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0630, 24 December


The echo of a clanging sound resounded through the air as Hermione opened one eye and blearily peered at her alarm clock. Six thirty in the morning on Christmas Eve Day and she was awakened by either Death Eaters rampaging through her cookware or the soon to be deceased Ronald Weasley rampaging through her cookware. Propping herself up on one arm, she glanced over at Crookshanks who was glaring at her bedroom door.

Crookshanks’ annoyed indifference decided the issue it had to be Ronald. She slid out from under the covers and placed her feet on the floor silently summoning her dressing gown and her wand to her. Standing up, she shrugged into the gown, used the wand to cause her hair to attain a semblance of order and padded quietly over to the bedroom door.

Placing her hand on the doorknob, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Counting slowly to twelve in Mermish, she opened her eyes and listened. Another crash, this time sounding distinctly like one of her copper saucepans bouncing off the floor, convinced her that she wasn’t having a hallucination. Shaking her head, she quietly opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

Yawning all the way down the steps to the main floor, she ambled into the kitchen and watched from the doorway as Ron was rooting through her cupboards. Waiting until he had nothing in his hands, she silently cast a full body bind on him and shook her head sadly as he crashed backwards to the floor.

Walking over to where he was lying by the central island in the kitchen, she stuck her wand behind her ear, picked up a large carving knife from the counter and smiled down at Ron.

“Good morning Ronald. Since it’s just six thirty in the morning on Christmas Eve day, I think I’m only going to remove one of your ears, unless you have an extremely good reason for waking me up while you’re pillaging my kitchen.” Smiling sweetly, Hermione gazed at her boyfriend for several seconds before silently releasing him from her hex.

Shaking his head, Ron pulled himself up on his elbows and glared at her. “What in Merlin’s name did you go and hex me for?”

Shaking her head, Hermione scowled and walked over to the counter where her coffee machine sat. Gently flicking the switch with her finger to take it from timer mode to on, Hermione summoned a stool from the island over to her and hopped up on it to await her morning caffeine. “Ronald, what part of it being six thirty in the morning on Christmas Eve day did you miss?”

Looking at her warily, Ron smiled. “Is that what time it is? Sorry, I didn’t realize that Mum had flooed quite this early.” Standing up, he nodded at the carving knife, which was still in her hand and pointed at him. “Would you mind putting that bloody thing away before someone gets hurt?”

Nodding sleepily, she smiled. “Don’t worry, someone isn’t going to get hurt, just you if you don’t have an excellent reason for waking me up. Exactly what did Molly wake you up before sunrise for?” Shaking her head, she glared at the coffee maker, which was taking much too long to finish the pot. Summoning a mug to her, she magically transferred half a cup from the pot to the mug without interrupting the process. Taking a large drink, she smiled.

Shaking his head, Ron walked over to the icebox and opened it, rummaging around until he pulled a container of juice out. “I still can’t see how you and Harry can drink that stuff, even in the morning.” Starting to take a drink from the container, Hermione’s glare stopped him and he smiled sheepishly as he turned to look for a glass.

Shrugging, she smiled as she could feel the caffeine begin to work its magic. “That’s because you a barbarian and a clod. You still haven’t told me why Molly woke you up before sunrise or why you decided to pass that punishment onto me.”

Looking at her, with a hopeful glint in his eye, Ron smiled. “Breakfast?” Seeing her glare and the carving knife’s aim drop a bit south of his belt buckle, he amended. “I meant we could go out and have a nice bit of breakfast someplace while I tell you what’s got Mum so upset this morning.”

Shaking her head, Hermione took another long pull from her coffee, set the mug on the counter and magically replenished it. “Ronald, tell me what the problem is, now. We’re not having breakfast,” shaking her head at the hopeful look in his eye, “or anything else until you tell me what was so earth shatteringly important that Molly would wake you up before six for and you’d come over here to not tell me.”

Looking warily at the carving knife in her hand, Ron smiled nervously. “Hermione, if you’ll put that bloody hanger up, I’ll tell you everything I know.” Waiting until she levitated the knife back to its appointed place on the counter, he swallowed as it slid back into its normal spot. “Mum flooed me early this morning, or late last night I suppose depending upon how you’re looking at it, to see if I’d heard from Harry.”

Shaking her head, Hermione held up her hand to stop him as she picked up her mug. “That makes absolutely no sense. Why on earth would Harry be talking to you in the middle of the night if something wasn’t wrong at the Ministry?” Comprehension dawning in her eyes, Hermione put her mug carefully on the counter and glared. “She did it, again, didn’t she?”

“Now Hermione, you don’t know she did anything.” Looking nervous, Ron glanced warily at her wand tucked behind her ear in a Lunaesque manner. “Why would you jump to that conclusion?”

Jumping down from her stool, Hermione began pacing around the kitchen. “Just marvelous, you sister starts another argument with Harry less than two days before Christmas and now we’re going to have to suffer through the two of them not talking to each other tonight and tomorrow.”

Raising his voice, Ron shook his head, “Why do you assume Ginny started a fight with Harry? Couldn’t it be that Harry started something with her?”

Stopping in mid-stride, Hermione whirled and looked at Ron with disbelief on her face. “Ronald, they’ve either majorly rowed or broken up twenty-four times in the last three years. In all twenty-four instances, Ginny’s been the one to instigate the fight. Simple arithmetic would justify me concluding that Ginny was the culprit this time.”

Looking sheepish, Ron sighed. “All right, Gin’s twenty-five for twenty-five, but you could at least pretend to consider the fact that it might have been Harry who started it since she is my sister.”

Scowling, Hermione threw her hands up in exasperation. “Which was it this time? Harry spent five minutes innocently talking to some random witch? Harry couldn’t come to one of her quidditch matches in Outer East Elbow because he was too busy being an auror? Harry didn’t have time to go to every team party the Harpies have thrown so he’s not being supportive? Or was it my personal favorite, Harry doesn’t try to make the relationship work because he’s too withdrawn and closed off?”

Turning red, Ron shook his head. “It’s not always like that; she’s had other, legitimate reasons for her rows with Harry.”

Rolling her eyes, Hermione crossed the distance between them and put her hand on his arm. “Ronald, I know she’s your little sister. Believe me, I care about her too.” Shaking her head at the hopeful look on his face, she continued. “But every time this happens, she ends up here to talk to me and it’s always one of those four excuses, or a close variant.”

Looking away, Ron mumbled something. Shaking her head, Hermione smiled. “Ron, I didn’t quite catch that.”

Turning to look at her, he begrudgingly answered. “It was a combination of one and four.”

Shaking her head, Hermione resumed her pacing around the kitchen. “That still doesn’t explain why Molly woke you up at the unholy hour or you were here rummaging through my cookware.” Stopping again, she swung around and stared at Ron.

“You were going to cook breakfast, weren’t you?”

Blushing, Ron lowered his eyes. “Well, yes. I thought it might be a nice thing to do.”

Shaking her head, Hermione glared at him. “Ronald Bilius Weasley. The only time you ever contemplate cooking for me is when you have something dreadful to tell me and you try to catch me off guard.” Narrowing her eyes, she stared at him for a second. “Out with it.”

Looking at her warily, he shrugged. “Beg pardon?”

Shaking her head, she sighed. “Ron, I’m not an idiot. Harry and Ginny having another row or breaking up yet again isn’t reason for you to even contemplate cooking. There’s something more to this that Molly felt compelled to tell you in the middle of the night. Now start talking.”

Looking downcast, Ron sighed. “Gin showed up at the Burrow in a panic just after two this morning.” Seeing the look on Hermione’s face harden, he swallowed. “She’d just come from Grimmauld Place, from breaking up with Harry. From what Mum would tell me, it went badly, worse than usual. She screamed at him and slammed the door. When she turned to go back in to try to leave on a civil note, the door wouldn’t respond to her.”

Shaking her head, Hermione looked at Ron in disbelief. “This is about Harry locking your sister out of his house?”

Sighing, Ron slumped his shoulders. “Harry sealed the house. Kreacher appeared and told Ginny that her belongings, all of her belongings, had been transferred to her apartment in Holyhead, they were in a holding trunk in the front room.” Ron closed his eyes. “Gin said that Kreacher looked worried and asked her to go find you before it was too late.”

“What?” Hermione stared at Ron in disbelief. Her wand appeared in her hand and her clothes changed from a dressing gown to a jumper and jeans in the blink of an eye. “Kreacher told your idiot sister almost five hours ago to get me and this is the first I’m hearing of it?”

“Gin’s not an idiot. She’d just broken up with Harry and the last thing she wanted to think about was facing you in the middle of the night.” Jumping down from the counter, Ron began pacing himself. “I know this looks bad, and she might have gone a bit over the top when she broke up with him, but you can’t put all the blame on her.”

Growling in frustration, Hermione pointed her wand at him. “Good point, because the last several hours of blame fall squarely on you. Why didn’t you come wake me when Molly told you there was a problem?” Walking over, she grabbed onto his arm and twisted. Colours shifted and the familiar being squeezed through a tube sensation overwhelmed Ron as they left Hermione’s kitchen behind.

Predawn London was bitter cold as Hermione and Ron appeared outside Twelve Grimmauld Place. Having left his coat behind at Hermione’s flat, Ron pulled his arm loose and immediately began shivering. Hermione glared at him and turned to concentrate on the house before them. All of the windows were shuttered, and for the first time she could remember since before the end of the war, the house seemed cold and distant. Closing her eyes, she stretched out her hand and felt for the currents of magic that surrounded the structure.

Shaking his head, Ron waited until she opened her eyes and glared at him again before speaking. “You could have given me five seconds notice so I could have grabbed my coat.”

As she turned abruptly to face him, Ron shrank back from the look of utter contempt in her eyes. “Will you grow up?” Casting a silent heating charm on him, she growled in frustration. “Tell me everything that happened. Now.”

Shaking his head, Ron looked around to see if anyone was out and about. Satisfied they were alone, he sighed. “Ginny was furious about the amount of time Harry had been spending with someone, and the fact that three years after the War, he still hasn’t really opened up to her about things. She tried to push the issue, and lost her temper when Harry told her he didn’t need to talk to her about what happened during the War.” Shaking his head, Ron missed the horrified look on Hermione’s face.

“You know how she is when she’s mad, she attacks first and thinks later. She told him that his muggle relatives had screwed him up so badly that he’d never be able to relate to anyone, so he might as well rot in this house by himself.”

Turning an ashen gray, Hermione shook her head. “Ron, you can’t be serious. I don’t care how mad she was, you mean she actually said that to him?” Pacing back and forth, Hermione began to glance up at the house in disbelief.

Nodding sadly, Ron shuffled his feet in the snow. “When Mum flooed me after three, I came straight here and tried to get in.” Holding up his hand, Hermione could see faint scorch marks on it. “The house knocked me on my arse about ten feet back from the steps with some sort of charge.” Looking at her, he nodded. “He’s sealed the house and I don’t think there’s any way in, short of getting a team of aurors and breach one of the walls.”

Closing her eyes, Hermione thought for a second. Colour began to return to her face as she calmed herself. Opening her eyes, she stared at Ron for several seconds before speaking.

“Ron, whose side are you on in this?”

Lowering his eyes from hers, he began to blush slightly. “I was hoping we could be the neutral party in this one. You know, talk to both sides, and get some sort of compromise going.”

Shaking her head, Hermione stared at him as if she’d never seen him before. “Ron, Harry’s your best mate. We’ve gone through hell together.”

Looking back up, Ron nodded, “And she’s my little sister.”

Staring at him for several seconds longer, Hermione nodded. “Fine.”

Looking hopeful, Ron smiled. “We’re neutral then?”

Closing her eyes, Hermione shook her head. “You go play Switzerland at the Burrow if that’s what you have to do. Find your sister and sit on her. Don’t let her out of your sight, even if she needs to go to the loo. If I send my patronus saying I need her here, then you drag her arse here, even if you have to use an unforgivable to do it. If I send a message telling you I need anything to try to make this right, get it here as fast as you can manage.” Opening her eyes, there was a feral gleam in them that made Ron shiver. “Go home, Ronald. I’ll handle this.”

Turning abruptly, she strode up the steps and placed her hand on the door. Ignoring Ron’s shouted warning, she allowed a few seconds for the magic of the house to recognize her and then she opened the door. Stepping into the entrance, she paused as Ron called her name. Turning, she stared at him with a look of disdain and repeated, “Go home,” before she stepped inside and closed the door.

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