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The Darkness and The Light Part 20
A/N: Ok, folks. This is the last shout. For real, this time. I want to give you all a heartfelt thank you so much for sticking with me through this story and encouraging me to go on when I wanted to stop. I think I can safely say that this has been a labor of love for a lot of reasons. One being that if not for you, my readers, this story would not be what it has become. Two, in exploring the Malfoy’s, I have fallen in love with them to a degree. They are so effed up and so fun to write! Finally, there is Draco’s psyche that was just a flat out blast! I’ll miss it all. I hope you’ll enjoy this chapter and check out my other works. A/N: MokukapawaokeAo pronounced Mow koo kah pah vah oh kay ah-oh -The light of the dawn through the darkness. I wanted to throw that in simply because it sort of coincides with my title. I’m dedicating this chapter to all of my readers, Hoku, and everyone else at Weasley Writers and The School of Merlin. You’re the best! Now, on with the show!
“Miss Granger, I’m terribly sorry, I…” Dumbledore began, snapping out of his thoughts. He looked around the room with slight surprise. He had been so lost in his reverie that he hadn’t even noticed that she had left the room. Making a mental note to apologize the next time he saw her, he walked over to the shelves of books that lined one wall of his office and began to gaze over what his eyes beheld.
When Harry, Hermione and Mr. Weasley arrived at The Burrow they found themselves being hurled out of the kitchen fireplace by the green flames. First, it was Harry who was forced across the room. He ran into the sink chest first, and then came Mr. Weasley who landed at Harry’s feet. Third was Hermione who was spat from the fireplace about the same time that Ron had come from downstairs and was crossing to the family dinner table. Hermione slammed into him with her entire body, knocking him flat on his back. She was lying on top of him, her head on his shoulder, some of her hair flowing over one side of his face. It took Ron a moment to fully realize exactly what had happened and when he did, he lifted one hand up to smooth her hair back so that it was now hanging over her shoulders as it usually did. “Mione?” He asked as he gasped for breath, the force of her body had knocked the wind from him. “Are you ok?” Her weight was now distributed to both of her hands on either side of him. Her face was flushed from having landed on top of him in the manner that she had. As she got to her feet and pulled him up on his, she said: “I’m fine. I didn’t hurt you, did I?” He was so happy to see her, so relieved that she was there and that she didn’t appear to be angry with him. He pulled her to him for a tight hug. “You could never hurt me. I’ve missed you so much, Hermione. Thank you for being here,” he bent his head down and placed a gentle kiss on top of her shoulder. She responded with a kiss on the cheek and then pulled away from him. “Harry’s here, too,” she told him as she gestured to where Harry now stood and was helping Mr. Weasley to his feet. “Hey, mate,” Ron greeted his friend. “Thanks for coming.” “Anytime,” Harry said as he went to retrieve his trunk which had landed just a few feet away from where he had. He looked at Mr. Weasley. “Where do you want me to sleep?” “Since everyone else is gone, you can sleep in Percy’s room,” he grabbed Hermione’s trunk from the fireplace, “I’ll put your things in Ginny’s room.” Hermione nodded as he walked on past with Harry trailing along behind him. Ron watched them go and once they had made it onto the second landing and out of sight, he turned to look back at Hermione only to see that she was wearing an angry scowl on her face. He didn’t have to ask what was bothering her; he knew. She was mad because he had taken so long to tell her what The Ministry had done. “Hermione, please don’t be mad at me. I can’t handle it if you are. I said I was sorry. The point should be that I told you and didn’t hide it from you like I had originally wanted to-“ he stopped in midsentence. He had heard his own words and known that he said the wrong thing. He could tell by the fact that Hermione’s face was now the color of his hair and by the way his insides began to quiver at the thought of her yelling at him. Her silence made him more uneasy with each passing moment and when she grabbed his hand to lead him outside into the yard, he only felt worse. If such a thing were possible. She pulled him behind her to the picnic table that he had sat at a few days before trying to write his first letter to her and made him sit on the tabletop. Ron remained silent. “Did you think that I couldn’t handle you having your powers revoked?” She seethed as she crossed her arms over her chest and began to pace in front of him. “Did you think that I would feel guilty? Did you think that I wouldn’t love you anymore?” This was where she stopped her pacing and looked back at him expectantly, her arms still crossed. “That was exactly what I thought,” he said honestly. “WHAT?” she asked, incredulous. “You thought I couldn’t handle it? Since when is it up to you to decide what I can and can’t handle, Ron?” “No, not that part. I thought that you would feel guilty; I thought that you wouldn’t love me.” “Then you don’t know me very well, do you?” she asked angrily. “Hermione, I’m sorry,” he said, feeling helpless. “I don’t know what else to say. I just didn’t know how to tell you when I found out.” “But you knew how to tell Harry,” she remarked with a smirk. This made Ron jerk his head up and give her a questioning look. “WHAT? He told you? He let you read my letter?” His face began to take on the shade of his hair as he fixed his eyes on the window to Percy’s room that overlooked The Burrow. “I’ll kill him! I can’t believe this!” “Ron, calm down. Harry didn’t do anything. I saw the letter the day he got it. I jerked it away from him.” His face still screwed up in anger, he now turned to Hermione. “You did what?” Hermione rolled her eyes in exasperation as she let out an aggravated sigh. “What else was I supposed to do, Ron? I hadn’t heard from you and at the first sign of some news, I had to know!” “But you didn’t have to yank it away from him!” He barked. For a few moments, there was an angry silence between them. Hermione stood and stared at Ron who was looking at the ground and mulling a loose patch of grass around with the toe of his shoe. There was no way that she was going to apologize to him…Then it dawned on her. He had apologized to her as much as he possibly could. It was her own fault if she didn’t accept it. Her frustrtation at him quickly left when she realized something else: Ron needed her to be there for him, not argue with him. She began to feel horrible about their silly fight as she walked up to him and placed one hand on his chest, the other on his chin so she could turn his face up to look at her. “You’re right,” she said softly. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything. Forgive me?” Ron faltered for a minute, frowning at her and she thought he was going to say no. That was, until he began to smile at her. “Yes. Do you forgive me?” She nodded. “Yes. The next time you have something to tell me, just tell me instead of keeping me in the dark, ok? If we’re going to be together, there can be no secrets. Agreed?” He nodded seriously. “Agreed.” “Good,” she murmured happily. “Now that that’s over, I want to do something that I’ve been dying to do since I got here.” He laced his arms around her tiny waist, hoping that she was thinking the same thing that he was. “This,” she leaned in and gave him a deep, gentle kiss on the lips. Ron’s heart was doing cartwheels. She had been thinking the same thing.
Mr. Weasley had arrived at The Ministry with Ron, Harry and Hermione by Portkey at a quarter til nine on the morning of the trial. They wanted to be ensured that they would have proper seating so that they would be able to see the wizard who would be overseeing the trial. Once the foursome had settled in, Hermione had excused herself to go to the restroom. As she made her way through the lobby and back towards the courtroom, someone collided with her from nowhere and the next thing she knew, she was being pinned into a corner. When the excitement died down, she quickly realized that it was Malfoy and struggled to get free from him for he had pinned her wrists against the wall above her head with his hands. “Give it up, Mudblood. You haven’t a chance in hell,” he breathed in her ear. Hermione wasn’t stupid enough to believe that he didn’t know anything about the law surrounding Muggleborns. She just scowled back at him, still struggling, and resisted the urge to knee him in the groin. “Let me go,” she said at last. He said nothing, he only tightened his grip and slammed her wrists against the wall once more a little more forcefully and sneered at her. If he was trying to make her think that he had the upper hand, he was doing a really poor job of it. Hermione already knew that she had no chance. Still, she had to be strong. “Draco? Hermione? What’s going on here?” asked a familiar voice, sounding alarmed. Draco and Hermione both turned their heads to see Mr. Weasley standing just a few feet away with his hands on his hips and a frown on his face. “I suggest that you let her go, Malfoy,” Mr. Weasley said evenly. Draco smirked and looked Mr. Weasley up and down; almost as though he were sizing him up. He turned his attention back to Hermione and used his entire body to pin her against the wall. He leaned down and got in her ear. “I’m going to win,” he whispered in a sing-song voice. He kissed Hermione on the cheek before he let her go and walked away, into the courtroom, Mr. Weasley watching him the entire time. Once Draco had chosen a seat away from where they sat (much to everyone’s surprise), Mr. Weasley rushed over to Hermione and placed a hand on both of her shoulders, crouching down so he was at eye level with her. “Are you ok?” Hermione was silent for a moment and could only nod. When she had finally felt like she could speak, her voice was suddenly lost to tears. Mr. Weasley stood and pulled her to him. “It’ll be okay, Hermione. Don’t you worry.” Moments later, they were interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps and they broke their hug to see Ron standing before them. When he saw Hermione’s face red and blotchy from crying, he crossed to her and took her hands in his. “’Mione, what is it?” “It’s nothing, Ron, don’t worry.” He held her at arms length and knelt down a little so he could inspect her face and then her wrists. “I saw Malfoy come into the courtroom looking more pleased with himself than usual. Did he hurt you?” Hermione shook her head. When Ron was ready to believe her (it took him a moment because he knew that Hermione didn’t cry for no reason), he turned to his Dad and said: “I just wanted to let you know that session will be starting in a few moments. I’m going to spend a few more minutes out here with Hermione and then we’ll be in.” Making sure one last time that Hermione was ok, Mr. Weasley nodded to his son and ducked inside the courtroom. Once Ron and Hermione were alone, Hermione gained her composure and held Ron’s hand in hers; flat and palm up. “What are you doing?” He asked, giving her a funny look. She silently withdrew her wand from her robes, aimed it at Ron’s palm and the next thing Ron knew, his palm was tingling and glowing a slight red color at the same time. When the beam from Hermione’s wand was gone, he could see what looked like words etched onto his hand. Always remember that I love you… She gave him a doleful look and kissed the words before closing his fingers over it. “What was that for?” “It’s in case you panic up there on the stand,” she said quietly. “It’s in case Malfoy really wins.” She turned and began to walk away. Ron hung back for a moment, watching her walk towards the courtroom, before he followed her inside.
The judge, who was a portly man who stood about 6 feet tall, had entered the room and introduced himself as Judge McNabb before having taken his place behind his bench. Ron, Hermione and Harry all exchanged glances, they knew that they had been expecting the same thing: a man who looked something like Professor Snape and was twice as mean. Judge McNabb appeared to be a rather kind looking man and that made Ron feel a little more at ease when he had been the first one called to the stand. He took his seat next to the judge’s podium and was greeted by a witch in emerald green robes. “Hello, my name is Shantell Tom,” she spoke with a kind voice. “Could you please state your full name for the court?” “Ronald Bilius Weasley.” Shantell thanked him and went to sit in a chair that was against the wall off to Ron’s left. He looked ahead and saw that Draco and Lucius were sitting side by side at a table just a few feet away from the judge’s podium with a middle-aged wizard who was dressed in royal purple robes. He now approached Ron. “How is it that you know Mr. Draco Malfoy?” “We attend the same school, we’re…” Ron had almost admitted that he also knew Malfoy because he was related to him, but wanted to keep this to himself. He wasn’t happy about this fact. The wizard in the purple robes didn’t seem to notice that Ron had faltered when he spoke and he was grateful for that. “Could you be more specific?” “We both attend Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’m in Gryffindor House and he’s in Slytherin House.” The wizard stood before Ron and nodded sagely. “Hmm…Slytherin…where do I know that name? Oh, yes, it’s referring to Salazar Slytherin, a Dark wizard. So, that must mean that Slytherin students are mostly trained in The Dark Arts?” Ron nodded. The wizard in the purple robes stood before Ron and touched the feathered end of the quill that he had in his hand to his mouth. He continued on, seeming thoughtful. “Gryffindor…Gryffindor...Godric Gryffindor, right? He was on the Good side, wasn’t he? It’s my understanding that if Slytherin teaches Dark Magic, then Gryffindor must focus mainly on Good Magic?” Ron nodded again. “I see. But you used Dark Magic the day you tried to kill Draco Malfoy, didn’t you?” “You don’t understand,” Ron finally spoke. “What he did to Hermione…I didn’t mean to do what I did! I was just so angry…I didn’t think before I spoke the incantation!” Feeling more flustered with every word, he stood up and pointed a finger at Malfoy who was watching him with a bemused expression on his face. “He’s guilty of physical abuse, rape and kidnapping, Your Honor! Why is it that I’m on trial for trying to defend Hermione and he gets to walk free?” Judge McNabb turned his wand into a gavel and banged it fiercely on the stand. “You will contain yourself this instant, Young Weasley!” The judge barked, glaring at Ron angrily. “I didn’t expect to have to do this this early on, but I’m going to call a ten minute recess in which you had BETTER take to collect yourself, Mister Weasley! I will not tolerate such insolence and disrespect in my courtroom! Do you understand me?” Judge McNabb slammed his beefy hands down on the bench, pulled himself up and now leaned down over top of Ron, who was cowering like a mouse when it knows the cat has it cornered. “Y-yes,” he stammered. Judge McNabb hovered for a few more seconds before announcing that he would be in his chambers and then Apparated out of the room. Still shaking like mad, Ron managed to glance over to where Draco and Lucius sat. They were staring back at him and grinning like a couple of Cheshire cats. Apparently they liked that Ron had lost his nerve. Lucius leaned over, whispered something in his son’s ear, and when Draco nodded, Lucius Apparated with a loud pop!. Draco dropped his eyes from Ron and looked around the room as though he wanted to make sure that he wasn’t being watched. Ron pretended to look away and couldn’t help but get curious when he saw Draco cross to the judge’s bench and exit through a door that was behind it. He briefly looked over and saw Harry, Hermione, and his father staring back at him with concern. “Are you ok, mate?” Harry asked. “Fine,” he said as he got down from the stand. “I don’t know what came over me.” He jerked his thumb in the direction that Malfoy had gone. “Where do you suppose they went?” Mr. Weasley had suddenly become thoughtful and was scratching his chin with an air of suspicion about him. “I don’t know,” he replied, “but I’m going to go find out.” He too then Apparated from the room, leaving three confused teenagers in his wake.
Going on a gut feeling, an off-handed hunch that he couldn’t explain or ignore, Mr. Weasley found himself outside Judge McNabb’s chambers listening at the door. What he was expecting to hear, he couldn’t say exactly. He had seen the suspicious manner in which Lucius Malfoy was conversing with his son in the courtroom; he had taken full notice of how their actions afterward seemed to be sneaky as well. He could hear voices inside. With the exception of Judge McNabb’s booming voice, he couldn’t tell who the other voices belonged to. Noticing that the door was slightly ajar, he pushed it open just a little further to see Draco and Lucius inside. “I want to thank you for seeing to it that my son wouldn’t have to stand trial,” Lucius was saying. Mr. Weasley couldn’t believe his ears. He was filled with a sudden rage and had to fight very hard the urge to go for his wand and hex Malfoy himself. Judge McNabb took a quick shot of firewhiskey from the bottle as he made himself comfortable in the chair behind his desk. He held out one of his hands with an expectant look on his face. “You said the price would be nice, Malfoy,” he said coolly. Mr. Weasley watched in horror as Lucius reached into the pocket of his robes and brought out what was unmistakably a small, yet well-sized money bag. Just then there was a faint pop! that made Mr. Weasley give a slight jump. He looked to see Dumbledore at his side. “Headmaster,” he said in a hushed yet surprised tone, “what brings you here?” “I wanted to see how things were going for your son.” “Thank you, I’m sure it will mean a lot to him.” Dumbledore nodded sagely. “It’s the darndest thing. I was watching the proceedings from the crystal ball in my office. I saw something suspicious looking happen between Draco and Lucius…” Mr. Weasley frowned and nodded to what was happening inside. “Lucius bribed the judge so Draco wouldn’t have to stand trial. He must have been telling Draco that he was going to pay the judge and to come in a little later.” Dumbledore shook his head in disgust causing his moon shaped rims to slide down his nose just a touch. “I’ll fix that,” he said. Before Mr. Weasley could stop him, he had opened the door all the way and now the occupants of the judge’s chambers turned to stare at him. “Albus!” Judge McNabb exclaimed as he gave the money pouch in his hand a nervous look and tried to conceal it in his lap. “What a surprise.” “Not as surprised as I am, Jakob. I’ll be speaking to Mr. Fudge about your crooked practices. In the mean time, I want the proceedings to carry on in a fair manner.” This made Lucius stand up and bang his cane on the judge’s desk. “It IS fair, Dumbledore! It’s wizards like the Weasley’s who…” “Beginning with you, Lucius,” Dumbledore interrupted as he withdrew his wand from his robes and proceeded to cast a Memory Charm on both Malfoy’s where they now stood. “You will both go back to the courtroom and take your places as though nothing has happened here.” Mr. Weasley watched in astonishment as Lucius and Draco left the judges chambers, headed for the courtroom. He said not a word as Dumbledore now turned to Judge McNabb and pointed his wand squarely at the man’s chest. Judge McNabb looked absolutely horrified. “What are you going to do?” “I’m going to make sure things go as they should have from the beginning,” Dumbledore told him as he muttered an incantation that bound the heavyset man to his chair. He then turned his wand on himself but stopped, looking confused. Mr. Weasley was too awestruck to speak as he watched the Headmaster cast a Memory Charm on Judge McNabb. “That’s better,” he said to Mr. Weasley and then turned his wand on himself once more. “What are you going to do?” he asked, finally finding his voice. Dumbledore gave a sly grin and said nothing as he muttered yet another incantation that made him change form before Mr. Weasley’s eyes. When the stream of light and smoke from the wand died down, he did a double take, looking at the judge that was confined to a chair and the judge that was standing before him where Dumbledore had just a few seconds before. “Well, what do you think, Arthur?” Dumbledore asked as he spread his arms out for Mr. Weasley to get a better look. “Do I look the part?” Mr. Weasley found himself speechless yet again. “Dumbledore, I don’t care what anyone else says, you are absolutely brilliant.” He clapped the old man on the back as they exited the chambers and went to join everyone in the courtroom.
As Mr. Weasley sat down next to Ron, Hermione, and Harry he could barely keep a straight face for all of the grinning that he was doing. The trio watched him curiously before Ron finally gave in and asked: “Dad, what is it?” Mr. Weasley pretended to clear his throat and suddenly looked serious. “What is what, Ron?” Ron looked up at his father, trying to decide whether or not he should be suspicious. Deciding not to be, he just shook his head and said “Nothing,” as he turned his attention to the bench at the front of the room. Momentarily, Dumbledore entered the room and nodded to Draco and Lucius who were in their seats on the opposite side. He made himself comfortable in Judge McNabb’s chair. “I would like for the young Mr. Weasley and the young Mr. Malfoy to please approach the bench,” he ordered. Ron cast a worried glance at Hermione and Harry as he took a deep breath inward and slowly walked to the front of the room. Draco did not budge for a moment and when Dumbledore realized this, he stretched out his hand in Draco’s general direction and beckoned him with his finger. Now, both boys stood at the front of the room and Dumbledore loomed over them. He looked from boy to boy as he spoke: “I have reviewed the facts that were brought before me and I’m going to hurry the proceedings along by telling you my decision,” he now fixed his eyes on Ron who continued to stare at the floor, not really seeing anything. “Mr. Weasley, please look at me when I’m speaking to you. It shows respect.” Reluctantly, Ron raised his head and made eye contact with Judge McNabb. “You aren’t faultless. By all rights, you should have thought before you acted out of anger. At the same time, you were trying to defend your friend and the court finds this a noble act. You will be accepted back into school within one week and be sure to have your wand with you because there will be a representative from The Ministry on the grounds who will reinstate your powers.” Ron was overcome with joy and relief and could barely stop himself from smiling. His heart felt lighter than it had in a very long time. “You may join your father and friends, Mr. Weasley.” “Thank you, your honor! Thank you, thank you! A thousand times, thank you,” he said gratefully as he went to join them. “You’re welcome,” Dumbledore called out to him. “You will be on probation for six months after your return to school.” “Probation?” Hermione asked in alarm. “Yes, Miss Granger. While his intentions were noble, he needs to consider what he did and understand why it was wrong. His probation will be worked out with the Headmaster.” This suited Ron just fine for his punishment could have been worse. “So, I’m to see the Headmaster the first thing when I go back to school?” Dumbledore nodded. “Okay. Thank you again, sir.” Dumbledore now turned to Draco who had been unusually quiet through all of this. “Now for you, Mr. Malfoy. What you did was heinous. There is no excuse for it. So, I will be sending you to Azkaban to finish out the term. There, you will be put into their Wizard Reform program and attentending classes much like the ones you take at Hogwarts. Your powers and your wand will be reinstated to you upon your return to Hogwart’s grounds.” “Won’t I need magic to get back to school?” Draco asked dully. “When you are ready to start the new term, someone from The Ministry will be appointed to you to escort you back to school. Have I made myself clear? Are there any questions?” Draco shook his head. “Fine, then you may join your father, Draco. You will be taken on to Azkaban and your things will be sent to you in a few days.”
Ron and Hermione were the first ones to exit the courtroom and walk into the waiting area. Hermione was so relieved for Ron, she couldn’t contain herself. She was quick to lead Ron behind the door to the courtroom, pin him against the wall and kiss him as passionately as she could. When she broke their kiss, she hugged him to her and breathed in his ear, “Congratulations, love,” she said as she pulled away from him. “I was so scared for you. It could have been much worse, you know.” Ron nodded gravely as Harry and Mr. Weasley came and stood behind Hermione. “I know,” he looked at his father curiously. “What had you smiling like a bloody Cheshire cat in there, dad?” Mr. Weasley was about to answer when someone coming from the double doors of the courtroom caught his eye. It was Dumbledore coming to join them. “Hello, Headmaster,” Harry, Ron and Hermione all said at once, surprised to see him. “Have you been here all this time?” Hermione asked. “What are you doing here?” Ron asked, sounding shorter than he meant to. “You owe a big thanks to the Headmaster, Ron,” Mr. Weasley told his son. “What do you mean?” Ron asked, clearly just as confused as his friends appeared to be. Dumbledore explained everything to them from how he had been watching everything from his crystal ball to how he had transfigured himself to look like the judge so that Hermione would see justice after all. When he was done, Hermione had tears of happiness streaming down her cheeks. “Brilliant,” Harry murmured when Dumbledore had finished. “Thank you,” Ron said in awe as he stretched out his hand to shake with the headmaster. “No thanks necessary,” Dumbledore said kindly. “Your actions during your probation period will be more than sufficient.” “What did you have in mind?” Ron asked as he made a face. He was sure that it would be awful, he could feel it. “Hagrid tells me that he’ll be making a trip to Bolivia this week to get a new crate of blast-ended Skrewts. He should be back by the time you come back to school, so until further notice, you can help him with whatever needs doing after classes.” That isn’t so bad, Ron said as he looked at Harry and Hermione. He could tell by the expressions on their faces that they thought the same thing. “Ok,” Ron said agreeably. “I’ll see you in a week, then?” Dumbledore nodded kindly. “One week.” “Why don’t you lot run on ahead and I’ll catch up with you?” Mr. Weasley suggested. There was a small round of “okay’s from the trio as they began to walk away talking excitedly amongst themselves. Once they were out of earshot, Mr. Weasley turned to Dumbledore. “Albus,” he began seriously, “I can’t thank you enough for what you did for Ron. I was really worried that he would end up in far worse trouble than he did. Not just him, but Hermione…she deserves peace of mind after what happened to her.” Dumbledore frowned and nodded. “Think nothing of it, Arthur. I’m just glad that I followed my instincts and came here to check things out. The memory charms I placed on the Malfoy’s will last atleast two weeks. By then, Draco will wonder why he is in Azkaban and he and his father both will have no recollection of what happened in Judge McNabb’s chambers.” “And what of Judge McNabb?” “I’ll be having a nice chat with his superiors. If you’ll excuse me, I think that is how I will use up the remainder of this day. That man cannot be working for The Ministry if he’s going to take a bribe everytime he has a case. Merlin only knows how many he has taken before this one.” Mr. Weasley merely nodded at this. “I had better be going on home, then. I know Molly will want to hear the good news.” “Good day, Arthur.” “Good day, Headmaster.”
“I never got to properly say thank you,” Hermione was saying to Ron as they listened to the celebration outside. Mrs. Weasley had been so thrilled about the outcome of Ron’s trial (she, like everyone else, agreed that it could have been so much worse) that she had decided to throw him an impromptu party that consisted of a large dinner that had all of his favorite foods, his favorite desserts and drinks. She had conjured up a tent to house 2 buffet tables, some chairs and tables for dining at, and a few decorations such as banners, enchanted Christmas lights and flowers which were placed randomly in corners and lining the ceiling of the tent to make it dimly lit. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were somewhere outside the tent having a laugh with Harry and the twins, Fred and George, while they showed off their latest inventions. At some point in the evening, Ron had managed to sneak away to find peace and quiet in the tent. It hadn’t been much longer until Hermione had noticed him missing and gone to look for him, finding him picking small bites from random foods on the tables. They now shared a comfortable cushioned chair with Ron leaning back and Hermione straddling his lap. “For what?” Ron asked as he lazily tossed a grape in the air and caught it in his mouth. “This party should be for Dumbledore, not me. I didn’t do anything. It’s because of him that I got by so easily.” “That’s why I love you, Ron,” she said with a smile. “Sometimes you’re so selfless.” “Well, it’s true,” he said as he swallowed a piece of cake that had been in his hand. “Dumbledore really should be here.” “I think he’s going to come later on, actually,” Hermione informed him. “I overheard your Mum and Dad talking about him. Your Dad was saying that he had to talk to Mr. Fudge about Judge McNabb…” “Do you think it’ll get found out what Dumbledore did?” Ron asked grimly as he took a drink from the butterbeer bottle that was nestled behind him in the chair. “No. How could it? No one was there but us, and we aren’t going to say anything. The Malfoy’s and the Judge were all hexed with Memory Charms…” “But don’t you think that The Ministry will get suspicious once Dumbledore goes running to Fudge? Hermione shook her head and leaned in to nuzzle Ron’s neck. “I’m sure Dumbledore will cover his tracks, Ron. Stop worrying and enjoy your party.” Ron took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, still looking worried. “What if he gets found out and I switch places with Draco?” “He won’t,” she said as she kissed him reassuringly on the lips. “You won’t. Ron, you can rest easy. Trust me. It’s all over now. We can get on with our lives.” “Can we?” He asked suddenly. “How are you feeling these days?” He reached up and tucked a few loose stands of hair behind her ear. “I’m fine,” she said truthfully. “It’s like I told you before, I just need you to be patient with me. You promised me that you would. Are you keeping your promise?” He nodded. “I am.” “Good,” she kissed him once more before she got to her feet and took his hand in hers. “There’s a party out there in your honor,” she said matter-of-factly as she pulled on his hand, trying to coax him to his feet. He refused and grinned at her as he did so. “You’re missing it,” she informed him. “I bet no one notices that we’re gone,” Ron flashed a mischievous smile. Hermione was not about to give up. She continued to tug on Ron’s hand, even tried to grab his wrist so she could get more leverage. He purposely made his arm limp so she wouldn’t be able to pull him up with her. “I bet they do,” Hermione said in between grunts. “Stop it, Ron!” She tried to sound annoyed but found that she could only laugh at him. She tried to pull him up once more and this time, he flexed his arm and pulled her back down on his lap. She let out a squeal of surprise. “Ron, the party…” she reminded him again. “They’ll be there for the rest of the evening. Who knows when we’ll get to be alone again?” He nuzzled her neck and she squirmed away uncomfortably. “Ron, I told you, give me time…” He wrapped his arms around her small waist and leaned her back so that her head rested on his shoulder. “I am. I just want to hold you.” He paused for a moment and continued on, sounding worried. “Is that ok?” “That’s fine,” she said with a nod. Feeling more confident with himself, he wrapped his arms around her a little tighter and Hermione wriggled a bit in order to get more comfortable on him. He breathed in deeply, relishing the scent of roses that came from Hermione’s hair. He couldn’t wait to get back to school. The fact that he would be spending the remainder of the term without Malfoy heightened his anxiety. It was going to be the best term yet, he could feel it.

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