Summary: A Harry Potter one-shot, featuring five times that the Weasleys missed Percy and one time when they didn't have to anymore. Contains cursing, slight sexual references and character death. Canon compliant. Complete.
(Five Times That the Weasleys Missed Percy...)
Arthur was slowly cleaning out his desk, getting ready for his move to the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects.
He was feeling a touch nostalgic, to be honest. He had always loved working for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office.
He took the last spark plugs out of his drawer and placed it carefully in the box with his other things, turning his attention to the top of his desk. There wasn't much there that needed moving, except for the picture of his family. He picked it up for a moment and smiled to himselfmore nostalgia, as the photo was a few years old, with Molly having a different hairstyle and Ron being several inches shorter and Percy
...not there. He had walked out of the picture a year ago.
Arthur stormed up the stairs after him, feeling his hands ball into fists at his side. "There are some things more important than a bloody job, you know!"
Percy didn't turn, but he let out a harsh, humorless laugh. "You should talk!"
Arthur shook his head, trying to dispel the memory.
Thankfully, at that moment the door to the cramped office opened and Perkins came in. He paused at his desk, blinking blearily at the lack of posters on the wall and the missing Muggle artifacts covering Arthur's desk. "Dear me," he said, letting out a nervous chuckle. "It's starting to seem like you're actually leaving!"
Arthur smiled wanly, hefting the box into his arms. "I'm afraid so. It's all yours now, Mr. Department Head."
"Like I need the extra workload," Perkins said, but then he smiled. "'Course, once I Vanish the extra desk it'll be nice to finally spread my legs."
Arthur laughed, just as nervously, and then rearranged the box so he could awkwardly shake Perkins' hand. "I'll miss working with you, mate."
"Same here. Hope you don't get too bored without all your outlets and car motors to tinker with."
"Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss the old place." Arthur gave a lopsided smile. "But Molly's really happy that I'm taking this new job. And, well..."
He glanced down at the box, with the imperfect photo of his family lying on top. His brow furrowed.
"And what's that supposed to mean?!" Arthur demanded, coming to a stop and glaring up at the back of his son's head.
Percy finally spun around to face him, looking like he had never looked before, with his glasses slipping off of his face and his lip curled back in a furious snarl.
"I'm just saying, Father, maybe if you didn't care so much about playing with your STUPID MUGGLE TOYS, you could have gotten a job that actually let you FEED YOUR DAMN FAMILY!"
"...it's just time for me to move on," Arthur murmured, his tone quite soft and emotionless now. "And we could use the extra gold. You know...Bill's wedding coming up, that sort of thing."
"Hmm." Perkins seemed to notice the shift in Arthur's mood, but he didn't comment. "Well, good luck, then. I hope Eudora and I can see you and Molly for lunch soon."
"Of course. Definitely," Arthur said, giving him a smile that didn't look the least bit natural.
A moment later Arthur was walking down the corridor toward his new office. His eyes were clouded, and his mouth was drooping into a little frown. He couldn't seem to get Percy's face out of his head, his vicious snarl echoing in his ears.
It had been a family joke for years, even before Percy was old enough for Hogwarts. "Percy is going places." "Percy is going to become Minister for Magic." "Now, now, Perce, you're going to be nice to your old dad when you're his boss one day, right?"
Arthur had always known that his children were destined for great things. And, truth be told, he had always known that he wasn't. It had never really bothered him before that his kids might be more successful than him, or even that one of them, like Percy, would make his way up farther on the Ministry totem pole while he just hung around in his office of choice.
What did bother him was that his children might resent him for that. That they might see him fiddling away with engines and spark plugs and quietly hate him for only giving them hand-me-down robes and secondhand spellbooks. That they might think he cared more about his Muggle hobby than their material welfare.
He tried to tell himself that Percy was wrong. Arthur worked hard, after all. The Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office was a lot of work. Work that he enjoyed, true, but what was wrong with that? The family got by well enough. He didn't need a new job, just because Ron's pajamas were a little short and Fred and George's brooms were a little old and, well, they did have to occasionally struggle with the food budget a bit...
He wondered if Percy had heard about his promotion.
He paused at the lift, and for one wild moment he considered taking it to Percy's office, box still in his arms, and show his more-successful son that he really did want to provide for his family, that he could put real life ahead of his own peculiar hobby.
Then he sighed, looked at the Percyless picture in his box and took the lift to his new office instead.
(Fred and George)
Fred added another drop to the potion, which glowed a sudden, brilliant purple before settling back to sickly green. He leaned back in his seat, a look of triumph and awe glowing on his face.
"This will revolutionize all of Wizarding society. It could very well be the greatest discovery since Nicholas Flamel developed the Philosopher's Stone."
George raised an eyebrow. "But we don't want the laxative to be too strong, remember? There are laws about this sort of thing."
"Yeah," said Fred, who sounded rather bitter about that fact. "One of us will need to test it."
"Cheers," George said. And then, "Too bad Percy's gone." That had become their standard joke since the estrangement began, as they imagined using their brother to test all their most painful and embarrassing experiments.
Fred's face remained stoic, however, and he turned back to the cauldron to give their formula another stir. "Yeah. It would really stink if we never saw the old swot again."
George, who had been consulting their workbook, paused. He was searching for the sarcasm in his twin's voice and coming up empty.
"...Are you serious, Fred?"
"Yeah," he said quietly, giving George a curious look. "Don't you think so?"
George shrugged. "I'm not too bothered, honestly. Percy always was a bit of a prat."
"Yeah," Fred repeated. There was a long pause. "But I'm starting to think I shouldn't have thrown that parsnip at him at Christmas."
"I did that."
"Okay, so it's your fault that Mum spent the next month crying."
"Ginny did it."
Fred went back to stirring the potion, and George regarded him with a slightly confused expression. It was odd, because Fred had always been the more mischievous and impulsive of the pairbut then, he was also a bit more sensitive as well. George had just never realized "caring about Percy" was within his emotional spectrum.
George, on the other hand...well, he wasn't exactly happy that the family had been divided. He supposed he missed Percya bit. He replayed the Christmas scene in his head again, wonderingmaybe Mum had been right, and he did want to make up with the family? He brought Scrimgeour around to see Harry, but George supposed the two things weren't mutually exclusive. And if nothing else, Mum had been so happy for those first few minutes...
"Well, it doesn't matter, anyway," Fred decided, and his tone was suddenly a lot more cheerful. "He'll come back eventually."
George raised an eyebrow again. "What makes you so sure?"
"He has to," Fred said simply. "Just because he didn't get our family's magnetic charm doesn't mean he's immune from it. And hey" He grinned, patting the side of the cauldron. "By then we'll have this thing perfected and ready for maximum humor."
George smirked, and their eyes locked, a moment of contentment settling over their flat once more. Then George's face fell.
"We still need to test this, don't we?"
George sighed, pulling a Galleon out of his pocket. "I call heads."
"Is that a two-headed coin?"
(Bill and Charlie)
"So...how do I look?" Bill asked, holding out his arms so that Charlie could get a good look at his dress robes.
His brother smirked. "Like a total prat."
"Ah. Perfect, then."
Bill turned back to the mirror and sighed, tracing one of his new scars with his finger. "Well, good enough, anyway. Though these might spoil the wedding photos a bit."
Charlie gave him a playful (but painful) punch in the arm. "Ah, don't worry about it! You should have heard the way Fleur was going onoh, Beel's scars, zey make me so 'ot, I do not theenk I can make eet to ze wedding night without jumping 'is bones"
Bill pushed Charlie away, grinning. "So, everything's almost ready out there, then?"
"Pretty much. Tent's all set upsecurity measures are in placepretty much every living relative we have is hereyou know, except..."
He trailed off, and Bill frowned again. He hesitated.
"You don't think there's any chance he'll show up, do you? Like at Christmas?"
Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Are you hopeful or worried? Because, you know, that ended in a food fight."
"Heh, yeah." Bill chuckled a bit, but his face remained downcast.
It felt...weird...having one of his brothers absent on his wedding day. In fact, to Bill it had never quite stopped being weird that Percy was gone. He loved all his younger siblings, but he had spent a lot more time with Percy than with any of the younger setFred and George had been four when he went off to Hogwarts, after all. Bill could remember babysitting Percy, teaching him to ride a broom, and a hundred other little things that suddenly seemed very important now that they were adults who rarely even spoke to each other.
"Fleur wanted the wedding party to be even," Bill said, trying to sound conversational. "You know, with a second groomsman. I considered writing to ask Percy, but..."
Charlie hesitated for a moment. "For what it's worth, I'm sure he'd want to be here with you," Charlie said. "It's justyou know. With Dad and everybody else here..."
A moment's silence passed, and then Charlie threw his arm around Bill's shoulder, forcing humor into his voice again. "Now, now, buck up. You're about to marry a smoking-hot veela babe! Who's French! I don't want to have to cast a Cheering Charm on you before we send you down the aisle."
"Okay, okay. Big smile, see?" Bill feigned a huge, toothy grin that looked faintly terrifying.
"Attaboy! And besides, at every wedding something is destined to go wrong. Think about how much worse it could be. Remember Great-Uncle Julius' second marriage?"
"Agh, don't remind me!"
"Yeah, you see? If Percy not being here is the worst thing that happens today, we can consider ourselves lucky!"
Bill's owl had returned to Shell Cottage without any return message. Bill frowned as he regarded it, then shut it in its cage and returned to the dinner table. Ron watched him quietly as he picked at his food.
"I wish I knew what this means. It might be that he just doesn't want to talk, but it might mean he doesn't feel safe saying anything without his owl being read."
"I theenk 'ee could find a way eef 'ee wanted," Fleur sniffed.
"I know. I just worry about himright in the hornet's nest, in some ways in even more danger than Dad." He paused. "And it's Christmas in a couple days. He must be lonely."
"Eef 'ee wanted to, 'ee could come, either 'eer or to ze Burrow," Fleur repeated, taking a sip of her drink. "You need to stop blameeng yourself for 'im. Eet is not your fault 'ee chose to abandon 'is loved ones"
Ron's silverware fell onto his half-empty plate. He was suddenly frozen, a dead look on his face.
Bill and Fleur glanced at each other before the former put his hand on his brother's arm. "You alright, Ron?"
"I" He licked his lips, which were suddenly very dry. He pushed his chair back and stood. "I'm not very hungry. Excuse me"
He pulled away from Bill and ran upstairs to the guestroom without another word. He threw himself down on his bed with the lights off, his breathing slower and more ragged than usual.
Bill knocked a moment later, asking if he wanted to talk. Fleur came by a few minutes after that, anxiously apologizing "eef anytheeng I said upset you." He remained silent, pretending to be asleep. It was only after he heard them turn in that he sat up on the edge of the bed and hunched his shoulders. He kept his eyes closed, listening to the sound of the waves outside his window.
It is not your fault he chose to abandon his loved ones
abandon his loved ones</i>
Ron let out a groan, covering his face with his hands.
He had hated telling Bill about what happened between him, Harry and Hermione. He hated thinking about it, and even worse was thinking about what came before itsitting there in the tent with nothing to do, stewing. Listening to Harry and Hermione talk, feeling his stomach twist, his hands shake in anger. It was that damn locket that did itevery time he put it on he started thinking about how much he hated Harry, hated Hermione, how they had always used him and made fun of him and now they were sneaking around and probably shagging in the forest and laughing at him every time he went to sleep
Then he'd pass the locket on and the thoughts would fade.
That was the scary thing. The locket made it all worse, but he knew...somehow, deep down...that the thoughts weren't really coming from there. They were his thoughts, his feelings, ones that he had buried but which were still festering somewhere in his brain. And every time he took off the locket, they would still be echoing in his ears. It had finally gotten to the point where he just ran away, leaving his best friends (Rat! Bitch! he had thought) to carry on their mission without him.
Ron remembered a few weeks before, when he had first seen Bill writing to Percy. "I don't see why you bother," he had said dully. "It's not like he cares enough to reply."
Bill had turned around and looked at him, then gone back to his letter. His voice had been soft but pointed. "Sometimes people get angry, Ron. Sometimes people are holding in a lot of pain. That doesn't mean they don't care."
His meaning was obvious, but Ron, horrorstruck, had spent the last several weeks trying to convince himself that his situation was completely different. After all, Percy didn't have anything to feel miserable about. Percy hadn't been carrying a piece of You-Know-Who's soul around his neck. He was nothing like Percy.
But now he remembered how shocking those horrible thoughts had been, but also so familiar, and he saw himself storming out of the tent, juxtaposed to Percy storming up the stairs away from their father...
He suddenly hoped that Percy would answer Bill's next letter.
Maybe Ron wouldn't feel so guilty if there was another traitor around to sympathize with him.
It was late at night in the D.A. Headquarters, but Neville still scratching out a letter with slow, careful quill-strokes by candlelight.
Ginny was the only one else still awake. She came over to sit next to him.
"What are you writing?"
"A letter to Edmund O'Deluga's parents."
"Oh." Edmund O'Deluga was a Hufflepuff second-year who had been caught helping the D.A. He had managed to escape from the castle, somehow. Nobody knew where he was now.
Neville sighed, putting his quill back in his ink bottle. "I don't know what to say. I can't tell them he's alright. I can't tell them he's not alright. All I can do is tell them he might turn up home soon." He paused. "I'm worried about him."
Ginny gave a mirthless scoff. "I don't know if I can worry about anybody else. There's already us, our families, Luna, Harry, Hermione..."
"Misery loves company," Neville said, smiling wryly. He picked up the quill and began to write again. A long moment passed in silence.
"Do you remember your brother? You know, the oldest one, Percy?"
Ginny stiffened. "He's not my oldest brother, just the oldest one you've met. And yeah, I remember him. Unfortunately."
"Oh. Well, that year with the Chamber of Secrets...you know, when you were kidnapped at the end" Ginny grew even stiffer, though as far as she knew Neville did not understand exactly what had happened "he wrote a letter for your parents. I remember him sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room...his hands were shaking the whole time"
"What's your point?" Ginny asked loudly.
Neville's hand froze on the parchment as he turned to look at her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I justI just think of him every time I write one of these. I just sort of...wonder what it was he finally wrote. Wish I'd asked him."
He looked away, embarrassed. He probably thought it was mentioning the Chamber of Secrets that upset herwhich it did, but it wasn't the only thing. She wrinkled her nose, absentmindedly turning her wand around in her hands.
"Percy isn't really on speaking terms with the family these days. He thought siding with the Ministry was a better idea than helping the people actually trying to stop You-Know-Who."
"Oh," Neville said again. "Sorry."
"Don't be. I'm not."
Neville went back to his letter, but then, after a moment, said "I'm sort of surprised. I always got the feeling everyone in your family was really close to each other."
"We are. Percy's just made it clear that he doesn't want to be a part of our family anymore."
Neville signed his name on the letter and rolled it up. He stood, began to walk away, stopped, hesitated, and then turned back to her.
"WellI know I didn't know him particularly wellbut for what it's worth, I don't believe that. And I don't think you would, either, if you'd seen him writing that letter."
He disappeared into the tunnel, where he would pass the letter on to Aberforth to mail to the O'Deluga family.
Ginny sat in the darkness, her expression stony, trying not to think.
After all, she was worried about enough people already. She didn't want to have to add Percy to the list.
(...and One Time That They Didn't Have to Anymore)
Percy sat on the step of the Burrow's back door, staring at the yard that seemed both alien and familiar.
He was not crying anymore. though he was finding it rather difficult to breathe correctly.
He should have been happy. He had finally patched things up with his family; he was finally back at the Burrow, the place he instinctively thought of as "home" even after three years living in his own London flat. But then, just as he'd come back, just as the Weasley family was finally whole once again...
Fred had been the first one in the family to welcome Percy back when he apologized. That had honestly surprised him. Percy had never been close to him or Georgein fact he had been butting heads with them constantly ever since they were children. He had expected a huge fight, with them being the last ones to acknowledge him...but no. Fred welcomed him back, and just like that he had been forgiven by everybody.
It had been astounding, that brief bit of time. Percy had not even realized how large the weight on his shoulders was until it was lifted. He went into the Battle of Hogwarts giddyhe had almost felt like Fred and George's triplet. He had been so happy that it hardly even occurred to him that something could go wrong, that Fred...Fred, practically in the same hour as he had welcomed him back, could...
Percy closed his eyes. He took another deep, painful breath.
They had buried him that morning.
The backdoor opened. Percy couldn't even muster the energy to turn around and see who it was until they spoke.
"Oh. Hey, Perce."
It was George. Percy felt as if his heart had stopped beating.
Like Percy, George was not crying, but that was because he hardly seemed to be emoting at all. As far as Percy knew he had not cried since the morning the battle ended; now his face was just blank, his voice soft and his eyes vacant. Something about it almost scared Percy. He was so pale that he almost looked like an Inferius.
Percy took another deep breath. "Hello." His voice was thick, and he cleared it, keeping his eyes on his shoes sticking out from the hem of his dress robes.
George sat down on the steps next to him. Percy wished that he hadn't. As happy as he had been to reunite with them for that glorious hour a few nights ago, at the moment Percy could not stand to be around anyone in his family. His own thoughts were too muddled and miserable, and just being in the same room as them brought on a crushing sense of guilt. Fred had been his redeemer; with him gone Percy almost felt like he had been exiled from the family again, as if he were a gate-crasher intruding on their grief.
That feeling was especially potent with George. He kept feeling like he should babble out his condolences, even though Fred had obviously been his brother as well. But of course, the two of them couldn't compare. Percy and Fred might have been brothers, but George and Fred almost seemed like two sides of a single person.
The two sat there in silence for what might have been a minute or an hour. Percy was still panting. George was very quiet as he looked out over the tangled yard, and Percy wondered if maybe he was taking some sort of comfort from the scene or was just too dazed to be feeling anything at all.
"Fred was really happy to see you, you know."
Percy turned to his brother, so surprised that all he could do was stare.
"He told me that. I mean, not after you showed up, butbefore." The words were tumbling out of George's mouth in sharp gasps, as if they hurt to keep in and needed to be painfully extracted. "He told me he missed you, and I could tell he was really happy when you came back. He said you would come back eventually, and I'm glad you did. It was really important to him. I could tell."
His voice was starting to tremble now, and so was Percy's when he said "George"
"And I'm really happy you came back when you did," George said, his voice growing louder. "Even ifit was only at the end, right before. Because he got to see you. And I" His eyes began to water for the first time in days. "I just keep thinkingit's lucky that you showed up before the battle, because otherwiseif you had decided not to come back until like, today, or even if you were just a little late, y-you know, when the battle was halfway through or s-something"
Percy's eyes were burning. "George"
"Y-You would have missed him, and he was so gladheh-he really wanted you back, Perce, and II"
Before Percy knew what was happening George's face was on his shoulder, and he was bawling, and without even realizing it Percy started to bawl on his shoulder, each of them gripping the other so tightly it was painful.
"G-George, II'm so s-sorry"
They both lost the ability to speak after that and just kept sobbing, staining each other's robes with tears.
After what felt like a very long time they stopped crying but kept clutching each other, each of them trembling, neither of them speaking.
And at the very end of that long embrace, for only a moment, each of them forgot that they were supposed to missing Fred and felt a moment of contentment as they realized that they didn't have to be missing each other anymore.
"What do you think you're doing, Granger?"
"You're doing it wrong! If you just dump all the spider eggs in at once, your cauldron is going to explode."
"I'll have you know that my O.W.L. score in potions was Outstanding."
"Stop being such a Malfoy. Look--"
Draco gave Hermione a small shove. Hermione pushed back. Draco's cauldron hit the floor, spewing blue goo everywhere. They both turned to look at Snape, who was regarding them with a flat stare. "Five points from Gryffindor."
"And none from Slytherin? That's so unfair," Hermione complained.
"And detention for Miss Granger."
The other Slytherins snickered. Draco gave Hermione another small shove. "Serves you right, you uppity, mouthy Muggle-born." She bumped up against another table, dumping Crabbe's cauldron right in his lap.
Snape clutched his forehead and muttered something under his breath. "Detention for you, too, Malfoy. And clean up that mess, both of you, before the spiders start hatching. Without using magic. Granger, get Crabbe's robes."
Later that day, Hermione and Draco were presented with a huge pile of dirty cauldrons from the first year students' class. Some of them were hissing and smoking. Well, it was still better than cleaning up Crabbe, Hermione thought. The over-sized boy had enjoyed it a bit too much.
"Number one, you will get all of these cauldrons done. If you do not finish today, you will come back tomorrow. Number two, do you see that orb sitting on my desk?" The two students looked. It was about the size of a standard globe, and sitting in a filigreed silver stand. Violet, lavender, and purple smoke swirled inside of it. "If even one of your feet leave the floor for more than fifteen seconds, it will release a noxious gas. It will do the same if anyone besides me tries to touch it or tamper with it on any way. Am I clear?'
"Quite." Hermione couldn't suppress a tiny smile.
"Please bear in mind, this is a classroom, not a love nest." Snape strode from the room.
They were able to hold in their giggles just long enough for the potions master to get out of earshot. "Love nest? Who says that?" Hermione asked as she peeked out into the corridor.
"I don't know what a love nest is, but maybe we should get one. It might come in handy someday." Draco helped jam the door shut with a stool. "Now that no one else can get in, maybe this is a love nest."
"Let's find out." Still, giggly, they kissed a bit. "Hmm... No, it doesn't seem very nest-y in here. And it smells funny," Hermione said.
"The smell is getting worse." Draco grimaced. "The first years were doing something with sulphur."
They got to work cleaning the stinkier cauldrons. Hermione smirked at Draco, whose soft, manicured hands were not accustomed to such work. She laughed when he winced over a broken nail. "Want me to kiss it all better?"
"All right. Then I'll hurt some of my other parts."
That made Hermione blush. And have thoughts. "Um, maybe we should look at those books now."
The books on Snape's desk were huge and ancient-looking. The one on top was the smallest, and Hermione could barely carry it. Draco took the tome underneath. They sat across from each other at a table. Hermione studied the brass lock that secured the velvet-covered volume before her, noticing that there was no keyhole. "Alohomora!" That didn't work. She stroked its spine, as if it was 'The Monster Book of Monsters'. Nothing.
"My father has some books with locks like that." Draco reached across the table and tapped a complicated rhythm on the lock. The metal began to glow red. "Oh, no, a self-destruct lock!" He kept tapping at it, cursing as his fingers got burned. "No no no no, Snape will kill us." The lock emitted an ear-piercing screech and frosted over so suddenly that one of Draco's fingers was frozen to it. He hissed in pain as he pulled it away, leaving skin behind.
"Maybe we should look at the other books first," Hermione ventured.
"A book isn't protected like this because it has recipes for wrinkle-removing potions. There's something juicy in here." He continued tapping away with his other hand while sucking on his injured fingers. The lock let out a nasty, sparking shock, and Draco displayed an impressive ability to swear, even with his mouth full. "Well, there's another thing I can try, but I'm going to look rather idiotic doing it."
"Looking idiotic is better than losing all your fingers."
Draco leaned down and put his lips on the lock. The book let out a sigh and the lock opened with a snicking sound. "My father's poison manual opens that way. I'm not supposed to know, but I used to spy on him."
Hermione flipped to the table of contents, and there it was: 'Veritaserum Antidote, Otherwise Known as Obfuscerum............ Page 1578.' She flipped through the pages in a fever of excitement. At this point, making the antidote was now a personal challenge for Hermione, a puzzle she had to solve, a way to flex her mental and magical muscle. And so she took it rather personally when all of page 1578 was entirely blacked out.
"You're cute when you growl," Draco said. He tore the page out, and Hermione squealed in horror at the desecration of a book. "Don't worry. I can fix it." He held the page up to the light and squinted. " 'Obfuscerum must be stirred under moonlight by the hand of a virgin'. There go my plans for tomorrow." Hermione blushed again. "Hmm... peryton feathers, unicorn hair, aaaand... venomous toadwart."
"Let me guess. We have to go into the Forbidden Forest for venomous toadwart."
"No, I'm pretty sure I've seen that at Dogweed and Deathcap."
"And we need to go there anyway, to see if we can get you a position there for the summer."
"And tomorrow is a Hogsmeade day!"
"Perfect!" Hermione leaned across the table for a kiss. Very quickly, the table between them became an annoyance, and Draco moved his stool next to hers. But keeping both feet on the floor while sitting and snogging was hard on their necks, so they stood up. Pressing the full length of her body against Draco's felt absolutely heavenly. Beyond thinking clearly, she picked up one foot, drawing it up his leg caressingly. Draco made a sweet sound against her mouth as she climbed up him.
The room filled with purple and violet smoke, and they both began to cough and wheeze. They unjammed the door and spilled into the hallway, wiping their eyes and gagging.
Once their stinging eyes could see again, Snape was standing before them. "Ah. Looks like the two of you will be back tomorrow. I'll see you at ten."
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to JK Rowling, and I make no money from this
Ron came back with a pajama-clad, yawning Harry and a sealed vial. "All right, who are we going to test this on?" he asked eagerly.
Hermione took a deep breath. "It should be me." If there was something in her potion that would, say, cause one to sprout donkey ears within twenty-four hours, she should be the one to carry those consequences. After all, it was her own lying lips that led to this situation. She popped open both vials. The Veritaserum left no impression on her taste buds. The glittery liquid she and Draco had concocted tasted like pineapple.
Ron rubbed his hands together and grinned. "I'm going to ask the first question. Who were you with last night, Hermione?"
"Malfoy." Oh, dear. Whatever the glittery liquid was, it was not Obfuscerum.
Ron and Harry gave each other triumphant looks. "It works, it works, it works!" Ron did a little happy jig.
"I want to play this game, too," said Harry, "What did you and Malfoy do together last night?"
"We--we made the antidote. Then we hugged, and kissed, and he put his hands under my--"
Hermione wished for an earthquake, a meteor strike, anything. Her face was burning, and sweat was popping out on her upper lip. She tried to fight it, but the Veritaserum was making her mouth open, her tongue move, her vocal cords vibrate. "Under my shirt."
"I saw the whole thing," a small voice piped up, "and it was positively revolting." The talking rat! Hermione kicked at it, and it zoomed under a sagging couch.
"What on the name of Merlin was that?" Ron exclaimed, kneeling down to grope under the couch. He pulled the rat out by its tail.
The rat squirmed frantically. "Put me down, you stupid ginger!"
Ron poked at the rodent with his wand. "What did you see, then?"
"That trollop there, cavorting shamelessly with a boy."
"And what did this boy look like?"
Ron was going to have to die. It was the only solution.
That was when Crookshanks, taking a running leap, swiped at both the rat and Ron's hand with claws unsheathed. Ron yelped and dropped the rat. The rat sped away and squeezed through a crack in the wall where no cat could follow. Hermione was going to have to beg some sort of tidbits from the kitchen elves to reward Crookshanks, as she had no doubt that he had sensed her distress and had deliberately come to her rescue. She picked the cat up in both arms, letting out a little 'oof' because of his weight, and gave him a thorough cuddling.
"I hate that bloody cat," Ron griped. He put his hand to his mouth and sucked on his scratches.
"I hate spying little rats worse," said Hermione.
Hermione was studying while sitting on her favorite lake-side bench. A note folded into the shape of a bunny's head floated to her, and she smiled. Draco was getting good at origami. "Good afternoon, Beautiful. I'm sorry to hear that it didn't work. Now you've got to stay a you-know-what a little longer. Meet me in the Astronomy Tower tonight? D"
"Is that one of your customers asking how much for the night?" Pansy Parkinson made a grab for the note, but only got a shock on her fingers before it turned into sparks and ashes. She glared at Hermione. "You really think you're something special, don't you? But you're wrong. You're common as mud." She stalked away, leading her gang.
"Slag," Millicent Bulstrode hissed.
"Slapper," Daphne Greengrass spat.
Hermione just sat there on the stone bench doing a slow burn. Oh, how she wanted to throw that fact that she, common-as-mud Hermione Granger, was the one that Draco loved right in Parkinson's pug-like face. She wrote a note, and folded it into a star. "Yes, yes, I most certainly will meet you. I'm going to put my arms around you and I'm going to kiss you and, oh, how I wish I could tell all the world that you're mine. H"
Hermione walked back to the castle, chin up. She refused to acknowledge the stares and whispers that followed wherever she went. She refused to cover up the mark on her neck. And she refused to be shamed for something that she knew was very, very right.
"Aren't you worried about the Trace?" Hermione asked.
"My father bribed someone at the MInistry to remove mine years ago."
"Honestly, Draco, why do you know so much advanced magic?"
Draco had Hermione by the hand, and he was leading her through a narrow alley to the back of the church. "My father has had me tutored intensively for the past two years so I can be a good little soldier for the Dark Lord. It worked against him tonight, though. He was afraid to take me on. He knows I'm as good as he is, these days." They paused before the rectory door. "Ready?" he asked as he reached for the lion-headed door-knocker.
"No. But go ahead." Hermione didn't ask what was going on. She was pretty sure she knew.
After a few minutes of knocking, a sixtyish woman in a bathrobe and nightcap answered. When she was able to focus her sleepy eyes on them, she said, "And so it begins again. Come in." She stood aside so they could walk past her as she held the door, which led right into a snug living room. "Two children on my doorstep in the middle of the night, holding hands. In times like these, it can only mean one thing. I haven't performed a Shield Marriage since the first war, but I stocked up on supplies anyway. I knew it was only a matter of time."
Shield Marriage. It was what Hermione suspected, but hearing it put into words was a shock. Her heart was pounding and her palms were damp.
"Sit, sit." The vicar gestured at her overstuffed loveseat. "Now, you do realize the serious nature of what you are about to undertake, right? Once you're married, if one of you dies, the other dies, too."
"I'm Pure Blood, and she's Muggle-born. My father knows about us now, and I know he'll kill her."
The vicar looked hard at Draco. "You're the Malfoy boy, aren't you? I had dealings with your father twenty years ago. Performing these marriages made me a blood traitor in his eyes. I don't doubt that your father is capable of killing to preserve his family's honor."
BAM BAM BAM. "I know my son is in there!" It was Lucius' voice. Hermione jumped, then drew even closer to Draco.
"Don't worry. I have very strong wards up. It would take him three days to get in."
"You cannot marry them! They're not of age!" Lucius shouted.
The vicar walked to the door, but didn't open it. "You know very well that Shield Marriages are exempt, Lucius Malfoy."
Lucius replied with a string of vile epithets.
"You come with me, young lady." The vicar led her down a hall and to a closet, and started briskly rummaging around. "I'm Aislin Connor."
"Hermione Granger. He's Draco."
"I wish we could have met under better circumstances. Ah. Here." Aislin pressed a vial into Hermione's hand. "One sip of this will prevent pregnancy for a month. Use it, for heaven's sake. This is no time for a baby. And, here, just a little something for the wedding night. It looks about your size." It was a little satiny pink wisp of a night-gown. Hermione blushed as she tucked it and the vial in her pocket. "And the certificate and rings. We are ready to go."
Lucius was no longer banging on the door when Hermione returned to the living room. He was in an argument with a couple of men, from the sound of it. "Good, hard-working people are trying to sleep, you arrogant popinjay!" bellowed a deep, froggy voice.
"Get your filthy hands off of me!" Lucius snapped.
"Get off our street!" yelled a third, reedy voice.
"You misbegotten mongrels--AHHHH!" There was a loud crack.
"Is he gone, Normie?" Aislin called.
"Yeah," said the reedy voice.
"Thank you and good night, men!" Aislin handed one ring to Hermione and one to Draco. They were a dull brass color. "We'll make this short and sweet, so you can leave before he comes back. Draco, as you slip the ring on her finger, say 'I, Draco Malfoy, will be your husband and your shield, and none shall part us, even unto death'."
Hermione couldn't help trembling as Draco said the words. The ring adjusted itself to her finger with a tickly rippling motion. Without prompting from Aislin, she took Draco's hand and said the words. "I, Hermione Granger, will be your wife and your shield, and none shall part us, even unto death."
"Hold hands so your rings touch." Aislin held her wand over their clasped left hands and chanted. The rings, which looked like they were made of polished gold now, began to glow. A line of white, sparkling light came out of each ring and entered the other. Hermione watched, fascinated. It was a very powerful bit of magic. The rings would glow until their deaths, or until they both willingly agreed to dissolve the marriage under circumstances completely free of duress. The spell was partially based on the Unbreakable Vow, but there was a mystery at the heart of it. There were those who maintained that the glow was caused by a tiny bit of the other's soul in the ring; like a Horcrux, but, since it was freely given out of selfless love, it didn't require murder. Others believed no such thing was possible, and it was actually love itself illuminating the rings. There were some who thought that Shield Marriages should be outlawed until the magic behind them was better understood.
"There. It's done. You're married," Aislin said. She bent over her coffee table and started filling our the marriage certificate.
Draco put his arms around Hermione's waist and drew her close. As their lips met, she started crying again. Feeling the wet on his cheeks, Draco pulled back. "I'm not that bad at kissing, am I?"
Hermione swiped at her cheeks. "It's just that I always expected my parents... you know, my father giving me away and all."
"When all this is over with, and your parents are back, we'll have a real wedding, all right?"
Hermione nodded and tried to smile. Draco kissed her on the forehead.
"Sorry to interrupt, dearies, but I need you two to sign the certificate, and then you'd better go. I wouldn't be surprised if Lucius came back with some of his Death Eater playmates." Aislin held out a quill. The spaces for the witnesses' signatures had 'not applicable/Shield Marriage' scrawled across them. Draco and Hermione signed.
"I don't know how to thank you for this," Draco said to Aislin. He looked near tears himself. He took the older woman's hand and shook it.
Aislin smiled. "Just fight the good fight."
Out on the street again, the two newlyweds walked hand in hand past all the closed shops, a three-quarters moon overhead. "What now?" Hermione asked.
Draco gently pushed her against a wall and pressed his entire body up against hers. "We get a room at the Leaky Cauldron for the rest of the night."
"We'll be in trouble when we go back to Hogwarts in the morning."
"These rings don't come off, you know.They'll know we were out."
Hermione's body felt hot all over. "Let's do it, then. It'll be our honeymoon." Only heaven knew what consequences they'd be facing for tonight. Why not have one good night alone together?
Draco grinned. "Let's go, then." He tried to pick her up. He dropped her and went for his wand when there was a faint scraping sound behind them.