The Sugar Quill
Author: Mizaya (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Engaging the Enemy  Chapter: Engaging the Enemy
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N: Many thanks to TheGiantSquid for yet again supplying me with her wonderful beta skills

A/N:   This was written for a Quote!Fic challenge on Checkmated, in which an assigned quote had to be incorporated into a R/Hr fic.  My quote was: "Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy." - Henry Kissinger

Many thanks to TheGiantSquid for yet again supplying me with her wonderful beta skills. Reviews are always welcome and appreciated. Happy reading!

*****

Engaging the Enemy

By: Mizaya 

"Hermione, the plates!"

Jumping at Mrs. Weasley’s shrill cry, Hermione flung out her wand and caught a precariously high stack of plates just as it began to totter. She wiped her brow and sighed, glad she’d been quick enough. There simply wasn’t enough time to cast Reparo on over a hundred dishes.

"Got them, Mrs. Weasley."

"Thank you, dear," the older woman replied, already distracted by the multitude of self-stirring pots and the four other bustling people in the Burrow’s cramped kitchen. As she used her wand to shuffle chopped carrots into a soup pot, she snapped, "Charles Weasley, get your fingers out of that cake batter," never turning away from the stove.

"Sorry," said Charlie, grinning. "Forgot you had eyes in the back of your head."

His mother spared him a grimace. "Best you remember it. You too, Ginny." The youngest Weasley stuck her tongue back in her mouth and returned to peeling potatoes at the sink.

Hermione sighed again and began drying silverware with the hot stream of air coming from her wand. It was the morning before Bill and Fleur’s wedding day, and there was barely time to breathe. In the three days since they’d arrived at the Burrow – three days since Dumbledore’s funeral – there’d been so much to prepare for the big day that by the time Hermione was able to crawl under her covers at night, she fell asleep immediately. She and Ron and Harry hadn’t even had time to discuss their plans for after the wedding; she knew Harry would want to leave straightaway, and she couldn’t blame him, but she wanted to have a solid course of action. Harry made such rash decisions sometimes, based on anger or revenge, and Ron was usually right there with him, which left Hermione to talk sense into the both of them. That was never a fun chore.

She spared a glance over her shoulder as she set aside a fork. Ron and Harry had their heads together while they shelled peas, whispering, and she could just imagine them coming up with some foolish plan that involved a lot of doing and not much thinking.

If she could only pull Ron aside at some point and persuade him to help her keep Harry from running headlong into danger. She knew Ron would be reasonable if she got to him before Harry filled his head with some boyish need to be brash. Besides, she wanted to get Ron alone to talk about something else… and maybe more than talk.

Ron turned his head in her direction then, and Hermione hurriedly picked up another fork and looked away before they could make eye contact, her heart racing.

Three days ago – they day of the funeral, the day they’d come to the Burrow – something had happened: a kiss. Not her first, and certainly not Ron’s first, but their first. Just a rushed, impromptu touching of lips, but it had been so much more important than that. It had come after the service, when everyone was rushing around to get ready for the train. Hermione had been the first one down to the common room with her belongings, which wasn’t very surprising, and after waiting only a few minutes, Ron had come down, which was surprising. He’d dropped his trunk and looked at her, and then he’d asked if she was okay and said he’d hurried down because he hadn’t wanted her to be alone. A few tears had spilled down her cheeks then, but over all she’d felt all right, and told him so. Even more all right when he’d brushed away her tears, placed his palms along her jaw to cradle her head, and leaned down to kiss her. It had been a short kiss, interrupted by the sound of Ginny’s trunk thudding down the stairs, but it had been wonderful.

Since then, however, there’d been no opportunity to discuss it – or do it again, as she very much wanted. And each day that went by sparked more questions she craved answers to. They’d been overly friendly and polite, sharing smiles and touching one another’s hands as they passed, but did it mean more to her than to him? The logical part of her said no, but that part was being put to the test the longer she had to wait. Would he kiss her again the next time they were alone? She thought so, but she wasn’t sure if it would be natural or awkward. Did they need to discuss what it meant? No, she didn’t think so. Should they tell Harry? She wasn’t sure. Maybe Ron already had, or maybe Harry had figured it out on his own, though she couldn’t imagine him putting any effort into thinking about it.

Hermione picked up a handful of spoons and looked over at the boys again. They weren’t whispering anymore, or shelling peas; rather, Harry was staring at Ginny and Ron was staring at her, peapods forgotten in their hands. As soon as Ron’s and Hermione’s eyes met, he smiled and turned back to his task, pinkness creeping up his ears.

"He’s been doing that all week," Ginny whispered beside her. Hermione hadn’t noticed her scoot closer. "Or I suppose I should say he’s been doing it for the past two years, but it’s been more obvious this week. I can’t wait ‘til Fred and George catch on."

"I noticed Harry doing the same to you." Hermione watched Ginny as the redhead silently finished a potato, wondering if she shouldn’t have said it.

"In our case it’s much different, though," Ginny said finally, offering Hermione a smile laced with sadness. She recovered quickly. "You two need to have a good snog. I bet Mum wouldn’t realize if you pulled him outside for a few minutes after you’re done."

Hermione let her hair fall to cover her face and pretended to sort out knives while her cheeks grew less hot, but apparently her ploy didn’t work.

"You already have, haven’t you?" Ginny prodded with a cheeky grin. She looked over her shoulder at Ron, who chose that moment to flash Hermione another shy smile, then nudged Hermione with her elbow and said, "When did that happen? Why didn’t you tell me before?"

"Shh," Hermione warned frantically. She glanced back and forth between Ginny and Ron, relieved that he was now working on his peas.

"He can’t hear us."

"Someone else might," said Hermione, paranoid at the thought of everyone at the Burrow chatting about her and Ron when she had so many questions about it herself. Then she’d really be hard pressed to get a moment alone with him without other people nosing in, and she needed to discuss Harry with him if nothing else.

Ginny waved her potato peeler dismissively. "They can’t hear us, and Mum and Harry and Charlie wouldn’t care even if they did."

"Don’t care a lick," came Charlie’s voice, and Hermione spun to face him, her heart leaping into her throat. "You look pale, Hermione. Fancy some batter?" He proffered a large wooden spoon that he’d been using to mix cake ingredients.

Hermione started to shake her head no, but Charlie suddenly reaching up to clutch his ear, which seemed to have been pulled out painfully by thin air, interrupted her.

"I can tell you what you’ll be fancying, Charlie, if you don’t take that cake seriously." Mrs. Weasley flicked her wand, releasing his ear as if cutting a string. "This isn’t a social hour. If you’re not going to work, you’re just in my way." She glared in turn at all of them - even Ron and Harry, who had by this time abandoned their peas to see what the commotion was, much to Hermione’s chagrin.

There was a chorus of "Sorry, Mum" and "Sorry, Mrs. Weasley" before everyone went back to their jobs. Hermione kept her head down, but couldn’t help peeking over at Ron. He was saying something to Harry, then both of them glanced at her. Embarrassed, Hermione turned back, and her mood did not improve when she saw Ginny smile at her conspiratorially.

The chores went quickly and quietly after that. Hermione finished drying the silverware and moved on to wineglasses, stacking them carefully on the last remaining worktop space. Her thoughts were on Ginny’s suggestion to get Ron alone, though she wasn’t thinking of kissing him. Or not much, anyway. She was now beginning to panic about Harry filling Ron’s head with harebrained ideas; every time she looked over at them – which seemed to happen more times than she was conscious of – they had their heads together, serious expressions on each of their faces. If Harry and Ron cooked something up between them, she’d be in the loathsome position of trying to talk sense into them and being in a constant state of distress. She hated when she had to resort to that – which was more often than was fair – and they always complained that she was nagging, even when that was clearly not the case.

"Now’s your chance," Ginny said out of the side of her mouth, breaking Hermione’s reverie.

"What?"

"Ron and Harry are leaving, the sneaks," Charlie said on her other side in a ridiculously wistful tone. "Wish I’d got the peas; I could have been having a nap by now. But no, I’ll probably still be slaving away—"

"Oh, shut up," Ginny cut in. "I’ll finish these for you, Hermione," she said, taking a glass from her hand.

“I’ll make sure she doesn’t break them,” Charlie said helpfully.

Hermione looked back and forth between them, and she would have laughed at the way they grinned and encouraged her with nods of their heads, but she was suddenly too nervous. Then she looked to the other side of the kitchen; Ron and Harry were just slipping around the corner, eyeing Mrs. Weasley, who was frowning at two recipes that hung in the air in front of her, mumbling, "Four eggs… three eggs… no rhyme or reason…" and not paying the escapees any mind.

Someone gave her a shove – probably Ginny – and squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath and followed the boys. She caught up with them at the end of the long hallway that led to the stairs and overheard them talking about their brooms.

Harry saw her before she could say anything, and smacked Ron’s arm lightly to draw his attention. "Hey, Hermione, what’s up?"

"Where are you going?" she blurted out. Ron was making her flustered and he hadn’t even spoken yet.

Harry and Ron shared a quizzical, leery look that only irritated Hermione more, and Harry said, "Er, just going out for a fly before Ron’s mum thinks of something else for us to do. Why?"

"I—" she stammered, her eyes meeting Ron’s for a moment and then settling back on Harry. "I need to talk to Ron."

Ron looked at Harry, who smirked and raised his eyebrows – Hermione tried her best to ignore it – then said, "Catch up with you in a minute, then, mate?"

"Or an hour," Harry returned, but he was smiling, and as he began walking up the stairs, he and Ron shoved each other into the walls in that way that meant they were being playful but made absolutely no sense to Hermione. She was growing more restless by the second, and she was grateful that when Ron turned back to her, he appeared less mirthful and more serious.

There was a short and uncomfortable silence before Ron said, "So, erm, what did you want to talk to me about?" Hermione was reassured to hear a hint of nervousness in his voice as well.

"Is there somewhere private we can go?"

That met her with a wide smile – one that seemed strangely giddy and relieved. "Yeah, c’mon," he said, and reached out and grabbed her hand to lead her upstairs.

As they approached Percy’s room on the second landing, Hermione heard a series of thuds – presumably Harry rummaging around for his broom – but Ron continued to guide her up, occasionally glancing at her and grinning. She couldn’t help but smile back, butterflies fluttering in her stomach. Ron stopped on the fourth landing and paused outside a door with scorch marks all around the jamb. Then, with a last look at Hermione, he put his shoulder against it and rammed it open. It stuck a bit anyway.

"Why are we in Fred and George’s old room?" Hermione asked as she maneuvered between two stacks of boxes labeled in multicolored lettering that flashed "Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes." She was careful not to knock anything over, the memory of a black eye that couldn’t be charmed away still too fresh, though it was hard when the room was packed floor to ceiling.

Ron had let go of her hand when he opened the door, and now he shut it behind him and worked his way over to her. "If Mum comes looking for us, this is the last place she’ll check." He reached her as he finished saying it, stumbling over a box that made a hissing sound, and immediately wrapped his arms around her and dove in for a rather unanticipated and undignified kiss.

Hermione’s arms were trapped quite uncomfortably between their bodies, and she hadn’t planned to worry about whether they would kiss again until after discussing Harry, but now that it was happening, she couldn’t find a coherent thought, let alone a reason to protest.

Ron’s initial voracity decreased to something less sloppy, more patient. He loosened his arms and lowered them on her back so that she could free hers and resettle them around his neck. His lips lifted only to pepper hers with tiny kisses, and then he renewed his efforts in an even deeper kiss, his tongue meeting hers for the first time.

Just then, there was a whooshing sound, and Hermione broke the kiss, startled, in time to see Harry and his Firebolt whiz by the small square of window that wasn’t obscured with boxes. She let go of Ron entirely then and sighed as she turned her back to him and watched Harry fly straight for the Quidditch paddock.

"It was just Harry," Ron said right behind her. He embraced her around her middle and drew her to him. "Must’ve flown right out Percy’s window."

Hermione wanted to relax into his arms and let him kiss her until Mrs. Weasley had to physically pull them back to work, but she knew this may be her only chance to discuss Harry without distractions or interruptions until after the wedding, and by then it would be too late. "Ron—"

"I didn’t know if you’d want to do this again," he said, cutting her off, and he began planting kisses on her cheek and the side of her neck. "I mean, I thought maybe it’d be a one time thing, because you were upset and all."

Hermione smiled, and couldn’t help twisting in his arms to hug him properly. "Oh Ron, I did too."

"Good thing you made up that pathetic excuse about needing to talk to me so we could snog – er – kiss, then. I saw right through it," he laughed, and rested his hands on her hips, thumbs just under her shirt and caressing the skin at the waistline of her jeans as he swooped in to kiss her again.

But Hermione ducked out of the way and tried not to feel guilty when confusion and hurt replaced happiness in his expression. "There was nothing to see through," she said firmly, for her own sake, her gaze on his shoulder to avoid the look on his face. "It really was to talk to you."

"Oh." Ron’s hands fell from her sides and he jammed them into his pockets. "What is it then? And make it quick – Harry’s waiting for me."

Hermione winced at the forced apathy in his tone. "Ron, stop it."

"What? I’m not doing anything, unless you mean being stupid, and I doubt you’ll have any luck helping me there."

Furrowing her brow, Hermione said, "What’s got into you? Wasn’t I just kissing you back a minute ago?"

Ron shrugged and eyed her askance. "Probably just getting in some more easy practice," he mumbled.

"Oh, for heaven’s sake." Really, he was just being silly now. She was of a mind to remonstrate him for getting so melodramatic, but instead she surged forward, taking in his wide eyes before she grabbed his ears and pulled his head down so she could kiss him with everything she knew how, which admittedly wasn’t much.

"There," she panted when she finished. "That’s how much I don’t want to kiss you." Ron gaped at her, and even looked a little afraid, which was strangely satisfying.

"Erm…."

"Yes, exactly, and if you let me get this talking part taken care of, I’ll show you again."

"Right," Ron croaked. "So, er, what was it you needed to talk to me about?"

"Harry."

"He’s outside," Ron answered automatically, his eyes on her lips.

"Pay attention!" Hermione snapped, and wondered if she was saying it more to Ron or herself. "Have you and Harry… have you been making plans? For after tomorrow?"

Finally, he met her eyes. "What?"

"Have you two been making plans for what we’ll do after the wedding, about the Horcruxes?"

"Did you overhear us in the kitchen?" He blushed a bit. "Yeah, sorry about that. We’ll fill you in before we leave, don’t worry." At that, he moved closer, obviously to try kissing her again.

Hermione wriggled out of his grasp. "You’ll fill me in?" she said, outraged. "Fill me in right now, Ron!"

"It’s not as serious as all that. Harry just ran his plan by me when he had the chance. Said he was going to tell you about it tomorrow, probably." He reached for her again, eyes hungry, but Hermione evaded him, nearly tripping over a stack of chartreuse order forms.

"Probably? Tomorrow?" She shook her head, hair flying in her face. "This is exactly what I wanted to avoid; you two always make plans without me and then refuse to listen to my advice. It’s too dangerous a task to go off half-cocked."

Ron sniggered and Hermione glared, sobering him up. "Sorry. I don’t know what you’re talking about, though, Hermione. When’s the last time we excluded you—?"

"Try all of third year and half of this one!"

He had the decency to look ashamed. "That’s different, and we already went over all that. If you’d have let me finish, I was going to say this time it’s not about ‘us,’ it’s about Harry, and he made the plans himself. I told him I was with him – actually that both of us are – so we just have to go along with his decisions."

It was hard to keep from screaming in frustration. "You may have meant you’d do as he said, but I didn’t, and you’ll kindly stop speaking for me if that’s the case! Staying by his side doesn’t mean letting him go gallivanting into a hornets’ nest." A tear leaked down one cheek, and Ron’s thumb was there in an instant, wiping it away.

"No need to cry about it," he said softly, but that single tear of annoyance and trepidation was all there was. Ron’s thumb continued to stroke down her cheek and over her lips. "You can talk to him about it all you want tomorrow before he wants to leave." His mouth then replaced his thumb, just as tender and reassuring.

It was a swift kiss, and afterward she said quietly, "But the point was to have a united front. You know he doesn’t listen to me when you go along with him. You don’t either. It’s enough to drive me mad, watching the two of you go all willy-nilly – stop laughing – and not being listened to when I know I’m right."

Ron smiled at her and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I promise I’ll try to listen to you more. Just as long as I get to do this at least once a day," and he moved his lips to hers and wrapped his arms around her.

Despite the way it melted her heart – or perhaps because of it – Hermione wanted to hex him. "That doesn’t help with Harry," she said against his chin.

"I know, but like I said, just discuss it with him tomorrow. He already told me he would talk to you about it, if not tomorrow then when we’re at his aunt and uncle’s."

Hermione’s not responding was apparently an invitation to Ron, who delved his hands into her hair and started again with the feather-light kisses that grew gradually deeper. Hermione buried her hands in his hair as well, smooth and foreign to her fingers, which were so used to her own disastrous curls, and parted her lips to be greeted immediately by his tongue. She took his lead and mimicked his actions, as she was learning most of it as she went along, not having kissed anyone before Ron with an open mouth – McLaggen forcing his tongue down her throat uninvited didn’t count. Hardly seeming to mind her lack of expertise, Ron started making faint moaning sounds as he breathed against her skin, and Hermione was surprised to realize she was making them too. Suddenly Ron wedged her against the tall stack of boxes behind her with his whole body. She thought she felt one rattling, but she didn’t much care. Ron’s mouth left hers then with an audible smack, trailing kisses down her jaw to her ear, one of his hands untangling from her hair to caress her exposed collarbone. There was a sound from the direction of the window, and Hermione’s eyes drifted open just in time to see Harry hurtling back toward Percy’s room.

"Ron, just tell me…." Her voice was husky and unfamiliar.

"Hmm?"

"What is Harry’s plan?"

"Oh," Ron said, interspersed with kissing, licking, and sucking on her ear, a dizzying and tickling experience. "After he goes to the… Muggles’ for a few days… he wants to go to… Godric’s Hollow…. Then he says he wants to… mmm… try and find Snape so he can… capture him and… get information about… Horcruxes and all that," he finished nonchalantly, or at least as nonchalantly as a person could sound in his state of activity.

Hermione ripped her attention from his mouth and hand, which was venturing further and further down her chest, and processed what Ron had just said. Then she put her hands on his chest and pushed - hard. "What?"

Ron looked up at her from where he sat sprawled on the floor, amidst the pile of bright green order forms he’d fallen into and scattered. "What the bloody hell was that for?"

"He’s going to capture Snape?" Hermione clenched her teeth and let out a half scream, half groan. "How could you, Ron? Don’t you remember what happened last time he faced Snape?"

Hoisting himself back onto his feet, Ron frowned and said, "No, and neither do you. We weren’t there, remember?"

Hermione knew Ron still felt guilty about that, and in truth so did she, but at that moment she didn’t really give a fig. "That’s not the point! He has to at least learn Occlumency first. I don’t think Snape is going to be as forgiving next time, and I know you don’t either."

"Well what do you expect me to do about it? You know how he is. If his mind is made up, we’ll just try to help him as best we can."

"Rubbish!" Hermione snarled. "If you and I had both approached him together, he might’ve listened to us – it worked for the D.A. – but you’ve gone and botched it all up now."

"How am I supposed to know these things if you don’t tell me first?" Ron asked loudly, stepping over the papers to stand right in front of her. "I can’t read your mind, you know."

"Why do you think I wanted to talk to you today, Ron?" Hermione pounded at his chest, though not very hard; she felt anger slipping and being replaced with horrible images of Snape laughing over Harry’s corpse. As soon as fists turned into hands clinging to Ron’s shirt, his arms were around her.

Hermione refused to let tears come. She’d cried enough already and she was sure she would again. Instead, she squared her shoulders and looked up into Ron's eyes, determined to do whatever it took to keep Harry from harm now that she was in her unenviable and well-known position as the nag. Ron’s face was sympathetic and apologetic, though, and he opened his mouth as if to say something when he was stopped short by muffled voices outside the door.

"Are they in there?"

That was Ginny.

"Yeah. Sounds as if they’re having a row."

And that was Harry.

The door opened a crack, and red hair and a freckled face popped through. Ginny craned her neck, searching, and when her eyes rested on Ron and Hermione mid-embrace, she smirked and said, "Looks more like snogging to me."

Hermione extricated herself hurriedly from Ron’s grasp just as Harry’s head appeared above Ginny’s. "Well, you know what they say."

"What’s that?" Ginny asked.

"Nobody ever wins a battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy."

Tutting, Hermione waded through the room toward the door. When she lost her balance, Ron’s hand was there to cup her elbow and steady her.

"They don’t say that," she told Harry as she pushed through the doorway, causing Harry and Ginny to step back into the hall. "Henry Kissinger says that."

"No one’s fraternizing with any enemies," Ron added.

"Sorry, mate," said Harry. "Forgot you were so opposed to that." Ron punched him in the arm. Harry sniggered.

"Mum’s looking for you," Ginny told Ron and Hermione. "You lot have to set up the tables."

At that moment, there came a cry of, "Get down here, Ginevra!" from the bottom of the stairs.

Ginny giggled. "Oops, I’m supposed to be trying on my dress. See you later." She waved and then ran off down the stairs, leaving Hermione alone with Harry and Ron.

The humor of the situation had apparently left with Ginny, and now Hermione was back to worrying for Harry. Suddenly Ron’s hand found hers and clasped it tightly. Harry eyed the contact for a moment, then said stiffly, "Er, if you want, I can do it myself…."

Hermione opened her mouth, but it was Ron who answered. "Actually, Harry, we want to help you." He squeezed Hermione’s hand and stroked his thumb over hers. "There’s something we want to talk to you about."

With a last look at them, Harry said, "Suit yourselves," and turned to head downstairs.

Ron moved to follow, but Hermione tugged on his hand, and when he regarded her with questioning eyes, Hermione stood on her toes to give him a quick and searing kiss. "Thank you," she said, blinking back tears yet again.

Ron shrugged his shoulders. His ears were growing pink. "You’re welcome, but I doubt you’ll be thanking me after we talk to him."

"Maybe not," Hermione said, "but I might be up for more of that fraternizing with the enemy."

He stared at her in shock for a moment, then laughed and said, "Hurry up, then!"

Hermione laughed as well, and they both followed Harry, hand in hand.

The End

 

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