Ron woke with a start. He was sitting in a high backed armchair in yesterday’s clothes. As he became a little more coherent, the events of the night before began to flood his mind. Images flashed behind his eyes, and a deep, warm blush made its way through his body. Extending his arms up and out, he allowed himself the luxury to stretch his tight muscles.
Things were becoming clearer. He remembered getting up in the middle of the night after Hermione had fallen asleep. Instead of staying where he’d much prefer, he got dressed, and relocated himself into the armchair. He didn’t want someone coming in, and finding them in bed together. That would have caused more questions than either of them were ready to answer, but he couldn’t leave her altogether.
He looked over to where he thought he would find her, but was presented with an empty bed instead. Sitting up startled, he looked around the room for any sign of her. Suddenly, from the washroom he heard running water, and he relaxed his tense posture.
In the next instant though, he became anxious, and uncertain when he thought about the post-coital chat to come. A million different scenarios ran through his mind from her jumping into his arms, to her screaming at him to get out.
He knew how he felt. There had been a piece of him missing, and last night it was returned to him. He’d gone so long without it that he’d grown accustomed to its absence. Now that it was back, he wasn’t certain if he could live without it again. Trying to wait patiently, he busied himself fiddling with his hands.
He froze when he saw her emerge from the loo. He knew her face would tell him everything he needed to know. She gripped the doorframe of the washroom as their eyes met. For a brief moment, she held his gaze then looked away to focus on her hand playing with a slight chip in the paint on the doorway. Her expression was unreadable. She looked neither pleased, nor angry. At best, he could make out that she was pensive with a hint of anxiety. His inability to determine her emotional state increased his uneasiness.
She broke the silence first.
“Good morning,” she said almost inaudibly.
“Morning,” he responded in an equally hushed tone.
After an excruciating silence, he asked. “Did you sleep alright?”
A deep blush overtook her features. At the same time, she dropped her hand from the doorframe to clasp her other hand, and lowered her eyes.
Even more quietly than before, she answered. “Yes. Thank you.”
Hating the apparent tension between them, Ron cleared his throat, and stood up abruptly. He couldn’t take it much longer. He could handle her screaming or even crying, but this awkwardness was going to be his undoing.
Sensing his discomfort, she spoke, “When did you move to the armchair?”
She had finally looked up to meet his gaze, and he found himself squirming at the attention.
Placing his hands in his pockets, and looking anywhere but at her, he answered, “Oh, around two. You looked so tired, and I just wanted you to get a good night sleep.”
At this, they both blushed profusely, and looked around.
“Listen Ron, about last night…”
His eyes snapped over to meet hers, but she didn’t continue. They simply both stood there staring at each other.
“Yes?” He finally whispered.
She inhaled deeply to steady herself. “I wasn’t myself. I was upset, and angry. Under any other circumstances…”
It hit him like a ton of bricks. She regretted it.
“It wouldn’t have happened,” he finished for her.
“That’s not what I was going to say.”
“But that’s what you meant.”
“You have no idea what I meant,” she huffed.
He swatted at his eyes to stay the tears that were trying to form, and moved quickly past her toward the door.
“Well, you’ve made yourself clear enough...”
She turned on her heels to face him.
“You’re just going to run away? I say one thing you don’t like, and you bolt?” Turning away from him, and moving into the room, she muttered, “Typical.”
The verbal jab staying his departure, he shouted, “Excuse me?”
“For all these feelings you profess to have, you certainly don’t like to spend much time talking to me.”
Ron went a dark crimson from a combination of embarrassment, and anger.
“I’m sorry. I guess I don’t like to hear the woman I love say that our night together was a mistake.”
That comment stunned Hermione. She knew he cared about her, but he had never blatantly outright told her as much.
“I was only trying to tell you that, as lovely as last night was, I don’t think we were ready for it. At least I wasn’t,” she sputtered defensively.
She took a breath, and walked over to look out the window putting her back to him.
“I’ve felt really off lately,” she admitted quietly. “My emotions seem to be all over the place, and sometimes I just can’t think straight. I realize the necessity of these potions they have me on, but I really do hate them.”
The guilt was immediate. He felt like someone had kicked him in the gut. In his eagerness to be with her, he’d once again taken advantage of her. Yes, she was begging him, but he should have been stronger. He should have put her needs first. Why was he such a selfish prat?
“Add on that I just found out my best friend was pretty much cheering as my parents were murdered, I’m not doing my best,” she said bitterly.
Ron swallowed hard and steeled himself for what lay ahead.
“He’s an evil git,” he supplied darkly.
“Don’t start Ron. I don’t want to hear it, especially not from you.”
“What? You just said…” He said taking a few steps toward her.
She turned to face him, and said, “I know what I said, but I don’t need you egging me on.”
“I’m just glad you finally see who and what he really is.”
“Was, Ron, was.”
“What do you mean ‘was’?” He nearly shouted.
“He’s not the same person he was back then.”
“I can’t believe you’re still defending him. He was a part of the lynch mob that killed your parents, and yet you can still stand there and say he’s a changed man. What the hell is the matter with you?”
She slapped him hard.
“I hate him, alright. I hate him for what he did,” she screamed. “I hate him for taking away my parents. I hate him for taking pleasure in their pain.”
The tears began to pour down her face unchecked.
“Hermione,” he said taking another step toward her.
“No. Get the hell away from me! You’re enjoying this. You’ve wanted this for ages.”
“I am not enjoying this, but I won’t deny that I’m happy you’ve seen the light.”
“What light, Ron?” She scoffed at him. “I’m in the dark? I’m even further in the dark now than I was before. I’m so confused, and torn I don’t know which end is up. My head says I should detest him, but my heart is telling me he’s not the same person now who did all those horrible things back then.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but I think you should listen to your head.”
“Ron, you just don’t understand. I don’t think you want to understand. Why can’t you accept that people change?”
“I will never, get that, never accept Malfoy as the pansy ass he comes off as now,” he growled.
“Why can’t you see how much it hurts me to lose him?” She screamed at him.
His eyes grew dark, and he became deathly still. “Because you’re better off without him,” he forced out through gritted teeth.
The two stood staunchly glaring at each other.
“Good morning, Hermione. I just wanted to come in, and see…” Lavender stopped abruptly when she saw Ron and Hermione’s confrontational position.
“I’m sorry. Am I interrupting something?” She said softly.
After a long pause, Ron tore his eyes from the intense staring contest he held with Hermione, and said, “I was just leaving.”
He grabbed his coat, and huffed angrily from the room. Once he was gone, Hermione wandered over to the armchair wiping at her eyes with the heel of her palm, and sat heavily burying her head in her hands.
“Are you alright?” Lavender asked tentatively.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Fine. That’s fine.” Lavender supplied gently after a moment’s pause. “I can leave if you need some time…”
Throughout this, a thought had occurred to Hermione. She dropped her hands and really looked at Lavender. Here was the only other person in the world who would understand how torn she felt.
In a decisive move, she cut Lavender off mid sentence. “Actually, I think I do need to talk about this. Do you mind?”
Lavender took in Hermione’s dejection, and offered her a small compassionate smile.
“Not at all.”
She moved to the other armchair, and sat patiently waiting for Hermione to be ready.
“For it to make sense, I guess I should probably start from the beginning.”
“Hey sis, how ya doing?”
Ginny looked up from her paper work through the many stacks of files littering her desk to find her brother Percy smiling at her from her doorway. Her gut twisted every time she saw him. She loved him dearly, but she still didn’t feel completely comfortable with him.
He had come back into the family fold soon after their father was made Minister of Magic, and she couldn’t help but feel like the shift in his attitude had more to do with ministry politics than with familial obligation. And then inevitably, she’d feel awful for thinking so ill of her own brother.
“Hello Percy! I’m good, if not a little behind in my paper work,” she said referring to the mountain of paper before her.
“Give me a second to finish up my notes on this file,” she said looking back down, and writing furiously.
He walked into the room a little with his hands clutched behind his back, and looked around noting the different aspects of her office. She finished writing her notes, quickly closed the file, and put it aside.
“So, how are you? Have a seat.” She said motioning to the chair across from her.
“Oh, I’m well, very well. Yes. Thank you.” He shifted from foot to foot nervously before taking the proffered chair.
She eyed him suspiciously. “Percy, is something the matter?”
“What? No, I’m fine, fine. Why do you ask?”
“You seem a little… distracted.”
“Do I? Oh. Oh, just a lot happening at work. You know how it is.” He said gesturing to the multiple piles on her desk.
She laughed lightly. “Yes, I do.”
Her demeanor sobered quickly as she continued on. “So Perce, what’s going on? To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?
“Well, there’s this case I’m working on." He paused to consider the tactic he should take. Should he try to wile it out of her, or should he be direct. "I was actually wondering if you might be able to help me with it.”
She drew her eyebrows together in confusion.
“Me? Is it a medical question?”
“In a matter of speaking. It’s more to do with a person,” he said evasively.
She didn’t like the sounds of this.
“I’m not certain if I can help. There are some pretty strict rules in place regarding patient/healer confidentiality.”
“I know. I know. I just wanted to get the basic status on someone. Just how they’re doing really.”
“Who might we be speaking of then?” She eyed him cautiously.
“Draco Malfoy,” he said bluntly.
“What? Why him? Why do you need to know how he’s doing?” She asked, her eyes narrowing.
Awkwardly, Percy shifted in his seat.
“I need to know what kind of progress he’s making in regaining his memory.”
Ginny balked at his directness. She sat back, folded her arms in front of her chest, and took a moment to measure her response.
“I’m sorry Percy. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of a patient’s file with you.”
“Oh, come on Gin.”
Suddenly, Ginny’s eyes widened in realization. “The Ministry is going after him, aren’t they?”
Percy cleared his throat, and straightened his posture slightly.
“Not officially. Not yet, at least. But we are gathering information for a future hearing.”
She took him in, and it dawned on her that he was here to pump her for information.
“Well, I have nothing to say.”
He shot her a snotty look, and said, “Unfortunately baby sister, come the trial you will have no choice but to testify.”
“Percy!” She gasped at his callous tone.
“You might as well just give me what I came for before you regret making such a rash decision. Otherwise, you might just find your job security in question.”
Her head nearly boiled with rage. She leaned forward on her elbows, raised one eyebrow, and shot him a truly terrifying look.
“Don’t you threaten me Percival Weasley,” she whispered in a dangerously low voice. “I can make things very unpleasant for you.”
“Father is already involved in the matter, so you will have no sway with him.” He smirked at her arrogantly.
‘Pompous git! I’ll take you down a peg or two,’ she thought to herself.
“I wasn’t talking about Dad. You come at me with this nonsense again, and I’ll make sure a certain person back at the Burrow is made perfectly aware of the threats you just leveled against me.”
“You wouldn’t,” he gasped.
“Oh, but I would. And trust me, when she finds out, forget turning to father. He will be in just as much trouble as you. Even Merlin himself will not be able to save you.”
He sat frozen in shock, and fear. Father had pull, but Mother was downright scary.
“She would never believe you,” he said grasping at straws now.
“Oh, you don’t think so? Ask yourself this then. Who stayed at home while the rest of you basically ignored her, especially you?”
She waited to see the information register. When it finally did, he paled considerably.
“You can show yourself out Percival,” she said dismissively as she picked up her quill, and reopened the file in front of her.
He stared at her bewildered for a moment. When did his hotheaded little sister turn into such a dragon?
He stood, and made his way to the door but before he made it out, Ginny’s voice stopped him. “Percy?”
She looked up at him, and smiled the smile she always gave as a child just before she casted her legendary bat bogey hex.
“I’ll see you at the Burrow on Sunday?” She called sweetly.
“Yes, of course,” he stuttered before turning to reach for the door handle.
“Oh, and Percy?”
He turned back fearing what may come next.
“When you get back to the office, say ‘hello’ to father for me.” And with that, she gave him a very pointed look before continuing. “Give him my regards.”
He could only nod as he made his way out the door. Dad was going to kill him.
At a loss for words, Lavender sat back in her armchair.
Leaning forward, Hermione watched her closely for some kind of response.
“So, you two…” Lavender made a vague hand motion toward the bed. “…In here last night?”
“Yes.” Hermione answered quietly. “I’m not very proud of it. I pretty much forced myself on him.”
“I seriously doubt you had to force very hard,” she said teasingly. “How was it?”
A light blush suffused Hermione’s face.
“Lav, I really don’t think that’s the issue at hand here.”
“Hermione, owning up to how you found being with him will go a far way in figuring out why you did it in the first place, why you’re trying to get away from him and it now, and how you feel about him in general.”
“You just want to dish.” Hermione accused.
“That to.” Lavender said smiling mischievously.
Hermione shifted awkwardly in her chair. She sighed deeply but smiled despite herself, and took a moment to choose her words.
“It was bloody brilliant,” she said trying her damnedest not to sigh.
A small smirk flitted across Lavender’s lips before she asked her next question.
“Then why did you tell him it was a mistake?”
“I never said the word mistake.” Hermione back peddled.
“You didn’t correct him though when he did.”
“It just came on so fast. One minute I was screaming at him, the next I was literally climbing all over him. We have so many issues, Lavender. I can’t seem to talk to him without us getting into some kind of spat.”
“That’s nothing new with you two though.”
“This is different. He’s changed. He’s not the way I remember him, and our arguments always seem to come down to the same thing, or person rather.” Hermione explained.
Lavender glanced out the window, and then down to her clasped hands.
“Draco,” she finally said in a whisper.
“I don’t even know how I feel about all this right now. I’m furious at Draco, and heart broken. I hate him for who he used to be. I also feel like not only did I lose my parents, but I’ve lost my brother as well.”
At this point, Hermione stood up, and began to pace about the room.
“And then Ron just had to keep pouring salt in the wound this morning by trying to push me to shred him to bits. He just couldn’t seem to understand why I might be grieving over Draco.”
"Why would he pour salt on you?" Lavender asked confused.
"It's a muggle expression."
“Right. Anyway, Ron has a lot of resentment built up toward him.”
“I know there’s a strong animosity between their families, but that should have nothing to do with who Draco is now.”
“That’s only a part of it, Hermione. Ron is also quite jealous of how close you two have become. You really do have a marvelous friendship.” She said with a slight hint of envy in her voice.
Hermione swallowed down the lump forming in her throat, and willed herself not to start crying again.
“I think you mean ‘had’.”
Lavender nodded, stood, and placed her hand gently on Hermione’s forearm.
“Give yourself some time. You deserve to be angry. Let yourself go through that, but please don’t give up on him completely. He’s really going to need you soon.”
Hermione thought the last comment was odd, but decided to let it drop.
Lavender moved to leave when Hermione asked quietly. “How’s he doing?”
Lavender paused at the door to consider her words. “He’s been moved to solitary for his own safety.”
Hermione started slightly. “Why?”
“You really want to know?”
“Spit it out, Lavender.” She huffed.
“He had a nervous breakdown last night, Hermione. He’s been placed on suicide watch.”
And with that, Lavender moved quickly from the room leaving Hermione to sort through the emotional mess within her.
Impatiently, Ron paced back and forth in front of the vacant reception desk with his hands jammed in his pockets. He looked up at the clock, and let out a frustrated sigh. Today had turned into a truly awful day. He couldn’t have stuffed things up worse with Hermione if he’d actually been trying.
“Been waiting long?” Came a voice from just down the hall interrupting his thoughts.
Ron turned to find his brother approaching quickly.
“Percy, what the hell took you so long?" He berated him. "How did things go with Gin?”
“Not well. She knows what’s going on with the Ministry now, and I don’t think she’s too happy about it.”
Ron looked at him trying to figure out what seemed off about that comment, and then it occurred to him.
“Percy,” he said in a low voice, “what did you say to her? Why would she be upset?”
Percy glanced around anxiously, and said, “I might have mentioned something about her job.”
“Shit, Percy that worked with Lavender, but you should have known it would never go over with Gin. Was she mad?”
“Let’s just say we need to keep Mum away from her for the next little while.”
Ron whistled out low. “Blimey.” He finally said.
“What about you? Did you find out anything about how he’s doing?”
“Well, I’ve got good news, and bad news. He remembered that he was a part of the Great Muggle Attacks last night.”
“That’s fantastic. That alone should land him ten to twenty in Azkaban.” Percy interrupted excitedly.
“Yah, but mate, he had a complete nervous breakdown right after it. They have him on a bloody suicide watch.”
“Shit. Do you think it will take him long to recover from that?” Percy asked with more concern for the case than for the man.
“What do I look like, a bloody Healer? You have Lavender on a string. Go ask her.” Ron answered gruffly.
“She’s been really unobliging lately. I get the feeling the little bitch has actually been working against us.”
“Percy, please don’t call her that. I hate it when you talk like that about women.”
“Fine, fine. How’s Hermione doing?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Ron responded darkly.
Sensing Ron's fowl mood, Percy decided to change the subject. “Listen, we should probably get going. Dad is waiting for us back at the office.”
Ron nodded, and then the two disapparated with a “pop”.
A moment later, a lone figure stepped out gradually from an adjacent hallway. Clutching his fists, and trying with every shred of will power he possessed not to lose control, Harry Potter began to shake from the sheer rage ripping through his body.
Suddenly, the lights in the hall went dim, flashed up quickly, then dimmed again from the surge of his anger. He set his legs in motion, and with each step that took him further down the hallway, the light bulbs exploded as he passed beneath them one after the other.