books went back to their rightful place on the shelves. All her clothes were stuffed in the hamper, the carpet cleaned, and her desk and books were finally organized. She turned her wand on the windows and had them cleaned in a snap, though that was something she usually did to keep the view. She used a Refreshening Charm to make the room smell clean and fresh.

Only thing left to do really was make the bed. The thought barely crossed her mind when she could feel his eyes on her. She turned and met his gaze with her own. Heat bloomed immediately, filling her chest, filling her stomach… and lower still.

The words just popped out, "Would you have sex with me?"

His eyes darkened. "Come here."

She shivered at his tone, took the steps towards the bed. She reached out as he did, his arms pulling her onto the comfortable surface of her mattress, wrapping around her as her body aligned against his. It felt like a perfect fit, her body against his, her hips pressing into his. Their legs rubbed together as his hands planted firmly on her lower back, pulling her flush against him. The kiss he laid on her, promised so much she couldn't comprehend. She moaned into his mouth when he rolled them over, pushing her body into the bed. She automatically wrapped her legs around his waist, her fingers tugging at his dark tee shirt.

He lifted his head up and looked down at her, both of their breaths going hard. Then he growled out, "I won't have sex with you."

"Oh…" she was prepared to be hurt, but the evidence of his want was pressing into her stomach.

"Not yet at least…"

"Why wait?" she wondered out loud.

"I want to take you out first. Date you."

A man that wanted to date her and not fuck her. She had asked for that very thing just last night. Granted, from the hard length of his erection pressing into her body at that very moment, she thought maybe Ron wanted both.

"What do you want to do now?" she asked.

"We can do… other things." his tone of voice made her body shiver beneath him.

Other things... "Yes please."

He kissed her and kissed her and kissed her, rubbing his body against hers until she thought she would burst from the heat of it. He rubbed the hard length of his erection directly against the wet place between her legs, even with his jeans and her sweats, it short circuited her body until she trembled.

"Take these off, I think..." he mumbled against her wet lips, fingering the edge of her sweats. She agreed, her own fingers brushing against his as she pushed her pants down, kicking them off. He resettled against her, but this time he hooked an arm under her knee and brought it up as he pushed against her. The rough feeling of denim against her wet panties caused stars to burst across her vision, until he leaned his head down to start kissing her again.

She was sensitive there, between her legs, and her lips were being sucked by his while the weight of his body pressed against hers. So when he moved against her, the hard edge of denim and his erection pressing against the most sensitive place, she shattered beneath him and cried into his mouth.

Releasing his grip on her leg, he turned her gently, and cuddled her from behind, kissing on her neck. "I could take a nap after that one, Ron Weasley."

He grinned against her neck. "I'll be here when you wake up, Susan Bones."

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness.

-Indra Devi

September 19th, 2006

It had been a few weeks since she had woken up, blood warmed and body heavy with sleep, the scent of pine, fresh and clean, filling her nose as she realized she was wrapped in the arms of Ron Weasley. And the memories of their shared time together flooded through her. Him knocking on her door, saying Pansy Parkinson of all people had sent him, him making her an omelet, his very presence filling her apartment and helping her climb out of a dark pit where she wanted to spend the rest of her days reading the letters, stolen kisses and quick orgasm.

'I'll be here when you wake up, Susan Bones.'

He had been, his hand pressed firmly against her back, rough against the back under her tee shirt. His mouth had been hanging open goofy in sleep, one strong arm curled beneath a pillow, the other curled protectively around her. His jeaned thigh had been shoved between her legs making the overall positions of their bodies feel protective and possessive both. She had spent exactly 60 seconds smiling and nurturing the warm feeling, the tiny seed of hope that awakened with her, and basking in the physical contact. His beard, she knew she was hooked, she was so attracted to it. Forget all the other physical aspects she knew she should appreciate. Like his height, and when was the last time Susan had dated someone who was that much taller than her, like his lips which had kissed her into fever several times already, or like his hands. Strong, firm hands. Like the one placed on her back, the roughness a caress against her skin.

And she knew she had to give a big thank you to Pansy for sending him to Susan when she was losing herself in the past, the letters a jumble pile of new information she couldn't possibly process yet.

It felt nice.

But at 61 seconds, the panicked overwhelming fear she had felt after The Kiss consumed her anew and she jumped up, leaving a note, and rushed to her office at the hospital as fast as she could, locking the door behind her. Like a big fat scaredy cat.

Again.

She had taken care not to fall into that obsessive need to bury herself in her mother's letters and not come out again, instead reading a few letters at a time before forcing herself to go to bed each night.

It was better that way she admitted to herself one night after a seemingly long shift at St. Mungo's, pulling the comforter over her head that still smelled faintly of pine. It felt like she was slowly learning her mother, getting to know her, instead of consuming the letters desperately.

Sadly, the letters were starting to make her ask more questions than they answered. Like, where was Charley's family? The letters only ever mentioned the siblings: Amelia, Edgar, and Irvine. Sometimes her paternal grandparents, and often Edgar's three playful girls and their mother. What happened to Susan's maternal grandparents? Did her mother have siblings? There wasn't even the barest mention of them.

Her favorites though, they were the letters that mentioned her father. And how he would bring home flowers and caramels for his pregnant wife, rub her feet, read to her from books and the newspaper. He would talk about his difficulties at the Ministry to his wife, how his partner and him had been charged with trying to figure out a way to prove if someone had been acting under the Imperius Curse or not. The work desperate in times of war, Voldemort and his followers at the peak of their terror…

Her parents hadn't known that, but Susan did. She hated knowing what was coming, but knew not to let it color the picture the letters painted. A picture of summer evenings and cold drinks, long days taking care of their little 'farm', Susan's cousins causing havoc wherever they went...

She also knew when her mother wrote 'Your father' in just a certain slanted way that she was feeling particularly affectionate with the man, further proving to Susan how much love was between her parents. It was there, if she was looking.

Now she stood in her office, her robe hanging on the back of her office door, a pair of stretchy black capris and a dark grey workout top on, her arms pointed out in Virabhadrasana II, her leg bent beneath her as she lunged. Her body stretched and she focused on breathing.

Focus, she thought as she held her gaze on the back of her door. Don't think about the pile of paperwork.

She held the yoga pose. So much needed to be done and paperwork was just the tip of the iceberg. Potion orders needed to be signed off, schedules needed to be looked over, her research needed to be filed… Poor Mrs. Imelda.

Focus, don't think about Mrs. Imelda.

The poor woman had been in the hospital for a couple of months now, the pain reliever potion having zero effect. And Susan, nor any other Healer on staff, had a clue on how to ease her remaining time left in this world. She was suffering of old age, her mind slowing and her body shutting down a little more every day. But there was no mistaking the connection between her worsening symptoms and the first day they administered the first pain potion.

Focus, don't think about Pain Potions.

She switched sides, lunging into her opposite leg and training her gaze on her fake window, her fingers pointing perfectly straight. She finally got around to talking to Pansy Parkinson about how to make the potion in question. Mrs. Imelda wasn't allergic to any of the ingredients, of course, she had checked before suggesting the potion. But confirming it was the first step.

Focus, Susan. This is supposed to relax your mind. Stop. Thinking.

She straightened up and pushed her arms up into Vriksasana, bringing the heel of her foot to her inner thigh, pushing her knee out. Relax the mind, stretch the body… the potion process was pretty standard, most 5th years could brew the potion (according to Pansy anyways). The witch was masterful at the cauldron, Susan learning first hand when Pansy had invited her over for dinner. They had laughed, drank wine, eaten good food and at the end of the night she had leaned down and embraced Pansy in a hug of friendship. A smile on both their faces until Pansy had asked how things were going with Ron.

… Ron Weasley.

Focus!

She switched sides, lifting the opposite foot to her inner thigh and forcing herself to focus on her window. Little white clouds were slowly drifting across the frame, the sky a forget-me-not blue mimicking the late morning sky outside and reminding her that her shift was over, Myles had taken over and… oh Gods she had ran away from Pansy just as quickly as she had run from Ron… twice. The man who had made her breakfast, filled her apartment with a restful presence, laid across her bed…

Blue eyes darkening… "Come here."

She dropped her foot to the mat, losing her balance as her mind filled with the image of Ron Weasley on top of her comforter. He had been gone when she had returned to her apartment the next day after her shift, the small note she had left informing him she was going into work had a line of scratchy writing on the back that said: "I'll see you soon."

She half expected him to show up at her apartment, at her office, a box of granola bars in his hand, that goofy smile…

So she hadn't written… he hadn't contacted her either. Now it was too late. It felt awkward to even think about writing to him now. What would she even say? Hey Ron, you kept me from falling into a pit of obsessive despair by making me an omelet and then dry humping me into orgasm. Thanks! Want to go out with me?

And he called her Susan, not some stupid nickname. And he kissed her like she was the only damn woman on the planet. And… she was obsessing again.

Susan lifted her foot again, attempting to continue her yoga. She wondered about the papers he had been going over, wondered what he did in his free time. Did he like Quidditch? When did he work out?

Or… was he still intimidated by her? Was that even possible after the day they spent together? It had been intimate, beyond intimate. Their shared kissing felt more sexual than anything she and Terrence had shared during their night together. And later, the sight of him in her own bed, his arms reaching out to her, the slide of hard denim against her more sensitive areas…

That begged the question still, why was he intimidated in the first place. He had had no problem taking control of their sexual play. She didn't buy his reasoning… he was a talented, famous Auror, War Hero, and obviously had other talents outside of that. The way he had used a knife on her vegetables said he had been studying cooking for a long time. She remembered the stories while she was in school, what had he done that first year? Chess. He'd won points for his house for the best game of chess Dumbledore had ever seen. He couldn't possibly be intimidated by her of all people.

She realized she had been staring at the wall with her arms pointed straight above her head for several minutes. This was not going to work. Yoga thoroughly ruined, she gave up, rolled up her mat and stored it behind her desk, feeling annoyed. Feeling confused.

Fine paperwork you win this time…

The stack on her desk was treacherously high, she could go home but the stack would only be higher tomorrow.

But the stack would always be high…

Thankfully, Ione choose that moment to knock on the door. "Susan girl, you got a minute or two?"

"Of course, come in Ione."

"You still doing that yoga? Good for you." the witch commented, looking at her workout outfit. It wasn't surprising, after all, Ione had been the one to recommend Susan try it out. She had told Susan it would help her focus.

Usually it did...

The witch sat down across from Susan, pulling her hair from the complicated twist at the back of her head. The hair tumbled down the front of her robes, bits of silver and white poking out through the pale, pale red blonde.

It made Susan ask, "What did your hair look like when you were young?" imagining Ione in the 60's was easy, flowers in her long, vibrant red hair with a personality bigger than the moon. Susan knew Ione collected crystals and burned incense, believed in anything bigger than herself.

"Girl, I am young. I'm only 70 years old." she laughed and it made Susan smile, thoughts of granola bars and blue eyes pushed to the back of her mind.

"Hey you won't be 70 until tomorrow."

"69, even younger!"

"You're right, what on earth was I talking about?" It had always been easy for them to speak like this.

"But I know what you meant - actually my hair was almost as red as yours, not as bright." An odd look. "You remind me a bit of my daughter to tell the truth, she had hair like yours."

"You said that to me once before. When you mentored me before I went to France."

"Huh, it was true then and it's true now, Susan girl. Anyways, tomorrow Cris is having a party to celebrate my youth, want to join us? A little cake, a little music. What do you think? We won't get naked like last year, Cris made me promise. Of course, my birthday isn't on a full moon this year so…" a shrug.

"I'd love that." Susan said and it was true. Ione had been a solid presence in her life since her career in Healing started.

Ione stood up. "Perfect! Gifts not optional."

"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow." Just like this paperwork.

oOoOo

Of course, it was as she was getting ready for said party the very next day that she realized Ione mentioned gifts weren't optional. Two things Susan knew the young fiery witch liked: heated, historically inaccurate romance novels and anything beach themed. She slipped into a pair of white sandals that matched the flowing white sundress she was wearing. It shaped to her body, the sweetheart neck line showing off her curves, the dress coming down to just above her knees. She thought it made her look tall and curvy and she could live with that. She figured Ione wouldn't do anything too fancy, but the dress would pass for formal if no one looked too hard. Especially paired with the sandals, the dangling silver in her ears, and her half up hairdo that fell behind her back in a series of red curls.

So it was all dressed up and in a rush she found herself in a small bookstore in Diagon Alley browsing the romance section trying to ignore the fact that she had read more titles than not. Thinking a good romance was exactly what Ione would want as a present, she browsed the aisles for something that stood out. She brushed a finger over a particularly good series about angels and vampires and knives when she heard the door open, the bell ringing out.

"Are you telling me you haven't read everything in here already?"

Oh no… it's him… She hadn't thought about Ron Weasley for almost 24 hours...

"They get a new shipment on Wednesdays, Ron! You know it's my favorite day of the week." Through the small gap between shelves Susan could just see the face of Hermione Granger, her bushy hair sticking out all around her head in dark curls, and the wide spread of a solid chest stretched under a yellow tee shirt. 'It's him… how on earth… this is why I avoid Diagon Alley.'

"Oh trust me, I know. You bring me along just so I can reach the top shelves. Remember?"

The two walked casually to the new releases section as Susan dunked, the panic rushing back at her. It was easy to get mad at him, easy to pretend he didn't exist, easy to brush him off as a one time thing… when he wasn't in the same room as her. Now he was reaching his long arms to the top shelf, pulling down books by the handful. There was no way she could leave the shop without them noticing. She pushed her head up an inch to look over the row of books and try to figure a way out. Previous knowledge of the store let her know there was no backdoor for her to sneak out of, but there was three more shelves she could hide behind if they decided to venture further into the shop.

"Your basket is already full, 'Mione. Let me carry it." he said kindly as he hooked his elbow under the handles and took the basket from Hermione in a sweet gesture. The smile she gave him definitely seemed more than friendly. Were they dating? What about Draco?

"Sorry, not sorry. Can you reach that shelf?"

He grinned goofy. She really liked that smile on him. "No it's too high." he joked.

"Roooonnnn." Hermione groaned playfully, slapping Ron in the chest. The interaction sure seemed more than, way more than friendly.

"Of course I can. Why, can't you?" he teased back, holding his hand straight over the witch's head measuring her height. He moved his hand to his lower chest. "Wow you only come up to here on me, 'Mione."

"I can't reach up there because I stopped growing at 15. And you never stopped growing. Seriously. You're taller than I remember you being last week."

"You just can't tell because my head looks blurry because you can't see that far up." he teased further.

"Ha - ha. You are hilarious. Don't forget that one at the end." she pointed and he reached up easily, grabbing the hardback book and dropping it into the basket.

Their easy conversation and the way they kept causally touching each other pushed away the panic and allowed room for another emotion to take its place. Susan just didn't want to admit it. She was jealous.

"Did you want to take a look around the rest of the shop?" Ron asked, looking around. Susan dunked again before he could see her through the gaps in the shelves, but the jerkiness of the action caused her to jam her elbow on a lower shelf.

"Son of a… ugh!" She bit her lip to keep from crying out, unsuccessfully, and saw: Werewolf By The Sea. A Novel about overcoming great change in the sands of the ocean, pirates, werewolves, and finding true love…

'Well that is exactly what I'm looking for.'

"Susan?" His red hair poked out around the shelf as he looked down at her, his eyes big with surprise. Was he happy about that? Scared? Intimidated?!

"Ron. Hey." Lame. She stood quickly and held up the novel, a blue cover with a thick, richly muscled man bending a curvy long haired woman over his arm to kiss her, the crashing waves of the ocean behind them, and a white stone castle in the background. "I was just looking for a book."

"Werewolf By The Sea?" he asked. His beard had been trimmed shorter than she remembered, and there was a rather long, but shallow cut along his forearm, but still he wore his usual tee shirt, this one a Cannon's yellow, and dark denim jeans.

Stars bursting across her vision as he pushed the hard edge of his denim covered erection against her wet panties…

"It isn't for me. It's for a friend." she mumbled stupidly, her cheeks heating.

"Susan Bones! How lovely to see you." Hermione stuck her head around the shelf and waved a hello.

Nervously, she held the book out further. "It isn't for me. It's for a friend!"

"Oh? Okay sure… oooo this one is steamy." Hermione took one look at the book and grinned even wider.

"Oi… you've actually read this book, 'Mione? It looks… horrible."

The way he said her name, a nickname, sounded like he had been doing it for a long time. It made her even more jealous of this witch. And she didn't even like nicknames.

"I am on my way to a friend's birthday party. It's for her. My friend." I am a moron. Stop talking, Susan.

Before she said anything else idiotic, she rushed around the duo and through the front door, listening as Hermione said, "Why is she always running from you, Ronald?" and making it about ten steps down the sidewalk before she realized she hadn't paid for the book.

Dear God, smite me down. She quickly walked back and opened the door, ignoring how completely red her face felt when the bell rang out, and went to the counter.

Ron was giving her the oddest look while Hermione browsed more shelves. The way his hand was on Hermione's shoulder made it seem like they were more than friends. It sent Susan into confusion.

Were they or were they not dating? Wasn't Hermione Granger dating Draco Malfoy? Susan pushed the thoughts away and slapped several gold coins down on the counter in front of the cashier, not bothering to wait for her change. She made her second exit and held her breath as she walked down the sidewalk.

"Hey, wait. Susan?"

She pinched her lips together as she turned, not wanting to say anything before thinking it over thoroughly first.

He stopped just short of her, his head tilting just slightly to the left as he looked down at her, and she wasn't sure how to read his expression. "Are you… mad at me?"

"Mad? No. Why? Do I seem mad?" What happened to thoroughly thinking things over first before I say them?

If he was dating Hermione, and she knew just like the rest of the wizarding world that Ron and Hermione had dated once before, why did he keep chasing her?

"Well… no… I just… I meant to write you…" he rubbed the back of his neck and the action caused a heavy sense of deja vu to come over her.

Bright blue eyes shifting under the moonlight.

"I really am running kind of late… I'm going to a birthday party." she said in the calmest voice she could conjure. Because just thinking about The Kiss, thinking about the day they spent together, thinking about his damn blue eyes under the moonlight.. It was slowly closing her throat up.

"Right. Right…."

Then, because she didn't want to ruin any chance they might have had, she reached out and squeezed his hand. "Send me that owl, Ron."

He grinned, and when she went to pull her hand away he circled his own hand up and tugged her closer in a move she wasn't expecting. She stumbled forward before she realized what exactly happened and found herself wrapped in his arms not for the first time, his lips on hers in a hotly wet kiss. He smelled like pine cones and held her tightly, the bristly hair of his beard rubbing against her cheek. His hand came up to that cheek, his fingers spread and dived into her hair before he cupped the back of her skull, holding her in a possessive grip as they kissed. Her bones melted, her breath stopped.

She was determined to keep her eyes opened, to see his eyes, but when he slipped his tongue between her lips she felt her eyelids flutter shut.

He released her lips the same time his hand released her hair. "Dinner?" he asked in a voice that sounded as affected as she felt.

She couldn't even respond, instead nodding a definite yes as she tried to conjure her voice back.

"Tonight?" he asked.

That… she couldn't do. She had someplace to be. A party. A birthday party. For Ione... She had to shake her head no, but he wasn't discouraged. "Tomorrow night?"

She nodded quickly, brought her fingers up to her lips.

His slow grin felt good and she matched it before turning and walking away, heading to Ione's birthday party with Werewolves By The Sea still in her hand.

oOoOo

It was several hours later, most of the party guests having made their way home, that Susan found herself cleaning up the debris of what turned out to be a great party. And Ione kept her promise of not getting naked and dancing under the moon like she had the year before. But she had gotten thoroughly intoxicated and eaten several slices of cake. The woman had a big appetite, and Susan could only appreciate it. Criscilla and Danny were the only other party guests that Susan knew, Cris being so close with Ione.

Cris was helping Susan throw away plastic cups and plates as Ione and Danny danced in the middle of the kitchen, some song from the 50's coming from a record player by the window. It did Susan good to see Danny was the one out of breath trying to keep up with Ione as she worked her feet through the dance.

Laughing, Cris and her finished cleaning up and put the rest of the cake in the refrigerator that hummed in the corner. Not before Susan set aside a slice for herself. She couldn't help it when it had caramel icing all over it. The other half of the ginormous cake had been chocolate, but she didn't care. This slice had been far from it, and smothered with the sugary frosting that made her taste buds quiver.

"Mmm caramel." she said after taking a bite. Criscilla had flopped down next to her, kicking off her heels. The witch had worn a cute little blue dress with small white polka dots all over it.

"Susan, you are addicted." she laughed as Danny spun Ione around, the woman's hair splitting into three separate braids as she twirled, tiny flowers sticking out between the folds of the hair. The flowers matched the skirt she was wearing, little white things that made Susan think of sunny days.

Taking another bite Susan said, "It really is a problem." She thought briefly of her mother's letters... her words begging Susan to crave more fruits and vegetables... nope. Not going to happen.

The song ended and Danny surrendered, sitting down in the chair next to Cris. Ione's tiny feet danced their way over to the record player, gently lifting the vinyl there and putting it back into it's paper sleeve.

"What's next my young friends? Ahh yes. A classic. I do miss the 70's. You know this song was written about me right?" Ione laughed as she set up the next record to play. She walked back over to the table and looked at Susan's piece of cake. "Susan! Yes, great idea. Another piece of cake is definitely in order."

"I'll get it for you." Cris said, standing. Ione took the moment to fall into the chair next to Susan, using her elbow to playfully nudge Susan's. A guitar started strumming and a man's smooth voice filled the air, singing about a woman with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair. Cris came back quickly with more wine and a slice of cake for Ione.

"Ahh yes. You gotta live life before it leaves you baby girl." Ione said to Cris, lifting her fork to dig in.

"You're too much, Ione." Danny laughed. Cris was laughing too, so only Susan noticed the sad glint that appeared for just a second behind Ione's eyes. It disappeared when Danny grabbed Cris's hands and pulled her to her feet, taking her to the opened floor to dance.

Susan was happy too. "Thanks for getting caramel cake." It was so, so good.

"You're welcome. You know my own mother had a liking for it... granted not as much as you, Susan girl. But she would make me Old Fashioned Caramel Cakes for my birthday when I was growing up."

"Really? My Aunt Amelia would make me the same for my birthday when I was a child..." Susan smiled, delighted at the connection, but Ione's sad glint was back. "You okay, Ione?"

The witch took a long drink of her wine before answering. "Susan girl, I am. I know I said this song was about me, but it actually reminds me of my daughter. She loved this band growing up."

"You mentioned her yesterday too. I don't think I have ever met her before. What is her name?"

Another drink of the wine, a long pause. "Her name - is Callista, Calli I used to call her."

A feeling of dread settled in Susan's stomach. "Beautiful name." A name that sounded a lot like Criscilla, Susan realized. And she knew that was just one of the many reasons Ione loved Cris so much. Maybe Cris reminded Ione of her lost daughter? They certainly acted like family. Susan thought, maybe blood didn't matter. She had to believe that. She didn't have any blood links left.

"She was beautiful."

Was. Past tense.

"Is she... still with us?" Susan asked gently, watching as Danny twirled Cris slowly around in circles.

"I don't know." Ione answered, age old hurt in her voice. " She was my only family after her daddy died. She got into some trouble with the D.M.L.E. in 1975, ran away from home. I never saw her again. I'd like to think she's off on some tropical island living a good life though."

And Susan knew, Ione hurt like Susan hurt, having lost a family like Susan had. "Well, trouble with the D.M.L.E., huh? She sounds like she took after her trouble-making mother."

It worked, Ione laughed and laughed. "That she did, Susan girl. More wine?"

"Yes, please."

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Sometimes, even the roots break, the sun doesn't shine, the sky won't rain, and nothing can grown in that environment... except loneliness.

Ione had easily consumed several bottles of wine and at least half of the ginormous birthday cake brought out last night, so it was with great surprise to Susan when Ione showed up for her shift the next day, looking fresh and clean, her yellow Healer's robes pressed, and a big smile across her face. Susan didn't say a word as they shared a grin, and instead got to work. Susan helped with block shift for several hours, tucking bits of paperwork into the pockets of her robe so she could do them when she had downtime. The paperwork stack on her desk was reaching it's peak, a dreadful tilt threatening to send the whole pile to the ground and she wanted it done before she left and went on her date with... 'Like I could actually get any paperwork done, don't kid yourself Susan.'

But she needed anything, anything, to distract her from thinking about the later date with Ron Weasley. Or thinking about the scene outside of the bookstore. Or the kiss outside of the bookstore.

There was also the never ceasing amount of fan mail she kept getting and she wished she could say it was all good, but sometimes one of the seemingly innocent envelopes would try to bite her fingers or pull at her hair when she opened it. Some people thought she saw herself above her position, she wasn't the head of the hospital and she had no right to speak as if she was. She was just a Healer. A young Healer. And she was getting sick of letters, because even the fan mail couldn't distract her from the letter sitting in her top drawer in her desk in her office.

She joked around with some Aides before the noon shift change, laughing a little too hard when Lamia told a joke about a witch and a vibrating broom stick. She had a little pep in her step as she walked down the halls, seeing to patients, making the smallest of dents in her pile of paperwork, and finally sitting down with Ione to have a small lunch after Terrence had shown up and taken over block. And if anyone could push away thoughts of Ron, it would be Terrence. Unlike when they first met, then the following month, the sight of him didn't send her pulse into overdrive, didn't heat her blood. No, now it was the opposite and she was beginning to enjoy having him on her team without worrying about any consequences of their intense coupling. But she could never group him and Ron in the same thought. Paperwork, block shift, Ione, vibrating broomsticks, noodles. Terrence. It helped distract her mind, but still her blood hummed when she was paying attention.

Ione talked about her birthday gifts, "Oh I have already read the book you got me and it was hot, hot and steamy. Did you want to borrow it?" At Susan's laughing no, she continued on about how great of a time she had and Susan beamed for her friend. She had a mouthful of noodles when Ione leaned over her own plate of Pad Thai and said, "Susan girl did you have a gentlemen caller last night after the party? You seem much more relaxed today than usual." in that ever so calm voice of hers.

Susan immediately started choking on her food, a red pepper sauce covered noodle slipping right up into her nasal cavity. "Ione!" she cried out between raking coughs that shook her entire frame. Ione wasted no time, raising her wand and summoning the offensive noodle with a flick of her wand. It shot out of Susan's left nostril with grace and dove into the nearby trashcan at Ione's direction.

"Ione!" Susan gasped, then continued in a small voice as she tried to catch her breath. "No! I - er - I have a date tonight is all."

"You have a date?" Ione sat back, looking mighty pleased with herself, a scary glint in her brown eyes that Susan didn't like one bit. "So that explains all the skipping in the halls and giggling then?"

"I have not been skipping in the halls. Or giggling." Susan took several swallows of water before packing up the rest of her lunch. A noodle in the nose was surprisingly quick in getting rid of an appetite. And somehow, Susan didn't think Ione would drop the subject topic anytime soon and the last thing she needed was to focus on Ron Weasley. She was relaxed sure, but forcibly so.

"Oh I do love Hufflepuffs. They can be so adorably oblivious." Ione laughed loudly, taking a big bite of her food and smiling while she chewed. Her expression said it all.

"I'm going to ignore that statement and get back to work, if anyone needs me I'll be in my office doing damn-" she corrected herself, "-ng ... paperwork." Susan said, stashing her lunch in the cooling cabinet and stalking out the door, all the while feeling Ione's grin on the back of her neck.

"Paperwork... And grinning."

"Grinning? Clearly you haven't seen all the paperwork I have to do!" She stopped at the door and shot back, but Ione was enjoying their conversation way too much.

"Giggling."

"No, definitely not."

"Humming!" Humming? No!

"Argh!"

Surprisingly she wasn't nervous for her date, when she allowed her obsessive brain to think about it. Even as the clock seemed to tick slower and slower towards the end of her shift, she thought she was rather excited. There had been many one time dates over the years, random Muggles she met on the streets of London, a couple of handsome wizards she had met at the hospital. Even a co-worker, though Terrence seemed more of an fixation than any kind of relationship. She certainly didn't feel drawn to Ron Weasley like she had been drawn to Terrence. No, Terrence had sucked her in until all she could think about was being physical with him. Like an itch she finally scratched and then eventually forgot about. Ron drew her in, but in a different way. She was attracted to him, very much so, but there was something more... Maybe, just maybe she wouldn't be so... no don't even think it.

Ron made her run, and she hadn't really worked out why yet. Or why her attraction to him wouldn't go away either. Especially after the day they spent together, even the following weeks apart couldn't damper the sexual heat between them as evidenced by her actions at the bookstore.

Myles ended up being late for his evening shift, much to Susan's non-surprise. She eyed the clock as she administered a standard Pepper-Up potion to a witch with a runny nose and thought about Ron Weasley in jeans and wondered why she wasn't afraid of him now. Would she flake out when she came face to face with him later? She mended a broken kneecap and broke a minor curse on a man's wristwatch that kept getting tighter and tighter the closer it got to dinner time. An older wizard with red hair came in with a scorpion bite and she whipped up an antidote and tried not to compare the red of his hair to Ron's...

Ron's was shinier... and thicker. Better for grabbing. . . oh Gods.

She dropped off clipboards to the Aide Station and emptied her pockets of empty potion bottles and the used corks that went with them, waving her wand to clean them as she went. Stella helped her load them into the recycling container and gave her a large grin full of teeth. "Wear your hair up tonight." she said.

"Excuse me?"

"No, no, no. Wear it down." Winnie said, coming from the nearby restroom. The Aide slipped her fingers into Susan's hair and released the hairband holding up Susan's mass of cherry red hair, letting the messy, but soft curls flow down past her shoulders. "Let him see it."

Pushing Winnie away, Susan pulled her hair back up into a ponytail. "What are you two talking about? Let who see what?"

"Oh, Ione told us."

"She told everyone."

"That you have a-"

" - a date!"

"And we are thrilled!"

"You two..." Susan said, pointing her finger at the both of them before marching for her office. "Stop getting along."

"Never!" they both cried playfully. "Wear it down!"

"No wear it up!"

Sitting at her desk, she tried to focus on the paper in front of her, some work order, and ignored the pounding of her pulse that sounded like hammer in her ears. Argh! Setting the order down, she switched gears and instead picked up another piece of parchment. It was a detailed theory that had come in from research, for stretching and strengthening the magical core. The theory based on the idea that a wizard's or witch's magical core was more like a muscle, and like any muscle it could be exercised to be stronger. She read the entire theory and the notes that went with it before filing it away for later use and then picked up the work order again. It only took a minute, but finally she threw the completed order down and watched with satisfaction and it disappeared to be filed... and opened the first drawer... to pulled out the short letter that had arrived by owl earlier.

Another letter.

A date.

From Ron. It seemed that Letters were a theme in her life lately. Letters from neighbors, letters from fans and not fans, letters from her lost and gone Mother, and a single invitation to dinner from her crush. She read the messy lines of his handwriting and wondered if he was thinking about her as much as she was trying to not think about him. Don't think about him she told the pounding of her pulse, but it was too late. The letter was in hand, and she could only think about their shared kisses and denim jeans and his red beard. The words of the letter practically jumped at her and her pulse accelerated dangerously.

I'll pick you up at 9 o'clock.

A single sentence, 7 words, and a pulse that wouldn't calm down. It was the kind of thing that made her want to run, so she stuffed the letter back into her drawer and picked up the next file on her to-do pile. And a random thought occurred... Muscles could deteriorate, could a magical core? She was biting her lip in thought when a small, blue paper owl flew into the open door of her office and unfolded itself in front of her face. Reading it, she stood immediately. Terrence needed her help.

She grabbed the unfolded owl and ran out of her room only sparing a thought to make sure she had her wand. The paper directed her to a nearby patient room and she ran in quickly, wand at the ready. A reedy woman stood in the very corner, holding herself up with trembling arms. And a man jerked back and forth on the bed, bleeding badly. Everywhere. Too much.

Terrence was already standing over the bed, his wand out in one hand and his other holding the patient down, and struggling with both. A steady stream of healing magic flowed from the tip of Terence's wand but it couldn't focus with the patient jerking so badly.

"Hold still!" he cried out. "Please, Mr. Gills! I'm trying to help you!"

Susan went around the bed and held her hand out, pushing it into the man's other shoulder, and used her little gift as added force to keep him still and on the bed. The man had blood pouring from both sides of his nostrils, the whites of his eyes red, and drips of red on either side of his head told Susan he was bleeding from his ears as well. And his mouth opened with silent screams.

"What happened?" she asked in a calm voice as her wand came first to the eyes, clearing them. Only they filled up just as quickly. "You silenced him?"

"No. He's been cursed." Terrence shook his head and then nodded quickly to the woman in the corner of the room.

"Countercurse?" she asked and added her healing magic, the yellows and reds mixing with Terrence's lighter green and the man shook less with the combined efforts of her and Terrence holding the wizard down keeping him from jostling too much.

"I did, it isn't… it isn't taking or something!" he snapped and they both looked at the wife. She was trembling still, but Susan saw the small movement of her lips. The witch was wandlessly cursing her husband.

Terrence yelled, "She's cursing him!" just as Susan said, "Get her out of here!" and had to double her efforts to hold the man still.

"Immobilize him!" Terrence shouted as he dragged the trembling witch from the room, her legs kicking as she struggled to get out his grip.

But she couldn't immobilize him, not until the countercurse took hold. "I can't with this much blood, I need an AIDE IN HERE NOW!" she yelled at the door and ignored the slow creep of blood that swam up through the healing stream of her magic and started to coat her wand and wand hand.

But she knew what she had to do. Not stopping to check that there was no one else in the room except for her and the patient, she blasted her gift of telekinesis at him with zero hesitation, which took a lot more than she was use to she realized immediately, especially since she couldn't channel it through her hand. It held him suddenly still and she used both hands on her wand to channel the countercurse quickly before switching back to the healing stream… a couple of seconds passed and her gift let up from sheer exhaustion, the patient twitched once before going slack, and she realized the countercurse had failed.

"No… oh no…" a weight fell over her as she let the stream trickle off, blood on her hands and wand. She checked his vitals but she already knew what she would see. His mind had been shredded by the curse, his body too long without blood. It had been months since the last patient death and she could already feel the lump of emotion in her chest, her mind thinking if she had only been faster, if she had gotten the owl sooner, if she had realized the wife was still cursing him... She softly closed the dead man's eyes and turned around with a frown.

Terrence stood at the door, his eyes narrowed slightly in her direction and she immediately wondered what he had seen. Then "What just happened here?" he asked slowly.

"I - I was too late. Where is the wife?" she asked, playing dumb.

"She's in custody. I've alerted the Ministry and they are sending someone over. What did I just see?" He took a step forward, his eyes questioning. "Susie?"

Susan was beginning to realize he only used that nickname if he really wanted something, not realizing she hated it so damn much. "You know. I hate. That name. Let's take care of … Mr. Gills and then we can talk about it later, okay?" she shooed at him, but he stayed still, his gaze looking down at her bloody hands.

"What did you just do?" he asked in a soft voice, a scared voice.

"Terrence, we'll talk about it later okay?" She didn't want to raise her voice, but couldn't help when it pitched upwards. Most of the staff knew about her little gift, and thankfully, turned their cheeks and didn't ask questions. She certainly didn't know where it had come from, the power not showing up until after her 5th year at Hogwart's. She recalled sitting in her old room at the house she lived in with her Aunt and wondering how she was supposed to become an Adult at 16 when a book had fallen from her school bag that had been slightly hanging off her bed. She had reached for it, her forefinger and middle finger had been pointed out, and the book flew up into the air before she caught it.

"Fine. We'll talk about it later then."

"Thank you... just go stay with wife. Be ready for paperwork." Susan said, and stuck her head out the door. "Lamia! I need you."

The Aide rushed in only to look sadly on the dead wizard. Trying to put together the exact order of events in her mind, and pushing the agony of patient death into a small box in the corner of her mind, she began telling Lamia the process of caring for the deceased when Lamia gently nodded and patted Susan's hand.

"I got it boss." Of course she did. She had been doing this for as long as Susan.

She nodded and left the room, heart heavy. Terrence had the wife tied up, he stood over her as she sat in a chair looking both parts smug and horrified at what she had done. Susan walked into the nearest restroom and began washing the blood off her hands, and for the first time all day, realized she wasn't thinking about Ron anymore. No, she was thinking about how she let a man die in her hospital. Could Terrence and her combined magic have kept him alive, until an Aide had come along to take the wife away?

"Fuck it." she allowed herself the swear word and splashed cold water on her hot face and took a long, deep breath to center herself. But the moment she walked out of the restroom she saw the wife was being handled by a man wearing signature D.M.L.E. robes and scowl on his face, the witch struggling and screaming.

"She did it! She killed my husband!" the witch screeched madly, pointing and swearing at her.

Susan felt her shoulders slump, her face sag. The sight of Myles should have had sighing with relief, instead she felt defeated.

oOoOo

She ended up taking her pile of paperwork home and collapsing on her bed, releasing her ponytail with a single tug. Surrounded by the smell of parchment and her sheets and weighed down by the long day, she fell asleep. Her work flats still on, and yellow robes crumbled, she woke up to a loud knocking after what felt like 100 years. Susan stumbled upwards and out of her bedroom in a hurry, wiping drool off the corner of her mouth. She tripped up on the side of her coffee table and thumped into the door before yanking it open… to Ron Weasley, his red hair pushed back, dark jeans and a dark tee shirt on. She turned her wrist up and widened her eyes at her watch.

"Oh! God I'm sorry I fell asleep!"

"I see that." he gave her a goofy grin, his lips caught her eye and she stared dumbly at them for a long, awkward moment remembering all the not-thinking she had done about him today.

"Er - You just have… a bit of…" He waved at his chin and she was suddenly aware of the dreadful and sticky amount of drool on the side of her face.

"This is... embarrassing... Just -" Before she could properly run away to her bedroom, her face slowly turning the color of a tomato, they both heard a loud shriek from down the hallway.

"Neville stop him! He's going to ruin everything!" a loud, loud voice shouted.

She, and Ron, both turned towards the loud scream. Only to see all six and half feet of Neville Longbottom charging at Ron like a bull. Ron braced his feet, but Neville hit him head on, taking both of them to the ground in a series of yelps and grunts.

"Get the chocolates!" Susan turned, shocked, and saw the witch Pansy Parkinson standing at the end of the hallway looking truly horrified and pointing at Ron.

"Chocolates?"

Neville rolled up to his feet only a short second later, bushing his hair out of his face, and clutching a box of chocolates in his hand. His hand reached into his robe pocket and pulled out a small box of caramels, handing it to Susan, before he and Pansy both ran away as quickly as they had showed up and leaving Susan looking dumbfounded down at moaning Ron. Who was splayed out on the floor of the hallway looking pathetic and in pain.

"I'll get you back for this Longbottom!" he shouted at their retreating forms, and his loud words jolted Susan into action. She reached down and helped him up, noting how he cradled his arms to his chest.

"What hurts?" she asked automatically, guiding him into her apartment and into the nearest armchair. He fell into it with a loud yelp and then began muttering curses at Longbottom under his breath. "Can you lift your arms above your head?"

His attempt only brought more whimpering and he scrunched his eyes in pain. "That's a no." he bit out.

"Might just be a broken rib, let me see." Susan lifted up his shirt from the bottom hem, already pulling her wand out from her yellow robes, but he pushed her hand away. "Er-"

"I'm fine." he said, wincing as he did.

She raised her eyebrows, seeing the flush creep up his neck in red. "Modest? I've seen you take your shirt off before Ron."

"Ya... well that was before..." and she realized, maybe for the first time, that Ron was nervous around her too.

"Before?" she prompted, wondering what to do with that information.

He looked away, his lips pinched and she realized something else. He was stubborn.

"How about this, if you can clap your hands together, I'll leave you alone. If you can't do that, then you let me heal your ribs. Deal?" she asked, and watched as he attempted to sit up... and failed.

"Why can't I move?" he groaned, falling back into the chair. She wanted to laugh, but pain made people do stupid things all the time. She lifted his tee shirt and and saw up close the spread of his freckled and pale chest, the unnatural curve of one of his rib bones poking out under his skin. She gently waved her wand, mending the bone in a quick snap, and watched as the reds and yellows sparked from her wand in way it never had before.

"How does that feel?" she asked ignoring the odd change of her magic and smoothing the dark of his tee shirt down over his hard stomach.

"Much better, thanks." he bit at his bottom lip while she fixed his tee shirt.

"And what was that all about anyways?" she asked ignoring the new wave of heat in her face, pulling out the box of caramels Neville had handed her.

"I guess that's what I was supposed to bring you." he said bitterly.

"You brought chocolates, and they came to tackle you and give me caramels instead?" she asked, amazed... and confused.

"So it would seem." he shrugged and looked away and she knew he was hiding something from the way his eyes darted.

"Did you tell her you were bringing me chocolate?" Susan asked. "I hate it by the way."

His eyes grew big, surprise written all over his face. "You hate chocolate? Did I hear that right? Are you mental?"

"Yes, I guess so. It tastes like sugar that went wrong. Caramels are better." she held the box up. "Want one?"

"They day you cleaned your room..." he smiled at her like he figured something out. "You threw away a lot of empty caramel boxes Susan."

She stood up, her own face turning red. "I have no idea what you're talking about, you're obviously delirious from pain. Would you like a pain potion?" she walked into her bedroom and then to the linen closet by the bathroom, it lacked any of the linen it was named after but instead was full of potions and healing supplies. She came back with a pain potion and a need to have her questions answered. "So, seriously, did you tell her or..."

"No I haven't talked to that witch since yesterday."

"What about Neville?"

"What about him, I'm never talking to him again by the way. The two of them are a menace." he took the potion and grimaced. "Why does that taste like toothpaste?"

He turned the bottle over to look at the label. "Ugh! That witch is ruining my life!" he shouted almost comically.

"How?!" Susan grabbed the bottle and looked for herself. Now she was yelling. "How does she know?! She knows things! How?!"

"Don't make me say it!" he stood up and began pacing, rubbing the side of his torso. "Don't!"

"Don't make me guess!" she held the bottle, label side up that said "Parkinson Potions". "She is always around when I least expect to be available, she sent you to me saying I had a day off when I had only just gotten the day off, she had her boyfriend tackle you to stop you from giving me chocolate. What... what... is she? How does she know?!"

"She is a Seer." he admitted finally and threw his hands in the air, hands curled into fists as he yelled at the ceiling. "Screw you Parkinson and your stupid boyfriend too! He broke my damn rib! She probably knew this was going to happen! BLOODY HELL!"

Susan stared at his outburst, mouth slightly agape, and head full of questions. She remembered Pansy showing up at her office in the early morning and Susan projecting the scan of her brain, watching as the cosmos spread across the image, she remembered the slight pinch in the witch's eyebrows, remembered how odd she acted about the whole situation. She knew about the scans of her body, knew the things Susan was going to say about the witch's chances of having children. And then the thought popped into her head, and she wished to God it hadn't.

"Did she send you to me. Did she... See the future? About us?" she asked in a quiet voice. "You said... you said you do what she tells you to do."

"I..." he grimaced again and avoided her eye contact and she knew. She knew she was right and wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out again.

"Fuck!" she shouted and immediately hated herself for swearing so Goddamned much! "I think you should go."

"Susan..."

She shrugged. "I don't believe in predestination. If you want to date me, fine. But if you're only here because she sent you then... I want you to go." she said sadly, thinking about her long shift and how she had been looking forward to him taking her out. Thinking about what he had done for her that day she cleaned and he had watched her slowly get herself together, without judgement, without asking questions. Then he had made sure she wouldn't forget him either, kissing her over and over again, laying across her damn bed. That day, he said he didn't want to have sex with, not until he had taken her out for a date. But was Pansy Parkinson just pulling his strings? She sighed with frustration and hurt at the thoughts. She walked to her door and held it open, hoping he would say something romantic, or show some grand gesture, or even just say he wanted to be there. Anything that would replace the horrible thought in her head that she was so alone, fate had to send someone to help her out of it. Alone... yes, she was alone. But she would never accept some pity date from the likes of Ron Weasley.

He stood in the middle of the living room looking at her with his hard blue eyes and she stood by the door looking at her feet as her lips trembled... until finally, after a long silent minute, he kicked at the floor and walked out without a single word.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

I'm lonely. And I'm lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs. And it scares the shit out of me to be this lonely because it seems catastrophic.

—Augusten Burroughs

October 31st

Susan woke up with a jolt, lying under the comforter, cocooned by the expensive and fluffy white blanket, feeling hung over, tired, and somehow… sadder than she had been in a long, long time. She had gone to bed with one of her mother's letters (and a larger than necessary glass of whiskey) and it had left her desperate for her family in a way she could never remember feeling before. It was one thing to grow up without her family: a set of parents, maybe some siblings, but she had had Aunt Amelia. And stern as the witch could be, Susan had known nothing but love from her.

This feeling was new, and all the more horrible for it. She had had a long time to deal with her loneliness, her grief. But this was neither. It was a solitary creature, this unattended feeling. Like she could just disappear and no one would notice. And that was new. And scary. And untrue.

She grasped the pillow under her and brought it over her face. She couldn't help remembering nothing but the hole Aunt Amelia had left in her heart, she was a Healer so she knew deep emotions could have physical effects and imagined the organ in her chest, beating slowly, but pictured a giant hole through the middle. The hole that had been torn through her, and never truly healed.

She couldn't help but think of the last time she had seen her Aunt in person. Amelia's usual dark brown hair pulled into a stern knot at the back of her nape, the deep red of the signature Wizengamot robes on, clean and pressed, and her quick hands making an early morning breakfast. Susan had stumbled sleepily down the stairs still used to her school schedule though she had been home for a few weeks already. A summer morning beyond the picture window in the kitchen of the house they used to share.

"Good morning, Susie."

Groaning, it was as if she could feel her Aunt Amelia close, like she could reach out and touch her. And damn... it hurt so badly.

It had been over ten years since Amelia's death, and still, the hole inside Susan where her Aunt had been still felt freshly barren. Like the loss had just happened the day before. Like she had been murdered only yesterday. Fuck.

She didn't have to be a therapist, though she had taken several courses on the occupation, to know the last few months had simply given these feelings more weight. She rolled out of bed, her limbs heavy, and wobbled her way to her desk, collapsing into the hard wood of the usually comfortable desk chair. It wasn't just her limbs that felt heavy. Her face felt like had weights on it, her fingers numb, the pale early morning sunlight creeping across her walls seemed intrusive and made her squint. She lifted her wand and used it to shut the curtains, sighing in jagged relief as the darkness settled over the room, the sunlight chased away.

Damn it all.

The last month had her realizing the extreme lengths of just how lonely she really was. Ron Weasley had opened up that can and released the dragon, so to speak. She had hopped right onto the idea that he would date her and that maybe, just maybe, he was the kind of guy for her. Their immediate attraction had completely blinded her to what was actually going on.

And the latest letter from her Mother did nothing to help. Worry. Her mother had been worried sick at the war and for Susan's father working at the Ministry where safety was no longer guaranteed. Reading the letters just after her own birth had been a experience not easily described. It wasn't like reading a book, that had a definite ending. The letters were just a look into the every day life of a pregnant housewife. It made Susan sick that she already knew the ending. She was getting so close to the last letter, the dates so close to the final date, and it drove anxiety through her thinking it was almost over. Her parents were long dead, but it felt like their death was just on the horizon.

She laid her head down on the desk and tried not to let it consume her, but everything hurt. Everything. The back of her head, down her neck, into her chest… She took a breath and her lungs screamed. She did it again and again… and it helped a little… Breathing exercises.

She had started them for a reason, in 6th year. When her studies had suddenly become a lot harder, her mind not able to focus… thoughts splintering… like right this instance.

In. In. Out.

It made her think of Ernie Macmillan in 6th year, telling her to take a double inhale and rubbing the back of her neck, comforting her in the Hufflepuff Common Room and later, his wand conjuring bits of sparkles as he tried to make her smile. His face coming in close to hers before blowing a raspberry in her neck, making her shriek. She wondered what the wizard would say to her now if he could see her. After the war, he had moved to an island in the middle of the ocean and snapped his wand in two, cutting off all contact.

She didn't blame him one bit. During the Battle of Hogwart's, Neville Longbottom had saved Susan's life. She had immediately hopped up and ran off to find the next person to help, her healing abilities were raw but she could do something. She had found Ernie bloodied up by the kitchens and healed him when he would have died. Then he had told her she had have let him bleed out.

It took a few minutes, but her lungs finally began to cooperate and the pains shooting through her body lessened a degree.

What do I have to do today?

Work on the pain potion project and do laundry. Don't think about your dead mother.

She did some stretches to help loosen the tightness in her neck and lower back before standing up, straightening her sleep pants from the tangle they were in. She wouldn't just disappear, she swore. And she refused to acknowledge the small part of herself that thought maybe it would be all right if she did somehow disappear from the world. She didn't have family that needed her, but she was important, her job and her life were important. And then just when she thought she wouldn't be able to convince herself, she heard a scratchy tapping at the window. Pushing aside the curtain, she allowed the small, blonde owl to hop through the window and drop a small note on her desk before it took off again, its short wings flapping gently through the morning air.

The note said: Susan, open the door. But in a bubbly font she had come to dread.

After the last time she had seen Ron, and oh did that get her mad and ready for a fight just thinking about that man, she had left and gone to Pansy's with every intent to scream and curse the witch for interfering in Susan's love life. She had a speech worked out in her head, ready to unleash all the vile words she could think. Like how Susan had enough problems being social, she didn't need any help messing it up. And how she felt Pansy had invaded her privacy. Maybe the witch had a gift, but she actively chose to act on it and butt into Susan's life. In the stories, it is nice to think about Cinderella having a fairy godmother. But Susan wasn't Cinderella, Pansy wasn't a fairy godmother, and this was real life. Susan had every intention of making it clear that Pansy had crossed a line.

But when she lifted her hand to knock on the cottage door, Pansy had appeared with tears streaming down her face and a quick look had showed a worried Neville sitting on the steps to the right of the front entrance.

Pansy had immediately hugged Susan, balling her eyes out, and promising she would never meddle again. The gift of Sight was new to her, she said. She messed up when she thought she was trying to help, she said. And damned if she didn't believe Pansy and her crocodile tears.

Susan didn't have the heart to yell at her when she was so obviously distraught. She told Susan that the gift made her feel like it had been happening to her, like the love of her life had just ruined anything that could happen between them, and that only drove Neville to start yelling.

Apparently, Susan had realized that day, Neville was extremely protective over his soul mate and hated it when she even thought he would leave her. They fought briefly, Pansy hiccoughing and Neville growling, before he literally picked up the witch and took her upstairs to their bedroom, the both of them yelling at each other in an oddly affectionate way that made Susan very confused and just the smallest bit jealous. But even worse was that thought, did she ruin any chance at having the love of her life? As Pansy had put it... the witch had said that was what it felt like. And Susan liked that even less.

But since that day, Susan had avoided the witch every chance she could, which she found out was difficult when Pansy had the advantage of literally seeing the future. Pansy wanted to make up for her mistake and prove her friendship, Susan wanted to be left alone and forget all about a wizard named Ron Weasley and the miserable state of her love life.

Now, letter in hand and ache in her head, she walked out of her bedroom not caring that she looked like she had just woken up, because she had, and mad that her life had been so thoroughly invaded by a witch named Pansy Parkinson.

She jerked the door open and crossed her arms defiantly. If she was going to feel like crap, she was going to make them feel the same way.

Them, yes, because Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson were leaning casually against the frame like they didn't have a care in the world. They both turned toward her as the door opened and started talking at the same time.

Their words jumbled together until Pansy reached up and slapped a hand across Theodore's mouth. "Shh!"

But the tall wizard shook her off easily. "Now that is just mean, Pansandra."

Anger flashed across Pansy's face. "I told you to stop calling me that!"

"No!"

"Yes!"

They bickered like siblings and even though they had come to her apartment, they ignored Susan completely.

"Um… excuse me! What the hell are you two doing here?" she asked sharply, breaking through their argument. Theodore straightened up and frowned at her tone. His dark slacks and white oxford shirt looked sleek and expensive both, his hands coming to rest in his pockets drawing her eye to his extravagant watch on his left wrist.

Pansy in contrast, was wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a tee shirt that said 'Plants Rule', a picture of two badly drawn sunflowers with smiley faces high-fiving their green leaves together, and a worn pair of sneakers that had mud smeared on the undersides. Her jacket looked comfy and worn, the exact opposite of Theo's attire.

"Susan." she said, her aristocratic voice betraying the image her clothes made. "Won't you let us in? Or even just me, Theo isn't that important."

Theo rolled his eyes so dramatically, his head lifted with the action. "Puuuhh-lease."

"You can't fight the truth." Pansy shrugged with a sympathetic grin.

"Susan, let me in first, I am by far the more attractive and well mannered half of this duo."

"No, no…" Pansy shook her head, face breaking into a huge grin. "Let me in first because I brought you… this…"

And from behind her she pulled out a small bag full of warm, and buttery smelling muffins, the witch smiling up at Susan's surprised face.

"On Dumbledore's beard, that is cheating. I should have thought of bringing a bribe!"

Their banter pushed a reluctant smile across Susan's lips and she found herself stepping aside to let them through.

Theo walked in, leaning in to peck a kiss against her cheek, before shooting off to look at her furniture. His voice, impossibly, got more dramatic as his hands shot out in front of him. "Oh Susan… I love it…"

Pansy shook her head. "I would apologize for him, but there really is no excuse." but then she wrapped her arms around Susan's middle and hugged her tightly, the abrupt motion almost knocking her off her feet.

"You make it hard for me to remain mad you." Susan admitted, returning the hug. She thought, maybe they would eventually get the height difference worked out and then they wouldn't have such an awkward hug. One day.

"That's the point!" she said loudly.

"Don't start yelling at me, I'm having a rotten day." Susan warned, closing the door behind Pansy and grabbing the bag of muffins right from her hands.

"How can your day be so bad already? You just woke up." Pansy pointed out, sitting down in armchair on one side of the coffee table and pulling out her wand to clean the mud off her sneakers.

"How do you know -" Susan was half way through one muffin already when she met Pansy's eyes. "Stop doing that!"

"I can't help it! Fate wants me to fix the mistake I made. I've even started having visions in my sleep about you and Ron!" she exclaimed as Theo sighed.

"I thought we were going to ease into this? She may be a Hufflepuff but she's stubborn when she wants to be." Theo said, gesturing to Susan.

"I am not stubborn. And it isn't your job to fix… whatever this is between Ron and I. I mean, we haven't even been on a single date and it's already too complicated." she realized belatedly that she worded it as if there were still a chance of her going out with Ron. "Too much has happened." she added, though she wasn't sure she was convinced.

But it was true. Susan had had plenty of time to think it over and the more she thought about it, the more it made sense to her. Ron had just been doing what Pansy told him to do, he had come to her apartment and helped her out on Pansy's instructions, what had happened between them had been emotional and even altering, but then she had run from him and he hadn't come looking for her again. And that left her with a question.

"Did you send him to that bookstore? Was that why he was there?" she asked. She had thought about it over and over again, wondering if had all just been set up by Pansy from the get go and now Susan needed to know.

"I didn't have to… I knew he would be there already." the witch admitted, hiding her hands in her face. "And don't stand up, just stay in the chair okay?"

Susan had been on the verge of standing just to kick the witch out of her apartment. "Pansy, you piss me off!"

"I know but I'm a bitch and I always have been, what do you expect?!" she shouted back.

"I expect you not to just pull our strings like some kind of puppet master, I hate how miserable I have been lately. My love life is already a disaster! I did not need you to make it worse!"

"You know, that is the second time you've said that and I'm telling you right now that I didn't make Ron do anything okay? I just suggested it! He still has free will! He choose to come to you! Just because I knew he would doesn't mean he did it for that reason."

"And why is that though? Because you can see the future and you knew it was going to happen so of course he did it. What else was he supposed to do?"

Susan let out a breath and stood slowly from her chair, just waiting for Pansy to make some comment about how she should act, and made her way to the kitchen looking for juice to wash down the muffin and wash away the fight. She brought out a glass and poured herself some of the grapefruit juice and drank the tart drink down, lips puckering at the sour taste.

"Susan," Theo followed her. "You are our friend now. We are nosy and bitchy and meddling and I won't apologize. We both know that Pansy knows you're going to forgive her eventually so you might as well do it now and come out and get a pedicure with us!"

"I can't." she said. "I have too much to do today."

Theo raised a single of his dark eyebrows just as Pansy let out a snort from the living room. Susan slammed her cup down on the counter, ignoring as juice sloshed out of the sides. "I do to have a lot to do today Pansy Parkinson!"

Pansy barged into the kitchen, somehow taking up a lot of space for such a petite witch. "No! You were going to sort your laundry, work on your pain potion research, and be done by 2! Then you're going to wallow in your damn letters just like you have been for the last month! Now you're not! I won't let you!"

Breathing hard through her nose, Susan counted to three. It didn't help, not really. But she sounded calmer than she actually was when she said, "You don't know anything about those private letters. Letters that have absolutely nothing to do with you."

The three stood apart from each other for a silent minute. Susan couldn't imagine sharing such a private thing like the letters with anyone, even knowing that she and Pansy were slowly becoming the kind of friends that stay friends for a long time. Any other time that thought would have made her smile. But she was so mad she could spit. She hadn't told anyone about her Mother's letters. Pansy had seen them, without Susan's permission. She was fighting for more than that, she was fighting for privacy.

The witch let out a wavering breath. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry Susan. But you don't have to be alone anymore."

There was a lot of meaning in that statement. A lot of feeling too, and Susan found herself speechless. Because she really, truly, wasn't alone anymore. Even as she missed Amelia until her heart hurt, even as she read the letters and they subdued her into having mornings like the one she had. She had Ione. She had her job and her amazing team. Looking between Pansy and Theo, she knew she had friends.

"I'm not." she said. And it was true. Then Pansy was hugging her tightly, and this time they had gotten it right. Susan leaned down just enough as Pansy reached up on her tippy toes and they hugged for a long time.

And just went Susan felt like she had forgiven Pansy for meddling, the witch said, "Now go take a shower, because I invited everyone over to your apartment for a Halloween brunch."

"Hey! I thought we were getting pedicures?"

oOoOo

It was the first time so many people had ever been in her apartment, which was spacious enough to not be a problem, but had seldom seen such traffic since Susan had bought the place. Or maybe it was because there were many young Weasley children running around, sugared up on Chocolate Frogs and Cauldron Cakes. She tried to remember who each of them belonged to, the freckled army of redheads (there was only three of them) all looked alike to her until she looked closely. Then she could see the variations in the shades of red in their hair and the different shapes of their eyes. For instance, Fred Jr. was mixed, but had a smattering of bright red freckles across his face and a head of bright red hair that matched his father's exactly. The oldest of them, a strawberry blonde that was more blonde than strawberry had a few freckles across her face and was the first daughter of the oldest Weasley named Bill, and his wife Fleur that Susan was pleasantly surprised to meet again. They had 2 other children, a boy who looked just like his older sister and followed Fred Jr. around dangerously, and a baby girl just born earlier that year that looked more like the Weasley's side but it was still too soon to tell. All of this Susan learned in the first 5 minutes after people started showing up. Harry Potter and Ginny came in with Percy, while George, Angelina, and Fleur worked on setting out the food. Bill was on kid duty apparently, though Fleur kept the baby with her. The kids loved Uncle Bill. Percy told her, as he handed over a bottle of champagne, that their other brother was in Romania working as a dragon tamer.

Susan couldn't help but check on Angelina, who looked about 15 months pregnant.

"Any day now." the witch told her, beaming happily.

"Any pain?"

"No but -"

George leaned over towards them. "She farts like an ox, anything she can do for that?"

"He farts just as much as I do, honestly." Angelina said, rolling her eyes.

Pansy and Neville went about, directing the party as they saw fit, as others chatted happily over a spread of breakfast items and mimosas were passed around, pumpkin juice for the children. They moved around like this was a common occurrence, the lot of them coming together on short notice and to a place they hadn't been before... And Susan wondered how she had lost all control of her life, that Pansy was hosting a Halloween brunch from Susan's apartment. And Ron Weasley hadn't showed up.

"Yet." Pansy said, walking by with an plateful of fruit salad and a snarky grin on her face.

Ron Weasley hadn't shown up… yet. But Susan was on the fence about whether or not she wanted him to. She munched on crackers and cheese and fruit until Fred Jr. realized there was a balcony off the end of her kitchen and then she and Bill set up a strong shield around the edge so no one could accidentally fall off. It was chilly, being the end of October, but the kids loved the view and she put a warming charm on the area to ward off the worst of the chills. When there was a hard knock on the door, Susan couldn't help herself from slipping into her bedroom for a moment alone because she had woken up feeling bruised and spent all her energy on dealing with Pansy.

She didn't know if she had anything left to hold back Ron so she busied herself with making her bed, because she hadn't had the time before Pansy dropped the brunch bomb on her. She kicked some trash and empty caramel boxes under her bed and pulled her curtains open to reveal the view of the river.

Then Ione walked in, knocking on the door frame as she did. "Hey Susan girl."

"Ione? Oh I'm so happy you're here!" Susan said as she nearly clobbered the witch in a hug.

"Whoa didn't know I was such a sight for sore eyes."

Susan apologized. "I am just outnumbered." she admitted.

"Ha ha. I can see that. I had just gotten off shift when your lovely friend managed to get an owl to me, inviting me over. Brunch is my favorite meal of the day so I accepted."

Susan noticed that anything Ione liked even a little bit was her favorite. The woman had a lot to like. "I'm glad you came. I'll try to introduce you to everyone."

"Most of them got around to it already as I made my way to your room, why don't you give me a grand tour instead?"

"Well the best part of my bedroom is the view," she said gesturing to the window and the river below. "But the balcony is pretty great too."

Because her room was still a giant mess she ushered Ione out to the best of her ability. "And I'll show you the mantle, I think you'll like that the best."

Ione had, just as she predicted, loved Susan's mantle. And the balcony of course. But Ione was a social butterfly and as soon as she had seen the apartment, sat herself down in the middle of the kids and started telling them all a story about a niffler and a lucky knut. With well practiced drama, she used her hands and her voice to bring the story to life so that even the adults had quieted down to listen.

They all listened about Nellie the Niffler's six older brothers and six older sisters and how they all had a tuft of brown fur that stuck up from their heads and were very good at finding hidden treasures. Susan felt as drawn in as the kids looked, so she didn't realize Ron was standing right next to her until he tugged on her hand. Surprise had her following him out onto the balcony.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life's cruelest irony.

—Douglas Coupland

She felt glad, she thought as she leaned against the wrought iron railing of her balcony, that she dressed up a bit for this surprise Halloween Brunch. Earlier, Susan had gone into her closet while Pansy sat on her bed and tried her hardest to convince Susan to let go of her anger towards Ron. All it accomplished was Susan felt steadily less angry towards the Auror and more and more angry at Pansy's meddling. Between Pansy's nagging and pleas, Susan emerged from her closet wearing a casual pair of pants and soft yellow shirt that tucked in nicely beneath a solid black belt.

Pansy had shaken her head in a definite no and said Ron would be making an appearance if he knew what was good for him and her current outfit made Susan look like she was 10 years older. And she needed to let down her hair. And stop sulking.

Stomping back into the closet, she thought of Ron and wondered what would impress him. And then she wondered if she was really the kind of girl who dressed to impress other men. Pansy had shouted from her bedroom that she needed to wear what she wanted to wear and trust her when she said Ron wouldn't care. To which Susan shouted back that it wouldn't matter then if she wore what she had previously been wearing.

Back and forth they fought until they were laughing and Susan was wearing a pair of dark jeans that tucked into a pair of black boots that had a silver buckle that hid the zipper on the side and a tight, v-neck black tee that felt painted on her body and made her feel good. Really good. Pansy had smirked dangerously and lifted her wand, banishing the hair tie that had previously held back all of Susan's hair. Red hair had tumbled down around her right as there was a knock on the door.

Yes, she felt glad for her outfit especially as she watched Ron's backside as he gently shut the door that connected her kitchen to the decent sized balcony that overlooked the river. He wore his usual jeans and tee combo, a used black leather jacket showcased his lean shoulders and long arms.

He looked just as good as she remembered.

Even though it was chilly outside, the sun was shining down and the sky was a cool blue color that stretched in all directions. She should've felt cold, but standing so close to him lit a fire in her belly she quite enjoyed, a feeling that reminded her happily of whiskey nights. Finally, he turned to face her straight on. And with that simple movement Susan realized a lot of things all at once, a lot of things that left her breathless and confused and shaking.

The first, most obvious, was he had recently been in a fight. A fist fight most likely, guessing from his split lip and swollen black eye. It made her gasp and reach into her pocket to pull out a towel and wand. She always carried a clean towel on her person, for exactly moment like this. With a quick nonverbal spell she cast a cooling charm and placed the soft towel gently against the bruise of his eye. He winced at the first sign of pressure but slowly relaxed at her gentle touch, the cool cloth soaking up bits of blood.

The way his hands held her elbows, his grip tugged her closer, the softness in his eyes, all of it made her realize he wanted her to fuss over him. He came to her to be taken care of. And the Healer in her felt pleased.

He had held her like this once before, while he was shirtless and the moon hung over them and the smell of whiskey and gardenias and verbena swam through her nose as if she were back in Pansy's garden. She had felt like this then too, shaky and confused. And then they had kissed.

"What happened?" spilled from her lips in an attempt not to relive their first kiss, instead focusing on his injuries. "And why do you find yourself injured whenever we are around each other?"

He let out a gruff laugh. "I have started doing some private investigative work and I picked a fight with a child abusing piece of scum." he sighed as she gently patted the cloth against his skin.

"What? Where is he now?" Susan asked, wondering when he decided to branch off from his work as an Auror at the Ministry.

"She actually. And she is in lock up at the office. I waited until she hit me first… That's why I'm hurt so much. It's hard to hit a woman… " he shook his head as if to clear it before his eyes refocused on her.

How she loved those damn blue eyes.

Susan sucked in a hard breath. Somewhere between Pansy's pesky meddling and Susan's intense loneliness…

Well she had just gone and started falling in love with Ron Weasley.

It was quite unexpected to say the least and explained the shakiness. Because she was trembling fiercely and it was not because of the cold. She was confused. Especially since they hadn't shared a single date. But she thought, as she looked into his soft blue eyes and as he held her to him, the day they had shared together had been more than a date. Better than ten dates. He had seen her as she was, not the mask she put on for the world. And he had wanted her she remembered. Even if Pansy sent him, even if he only showed up because Pansy had sent him, he had still wanted her.

Susan realized something else, he hadn't lied to her that day, when she was consumed by her Mother's letters and desperate for something she didn't understand. He had come to her and said why. Because Pansy had sent him. It made her thoughtful, and more likely to forgive him. Especially when he was looking so pathetic and beat up with his swollen black eye and bloodied lip.

She didn't know much about him, other than his quick temper and what society knew about the famous Auror. And he didn't know much about her, except she had a feeling he had realized she would be a hard woman to love... but there it was. Her reaction to his black eye shook loose her feelings until they lay plainly for her to feel and understand. She was in love with Ron Weasley.

It meant she wanted to wrap herself around him and absolutely never let go but at the same time run away and hide under a rock so he could never find her. Pansy hadn't lied either, not really. Maybe it was more of a lie of omission, but she hadn't out right lied to Susan and in her book, that counted for something.

Pansy had said Ron was the love of Susan's life.

Susan had only just felt her Mother's love for the first time, in the last several weeks she spent reading the letters. And it was a totally encompassing feeling, a true love, a connection Susan had been lacking her whole life. And now here was Ron, holding her to him like the last thing he ever wanted to do was let go.

Yeah, she wanted to run.

As that thought crossed her mind, he tightened his grip on her arms.

"Let me get some supplies from my restroom." she said attempting to step back, but he held her there.

"Wait. First I have to say something. To… apologize. And before you ask, Pansy did tell me to do that."

She stared at him and tried to read his expression but she felt her own temper flaring to life at his words. How could she possibly figure anything out between them if he just kept -

"Now ask me if I'm apologizing because Pansy told me to." he said in a sharp voice.

She narrowed her eyes at him for his tone of voice. "Are you apologizing for doing what Pansy told you to do?"

He screwed up his eyes back at her, which hurt his eye and caused a real grimace instead of his silly one. "No way. And you should do well to remember in the future, just do whatever she wants. What I'm apologizing for is leaving like a moron."

"Uh…" she held the cloth towel to his swollen face and tried to understand what he meant, tried to read his blue eyes, tried to ignore the flutter in her stomach caused by his hands on her arms. She tried to ignore the memory of their day together and the stolen kiss in the garden.

"It has taken me awhile to get the guts to come back here." he said slowly. He had admitted to being intimidated by her once.

"She'll find any reason to get us together, won't she?" Susan asked quietly, she looked over her shoulder and gazed through the big kitchen window, a window not nearly as big as the one that had been in her childhood home, but it was big enough that she could see Pansy and Neville standing together and laughing. She could see George rubbing Angelina's back.

Susan had gone to Pansy to yell at her for meddling, and instead Pansy had opened to the door with tears in her eyes, promising not to meddle anymore. What had the witch said? It felt like she was ruining the love of her life. Pansy truly thought Ron was the love of Susan's life. Could she ignore that?

She turned her head back to him. "Ron…"

He kept his gaze trained down at her, and she knew she wasn't a vain person but she suddenly felt glad she had brushed on some makeup after her shower. "Now ask me." he said.

It took a second to connect what he said. But then she understood. "Ron, are you only interested in me because Pansy told you to be?"

He shook his head. "Definitely not -"

"I mean it Ron. I cannot stand the idea that you're only here because she told you to be."

He winced at her tone, or maybe because her pressure on his eye had increased with her words. "Susan Bones, I would not be here if I didn't want to be. It's funny though."

"What is?"

"You think Pansy sent me here for you."

"Er - what?" she breathed. Was he leaning in closer?

"Maybe she did. Maybe. But you're not nearly as pathetic as me, not even by half. She didn't send me for you. She sent me to try to straighten out my life."

She stared at him with her mouth hanging slightly open and wondered what the hell that was supposed to mean...

"And even as I kept fucking it up, you really helped me. That's why I'm apologizing. That's why I'm a moron. I should have stayed and told you all that before. But I'm like that Susan, I'm not the kind of guy who says the right thing at the right time. And I'm sorry to say it probably won't be the last time I fuck up like that."

His honesty had her trembles multiply until she was truly shaking in his arms. "Susan? Are you cold?" he let go and the loss of feeling almost hurt. He shrugged out of his jacket and put it around her shoulders in a move she hadn't been expecting. The jacket smelled like a delicious mix of the pine scent she associated with him, mixed with whiskey and leather and broom wax and the smell alone calmed her nerves and left her feeling determined. He was attractive, his smelled nice, he worked hard, he was interested...

She leaned up and forward on her toes and kissed him on the lips.

He responded immediately and enthusiastically, burying a hand in her hair and wrapping his other arm around her waist to bring her flush against his body. She had no idea how long they stood on her balcony and kissed, it could've been seconds, it could've been years. All Susan knew was her lips were swollen and bruised, his beard had surely left a mark on her face, and she felt she was desperate to have this man in her bed as soon as possible when there was a tug from a small hand on her elbow. The breathless couple parted immediately to look down at the dirty face of Fred Jr.

"Susan Bones are you kissing my uncle? Are you a Weasley too now? Weasley's have red hair, and you have red hair, just like my uncles and my grandmama and my grandpapa, and my dad and my Aunt Ginny."

The child prattled on in the way small children often do, to Susan's joyful amusement and Ron's dramatic eye roll. "This place is kind of cool, but you need more toys if you expect me and my cousins to come around. You can get a toy broom and then we can come over all the time." A pause. "My Mama says I needed to come get you because she says she is about to have another baby and she says you can help."

"What?!" Ron shouted as Susan immediately stepped back into her kitchen just in time to see Angelina's water break.

oOoOo

She dismissed Alban, Cris, and Terrence from the table after a rather lengthy and loaded discussion that a magical core could be exercised. Susan brought it up with the idea that Mrs. Imelda's core had depleted in her old age, and that was why the pain potion wasn't working. It was widely known that most potion's had little to no effect on everyday Muggles. It was just a possibility that had been swimming in Susan's thoughts for several weeks now. When she laid it out for her team, Ione's face acquired a strange look to it and she immediately left the room without a single word.

Their meeting broke up, Terrence headed off to block, Alban finished his shift, and Susan was cleaning up the room before heading to her office when Ione returned as quickly as she had left.

Ione had a strange looking vial in her hands and a passive look on her face when she said, "Susan girl, you ever heard of an opiate?"

"A - excuse me?"

"Let's walk to Emmie's room. Did you know my father was a Muggle?"

"I did not." Susan replied honestly, though realizing it made sense. Ione was entirely immersed in both worlds.

"He was a doctor, a Muggle Healer of sorts."

"Runs in the family, does it?" Susan smiled at Ione as they entered Mrs. Imelda's room, picturing a male version of Ione with one of those Muggle stethoscopes around his neck.

Ione laughed and agreed, setting the odd looking vial down on the small table by the bed and pulling out a long needle. "Susan, we are both in agreement that no magical means has helped alleviate the pain of Mrs. Imelda?"

"I am in agreement with that, yes." Susan said after a long moment of consideration. She knew Ione was a Healer at heart, and would never do anything to hurt Mrs. Imelda. The old witch was in enough pain as it was.

"There are many ways of administering this, let's call it a Muggle Potion, shall we?"

"An … opiate you said?"

"Yes. But in this case, the best way is probably through intravenous injection. Directly in the vein dear girl. Hey Emmie, I'm going to try something okay?"

The ancient witch barely nodded her head before Ione began. Susan watched as her friend pumped the needle, taking a small amount of the odd potion within and took note of the way Ione inserted the needle into Mrs. Imelda's arm.

The effect wasn't instant, but a few minutes later Mrs. Imelda calmed and fell asleep with a semblance of peace on her face.

The two Healers stood silently, watching for any ill effects, odd noises or movements, anything that stood out. When the patient let out an obnoxious snore, they both let out a sigh of relief and left the room quietly.

"Opiates are dangerous Susan girl. Muggles find it easy to abuse it as it is as addicting as Dreamless Sleep. But Emmie just needs some peace in her final days. I don't think they would have much effect on a healthy witch or wizard."

Susan nodded along, noting it to add to her research. "You are off shift now?"

"I am. But I have a need to speak with you Susan girl if you have a moment to spare for an old witch."

Making their way to her office, only one Aide stopped Susan on their walk. When she sat down behind her desk, curious to what Ione wanted to speak about, she was given a thick letter of resignation.

"Ione…"

Emotions boiled caustically in the pit of her stomach. Her mentor, her friend, her comrade… "I'm getting that itch to travel again, I have been settled here for several years now. I want to go visit my old home in the Netherlands and then travel a bit, see if I can pick up a trail on Callie…"

It was the second time she had ever mentioned her lost daughter, and Susan couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the girl her mother so obviously loved and missed.

"Of course Ione, I accept your resignation with the option for your return should you ever wish." Susan choked out, tucking the thick letter into her never ending pile of paperwork. The two witches stood to embrace, even as Susan wanted to curl up on her couch and cry a bit.

"To be honest, I was hesitant to leave you alone… but you're not really alone anymore are you?" Ione teased even though her bright eyes looked wet.

Heat bloomed under Susan's cheeks. She had successfully not thought about Ron Weasley for a whole 24 hours, since the kiss they shared on her balcony. After delivering Angelina's baby girl into the world when the midwife was stuck elsewhere, and the ensuing chaos that follows a baby being born, she had had more than enough to keep her mind occupied. She definitely wasn't angry at him, or even Pansy anymore. It wasn't the prospect of her potential relationship with Ron that had the Weasley's so eager to wedge Susan into their lives.

No it was the fact that she was there to help Angelina and little Roxanne when the Midwife had an accident and wasn't available. When the baby and Angelina had both come through healthy, if a little tired, Susan had turned around and found several casseroles and desserts in her cooling cabinet put there by a sweet and enthusiastic Mrs. Weasley. She found pictures the little Weasley children had drawn for her all over her apartment. Fleur had set up an elaborate flower arrangement on her kitchen island that somehow brightened up the entire apartment and made the air smell sweet and light. She had an invitation to Sunday night dinner.

"No… no I'm not alone anymore." Susan said quietly. "When is your last day?"

"Last day of the month. I'll be leaving the day after that." A little less than a month.

"So soon? Who will help me deal with Terrence while you're gone?"

"Cris will keep an eye out while I'm away. Don't you worry, Susan girl."

"About you? Never. Ione… what was your daughter's full name? I have a private investigator who is a … friend."

She watched as Ione's eyebrows shot up. "I have hired people in the past… I have one now…"

"Is your investigator also an Auror who is best friend's with Harry Potter and a decorated War Hero?"

Ione laughed. "No, no he isn't. I'll let Smythe know how highly you think of him, Susan girl."

"And I'll let my friend know he has a new case." Susan said with determination.

"Just a friend huh?"

A hard knock at the door did nothing to keep the heat from returning to her cheeks. They both turned towards the door to see the very subject of their discussion leaning against the door frame to her office, wearing jeans, a tee shirt, and that leather jacket she loved so damn much.

Her heart thumped loudly and her stomach did a somersault. No man should look so good, she thought.

But he did. "Should I come back later? I know I didn't have an appointment." he said with a goofy grin.

"Oh ho, don't you worry dear boy. I was just leaving. Callie's last name was the same as mine in 1975: Linden." Ione said with a fiery wink in Susan's direction. "See you later Susan girl."

Ione slipped out and Susan sighed, wishing they had more time together before she would leave, and turned to Ron with a sad smile.

It felt as if they were finally on the same page. Their talk on the balcony had ironed out some kinks and now… she just wanted to fall into bed with him and work out her stress.

"How is your day?" he asked slowly as he shut the door.

"Pretty slow actually. I'm due to get off here in about an hour." she said, watching as he looked around her office with interest.

"My mother says thank you again." he said kindly and stopped right in front of her. "And so does my dad, and so does pretty much everyone."

She laughed. "I bet. Healer is a full time job."

"And you're pretty good at it."

"And I have a job for you if you want it." she said slowly, thinking of Ione and her lost daughter.

"Oh? How about you tell me about it over dinner?" he said, placing his hands on her hips. He had his goofy grin in place.

She felt her lips tug, felt the flush on her cheeks. "Hell yeah." she said.

oOoOo

He knocked on her door a few minutes past nine. And unlike last time, she was awake and ready. She dressed up in a pretty yellow dress that buttoned up the front and stopped just at the vee of her breasts, with a black belt banded around her waist. She left her hair down and had brushed a bit of makeup on. She didn't have drool down her mouth, and she didn't knock over any furniture on her way to answer the door. Already it was going so well.

When she opened the door, he was dressed in a casual pair of slacks and a dress shirt, with his hair combed back. His leather jacket was on and he looked very, very hot.

"So where are you taking me for dinner?" she asked, holding out her hand.

"The best place in town." he said confidently. "Do you mind Side-Along?"

She shook her head no and tucked her purse under her arm.

"Ready?"

"I'm ready." she said with a grin. She was excited.

He put his arms around her and Apparated them both. When she looked up, she saw a hallway similar to hers.

"My apartment." he said with a laugh. "I cooked you dinner."

She felt her cheek turn even redder. "I love it when people cook me dinner. You know I can't cook to save my life, right?"

"I've heard." he laughed, opening the door.

His apartment was warm and cluttered with furniture and posters. She took one look at the Cannon's poster over the kitchen table and felt herself laughing.

He gave her a hurt look which made her realize she needed to explain. She dug into her purse and brought out her Cannon's Fan for Life Badge.

He took a moment to look at the yellow badge before he pulled out his own wallet, digging around until he pulled out his own Badge.

"This date is going a lot better than I expected." he said to her.

Chapter Text

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved. - George Sand

He gave her this joy filled look of question, as if he was shocked to find another Cannon's fan in real life. His goofy grin settled into place and he placed his hand right under her jaw, holding her face in his palm. For a long second, he gave her the most adoring look anyone had ever given her.

"It is," she agreed with his statement that their date was already going well, and gave him a full smile while she tucked her Badge back into her purse. It had taken them so long to get to this point, she didn't even want to go any further. She wanted him. And from the way his bright blue eyes warmed up when he looked at her, she thought maybe he felt the same.

Clearing her throat she said, "So you cooked?"

The very thought had her toes curling. She knew that he knew what he was doing in the kitchen, having seen it first hand when he whipped up an omelette for her using only what she had available. She tried not to think about where his purpose in learning to cook had come from, him on the run and starving, and instead found delight in the idea of a man cooking for her, a witch with zero know-how when it came to making food of any kind. She spent half her hours at work, she didn't want to come home only to have to cook her own meal. And how sad was it to cook for only yourself? The Chinese take-out down the street didn't judge her. And their lo mein was to die for.

Her mind conjured up the image of her coming home after a long shift and finding him with a cooked meal and a kiss. If they managed not to screw up this date… maybe that kind of thing was what she had to look forwards to.

He nodded as he dropped his hand, taking off his jacket and helping her with her own. He led her to his beaten up kitchen table which was set with a full course, salad and bread, a shrimp dish that looked loaded with garlic and seasoning, and some kind of yummy cheesy looking potato thing. Two sets of plates, waters, silverware and two empty tumbler glasses awaited. All it glowed from the light of a lit Snitch shaped candle.

"I cheated," he said, holding out an equally beaten up chair that matched the table for her.

She sat and said, "What do you mean?"

"I asked Pansy what you like. She said seafood would be good."

"Did she set the table too?" she asked, eyeing the candle. She wasn't mad at Pansy anymore, hell if the witch hadn't meddled… who knew what would've happened. Honestly she felt a bit silly thinking of the way she threw Ron out. She blamed the already bad day she had been having. But at least the air was cleared.

"No… but my sister did," he laughed, looking pointedly at the candle before swinging his chair to put it closer to hers and then lifting his wand up to rid the table of the stasis charm that kept the food warm. The moment the spell lifted, the smell of the meal hit her nose and she had to consciously stop herself from drooling in front of him… again. She folded a paper napkin over her lap to distract herself.

"First thing…" he said once he was settled. "Before either of us fuck up this date…" his hand came up to her jaw again and pulled her face to his in a slow, heated kiss that melted all 206 bones in her body. It was warm and slow and sweet, and the smell of his leather jacket and his piney aftershave lingered in her nose when he pulled away. She made a total girl sigh sound, which in turn turned her cheeks bright pink with embarrassment. Just as thoughts of why the hell she couldn't do anything right filled her head, he leaned in and kissed her again.

"Bloody hell," he said after a minute.

They both laughed after that, and she eased back into the chair feeling comfortable again. He gave her that smile of his and started spooning food onto their plates and they fell into easy conversation about the Cannon's abysmal chances of even winning a game this year. They were currently on a 467 game losing streak but the new season was about to start and they had a new Seeker. Gordon Gordon was his name, first and last, and he was pretty good. If the Cannon's had any chance of winning, it would be with a quick Snitch catch.

He spooned portions onto her plate, but didn't do any overly romantic gestures like feed her from his own fork, not like Terrance had done. Instead he would spoon more food onto her plate for her, and top the water off when it was low. She liked that a lot better.

He offered her wine, but she happily told him she preferred the cheap whiskey she saw hiding on the bar.

He grinned at her a lot. And she smiled back as often as she could.

Their conversation remained easy as they continued to talk about Quidditch, her work at the hospital, and his change in career. He talked about his family, his huge family. Great Aunts and Uncles that pinched his cheeks growing up, older brothers that wouldn't let him play, other older brothers that tried to swear him into Unbreakable Vows over pieces of candies and stuffed toys. His favorite sibling was his younger sister, and not just because she became a famous Chaser. He gave her an odd look when he asked about her family and she reminded him that it was just her.

He drank water with his meal, but as he devoured the food on his plate, until nothing remained, refilling it twice, he reached for the whiskey and poured them both a glass. When he pulled out a lemon wedge for his own whiskey, she took it from his hand and sucked the tart juice from it before dropping it in her own glass of whiskey. She watched his breathing turned erratic, his eyes flash with fire that matched his hair.

"Bloody hell woman, where did you come from?" he asked before stuffing a big piece of bread in his mouth as a distraction. Yep, she was definitely having an effect on him. And she liked that too.

She sucked the remaining juice from her thumb before returning to her meal, enjoying the spicy shrimp and the freshness of the salad, all while the sexual heat between them slowly increased. They fell back into conversation, but it wasn't easy anymore. He turned his body towards her, his meal finished, and propped his arm up against the chair, leaning against it casually.

She swallowed the last bite of bread and washed it down with the rest of her whiskey. His voice was low when he asked if she wanted more. She dabbed her face with her napkin and put it on her empty plate, never moving her eyes from his, and stood while grabbing the bottle of whiskey. She definitely wanted more, but not of the food as delicious as it was. She wanted him. It had been months since her little 'thing' with Terrence. Before that, even longer.

And no one ever made her feel quite like she was feeling right then.

He followed as she walked around his apartment, taking in the dark wood of his kitchen cabinets and the plain curtains over the windows. The overall maleness of the place, it was cluttered with battered furniture, work out equipment, a bookshelf that held more items and random trinkets than books, Quidditch supplies and a homely yet comfortable looking couch.

"I like your apartment Ron," she told him, sinking down into the oversized couch. She was right, it was very comfortable. "And dinner was very good."

"There's more," he said excitedly. "Wait right there."

"I couldn't possibly eat another bite," she said, turning to watch him as he scrambled to the counter.

"Not dinner, dessert. Close your eyes," he said playfully.

She let out a breath, fearing chocolate cupcakes. If Ron gave her chocolate… well at least he had been made aware of her extreme dislike for the thing most people seemed to thoroughly enjoy. Neville had broken Ron's rib in the process but she hoped he knew. She decided to trust that Ron wouldn't fuck up their date by giving her chocolate and that even if he did, she wouldn't take it personally, and reluctantly closed her eyes. She heard the clinking of silverware touching a plate and the opening of a box of some kind.

"Okay, this I didn't cheat on," his voice said, coming closer to her. "But I didn't make it myself, I am not a baker. Yet."

"Well, I'm curious now."

"Open your eyes," he said. He stood before her looking nervous and holding a plate with a piece of cake on it.

"Is that…"

"Salted Caramel Cake," he said with a goofy grin. "No chocolate. I will never give you chocolates again." He rubbed his side where the rib had been broken. His words made her sigh in delight. The cake might've had something to do with it too.

She took a moment to appreciate the beauty of the slice of cake he presented her, the expertly swirled icing on top, the perfect layers of the yellow cake, the giant chunks of salt mixing with the caramel that dripped down the sides.

It wasn't chocolate. It was better, way better. She had to stop herself from drooling, it looked so good.

"You got this for me?" she asked thinking of Pansy Parkinson's voice telling her Ron was the love of her life. The man got her caramel. If that didn't prove it...

"I saw all those empty boxes of caramels in your room," he teased.

She patted the cushion next to her and felt pleased when he sat, just close enough that his leg brushed against hers. She took the plate from his hands and dug the fork into the edge of the cake, bringing the first bite to her lips. Absolute, total heaven.

"Good?" he asked, his eyes flashing again. She responded by bringing a bite of cake up to his lips which he took readily. After he swallowed he licked his lips and laughed. "Yep, that's good. Not as good as chocolate though."

"You know nothing. Caramel is the superior sugar source," she said, finishing the bite with zeal. She gently placed the used plate and fork on the small coffee table, then turned back towards him, ready to defend her obsession into the ground if she had to. He was ready for her, pulling her into the comfortable space in his arms, pinning her into the cushion of the couch with his body. She was completely wrapped in him when he kissed her. Long kisses that were completely Ron Weasley, tasted of warm whiskey, felt… right.

"Wow…" she whispered on a breath.

His bright blue eyes bore into her own and she felt herself relax completely. "Okay?" he asked.

"Yep. Now I know why you cooked. To get me in your apartment. Alone. Devious of you."

"That's the real reason I learned to cook. Take out the middleman, go straight from dinner to couch."

They giggled and teased some more, each of them sneaking little kisses here and there, the two of them cuddling and laughing. It was a strange intimacy she had never known before.

And she absolutely did not feel alone.

"If we have dinner at your place, then you don't have to drop me off at the end of the night," she ventured, feeling brave especially as he kissed little kisses down her neck.

He paused. "I didn't even think about that," he said but continued his trek down and over her collarbone. She felt sexy in her yellow dress, full from the food, warm from the whiskey. Wanted by Ron Weasley.

"Suuuuure," she teased, poking his sides, looking for a ticklish spot.

"Stop that," he laughed, placing his hand on her knee, looking for a tell. His fingers dug into the sensitive flesh around her knee, but she wasn't ticklish there. He slid his fingers up her thigh, watching as she dared him to go further. He pushed his fingers dangerously higher up her thigh, while subtlety positioning his other hand to tickle her in the side.

She let out a breathy sound. "Ron…" and she relaxed her guard. He took the opportunity to strike, tickling her on her side.

"Ron!"

They wrestled a bit, laughing the whole time, trying to get advantage over each other until he pulled her on top of him and she shifted her legs to straddle his sides. Her hips were much wider than his, and as she shifted she brushed against the hardness underneath his jeans. She pushed her hands into his shoulders, pinning him down. "Gotcha."

She felt so light and playful, and when his hands came to the tops of her thighs underneath her pretty yellow dress and started roaming upwards she also felt wanted. She concentrated on her breathing and said, "Your couch is kind of big, Ron."

He nodded, struggling with his own breathing. "It's great for a lot of things."

"Oh yeah? Like what?"

He swallowed and she enjoyed the shade of red creeping up his neck. He stumbled out, "Like napping. And um… magazines - er - reading magazines." His hands finally reached the tops of her thighs, cupping the legs there. His thumbs rubbed the sides of her thighs teasingly, moving up and underneath the silk of her panties.

"Maga - zines…. Great… idea," she said breathlessly. They stayed like that for a long time, using the small touches to get to know each other, to get comfortable. "Is this where you take all your dates? Your couch I mean?"

"What? No way. I mean. No." His cheeks and ears turned as red as his neck. "I haven't been on a date in a long time," his hands squeezed her thighs briefly. "Can you tell?"

She shifted down again feeling bold, rubbing herself against his erection. "Nope. It surprises me though."

His eyes squeezed shut when she moved. "Bloody hell… I - what was that you said?"

Her hands came to the top button of his shirt and slowly undid it. "I said that surprises me. You're quite the catch."

She emphasized that 'quite'.

He watched as she slowly undid all the buttons and pushed the shirt off his shoulders. He lifted up for her to rid him of the shirt easily and placed a kiss on the corner of her lip. When the shirt was gone, he released back into the couch and looked up at her. "I think that was the problem honestly."

She was too busy staring at his chest that she missed what he said. Of course, she had seen it before. And she had gotten a good look but it had been brief. Now she sat on him, examining him at her leisure, and it had her blood pumping heavily.

It was just right, not too bulky and not too hairy, and felt firm under her hands. His shoulders stretched in both directions. His torso was defined, but not too muscular. And a little trail of ruddy red hair trailed down beneath his pants where she sat. His erection was pressing through his jeans and rubbing her through her panties, and she liked what she felt. She was just imagining what it looked like even lower when his hands squeezed on her thighs again, and she remembered he had said something.

"I'm sorry, I don't usually get so distracted… why is that a problem?"

He dragged his hands down her thighs, leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake, and he bit on his lip nervously. "Most girls only wanted to date me because, ya know… because of what I did and the supposed riches and the fame."

Immediately she understood. She could only imagine the kind of awful attention he and his friends could have received in the years following that last year at Hogwarts. And she could see he was truly bothered by it, and regretted bringing it up at all. She leaned forward and pressed her lips against his sweetly. He pulled his hands away from her thighs and instead gripped her waist, holding her to him.

When she pulled back she said, "Well your fame is a mark against you honestly. In my book at least. And money? I have lots of money. I don't care about that. Now I'm imagining coming home from a 12 hour shift and seeing a homemade dinner cooked and ready. Mmm that… that is why you're a catch."

"Hey! I work too ya know," he teased. "What if I want to come home to a home cooked meal?"

"You'll be waiting a long time. I can't cook to save my life. The Chinese food place down the street is still in business because I need to eat!"

He laughed out loud. "Fine, I'll do all the cooking! What do I get in return?"

She raised both her eyebrows in mock playfulness. "Hmm I don't know…" she said, sliding down her legs again. She kissed his chest, and then lower. Going down until she reached the edge of his slacks, she kissed along the hemline while she unbuttoned and then unzipped the dark pants.

"No wait!" he said. But she had already pushed the pants down a couple of inches. He was wearing Cannon themed boxers with little Quidditch Posts on them, and when she looked up at him his face was beet red. "I - er - I…"

"Ron they are cute!" she insisted, trying not to laugh at his embarrassment.

"I didn't expect… I didn't think…" He didn't think she would be seeing them.

Again she resisted the urge to laugh and instead of giving him a hard time, reached into his yellow boxers and freed his erection for him. He placed his elbow over his eyes and groaned. "I can't believe this. You don't have to do -"

She folded her lips over the head of his erection and prayed she remembered how to do this properly. She certainly had enough whiskey in her. She took a moment to get used to him, she gripped the base of his length and began moving her mouth over him, feeling empowered and sexy and hoping she would get the right response out of him.

She found her rhythm, sucking on the head of his penis while she stroked the underside of his shaft with her tongue. His hand curled into her hair and she looked up and met his eyes. That exact moment, his grip tightened on her and he pulled her up away from his lap and forced their lips together in a hot kiss that left her breathless.

When he pulled away she pouted. "I wasn't finished," she said in a husky voice that surprised her. He started at the bottom of her dress, unbuttoning his way up.

"Take your dress off now," he said, his voice as husky as her own.

She liked the rough way he was handling her clothes so she let him do all the work, and instead went to push his pants all the way off. They somehow got tangled up in the different movements and almost fell off the couch.

Laughing, he sat up and helped her balance before standing up. "Get these damn things off…" he kicked trying to rid himself of his pants. She stood, then bent down and grabbed the bottoms, pulling just as he kicked and the pants went flying off somewhere. She grabbed his socks next and sent them over her shoulders.

He returned his hands to the pesky buttons of her dress and finished unbuttoning, stopping to unbuckle the black belt, before he jerked the fabric off her shoulders. She kicked off her heels just as her dress fell onto the couch and it left her only in the matching black bra and panty set. His breath grew more labored the longer he looked at her and she felt her own heartbeat accelerate until she could barely stand that he wasn't touching her. She jumped into his arms and he caught her like they had planned it, their lips meeting for more kisses neither of them could get enough of. His hands went to her ass and she wrapped her legs around him until he was carrying her to the bedroom.

He kicked the door open and returned to their kiss, diving his tongue in and out of her mouth as the sexual fever devoured them both. When his knees hit the bed, they both went down, him on top of her and she felt every inch of his body press into her.

It felt amazing.

He leaned up and ran his hands over her breasts, and around her back looking for the clasp.

"No, it's in the front!" she cried and reached for the front clasp of the bra. He pushed her hands away.

"I'm doing it woman." Her stomach did a flip and she watched his hands dig into the fabric as he unclasped her bra and pushed the cups off her, the straps falling down her shoulders. He paused, looking over her bare breasts for a long minute, his hands hovering just barely off the skin.

"Ron…" she urged. "Ron!"

He shook his head and finally palmed her breasts, kneading them too hard at first, then gently cupping them as his thumbs brushed over her nipples. He leaned forward as he continued the movement with his hand, and sucked her left nipple into his mouth.

Her entire body bowed as a gasp left her mouth, a zing of pleasure traveled right from her nipple down her stomach and straight into her core. She shook from the pleasure, her body growing hotter and hotter by the second. She couldn't take anymore when he switched to the other nipple, sucking harder and kneading harder as they both felt themselves going out of control.

"Ron, please," she gasped.

He left her nipple and dragged his teeth on the underside of her breast, causing goosebumps to pop up all over her body. His knee came up between her legs and he used it to push them open until he cradled himself in the v of her body right where she wanted him the most. She lifted her hips up and mentally cursed herself for wearing any underwear at all.

"I should have gone commando," she gasp out as their bodies rubbed together.

"Live and learn," he mumbled hotly between her breasts and then started kissing his way down her stomach.

The wonderful friction between her legs disappeared and she whimpered with need. "Ron come back," she begged.

He ignored her plea and kept kissing down her body, until he was below her belly button. His hands came to either side of her panties and with little grace he ripped them down baring her to him in a single movement.

She lay dressed only in her freckles and she felt a hundred percent aroused, breathless with need, and desperate for sex in a way she had never been before. Her eyes took in and appreciated every inch of him, naked and leaning down to the slit between her legs.

"Ron!" she shouted when his lips touched wetness.

"I'm returning the favor love," he said quickly before delving his tongue in and out between her folds. His hands held firm at her hips, his head bobbed with the licking movements, and heat swelled like a hot ocean wave until it crested and crashed down on her sweeping her out to sea. Then it did it again and again. Until he moved his mouth over her clit and sucked hard, making her come with a loud scream that rattled the room.

Sweat beaded along her neck and shoulders and she panted for breath. She gripped the sheet beneath her, holding on for dear life as her eyes rolled heaven forward, until she couldn't take anymore and released the sheet to make fists. She hit him in the shoulders twice. "Ron! Now!"

He rose towards her as her hands gripped his neck. His mouth crashed into hers and she moaned at the taste of herself on his lips. One hand he kept planted firmly on her hips, the other reached between them until he was parting her with a finger.

She squeezed the sides of his neck. "Hurry!" she snapped.

"What about foreplay?" he yelled back.

"What the hell do you think we've been doing!?" she released his neck and sent her own hand between them, grasping his erection in her palm. She spread her legs further apart and he automatically filled the space with his body.

"Bloody fucking hell woman!" he cried out at her rough handling.

She pulled him forward and guided him inside of her in a rough thrust that had her toes curling and her head rolling back. They both cried out together until he was buried completely inside her and they came to a moment of stillness.

He stretched her to the max, until she wasn't sure where she ended and he began. Their breaths came in ragged blows until they synced and a wave of heat rolled up and he began moving. It took a bare minute for them to find their rhythm, until he wrapped his arms around her back and thrust his hands into her hair, pulling her up until they were both sitting.

With her legs wrapped around his waist, he thrust up into her as she descended down onto him with a cry. Her red hair fell over them like a curtain.

"There. Like that. Ron, please," she begged into his mouth. With every movement he hit her at just the right spot, he stretched her just the right way. Delicious friction caused her to cry out with every breath, until she was screaming again for him to hurry.

"Woman please," he panted, locking her body in an iron grip as she slammed down onto him over and over again. She buried her head in his neck and cried out a final time, her body tightening over him. "Oh Susie… oh Susie…"

Her body clenched around his erection until he came with her, his breath loud and his body tight. She collapsed into his arms and he barely held her up. With a slow movement, he released from her and laid her back onto his pillow.

Her eyes opened with a heavy slowness and met his. "What did you call me?" she said in a raspy, quiet voice.

He fell into the space next her and put a heavy hand on her hip. He blinked a few times as if trying to recall. "Susie? Sorry it just came out. I kind of like it, it suits you."

She felt tears well up. Sudden giant, fat tears that she couldn't control. She buried her head into his sweaty chest and sobbed.

"Susan! What happened? Fucking hell… I'm sorry! I was too rough. You should've told me to stop!" he wrapped his arms around her body and pulled her to him again. "Susan!"

"No - it - isn't - that!" she cried harder. "I - haven't - let - anyone - since - my - Aunt - died - call - me - that!"

He squeezed her as tight as he could. "I'm so sorry! I didn't know, I won't do it again."

"No - it - isn't - isn't - isn't - that!" she sobbed pathetically.

"Love, shhh. Tell me what's wrong," he cooed in her ear, rubbing her back softly.

She felt like an idiot. And she couldn't stop crying either. "It's just that - I've been alone for - so long now - and my Aunt was - the only one who ever - loved me..."

"Shhhh," he whispered, holding her as close to him as he could. "Shhh now. There there. Susan, look at me."

It took a few minutes, but she finally choked back her tears and lifted her head to look at him. "Sorry," she whispered. He wiped the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs.

"It's okay."

"I told you I am terrible at this…" she hiccuped. "I really don't know… what happened… why I started crying like that."

"You only made me question my manhood for a moment," he teased lightly.

She hiccuped again. "Ron… will you say it again?"

He let go of her and sat up, pulling a thick blue comforter from somewhere and pulling it tightly around them before he wrapped his arms around her again. She buried her head into his chest and felt him sigh in relief when she didn't start immediately crying again.

"Susie," he said softly. "I got you."

She wasn't alone.

oOoOo

Many miles away, Pansy Parkinson lay with her head in Neville Longbottom's lap as she read a book about mandrake leaves. Her body tensed as her inner eye opened unexpectedly. A moment later she sighed and put the book down.

"What did you see?" Neville asked her, using his fingers to brush her bangs from her face.

"Ron and Susan had sex. They fixed it. Things are right again."

"That's good though, right?"

"Well… they are going to fight tomorrow… but in the long run?" she smiled. "It's perfect."

oOoOo

She woke up to the sounds of birds chirping their morning song, feeling warm and satisfied with Ron's arm wrapped around her back and his leg pushed between her thighs. Protective and possessive both. Their heads were buried beneath the comforter and the pillow was wet with her nightly drool. He smelled like whiskey and pine and she breathed the scent in deep as she counted to 61.

At 62 seconds, there was no panic, no fear. Only the wonderful warmth that came from being wrapped up completely with another man. Her man. She relaxed back into her pillow and let herself snooze for awhile longer.

Maybe she should have been worried her little mental breakdown would scare him off, but she didn't think so. Not from the way his hand was pressing into her so hard, and she thought in the back of her mind, Pansy Parkinson had said otherwise. She could make it up to him, for dealing with her craziness. While she snoozed, half awake and half asleep, she ran through a list of things she wanted to get done for the day and remembered she wanted to offer Ron a job.

Find Ione's daughter. It might be hard, according to Ione. The last time anyone had seen Callista Linden had been back in 1975, running from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. So many years stretched between then and now, Susan wondered if Ione was just searching for a grave. It might be a challenge, but she was hoping Ron would be up for it.

"What challenge?" he mumbled.

"Hmm?" she said, coming fully awake.

"You talk in your sleep Susie," he said, opening his eyes. "Glad to see you still here woman."

"Did you think me a flight risk? It was only the one time…." she said burying her head under the pillow.

"One time too many," he growled, following her. "What challenge?"

"Oh! Well… I wanted to see if you would take a job for me? For my friend really… you met her yesterday? Ione? She lost her daughter a long time ago and has been looking ever since."

"For you? Yes. But just in case, ask me again after I've had my coffee," he grinned and buried his head in between her neck and shoulder and blew a giant raspberry.

Chapter Text

Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own.

She was due in to work at noon, but for the life of her she couldn't bring herself to leave Ron's apartment. His room was just as messy as hers, and with the sun shining through the curtains the whole place looked warm and cozy. She snoozed a lot longer than she wanted, but when she heard him crashing about the kitchen she thought she might just join him for breakfast too.

She put on his shirt from last night and searched for her underwear. It wasn't around the bed, which had been magically lengthened to fit against the long wall on the right side of the room. She dug around the comfy comforter and checked under the pillow. She waded through the floor covered with clothes, mostly jeans and tee shirts, and checked the shelf by the bathroom. Little Quidditch figurines looked up at her and waved, some flexed and simpered. Gordon Gordon gave her wink when she picked him up.

"Please Gordon Gordon, please. Get us one win, that's all I'm begging for," she said setting the orange clad figurine down and watching as he flexed at his fellow teammates smugly.

She turned around and blew out a breath. "Where are you little panties? I need to get going," she muttered to herself. She finally found them hanging from the knob of his dresser drawer and slipped them on feeling all the little aches and soreness from her physical activity the night before.

The hurt was welcome and when she caught sight of herself in the mirror over the dresser, the sight of her smiling was even better. Her hair was tousled in that sexy way that said she had been thoroughly sexed, her cheeks were flushed under her freckles, and his dress shirt covered her just fine, but also left very little to the imagination.

It was a look she wouldn't mind seeing on herself again and wondered if Ron would be up for another round before she had to go to work. She bit her lip and shook her head, her cherry red hair flying around her head. One night of sex and she was already addicted. She thought of the way he had hovered over her, yelling out 'What about foreplay?!'

There was something about it she found adorably funny. It had taken them a couple of minutes to find a good rhythm, but once they did… It had been just perfect. They fit together and the mere knowledge of that fact made her smitten.

She shook her head again and pushed back the giddy bubbles of excitement before they eroded all sense of her reason. She stepped from the bedroom and found a shirtless Ron sitting at his kitchen table with the paper and steaming cup of coffee. The mug was Cannon's orange and the radio was on, playing some upbeat song in the background.

He stared at her for a long enough time she started to fidget under his gaze. "I'm sorry… I left my dress out here last night… I needed something to wear…" she said fingering the bottom button of his shirt.

He blinked and wet his lips before setting the paper down. He grabbed her by the hip and tugged her forwards. "I don't care," he finally said, pulling her into his lap. "Take all my clothes. They look great on you."

She bit back a blush and buried her head into his neck, groaning. "I have to go to work."

"What? No. Stay," he insisted, sliding his fingers under her shirt and running his hands up and down her back.

"I can't." She sat up and gave him a smile. Everything felt so natural, every action, every grin.

"Breakfast? Coffee? Round two?" he begged with a smile, digging his fingers into the fleshy parts of her hips. "Don't leave yet."

What he said voiced how she felt. Almost as if… well if she left the spell would break, and they would go back to messing everything up. Their date had been perfect. Sweet and light that turned hot and heavy. Everything from the dinner to the cuddling, the talking to the sex, it had been just right.

She shook her head again. "Breakfast?" she asked. After all, their night had used up a lot of calories. He stood them up and planted her into his warm chair. She crossed her legs underneath her and drank from his coffee cup, enjoying the black coffee that had just a touch of sugar added.

He faked scolded her as he rummaged around his kitchen. "That was mine."

"Not anymore."

"I might not have another clean mug," he pouted.

"That's so sad. For you."

"Grr..."

He sat a plate full of fruit and cottage cheese in front of her and she felt absolutely perfect. From a cabinet, he pulled another Cannon's themed mug out and poured himself more coffee. He brought the pot over and topped hers off before sitting down across from her and picking the paper back up. He read her jokes from the funnies section while she ate.

It reminded her of the many times during her mother's letters that she was advised to find a man that would tell her funny jokes, even if they were corny. They picked up their conversation from the night before easily. When her breakfast was eaten and the last of her coffee was drank, he pulled out a yellow note pad and a ballpoint pen.

"Before you distract me any further…" he teased. "You told me you had a little job for me?"

Nodding and feeling slightly guilty she had nearly forgotten about Ione, she put her hand over Ron's. "Yes. I'll pay you."

His ears turned red. "That sounded bad."

"I only meant to convey its importance," she apologized.

"As long as you don't think you have to … er… pay for that…"

"What? No! No…"

"Right!"

"Definite - no."

"Sorry!"

"Sorry…"

"Okay, just tell me about this job," he said, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly and ruffling up his hair, which she found incredibly sexy every time he did that.

"Where do I start?" she wondered out loud. She honestly didn't know much about Ione's daughter, only that Ione missed her. And Susan loved Ione. Of course, she cared about the fate of the witch who had been Ione's flesh and blood... but Susan had to admit, she just didn't want Ione to leave. She finally had Ron, she didn't want to lose Ione at the same time.

"Start with what you want, and why." He suggested, drawing circles in the corner of his paper. But his eyes were trained on her, and she felt encouraged.

She nodded and thought about why she wanted to help Ione. The free spirited, gifted Healer who got her to France and put her on the track to becoming who she was today. She tried to think if Ione really had had such a huge impact on her life, and she couldn't argue against it.

And she had to be honest. She said, "I don't have any family but… when I started the Healer's program at St. Mungo's my mentor took a special interest in me and helped me get into the advanced program in France. Ione taught me everything I know about Healing, and when she couldn't teach me anymore she made sure I had the resources to keep going. If I hadn't gone to France, I never would have broken up with Terry Boot, I flourished in France like I never would have, I would have never become Chief Healer at St. Mungo's… You get the idea…"

"She changed your life?"

"Yes… she's... oh Ron. She's family. She's like the eccentric Great Aunt I never had and always wanted. And she works with me at St. Mungo's now but she's resigning to go look for her daughter again. And I told her I would help. Callista Delphia Linden went missing in 1975, apparently on the run from the DMLE and I want any information you can dig up on her. Ione called her Calli, said she was a troublemaker, but that is all I know. Come by the hospital to talk to Ione, I told her I would ask you to take the job. I've obviously never met her daughter, but I want to find her. For Ione."

Ron had begun scribbling across the pad of paper in his messy handwriting, writing everything down. "Okay, information. I'll work on it -"

The words had barely left his lips before she sprung from her chair and wrapped her arms around his neck, straddling him. "Thank you thank you thank you!" she said kissing him between the words. "I don't want Ione to leave, but I want her to find her daughter too. Anything you can find will help."

He laughed between kisses and returned them with vigor, until they were both breathless. "What time - do you have to - go to work?" he said digging his hands into her hair, holding her face intimately close to his own.

"Noon!" she felt the evidence of his arousal through his pajama bottoms and wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of the day tangled between the sheets with him. Just being around him chased away all her loneliness, his goofy demeanor made her feel young and carefree.

His kisses made her feel sexy as hell. But him saying he would help her? She was in love like an idiot.

He gripped her hard once before letting go of her hair, the rumpled locks fell around them like a curtain, and then he ran both his hands underneath her shirt. One arm wrapped around her torso, pulling her impossibly closer. The other found her breast and groped her feverishly.

She gasped and cried out happily and loudly the moment he did, and it was then that Hermione Granger walked through the front door.

"Ohh! Hey Susan! Good for you Ron! Don't mind me, I just have to get something from my room!" the brunette called as she shielded her eyes and ran past them into a door further down from Ron's bedroom.

It was silent for a long minute. It should have been funny, instead all Susan could think about was the way Ron and Hermione acted together at the bookstore that day of Ione's birthday party. The little touches they had shared and the friendly manner they spoke. And the affection they had shown each other at Pansy's gathering that one summer night. Confusion set in, and jealousy reared its ugly head.

She hadn't thought to ask… but she had never gotten the answer to whether or not the two were an item? Maybe they had been?

All these thoughts crashed into her and she could only hold onto one: did Ron and Hermione live together? Her Room? Did she say HER ROOM?

The question bubbled out like vomit, "Are you two seeing each other?"

When he didn't immediately respond with no, Susan snapped.

Her hands, which had a death grip in Ron's hair, curled with anger. She pulled on his hair roughly once before scrambled up and across the room, putting the couch between them.

"She lives here?!" she shouted at him, more confused than anything.

Dazed, Ron sat in the chair with his arms still in the air as if he were still holding her. He shook his head as if to clear it. "Wha - no…" he said slowly and she felt herself calm ever so slightly. "... sometimes she sleeps over."

It was the wrong thing to say and he knew it. "I'm outta here!" she yelled, scooping down to pick up her discarded dress from the floor. She tripped over the coffee table and the plate that held her caramel cake from the night before clattered to the floor and broke into pieces.

"Fuck me!" she yelled out, twisting her ankle as she tried to find her footing. The sheer disaster of this day couldn't be put into proper words. She had gone from the top of the moon to ... acting like the idiot she was.

"Susan!" Ron rushed out of his chair to come help her. "We aren't seeing each other! I mean... Hermione and I aren't seeing each other! We're just friends!"

"Stay away from me!" she snapped, swinging her dress at him irrationally.

"I didn't mean that we sleep, ya know... SLEEP together!" he said throwing his hands in the air in desperation as he dodged her dress.

"She just lives here part time? With you?"

"No, she used to live here -"

"With you! You should have told me!" she screamed at him, ignoring the throb in her ankle and grabbing her heels. She marched to the door, knowing she was acting like a complete fool.

"Oh no you don't!" he grabbed her by the arm and yanked her towards him. "Don't leave!"

"Get your hand off me!"

"Why are you so upset?"

"Because you two are awfully friendly every time I see you together and then I find out that she lives with you!" she yanked her arm away from him and marched through the front door wearing only his shirt and her panties, her dress and heels clutched in her hands. She stopped only to grab her purse and with a snarl, yanked the wand from the side pocket viciously, nearly dropping everything in the process.

"Susie please! It's not -"

She slammed the door on his face and angrily Apparated to her own apartment. She was so distracted she splinched an eyebrow off, but she didn't care. Of all the things that could've happened…

She was so angry she could barely see straight. Locking the door behind her, she marched into her bedroom and dropped her heels carelessly to the ground. She threw her dress in the direction of her hamper and sank into the comfort of her own bed, mad and suddenly exhausted.

She felt a twinge of pain from her ankle and groaned again when she realized her wand was probably thrown carelessly in the other room just like her purse.

In the privacy and silence of her room, she could admit that she handled that as badly as she could've. Gods she was mad. And her ankle was really starting to throb. The ache reminded her that she had a bad habit of running from Ron, and that above all else confused her the most. She thought she would have gotten over that little habit after the previous night.

As a child, her Aunt Amelia had chastised her on multiple occasions for her terrible temper. Even as a teenager, she hadn't been able to quell the explosive temperament until she had grown into an adult. God knew she needed an even temperament to do her job, and she had worked on it rigorously.

Now, she felt a full of temper tantrum coming on and she didn't want to stop it at all.

She swung her arms up and sent her hands out in front of her, her fingers spread wide as she released her anger into the air with a scream. A flash of yellow and orange exploded out of her hands. Too late she realized she tapped into her telekinetic power with the motion and afraid of blowing up her ceiling, she rolled off the bed and landed badly on her hurt ankle. Only... something felt off. And nothing exploded.

She sat her butt on the cluttered floor and looked at her hands, her familiar overly freckled fingers, and wondered what happened. Magic always came with a feeling. When she healed, it felt like a fizzy, bubbling stream that filled her up the longer she held it.

When she used her little gift, it was almost as if she could control the air in front of her, allowing her to move objects without touching them.

Just now felt like the two feelings combined. Like she had sent a healing stream outside of herself. Without her wand. Tentatively, she held her slim hands up again and centered herself before repeating her earlier motion and tapping into the same energy.

Nothing happened. She shook her head in an attempt to clear her mind, feeling silly and exhausted as her anger slowly faded. Looking at her hands again, she thought about the colors that had come out of her hand. The same shades of yellow and orange that she saw in her own healing stream. And lately, that stream held more and more oranges than it ever had before. She wondered why the color change? And she wondered how the magic manifested just then.

She held her hands up again, head clear of anger and tried once more. Energy, fizzy and bubbly, soared through her arms and pulsed to life between her fingers.

A faint yellow spark formed into a bubble between her outstretched hands and it scared the hell out of her and knocked her concentration. It felt just like her healing charm and left her a bit light headed. But determined, and prepared this time, she tried it again. Potent, concentrated healing burst between her hands in a brilliant glittering burst of yellows and oranges.

"Holy… shit…" she said clearing away the pile of clothes around her and stretching her leg out. Focusing, she conjured a ball of the sparkling energy and holding her hands out she pressed it into her swollen ankle.

Instant relief as the magic melted into her body. And a whole lot of questions. Feeling drained and beyond curious, she climbed back into bed. With her ankle feeling better, she pulled the covers up over her head and buried herself in darkness. Prickles of magic lingered between her fingers and it felt odd. She needed to process everything that had happened that morning. From the sex, to the breakfast, to Hermione Granger, to the new ability she seemed to have...

And most importantly, why she felt so betrayed.

The only thing she could think of was it might've been her fault. Had she expected too much? The odd circumstances around her and Ron's relationship meant they hadn't actually spent a lot of time talking, except they certainly knew a lot about each other now. But she never specifically asked if he was single. Their conversation last night hadn't defined anything of the sort. Had she just assumed he was available?

Yes. She assumed he wasn't attached, and maybe he wasn't. But his friendship with Hermione Granger was legendary… of course there was something there. Maybe they lived together as friends. Maybe she had blown this all out of proportion.

Groaning, she smothered herself with her pillow. She blamed herself. She blamed Ron. She even blamed Pansy. But mostly, herself. She was miserable at dating, and even worse with relationships. How had she convinced herself that Ron would be different? That she would be different with him?

Had she ruined everything?

oOoOo

Half way through her hectic shift, and a change of robes, she hid away in her office when Myles showed up and she had a chance to tackle some paperwork. She barely blinked before the pile was reduced to nothing. Her shift was technically over, but she didn't want to go home. Her empty apartment only reminded her of how lonely she was these days, and how it was all her fault.

She had a full on girl moment, allowing her confusion and anger to cloud her judgement. And she had despaired over her mistake for weeks now, weeks she had spent figuring out how to approach Ron about what happened and how she could fix it. She hadn't heard a peep from him either, which left her to think he was either as confused as she was, or maybe he didn't want to deal with her particular brand of crazy.

Either way, time had passed, and she again needed something to keep her mind off the wizard named Ron Weasley. She stuffed a granola bar in her mouth and had a apple in one hand when Terrence knocked on her door.

"Susan, do you have a spare minute to talk?" he asked in a small voice that was unlike him.

"Of course, come in Terrence." She stashed her apple away and pushed piles of papers around her desk until it looked cleanish. The granola bar she kept out because it was caramel and she couldn't help herself.

After making sure the door was firmly shut, he sat down opposite of her and crossed an ankle over his knee. "We never had our little talk."

She looked him over, taking in his familiar balsam scent and freshly pressed robes even though he had been working as long as she had. Her own robes had needed to be changed, the shift had been severely busy and she wondered just how he always managed to look so clean and put together. Even her new, clean set of robes weren't that nice looking.

The top of his robes were opened to reveal the expensive tie he wore and he was staring at her so intently, ready to learn her secret, that she couldn't help but mess with him. It had been awhile since he witnessed her little gift in action and she supposed he deserved to know the truth. She twitched her fingers and loosened his tie while she kept a straight face on him. Yep, she felt like messing with him big time.

He jumped clear up out of his chair and grabbed his tie frantically. "What the hell!"

"Oh no? What happened?" she gasped dramatically, feigning innocence. She watched his eyes narrow in her direction and she felt mischievous as she curled her fingers again.

"Uh… nothing," he said, fixing his tie as he sat back down, looking around as if for a ghost.

For the first time since her fight with Ron a few weeks ago, she felt laughter bubble up as she loosened his tie again.

"Susan you did that!" he said, clutching his tie in his fingers. "I knew it."

"You figured me out. It's just a minor ability, nothing crazy," she insisted. It wasn't. There were plenty of odd little abilities that popped up randomly throughout magical generations. Sometimes it was as simple as being more proficient in a certain branch of magic, or easy adapting to an Animagus Form. Sometimes it was in a rarer ability like Pansy Parkinson's ability to summon her wand to her, though Susan had learned in a recent Prophet article that she could no longer do it.

And sometimes it was just a little gift, but one that led to an even bigger one.

He shifted in his seat, watching her with his bright green eyes surrounded by a thick set of dark eyelashes.

"Really, it isn't a big deal," she insisted further. Because it wasn't anything compared to her other ability.

"Still… a sign of a truly powerful witch if I've ever seen one…" he said slowly, giving her the oddest of looks that reminded her uncomfortably of when he was actively pursuing her.

"Terrence?"

He shook his head and then laid a flirty smile on her. "What happened with Mr. Wonderful?"

"Who?" she asked, bewildered at the subject change.

"All the girls are talking about it. Your date with Ron Weasley a few weeks ago? I can tell something happened. You aren't as cheerful as you've been lately."

Her heart sank. Of course everyone was talking about it.

"Great, I told them not to gossip," she rolled her eyes trying to play if off as not as big of a deal as it truly was. "And you're just as bad, coming in here like you did. I thought this was work related."

"I came here because you told Desmond that you had a new ability. And I was curious if you could teach it. Though everyone seems to be all hush hush about it," he said, leaning towards her. "Then I remembered what you did, how you held that man down without your hands, and thought it might be related to that. Then I thought, what the hell, I'll just ask instead of getting caught up in the rumor mill."

Susan leaned back and finished off her granola bar, ignoring when a chunk of it fell down her robes. As she chewed, she wondered when they two of them had become friends. Somewhere between Pansy's meddling and her stressing about Ione leaving, before the disastrous date with Ron maybe. "Fine. I did have a date with Ron Weasley, and it was great until it was terrible. And yes, I seem to have a new ability to channel my healing magic without the use of a wand."

His bright green eyes nearly bulged right out of his head and before he could ask to see it, she held her hands out and summoned a bright orange ball of healing magic. It swirled happily between her fingers, the color solidifying into a pure orange color that sparked little bits of yellow as it turned.

"My little spitfire. I'll never forget the day I asked you why you wanted to be a healer," Ione said proudly from the doorway. Her yellow robes were folded neatly over her arm and she wore a long, dark blue and purple cloak close to her willowy frame. Her eyes were lit up with delight at Susan's display of magic. "You were in training. Do you remember?"

Susan let the magic fizzle out and stood admitting to herself the very thing she had been denying all day. It was Ione's last shift, and then she was gone to look for any sign of her lost daughter. Susan almost wanted to go with her. Susan wished she had done anything… something more. She doubted Ron still took the job after the way she acted. They hadn't spoken since then.

Sighing, Susan marched over and embraced Ione. "No goodbye's. I'll just cry."

Ione smiled in agreement. "You said, you wanted to be a Healer so that no one would ever go through what you went through. You wanted to save people, to keep families together."

"I said no crying," Susan mumbled, feeling her cheeks heat. She couldn't go with Ione, her place was at the hospital.

"You said no goodbye's," Ione teased. "Don't you worry Susan girl, I'll be back."

They hugged for a long time until Terrence cut in. "Alright my turn," he said, pushing Susan away. "My turn old lady."

Ione laughed, wrapping her thin arms around Terrence's wide shoulders. "Young man, what did we talk about?"

"You mentioned a lot of my character flaws. You love talking about me, Ione. I think you are smitten."

"I'll see you soon," Ione said stepping back out of the office. There was a bright blur before Criscilla was hugging Ione.

"Ione!" Cris cried. "I can't believe I won't see you until my wedding!"

Susan felt her heart thump painfully. Ione was going to be gone almost a full year? Criscilla's wedding wasn't until October.

"The time will fly by. I promise," Ione said to everyone sweetly, though her eyes looked watery as she finally turned and left.

Cris fell into Susan's hug. "What do we do now?"

Terrence shrugged, but Susan suddenly had an idea. "Cris are you off now? Terrence? Let's go get a big drink."

"Just one? Please. I'm buying the whole bottle," Terrence said with a wink.

Chapter Text

Friends show their love in times of trouble, not happiness.

Terrence and Cris ushered her into a bar with a little too much familiarity for her to feel safe. The both of them relaxed the moment their feet hit the dark wood of the floor, and they both waved to the bartender at the same time. The entire place was under a soft purple glow. It was dark with high round tables everywhere and an empty stage in the corner. The bartender sold Terrence a full bottle and that made her have a second, and third, thought about whether or not drinking was the best idea with people who worked for her. "How often do you guys come here?" she couldn't help but wonder.

Cris laughed a bit as she lifted herself into the tall bar stool around a corner table and took off her cloak. "Oh all the time. Ione, Alban, Terry, and I all meet up here after work."

Terrence nodded in agreement. "We come here all the time."

Susan looked around, eyeing the single man walking towards the stage with a beat up guitar. "Well…" she turned to them. "What do you guys talk about? Work?"

They shared a knowing look and Susan knew they often did just that. She slid on top of her own stool and before she knew it there was a bottle in front of her and a shot glass in her hand.

"For Ione," Cris said sadly. They tapped their glasses together and Susan watched Terrence and Cris bang theirs on the table top before shooting it back like experts. She timidly tried to follow suit and immediately began coughing.

"What the hell is this stuff?" she asked, expecting whiskey and getting… something that definitely wasn't whiskey.

"That my dear Susan… is Tequila," Terrence said with a bold wink.

"Oh Holy Hufflepuff," she mumbled before finishing her shot. Whiskey it was not. But when Terrence handed her a lime wedge, it got… better - ish. Whatever face she made, Terrence and Cris sure had a good time laughing at it.

"Danny is going to come meet us," Cris said, speaking of her fiance. Then she turned to Susan. "Remind me… Why haven't you been out to drink with us before this? This is fun."

"Well… for one I'm your boss." They mmhmm'd appropriately. "Two… I drink whiskey and I'm suddenly realizing I'm kind of a snob about it…"

The guy with the guitar started playing and he wasn't half bad. The second shot went down more smoothly and she suddenly found herself relaxing and falling into giggles and easy conversation. She felt less like their boss and more like a friend. They gossiped about the Aides and Desmond, drank, and clapped for the musician between his songs.

"Do you ever get the feeling like Ione's love life is better than your own?" Terrence asked.

"Augh… in my case it definitely is." Susan said with a frown. The whole situation with Ron… it was eating her up and she had no idea how to fix it. But it was a problem she wanted to save for another day. Cris had other ideas though.

"I don't want to talk about Ione's love life. Ew. She's my Great Aunt. I would much rather talk about Susan's." Cris giggled from behind her shot glass.

"Wait you and Ione are related? I had no idea…" Susan said, gripping Cris's hand tightly in her own.

"Yes… she is my grandmother's… half sister? I'm not sure. My maternal side of the family is bonkers. Anyways!" She waved her hands towards Susan. "Don't change the subject. We have a good amount of drink in you, spill the beans. Tell us what happened with Ron Weasley." She said his name as if it were sacred.

"Why are you so interested, Cris? It's… it's bad. I messed up bad. We should probably talk about anything but that."

"No, this is a rare opportunity for you to open up to us. Tell us what is going on with you."

"You are entirely too upbeat about this. And also, I doubt very much that Terrence wants to hear about my love life." Susan insisted.

"Why would you -" Cris gasped. "You two! You two!"

Susan covered her face with her hands. "Cris, you are worse than the Aides."

"If you just tell her, then she won't bother you about it anymore," Terrence said calmly.

Groaning, Susan took her third shot of tequila. "I had a … what happened was... I don't even know where to begin."

Cris nodded encouragingly and tipped the bottle to fill her glass again and the thought that she should probably start to pace herself crossed her mind. But maybe Drunk Susan would know how to fix her mistake. Maybe Drunk Susan would at least know how to talk about her mistake. They both looked so eager to hear about what happened between her and Ron, Susan could only grumble as she brought the shot glass to her lips.

"I'll tell you what happened," a new voice said.

Nearly jumping out of her skin, Susan realized Pansy Parkinson was sitting next to her, cloak hanging off the back of her chair as if she had been there the whole time.

"Whoa… whoa…" Terrence said mid shot. "Who is this?"

Pansy's enchanted eyes met Susan's brown ones and they shared a long look in which a lot of silent communication passed. One, she knew Ron was fine even if she wasn't, and two she realized Pansy was pissed.

Grabbing a lime wedge, she stuck in her mouth and made a face. "She's cool. Terrence… she's my… she's like my fairy godmother."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Pansy said, insulted. "Fairy godmother?"

Giggling, Susan pushed her full shot glass over to Pansy. "But you are! This is Pansy Parkinson everyone. Pansy this is Criscilla and Terrence and they both work… with me."

"Pansy Parkinson?" Terrence said, eyes widening in awe. "I mean I thought it might've been you... but... oh my..."

"Wow nice to meet you!" Cris said, nearly falling out of her chair.

"Yeah yeah, don't believe everything you read in the papers." Pansy said abrasively, narrowing her eyes at Susan as she did. "Do you care to explain to me what happened? You are fucking with the cosmos." Her friend took off each of her gloves and shook them in Susan's direction. "Explain!"

The third shot of tequila hit her stomach and she wondered why she didn't drink it more often. She felt great. She felt like she could solve any problems that came her way. Even a pissed off psychic witch on a mission. "Listen Pansy, I love you. But I don't need your cosmic intervention. I didn't ask for it in the first place remember?"

"Yes I remember, and I promised I wouldn't meddle anymore but -"

"No buts! I know I freaked out and I didn't exactly… handle everything… well… but I will fix it. I can fix it."

"Wait wait, Susan. What is she talking about? You were just about to explain."

"Let's recap shall we?" Pansy said, licking salt off her wrist and taking a shot of tequila from Susan's glass. She used her 'I'm about to tell you exactly how it is and you better listen' voice and Susan couldn't help but grab her shot glass back, knowing she needed the alcohol for whatever Pansy was about to say. The fourth shot went down like water and the lime tasted like heaven.

Pansy pointed her finger in Susan's face and said, "I introduce you to Ron, who I figured out is the love of your life, and you immediately get mad at him and snub him. I invited you over to hang out with everyone, including Ron who is the love of your life, and when he took off his shirt you ran away! When you got your mother's letters I sent Ron to you so you wouldn't hurt as badly and then you ignored him for a month! I sent Neville to stop Ron from giving you chocolates, because guess what? He's the love of your life and you hate chocolates, and you two still get into a fight and walked away!"

"You're getting things out of order!" Susan snapped. "And all that wasn't entirely my fault!"

"I don't care! You're a disaster! A month after Neville and I got together, we were living happily ever after."

"You and Neville are soulmates!" Susan growled just as Cris sighed dreamily.

"And who says you and Ron aren't!? Get it together, woman! I planned a surprise Halloween Brunch just so you two could make up and what happened?"

"That wasn't my fault! Angelina went into labor! And our date was right after that." And she absolutely refused to entertain the idea that Ron was her soulmate. Because there was no way she would screw up that badly with her soulmate… would she? But Pansy would not be deterred.

"What happened on your date? You guys had a great time, I know because I saw the whole thing! Why did you run away?!" Pansy grabbed Susan by the arms and began shaking her violently. "You're ruining it! You're ruining everything you brain-damaged bint! Ron and Hermione aren't dating! They are just friends!"

"You are acting like a crazy person, stop it!" Susan screamed back, pushing her away. "I ran away because Hermione Granger happened! She walked in while I was half naked on top of him and it freaked me out!"

Pansy, who was a good foot or so shorter than her, held on tight and shook Susan until she was dizzy. "You freaked out? What does that even mean?"

"It - means - that - I - don't - want - to - compete - with - Hermione - Fucking - Granger." Susan said, finally managing to push Pansy away.

Terrence and Cris were watching the entire exchange, mouths agape and eyes wide in shock. Pansy stood before her, panting, and Susan wondered when they had stood up and what in the hell was happening. She sighed. "I know I should have handled it better! I know! I know I fucked up really badly okay!?" She tipped the bottle into her glass. The fifth shot made her feel angry. Angry at herself and angry at Pansy.

She said, "What do you want from me? I've been alone my whole life. Any family I had died. Any friends I had left me. Then you show up and say, 'Oh can I interest you in a Ron Weasley?' and suddenly I have this fiasco of a love life and I don't know how to handle it and I'm sorry but I freaked out! And that's why I ran."

Pansy looked heartbroken for exactly one second before a look of determination replaced it.

"You know what?" Pansy said. "I'm meddling now. If you can't get this together then I will...I'm taking you to Ron and you're just going to fix this."

"What? No. I'm not ready!" Drunkenly, Susan took a step back away from Pansy. But when she realized Pansy was dead set on taking her to see Ron, she grabbed onto Terrence's arm in desperation. She suddenly understood why everyone usually just did what the witch wanted… she was rather scary otherwise.

"We're going! I said I wouldn't… but this is just getting pathetic. You are pathetic." Pansy rolled her eyes, grabbing onto Susan's elbow and pulling with all her might as she mumbled words under her breath like 'disaster' and 'tragedy' and 'imbecile'.

"No. Don't let her take me, Terrence."

"God, I wish Ione was here for this," Cris said.

Terrence however just shrugged and traitorously pushed Susan off him and towards Pansy.

"Terrence! What are you doing?"

"Sorry… I'm not messing with her… that's Pansy Parkinson for crying out loud."

"Are you kidding me? Why does everyone just do what she says?!" Susan cried desperately. Pansy tugged her out of the bar violently, crashing through tables and chairs, pushing other patrons out of the way, as Susan tried to escape from the witch's grasp. "Pansy, this is just - you're acting so immature! Honestly! Why are you so strong? Let me go!"

"No."

"Pansy!" She manhandled Susan through the front door and pushed her out into the street. Losing balance, she tripped and skidded on her knees badly. "Damnit Pansy. Where's my wand? I'm going home!"

"Oh this wand?" Pansy held up the Ash in her hand and smiled wickedly. "I'll give it back if you come with me."

"I'll just get a new bloody wand then!" Susan shouted drunkenly and stood up, turning around to figure out which street she was on. Her place wasn't far from work, maybe about a 20 minute walk at the most. The bar was only a few minutes away from the spot St. Mungo's was hidden. Surely she could find her way home, even without her robes to keep her warm.

When she turned back to Pansy, the witch was suddenly so much closer. Her hand curled around Susan's arm and she felt the tug of Apparition take them both without another thought. They landed outside of Ron's front door, and the force of the quick, and unwilling, Apparition sent her face first into the wood with a bang and a instant jab of pain.

"Auughh!" her eyes immediately watered and she patted her nose gingerly. "Pansy!"

"Oh… Salazar… I'm sorry I didn't mean to… that looks like it really hurts."

With a frantic motion, the door swung open revealing Ron in his flannel pajamas, looking disheveled and confused and out of breath. "What the - what's going on?" he said urgently.

"She… she kidnapped me." Susan said, shoving past him before she started to do something really embarrassing, like cry.

"I'm meddling again," Pansy said, following her in.

"Pansy, I told you not to," Ron snapped, and Susan realized she hadn't ever heard that tone from him before.

"Shove off, Weasley. I'm tired of her mucking this up!"

She couldn't think of anything else to say to that so she stuck her tongue out at Pansy. "Give me my wand, Pansy," she demanded.

"No. Not until you fix this!" she gestured at Ron frantically.

"You are bat shit crazy!" Susan snapped, before turning her back to them both and digging around looking for ice. She didn't think her nose was broken, but she was far to inebriated and far too emotional to even think about channeling any healing magic to relieve her pain. Especially without her wand.

Ron paced around looking between them both. "What are you doing Pansy? Give her her wand, now," he said finally.

Susan gave up looking for ice and decided the night couldn't possibly go any worse, so she walked over to the front door. She knew there was about a dozen blocks between Ron's place and hers. But she could walk that if it meant she could be home. Locked away in her place, in her bed, alone and away from the likes of Pansy Parkinson. She wanted nothing more than that. She didn't even care that she was wandless, she just wanted out of the insane situation she found herself in. But the moment she opened the door and prepared to step out, she ran right into Neville Longbottom, who had a hand held up ready to knock on the now open door.

"Oh c'mon," she said, defeated.

"Having problems?" Neville asked with just a little too much humor in his eyes. He crossed his arms in a stance similar to the way Pansy had been. At Susan's pout he said, "Let me see what I can do. Pansy…"

"What?" the witch screeched in surprise. "You're supposed to be on my side Neville Longbottom!"

"I am on your side love… I am - as an active Auror - stopping you from kidnapping an esteemed Healer. Now give me the wand."

"No! I'm not leaving her alone until she fixes this mess! How did you know I was here?" Pansy said, stomping her foot.

"I always know where you are. And it seems to me that what Susan needs is love and guidance and support from her friends while she figures out how to fix this mess, whatever it is. What she doesn't need is to be kidnapped and have her nose broken. Wand?" Neville held out his hand in demand.

Practically growling, Pansy handed over the wand to Neville, who handed it to Susan. "Do you need help getting home, Susan?" he asked.

"No, thank you," she snapped, then pointed at Pansy. "You stay the hell away from me you crazy witch!"

"Get your life together Susan Bones! Before I do it for you!"

Susan cradled her wand close to her as if Pansy would try to take it again and that's when she felt Ron standing close to her. She turned into him as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and felt relief when his arms encircled her instead of pushing her away. She rested her cheek against his shirt as not to squish her nose, and wondered what the hell was wrong with her. Pansy had called her pathetic and she figured it was true.

She was pathetic. She felt fat tears forming behind her eyes and she decided to swear off tequila for the rest of her life. "Please take me home," she said into Ron's chest.

"Yeah - okay. C'mon." His voice gentled when directed at her.

They both looked to the other couple. Neville had placed both his hands on either side of Pansy's cheeks. "Just go. I got this," he said to Ron.

Susan felt Ron start to turn, stiffen and still. She looked up at face and saw his narrowed eyes pointing in Pansy and Neville's direction. "Don't have sex on anything," he said, pointing at them accusingly. "Not a single thing."

"I got this!" Neville barked again just as Pansy said, "Shove off!"

Growling, Ron backed them out into the hallway with his hands firmly on each of her hips. "I swear if I come back and find them on my new chess table again… what happened to your nose?"

"Take me home first. Please."

She felt incredibly small next to him and he looked about to argue with her as he eyed her nose closely, but he just held on tightly and Apparated them both away. Her front door was a welcoming sight, and she unlocked it with steady hands even though her heart was thumping harshly in her chest.

"I'll never take another shot of tequila as long as I live," she muttered under her breath as she flipped every light on. She fled into her bedroom and kicked her way to the bathroom, still clutching her wand tightly. She sat down in front of her bathroom mirror and took a good look at her nose.

She supposed Ron had followed her, but she didn't notice until he was sitting on the edge of her tub looking at her funnily. She tilted her head back and continued to examine her throbbing nose in the mirror. "Are you going to tell me what happened?"

She made a face at him and he returned it without hesitation. "You remember that loud thump on your door?"

"The one that scared every flavor out of my beans?"

"Yeah - that was my face." She winced as she raised her wand up.

"Uh why don't you let me do that?" he suggested. The thought hadn't occurred to her, but she allowed him to raise his wand and cast a basic Heal Charm. "I learned how to do the simple stuff in Auror Training," he said as he focused.

The stream of magic that flowed from his wand filled her eyes with deep oranges and reds that reminded her of the sunset. Instantly she felt relief swell around her nose as the Charm settled and then everything felt normal. Except for she was sitting on her bathroom floor with Ron Weasley hovering above her with his wand out and pointed at her.

"So…" he said awkwardly, shoving his wand back into his pocket. "What did Pansy do to you? I told her to butt out, by the way. She never listens to me."

She gulped and it felt like swallowing an ice cube. She tried to think of how her evening had started and her heart fell all over again. "Ione left today. I went out for drinks with some of the team and Pansy just showed up and… she is acting crazier than usual."

"Have you read the paper lately? She's just pissed off about an article that came out about her."

"Oh… no I haven't. Apparently she decided to take it out on me," she said trying to stand. His hands reached out and steadied her before she wobbled, and to balance she reached out and gripped his shoulders. Once her footing was found, she looked up and met his eyes.

"I'm sorry." For being a nut, for ruining everything, for really, really mucking up something so good.

After a minute he nodded. "I can smell tequila on you, Susie. Why don't you get ready for bed? I'll make you some tea or something…" and he walked out, leaving her alone.

December 30th

She hadn't slept in 36 hours. She was exhausted as she re-braided her hair tightly to the back of her head. A strain of the flu was going around the hospital, it had taken Alban and Cris, along with Robby and Pearl down for the count. Nothing could help except rest and fluids. Desmond had even put on his old Healer's robes and began taking in patients. The time of the year always brought in an influx of the sick, but this year seemed to bring even more than usual.

With a sigh, Winnie the Aide shoved food in her face. "Eat Susan, you need energy. Actually, just go home. You look like you're dead on your feet."

"I've gone for longer without sleep before. Things are crazy right now. If it slows down, I can go catch a nap in my office." She drank the soup straight from the bowl, enjoying the way the broth warmed up her stomach and made her feel full. She drank down some water and left the dishes at the Aide Station.

Outside a gentle dusting of snow fell over the afternoon making it look later than it was.

"She's right, Susan. You look dead on your feet."

Susan turned then, surprised at the familiar voice. "Pansy?"

They hadn't spoken since the night of 5 Tequila Shots and the most awkward goodbye kiss she had ever experienced in her life. "How are you?" she said instead of, 'You're absolutely 100% out of your damn mind so go away!'.

Pansy Parkinson stood with Hermione Granger, both dressed for the frigid weather outside and dusting snow off their shoulders. "Heya, I'm fine. And we're here to talk to you of course. Our dearest friend Susan Bones."

Dearest friend her pale, freckled ass.

Pansy had her prissy voice on and Susan dreaded that more than the fact she had no idea when the next time she would get any sleep would be. She decided to ignore her friend and turned to Hermione instead. "How are you Hermione?"

It had been a cold Tuesday afternoon when the Brightest Witch of her Age showed up at Susan's office with a bundt cake made by Mrs. Weasley and an apology. Susan had taken the cake but not the apology, instead begging for forgiveness for her own rudeness and asking to start over. Still, Susan couldn't help but feel small twinges of jealousy thinking about the woman so close to Ron. But she no longer wanted to throw a tantrum at the thought of her either.

"I've been better, but that is neither here nor there. Do you have some time to talk?" the witch asked nicely. She was always nice.

"I'm afraid we are pretty swamped right now." Susan said, turning back to Winnie with a giant set of clipboards. "These are the minors, two of them are just hangovers. You work on these. Give these to Stella. I'll take these two and come back for more okay?"

She took brisk steps down the hall reading over the first clipboard and pushing back her exhaustion. Pansy fell into step beside her, much to her displeasure.

"Pansy, I really am very busy. We're very understaffed," she insisted.

"Understaffed?" Hermione said from behind them. "I can help out."

Susan turned, wondering what that meant, only to see her stepping down to the Aide Station. Winnie happily put some clipboards in her outstretched hands and then pointed to a room opposite the way Susan had been walking. "She's just bloody perfect isn't she?" slipped from her mouth before she could censor herself.

"I'm sorry - that was rude. I didn't mean to be rude about your friend." Susan apologized to Pansy, and she meant it too. This jealousy thing was a brand new emotion for her, and she completely understood why people called it ugly.

"Please, Hermione has her own demons."

"Pansy, I am really busy." Frustrated, Susan clenched her eyes together. She didn't want to think about it, but it was there. Ron had asked her to meet him at his place so they could talk and sort out some things, mostly sort through her craziness and see if he could deal with it. She had arrived only to accidentally overhear something she was sure she wasn't meant to.

Hermione had said, " -about us. Just tell her the truth. Delaying will only hurt her in the long run."

She calmly left even though a petty part of her wanted to bang the door in and cause a fuss. She decided to write him later and maybe get him to come to her place instead, except work happened and the letter never got sent.

"Susan," Pansy said jolting her from her thoughts. "I think you may have the wrong idea…"

"I don't. I don't think anything. Honestly. I'm just trying to make it through the holidays. I think it's better this way anyways," she answered and pushed her way into a patient room.

"Damnit. You'll have to talk to me eventually!" Pansy shouted as the door closed on her face.

On and on she went. She saw patients, endless amounts of patients. She healed. She brewed. She bandaged and handed out potions. Until she looked up and realized it was her birthday and Myles was telling her to go home before she fell over.

"Just going to do some paperwork before -"

"No! Go home!" Myles insisted gently taking the stack of clipboards from her hands. "And don't come back until you've gotten plenty of rest."

"Fine! You still have Terrence for a couple more hours. And Colton will be here soon," she reminded him as she yawned. Another day and the holidays would be over. She was so close. Myles gave her a one fingered salute and left to make rounds. She went in the opposite direction and made her way around to say goodbye and see if anyone else needed anything from her before she left. She learned from Stella that Hermione Granger had stayed for several hours and left spouting off ideas about a volunteer program, and damned if Susan didn't think that was a good idea.

Winnie hugged her and told her to get some rest. "Go right home!" the Aide shouted.

"Where else would I go?" Susan said bitterly as she walked to the Apparition point. Her birthday always put her in a bad mood, and she was feeling cranky from lack of sleep. But… it was almost over. She paused to fully concentrate on home, thinking of a warm bed and a soft pillow, she turned on her toe.

It took everything she had but she didn't splinch anything and she did a little sleepy cheer before she stumbled through her front door which hadn't been locked, absently reminding herself to lock it before she left next time, and continued to her room stripping off her shoes and Healer's robes as she went. She used the back of her heels to take her socks off and then pushed her slacks down and her fingers pulled her undershirt over her head before going through the bedroom door and falling face first into the bed, dressed only in her bra and panties. She thought she heard laughing but she was simply too tired as she wrapped her arms around the pillow. She thought briefly that it smelled just like pine and hoped that she would sleep all the way through her birthday before she fell into a dreamless oblivion.

oOoOo

The only reason she woke up was because there was a hand on her ass. She thought maybe it was the blanket, and tried to turn over and find another comfortable position. Except there were arms around her too. She blinked open her tired eyes and found herself face to face with a sleeping Ron Weasley.

"What the hell?" she shouted, pushing his arms away. "What are you doing in my bed?"

"Bloody hell Susie, it's early go - back to sleep," he groaned and rolled over, pulling all the blankets with him.

The blue blankets that weren't hers.

She sat up and looked around. She wasn't in her bed, she wasn't in her room. She was in Ron's. Panic set in. "Ron? How did I get here?"

He groaned again. "You walked through the front door, 'member?"

"What? Ron!" she slapped his arm. "What happened?"

"Oww!" he rolled back over to face her, hair messed up and eyes heavy with sleep. "Don't hit!"

"Tell me how I got here! I was just at home…"

"You walked in the front door, undressed in front of about a half dozen men, and then fell asleep in my bed! I couldn't wake you up so I just crawled in with you," he ended with a drunken grin.

"Half… dozen? What?!"

"Yep. Had the guys over for poker. It was hilarious but don't worry - I told 'em off for ya," he reached for her again, pulling her underneath him. "Now stop yellin' and go back to sleep."

He buried his head in her neck and started snoring. "Ron! Seriously… what time is it?"

She turned her head and looked at his alarm clock, seeing bright letters tell her it was 5 AM. "Ron! What's the date? I have to go back to work."

"Sus… you've only been here a couple of hours at most…"

She sighed unhappily. It was still her birthday. And she had apparently been so tired and in a haze that she didn't go home. She went to Ron's place thinking it was her own, and she didn't even want to think about what that meant.

He clutched her tightly as if sensing her thoughts. "You think too loudly."

"Ron I can't stay…"

"Sure you can. I want you too. I got something to tell you in the morning anyways," he mumbled into her skin. His breath made goose bumps pop up along her neck and collarbone.

"But aren't you… gah. C'mon Ron. Aren't you seeing Hermione?"

He was so still she thought he might've passed out and then she really didn't know what she would've done since she was so comfortably trapped beneath him. Then he started laughing. "Are you still on that? Bloody hell woman… no. I am not, and haven't for years. And don't go saying that rubbish around Malfoy either…"

"I thought… I guess Pansy was right. I thought wrong."

Snorting unattractively, he said, "She's always right. But crazy. So try not to make her mad again okay? I chewed her out for what she did to your nose but I didn't want to make her too mad."

"Oh… well thanks for that," she said sarcastically. She didn't care about the nose, Ron had healed it up for her just fine. It was the whole meddling and kidnapping bit that made her question the sanity of the witch that was her friend.

"You're welcome. Are you going to go back to sleep now? We can talk in the morning."

"Fine." She conceded, suddenly feeling exhausted. A few hours of sleep wasn't nearly enough when she had been awake as long as she had been. And she needed a good rest in order to get back to the hospital as soon as she could.

He immediately started snoring again and she felt unbelievably wrapped up in him, all warm and safe and snug. Even the idea that it was her birthday couldn't stop the ball of warmth from growing in her stomach. She couldn't help but feel the tiniest bit of glee at the thought that he wanted her, and not Hermione. And maybe… just maybe she felt a little hope that they could work it out despite her totally buffing up time and time again.

And then his large hands tightened on her ass again, pulling her closer as he mumbled, "By the way… Happy Birthday."

Chapter Text

Forgiveness is that subtle thread that binds both love and friendship.

She could hear them talking, maybe four or five of them. She definitely heard Ron banging around the kitchen and the watery sound the coffee maker makes when it's almost finished. The little sounds of someone getting ready in the morning, and Susan wished she could hear it every morning. If only she could get her act together, she thought. Maybe Ron wouldn't mind her being here in the mornings.
Susan wanted to stretch out and go back to sleep, Ron's bed being somehow much more comfortable than her own. But she could feel the alarm clock looking at her and the nagging thought that she had slept much longer than she planned. She felt completely rested and knew that meant it was time to go back to work. But when she went to stretch and get out of bed she found herself curling her arms around his pillow instead, which was far too warm and comfortable. And it smelled like pine.

She blamed Ron, and his bed. She just slept better with him and she didn't know why. She felt her cheeks heat up, embarrassed about how she ended up in this bed instead of her own. Maybe if she went back to sleep the voices from the other room would be gone by the time she woke up again and she wouldn't have to deal with them. But as soon as that thought passed through her mind, she realized she had to use the bathroom. Then there was no choice.

Getting up, she felt the need to make the bed after herself for whatever reason, maybe because she had been an uninvited guest, or maybe to delay having to go out there and face them all. Stepping into the bathroom, she peeled her bra and panties off and stepped into the shower quickly washing off the night and the long shift she had worked before that.

The water was hot and hard on her skin, and it did what Pansy had been trying to do. Susan considered herself a pretty smart person, but suddenly she felt every bit the moron she had been acting like. Why on earth would she think Ron and Hermione were a couple? She had witnessed the famous witch cuddling in the arms of one Draco Malfoy for herself just a few months ago at Pansy's house.

Oh… communication.

That thing couples were always talking about. She had just assumed about Ron and Hermione… She shook her head under the hot water and wondered how red her face was. You know what they say… she had made an ass of herself. Again.

Pansy had straight up said that he was single. The memory of that day came back to her and then she really felt like a fool. Maybe she was love sick. Maybe she was completely mental. But now her brain was supplying image after image of Ron Weasley and the way he acted with Hermione, and then the way he acted with her. Sure he was affectionate with Hermione, but they had been friends for so long. They had been through so much together. And, if she remembered correctly, they had in fact, dated a bit at one time. Of course, of course there would be a certain level of affection with each other.

He was a different kind of affectionate with her though, she thought suddenly. Ron Weasley acted different around Susan.

She remembered the tone he had taken with Pansy when she had hurt her nose. The kisses they shared on her balcony. Then the shower woke her up fully and she remembered the previous night with a clear clarity. 'Are you still on that?' As his fingers had gripped the curve of her ass tightly. Any lingering doubts she had disappeared just like the water from her shower down the drain. 'I got something I have to tell you in the morning anyways...'

Ron wasn't seeing Hermione. Hermione was dating Malfoy. So what was Hermione talking about the day she overheard them speaking? 'Just tell her the truth. Delaying will only hurt her in the long run.'

If the truth wasn't that they were dating, then what did Ron have to tell her about? A strange anticipation settled in her stomach and she felt as if she were about to make some tough decisions in her life. And the first being she had to leave the room and face whoever was out there. She gulped and decided first to get this morning over with. She wasn't sure who all was out in the living room, but she had to face them and she had to face Ron. She had been sleep deprived and exhausted and still she had come to him. If that didn't tell him how she really felt then he was just dense.

Stepping out of the shower, she dried off and braided her hair loosely down her back. She splashed some of the piney aftershave Ron used on her cheeks and glorified in the scent. It was becoming her favorite and immediately settled her.

She Sourgified her undergarments and walked back into the bedroom wondering what the hell she was supposed to wear if she had completely undressed in the living room, an event that surely happened all the time at her own place. But at Ron's she had done it front of a bunch of his friends. There was no sign of her own clothes, though it was hard to tell with all the cluttered mess everywhere.

Her and Ron really were two peas in a pod, she thought. Neither one of them could keep anything clean. She dug around and found a long tee shirt of his in black. It reached halfway down her thighs and that would have to do. She was terrible at transfiguring clothes so she would just have to find her own pants as soon as she could. She took another look around and spotted a long house robe hanging off the back of the bathroom door.

Relieved she slipped into the well used orange robe and rolled the sleeves up several inches. She tied the tie around her waist and immediately felt better.

She could hear the coffee maker going again, and a loud conversation going on about Quidditch as she hovered her hand over the door knob. She tried to muster the courage to go out there, after all she had to get back to work sometime, but it was hard. Even if Ron had been alone she would have found it difficult. With a bunch of guys out there? Blasted holidays. Blasted Ron Weasley for constantly having friends and family around. But then… that was just another reason she was attracted to him, wasn't it?

She sucked in a breath and turned the knob.

The noise increased with the barrier of the door gone and laughter bombarded her. She stepped out and nearly jumped out of her skin.

"Happy Birthday Susan!" Pansy shrieked, jumping out from right next to her, where she had been hiding out of line of sight.

"Good Knight!" Susan shouted and placed a hand over her heart, falling back into the door frame for support. "What the hell, Pansy!"

"Oh did I scare you? How rude of me," she replied insincerely. "How could I have done that?"

"Can you not tell everyone it's my birthday please?" Susan asked quietly, her eyes darting to all the faces in the room.

"What was that? You don't want me to tell anyone that it's your birthday?" Pansy yelled dramatically. "Okay. No problem! I won't tell anyone that it's your b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y!"

Blowing out a frustrated breath Susan said, "You are a blight on my life Pansy Parkinson."

Laughter bubbled up from around the room. She saw a breakfast spread across the counters and table and a bouquet of flowers by the sink. But then her eye found the most out of place and unexpected thing and she wondered how she didn't immediately notice the giant grey - brown Newfoundland dog sitting by the couch only a couple of feet away from her. He had a giant red bow wrapped around his neck like a collar and when he noticed Susan looking at him he smiled right back, panting happily in the way dogs do.

"Oh wow, Ron you got a dog?" she said, instantly drawn to the massive and furry dog. She came down on her haunches and started petting the dog behind the ears, amazed at the sheer size of the pup. He responded by licking her face.

"Ea-ugh!"

"I didn't get a dog, no," Ron said approaching her. He needed to trim his beard, and his eyes looked tired. But he looked good, too good. She stood to meet him and he handed her a cup of coffee. "Feel any better?"

She wiped dog slobber from her cheek and nodded. "Yes, and now I just need to grab my clothes and get back to work. Thanks for letting me stay," she said politely, determined to leave ASAP.

She nodded to all the familiar faces around, Harry munching happily on bacon and toast, Neville sprawled out on the couch half asleep, a tired looking George. On the other side of the counter stood Hermione and Draco spreading jam across their toast and chatting happily.

"Do you really have to work on your birthday?" Ron asked.

"Yeah, that sounds like rubbish to me," George said.

"I don't really celebrate my birthday so it doesn't matter," she said, turning and searching the floor for her discarded slacks. A quick trip home and she could grab a fresh set of clothes and get back to work within the half hour.

"Susan?" Ron said softly.

She turned to him and felt heat roll up her stomach. "Yeah?"

"We - ugh - I got you a birthday present. If you wanted to hang out for a bit."

He was inviting her to stay and all she could hear was Pansy's irritated voice saying Don't muck this up!

"Oh? You didn't have to…"

"It was Pansy's idea -"

"I haven't actually gotten a present in a long time -"

"We thought it would be good for you - er… maybe..."

"Uh… what?"

"The dog Susan."

"What?"

"The dog is for you. His name is Arnulfo."

She looked from him to the furry dog sitting silently by the couch, mouth hanging as he panted happily. The dog was easily over 100 lbs. Half of that might've been fur.

"I can't… Oh Ron… I can't, I work way too much. I wouldn't have any time to train him or take care of him," she stumbled out, watching Arnulfo as he stood up and stretched, reminding her of her yoga practice. He took giant, slow steps towards her and then sat down again, brushing up against her leg. He looked up and his tongue rolled out happily.

"Well that's why we thought he would be a good match. He's already house trained and everything, guy we work with had to get rid of him because of allergies. He said he eats like 6 times a day though," Ron said, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Susan, really. Stay for awhile and pet the dog. See if you guys match." Pansy said as if it were that easy. The witch knelt down by the massive dog, using both hands to rub behind his giant ears. "Arnie this is Susan."

The dog gave a deep bark, as if he understood, and then leaned even closer into Susan's leg. Ron gave her a little 'go on motion' with his hand and she found herself crossing her legs and sitting on the floor in front of the dog. The damn thing was taller than her when she was sitting. She lifted her hands and started petting his head, digging in behind his floppy ears. "Arnulfo," she said out loud, forming the odd name with her mouth. He couldn't be pure Newfoundland, she realized. She had only guessed his breed because of his size. Taking in his features, she realized he was some kind of mutt.

Giant. Huge. Ginormous.

But he liked her petting and responded immediately, stepping over her and laying down his massive body over her lap. "Oooof!"

Everyone laughed. "See, he likes you!" Pansy said happily, brushing her hands off like she had done a job well done.

"I can't breathe," she said, attempting to push Arnulfo off. "Really - oh God - Ron I can't breathe. I know this was your idea Pansy! I will get you back for this."

Ron laughed and snapped his fingers together. "Come, Arnulfo."

The dog immediately stood and came to Ron, sitting at his feet. "See?" Ron said. "He's trained. He knows a bunch of stuff. Arnulfo, lay down. Roll over." The massive dog did as he was told, rolling over and sending his legs up in the air, before he came up on the other side.

"Well…" Susan didn't know what to say. "I… what would I do with him while I'm at work? I work long shifts, Ron."

"He's totally fine by himself. Doesn't get into anything at all. Gibbs said he is really lazy and will just nap all the time."

"Even so… I'll be gone for up to 12 hours at a time most days and … longer on other days."

Ron shrugged. "I'll come check on him for you."

"I -"

"You're just going to say yes anyways, do it already." Pansy snapped from the other side of the counter.

"Pansy!" Ron chided. "Shut it will you? We talked about this!"

Susan stood, secretly happy that Ron was on her side against the crazy witch who was her friend, and looked down to the massive dog. "Come, Arnulfo," she tested.

Delight filled her when the dog came and sat by her feet. "Are you a good dog?" she asked. Arnulfo snorted and just laid down in response. It was adorably cute only in the way giant dogs could be. He looked like a massive stuffed teddy bear.

"Fine," she said finally. "I'll take him… but you have to keep him while I'm at work… I don't want to leave him alone for that long."

"Good." Ron clapped his hands together. "Alright. Good. Okay… breakfast now?"

All the sudden everyone was leaving, patting her on the shoulder and wishing her a Happy Birthday. Pansy hugged her and said, "Everything will be just fine. You believe me right?"

Narrowing her eyes she said, "No. Not at all."

"Well you should. Stop being such a brat." And she was gone just like that, dragging Neville with her out the door.

"Happy Birthday Susan!" Hermione said nicely to her, as she and Draco walked together hand in hand. "Sorry about the dog - they were determined."

Draco then raised an eyebrow and said, "She was also in on it. Pesky, meddling bunch aren't they?"

And then they were all alone, Susan turned to Ron. "Your friends are weird," she said as she sat down at the kitchen table, crossing her legs under her and picking at the fruit bowl to distract herself. Her stomach was doing flips. That strange feeling of anticipation was back and before she knew it, Arnulfo was beside her and sticking his cold, wet nose into her knees.

"Honestly, where did you get this dog Ron?" she laughed.

"I told you the truth. A friend at work was giving him away."

"Are you sure Pansy didn't have anything to do with it?"

"Well… I am never sure of that. But no, I don't think she arranged this."

They shared a laugh and Ron said he would be right back and to eat as much as she wanted. The bacon was getting cold, but it was crunchy and she fed some to Arnulfo while she picked at the burnt pieces until he came back a few minutes later with a large file.

"Before you say anything Ron… I wanted to apologize again for the way I acted last time I was here. I know… well I thought that you wouldn't want to continue whatever it is we're doing but then last night…" Don't muck this up!

"What made you come here?"

"I honestly thought I went home…" she admitted, still picking at her bacon.

"Hmm... I'm glad you came here."

"I'm sorry for acting crazy," she blurted out. "I mean, I am really really sorry. But I don't think I can guarantee that it won't happen again."

He slid into the chair next to her and gave her a long look she couldn't decipher. Then he said, "Do you realize the amount of crazy I deal with on a daily basis?"

She wondered what that meant. "Still, I hate to add to it. You've been so great to me."

"I mean… yeah, you went a little cooky on me, Susie. But really… think about the women in my life… I mean you know about Pansy. But Hermione is really the crazy one. She lit Snape on fire when were 11. Honestly."

"What? Really?" She laughed, just imagining it.

"Pansy, Hermione… my mother…" he continued. "You fit right in."

She shook her head. "You say that… but I don't think I do. We're opposites, Ron."

"Whatcha mean?"

"I mean, you are bursting with friends and family. They are constantly in your life. I'm the opposite. I have no one."

His finger tapped on the file impatiently as he listened to her words and she realized she couldn't read his face at all. She continued to pick at her food and watched as Arnie curled into a fuzzy ball at her feet and fell asleep.

Finally Ron asked, "What about Ione? You told me she's a big part of your life."

Just hearing Ione's name spoken out loud hurt her heart. But Susan would never wish things to be different between them. Ione helped shape her into the woman she was, she deserved to find her lost daughter even if Susan wanted to be selfish and keep Ione to herself. Susan's eyes went to the file on the table.

"What's that?" she asked in a small voice instead of answering.

"I'll tell you… but first I need to find a way to make you promise to stick around. That when you say you're going to come around to talk, you actually come around to talk."

She winced at his words, realizing he was mad at her despite what happened last night. "Are you sure that's what you want? Don't you want someone a little less… crazy?"

He rolled his eyes at her. "Susie, I think I'd like you less if you were less crazy. I would be bored with normal."

She shook her head. "I didn't realize you were crazy too."

His lips quirked up and his blue eyes shined and she loved it. He said, "Oh Susie you have no idea. And you came here last night. No hesitation, no second thoughts. You were exhausted and you crawled into my bed."

"Ron - I'm not an easy woman-"

"I don't want easy, I want you," he snapped.

Sucking in a breath at his tone, she felt warmth bloom in her stomach, felt her toes curl in anticipation. Because even though to someone else those words in that tone might've sounded harsh, to her it was everything she needed. For someone who had been so alone for so long, hearing 'I want you' in a tone that left no room for argument was a lifeline. She didn't want pretty words and fancy dates. She wanted to be held like Ron held her, a hand on her ass and no room for her to wiggle free. He told it to her straight, and that's what she wanted.

She wanted to hear the coffee maker in the morning and have whiskey with dinner. She wanted him. Her face angled up towards him without her conscious thought just as he leaned in and brushed his lips against hers.

The touch sizzled directly down her spine, but at the very moment of contact Arnulfo sat up and barked. The sound jolting them apart, the sound deep and loud. "Ah c'mon Arnie! Don't be like that."

Susan laughed at Ron's bad tempered words and for the first time in a while she felt light and easy. She patted Arnie's head and said, "He isn't hurting me pup."

Arnie woofed in acknowledgement before curling back up, falling right back to sleep, and Ron tugged at Susan's hand pulling her to her feet and across the floor. She went willingly. There was certainly a lot to talk about between them, but for the first time it felt as if they had an understanding. He could deal with her crazy if she stuck around. She just had to stick around. She could do that. For him.

The bedroom door closed softly behind them with a snick that she felt more than heard and then he was kissing her again. His whiskers scratching against her cheeks. It was her favorite feeling in the world. Then his arms wrapped around her and his hands came to her bottom, and she decided that was her favorite feeling. She was completely wrapped up in him, and he kissed the hell out of her. Tipping them over onto the bed, he settled himself exactly where she wanted, between her legs. He kept her pressed beneath him, and leaned down to initiate the kiss.

They kissed for a long time, his hand stroking roughly along the column of her neck and she returned the favor, running her fingers through his beard and up into his hair with every kiss, every bite. It went that way for awhile, until they were both red in the face and Ron decided he wanted more.

"Are you wearing my aftershave?" he asked, his voice rough. He didn't wait for an answer before he began kissing down the neck he had been stroking intimately. His beard scratched at her skin and goosebumps popped up everywhere he went. He lifted up just enough to reach between them, pulling at the tie on her stolen robe. He made quick work of it, unthreading the tie before pushing the robe apart.

"Yes," she answered when he continued to push the robe away. She lifted with him, allowing him to peel the robe away from her arms, before she grabbed at the bottom of his shirt, pulling it up and over his head. The movements were clumsy and messed up his hair even more than her hands already had, but they just laughed and kept going, pulling at each other's clothes between kisses until she was only in her panties and bra. Her fingers pulled at the button on his jeans, her fingers just brushing over the hardness of his erection.

He sucked in a quick breath. "Careful Susie…"

Her big brown eyes were heavy with pleasure when she said, "No." And she stroked him again through the denim. "Have I ever told you how much I love you in jeans?"

His eyes flashed and he grabbed both her wrists, pinning them down above her head. "No, you haven't. Tell me." He pushed her body down with his own in a move that reminded them both of that time in her bed, him in jeans getting her off. His fingers held her arms still, and he kissed along all her collarbone before dipping down lower. His lips pressed wet, hot kisses in the cleavage of her breasts which were pushed up by her bra.

"Some men…" she gasped. "Some men are just meant to wear jeans I think…"

He flexed his hips against hers, the hard edge of his denim pressing against the softness between her legs. The thin cotton of her panties did absolutely nothing to dampen the sensation. At the same time, he pushed her bra down away from her breasts. The plain white cotton of her bra kept her breasts pushed high against her chest and at the exact perfect position for him to ravage with his mouth.

"Ron!" she struggled to get away from hot sear that was his tongue against her nipple, but he held her firm. "Hurry…" she said.

"Don't rush me." he mumbled meanly. "It's your birthday."

She wiggled beneath him. She hated anything to do with her birthday, and she certainly didn't want to start associating Ron with her birthday in anyway… but he didn't let up. She changed tactic. "Yes - that means I get what I want."

He didn't respond by saying anything, instead he bit her nipple. Hard. "Ron!" Her yelp led to him to kiss it better before he changed direction, going lower. He pushed her bra back into place, and the cotton prickled against her sensitive nipples harshly.

"Oh no - not that again!" He had to release her wrists as he went lower, and she used her newfound freedom to to push at his shoulders. "Don't you dare!"

Ignoring her, his fingers pushed down the sides of her panties and then spread her thighs apart. "Don't you dare Ron!" she thumped him on the head and he glared at her from between her legs.

"You are such a hard woman to love. My birthday is March 1st, by the way. You can return the favor then," and he dipped his head.

Her back came off the bed the moment his mouth landed on her and he took immediate advantage of her position by wrapping both his arms under her thighs and using his hands to grip her hips tight against his mouth. His tongue darted between her folds, wet on wet, heat on heat, until she was drowning in sexual pleasure. "Please hurry Ron…" she begged between whimpers. When her heels dug into his bare back, he spread her further, and his tongue flicked against her swollen, sensitive clit. He dragged out the moment until she wanted to thump him on the head again except she had lost all control of her movements. She managed to get a grip on his messy red hair with one hand, her fingers digging in. "I mean it, Ron!"

His mouth covered her clit and he sucked hard enough that her vision blurred.

When her breath calmed finally, and her brain began to function properly again, she found herself half laying on top of Ron, her leg thrown over his, and her head laying on his shoulder comfortably. His arm was wrapped around her shoulders with his hand buried in her hair, his fingers massaging the back of her neck and scalp.

"I think you blacked out a bit," he said, his voice full of male pride.

"Yes - in anger. I'm tired of all this foreplay," she snapped, but even she couldn't keep the satisfaction out of her voice. She felt too good.

"I can tell," he teased, pulling her limp form on top of him.

Groaning she said, "Why do you still have jeans on?" She braced herself on his chest, loving the way the freckles on her hands blended seamlessly with the freckles on his skin. "They could've been off a long time ago."

"Always rushing me Susie," he said, pinching his fingers against her hips. "I was waiting for you to take them off, since you like them so much."

"I tried," she complained and made a face to match. "You pinned my wrists."

"Did I do that?" he smiled his goofy grin and she found herself leaning in towards him, wanting more of his delicious kisses. His hands slid up her back slowly, coming to the clasp on her skewed bra. He struggled with it for a bare second before it came undone. Their kiss was slow as he finally freed her from her bra and when she shifted downwards, going for that button on his jeans, she brushed against his erection causing him to jump.

"Careful Susie…" he repeated his earlier words.

"Why should I listen to you? You're torturing me," she replied back quickly, her finger unsnapping the button just as fast. She pushed the zipper down with little care and he jumped again.

"Circe! Susan! Be careful."

"No, you weren't careful with me. I'll have beard rash between my legs after what you did," she snapped back at him, feeling impatient. "And you got your damn foreplay."

With that she freed his erection by pushing his jeans and briefs down at the same time, and gripped him tightly, wasting no time in positioning him just where she wanted him. When the tip of his cock nudged past her folds, she slammed her hips down the rest of the way and finally got what she wanted. He was buried to the hilt inside of her, and she waited only a moment to allow them to adjust. When he leaned up, wrapping his arms around her, she finally started moving against him.

oOoOo

Several hours later she walked out the bedroom, clad only in one of Ron's tee shirts, in search for food. She was sore in all the right places and her mind was happily on the naked man she had just spent hours with in bed. Arnulfo was in the same spot she had left him, his tongue lolled out as he snored. She gathered whatever she could find that didn't make cooking necessary. Fruits, crackers, olives, and carried her supplies back into the bedroom. As she passed the kitchen table her eye went to the file Ron had left there. The name on the side tab said 'Linden, Callista' in small, blocky letters. Surprised and curious, she grabbed the file too and made her way back to the bedroom.

"You still took the job?" she couldn't help but ask when she dumped their food onto the bed. She held the file up for him to see.

"Of course I did. You asked me too," he mumbled sleepily, one arm above his head, his elbow bent just so showing off his thick arm.

She sat on the bed beside him, crossing her legs beneath her. "Pay attention," she pinched his side.

His eyes opened fully and he gave her such a serious look she got scared. "Ron?"

"I have a question for you… but first...I don't know how to tell you Susan. Hermione and Pansy both said I should just show you," he said, sitting up from his comfortable position and taking the file from her.

"Oh… it's bad news?" Susan formed her words into a question, though she knew the answer already. It was always a small chance they would find Ione's daughter alive and well, possibly living that carefree life on the beach. But it was still hard to hear.

"Maybe… maybe not." Ron said after a minute. "I talked to Ione and when she told me that Callista had been on the run from the DMLE, I thought it would be easy enough to find information on her, it would just be a pain in the ass digging through all the old files. But, try as I might, I couldn't find anything on her. She wasn't anywhere in the criminal files."

She held the file up again. "So where did you find it?"

"In the employee cabinet. She wasn't on the run from the DMLE. She worked for the DMLE. When I found the file, I got excited because there's no date of Death, and she's still listed as active. But from there things just got weird."

Susan opened the file while she listened to him talk, the first page was basic employment information. The hire date was listed as 8/71. A note said her training officer had been quoted saying, "This woman is too much to handle. She'll cause more trouble than she worth." But apparently that didn't stop the process. Calli had listed Ione has her emergency contact. The next pages were reports on her first cases. On the inside of the front cover the picture stamped there had been blacked out.

"See this symbol here?" he asked, pointing to the inked in two red circles that overlapped each other.

When she nodded he continued. "I had no idea what that was. No one else I talked to did either. It was Hermione who helped me find other files with this symbol and we were able to put it together."

"What is it?"

"Witness protection. Whatever Calli had been working on in 1975 had her go into hiding permanently."

"What? Did Ione know that?" Susan asked.

"I don't think Ione ever knew her daughter was part of the DMLE. It was tough, but I finally found the file of the identity she took on."

"So… she could still be alive… living under a different name?" Susan asked, heart in her throat.

Ron shook his head immediately. "I'm sorry Susie, she died. January 30th, in 1980."

Her head jerked up, more than familiar with the date.

He pulled the file from her hands and opened it to the back, pulling what looked like two photos out. He gave her a hard look before setting them down side by side. "This is Callista Delphia Linden," he said tapping on the photo on the left, a photo of a woman who looked all too familiar. "And this is the woman she became," he said, tapping on the photo on the right… a photo of a woman who looked exactly like Susan's mother.

Susan immediately shook her head. "Not possible." She couldn't tell if she wanted to throw up, cry, or if she couldn't breathe. All she knew was her heart wasn't beating right and it felt like her tongue was in her throat. She picked up the picture of her mother. No - the woman who looked like her mother. Only, the pictures she had of Charley showed a dirty blonde with a smile that Susan had inherited. The picture of Callista was undoubtedly the same woman, but with bright cherry colored hair.

Just like Susan's.

"This file only became available because she died. If she were still alive, the file would be untraceable to protect her identity. Callista went under protection, and became Charley Wicker, who married Irvine Bones. My question is… is this your mother Susan?"

She didn't know if he leaned forward and hugged her, or if she collapsed into him, but the next thing she knew she was sobbing into his chest. A sense of complete vulnerability shook her to the core until it was all she could feel. It felt as if she had only just now learned of her parents deaths, instead of having known all along. It was different from Aunt Amelia telling her stories of her parents when Susan was a child. Growing up, she never felt like she had parents to lose. Only Aunt Amelia. Of course she had known her parents were gone, but this… this felt as if they had just died. This felt like she had lost them. And it hurt, hurt worse than she would have ever expected.

Ron comforted her, rubbing his hands up and down her back. But she couldn't stop the heavy sobs that tore through her.

"Gods, please don't cry Susie. I'm so sorry. I didn't know how to tell you," he said. "I'll do anything."

"Just hold me please."

The words from her mother's letters swirled around in her head, all the times she wondered why she never spoke of her family. Only of the Bones. Then she remembered...

'I miss my mother so much…' Her mother had said that in a letter.

She sat up, wiping at her face, realization hitting her harder than a Stunner. "Ron!" she grabbed the picture of Callista. "Ron, are you telling me that this woman… this woman is my mother? My mother is Ione's daughter?"

Chapter Text

I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU'D EXPECT ME TO STAND BY AND WATCH YOU KILL YOURSELF!
- Ron Weasley

March 1st

At exactly 6:01 in the morning after a hectic and long night shift, Susan tended to four young wizards barely a year out of school who drunkenly decided to try something called a 'Chinese Fire Drill' on broomsticks. According to the disheveled guardian that brought them in, the prank was one Muggles liked to play in their cars. It did not translate to broomsticks very well. Especially mid air.

She mended two broken arms, a fractured wrist, a broken tibia, 7 broken fingers, a broken nose, a broken collar bone, and two dislocated shoulders between the four boys and that was with Cris healing other breaks and bruises at the same time. After the boys were all patched up Cris sat on the floor behind the Aide's station and groaned in exhaustion.

"Crissy, go home." Susan picked up the nickname after being forced to attend several of the family dinners with the Fernard's, Criscilia's immediate family headed by the vivacious Raven Fernard. Raven was Ione's half sister and Criscilia's paternal grandmother.

Which meant Raven, her six sons and two daughters, and their mass of children, were all related to Susan. Through Ione. To say she'd been overwhelmed was an understatement. She'd barely been able to come clean to Cris about the familial relation before her second cousin forced her to a rambunctious monthly dinner held by Raven where she was passed around and adored for being Ione's.

"I'll stay until Pearl and Colton get here, otherwise you'll be all a-a-alone," Cris barely managed to say through a yawn.

"One, I can handle it until shift change. Two, I'm not alone, we have the volunteers remember?"

The program set up by Helen with the help and dedication of Hermione Granger allowed skilled witches and wizards with even a slight proficiency in healing to volunteer their time and skills to handle the easier cases. Somehow, between writing her own book, pushing for new legislation on the welfare of creatures, and running the Daily Prophet, Hermione managed to log the most volunteer hours.

Even now, Susan could spot the talented witch down the hall with Lamia as the Aide taught the proper wand techniques for bandaging. The program came at a perfect time, because Susan still hadn't gotten in touch with Ione and still hadn't found a replacement Healer to take her place either.

Two months, it had been two months since Ron Weasley gave her the most perfect birthday present Susan had ever gotten. A grandmother, one who Susan already knew and loved. One who loved Susan in return. If only she could find Ione to tell her…

Susan still didn't know what to say when she finally saw Ione again, the letters she'd owled all came back unopened. But according to Raven, when Ione travelled, she never stayed in one place long. Susan could only hope that one would eventually get through, while in the meantime she counted down the months until October. Because Ione promised to make it back in time for Criscilia and Danny's wedding.

"Gosh, I feel too guilty leaving early," Cris covered her mouth as she yawned again, her eyes watering. "I don't know why, but I'm completely exhausted lately. How about I just take a nap in the lounge, until next shift gets here? That way I'll be close if you need me." She paused, then grinned. "Cousin."

Susan's previously bleeding heart soared. She'd spent ten long years without family, without someone to call her own. With a lonely creature inside her chest that had driven her to madness and she hadn't even known it. That creature had been reduced to the tiniest of ashes lately. Between her growing friendship with Pansy and Theo, being sucked into Ron's group of friends and family, her team, and now Cris and the Fernard's…

She put her hand over Cris's and smiled. "Cousin. Go home, your shift ended two hours ago."

Exactly one hour and a case of exploding pimples later, the next shift began to walk in and set up and Susan walked towards her office, stifling her own yawns. Her heart continued to soar when she caught sight of Angelina and little Fred Jr. standing by her office door, the witch carrying a bundled Roxanne in one arm.

"Hey Fred," Susan quickly found her leg being hugged tight by the young boy. "What are you doing here?"

"Visiting and we brought muffins my grandmama made and my mum said that if I was good we could stop and maybe get ice cream so please tell her I was good because I really like ice cream for breakfast." The stream of words came so quickly, Susan barely understood them.

"I see," she smiled at Angelina, smelling banana and butter. "Come into my office."

Angelina set down the bag of muffins on her desk and then immediately handed Roxanne over. "Molly thinks bribing you with sweets will make you come around the Burrow more often."

She adored Mrs. Weasley. Really, she adored the whole Weasley clan especially as they learned to put up with her on-and-off-again relationship with Ron. Ginny especially seemed to find the whole thing beyond funny, telling Susan just the other week that Ron had always been a bit of an idiot when it came to women.

Susan wanted to tell Ginny off for talking poorly about Ron, but well, she was just as mad at him as he was at her.

"Sweet baby," Susan cooed, sitting on the couch as she cradled the baby gently against her chest. Then to Angelina, "I see… honestly the tactic might work."

Because Molly Weasley knew what she was doing in the kitchen, and even more, her baked goods would bring tears to Susan's eyes if she'd been alone and there was no one to see her crying over a muffin. They were that good. "Maybe if you let me know when Ron won't be there, I might be able to make a Sunday dinner."

"I figured you'd say something like that." Angelina smiled sadly and Susan immediately felt bad.

"Let's talk about something else, like what kind of ice cream Fred's having for breakfast." Susan grinned at the young boy and he jumped up in excitement.

They stayed a few more minutes before Angelina gathered her children and headed for the door. "Bye-bye Aunt Susie."

Her heart gave a painful thump and Angelina's eyes bugged out, "Oh no - I'm sorry, Susan - Freddie -"

"It's perfect," Susan interrupted and she crouched down and hugged Fred tight. "I only let family call me Susie, and you are my family."

Fred beamed. "And Roxie too!"

"And Roxie too," Susan hugged tighter. "Bye kiddo, be good for your mother all right?"

Angelina hugged her too before the three of them left, and Susan found herself rubbing her fist over her heart. So many threads, so many new relationships, all pulling her in different directions, but it felt so, so good to be connected to so many people now. And she knew it all started with the day she ran into Ron in the stairwell.

Her shift reports went quick and, after making sure Crissy got home all right, she checked out with Myles, said goodbye to the staff, and was just about to head home when Hermione stopped her.

"Susan? Do you have a moment?"

"Oh, yes. What do you need?" Susan wasn't worried, though part of her still found the witch to be extremely intimidating, she also knew Hermione never approached her at work about anything personal. They'd talked about procedures and wand techniques, healing theories and research projects, but never about Ron. Never about anything personal.

"Actually, I wanted to ask you for a favor."

Susan felt her mouth drop in surprise. "Oh?"

Hermione gave a nervous laugh and pushed her bushy hair back from her head. "Yes, I'm rather desperate."

"All right," Susan said slowly.

"I am having dinner with Draco and his mother tomorrow night, and I was wondering if you could help me find a dress to wear. I'm just awful at that kind of thing and I really want to impress Mrs. Malfoy."

Whatever Susan had been expecting, Hermione's request wasn't it. She had several questions but the one that came out of her mouth was, "Why?"

This rush of words came out of Hermione as if she'd been holding them back for awhile now, like a dam breaking, and Susan could only stand and listen. "I am not exactly the kind of woman Narcissa expected her son to date and things are going so well between Draco and I that I'd hate to cause any tension between him and the only family member he still speaks to and there's a lot that I'm fairly decent at but fashion is not in that category and the last thing I want to do is show up wearing the wrong thing and set the whole tone for the evening and -"

"Hermione! I'm sorry I think you misunderstood me. I meant, why me? Why ask me for help?"

"Oh. Well, to be honest I did ask Ginny first. But she picks her clothing by asking one question: Can she wear it and play Quidditch at the same time? And I guess you seem so put together and -"

Susan sighed, knowing exactly where she was heading. "Pansy?"

"Yes, which infuriates me," Hermione admitted. "I don't believe in predestination and while I know that her and Draco have been friends for a long time, she's so interfering!"

"I thought I was the only one!" Susan couldn't stop her voice from rising with excitement. "I am living in fear every day because it's been almost a whole month since she last tried to meddle!"

"A month? I would feel the same fear! Can't Draco and I date in peace without hints and advice on every little detail of our lives? She's seduced by her own experience, you know?"

Susan absolutely believed that and felt herself smiling, happy to have found someone who understood her frustrations when to came to her psychic friend. "She is absolutely seduced by her own experience, and she doesn't seem to understand that the rest of us can't just snap our fingers and suddenly have a soulmate bond. We have to develop our relationship!"

"Exactly!"

"Exactly!"

They found themselves hugging quickly in excitement. When Susan broke away she said, "You know I thought you'd take Ron's side and be angry at me."

Hermione smiled and shook her head, "Oh, I know he's pretty upset with the last fight you two had… but don't worry about Ron. If you want some real advice from someone who isn't psychic but has known him since 1st year? Ron is a brooder when he doesn't get his way, and the best thing to do is not let him get away with it."

Susan digested Hermione's words very carefully. "So, even if it means more fighting, it's better to confront him than let things lie?"

Hermione nodded, "Absolutely. And, if you don't mind me speaking from personal experience, he's the type that enjoys the fight."

"Oh…" Susan frowned. She should have realized that sooner. "You know, I'm so glad we had this chat but I'm also realizing we wouldn't have if it hadn't been for Pansy."

They both groaned. "I really hate her sometimes," Hermione shook her head. "But I am also glad we had this talk. And I wouldn't be surprised if Pansy got up to her meddling ways today, you know it's Ron's birthday, right?"

"Yes," Susan grimaced. "I got him something but I wasn't sure when I'd be able to get it to him." It wasn't anything near good enough, compared to what Ron had gotten her but...

"You should come by The Burrow tonight," Hermione suggested gently. "We always do Birthday dinners there."

It was the second time that morning she'd been invited to The Burrow, and Susan couldn't help but think that's exactly what she should do. She found herself leaning forward and hugging Hermione Granger. "Come over tomorrow before your dinner and we'll find a dress for you to impress Draco's mother."

Susan left their conversation with a smile, happy that Hermione had been able to give her advice on Susan's relationship with Ron. Not by brute force, as Pansy liked to do, but by inviting Susan to draw her own conclusion. Of course, she also couldn't help but think the moment she stepped into her apartment that Pansy would be waiting.

She'd fallen into a terrible habit of not locking her front door, but Arnulfo turned out to be the better protection anyways. He always greeted her when she walked in and anyone else who tried to enter her home without Susan was met with a deep snarl and growl that made even her tough Auror friends wary.

The giant dog loped over to her the moment she entered her home and put his paws on her shoulders. An impressive feat, considering Susan was taller than the average witch. "Hi, Arnie-puppy." She rubbed behind his ears and was rewarded with a very wet dog kiss.

There was only one exception to Arnie's guard dog tendencies and it just proved to Susan that Pansy Parkinson had something to do with the way she acquired the dog in the first place. As the coffee maker whirled to a finish, the sound familiar and comfortable, Susan realized that exception just happened to be sitting at her kitchen island, wearing her usual purple robes and her black gloves.

"If you're here to meddle, you might as well leave."

"You're fucking with the cosmos again," Pansy told her, though the witch kept her back to Susan.

Susan responded by leashing Arnie and leaving to take him on a walk, hoping the wordless action conveyed what she really wanted to say: suck an egg. In truth, Susan wouldn't trade her friendship with Pansy for anything in the world even when the very thing that made it such a great relationship was also the thing that drove Susan up the walls. Pansy just happened to be the nosiest, most meddlesome friend she'd ever had… only because she cared so much.

The friendship was something Susan never really experienced before, for Pansy proved to be the kind of friend that dropped by without invitation, leaving anything from fresh flowers to yummy caramels for Susan to find later. Even with Susan's crazy work schedule, and Pansy's booming potion business, they always made time for each other. Even if it turned out to be a 5 minute coffee.

But that didn't mean Susan had to put up with Pansy's constant intrusions into her personal life. Her 'meddling', as usual, only ever pertained to Susan's relationship with Ron. And the last thing she wanted to do after her long shift was think about the fight she had with man exactly one month ago.

Susan had spent nearly a whole week in a strange kind of shock after finding out the truth about her mother and Ione, where she could still function at work but the moment she returned to Ron's arms, she devolved into a blubbering mess unsure of how to deal with the grief.

In her attempt to deal with the heartbreak, because that heartbreak had felt so raw and fresh even though Calli passed away nearly 27 years prior, Susan sank herself into work by nearly doubling her hours. It wasn't until Ron showed up at the hospital and dragged her back to her apartment that the fight happened.

And a big, bad, horrible fight it was. She thought she was stubborn? She didn't have anything on Ron Weasley.

When she arrived back at her door after walking the block, Susan told herself she would barricade herself in her bedroom if Pansy was still sitting in her kitchen. "Arnie, if Pansy is still here, you need to go guard dog on her for me. I want to be alone."

Her pet gave a deep bark as if understanding and it gave Susan the courage to open her own front door. Of course Pansy was still in her kitchen, drinking coffee out of Susan's Cannon's coffee mug. This time she turned on her stool and Arnie bounded over and rubbed his side against Pansy's legs, his tail wagging happily. Traitor.

But her grouchy thoughts came to a stop when she finally got a good look at her friend. "Pansy? What happened?"

She had a black eye, and Susan felt all her annoyance fade away immediately.

"Can we talk?" she asked softly sounding far too sad.

"Of course," Susan put up Arnie's leash and immediately went over to take the seat next to Pansy, taking her wand out. "What's the matter?"

"Can you… I mean to ask… that day in St. Mungo's, when Neville and Theo were both really hurt? You noticed that Neville and I had bonded," she paused, blinking hard as Susan began running tests to gauge how hurt Pansy was. "How did you know?"

Not sure where this was heading, Susan answered the best she could even as she pulled a clean towel from her yellow robes, cast a cooling charm, and pressed the icy towel to Pansy's eye. "Your soulmate bond is magical, Pansy. It registered in my scans. One of the things that gives me an edge at work is that I can project those scans, like I did with your brain that one day... did you want to see it?"

Surprise lit Pansy's face at her question, but she quickly nodded. Susan took Pansy's hand and replaced her own with it, "Keep your hand there."

In a snap, her Ash wand twisted through the air and she projected the scan with ease just like she'd done a million times before. She didn't know where this conversation was going, but she wanted to know who, or what, had put that black eye on Pansy.

She couldn't even imagine that Neville would… not in a million years, but Pansy's line of questioning had Susan's stomach turning. Instead, she focused on the scan. It hung in the air for them to look at, a swirling, chaotic mess of deep blues and purples that formed a strong column. That column cut off abruptly and as Pansy looked at it, she frowned.

"Where does it go?"

"To wherever Neville is, I'm guessing," Susan scooted a little closer. "Pansy, it looks healthy, strong. I haven't seen many soulmate bonds, but it looks similar to others I've seen. They usually manifest in different colors, based on personality I believe. The one I scanned France while I was doing Healer training looked green and white, almost like toothpaste."

She smiled and hoped Pansy would too, but instead she frowned even more. "What's on your mind, Pans?"

"Nev and I had a huge fight," Pansy admitted, her bright eyes going watery as she spoke. "I stormed off, locked myself in the bathroom." Her hand came up and waved through the scan, scattering it into nothing.

"Pansy, I'm sorry, soulmate bond or not, if he is the one that put that black eye on you, I will murder him and I know how to properly dispose of the body."

"What?! No!" Her absolute negative made Susan feel immediately better. "Susie, no. I've started helping Harry with his cases, using my psychic abilities."

"And that got you a black eye?"

"Somehow? I had a vision of someone getting a black eye and I think the violence of it turned physical for me. That's what Neville and I fought about." Pansy dropped the towel and used both hands to pull at her hair, eyes bulging.

"I see, he doesn't want you to keep helping Harry I bet."

"All the research I've done on soulmate bonds, I've found out that it's rare for the bond to be empathic."

Susan sucked in a breath, "Is yours?" She hadn't known that.

Pansy nodded. "Neville and I are always on the same page, emotionally. Because we know how the other is feeling all the time."

"So, communication comes with understanding in your relationship, at least when it comes to feelings." Susan wondered what that would be like, and if that would even help in her relationship with Ron. She thought not, because despite the fact he seemed closed-mouthed with others, he never had a problem with telling her exactly how he felt. And no wonder Pansy thought relationships should be easier to establish. That soulmate bond was such a cheat.

"Yes, except, we're at a stalemate here. Because why else would I have this gift, if not to help people? I get one little black eye and Neville is determined to stop me from helping Harry." She blew out a breath and picked the towel back up, pressing it against her eye. "It was a bad fight, Susie. And afterwards..."

"Go on," she encouraged.

"I was in the bathroom, ignoring him, and I looked into the mirror and… my eyes, Susie. Look at them. The blue is fading."

Susan leaned forward, peering into the woman's eyes. Witch violet eyes that once had jagged shards of blue through them seemed to be returning to their own unique color. Instantly she knew why, but how much it must've scared Pansy just made her heart hurt. "Oh Pansy! No, that happens with the bond."

"It… it does?"

Nodding, Susan said, "The physical effects fade after a bit. Didn't you see that during your research?"

"No," shaking her head, Pansy seemed almost relieved. "I thought, with our fight, something had happened to diminish the bond!"

"I hate to say it, but I'm really happy that you guys fight," Susan admitted, standing up and patting Pansy's shoulder as she did. She then walked around the island and started the kettle. Pansy had coffee, but Susan wanted something to do with her hands.

"Why?"

"Because I was over here thinking you two were the perfect couple and I was the one that needed psychic intervention just to have one lousy date," Susan joked.

Finally, finally, she managed to coax a smile out from Pansy. "We both know that your date with Ron was anything but lousy."

Susan shook her head. No, of course Pansy was right. Her date had been wonderful, but her and Ron had fallen into the habit of fighting and then ignoring each other for a month or more at a time.

"I didn't come to meddle," Pansy told her. "But, he misses you terribly…"

Susan felt her face fall. "I don't know why you're telling me." She turned to open the cabinet with the tea bags, but really, she needed to hide her face from the witch that saw too much. "He's the one that walked away, it wasn't me." But, thinking on Hermione's advice, she thought maybe she shouldn't wait for Ron to come back to her, as she'd expected. Because when she ran from him, he'd always waited patiently for her to return, and she'd assumed she needed to do the same when it was him that ran this time.

"What?" She heard the bar stool scoot across the floor. "Wait, I know you two fought but I didn't see it, and Ron made it sound as if you were running away from him again."

"I didn't though."

'I need to find a way to make you promise to stick around...' ... "I promised I wouldn't run from him anymore and that we would start talking things through." And how could she ever run from him again?

After the priceless gift he'd given her? But it didn't matter, because he was the one that walked away.

Pansy shook her head. "Tell me what happened."

And just like that, the heartbreak rushed back to her all at once. "What happened is he gave me the best possible thing he could have ever given me. Finding out about Ione, I never, never expected such thing to ever happen to me and I'm truly happy, but finding out that Ione's daughter was my mother, when I only just learned about my mother… and hearing that Callista Linden died… I know it's not rational and doesn't make any sense, but it feels like I just lost her. Like she just died. Like she died only the other day…" she paused, unsure of how to continue when there weren't any words to describe the anguish she felt, to vocalize how badly it hurt. "...and I - I can't deal with this grief inside of me."

It felt like a jagged steel ball, scraping her insides and leaving her to bleed out.

"Susie…" Pansy rushed her, grabbing Susan in a hug, as if she were trying to crush that grief right out of her.

"No - your visions!"

"I don't care!" Physical touch usually triggered Pansy's visions, but she held Susan regardless. "It's all right, it's not irrational at all. That was your mother. I completely understand."

And Susan knew she spoke the truth, because Pansy had also lost her parents. She almost wished she never got those damn letters, because they brought her parents to life in a way they'd never been before. Knowing that Charley, or Calli, could garden and manage a farm. That she loved her horse Nuria and could make the best apple pie in the world according to her father. That she could draw and loved Black Eyed Susans, so much that she named her first and only daughter after the flower.

If she hadn't known all of that, maybe it would hurt less, maybe they'd just be lost like they'd been before…

Susan shuddered into Pansy's hug. "I know I handled it badly, picking up extra shifts at work, staying late, bringing work home… I just wanted to exhaust myself so I didn't have to think about it. It's what I did in 6th year, when my Aunt Amelia died. I went so hard on my studies it all became a blur until I could manage it better."

Pansy's fingers dug into Susan's back, her grip going even tighter.

"I just don't understand," her friend whispered to her. "Ron can come off as a jerk sometimes, but he's such a sweetheart, especially to you… I feel like he would've understood what you were going through."

Sniffling, Susan asked, "Why did you and Neville have a fight?"

"Because he wants to protect me from everything, even myself… oh…" Pansy leaned back and looked up at her, understanding immediately. "You guys fought because he wants you to take care of yourself."

"It's nice to know you don't actually know everything," Susan laughed though her throat felt thick. "But maybe you'll have some advice for me, because I honestly don't know what to do."

"You are pretty awful at this love thing."

"At least I don't have a black eye," Susan snapped back. But they both smiled.

"Susie," Pansy stepped away from the hug but brought her gloved hands to capture Susan's, and that's when she knew whatever was about to be said was important. "I'd never seen my soulmate bond before like that, but I have seen one… it looked like the sunset..."

"During your research?"

Pansy shook her head.

"During a vision then?" Susan blew out a breath, not bothering to wait for an answer. "Your visions can change, Pans."

"If circumvented, yes. But why… why would you want that?"

The truth felt more than obvious to Susan, she didn't particularly think she was all that great for Ron, and more, she didn't think she was anywhere near ready to experience something like what Pansy had with Neville. She knew, knew it down to her bones, that she was a difficult woman to love. Not only that, but also that just because two people had feelings for each other didn't mean they had to be together. Relationships were about a lot more than just… love.

"Your face gives everything away, you know that? Those thoughts in your head… all excuses."

"Pansy…"

"No, I mean it. You helped me, so now I'm helping you. Ron might have been the one that ran away this time, out of anger or fear or whatever it may be, but he's still waiting for you to go to him. You know why? Because he believes the same as you, that he's not meant for you. That you two are better off without each other."

"He might be right-"

"No. You don't see him the way we do," Pansy insisted, her tone leaving no room for argument. "You don't see how alike you two are! He was killing himself with work, helping George with the shop, pulling Auror Duty with Harry, trying to keep up with everyone else and then you came over for fire pit that night, remember? You guys kissed. The next day he told Harry to take him off active duty so he could focus on his own business."

"I-"

"He smiles so much more after he's been around you, he's clear headed, he's laughing, he's more active. And tonight is his birthday dinner at the Burrow and if you don't show up I will come over here and drag you there myself!"

Then she proved exactly why everyone thought Pansy Parkinson was the scariest witch around by rising up on her tiptoes and grabbing Susan's neck. She brought their foreheads together and said, "The first vision I ever had was of you Susan Bones, with my good friend Ron Weasley. Married. Happy. In love. And damn good for each other. I will do everything I can to make that vision come true, even fight the both of you for it. So go on, keep fucking up the cosmos, keep fighting with each other, keep going on and off with your relationship, keep up with your stubborn Hufflepuff tendencies, I will not give up! You hear me?"

"I-"

Knock knock knock!

"Hmmph, saved by the soulmate," Pansy glared at her but released the titan grip on Susan's neck and walked to the door, opening it to reveal a rumpled looked Neville. Pansy jumped into the man's arms. "See you tonight, Susan!"

When the front door slammed shut behind them, Susan found she couldn't even move from her spot by the kitchen island as the sudden quiet of her apartment surrounded her.

But Pansy's words rang loudly in her head. Susan had been wondering what she could possibly do to repay Ron, to show how much she appreciated him for finding her family. And for the first time, the answer came so easily it should have been obvious.

Herself.

It was still early in the morning, but by the time Susan could make her feet move, there was only one place she wanted to go. She grabbed Ron's birthday present and then onto Arnie's collar and Apparated directly to Ron's living room. Arnie was used to being Apparated, and when he spotted his dog bed in the corner of the room, he trotted over there and immediately plopped down and went to sleep, his tongue lolling out.

Susan on the other hand made for Ron's bedroom once she determined he was likely still asleep, opening the door as quietly as she could. She stepped over a layer of clothes, notebooks, and his satchel bag and stood by the bed.

His elbow thrown over his eyes, his shirt twisted around his torso, one leg poking out from underneath the blue comforter he liked so much, he looked like he was sleeping hard. His hair stuck up against the pillow and as she nudged off her flats and yellow robes he didn't move at all except to take slow, steady breaths.

All hesitation gone, she slipped out of her slacks and blouse and took the orange tee shirt off the top of his hamper. It smelled mostly of his pine scented aftershave when she slipped it over her head before sliding under the covers next to him.

She sighed and immediately fell asleep.

Chapter Text

I don't know if I'd rather you naked or you wearing my Cannon's jersey. . .
- Ron Weasley

A small part of her thought Ron might be angry at her presence when he woke, but mostly she envisioned sleepy make-up sex followed by her pathetic attempt to make him breakfast which would come right before Ron teased her for her atrocious cooking skills and took over, giving her what she really wanted… a naked Ron making pancakes. She didn't want to get ahead of herself, but food tended to put the both of them in a seriously frisky mood.

That was scenario A.

Scenario B was that they would fight a bit more, because that's really what they did best, but this time Susan would refuse to leave and instead do everything to convince him that no matter what, she was staying.

With him.

Together.

He was stuck with her now.

They could fight, storm off, yell at each other all they wanted, but she would be back.

Pansy had finally made her see what she'd been missing, that Susan had someone who cared enough to fight for her. It was time for her to do the same.

But, neither of those things happened.

She sleepily woke up only a couple of hours after she'd fallen into his bed to feel Ron's long fingers stroking the side of her face and warm-wet, scratchy lips just behind her ear, with a happy sounding 'Susie' that gave her much hope to scenario A. Warm and sleepy, arousal perked its little head right up and Susan felt her body melt into his embrace, her back against his chest, his legs tangling themselves in hers.

Right before a Weasley's Party Parade Bomb went off directly over Ron's bed.

The Happy Birthday song began to play at such a loud volume that both Susan and Ron sat straight up in bed, Susan gasping and Ron immediately pointing his wand out as he looked for the nearest threat. The lyrics changed to Japanese half way through as glitter confetti poured over them, white and orange streamers twirled about the room, self inflating balloons with happy faces popped themselves only to restart again, tiny figurine dragons flew through the air roaring at a comically high octave, and as the song finished in a tempo twice the beat and switching rapidly between different languages, a fat pie with a large 'W' appeared right in front of Ron and smashed itself directly in his face sending cream in all directions.

Including all over Susan.

The sudden lack of noise was far more jarring that the original bomb. But she finally found the courage to lift her fingers. Grabbing onto the silver pie tin, she pulled it gently from his stunned face and tried not to laugh at the expression. The cream managed to be in all sorts of places. Like his ears and down his neck, all over his striped pajama shirt, and it looked especially white against his red hair. She could have used her wand to clean up the mess, as could he, but instead she sent her fingers to gently push cream away from his eyes.

"There's a highly inappropriate joke I want to make," she told him, taking a scoop of the sweet cream before sucking it off her finger, trying to hide her smile.

Even behind a layer of cream she could see his eyes light up in delight. His voice, when he spoke, was rough with sleep and maybe… a little… pleasure? "Do it again."

Cheeks turning red, she nonetheless ran her thumb across his cheek in a slow, deliberate movement, gathering up a glob of cream, and running it across her lips.

"Bloody hell, I'm dreaming…" he leaned in, his intention clear - only to be interrupted when the bedroom door swung open and slammed into the wall.

"War has been declared - oh my? Is that a Susan Bones I spot with my little brown eye?" George Weasley held something with both his hands, a kind of blue plastic stick with two large yellow cylinders on each side.

"AUNT SUSIE!" Fred Jr. rushed the bed with all the agility and wildness of a 4 year old, his arms full of water balloons!?

"Oh no!" Susan half laughed half screamed as a tiny yellow balloon burst over her head. The cold water immediately soaked her hair and back, but the real surprise was when she witnessed Ron, with zero hesitation, toss his wand away, jump out of bed, and grab a device that matched George's out from under his bed and the two of them began spraying water at each other.

"Go Freddie, get your uncle!" George cried with feral energy and it spurred Fred to spread his water balloon laden arms and give a loud battle cry as the three boys chased each other into the living room.
Susan found herself running after them despite not having any ammo of her own, and Ron pulled her behind the couch which he'd already turned over on it's side to provide more cover. And that's when she saw he had more water balloons prepared and stashed away in his ottoman.

"You just had these ready and waiting?"

"There's at least -argh!" A red balloon broke right on Ron's chest when he didn't dodge quick enough. "- three water wars a year in this family!"

Turned out, George and Fred were a crack team when it came to water bombs, even with Arnie doing his best to snatch balloons from the air, and Susan and Ron were quickly soaking wet from head to toe. "You gotta lob it, Susie! So it comes down harder!"

Another round of balloons rained down on them after Ron's words causing them both to squeal. "Or I could just do… this…"

She stood and used her little gift, index finger pointed, to send the rain of balloons rushing back at George and Fred, much to their amazement. The war paused.

"You're a telekinetic?!" Ron shouted, seemingly stunned.

She had a bad moment, realizing all at once she'd never revealed her secret to Ron, remembering the general distrust she always received from others after they learned about her gift. She'd like to think that people who grew up around magic would know better than be to afraid of magic without the aid of a wand, but even the talented, if slightly arrogant, Terrence had been wary of her gift when he found out about it. The rest of the staff had simply looked the other way after it got out around the hospital what she could do.

It hadn't been until she developed the ability to channel her healing magic into her telekinesis that her staff began to openly speak about her gift.

But she should have known better. The Weasley's were the most accepting and understanding people she'd ever known. Ron pumped his water gun and shouted, "GET SUSIE!"

"WAIT, WHAT?" They switched tactics on her, making it a three on one, chasing her around Ron's living room as she barely managed to deflect streams of water and hostile water balloons back at the three Weasley's. They chased her, Arnie chased them.

Susan couldn't remember the last time she had so much fun, or laughed so hard, but by the time they were out of water, Susan jumped up on the couch and proclaimed victory because they were far more soaked than she.

Fred, his curly dark red hair dripping with water, jumped up next to her. "Aunt Susie I have to tell you a secret, it's really important!"

"Oh?" She knelt beside him and he whispered into her ear.

"You're not the winner, I am!" And he smacked a hidden water balloon right over her head. The act caused George and Ron to literally fall to the ground, howling with laughter.

"My kid is awesome!"

Wiping water from her eyes, Susan collapsed onto the couch dramatically. "I concede to your supreme rule, King Freddie. Please have mercy on me."

"Okay," Fred grinned with childish enthusiasm. "Pancakes please!"

Her eyes immediately met Ron's blue gaze from across the room, her stomach doing a full flip when she remember her earlier thoughts about a naked Ron making pancakes. From the sudden hunger on Ron's face, she wondered where his thoughts had gone, and if they were along the same lines as her own.

"Pancakes sound perfect," she said. And then she found it easy to sucker Ron into making them all breakfast, feeding him slices of fruit as he flipped pancakes onto Fred's plate.

Later, after a syrupy kiss goodbye from Fred and an affectionate hug and warning from George, "My wife is completely in love with you, don't be a stranger," Susan watched Ron close his front door before turning to stand immediately in front of her.

He grabbed at her shoulders with both his hands, "Are you very angry with me?"

His question surprised her, but she shook her head right away. "I never was."

"Okay good, where were we?" And he pulled her into his kiss that tasted a little tart from the blueberries that had been on their pancakes and a lot like Ron.

Finally.

She sunk into his kiss, spearing her fingers into his cream-sticky hair, excitement running through her veins as they finally got to the kiss they almost shared before being interrupted by George and Fred.
From the way he responded, Susan knew Ron was just as eager as her.

He wasted no time moving his hands over her shoulders and sliding them down her back, pulling her flush against his body, his fingers digging into the tee shirt she'd pilfered from his hamper. At the same time, he stepped forward and changed the angle of their kiss, forcing her head to tilt back.

Turning their kiss from from a soft, warm thing that reminded her of exactly what she'd been missing to a heated embrace she couldn't get enough of. She loved it, loved his hand coming down to cup her bottom, loved his beard roughing up her cheeks, and, most of all, loved how he left no room for her to wiggle free.

It was there, as Ron Weasley kissed the hell out of her, that his Floo came to life and spit out Ginny and Harry Potter. Susan barely managed to pull her tee shirt back down to cover her butt, while simultaneously hiding her flushed face in Ron's shoulder.

"Argh!" Ron groaned as he turned Susan from view, protecting her as he glared at his friends. "Couldn't you call first? You don't have to come through the Floo you know! Just stick your head in!"

"Ronnie! And Susan, what a delightful surprise!" Ginny Weasley seemed to glow, practically skipping across the room over to them. She rose up on tiptoes to press a quick kiss into Ron's cheek while giving Susan a wink.

"Uhm, honey, maybe we should come back later?" Harry suggested uneasily, looking from Susan's red face to Ron's angry stance.

"Nonsense! It's Ron's birthday!"

"And I'll be around The Burrow later for dinner, honestly-"

Ginny pinched Ron's cheeks between her fingers, grinning madly. "And we're here to make sure your entire day is special!"

"Oh this has Pansy Parkinson written all over it!" Ron grumbled in defeat.

"I don't know, Ron." Susan, after wiping her bottom lip, noticed the softness in Ginny's usual narrow jaw. She put her hand on Ron's shoulder and gave the other couple a questioning smile. "Maybe not this time."

"See, Susan's a smart cookie." Ginny took a small brown package from her pocket and handed it to her brother. "Open your present and then we might leave you alone."

"Fine," Ron mumbled, tearing the brown paper. A tiny white piece of clothing fell into his hand a moment later, and as he unrolled it Susan saw a baby onesie with the picture of a magnifying glass on it. The words written below the image said: My FAVORITE uncle is a P.I.!

Ron was silent for a long time, his mouth slightly opened as he stared at the tiny piece of clothing. So long that Ginny could no longer hold back her excited giggles and asked, "Do you think he's figured it out yet?"

"You - you -" Ron pointed from Ginny to Harry and back to Ginny again.

"That's right, brother!" Ginny pointed both her index fingers at Ron, her entire frame wiggling with her excitement. "Your best friend knocked me up!"

"Ginny!" Harry exclaimed, horrified.

"Harry!" Ron yelled at the same time.

"Ron!" Susan grabbed him before he could lunge at Harry, yanking his shirt to pull him to her, quickly pressing a kiss to his shocked face. Eye to eye, she said, "Congratulations."

He seemed to visibly melt into her. "Ohh all right then! Let's celebrate!"

oOoOo

She shouldn't have been surprised at how much the Weasley's enjoyed a party, but it was hard not to be when, as soon as it started, it just didn't end. What started as water balloon fight turned into a celebration of Ginny and Harry's first child full of laughter and jokes and food. Apparently the birthday dinner party at The Burrow was tradition among the siblings. They each celebrated the same way every year, allowing their mother to cook a huge meal, filling the home with warmth and food, packing it full of family and games and music.

Susan didn't know first hand, instead being told by the parade of family and friends that popped over to say hello to Ron as the day went on, the 'smaller' celebration that left Susan absolutely exhausted. By the time she and Ron actually made it to his parent's home, she was worn out from the constant contact with people and already bursting full from all the snacks.

How on earth was she supposed to eat a huge dinner after that?

But that didn't stop her from greeting Mr. and Mrs. Weasley when Ron brought her through the kitchen door at The Burrow, their fingers intertwined together. She had to bend her knees to hug the short woman who so obviously loved every single one of her children and grandchildren without bias. She wore a smudged white apron over a set of humble red robes, and she smelled of home cooked food.
And she hugged Susan as enthusiastically as she did the others.

"Did you enjoy the muffins this morning, dear?"

"I did, Mrs. Weasley, thank you very much. I feel spoiled rotten every time I get to try some of your baked goods."

"Anytime dear, anytime."

Mr. Weasley hugged her next before bending down to pet Arnie. "Long time no see Arnulfo!"

"Oh you know Arnie?" As Susan said his name, Arnie brushed against her leg much like a cat. The only difference was that Arnulfo was 115 pounds of furry mutt and Susan had to brace against Ron or else she might tip right over.

"He was Old Man Johnson's dog. Richie always brought him round the office. Great office dog," Mr. Weasley said with a happy grin.

Susan listened to the words but her eyes found Ron's frown right away as they walked towards the living room and to where they could hear lots of laughter. "What's the matter, Ron?"

"Erm… well this may be a coincidence…" he hesitated and shook his head. "Except I no longer believe in coincidences. Richie Gibbs is the guy I got Arnie from, for you."

"Right, you said you got him from a friend at work. I assumed you meant the Ministry."

"Yeah well, I'm just realizing that about a month before Richie mentioned he was looking to rehome Arnie, Pansy ended up helping out Richie's son by donating some potion supplies to Robby's workshop class… And you don't look that mad."

Susan felt her shoulders shrug. "I'm not."

"But.. You hate when she interferes with your life," Ron said pointedly, stopping them right before they would enter the next room so they could continue to speak privately while they still could.

"Yes… oh but would you like to know what I was doing before I crawled into bed with you this morning?"

Interest flared but his eyes darkened just enough to let her know where his thoughts had gone. "I wish you'd woken me up right away, we could've had hours before anyone interrupted us."

Sexy, sexy man. "Lesson learned," she leaned into his front, looking up at him. "Next time I break into your place, I'll make sure the door is locked and the Floo is shut."

"Is that so much to ask?" he teased. "What were you doing before you came over?"

"Being yelled at by our favorite person ever. But it's all right," she insisted when his face turned angry as he realized she meant Pansy. "She made me realized some important things."

"Like what?"

Red splashed against her cheeks. "Maybe I'll tell you tonight."

He opened his mouth to argue, but the door through the living room slammed open just then, making them both jump.

"We're waiting to ambush you and instead you're just standing around talking to your girlfriend?" Behind George was a room full of Weasley's and friends.

"Have I ever told you that you're my least favorite brother?"

"Well Perce will be glad to know he's not ranked last anymore," George laughed and the entire room seemed spill out through the door, ambushing them as George had said so fondly.

The brief moment of privacy disappeared in a flash and she found herself once again swept up in the celebration. A radio played in the corner and the table was cleared for games. And a never ending flow of snacks and desserts and drinks every time she turned around added to the laughter of the children being chased by Arnie to create an intoxicating, cheerful atmosphere.

She had stolen Ron's Cannon's jersey before they left for The Burrow earlier, knowing beyond a doubt Ron would enjoy seeing her in it. What she hadn't expected was so did everyone else. They seemed to enjoy her attire a little too much, laughing pointedly at Ron when they caught sight of the bright orange shirt with the Cannon's logo on it. But every time he just smiled and sent her a look that had warmth uncurling in all sorts of places.

Siblings, family, and friends. They came and went, stuffing their faces with Molly's dinner, Ron's favorite, crispy lamb chops with mint jelly. Some stayed for hours, some only long enough to say hello and grab a mini-cupcake decorated with orange and red buttercream icing.

The Weasley's all kissed her cheek, making her feel like part of the family, even Ron's older brother Charlie, who Susan hadn't met before.

But the best part was when Ron cornered her throughout the day to steal a kiss, just enough to make them groan in want and remind the both of them how long it'd been since the last time they were intimate together.

Every time, she cupped his cheek and gave a promise, "Tonight."

And to her delight, Angelina and little Roxie showed up a bit later, and Susan found herself stealing the bundle of sleepy baby away and dozing on the couch with Roxie curled up against her chest. Neither of them minded the noise of all the activity around them, and she had worked the night shit after all, barely getting any sleep that morning.

With a belly full of delicious food, she went right to sleep.

She woke up to someone snapping a picture of her. "Oh no," she grumbled sleepily, covering her face.

"Sorry, Susan!" Hermione gave a grin from behind a camera lens. "You just look adorable with little Roxanne, and I promised Molly I'd get plenty of pictures this year."

"It's Ron's birthday, take pictures of him," Susan yawned and glanced at her watch.

"I've gotten plenty of him, trust me. Strange how nearly everyone is of him eating." They both laughed before Hermione continued. "Plus, I want to get as many of all the family as well."

"Aww," Susan gingerly sat up, cradling Roxie as she did. Of course, they wanted pictures of the newest member of the Weasley clan. "Roxie, your family loves you so much. Would you like to hold her, Hermione? I'm afraid I've been hogging her nearly all afternoon."

"Yes," she smiled wide and allowed the camera to hang from its strap around her neck. After Roxie was settled happily in Hermione's arms, she spoke again. "I'm surprised and yet not that you're here. Did you and Ron manage to make up?"

If only.

"We tried." Susan laughed and glanced around the room, her eyes immediately zeroing in on the coffee table where Ron and several of his Auror buddies, including Harry and Neville, were playing an intense game of what looked like poker, the pot full of chocolate frogs and small bottles of liquor. "We keep getting interrupted."

"And our beloved Psychic is nowhere to be found, interesting. I wonder if that's why Draco is running late."

Now that she mentioned it, Susan realized Pansy had been suspiciously absent all day… "That is interesting, of all the times for her not to meddle…"

"All or nothing, Susan. All or nothing I'd say," Ginny said as she walked up and stole Roxie from Hermione.

They all laughed again but it was quickly drowned out when the group playing poker began shouting incoherently. Ron stood, wearing a victorious grin as he threw his hand of cards on the table for his friends to see, then he gathered up the pot with his arms and pulled it to his corner.

"Sorry friends," he said with a smug grin. "Sometimes, you just get lucky."

"I'd imagine that isn't the only time you'll get lucky tonight, eh Ron?"

The speaker was someone Susan didn't know, one of the Aurors she hadn't met yet that sent a raunchy grin in her direction. She felt Hermione bristle beside her, but Susan wasn't worried.
Without missing a beat she said, "Jealous?"

A round of cheers filled the room, her single, haughty word sending the group of men into a frenzy. Ron jumped up dramatically, put both hands over his heart and pretended to faint while the rest jumped around the table, knocking chairs over and sending chocolate frogs flying in all directions.

"You're kind of perfect for my brother Susan," Ginny looked positively thrilled.

She watched the men all rib each other, wrestling around as only a group of men who knew each other very well could do. Ron rolled up to his feet and separated from the rough housing, coming to stand in front of her with a large grin on his face.

Not sure if she preferred him like this, flushed with drinks and good food, surrounded by his friends and family getting spoiled for his birthday, or if she'd rather have him in alone bed, face covered in cream, and looking at her like she was the best part of waking up.

Maybe both.

As his grin turned into a full on smile, one she couldn't stop herself from returning, she felt immensely happy for being able to put a smile on Ron's face at all. She didn't notice Hermione snapping pictures. She didn't notice the rowdy group laughing. She only noticed that smile of his.

Then when Ron reached out and grabbed her hands, her mind seemed to catch up all at once, the noise rushing back at her. He tugged her towards the kitchen and her feet went willingly. "Let's get another cupcake."

She followed Ron past everyone into the kitchen and straight to the counter with the desserts, spotting exactly one mini cupcake remaining. She surged forward and grabbed it quickly, turning around and bracing herself against the counter and teasing him with the very sight of the sugary sweet.

He mock gasped, crowding her against the counter. "Share."

"Maybe," she placed the tiny cake almost against her own lips, forcing an innocent look on her face. "Maybe not."

He made her feel young, leaning in and forcing a pout when she could tell he was holding back a smile. "But it's my birthday."

"And I haven't forgotten that I owe you a favor." Her words floored him, she could tell, as she reminded them both of their intimacy on her own birthday. He groaned and leaned in, brushing his lips against her neck just under her ear. This entire day had felt like an on going session of foreplay. Stolen kisses and heated looks, teasing and innuendos when they could get away with it.

It had been a stern lesson in self-control. And hers was wavering. She never much cared for foreplay, but this...

"Ahem."

She jumped, and peeked around Ron's shoulders to see Theodore and Percy walking in through the kitchen door each with a bottle of wine and a small package in their hands. Theo gave her a naughty smile. "Susan! Are you saving that cupcake for me?"

"Hell no she isn't," Ron wrapped his fingers around Susan's wrist quite suddenly, bringing her fingers, and the cupcake, to his mouth. He wrapped his lips around the tiny cake and sucked it off Susan's fingers with a slowness that sent a barrel of heat straight from those fingers directly up her arm, and shooting down her torso to burst in her belly.

"Maybe - maybe if you'd shown up on time, Th-Theo…" she tried to form more words, honestly she did. But Ron's mouth was a hot suction on her fingers, his eyes that piercing blue that made it impossible to move her own mouth the correct way.

"Really, Ron…" Percy seemed to purse his lips as he walked by, dragging Theo along. But Susan didn't pay them any attention, even as Theo made kissy sounds walking by. Nope, her brain was clouded by the intense heat that was Ron's mouth on her fingers and the rolling sensation of her desire to have that mouth on other parts of her body. Repeatedly. And to return the favor. Repeatedly.

"Let's get out of here," he suggested, voice suddenly much lower, wrapping his other arm around her waist and pulling her towards the door.

"We can't leave without saying goodbye." Especially to his parents. She didn't think she could ever live that down. But her feet had a mind of their own, following him without any resistance.

"Trust me, we'll be here another hour just saying goodbye. A whole hour."

"And what will they say if we just suddenly disappeared?"

"They better say how wonderful it was spending all damn day with me when I only wanted to be locked in a room with you."

His words made her impossibly more aroused, her throat becoming thick. "Maybe I'll leave the jersey on."

"Fucking hell-" Just before they reached the door there was a squeak of a chair moving across the floor and little Freddie ran up to them just then, his arms full of chocolate frogs.

"Uncle Ron you forgot these!" he cried so loudly, they both know someone would figure out they were attempting escape.

"Freddie!" Susan dropped down into a crouch, wiping a smudge of chocolate off the toddler's cheek. "Care to do me a big, big favor?"

"I dunno, what's in it for meee?" Freddie said with a wide streak of sneakiness.

Ron joined in copying Susan's crouch. "Fred, if you can go distract everyone so Aunt Susie and I can leave, you can keep all these chocolate frogs I won."

"All of them?!" he shouted in amazement. "Done!"

He sprinted off, chocolate frogs flying haphazardly in all directions. Laughing, Ron pulled her through the back door and out into the night draped damp garden just moments before the laughter in the house died down right as a loud BOOM! shook the house.

They heard several shouts, "FRED JR!" and "AUGAMENTI!" before Ron wrapped both his arms around her waist and Apparated them away, his laughter ringing in her ears.

Chapter Text

Bloody hell woman, where did you get that dress?
- Ron Weasley

They hit Susan's front door with a hard bump pushing her over into a fit of giggles. Her day was spent wishing they could get away and be alone, but now with his laughter in her ear she couldn't stop her own from gushing out. Especially with Ron raining kisses down her cheeks and against her lips.

She fumbled with the lock on her door, attempting to stymie her own hysterics and meet Ron kiss for kiss. Though her laughter bubbled out with great joy in between kisses, he wised up and pressed completely into her, trapping her between his body and the door.

It ended her laughter and sent her right up to the moon.

"Finally," he grinned, grabbing the collar of her shirt and playfully yanking her closer. "All to myself."

"Wait," she gasped. "Before my mean neighbor interrupts us."

"No more waiting," he pulled her in for a real kiss. One that she felt down to her toes, all warmth and tongue and passion. Lock forgotten, she dug her fingers into his hair and held on as he kissed the hell out of her. For several minutes.

"Besides," he grinned. "Mrs. Johnson actually likes me."

"She doesn't like anyone! Come inside," she panted. "I'll lock the Floo, no one will bother us."

"Let 'em watch," he joke. "They'll be jealous."

"Yes, jealous. Of me. I get to spend the next," she conjured a bit of drama as she checked her watch. "14 hours with you."

"14? Is that all?" he laughed. "You work tomorrow, Susie?"

"Yes," she bit into her lip. "Unless I quit right now."

"You better not," he lifted her up and forced her legs around his waist. "You're magnificent at that place, love. Also, you're wrong about something."

"I'm a woman, I'm never wrong," she grabbed his collar much as he had done earlier to her. Then smiled to show she was kidding.

"Gah, you are perfect for me," he said before kissing her again. And again before pulling away in search of breath. "Still wrong though."

"Whatever am I wrong about?"

"They'll be jealous of me, because I get to spend the next 14 hours with you."

"Hardly!" she laughed as he shifted his hold on her, wrapping on strong hand underneath her behind. "Oh, Ron."

"Of course you actually locked your door this one time," he complained, digging out his key with the other.

"No one will mess with Arnie, he's bigger than my couch," Susan tugged on the short strands of his hair, happy to be wrapped around him. "Oh! Ron! We forgot him at The Burrow!"

Ron paused to give her a reassuring smile, "Never, I asked dad to watch him tonight and tomorrow. I knew we'd need a quick escape tonight."

A tender, wonderful feeling filled her. "Is that right?" she said, tugging on the collar of his nice shirt. "Thank you for taking care of Arnie, Ron. He means so much to me."

"I know," Ron finally got the key out of his pocket and slotted it into her front door. "You get the Floo, I'll lock the door. I can't handle anymore interruptions today, I'm half afraid of Nev showing up and breaking my ribs again."

"If he does, I will heal them right up," she promised, leaning in for another kiss. A softer kiss. One that took her breath away and made the rest of the world fade to nothing. She didn't notice anything outside of the bubble that was her and Ron and the perfectly perfection that was their kiss.

Didn't notice him slowly shutting the door behind them, or when he turned the deadlock.

She could only focus on her slow descent into sexual madness. The rapid thump of her heart and the warmth spreading between her legs right up into her belly. The swell of her breasts underneath the silk of Ron's jersey. The feel of his hands under her thighs, keeping her pressed right into him.

They'd waited all day to be alone and finally-

"Ahem,"

Susan leaned away, his arms unraveling. "Did you say something?"

"No, did you?" he asked.

"Oh - don't mind me dears!"

That's when Susan realized her kitchen light was on. And Ione was sitting at the island, drinking coffee.

"Ione!" she stumbled out of Ron's hold and bumped right into the coffee table.

Strange how after she found out the truth, after all the time she spent wondering what she would say when she finally came face to face with Ione again, imagining hugging Ione and telling her about Callista, all Susan could do was stand in place.

Mouth agape.

Staring uselessly at her grandmother. Her grandmother. She was here!

But she shouldn't have worried. Ron, for whatever unfathomable reason, had her back no matter how much of a basketcase she acted. He gave her the gentlest of nudges, just enough to get her feet moving. Moving forward.

And wrapping her arms around the woman who mentored her. The one who turned her on to yoga. The one who got her to France, so she could become a healer. Her grandmother! Only, it seemed way better than ever before.

She hadn't been held by family since before her Aunt Amelia passed.

"Ione, I missed you so much!"

"And here I've been waiting all day, no, I'm just kidding Susan. I just arrived myself!" Ione teased, before looking over at Ron. "And I seem to have interrupted something. Should I come back tomorrow?"

Oh no.

Susan turned back, she felt completely split. She'd spent all day with Ron, falling even more in love with him and his goofy grin and his huge family. She put her hands on her face, to calm the heat there, to help find her breath. "I-"

Ron walked over and stood before her, replacing her hands on her face. She wrapped her fingers around his wrists, keeping them there as he leaned in to kiss her forehead. "Shh," his voice soothing her. "I'll make this easy for you, Susie."

"Ron, it's your birthday," she blinked back tears but mostly because of the intense overwhelming feeling bubbling up inside her heart. The emotion of the situation simply too much.

"Aw love, and I went to bed last night thinking I'd mucked things up for good between us but woke up with you next to me. That was the best present you could've given me. And you'll just have to make it up to me later. Another favor," he grinned madly. "And there'll be interest. But I know how important this is."

"I wouldn't know, if it hadn't been for you, none of this would have happened," Susie, tightened her grip on his wrists, keeping him close. "I love you."

He sucked in a breath through his teeth and she realized, that was the first time she'd said the words out loud. She'd been head over heels on Ron for a long time, and, acting a fool aside, he felt the same. He treated her differently than the other women in his life. He had a special smile all for her.

They were both messy, busy people, but talking to each other seemed easier than breathing. And when he kissed her…

Lord have mercy, when he kissed her!

He cooked for her and protected her when she needed it. He gave her Arnie. He gave her Ione. The Fernard's. The Weasley's. He gave her a family when she had none. There, in the cocoon of his arms, knowing first hand the torture of wanting to be together all. Day. Long. And he was willing to walk away to let her be with Ione.

Yeah.

She loved him.

She loved the hell out of him.

"Woman, I love you too," he said. Then, holding her face as she held his wrists, he kissed her. Right in front of Ione.

When he backed off, both of them flush and out of breath, he gave a shy wave to Ione before leaving without another word. Likely because neither of them would have been able to leave each other after much more of that.

Outside of Susan's apartment, Ron stopped to lean against the wall in the hallway. Trying to calm his beating heart, and glaring at Pansy Parkinson as she leaned against the opposite wall. "Is she in there?" the seer whispered to him.

"Is that where you've been all day? You found her?"

Pansy nodded, breaking into the biggest smile. "Yesterday, Susie and I had a huge heart-to-heart, and I had a vision of where Ione would be. Managed to track down the hotel she was staying at."

"Your damn meddling," but he smiled.

"I see a cold shower in your future, Ron Weasley."

oOoOo

"Did you get my letters, Ione?" she asked, after finally catching her breath. She poured herself a cup of coffee, topping Ione's off right after. She needed to bring this up slowly, not jump right into it. But strangely, she wasn't nervous in the least. She already had love for Ione, as a mentor, as a friend.

And Ione had never made her feel any less.

"No, I'm sorry Susan girl, I've been traveling too much," Ione pulled a knapsack up from underneath the table with a huge grin. "But to make up for it, I got you a few presents."

"Ione," Susan stopped her by grabbing her hands. "Before you say or do anything, have you talked to any of your family?"

Ione looked at her with confusion. "Not yet, I came back early because your friend Pansy said you needed a visit. I plan on dropping in tomorrow."

Taking a deep breath, Susan thought she could kiss Pansy Parkinson right on the mouth. "Then, first, I have a present for you."

"I'll never say no to a present!" Beaming, Ione waited patiently.

"Ron found her, Ione. He found your Calli."

Years of emotion passed over Ione's wrinkled face, but her eyes lit up in a way Susan couldn't comprehend. How could she? She wasn't a mother who lost her child.

She stood and rushed to her cabinet and pulled out everything Ron gave her on Charley Bones who was Callista Linden, who was Ione's daughter. She seemed to be talking a mile a minute as she explained how Ron and Hermione managed to dig up some super secret supposed to be buried forever files that finally led them to the truth.

"Ione, I don't know how to say this, I've been imagining how to say it for months now, ever since I found out the truth, Calli wasn't on the run from the DMLE. She worked for them, undercover, fighting in the war. When it got too risky for her, she went undercover, with a new identity. Charley Wicker. And ended up marrying a man named Irving Bones."

At the last word, Ione looked up, her eyes going wide.

"I wish it were better news," Susan continued, laying out everything she had for Ione to look at. The files, the pictures… her mother's letters. But Ione kept her gaze steady on Susan, not saying a word.

"Callista Linden became Charley Bones."

Susan pulled the picture she had of her mother and pushed it towards her grandmother. "These are my parents," she bit back tears as she showed Ione the picture of her parents. Charley with her long, dirty blonde hair and bright caramel colored eyes on a heart shaped face. Her father with his hard jaw and sweet brown eyes, the dimple that he passed on to Susan.

"This is my mother," she reiterated, watching Ione's face swell with emotion.

Susan understood all too well.

"Better news?" Ione's voice turned choppy, her hands coming up to touch Susan's face. Then they were both crying. "I mourned for her a long time ago, Susie girl. I never gave up hope, I couldn't, so I mourned for her loss, thinking one day I would find her. But you, you're my granddaughter. Blood of my blood. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that you existed."

They cried for a long time. For Calli. For Susan's uncle Edgar, Aunt Sherri, and her three cousins. For her father.

For Aunt Amelia.

But then came the happy tears.

She pointed out the note on Calli's file that said: 'This woman is too much to handle. She'll cause more trouble than she's worth.' It made the both of them cry with laughter and Ione told her things about her mother she'd always wanted to know but never could.

Things only a mother could know about their child.

In return, Susan shared her first experience with The Fernard's and their chaotic family dinners. Told Ione how close she'd become to Cris. How much better her life was for it.

"I'm glad," Ione said, just as the sun started coming up. "You were such a lonely girl when we first met, Susie girl."

"I was lonely for a long time," Susan agreed, wiping her cheeks for the umpteenth time. "To a fault almost. I've nearly ruined things with Ron, a few times actually, because I'm so afraid of all the love he's given me. But…"

Ione pulled her in for a hug, running fingers through Susan's hair in a motherly way. "He loves you, Susie girl. And I heard him say it if he tries to say otherwise. I love you too, I always have. I should've known you were one of mine, that hair. It always reminded me of Calli's. I can't believe he found her, after all these years."

Knowing that she got her cherry red hair from her mother provided another precious connection to her lost family. She might've cried again. Ione's affectionate nickname for her had turned even more personal, pulling her further into a life where she wasn't alone. Into a family. One full of love.

She hadn't felt like this since she last saw her Aunt Amelia.

"He's amazing, we just fight like crazy," Susan groaned. "Like we are on same page most of the times but then all the sudden we aren't even on the same book anymore. And neither of us know how to handle it, so we just avoid each other for a month. Which just makes us both crazier."

She ended it on a laugh but it was true. Pathetic. But true.

"Ahh, your grandfather and I were like that," Ione grinned. And they went into a new conversation, where Ione told Susan all about Auberon Linden, the young painter who stole her heart the summer she spent in Bangladesh as a young woman. He moved back home to be with Ione, to have Calli, only to pass away in his sleep several years later. Leaving Ione alone with a little girl to raise. "I traveled the world, saw amazing things, met amazing people. None ever compared to the way that man made me feel."

Suddenly feeling her cheeks heat, Susan checked her watch out of habit. She jumped. "Ione! I have to go to work!"

"Ho! Susie girl, I'm sorry. I kept you up all night," Ione apologized, standing with her.

"I wish we could keep talking, will you be returning to your travels?"

She immediately shook her head. "My family is right here," Ione said, pulling Susan in for another hug. "I'm not going anywhere."

oOoOo

Susan, dressed for work, ran up the walkway to Pansy's little house. She was going to be so late for work, really late. But Myles owed her one, or a hundred. The garden smelled amazing, the morning sun waking everything up for the day. And before she could reach the door, it opened and Pansy rushed out, wearing only her purple colored bathrobe.

They met for a hug, the height difference long ago worked out. Susan bent, Pansy came up on her tiptoes and they hugged so hard they nearly fell over laughing. "I love you so much," Susan couldn't stop saying those words. First to Ron, then to Ione. She was going to tell everyone she loved just how much they meant to her.

"I know," Pansy pulled away but not far. "You're late!"

"I know!" Susan laughed, caught sight of a sleepy Neville in the doorway, rubbing his eyes.

"Is anything wrong?" he asked in a grumpy voice when Susan nearly knocked him over with her hug.

"Not at all! I love you, Nev!" she kissed his surprised face right on the cheek before she dashed off. "I'm going to be so late!"

oOoOo

After a positively wonderful day at work, during which she made sure her entire team knew how much she loved and appreciated them, Susan met Hermione at her favorite dress shop in Diagon Alley.

"You're glowing," Hermione teased.

Shaking her head, Susan just smiled. "Not for the reason you think. Ron and I did not get the grand escape we planned."

"Oh?" Hermione held the door for her and they began searching for the perfect dress for Hermione to wear to dinner with Mrs. Malfoy.

"Ione came home last night."

"Your grandmother," Hermione smiled back. "I'm glad. Was it a good reunion?"

"Yes," Susan danced through the aisles, "But this isn't about me. Let's find you a dress, shall we?"

"Please, God," Hermione laughed nervously. "Dinner is in two hours. The worst part is, I know Draco won't care. And if his mother said anything to make me feel uncomfortable, he would defend me. I'm the only one that cares and I haven't the faintest idea why."

"I was nervous meeting Mrs. Weasley for the first time because I thought she would disapprove of a woman who can't cook," Susan offered. "Little did I know she would just take pity on me and send me baked goods. Frequently."

"Ohh, the muffins."

"The muffins."

Giggling, they searched through the dresses while Susan tried not to skip. She couldn't remember a time when she felt happier. Ione was back. And she was oozing family members. She couldn't stop thinking about little Freddie calling her 'Aunt' and imagining how proud Aunt Amelia would be of her.

"It's my own fault really, I've gotten used to being competent. Of everyone letting me do whatever I want," Hermione told her as they vetoed dress after dress.

"Do they? Let you do whatever you want?"

"I definitely get away with more things than I used to, but there's no shortcuts when it comes to the Malfoy's, and that's a fact."

Hermione tried on dress after dress until Susan figured out the witch had a shy side, one that made her choose safe, rather boring dresses. "We need to find something that is going to knock Draco out while making a good impression with the mother," she said. "Try this one."

"You think?" Hermione grimaced at the dress Susan held up. A rich sapphire colored silk. One much shorter than the ones Hermione had picked. "I don't know… isn't that a bit… risky?"

"It's not a casual dinner right?" Susan pushed Hermione back into the fitting room. "Trust me, you need to knock them dead, not play it safe."

While Hermione changed, a little black dress caught her eye. Slim, short, and strapless.

Her mouth nearly watered at the very sight. It looked like it would fit her… a little too well… The last time she tried on a dress she lusted over, that pink lace monstrosity, she'd left feeling disappointed and dress-less. But maybe…

She couldn't resist, stepping into the fitting room next to Hermione's with the scandalous looking dress clutched in her fingers. Every woman needed a little black dress right?

"I don't know, Susie," she heard Hermione's voice next door. "This isn't really… it's awfully short."

"Hold on, I'm coming out," Susan finished dressing without looking at herself in the mirror, and stepped out.

Hermione came out of the fitting room at the same time, looking nervous and fidgeting with the hem of her own dress.

"Holy Hufflepuff," Susan fanned herself for effect when she caught sight Hermione.

"Oh my word!" Hermione pointed at Susan. "I can't wear that!"

"Don't!" Susan pointed back, "You're wearing that dress!"

The one that hit Hermione mid thigh, pinching in on her narrow hips to make her seem more curvy than she actually was. The deep color made her skin gleam and brought out the natural highlights in her dark hair. More, the neckline was high enough to give Hermione comfort, creating a straight line from shoulder to shoulder.

"I don't know…" Hermione winced when she caught sight of herself in the mirror.

"Oh no, no no," Susan waved her finger. "You're getting that dress. It's simple. It's classy. It's perfect for you!"

"I don't look as good in this dress as you do in yours," Hermione turned Susan on the spot so that she could see herself in the mirror.

Little. Black. Dress.

Even she had to admit she looked far better than she expected. For once her height worked in her favor, her freckled legs looking miles long instead of awkward and gangly. The dipping neckline left nothing to the imagination. The black made her look slim and years of yoga made her feel toned and gave her enough confidence to think she might just pull it off.

"Susan, I really wanted to talk to you about something," the nerves were back in Hermione's voice so she turned her attention away from the LBD and the slits that came up high on her thighs.

"All right," Susan gestured for them to sit on the small sofa directly by fitting rooms.

"It's about why Ron and I lived together for so long even after we separated as a couple."

Oh boy.

She'd lured Susan into a false sense of safety and then brought up the one thing she didn't want to talk about. The night jealousy had turned her so ugly she threw a giant tantrum and stormed off without listening to all sides of the story. Acting so unlike herself she'd questioned her own nature for weeks afterwards.

"I just assumed it was because of how close you two are," Susan said once she figured out Hermione was waiting for her to speak. And it was true enough. Harry, Hermione, and Ron kind of came as a package deal.

"Maybe a little bit," Hermione agreed, her eyes turning downcast.

And Susan suddenly remembered her shift before her birthday, running into Pansy and Hermione at St. Mungo's when she was burying herself in work, trying to forget the world and just make it through the Holidays.

What did Pansy say?

She has her own demons.

"Hermione, I want you to know that I have no intention of coming between you and Ron. I don't think Ron would ever let something like that happen."

"That's really nice to hear," she smiled again. "The truth is, since the war and everything that happened to me, I get rather bad… night terrors… so bad that I can't wake myself out of them. And Ron is - was - the only one that could bring me back to life, so to speak."

The Healer in her came out before she could stop herself. "Did you have them as a child?"

"Not that I'm aware of, my parents say no," Hermione informed her.

"Are they violent?"

Her worried non-answer said yes, yes they were.

"It's really rare to develop them as an adult, but it's not unheard of. Especially with that you've gone through," she winced. "Sorry, I'm not your therapist. I'm sure you already know all this."

Hermione laughed nervously, looking down again. "Draco can pull me out of them now, but not every time."

"You still need Ron?" Susan guessed, watching her shy nod. "Dreamless Sleep doesn't work, does it?"

"No, not at all."

"Hmmm…" but Hermione reached out and put her hand over Susan's wand hand before she could start taking scans.

"I'm not trying to take up your valuable time, Healer Bones, I just wanted you to know why Ron and I lived together for so long. Why I still might be around at weird hours of the night…"

"If Pansy Parkinson can meddle in our love lives, then I'm reserving the right to take a brain scan on occasion," she forced her boss voice on Hermione, lifting her wand to back up the claim. "And I need a new research project."

"What right here?" she asked, shocked.

"Once I have it, I can conjure it up at anytime," Susan informed her. "One of those little things that makes me well suited to be a healer. But for now…"

She waved her wand and it was done.

"Your privacy is safe with me, even from Ron, I take my job very seriously," Susan promised.

"I believe you," they shared a smile.

"And unlike my love life, I'm quite good at that job," Susan joked.

Then they shared a laugh, the tension finally broken. "I'm beginning to see Ron has a type," Hermione giggled.

"What's that? Basketcases?"

"Loose screws."

"Nutsos."

"Psychos."

"Jeez," Susan's cheeks flushed with laughter. "What's the matter with him?"

And then they were giggling harder than ever.

"You don't happen to know what Ron is up to tonight, do you?" Susan asked, straightening the strap of her LBD. "We just kept getting interrupted yesterday before we could reconcile."

"As a matter of fact," Hermione grinned. "I know exactly where Ron is right at this very moment."

But first she wanted to nurture this growing friendship between her and Hermione. She took Hermione back to her apartment, garnishing a ton of looks on their way out of Diagon Alley, and accessorized the witch with dangle silver earrings and found a pair of shoes Hermione shrunk to the correct size because Susan was terrible at transfiguring clothes.

Then taught her a simple twist to go with the classy look of the new dress. "This will work wonders, I have no doubt about it."

"I hope so," Hermione continued to fidget with the hem of her dress, but she seemed to be gaining some confidence the longer she wore it. "Thank you for your help."

"Knock them dead," Susan smiled and then offered Hermione the use of her Floo.

Hermione surprised her with a hug. "He's really happy," she said.

No question as to who she meant. As usual, whenever Ron came up, her cheeks flushed with heat. She imagined the look on his face when he saw her in her LBD and they finally got a moment alone.

"Me too," she admitted.

oOoOo

Ione assured her she was sticking around, the urge to travel completely gone now that she knew the fate of Calli and the truth about Susan. She planned on spending the evening with her little sister and planning the biggest party she'd ever thrown in her life to celebrate their reunion. Her exact words were: Fireworks, Susie girl. We're going to blow a hole in the sky to celebrate.

Hermione told her that Ron was working with George at the shop until late afternoon before going over to The Burrow to help his mum clean up after his party last night. Right before she told Susan that that birthday party had been truly tame compared to the usual shenanigans the Weasley's got up to around their birthdays.

Personally, she'd been overwhelmed by it all. The endless food, the parade of people. She thought it'd been a blast, but apparently…. Tame. She'd just have to come around for more birthdays and find out for herself what a wild party with them would actually be like.

She didn't want to distract him from being with his parents, so she waited a bit and then, throwing on a long coat, Apparated herself to The Burrow. If anything, she could visit with Mrs. Weasley and maybe get a muffin.

Arnie flattened her the moment she walked through the back gate, his tail wagging with deadly force, his paws coming up to her shoulders. "Arnulfo, good puppy, my good boy," she couldn't help cooing at her pet.

He dropped to all fours again before rushing off, running through the grass looking the happy pet he was. He came back with a stick and sloppy dog grin. They played tug a bit before he finally gave in and let her take possession of the stick, which she threw as far as she could for him.

As usual, he got tired of the game after the third or fourth throw and lost interest. "Lazy dog," she petted behind his ears before she finally made her way to the back door of the house.

She knocked on the screen door and waited patiently, smiling when Mrs. Weasley appeared. "Susan! Hello again," she smiled, opening the door. Nothing was more welcoming than a Weasley. She could smell butter and happy baking things wafting from the kitchen.

"Hi, Mrs. Weasley. Sorry to intrude-" she found herself being hugged tight by Ron's mother.

"Nonsense!" she practically shouted. "Please come in."

"Hello, Mr. Weasley," she said, spotting him at the kitchen table. "Is Ron here?"

She found herself being guided to that same table, hot tea being poured in a cup for her. "Ooof-"

And then a hot pastry was set down before her, smelling of sugar and heaven. "I couldn't possibly eat another thing after yesterday," she insisted, even though her traitorous fingers darted forward and began picking apart the treat.

"Ron's here, he's upstairs," Mr. Weasley said as Mrs. Weasley waved her wand working through the air, causing a tornado of house cleaning. She marched over to the stairs up and shouted, "Ronald! You have a visitor!"

"Okay mum!" his voice called from several floors up.

"Such a sweetheart," Mrs. Weasley beamed. "Helping this old lady with her housework."

"I'm hating every minute of it!" Ron shouted, sounding a bit closer. But he seemed upbeat, happy to be helping even if he didn't enjoy the actual helping part.

"You're not old, darling," Mr. Weasley wiggled his greying eyebrows at his wife. "Aging like fine wine, in my good opinion."

This made Mrs. Weasley blush bright red across her cheeks, much like her son always did, and give a smitten giggle.

"How long have you two been married?" Susan couldn't help but ask.

"36 years," Mr. Weasley tapped his temple with two fingers like a salute.

"I'm not a fine wine kind of girl though, Arthur, maybe more like… aged cheese," Mrs. Weasley said as she scrubbed out a giant pot at the sink.

For some reason this sent them both in giggles.

Oh God, they were flirting. With food jokes.

Thankfully another knock at the door interrupted any further romancing, though she could admit to herself how cute it was. Imagine all those years of inside jokes. "Oh Pansy, how lovely to see you. And Neville," Mrs. Weasley hugged both the newcomers and Susan laughed as they too were sat at the kitchen table, immediately tended to with baked goods and more tea.

"Ronald Bilius Weasley, you have guests!" Mrs. Weasley shouted up the stairs again.

"Bilius?" Susan whispered to Pansy as her friend leaned in for a hug.

"Better than my middle name," Pansy whispered back.

"Wait, what's yours?"

"Not telling," Pansy grinned, biting into her pastry.

"It's Ap-" Pansy's hand covered Neville's mouth before he fully got the word out.

"Traitor," she hissed at him.

He shrugged, "Know any 6th century nuns, Susie?"

"What are you two doing here?" she asked instead of following that trail of thinking.

Pansy grinned, somehow looking more maniacal than Susan had ever seen the witch. "Oh I wouldn't miss this for the world."

"Oh?" Susan asked, suddenly very worried.

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley kept flirting with each other but Susan caught footsteps from somewhere above.

"Honestly, mum, you act like I've been messin' with my Quidditch broom instead of helping you clean," Ron said as he walked into the kitchen, carrying several large boxes.

They were stacked precariously high, but she could only take in his tight jeans and pale yellow t-shirt that stretched across his shoulders.

God, she loved him in jeans.

"Need some help?" Susan offered, wondering why he didn't just use his wand.

She didn't expect the high pitched half snort, half giggle that exploded out of Pansy, nor for Ron to startle so badly the boxes he carried came crashing down. Mrs. Weasley was quicker than anyone to magic the boxes to a safe landing before anything broke.

"Honestly, son, you act like you've never seen a pretty girl before," Mrs. Weasley teased back, causing his face to turn beet red.

"Errr-"

"What's with you?" Susan whispered to Pansy, who had buried her face in her hands. She seemed downright giddy, humming with energy and excitement. Neville had his arm wrapped around Pansy's shoulder, attempting to keep her still.

"Shh, sweetheart," he whispered to Pansy, the both of them ignoring Susan. "You said you could handle this."

Mr. Weasley had gone to help Mrs. Weasley with the boxes, the two of them totally in sync as they worked, so she stood and made her way to Ron. "Heya," she smiled.

"Heya."

Face still red, he didn't hesitate to pull her in for a hug. She pressed her face into his neck, breathing in the scent of pine, her eyes fluttering close as his arms wrapped around her. "Did you have a good night with Ione?"

"Yes," now she was the one humming. "We stayed up all night talking. And she's now planning a huge party next weekend, to celebrate."

"I'm not surprised," Ron laughed, bringing a hand up to her cheek. "Any plans for tonight?"

"Aw, they're so cute together, Arthur," Mrs. Weasley put a mitted hand over her heart, Mr. Weasley standing by her. And Susan felt her own face flush red. "Our kids are all happy."

It happened quick.

A rush of magic they all felt, a sparkling shower of reds and oranges powered over Ron's parents and they collapsed into each other, falling to the floor. Mrs. Weasley banged her head on the counter on her way down.

"Mum!" Ron rushed forward, but not before Susan did, rushing over to them. Her hand came out and her healing ability channeled easily through her gift, through her hand, which she placed on the back of Mrs. Weasley's head.

Her wand moved in her other hand, wonder filling her, "Oh!"

"OH? What does that mean? OH? Are they okay? Dad?"

"Molly, Molly…" Mr. Weasley shuddered, holding his wife.

"They're okay, Ron, they're okay," Susan smiled, looking over her shoulder at him then over the other at Pansy. "You knew didn't you?"

But she no longer giggled like a schoolgirl. "What?" Pansy asked dumbly.

Susan waved her wand again and projected the new soulmate bond, the one between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. It flowed like a river of sunset, reds and oranges teeming with strong threads of gold.

A gift of magic. Between two people who had grown so deeply in their relationship they knew each other inside and out, two souls connecting into one bond. Forever.

"Oh Arthur!"

"My Molly," they held each other.

"But that's…" Pansy stepped forward, coming down by Susan. "That's the bond I saw, I thought it…"

"You thought it was mine and Ron's?" Susan guessed.

"Alright, let's give them some privacy," Neville interrupted the conversation, scooping down to pick up Pansy into his arms. "Trust me, they need to be alone for awhile."

She felt Ron tugging her upwards, "Yes, I agree," she said as they walked out into the garden. Ron's parents were cooing in each other's ears and holding onto each other so tightly, Susan couldn't help but grin.

"But… I…" Pansy seemed on the verge of tears as Neville followed them, carrying Pansy like a bride. "It was supposed to be Susan and Ron!"

"Sweetheart," Neville's voice changed, turning softer. He set her down by the gate. "It'll be all right. You've been wrong about your visions before."

Ron however kept tugging Susan further away, past the gate and down the road. Arnie trotting just behind them, a new stick between his teeth. Ron reached down to take the stick, throwing it in the direction they moved. "Let's give them some privacy too," he suggested.

"Uh, yeah," she tucked her wand away and found her hand coming over her heart. "All this time she thought we were going to bond, like she and Neville did, but it was actually your parents."

"And I'm not surprised in the least that they did," Ron laughed a bit. "Ever since Ginny and I moved out they've been spending way more time together. Alone kind of time together."

"They raised seven kids together, they deserve it, I'd say," she said it without thinking, too busy remembering the beautiful bond. Those red and oranges had dazzled. "Oh, jeez. Ron, I'm sorry."

They continued walking for a bit, playing fetch with Arnie, before he said, "It's why we do it, you know? All the siblings made a pact, to have our birthdays at The Burrow every year so we can be with mum. Make her feel better about Fred."

"I wonder if it's enough. I feel so incredibly loved after last night, but a small voice at the back of my mind wonders if I'll be enough for Ione." Then she said the scary thing. "Enough for you… Pansy kind of set us up thinking we were soulmates, and now… I guess, I'm disappointed we aren't," she admitted, only because it was him. And she could admit such a thing to Ron.

He stopped them then, right in the middle of the road, The Burrow barely a dot in the distance, sunshine on her face. He gave her his signature goofy grin. "That day I ran into you, at St. Mungo's… I knocked your granola bar down the stairwell."

She remembered vividly. Remembered being attracted to his beard and easy blue eyes but feeling far to pissed off at Terrence to really pay attention. "Yeah?"

"You remember scowling at me? Like I killed your cat?"

She fisted his t-shirt, feeling playful. "You made me lose my lunch, remember?"

"I think I dreamed about that scowl for weeks," he told her, running fingers through her hair.

"You liar," she laughed. "No, you didn't."

"Weeks. Now imagine how I felt after I kissed you."

Stomach flips. "Are you telling me it's enough?"

"More than," he pulled her closer, laugh fading. He meant it when he said, "I don't need a soulmate bond."

"Me either," she admitted. In fact, all the pressure she'd been feeling seemed to dissipate in an instant with his admission. She'd often wondered how she could possibly mess things up so badly with her soulmate... except now that she thought about it... they were still in it. Still together, maybe they were meant to be. Soulmate bonds were for life, and usually came to couples who had been together for years. Decades. Like the his parents.

She decided then she could wait a few decades, as long as Ron waited with her. Then she leaned in and kissed him.

Kissed him until they were both breathless. "No more running," she told him. "Either of us, agreed?"

"Agreed. Not to sound desperate, but uh, what were your plans for tonight?"

"Oh… my plans for tonight?" she undid the tie on her coat, revealing her LBD. The look on his face had been worth it. "I'm wearing it."

oOoOo

They fought one week later.

And figured out angry sex was way better than the silent treatment.