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Chapter 7 ~ The Temptations of Ronald Weasley
When Rick came down to the Gryffindor common room the following morning, Hermione was sitting dejectedly, curled up in a ball, in a corner. As he walked over to her, Rick saw that Hermione’s eyes were all red and puffy. She looked drawn and tired as if she had not slept much on Sunday night. “Aren’t you coming for some breakfast?” asked Rick with concern. “None of us ate much last night, you must be hungry.” Hermione just shook her head. “I just can’t go out and face everyone,” she said. “Malfoy and the Slytherins will be unbearable – abusing all the non-Purebloods and lording it over us. I don’t want to remember Hogwarts that way; I want to take some happy memories with me of the way it was – if they let me keep my memories at all,” she added darkly. “What will happen to the Muggle-borns when they throw us out?” she asked. “Will they wipe our memories so that we can’t remember anything about our time at Hogwarts?” “I’m sure they intend to wipe everything from our minds that we’ve learned about magic – all the spells – everything! Oh, it’s just too horrible to think about,” she said bursting into tears. “It’s like having a part of yourself torn away and obliterated. I just can’t bear to think about it.” Rick sat down next to her, wrapping both arms around her and letting her sob on his shoulder for a while. He tried sending a sense of calm and reassurance towards her. It seemed to work. Hermione stopped crying and looked up at him. “Hermione,” said Rick, looking deeply into her eyes. “It’s over two months until the end of term and we’re not beaten yet. We’re not giving in to Lucius Malfoy’s racist Pureblood supremacy plans without a fight – I know I’m not.” But in truth, Rick was feeling pretty lost himself. He had been focused on protecting Harry. But this was different. Lucius Malfoy had, in effect, carried out a coup, that stood the wizarding world on its head, without casting so much as a curse in anger. Death Eater attacks were one thing; Rick knew he had the power to fight them. But this was about political power, control, and manipulation; an arena where Rick was a novice, and Lucius Malfoy was supreme. That was the problem. Somehow they had to break the political hold of Malfoy and his minions – Fudge and Umbridge – but he had no idea where to begin. If only Hermione could pull herself together, she might be able to help him figure it out. She had the brains for it. “Oh Rick, I don’t want to give up,” said Hermione, “but I’m so worried about what’s going to happen, especially after I’m thrown out of Hogwarts. What will happen to all the Muggle-born witches and wizards? Even if they can erase all our memories of magic and the wizarding world, they can’t take away our ability to do magic, so we’ll still be performing accidental magic.” “What did you say about not being able to take away magic?” asked Rick. “Well it’s something that has intrigued wizarding scholars throughout the ages,” replied Hermione, regaining some of her confidence as she launched into a lecture drawing upon her extensive reading on the subject. “Where does magic come from? What makes some people magical and others not? And, of course, some more magical than others,” she said looking pointedly at Rick. “Just like alchemists,” she continued, “who try to create gold from base metals, witches and wizards through the ages, have sought ways to create magical power – but without success.” “What about Voldemort?” asked Rick. “Didn’t he develop great magical powers?” “That’s not the same,” said Hermione. “It is possible to increase one’s own power through knowledge or possession of powerful objects or dark rituals, but it takes loads of time and effort, and there are costs involved, both physical and mental – just look at Voldemort.” “What I mean,” continued Hermione, “is that even the most powerful witch or wizard, can’t make a non-magical person magical or increase the magical power of another. By the same token, it’s not possible to reduce or take away the magical power from a magical person. If it were, the Ministry of Magic would have just gone around ‘un-magicking’ any Muggle-borns like me – and you can imagine what Voldemort would do if he had that power.” “So, you never read about any witch or wizard ever ‘un-magicking’ anyone?” asked Rick, becoming interested. Hermione thought hard for a while. “Well, I once read a rather obscure book by Germaine Pankhurst called ‘Witches of the World Unite – You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Pains (aka Wizards)’. It’s not exactly mainstream – you understand. There’s a lot about the great witch Circe in it. She was famous for transforming sailors into pigs.” “Pigs?” asked Rick. “Why?” “Umm ... she used to eat them apparently,” grinned Hermione. “After they’d been nicely fattened up, of course.” “Of course,” repeated Rick. “Pankhurst claimed in her book, that Circe could actually transform almost anything into anything else. After she met Odysseus, she gave up her evil ways and became a good witch. According to Pankhurst, she once cast a spell on an evil sorcerer, destroying his power.” Now that’s very interesting, thought Rick.
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As Ron was leaving the Great Hall after breakfast, Pansy Parkinson came up to him and with her most bewitching smile said, “Do you think I could have a little word with you, Ron?” “What do you want to talk to me for?” asked Ron, suspiciously, looking around to see if anyone was watching. “Ron, I just want to talk to you,” cried Pansy, looking hurt and batting her eyelashes pathetically. “Well, whatever it is, I’m not interested,” said Ron. “I think you might be – actually,” said Pansy in a low seductive voice. “But if you don’t give me a chance ... you’ll never find out.” “OK,” said Ron nervously. “Let’s go somewhere private,” he added, anxious not to be seen consorting with a Slytherin. “Follow me,” said Pansy, leading him into an empty classroom. She closed the door, casting a locking charm on it, followed by an Imperturbable Charm on the classroom, so that they couldn’t be overheard. Ron reached for his wand; he didn’t like this – it could be some sort of a trap. “Relax, Ron,” cooed Pansy in a soothing voice as she returned her own wand to her robes, “you can trust me.” “And why should I trust you? Or any Slytherin?” asked Ron, still holding his wand at the ready, and telling himself that this was a time for Moody’s Constant Vigilance. “Firstly, because I like you Ron ... you’ve grown into a very handsome wizard, you know ... and a powerful one,” said Pansy seductively, moving closer to Ron, and running her finger down his chest. Ron’s vigilance was quickly becoming anything but constant. “But that’s hardly surprising, the Weasleys are one of the oldest Pureblood families in the wizarding world,” she added, pointedly rubbing her finger on the prefect’s badge which he still wore on his chest. “Well, I don’t care about all that Pureblood stuff,” said Ron. “It doesn’t mean anything to me.” “I think you’ll find, as the future unfolds, Ron, that you’ll be very thankful for your Pureblood lineage,” said Pansy. “What exactly do you mean by that?” challenged Ron. “Look Ron,” said Pansy draping herself ornately across one of the desks. “I know that you’ve allied yourself with Potter and Dumbledore and all those Muggle-borns. I’m not going to engage in a philosophical discussion or try to convince you to return to your Pureblood roots. I’m simply pointing out realities.” “Dumbledore and those who share his ideas have had their day. History is like a pendulum; it swings back and forth between opposing ideas. If you open your eyes to what’s happening right now – here at Hogwarts and outside – at the Ministry of Magic and in the wizarding world generally, it’s obvious that the pendulum is swinging back to Pureblood Power – hard and fast.” “Well I don’t like that idea,” said Ron defiantly. “Ron, it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not. It doesn’t matter that you’d prefer the world to be different. The world is the way it is, regardless of how you feel about it. The only question is whether you’re going to be one of the strong ones who survive and prosper – or whether you’ll get washed away with those who can’t see the inevitable.” “It would be very sad if that were to happen to you, Ron,” said Pansy, getting up from the desk and coming closer to him, as she switched back to her seductive tone. “You’ve got a lot going for you, you know. You were very impressive on the Quidditch pitch yesterday. You could be one of the great Keepers in Quidditch history – if you had the right kind of help, of course,” she added. “What do you mean by ‘help’?” asked Ron suspiciously. “Well,” smiled Pansy, “to get on to one of the really top teams, you have to be more than good, you need the right connections. My father is on the board of the Montrose Magpies – they’ve won the League Cup more times than just about all the other teams combined. And did you know that the Montrose Magpies Keeper has also been Keeper on the English team for seventeen out of the past twenty years?” “Of course, it might just have something to do with the fact that both my father and uncle are on the selection committee for the national team,” she added with a meaningful wink. “Well I’m not interested in the Montrose Magpies – or in getting on any team by anything but my own talent,” said Ron proudly. “I’d rather play for the Chudley Cannons anyway.” “Oh well, you better just keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best then,” quipped Pansy, before continuing on in a more serious tone. “You know, you chose the wrong friends when you came to Hogwarts, Ron – and the reality is that they won’t be here for much longer – you are soon going to be all alone. Granger will be gone with the rest of the Mudbloods at the end of term and Potter’s luck can’t last forever, there is nothing and no one left now who can save him from his fate.” “Well, I’m not about to abandon Harry,” avowed Ron determinedly. “Ha!” scoffed Pansy, deciding to try a different tack. “But he’s already abandoned you – and so has Granger. They’ve both turned their backs on you and are cuddling up to Godfry.” “That’s not true!” yelled Ron. But no matter how hard he yelled, he couldn’t overcome the thought that Pansy was dead right. “Look at the thanks you get for all you’ve done for the pair of them,” continued Pansy, sensing that she had Ron on her hook at last. “You’ve stood beside them and fought for them for five years. Then ‘Slick Rick’ suddenly shows up and worms his way into the ‘Dream Team’ – and pushes you out.” “Who does Potter listen to?” challenged Pansy, raising an eyebrow. “You or him? It’s obvious that Potter doesn’t trust you any more. Godfry has turned him against you.” “And as for Granger, well, she’s just throwing herself at him,” added Pansy, hitting pay dirt. “Don’t worry, I know how much you fancy that worthless little Mud ... err ... Muggle. But since ‘Slick Rick’ showed up on the scene, you haven’t stood a chance with her and you know it. I’ve seen them ducking into broom closets and empty classrooms, why —” “What?” Ron ejaculated. “Oh, come on,” said Pansy, “are you blind – or just unwilling to see the truth? Don’t you know what that pair get up to – right under your very nose?” Ron fumed in silence, trying to contain the unpleasant visions and emotions that Pansy had brought boiling to the surface. She had just verbalised his own suspicions and there was nothing he could counter with. “Well thanks for enlightening me,” said Ron. “You’ve really made my day.” He turned to leave, not knowing if he could hold his feelings in for much longer, and he was damned if he was going to let a Slytherin see him cry. “Wait,” said Pansy, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder, to stop him. “You don’t have to put up with that git Rick, if you don’t want to; you could help to get him out of the way, you know.” “What?” said Ron, suddenly turning. “Help who?” “Let’s just say that that you’re not the only one at Hogwarts with their nose out of joint over Rick Godfry. He’s made a lot of enemies in Slytherin, and almost every wizard in this school is sick to death of the way all the witches swoon over him. Why, I’m one of the few witches who can see right through that charming, phoney facade,” said Pansy, lying through her teeth. “So what are you planning to do about him?” asked Ron, fearing that Pansy was trying to drag him into a murder plot. As much as he hated Godfry, he would never get involved in anything like that. “Oh, don’t worry,” replied Pansy, sensing his nervousness. “Nothing too drastic. We just want him out of here – and fast. The plan is to rough him up a bit with a few hexes, let him know that he’s no longer welcome at Hogwarts and then Portkey him to somewhere in deepest, darkest Africa, far away from civilization – without his wand, of course,” added Pansy with an evil grin on her face. “In the unlikely event that he’s stupid enough to try returning to Hogwarts,” said Pansy, “which would take him weeks, Umbridge would just expel him for having left the school without permission. She hates him and wouldn’t believe a word of it, if he tried telling her what had really happened. The plan is perfect,” gloated Pansy. “So why are you telling me all this?” asked Ron. “Well, you must have noticed,” explained Pansy, “that Godfry is rather powerful and he seems to have some kind of sixth sense, so the whole plan hinges on catching him unawares with a Stunning Spell. And the safest way of doing that is to catch him in his sleep.” “Oh, no,” protested Ron, holding up his hands in front of him. “I’m not trying that. You’re right about him having a sixth sense and I’m not sneaking up on him, even if he is asleep – or pretending to be.” “Calm down Ron,” said Pansy, “I’m not asking you to stun him. All I’m asking you to do is to help me get into your dormitory so that I can do it. I’ll be under an invisibility cloak, so I won’t be seen. I’ve learnt a silent Stunning Spell; no one will even wake up – especially Godfry. Then I’ll throw another invisibility cloak over him and levitate him out – you’ll never see him again.” “Wait,” said Ron, the penny finally dropping, “you want me to give you the password to the Gryffindor common room, right?” “Obviously,” said Pansy, “how else can I get to your dormitory?” “And how do I know that you – or anyone else for that matter – won’t just attack Harry or me or anyone else?” demanded Ron. “Because,” replied Pansy, “I swear a Wizard’s Oath – which you know can’t be broken – that I will be the only one entering your common room and that I won’t touch Potter or you or anyone else in your dormitory.” Ron was clearly uneasy, so Pansy added, “Then tomorrow morning, you can change the password.” But Ron was still uneasy about giving the Gryffindor password to a Slytherin. Sure he hated Godfry, but he was no traitor. “No,” he said finally after wrestling with his conflicting emotions. “I won’t do it.” But Pansy had not given up yet. She was a master manipulator and she knew that she just about had him. “What if I offered you a small favour in return?” she asked. “Like what?” asked Ron, suspiciously. “Well I have no idea why, but you seem to fancy Granger. She’ll be out of Hogwarts at the end of this term and back with her Muggle family. I’m sure you know what kind of dangers she will face – she’ll be practically defenceless....” “What are you trying to say ... are you threatening Hermione?” asked Ron angrily. “Let’s just say that she’s made some enemies during her time at Hogwarts —” began Pansy. “Like Malfoy,” spat Ron. “Exactly,” agreed Pansy. “Enemies who might want to take revenge, once she’s away from here and vulnerable.” “So what exactly is this favour you’re offering?” asked Ron. “If you help us get rid of Godfry, we’ll leave your little Mud ... err, Muggle friend alone to enjoy living like a Muggle again in peace and quiet. It’s really a very simple choice,” said Pansy. “Who do you want to save, Godfry or Granger?” “OK,” said Ron finally. “I’ll do it.” Pansy smiled inwardly, she was very pleased with herself. It had just been so easy, and darling Draco was going to be so pleased with her.
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Just after midnight, the portrait of the Fat Lady swung open and a figure emerged from the Gryffindor common room hidden beneath an invisibility cloak. It gently guided its stunned victim, lying beneath another invisibility cloak. If the Fat Lady thought anything of it, she kept her thoughts to herself. In fact, she was quite used to having to open at all hours for invisible witches and wizards, and thought no more about it – it was all just part of the job.
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Draco Malfoy waited impatiently in a small dungeon. He was really looking forward to this. He was feeling quite euphoric, actually. The events of the past few weeks had entirely rearranged the power structure at Hogwarts. The Purebloods were now on top – where they rightfully belonged. Slytherins, being the only purely Pureblood house, were therefore considered the Pureblood elite. Then there were the members of the Inquisitorial Squad. They were the elite of Slytherin. Draco had just been appointed Commandant of the Inquisitorial Squad – his silver ‘I’ was bigger than everyone else’s. His father, as Executive Governor, just about owned the school and that pathetic Umbridge did exactly what she was told. Next year, of course, Draco would be named Head Boy – but really, he was already, to all intents and purposes. Yes, life was very sweet right now. Draco felt powerful, like a king, and he was going to enjoy using his power. The door to the dungeon swung open for a moment, and then closed again. Draco watched as Pansy Parkinson’s head suddenly appeared in mid-air followed by the rest of her. The smug grin on her face told him that her mission had been successful. Pansy whipped away the other invisibility cloak from the prone figure, hovering beside her. “Ah – Well if it isn’t my very favourite little Mudblood,” drawled Draco, observing his stunned bushy-haired victim. “All right, you can go now, Pansy,” said Draco. “What? – aren’t you even going to thank me, Draco?” asked Pansy, pouting. “It was my brilliant plan and my masterful manipulation of that Weasley jerk that got us the Gryffindor password – he was just like a puppet on a string. You owe me big-time, Draco.” “Well I’ve got to admit, Pansy,” replied Draco, “you are one cunning, conniving witch, and I’m glad you’re on my side – you’re a credit to Slytherin.” “Well thanks, Draco,” said Pansy. “It’s so nice to feel appreciated – but remember, we made a deal. I deliver Granger and you invite me as your date on the next Hogsmeade weekend.” “OK, OK,” said Draco, becoming impatient. “You’ll get your date. Now get out of here! I’ve waited a long time for this moment and I don’t wish to wait any longer.” “Enjoy yourself,” smirked Pansy as she left the dungeon. Much as she disliked the little know-it-all Mudblood, she did not want to think about what was about to happen to her. Pansy was a Pureblood to her bones, she understood that power was everything, and Draco had it – lots of it. In time, he would become one of the most socially and politically powerful wizards, and she was planning to share that power with him. Pansy had lots of cunning plans, but her ultimate plan, was to become the next Mrs. Malfoy. She wasn’t about to let soft-heartedness or scruples get in her way – she was a witch with a mission. Draco, meanwhile, had locked the dungeon door and placed a silencing charm on the dungeon. “Finite Incantatum,” he said pointing his wand at Hermione. She immediately fell, unconscious, to the hard dungeon floor as the Levitation Spell was removed. Not taking any chances, Draco magically chained Hermione to the dungeon wall before removing the Stunning Spell, saying “Ennervate.” Hermione opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was Malfoy leaning back on a chair a few feet in front of her, leering. She tried to move, but couldn’t; then she saw that she was chained to the dungeon wall by her wrists and ankles. She shivered in her thin pyjamas. Surely she must be dreaming, the last thing she could recall was climbing into her snug four-poster bed and going to sleep. This must be some kind of nightmare, she thought. Draco’s heart was thumping in his chest, now he understood how it felt to be a Death Eater, closing in on some helpless victim. The adrenalin was surging through his veins. The feeling of power was intoxicating. He was going to take this nice and slowly – enjoy every moment of it. “I hope you’re afraid, Mudblood,” he said. “You ought to be – very afraid.” Hermione realised, with absolute certainty, that this was no dream. It was real. Fear, like she had never felt in her life, twisted her stomach into a tight knot; she had difficulty breathing; her whole body was tense with terror. She kept silent. “Well, well,” sneered Draco. “The little know-it-all Mudblood who can never keep her foul mouth shut, seems lost for words. Well that’s fine with me – I didn’t bring you here for a friendly chat, you know.” “What did you bring me here for?” asked Hermione nervously. “Guess,” said Draco grinning evilly. Hermione stayed quiet, she didn’t want to think about it. Her sense of foreboding was rapidly increasing. “You know, I’ve hated you since the day you arrived at this school, you uppity little Mudblood. Thinking that memorising a bunch of spells and reading every book in the library would make you a witch – put you on a par with us Purebloods.” “You think you’re so clever, because you always come top of everything,” he said getting angry, his voice growing gradually louder. “Well it’s not your place to come top of anything. For five years I’ve had to listen to my father’s lectures about how he was always top of every subject. About how a Malfoy must always come first. About how disgraceful it was that I allowed myself to be bettered by a Mudblood.” Draco was livid with fury by now, his face red and blotchy. “Well it’s payback time, little Miss Mudblood,” he said rising to his feet. When I’m finished with you, you won’t be good for anything, ever again. Not for you dear little friend Potty – or maybe it’s that upstart Godfry now – he’s probably another Mudblood.” “But don’t be concerned for your future, you didn’t have one anyway. I mean you didn’t really think that the Dark Lord would allow Mudblood filth like you to survive? Once all you Mudbloods are thrown out of Hogwarts, you’ll be defenceless, easy prey – and pleasure – for his Death Eaters.” “I’ll be doing you a favour,” said Draco in a sinister tone. “You should be grateful. I’m going to save you from all that. You see, you won’t be leaving this dungeon alive.” Hermione froze in fear at Malfoy’s words. They weren’t just idle threats. When he mentioned Rick, she thought to herself: Oh Rick, Rick! Where are you now, when I need you? “But before I finish you off, I’m going to have a little fun with you, Mudblood!” said Draco coming closer. “I’m going to teach you your last lesson at Hogwarts – although it should have been your first. I’m going to teach you your place. I’m going to teach you who’s in charge here, and exactly what little Mudbloods like you are good for.” He raised his wand, grinning. “Why don’t you beg me for mercy, Mudblood? It won’t do you any good, but it might amuse me.” Hermione knew that this was the end, there was no hope left. She was helpless. Malfoy would take whatever terrible revenge on her he pleased, and then he would kill her. Well, she was not going to go down grovelling before him. “You’re very brave, Malfoy,” she said, “with me chained helplessly to the wall and you with your wand – that’s hardly fair.” “We Malfoys don’t play fair,” he smiled wickedly. “We play to win – and we always win, in the end.” “I always knew you were evil, Malfoy. But I never imagined that even you, were capable of committing murder, in cold blood. When you attempted to poison Harry – and me – you were obviously following orders from your father, and Voldemort. But this is different – this is simply for your own twisted pleasure. Have you not a trace of humanity in you?” “You just don’t get it, do you, Mudblood?” sneered Malfoy. “You Mudbloods aren’t like us – you’re vermin. Killing you isn’t murder, it’s just pest control. We Purebloods, are a higher species – you’re merely our quarry. Killing you isn’t murder, it’s sport. “You’re a —” But Hermione never got to tell Draco what he was. The door was blown off of its hinges and in the doorway, standing in his pyjamas, was an enraged Rick. Draco didn’t see him. He didn’t have time to turn before the curse hit him. He was lifted from his feet and hurled unconscious against the dungeon wall. Rick walked over to Hermione and making her chains disappear, lifted her into his arms. He didn’t use his wand – in fact he’d forgotten it in his haste to get to her. Hermione fainted in his arms. Rick wondered if he could just Apparate with her back to the Gryffindor common room. He was fairly sure that he could Apparate another person with him, but he was worried that the Hogwarts anti-Apparition Wards would prevent him from doing it in the castle. The last thing he wanted was to splinch Hermione, she had suffered enough already. So Rick decided to do it the slow way, carrying Hermione, lightened by a Levitation Charm, back to Gryffindor Tower in his arms. He had considered taking her to Madam Pomfrey. But Hogwarts had become so insecure that he didn’t want to leave her unprotected in the hospital wing. Not that Draco Malfoy would be causing any further trouble tonight. When he reached the common room, Rick placed her carefully on a couch by the fire, waving a hand at it to make it roar into life. He Summoned a blanket from his bed to wrap her in, and a robe for himself. Rick decided it would be better to wait for Hermione to regain consciousness naturally, rather than Ennervate her. He could sense her fear and he knew that she must be traumatised, even though it appeared that he’d gotten to her in time, before she’d been physically harmed. When Hermione opened her eyes, she saw that she was sitting in the Gryffindor common room, with Rick beside her. She threw her arms around him and began heaving great sobs on his shoulder. Rick held her. He directed thoughts of calm and comfort towards her. Maybe it’s time, he thought, to let loose the feelings I’ve been holding back for so long. He knew it was what Hermione needed now, to recover from the trauma she was suffering. Hermione felt the loving feelings washing over her. They felt so warm, making her feel safe and secure. They drove out all the fear and terror that she had been feeling. She didn’t really understand what it was, but she knew that it was coming from Rick and she wanted to let it to fill her, suffuse her, and take away all the pain and hurt. They sat hugging like that for a long time, without speaking. Hermione could still remember all the events in the dungeon with Malfoy, but now, they didn’t seem to touch her anymore. Finally, she said, “You saved me, Rick – again.” He smiled at her and simply said, “You called me, and I came.” “I called you?” she asked. “Yes,” smiled Rick. “I was asleep when I heard you call out ‘Oh Rick, Rick! Where are you now, when I need you’ – so I came.” “But Rick, that’s not possible,” said Hermione, feeling confused. “I mean, yes I did say that – or think it to myself at least, but you had blown open the door of the dungeon less than a minute afterwards. I mean, how could you have heard my thoughts in your sleep? And how could you have known where I was? And how could you have gotten there so fast?” she asked. “I was in a hurry,” he grinned. In fact, as soon as Rick was awoken from his sleep by Hermione’s plea for help, he had immediately projected his ‘Marauders Map’ and checked her dormitory – but she wasn’t there. So he started searching for her. It didn’t take long, because he began at the Slytherin common room, and the dungeon where Draco was holding her was nearby. Before Hermione could demand a proper explanation, however, Ron came down the stairs, and spotting them together on the couch, began yelling at Hermione. “Hermione, what the hell do you think you’re doing down here with him? You’ve got to go back to your dorm, now! It’s not safe to be here, with him! He’s ... he’s, putting you in danger! I can’t explain it, but it’s not safe. Casting pleadingly looks at her, Ron implored, “Please get away from him and go to your dorm. Please, just trust me and go!” “Ron,” sighed Hermione, “when are you going to stop this rubbish about Rick? He just saved my life – he saved me from Draco Malfoy.” “What are you talking about?” asked Ron, becoming uneasy. “I don’t know how he got me there,” said Hermione. “One minute, I was asleep in my bed, the next I was in a dungeon, chained to a wall, with Malfoy saying he was going to do all sorts of horrible things to me, and then kill me. If Rick hadn’t rescued me I would probably be dead by now – or at least praying that death would come soon,” she said, bursting into tears as the memories came flooding back. “Malfoy ... he, he didn’t do anything to you did he, Hermione?” Ron asked desperately. “No,” said Hermione, through her tears. “Rick arrived just in time. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened, if, if —” But she couldn’t carry on. Rick wrapped his arms around her, directing loving feelings towards her again. While Hermione had been talking, Rick had been probing Ron’s mind; he now knew the full story. Ron was distraught. He knew exactly how Hermione had ended up in the dungeon. But how could Pansy have broken her Wizard’s Oath? he wondered. She said ‘I won’t touch Potter, or you, or anyone else in your dormitory.’ Of course – she didn’t say anything about anyone else, or any other dorms. The plan had been to take Hermione all along – what a fool I was. Those Slytherins are so sneaky – and Pansy Parkinson has to be the sneakiest Slytherin of them all. Hermione had stopped her crying now. Rick’s ‘treatment’ had done the job again. Rick stared deeply into Ron’s eyes and said, “Maybe it’s time for a confession, Ron, and an apology; not just to Hermione, but to me too.” “What are you t-talking about?” said Ron, trying to look away. “Do you want to confess the whole story to Hermione, or shall I tell her who betrayed her?” asked Rick. “But I didn’t mean to betray her!” cried Ron in despair. “Pansy was meant to take ...” “Me,” said Rick with a wry grin. “Pansy used your jealousy and hatred of me to make you do something that you would never have done if you were thinking clearly. Take a good look at yourself, Ron, and see where your hatred and jealousy have gotten you, and how they allowed you to be duped by your worst enemies.” “What’s this all about?” demanded Hermione, not being privy to the contents of Ron’s mind (like Rick – and Ron himself). “Come on, Ron,” said Rick. “Confession is good for the soul. Confess, and you never know, you might be forgiven.” Ron reluctantly told the whole sordid story, of how Pansy had tricked him. When he had finished, he begged Hermione to forgive him. “You know, I refused everything she tried to tempt me with. It was only when she said that your life would be spared, that I finally agreed.” “Oh, Ron,” said Hermione getting up and throwing her arms around him. “I know you wanted to save me, and I know your intentions were good, but can’t you see how Pansy used your hatred of Rick to fool you?” “No,” said Ron, who still, couldn’t see it. “Ron,” said Hermione. “You’ve got a brilliant mind. You’re unbeatable at wizard chess because you can think so logically. But sometimes you just get some idea about something, or a prejudice against someone, and then you totally lose the ability to be rational about it.” “I don’t see what that has to do with Pansy and —” objected Ron, not wanting to concede the truth of which Hermione had just spoken. “What exactly was there to guarantee that I’d be spared, if you gave Pansy the password?” interrupted Hermione. “Did she swear a Wizard’s Oath on that? Did you consider that once inside the Gryffindor common room, Pansy could have taken whomever she chose; except for you, Harry, Neville, Seamus and Dean, or that she could have done anything she liked to anyone?” “Umm ... no,” conceded Ron. “And do you know why you didn’t think about those things? Do you know why your powers of rational thought failed you? Because she wound you up about Rick. She played on your hatred and jealousy and as soon as those feelings got the better of you, you stopped thinking. Oh, Ron! Why can’t you see it?” she cried in desperation. Ron didn’t say anything. He just stared at the floor, for a long time – but, finally, he did see it.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Coming up: Chapter 8 ~ The Haunted House of Malfoy Please leave a review ... it only takes a few moments ...

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