A Sense of Relief
Farnsworth's driver held the door but said nothing as the three friends settled on the large passenger seat of the big auto. There was the most amazing leg room and it wasn't even charmed. Farnsworth must have passed him the address because he pulled away from the curb without a word. Not wanting to be overheard, they spoke of nothing of consequence and little beyond the content of the papers in hand. When dropped at Hermione's, they found Ron in the kitchen eating left-over sausage while standing in the refrigerator door.
Hermione lost no time falling into one of their longest-standing relationship habits, “Ron, what are you doing? It's a Muggle refrigerator! You can't leave the door open and you know you over-eat like that. Take a plate and sit at the table.”
Ron was long past any particular response to Hermione's dietary critiques. He was tall, strong and never gained weight. (Hermione who did if she indulged was no doubt a little jealous.) He took the banger he was eating, plus another from a container of leftovers, closed the door with his foot, and took a plate from the cupboard. He sat across from Harry, set the plate on the table, still chewing. Only after he sat did he set the second sausage on the plate while continuing to consume the other.
Hermione magicked crackers, the last glass jar of the goat cheese Janet brought back from a cycling tour in New Mexico, three plates and four knives to the table. Harry was first to spread a thick layer of cheese on a cracker, “Now we know what Hermione was thinking!”
The cheese was in small, wide-mouth jar, labeled with the image of a frolicking kid and “Just Kidding Goat Farm.” Hermione was dipping her cracker straight into the soft, creamy chevre, “Time turner, that's why I dragged you into this, but look at those dates Harry, it's not possible.”
Ginny understood why, “One turn per hour, right?”
Hermione, still occupied with her cracker, just nodded.
Ginny counted it out, “24 per day, 168 a week, 672 a month, so trades out at fifty-some days would need something like a thousand turns. That's not even possible; is it?”
“It's not.” Hermione had used one for her entire third year. “It would start before you could count a dozen turns. Who knows what would happen then. Sorry to get you involved, I thought it might be one for the Aurors.”
“No worries, it's a relief really. I'll poke around. But, I'll probably disappoint your boss. I mean, like you, I though 'Time Turner' until I saw the dates. Of course, you could think about computer hacks. I don't know anything about the exchange systems but it must be like hacking the government, you'd need a whole bloody army.”
“Well, I wouldn't be so sure Farnsworth will be disappointed. He thinks you're like him because you said you started ACS with family money to help yipi. He's a real patrician, noblesse oblige, he's not just after this crook, he's offended. He thinks you'll be offended too, a fellow man of honor. The case isn't prosecutable; it's way outside our guidelines, but he's kept it in his private files. Without a demonstrable common thread there's nothing we can do but Farnsworth won't forget it. I'm sure he thinks someone who knows our methods is getting a backhander. I'm pretty sure he thinks its a City lawyer and I wouldn't be surprised if he's worried it's someone inside the SFO, or maybe systems and programming.”
Now that there was nothing left on Ron's plate, he joined the conversation. “What's his thing again? Where's his money come from?”
Hermione had just finished getting a precariously loaded cracker into her mouth; she chewed a minute before she replied. “Remember when we went to see the millennium fireworks?”
Ron shrugged his shoulders, “Yea, there was no way we were getting there by broom, everyone was out. Harry scouted by flying through a fog and we all went side-along. Cool fireworks.”
“Well, those buildings are commercial warehouses on the Thames. His are the big ones next to that tower where we were.”
Harry thought he knew which ones, “When we were at the wall where the Disillusionment Charm worked so well, his buildings were to our right, weren't they?”
Hermione finished her cracker, “Yea, those are his. His family has owned those spots since they earned a living off-loading barges. His older brother runs the company. Farnsworth's their lawyer. He works at the SFO because he hates that his class are the kleptocrats. . .” She paused to get up and put the kettle on. “. . . And he likes the chase. Each case is a new game, him against the fraudsters.”
“A bit barmy!” was Ron's opinion.
Ginny liked him, “True, but he seems a decent toff. He's what people mean when they say 'a real Englishman'.”
Hermione agreed, “He is, and his barmy-ness fits. It's like he's playing at Sherlock Holmes, catching the dastardly villain through close observation and logic. I like him and I'm learning more than I ever imagined.”
Harry was willing to work on it, “I still don't have any idea what to do but when I get access to the data, I can rummage around. Although, if the government with all the resources they've got didn't find something, I don't know that I can.”
“Who's for tea?” Hermione was opening the cupboard to the right of the stove where they kept the tea and coffee. The kettle was on the closest burner.
Ginny knew what she wanted, “Can you make that green tea you served the time you had us over for tempura?”
“Sure.” Hermione got a Chinese style metal pot down from the cupboard and filled it with three measures of loose tea. Since the kettle was whistling, she filled the pot with the boiling water, then wanded it over to the table before taking four cups that matched the tea pot down from the cupboard.
She sat and passed the cups around, then caught Ginny's eye, “So, have you made your decision?”
“What decision?” Ron looked puzzled.
Ginny answered both, “We've decided to start a family. Sometime in September I'll just stop bringing my wand to bed. That'll get him a good birthday for Hogwarts and it fits my plans with Gwenog.”
“Which are?” Ron expected this news but was curious about Quidditch. “You're the biggest draw they've got, what'll they do without you?”
“Well, that's been a secret too, so keep it between us. Silvie -- remember her from our seventh year -- is ready to come on. She's already faster than most Chasers. She's too light for crash-an-grapple, but I've taught her a couple of different flips and a roll, so she'll be hard to hit.”
Harry liked the plan. “When she leaves the Harpys, she'll be at ACS, like me, Auror work of course, but with the two of us working, we'll get a lot more done.”
Ron was as ready for a niece or nephew as Moly was for a grandchild, “Have you told the folks? Better tell Mum when she's at your place. If magic starts erupting in grand baby ecstasy, the Burrow might collapse, catch fire or maybe just levitate.”
As much as they loved the family matriarch, the image of magic exploding off of Molly deserved a belly laugh. Molly rarely missed a chance to tout the joys of parenthood. Her grandchild wishes were hardly a mystery.
Hermione knew Ron would love having children and sounded a bit wistful. “I want it for us too, but I think Ron and I need to wait another couple years. I mean, we're ready; we have the house; Ron makes tons of gold, but I don't want to leave while I'm still learning the ropes. It will be easier when I'm up a couple more rungs.”
“What sort of rungs are those?” Harry knew enough about how things worked in the Muggle world to be curious.
“He says he'll second me to each of the senior prosecutors in turn to write their briefs. Between briefs I can take time. I want it to be the big thing Ron and I do together.”
Ginny knew that Hermione was less sure of waiting than she seemed but just nodded her head and changed the subject. “Speaking of work, Ron, how's your project?”
“Wasted the whole bloody day! Hey, it's almost dinner, let's have a butter beer and more of those pretzels we had the other night.”
Hermione went to their magical cupboard, hidden by a spell on the wall next to the kitchen table. It opened into an Undetectable Enlargement Charm where the wizarding foods could be kept in a Stasis Charms along along with everything they wouldn't want to explain to their Muggle guests. She choose a pretzel from a shelf along the side and set it into a cauldron from the depths of the charm. She used the increase spell, reserved one for the magical shelf, then wanded four butter beers and the full cauldron to the table.
Hermione sat as the charmed cupboard disappeared. “I dried them just a touch, maybe they'll be dinner.” She turned to Ron and smiled, “How did you waste your day, you didn't spend it all eating bangers from the fridge, did you?”
“No, I just got lost.”
Ginny was curious about her brother's odd answer. “What does that mean? It doesn't seem like you even left the house.”
“I'm not sure I know how to explain . . . ” Ron closed his eyes, then raised both hands palms towards his ears, a hand-width or so from the side of his face. “. . . when I first go into timelessness, in my mind it's like a cloud, a multi-colored, swirling cloud. As I concentrate on my subject I begin to move through the cloud. . .” Ron began to move his hand backward and foreword, his eyes closed as he narrated the image in his mind. “. . . it's a bit like flying. As I get closer, I start to feel my way toward my subject.” His hands were forward of his face, moving as if he were feeling for something in the dark. “Now it's like flying past countless scenes, like Ginny's Quidditch posters, just a pose flashing by.”
He paused with his eyes closed then began moving his fingers as if delicately touching something only he could see. “When I see what I am looking for, my time and space sort-of fall into the subject's time and space. It's a little hard to describe, it's more a feeling than a thought, or image.”
All three found this narration of a trip through timelessness fascinating, but still didn't see what it had to do with day-wasting. Ginny asked first, “So, how's that wasting your day?”
“Before I got to my subject an image caught my attention, of course, I fell into it.” His eyes were closed and his hands were back alongside his face, moving back and forth. “It was weird, a battle, seemed like Scotland, there were pipes playing. The only clear part of the memory is a single combat with sword and shield. The memory ends as the subject walks away.”
Even though they were use to Ron's portrait work, his talent still amazed them. It was like he could fly through time, something they could only imagine.
Harry brought them back to the matter at hand. “Well, I'm relieved that we're off the hook for finding a time turner. There's work to do at ACS.”
Ginny agreed, “Frankly, it would have been bloody awful, we wouldn't know who it is and to find out we'd have to use Legillimens on Hermione's boss and risk mucking-up Hermione's pretty nice situation.”
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