Chapter 6 : Revelation
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George’s eyes flickered open. He was lying on his back, facing the ceiling. It was an odd position to wake up in; usually he woke up on his side. He looked over at the figure lying next to him. Hermione was still asleep. Even in her slumber she looked agitated, as though she were having a bad dream. He couldn’t look away though, she was fascinating. Her eyelids flickered, as though her eyes were moving rapidly beneath them, and her eyebrows arched occasionally, just as they did when she was awake. Hermione’s lips moved too. No words would come out but George could tell she was still saying something. They didn’t move a lot, only enough for a whisper of a word each time, and each movement came every so often, it wasn’t a constant flow. George was intrigued. He felt an urge to reach out and touch her cheek, or stroke her forehead. It was the first time George had really looked at Hermione, really studied the contours and lines of her face. He noticed her forehead had crease marks, three distinct ones, and each time she arched her brows the creases would crinkle. She had slight crow’s feet developing too, around her eyes, signalling the amount of smiles and laughs she’d enjoyed, but she had dark areas below her eyes too, evidence for many years of sleepless nights. George never knew he could learn so much from merely looking at a person’s features but the years of happiness, joy, sadness and torment were written across Hermione’s face like words printed on a page. It made him want to ask her questions, listen to her story, he was suddenly very interested in her life and he wanted to wake her up that instant and hear about it, but he restrained himself. She was sleeping, and from what he’d learned from looking at her face, she didn’t do that very often. George didn’t have to wait long though for Hermione to awaken. Her eyelids opened gently and her big brown eyes stared up at him and met his. George couldn’t help himself, he grinned. Hermione’s face on the other hand went cold.
“You’re still here then,” Hermione glowered.
“Come on, how long are you going to keep this up? Don’t tell me you didn’t sleep well,” George laughed haughtily, reaching out and punching her lightly on the shoulder. She scowled but her eyes lit up in interest as her eyes fell on his fist.
“How did you get all of those white scar marks on your hand?” Hermione asked, too attracted for the moment to keep up her act. Plus George was right, she couldn’t tell him she didn’t sleep well, she’d slept the best she’d done in months, possibly years.
“Oh, you noticed them did you?” George sighed. Hermione nodded, her face was still a little cold but she was talking to him properly at least.
“From different things really. I dipped into the Muggle world for a bit and got myself a couple of jobs, moving heavy stuff, building and all that lot, I wasn’t very good at it so I got myself a lot of scratches and marks, then I tried my luck in the kitchen, at one of the Muggle restaurants, and managed to burn myself a few times. Mainly though they’re from this little dog thing that sometimes kept me company when I was on the streets, he kept biting me when he wanted food and seeing as I rarely had any food he gave me a lot of bites,” George explained.
“What did you think of the Muggle world?” Hermione asked, she could feel herself becoming suddenly absorbed in finding out more information, she couldn’t help herself, she wanted to know more about him. She supposed she’d kept her pretences up for long enough and now was the time to lay off George and forgive him, even if she didn’t want to admit it he hadn’t really done anything wrong, other than hurt her perhaps, but he didn’t know that. She sat up and picked up George’s scarred hand, running her fingers over it she could feel each scar and each mark that hardened his skin.
“Forgiven me now have you? Now I’ve got something of interest to say?” George joked, “I guess it was alright. They’re tougher than I thought they’d be. You know, I always thought us lot had it bad but some of them have it really bad, I got chatting to a few of them when I was on the streets.”
“And what did you find out?” Hermione asked, brushing off his sarcastic tone.
“One chap, Paul, he had a wife and a sister but they went on an underground train one day, with his kids, and the train crashed, they all died and he lost everything, blew all his money on drink and gambling and ended up getting thrown out of his flat, been living on the streets ever since,” George said. He seemed happy to be discussing this with Hermione, like he’d wanted to get it out of his system for years.
“And this woman, Sally, she got pregnant when she was fifteen and her Mum kicked her out of the house. She had the baby on the streets but unfortunately it didn’t last long, the poor thing died of some sort of bug it caught, and then she was left with nothing either, maybe I stayed there because all of their situations were worse than mine and it made me feel better, I don’t really know, but I only stayed in the Muggle world for a bit, I got tired of not being able to use magic so I came back, holed up in Knockturn Alley for a while, then Tom, you know, owner of the Leaky Cauldron, I told you I knew him well, he took me in for a bit, gave me a room and some food, that didn’t last long though, it hit the start of Hogwarts term and he was so busy that he had to kick me out to free my room up, all the families trying to get all the school equipment for their kids. So after that I went to Gringotts. Fred and I had an account there, for the money from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and I went to check how much money we had left. I’d used a lot of it on drink and gambling, just like Paul you see. When I got there the goblin took me to the vault and there were only five galleons and one knut left, I didn’t want to take it out because I thought I’d need it for something else later on, so I went back into Diagon Alley and stole from places, mostly the stalls, taking the food I needed and sheltering in this abandoned shop in Knockturn Alley, that Borgin and Burkes one I think it was. That’s when I got caught for pickpocketing the Minister, it was just too big of an opportunity to miss and I’d had a drink you see, and then I was taken to your office,” George explained.
“So you weren’t crazy at all, were you? When you came to my office?” Hermione frowned.
“No, that was the drink, I go a bit funny when I drink,” George nodded.
“And the money you spent yesterday on Hugo’s broom?”
“The last five galleons that were in my vault, yes,” George nodded again.
“You shouldn’t have done that, I could have paid for it you know,” Hermione said, shaking her head.
“I know, but Hugo wanted me to buy it and I didn’t want to disappoint him.”
“What happened to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes anyway?” Hermione asked, changing the subject abruptly, she didn’t want to show George that his words had warmed her heart a little.
“Well, I ran it for a while after the Battle but without Fred it was different and I didn’t enjoy it as much, so it started to go down the pan, fewer and fewer customers were coming in and soon the Ministry took it off my hands, it’s been empty ever since,” George explained.
“You know I could buy it back for you?” Hermione offered. She regretted it as soon as she said it, offering to do such a thing showed she cared about him and that he had jumped back into her good books again. It had to be the shortest time ever that she’d been in a mood with somebody. Plus it was mental what she was saying, she could afford the shop alright but if she did buy it it wouldn’t be like she’d still be overflowing with money afterwards, a shop in a prime spot on Diagon Alley cost a few bob, more than she cared to think about. However she knew that shop had meant everything to Fred and George, if she bought it for him he might turn his life around again.
“No, I don’t want you to do that, you’ve already done enough,” George dismissed her. Hermione sighed, partly in relief, partly in annoyance with herself for offering something so stupid.
“Okay, that was a bit of a stupid thing to say. Anyway, what I want to know is why you didn’t come and ask us for help?”
“I was too proud and even though you Ron and Harry had got so much money from the publicity stuff you did after the Battle I wouldn’t ask you to help me, I thought I could do it myself, turned out I couldn’t. I was too ashamed after that to even come and talk to you,” George replied.
“You know Molly was distraught don’t you? She stared at that clock of hers every day but every day your pointer was stuck on ‘lost’,” Hermione muttered. Suddenly George moved away and off the bed, Hermione looked up at him, surprised. Maybe what she’d said was a little harsh but still.
“I know what I did was wrong, there’s no need to make me feel any worse, I’m going out, I’ll see you later,” George growled. He stormed out of the room and soon after Hermione heard the front door slam. Why had he reacted like that? It was like he was a loose cannon, ready to explode at any moment. Hermione slammed her fist against the pillow. She’d been getting through to him and she’d blown it. Crap. He was so annoying. At one moment he’d be perfectly fine, laughing and joking like the George she’d always known and then when she said something that overstepped a mark of some sort he’d snap. It had happened at dinner a couple of nights ago too. She, George, Hugo and Rose had been happily eating their spaghetti bolognaise when Hermione had mentioned Arthur and his slight depression after George’s disappearance and George went off in a huff and walked out on them, he didn’t come back for two hours and when he did he didn’t bother to explain where he’d been. Hermione let out a growl of frustration.
George didn’t come and sleep in her bed again. Hermione knew from the looks he gave her over breakfast that he heard her crying each night but he never said anything about it, just tucked in to his Weetabix. Sometimes he’d ask a question but it rarely developed into an actual conversation. Soon Hugo started asking Hermione questions about it, questions Hermione couldn’t answer, and she started to get so wound up that one morning, when she and George were sat alone at the breakfast table, she burst.
“What is wrong with you?” Hermione virtually yelled. George, who had been sipping on his cup of tea, moved the cup away from his mouth calmly and set it down on the table, as though Hermione’s outburst hadn’t happened at all.
“What do you mean?” he asked, his face giving nothing away.
“You! For the last two months you won’t talk to me, you won’t say anything, you won’t hold a conversation, it’s like you don’t want to communicate with me at all! It’s practically like I’m living with a non-responsive inanimate object!” Hermione cried, throwing her hands up in exasperation.
“You haven’t exactly been talkative yourself,” George replied calmly.
“Yes I have!”
“No, you haven’t,” George countered, “when was the last time you asked me a question?”
“Asking if I want fish and chips for tea is not a conversational question.”
“Fine, let’s have a conversation now then,” Hermione said, her jaw clenching.
“What do you want to talk about?” George asked.
“I don’t know, ask me a question?”
“See, you never ask me any questions. Let’s see, erm, you Ron and Harry, you were up to something in second year weren’t you? You were hardly ever in the common room for a whole month; tell me, what were you up to?
“We were brewing some Polyjuice Potion, so the three of us, Ron, Harry and I, could go to the Slytherin Common Room and investigate who the Heir of Slytherin was,” Hermione replied.
“You brewed a Polyjuice Potion in second year?” George asked incredulously. Hermione could tell George was at least trying to mimic being impressed, if he was joking or not she couldn’t tell.
“Yes, it took that whole month; we brewed it in the Girls Bathroom, the one that was haunted by Moaning Myrtle, because we knew nobody would ever go in there.”
“A Polyjuice Potion at the age of 12? That’s insane! I’ve heard it’s really complicated, never brewed one myself though. The Girls Bathroom, that’s genius that is, why didn’t Ron tell me all of this, if I was you I’d be bragging to anyone and everyone.”
“Well we had to keep it a secret didn’t we? We almost got caught too, Snape almost figured us out, but in the end it was fine,” Hermione continued, she was amazed by how suddenly George had become so involved with her story; maybe she had been shutting him out for the last two months and not the other way round.
“Didn’t you turn into a cat that year? You know, before you were petrified,” George pondered aloud.
“Hold on, I’m getting to that. We brewed the Polyjuice Potion and it was perfect, and then we got the hairs. Ron and Harry got Crabbe and Goyle’s hairs after they knocked the bumbling buffoons out but I’d got mine earlier on, taken it from Millicent Bulstrode’s robes when she’d wrestled me during the duelling lessons,” Hermione continued.
“Oh, I remember that beauty; she gave you a right stunner on your right eye if I remember right?” George laughed.
“Left eye actually, but anyway, turned out the hair on the robes was her cat’s hair-”
George suddenly burst out into laughter. Hermione turned red but let out a chuckle.
“And you turned into a cat, that is hilarious!” he guffawed. Hermione nodded. George’s laughter died out and the room fell into silence. It was only broken when George began to cry. Hermione frowned, she didn’t understand, it caught her off guard. George’s mood swings were extremely volatile and it sometimes scared Hermione.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, reaching out her hand and rubbing George’s arm.
“I’m just thinking about all the stuff Fred and I did, it doesn’t half compare with your antics with Ron and Harry but they’re our antics, every memory I have of Hogwarts includes him so every time I think about Hogwarts I think of Fred, you know what I mean?” George sniffed.
“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean,” Hermione nodded, turning her gaze to her cornflakes. She knew what George meant, it was the same with her, only when she thought of Hogwarts she thought of Ron.
“Sorry, of course you do.”
“Do you mind if I get off to work, I’ve got an early meeting?” Hermione asked, she felt a little uncomfortable having George breaking down in front of her.
“Yeah sure, I’ll get the kids up and take them to Mum’s,” George nodded. He seemed distant.
“Thanks,” Hermione smiled. She stood up, grabbed her bag from the sofa and left without a backwards glance.
By the time Hermione got to the Ministry she was running ten minutes late, she only hoped that the operator that was to see her in the Department of International Magical Corporation wouldn’t mind and didn’t have a busy schedule. She speed walked the rest of the way to the tiny office that was to be the setting of the meeting. The plaque on the door read:
Magical Property Legislation and Ownership Office
Hermione rapped her knuckle on the door twice and heard a voice call her in from outside. She opened the door and the man on the opposite side of the desk welcomed her to sit down in the chair. Looking around there was mountains of paperwork and filing cabinets hugging the walls and it meant that the little desk took up the only available floor space. The man opposite Hermione was quite an old fellow and she’d never seen him before, although she did know a lot about him that was for sure.
“Mrs Weasley, am I correct?” the old man asked, pulling a folder from a pile next to him. The pile shuddered and looked as though it was about to fall but the man quickly waved his wand and the pile stood still.
“Yes, that’s right,” Hermione nodded, sitting upright in her chair ready to listen intently.
“I must say it’s a pleasure to meet you, you were Ronald’s wife I believe until he passed away?”
Hermione nodded briefly.
“Brilliant man he was. Look where you’ve got to though, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, boss of Harry Potter himself, why that is an achievement!” the man grinned. Hermione was getting more annoyed by him by the second, getting to the point obviously wasn’t in his nature.
“Yes, well, Harry and I are good friends, he’s a great colleague and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty,” Hermione smiled.
“Well of course, he defeated Lord Voldemort after all, but I hear you took on Bellatrix Lestrange, and several Death Eaters as well as her, I’ve even heard if it weren’t for you the great Harry Potter wouldn’t be alive now?” the old man pushed. Hermione was getting tired now.
“Yes, I guess you could say that, anyway, can we push on?” Hermione asked, arching her eyebrow. The old man picked up on her cold tone and nodded, looking down at the paper in front of him.
“Okay, so let’s see here, you want to buy a magical property I see,” the man nodded, “and why might you be interested in buying the property? Surely a woman like you wouldn’t want to quit your job and set up shop in Diagon Alley, not with the amount of Galleons you earn each year?”
“I’m looking to have it as more of a side business, I have a friend that’s willing to run it for me and I think it’ll be a major success, just as it was before the war,” Hermione answered.
“I see, well I’m afraid that’s not quite enough grounds to buy the property Mrs Weasley, it is situated in a prime location and punters have been after it for years,” the old man said.
“What’s your name, sir?” Hermione asked, leaning forward and putting her hands on the table.
“Gerald madam, Gerald Rift.”
“Well Mr Rift, you’ve not yet asked what I would like to do with the shop, have you? And you haven’t asked who my friend is either? Don’t you think you should ask that before you disregard me?” Hermione asked, her eyebrows rising. Gerald obviously became a bit flustered as he leant backwards slightly and blinked hard.
“What would you like to do with the shop Mrs Weasley?” Gerald asked, ruffled.
“I’d like to restore it to its former glory as a joke shop,” Hermione smiled.
“And who is the friend you are going to entrust to run the place?”
“George Weasley, I believe you’ve had him in this office before asking for the same building, around thirteen years ago,” Hermione continued.
“George Weasley? But…but, I thought he’d gone down the pan, last I heard he stole from the Minister himself, I’m sorry but…” Gerald trailed off as Hermione butted in.
“George Weasley has found his feet again Mr Rift and I’d like to think you of all people would understand that, now, do we have a deal?”
Gerald turned bright red at this, clearly he didn’t realise Hermione had read up on the man across from her before she’d come to see him. Hermione liked to read up on people when she had meetings with them, it made her feel as though she had the upper hand.
“I…I think we do Mrs Weasley,” Gerald nodded, gulping.
“Fantastic,” Hermione smiled, leaning back in her chair again.
“We’ll just need to fill out the regular paperwork and get you to sign and then we’re sorted, you may have to go next door though and fill out a business form,” Gerald replied.
“Oh, I’ve already sorted that Mr Rift, now; let’s get on with this paperwork.”
The paperwork didn’t take long. Only half an hour and Hermione handed over the money. Gerald nodded and Hermione stood. Gerald stood too.
“Thanks for your time Mr Rift,” Hermione smiled. The old man only nodded. Hermione turned and opened the door. The moving of chair legs against hard stone reached her ears just as she was about to exit. Reaching for her wand she turned and sent a silent spell careering into the paperwork which had been nudged as Gerald had knocked his chair back. The paperwork which had just been about to fall on top of the old man fell back, returning to a neat pile. Gerald’s face turned from surprise and horror to relief in two seconds flat. Hermione caught his eye as he looked back.
“Be careful Mr Rift, those mountains of paperwork will be the death of you,” Hermione smiled. She turned and closed the door quietly behind her, the paperwork to the shop she’d just purchased tucked in her back pocket. She liked getting the better of people she thought were nasty and Gerald Rift definitely was. He’d been convicted of raping and murdering three witches only ten years ago and it sickened Hermione. Making him squirm had been her idea of personal payback in place of the three girls that had died. That hadn’t been the only reason for going and buying back Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes though, she’d been thinking for the last couple of weeks of a way to bring George back out of his non-receptive hole and this was the only way she’d thought it would be possible. After George’s sudden mood change that morning Hermione couldn’t help but think now that what she’d just done was the exact right thing to do.
Hermione was halfway to her office when Harry bumped into her.
“Harry!” she exclaimed in surprise.
“Oh, Hermione, just who I was looking for, can you come with me a minute?” Harry asked.
“Yes, of course,” Hermione smiled, turning back the way she came and following Harry. Harry noticed the papers in Hermione’s hand.
“What are they for?” he asked.
“Just paperwork for a case I’m dealing with, I need to set a date for the Wizengamot to take care of the witch you caught last week, you know the one that was selling those drugs to Muggles?” Hermione replied.
“Oh yes, she was a tricky one, right, here we are,” Harry smiled, stopping abruptly outside a large door.
“This is an interrogation room?” Hermione frowned.
“Yes, there’s a suspect we need you to question,” Harry nodded, “the notes are inside, just help me out on this one can you?”
“Right, yeah, okay,” Hermione agreed and Harry opened the door with his wand. Interrogating suspects wasn’t old hand for Hermione but it wasn’t exactly new hand either and she liked to think she was quite a good interrogator when she put her mind to it, although Harry only usually called for her help when the Auror Office was incredibly busy.
“I’ll see you later boss, I need to sort out a squad to take down Gregory Goyle, I know he’s as thick as two short planks but his Dad taught him his best tricks, I’ll see you later,” Harry grinned, patting Hermione on the back before running off down the corridor.
Hermione cautiously opened the interrogation room door and was confronted by a room covered in mirrors. In the middle of the room was a metal desk and on the other side of the desk was a large woman. Hermione blinked. The case notes were sat on Hermione’s side of the desk. Hermione closed the door behind and went to sit down. The woman opposite raised her head slowly. Hermione had to stifle a laugh as she realised who it was.
“Millicent Bulstrode?” Hermione grinned, her mind flashing back to George’s comment only that morning.
“Yes, that’s it, what’s so funny?” the woman sneered, her face twisting grotesquely.
“Nothing, sorry, erm, everything you say is being recorded and you don’t need to tell me anything but anything you do say can be used as evidence for or against you in court, do you understand?” Hermione said, returning to her serious self.
“Yes, get on with it Mudblood, I don’t have all day,” Millicent replied. Hermione ignored the remark and looked down at her case notes.
“Where were you January 23rd 2003?” Hermione asked. She felt a sinking feeling deep in her gut. That date was important to her, that date was the date when she’d died almost completely inside, that date was the date that had changed her life forever.
“I was performing the Cruciatus curse and then the Imperius Curse on a victim,” Millicent replied calmly, she gave nothing away. Hermione looked down at the rest of her notes and felt her gut sink even further. How had Harry given her such a case? He would have known she wouldn’t have carried out the interrogation effectively. Hermione could feel a lump developing in her throat and her eyes starting to tear up.
“And, um, and why were you doing that?” Hermione managed, keeping her eyes down on the paper in front of her. She couldn’t look up at Millicent else she would do something she would fiercely regret. Hermione could feel the grief being replaced by anger already.
“I was attempting to get some information, and I did, you know, he wasn’t half as strong as you, I heard you resisted Bellatrix Lestrange’s torture and didn’t utter a word, that must have taken some courage and bravery, but not him, he was easy,” Millicent sneered. Hermione could feel the tears now; they were running down her face, leaving marks on her cheeks.
“What did you do? Once you got your information?” Hermione uttered, it was soft, almost inaudible.
“Oh, I put him under the Imperius curse and I walked him out into the road, he was hit by a bus, I thought it was quite ingenious, making it look like an accident so I’d never get caught, until now though. Tell me, how is life without your dear husband?”
Hermione had had enough. Tears were spilling down her cheeks like waterfalls and she could barely say anything. Standing abruptly she took her wand from her back pocket.
“Don’t say another word!” Hermione snarled, attempted a snarl in any case. Millicent Bulstrode merely laughed.
“I’m facing a life sentence in Azkaban, do your worst,” she sneered. Hermione didn’t do anything; instead she stormed out of the room and down the corridor.
“Mrs. Weasley, I need to see you-”
Hermione marched past the person incredibly quickly, didn’t even notice who it was. She needed to get out. She rounded into the main atrium and headed for the nearest fireplace. She could hear colleagues’ voices ringing in her ears but she ignored them, she needed to leave. She jumped into the fireplace and felt the flames consume her. As soon as she hit the linoleum of the Muggle toilets she took her wand from her back pocket and vanished into thin air.
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