“A Most Ingenious Paradox”
Fanfiction by Penpusher]
Chapter One - “Their Various
Hermione looked up as the door of her study creaked open. Two bright brown eyes framed by deep red
hair peered hesitantly around the door with a questioning look.
“Fred let me in,” said the eyes, blinking timidly.
Hermione sighed with a mixture of weariness and frustration and threw
down her quill.
“Come on in, Ginny, I could really do with a break.”
She stretched sinuously, wincing as her muscles protested. The other girl
came into the room, sinking down in a corner of the leather sofa. Hermione smiled. Ginny was average height, slender and angular, but right at that
moment curled up on the sofa, she resembled nothing so much as a small tabby
“I think I’ve reached saturation point anyway,” Hermione announced,
getting up from the desk and aiming for the drinks cabinet.
“Honestly,” she continued over her shoulder, hands busy with glasses,
“I really wish I had access to a central database, like Muggles have - one with
an efficient search facility. I’d save
hours upon hours of hard slog if only the Ministry, not to mention my Chambers,
would wake up to the twenty-first century.”
She raised a bottle of amber liquid with a questioning look. Ginny held
up the index finger and thumb of her right hand to indicate a small
measure. There was a pause as Hermione
poured the drinks, adding generous amounts of mixers and ice. Ginny got up from the sofa and paced
restlessly around the room, stopping at the large desk. She peered down at the papers spread all
over it and frowned.
“You’re completely swamped with work!” she exclaimed. Hermione sighed.
“Tell me about it,” she murmured.
Hermione was an Advocate, a wizarding barrister. After graduating from Hogwarts, she had
taken professional training in both wizarding and Muggle legal matters for two
years before joining her present chambers as an Advocate’s Clerk for a further
year’s training (most of which seemed to be spent archiving past cases). Her impressive work record led her Chambers
to offer her a permanent position as a Junior Advocate. This was her first year
as a fully-qualified lawyer, and on a good day the workload was suffocating. This was evidently not a good day.
Ginny crossed to the window where she stood gazing out at the traffic,
biting her lip. Hermione raised a
“You’re jumpy tonight,” she remarked, handing her the tumbler, now full
of a pale amber liquid. Without
speaking, Ginny took the glass and swallowed half its contents in one go.
“Great Merlin!” Hermione stared
at her in astonishment. “You’d better tell me all about it.”
She motioned Ginny to sit down.
The other girl shook her head vigorously with a sound that was half
laugh, half sob.
“It’s nothing really, just another argument.” Her eyes trailed away from Hermione’s.
“Who else?” Ginny took a more
measured sip of her drink and sank down once again on the sofa.
“Oh, it’s the same old tale again.
Why do I carry on working with Ernie at Wizard Radio when I could be, in
his words, ‘raking it in’ by becoming a full-time professional singer.”
“Hmm.” Hermione bit her lip thoughtfully. “Is it just the money
situation, do you think, or is it a little more than that?”
“I wish I knew.” Ginny paused,
took a shaky breath then expelled it again with an impatient sigh.
“It’s true we’re, well, rather on our beam ends, you know,” she began,
“what with the mortgage on the flat and David’s agency business not doing as
well as it might. He doesn’t say much,
but I think I’m the only really bankable artist on his books. I have to
confess, it’s rather demeaning. I mean,
being thought of as a money-making commodity rather than a person by your
partner, even after working hours and in the privacy of your own home!”
Hermione could see that Ginny was far more upset by the situation than
she was letting on. Damn that idiot! She gritted her teeth and for what seemed like the hundredth
time, swallowed the words that threatened to spill out. Instead, she reached out for Ginny’s hand,
noting absently how cold she seemed, and schooled her expression into one of
“Gin, darling, you can’t afford any more mistakes.” Hermione shook her head sadly.
“You’ve had nine Unauthorized Use of Magic Notices in the past
year. One more and you’re done for;
you’ll have to go before a Ministry Tribunal!
And I don’t think explaining that you’re just trying to make a living is
going to be a sufficient defence.”
The other girl shook her head.
“I know, I know,” she replied,
miserably, “but I want to help him so much.
And it’s so tempting just to add a little magical something to my
performance. Not for my own benefit, of
course, but to get more bookings, to boost his reputation. Just to help him get his business going just
a little better. Oh
Hermione, I feel so helpless!”
Ginny’s eyes were shining with unshed tears.
“However much effort I put into my singing, I’m never going to be able
to achieve all I know is possible out of a performance by Muggle means
Hermione took a deep breath.
“Ginny, I know I’ve said this before …”
“No, Hermione, I know what you’re going to say, and I just can’t do
it.” The corners of Ginny’s mouth
turned down mutinously.
“But if he loves you, he’ll accept you for what you are, and you won’t
have to keep suppressing your natural talents - which were formidable when you
left Hogwarts. I know because Minerva
McGonagall told me!”
“He’s a Muggle, Hermione!”
“So? There have been
wizard/Muggle matches before now. Not
often, I grant you - we do tend to stick to our own kind - but it’s quite
possible for Muggles to adjust perfectly happily to our world.”
Ginny was shaking her head emphatically.
“Three years is a long time, Hermione.” Her huge eyes were sad.
“Too long to simply come home one night and tell him, out of the blue,
that I’m not the professional singer he’s had on his books, and incidentally been
living with, for most of that time. I
am, in fact, a witch. Oh, no, not the
pointed hat, rotten teeth, ‘Bubble bubble toil and trouble’ type witch, but a
serious practicing sorceress. Excuse me
while I ring the Funny Farm!”
Ginny paused for breath and Hermione burst out laughing. Ginny stared.
“I’m glad you find it amusing!” she retorted huffily, knocking back the
rest of her drink. Hermione looked at
“I’m sorry, Ginny, but really - don’t you think you’re exaggerating
just a tiny bit? Dean Thomas and Seamus
Finnigan have both dated Muggle girls in their time …”
“Yes, but did they tell them the truth?”
“Well, no, not so far as I’m aware …”
“Well, there you are then!”
Ginny sat back contemplating her empty glass gloomily. Hermione got up to refill it.
“Come to think of it, Seamus’s dad is a Muggle,” she continued
thoughtfully, “and his mum didn’t let on she was a witch until after they were
Ginny’s lips twitched slightly.
“Yes,” she replied, against a bubble of laughter, “I remember Seamus
said it was a bit of a shock when he found out.”
Both girls chuckled reminiscently.
Ginny shook her head sending her long hair flying.
“It’s no good sitting here being miserable and making you miserable
Abandoning her refilled drink, she jumped up from the sofa.
“Come on!” she said to a surprised Hermione. “Let’s go to Giovanni’s -
it’s 8.45pm, I’m starving and he’s doing a special hot Americana topping this
Hermione wavered, glancing guiltily at the unfinished casework, then
“You’re on!” she exclaimed, defiantly emptying her glass. She snatched up her handbag and followed
Ginny from the room, leaving the paper-covered desk to rot. Sometimes there were more things to life
The two girls made a striking pair.
Hermione, tall and elegant, was dressed formally in a smart
suit with her long, sleek hair pinned into a shining French pleat. By contrast, Ginny’s clothes were casual and
her hair had a mind of its own. Long,
red tendrils snaked down almost to the base of her spine, curling round her
shoulders like some exotic, climbing plant.
However, its waywardness detracted little from the exquisite delicacy of
her features. Of the two, Hermione may
have turned heads, but it was Ginny on whom the eyes lingered.
A couple of streets on, the girls turned into a small, dimly lit Bistro
that, despite it being a midweek night, was already fairly busy. They made a dash for a window table just
becoming vacant and settled to peruse the vast and comprehensive menu. Giovanni himself came to take their order.
“’Ermione, and the little Ginny!
I ‘ave meessed you! Per’aps you
‘ave found another place to eat, eh?”
Hermione grinned broadly at his mock-soulful manner and his twinkling
“Now, Giovanni, you know very well we would never go anywhere else -
not while you still make such wonderful toppings!”
“Mmm!” agreed Ginny, glancing at the chalkboard containing the day’s
specials. “Well, it’s no contest for me.
I’m having the Americana Hot Chilli with a large bottle of sparkling
Nodding his head, the little man finished marking his order pad and
smiled at them with affection.
“I remember when you all moved ‘ere - the parties!” he began
reminiscently. “The celebrations! All
your friends from school - Fred and George, Ron, Lee and Oliver - and ‘Arry, I
was forgetting ‘Arry. ‘Ave you ‘eard
anything from ‘im? When will ‘ee come
“I had a letter from him today, as a matter of fact,” she replied.
“He’s still enjoying life, but he’s a long way from becoming a native
Californian, I’m delighted to say.”
“’Ee come back? Soon?”
With a small smile, Hermione shook her head.
“I don’t think so, Giovanni.”
The little man nodded and, spying a couple of new patrons by the door,
left the table to place their order.
“That’s strange.” Ginny spoke
without looking up, toying with a bread stick as she contemplated the pattern
on the tablecloth.
“Giovanni suddenly mentioning Harry like that.”
“Well, he hasn’t asked about him for months - I thought he’d forgotten
Harry. Heck, I thought everyone had.”
“Have you forgotten him,
Caught unawares, the redhead looked up, frowning.
“Goodness, no! Honestly,
Hermione, how could I ever forget Harry?”
“Exactly. Neither could I.”
Ginny grinned suddenly and raised her glass of mineral water.
“Well, I must say you’ve got good reason to keep him in mind, haven’t
you?” she said in an amused tone. She
raised her glass in the manner of a mock-toast. “Here’s to Harry Potter, your landlord!” The two girls clinked their glasses. Hermione returned the grin.
“He would have been your landlord too,” she replied, “if things had
worked out as he planned.”
Ginny lowered her eyes.
“Well,” she countered, “come to that, I have a vague memory that my
youngest brother was originally supposed to figure somewhere in the Grand
Scheme of things. Was he not?”
Hermione had the grace to look a little shamefaced.
“Alright, point taken,” she replied with a wry smile.
Ginny raised a speculative eyebrow but declined to comment.
“Speaking of which,” Hermione continued thoughtfully, ”Harry being my
landlord, I mean, I really should start thinking about the next project.”
“On the house, you mean?” said Ginny, her interest caught. Hermione nodded.
“Well, the house itself is pretty much
sorted, at least as far as we need it to be at the moment,” she began, “but
Harry particularly wanted me to make some sort of start on the garden. I mean, really, it’s been two years since he
bought it and the place is still a jungle.
It’s so huge I have no idea what’s out there. He could have made an independent sale of the grounds to
developers and recouped some of the fortune he spent on the place. I advised him to do just that, but he wasn’t
“You know,” she said, thoughtfully, “that
house is really pretty unusual. There
aren’t many large, period properties left in London that haven’t already been
converted into flats. Not to mention
the grounds. It must have been a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an army of potential developers when it came
on the market. So how did Harry manage
to pip them all to the post?”
Hermione smiled and shrugged.
“You know Harry,” she replied, “he does tend to get what he wants,
doesn’t he? But, you know, I often
wonder why he wanted something like that in the first place. I mean
it’s a beautiful house, and in a prime area to boot, but it was in a very poor
state of repair when I moved in. Why
choose to sink all his money into something which was going to need so much
work when all the time he was planning to move abroad?”
Ginny started to attack her pizza.
“Well, he did live in London for a year before taking off to LA,” she
said in muffled tones, around her mouthful, “and you’ve got to admit, he did
sort out some of the basic renovations before he accepted his new job. Have you never asked him?”
Hermione shook her head, also beginning to eat.
“To be honest, I was so impressed when I saw the place, I didn’t want
to dissuade him. And besides, his
reasoning seemed very plausible at the time.
You know, rising market, excellent investment, couldn’t lose money,
providing a home for his friends, etc. etc.
Which was extremely welcome at the time, I can tell you, as I was
absolutely stony broke during my Pupilage.”
Hermione favoured her friend with a candid glance.
“And, yes,” she said, “I’m quite sure he intended Ron to move in here
too, but … ah, well. That’s all water
under the bridge now.”
Ginny gave a small smile, swallowed her mouthful and took a sip of
“I think Harry may have been a little optimistic if he expected Ron to
share a house with you on a platonic basis,” she replied carefully. “I mean,
it’s a bit much to expect when you’d just split up after - what was it? - two
years at Hogwarts. The wounds must
still have been a bit raw.”
“Well, he’s done more or less the next best thing, hasn’t he? Ron, I mean.”
She started to saw her pizza into strips with unnecessary
as she spoke, not meeting Ginny’s eyes.
“Sharing that flat round the corner with Oliver, Lee and George -
honestly, I know it’s big, but it’s got to be a bit cramped when they’re all
home, rare though that might be.”
Hermione stabbed discontentedly at her pizza. “They make me feel like I’m rattling around in that mausoleum
with only Fred to trip over. And when he goes away on his business trips, the
silence is more than even I find pleasant.”
She set down her cutlery and sighed, smiling ruefully at her friend.
“I know Lavender and I didn’t always see eye to eye,” she continued,
“but I liked her and I was sorry when she moved out to live with that
Gringotts chap - what was his name? - Aurelius, that’s it. Charlie filled the gap for quite a while;
that last case of dragonscore took a long time to completely heal, even
with Madame Pomfrey’s help.
Now he’s gone back to Rumania and I miss the company.”
“Time for you to find another housemate - perhaps several.”
Hermione looked dubious.
“Who did you have in mind? I’d
be delighted if Ron and all his fellows would move in, but I really don’t think
that’s at all likely.”
Ginny smiled and shook her head.
“You’ll never guess who I ran into last week? Colin Creevey!”
Hermione’s eyebrows disappeared into her hairline.
“Colin the Camera? With the
little brother, Dennis?”
“The very same.”
“Well, it’s a small world indeed.
What’s he doing at the moment?”
Ginny’s smile broadened.
“Well, that’s just it. He’s
swapped his camera for - get this - paints and chisels. He’s become an artist and sculptor and is
getting quite a following amongst both wizards and Muggles. The trouble is, his studio is near
Shepherd’s Bush and he’s living somewhere in Clapham - ghastly journey, and
neither property is very satisfactory.
He’d absolutely kill to be able to live here - if he could afford it,
“Oh, he could afford it, all right!”
Hermione’s eyes were alight with possibility. “I’ll make it a condition of his tenancy that he put in at least
five hours a week remodeling the garden.
That’ll pay some of his rent and give me some much needed
The two girls raised their glasses of mineral water in a good-humoured toast.
It was really far too late to be getting home on a midweek night,
Hermione decided as she walked up the driveway to the front door of Harry’s
House, weary but relaxed.
“Galileo,” she muttered absently at the lion-shaped knocker
on the front door. The beast fixed her
with a baleful glare before the door swung open into a still-lit hallway. As she hung up her coat, a head poked into
the hall from the kitchen.
“Ah, so there is life in Harry’s House yet,” said a cheerful
voice. Hermione smiled.
“Hello, err - “ squinting as the owner of the voice moved into the light,
“Fred,” she finished confidently, catching sight of a pale, vertical scar down
one side of his face. The red-haired
“All those years you’ve known us, Hermione, and you still can’t tell us
She snorted and plonked her umbrella into the
“Save it for those who need to be fooled, sunshine.” His smile widened.
“It does no harm to keep in practice,” he replied mildly. “Fooling my
family’s one thing, but fooling you - well, it’s becoming almost
Her eyes narrowed.
“I’d take that as a compliment - except that I know you too well. There’s something bothering you, isn’t
there?” He looked away.
“Now why ever would you think that?”
She made a “tut-tutting” noise.
“Since when do you haunt the front door looking for company? Come on, Fred, don’t beat about the
bush!” He shrugged.
“Nothing new, really,“ he replied, “I’m just starting to get pretty
worried now. It’s been a month and a
half. Six weeks and still
no word. It’s not like him to stay
under so long without contacting me.
I’ve half a mind to call in …”
Hermione shook her head firmly, cutting him off.
“No, Fred, give it a bit more slack before you do that. After all, it’s not as if anyone else can
help, is it? You could be putting the
whole operation in jeopardy.”
Surreptitiously, she looked at her watch. Nearly 11pm. She sighed
inwardly, feeling herself sag with fatigue.
“Come on,” she said, patting his shoulder and gently steering him into
the kitchen. “Let’s get some cocoa and thrash this out a little more.”
David Markland staggered out of the shower, dragged on a bathrobe and
sauntered into the kitchen drying his hair with a towel to find Ginny sharing a
pot of coffee with a complete stranger.
A complete male stranger at
that. David glowered from the doorway
until she looked up and gave him a quick smile.
“Good morning, sweetie,” she said, pouring some black coffee into a
mug. He took it without comment. “This
is Colin Creevey.”
The stranger stood up and offered a hand to shake, which Markland
pointedly ignored. Ginny’s smile
dropped a little, but she rallied quickly.
“Colin’s an artist - a painter and sculptor,” she began, and proceeded
to explain about his accommodation problem.
“I supposed St. John’s Wood is a lot nearer than Clapham,” he remarked,
“but it’s going a long way up market, isn’t it?”
Embarrassed by his lack of tact, Ginny continued quickly.
“Well, there may be a solution to both problems - we’re going to see if
we can’t thrash it out on Saturday.” She smiled brightly. “There’s actually
some kind of outhouse in the grounds.
Hermione told me about it - probably old stables or something. If it’s suitable, Colin thinks he might be
able to renovate it into a studio.”
“It doesn’t have to be anything too special,” put in Colin nervously,
“as long as the light’s good, I don’t really need much else to start
Ginny frowned slightly and gave him a gentle kick under the table. Colin stiffened.
“Of course, I’d like to have running water, drainage - er, utilities
eventually,” he added quickly, his ears burning. Nervous of Muggles at the best of times and sensitive to
atmosphere, Colin was fast becoming very uncomfortable.
Markland tossed off his coffee and fixed the other man with a searching
glare. Colin smiled uneasily. He had always been a weedy, scrawny little
kid at Hogwarts, with an unfortunate manner that put one in mind of a small
terrier. As an adult, he had changed,
but not enough. He ran a hand through
his mousy-brown, professionally highlighted hair and wondered nervously if he
had overdone the Sun tanning Charm for so early in the season.
Although only partially dressed, David Markland betrayed no
self-consciousness. Indeed, his
bathrobe positively screamed major fashion house and had probably cost more
than Colin’s entire wardrobe put together.
Slamming his empty cup down on the table, Markland turned on his heel
and stalked out of the kitchen without another word. Ginny smiled apologetically.
“He’s not really a morning person,” she explained uncomfortably. I’ll
bet! thought Colin. He got up to
leave, trying very hard not to run.
Ginny followed him to the front door.
“9.30am then, at Harry’s house?” she said. Colin nodded vigorously then bolted for the lift.
“Until Saturday then.” Ginny said, raising her hand to the rapidly
closing lift doors. She paused for a
moment then sighed.
Back in the kitchen, Markland, now
fully dressed, frowned petulantly out of the window as he drank the last of the
“So Hermione wants to share her house with that little squirt, does
she?” he said as Ginny entered, without turning.
“He’s an old school friend,” she replied, reaching for the empty
cafetiere. “Another coffee?”
He turned abruptly and threw his mug into the sink. Ginny winced involuntarily, but fortunately
“It’s like a ghetto over there in St. John’s Wood with all your
ex-school friends!” Markland shook his
head, lips compressed into a hard line.
“What is it about that part of London?”
Ginny shook her head.
“No, David, you’ve got it all wrong,” she protested. “It’s just that
Ron was lucky enough to find a flat round the corner from Harry’s House …”
“Harry’s House, Harry’s House? What a stupid name for such an incredible
pile. Your ex-boyfriend must have a
high opinion of himself if that’s what he named it.”
“David, please. Harry didn’t
name the house anything. It hasn’t got
a name. It’s just always been known as
Harry’s House to the rest of us. And
he’s not my ex-boyfriend, he never was.”
“You told me you had a crush on him at school.”
“At school, yes - David, it was a long time ago!”
“How do I know what you got up to with him?”
“David, we were teenagers, you’re being ridiculous …”
“What did he do - go to the States without you? Dump you for his career?”
“You’re not making any sense.
We’ve been through this before …” She closed her eyes against the pain.
“That’s the trouble - we’ve never even been through it once! You won’t give me a straight answer to
anything concerning Harry Potter.”
“I tell you everything I can …” she muttered desperately.
“But never the truth.”
“Alright! Okay!” Ginny buried her hands in her hair. She exhaled with a sudden whoosh of air and
leaned against the counter, fighting for control. Abruptly she pushed herself upright and faced him with a level of
defiance she had never shown before in his presence, let alone directed at
him. Markland checked an involuntary
“You want to know why Harry Potter left England. Why he accepted a job half a continent away
from all his friends and family?” Her
words were clipped, her voice breathless.
“When he was in the sixth year, he went out with a girl in the year
above him. He’d liked her for a long
time, and he’d never really been out with anyone else because of that. No one at school knew it, but they were
serious, you know? Going to buy a flat
together once he’d graduated, perhaps get married - I don’t know.”
“She died.” Ginny’s voice was
flat, emotionless. “Ron told me Harry was never the same again. I don’t know why he bought the house, but I
think that would explain to most normal people’s satisfaction why he might have
left the country, don’t you?”
And for once, Ginny walked out after a row with David, having had the
Slamming the front door behind her, Ginny lunged for the lift and
punched the wall in frustration as the doors closed in her face. Resolutely, she picked up her briefcase and
sprinted down the several flights of stairs into the basement, arriving at the
car parking level out of breath but determined David should not catch up with
her, even if he wanted to. She backed
her ancient red Nissan out of its parking space, sneering at David’s Jeep: who
needed an off-road vehicle in London, unless they were competing for Poser of
the Year? By the time she had done
battle with the rush hour traffic and had pulled in to her parking space at
Wizard Radio, Ginny was almost sobbing with frustration. She wished she had skipped her customary
call at the office and just driven on to her first appointment. She didn’t relish talking to Ernie.
Wizarding Radio was housed in a small building with two floors and a
basement: the top floor was the administrative centre, the basement
contained the electronics and the recording studios, and the middle floor took
in the Hospitality Suite and the open-plan press office where Ginny worked when
she wasn’t in the studios. Ernie
MacMillan was already at his desk, shouting at someone down the phone, his language
liberally seasoned with expletives and some downright threats. He was a big man, tall, hunky and slightly
overweight with irregular features, as though someone had rearranged them with
a blunt instrument at some time. Most
people walked stiff-legged around Ernie, but Ginny knew that the tough-guy pose
was exactly that. Ernie was a complete
pussycat, if you knew the buttons to press.
Ernie took one look at Ginny’s tearstained face, spat an abrupt insult
in farewell, and slammed the phone down.
“Now what?” he growled. “You’re supposed to be interviewing that crazy
witch in Sussex who says her cat can sing opera. You can’t interview anyone in the state you’re in. Just a minute.” He stopped ranting long enough to mutter “Sonorus”, then bellowed:
“TOM, GET YOUR ASS OUT OF THAT
CHAIR AND DOWN TO PRESS, PRONTO!”
Gingerly, Ginny removed her fingers from her ears.
“Wouldn’t it have been simpler to have used the telephone?” she asked
in a pained voice. In response, Ernie
gave her a wide genuine smile.
“Yeah, but not nearly as much fun!”
A disheveled looking young wizard burst in through the double doors and
skidded to a halt panting in front of Ernie’s desk.
“Not bad - 9.5 seconds. You’re
getting better - not good, but better.
Anyway, get your stuff - you’re going down to interview Mathilda the
Magnificent. And don’t forget to tape
the cat singing!”
“If it can. Which I doubt,” he
muttered to Ginny, over Tom’s elated exclamations.
“Good worker, just a total idiot,” he continued. “And smarten yourself
up!” He yelled at Tom’s departing back.
He looked at the forlorn girl and shook his head.
“Time you got yourself a new man; this one’s proving too
expensive. Come on.”
He levered himself out of his chair and looked back at her.
“Let’s go get a coffee. I could
do with a break.”
Ernie was well known in the local café, “The Rowan
Wand”. As soon as he put a foot
over the threshold, a volley of cheerful shouts greeted him, and the proprietor
had his order ready before he had reached the counter; one large pot of coffee
together with a plate of assorted doughnuts.
Glancing at Ginny, the man pushed another mug on to the tray, but
otherwise passed no comment. Ernie
slapped some money down on the counter and proceeded to heave the groaning tray
over to the window table, gesturing for Ginny to follow. She glanced around the clientele, smiling
absently at a waving wizard in a purple cloak whose cat was sitting on a chair
drinking coffee through a straw. Two
other wizards were having a heated argument over the correct way to perform the furnunculus curse, a small, grey-haired witch was reading an article in “The Successful Charm” while her quill
automatically made notes on a roll of parchment, and a couple on the table next
to them were trying to play chess, seriously hampered by the fact that one set
of chessmen was refusing to play until the other set’s queen had apologized to
“Imbeciles!” muttered Ernie, disdainfully. “How in Merlin’s name do
they expect to control their chessmen when neither of them could play his way
out of a piece of parchment!”
Over the good hot coffee and a cinnamon doughnut, Ginny proceeded to
tell Ernie the substance of her quarrel with David. It didn’t take too long - Ernie had heard most of it before - and
pretty soon she was staring moodily into her cup and contemplating another
“And he still thinks you work for a local Muggle radio station?” Ernie
asked her. She nodded.
“So how come he’s never rumbled you then?” Ginny cupped her chin in her hands.
“Because he’s not interested, that’s why,” she replied with a
sigh. “He hates anything even slightly
parochial. He might take a bit more
notice if I worked for the BBC, but even if I did, he’d still be pestering me
to give it up and become a full-time entertainer.”
Ernie put a massive hand over her tiny one.
“There’ll always be a job for you here, whatever happens,” he said
gently. “You know that, don’t
you?” Ginny smiled crookedly and
nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
Ernie sighed and released her hand to take another doughnut.
“Sounds like that idiot man of yours has a serious case of inferiority,
if you ask me,” he announced, with no ceremony. “Jealousy of an absentee school
friend, who hasn’t set foot in the country in years? Excuse me while I send out for a straightjacket!”
“I had a crush on Harry at school,” Ginny reminded him,
tonelessly. Ernie grinned.
“I knew it, we all knew it,” he said through a mouthful of chocolate
topping. “We all thought he was nuts: why bother with that Cho Chang when you
were around? Any of us would have sat
through a week of Snape’s detentions just for the chance with you. Ah, well - happy days. Shame about Cho though - just graduated,
hadn’t she? Could happen to anyone, but
you simply don’t think of wizarding folk being killed in car smashes, do you?” Ginny shook her head slowly.
“It took everything we had - Ron, Hermione and me - just to get Harry
to carry on living, never mind take his NEWTs,” she said in low tones. “He
couldn’t even remember his family, you see, he was too young when you-know-who
… when they were killed. So when Cho
was taken away from him, it really was like the end of the world.” Ernie was nodding.
“Yeah, I’m familiar with the story - everyone is.”
He washed down the last crumbs of doughnut with the dregs of his coffee
and fixed her with a beady-eyed stare.
“Well, this isn’t getting any work done,” he said. Do you feel up to a stint in the
studio? We’ve got a backlog of
programmes that’d make your hair curl, and Tom was supposed to be making inroads
into it today.” Resolutely, Ginny got
to her feet.
“I’m not taking time out over a shower of pathetic insults, if that’s
what you mean,” she returned firmly. “Whatever David thinks of it, I like my job and I want to keep it!”
“Okay. Let’s get moving.”
Ron Weasley strolled up the path to the front door of
Harry’s House and drawled “Galileo”
to the lion-shaped doorknocker. To his surprise,
the beast roared loudly in his face making him take a startled step backwards,
before the door swung silently open on magically oiled hinges. He took a step into the vestibule.
“Okay,” he announced, stalking through into the hall, “who’s the
There was no immediate answer, but a murmur of conversation drew him
towards Hermione’s study where the door was slightly ajar. He pushed it open to find Lee and Hermione,
surrounded by mounds of paper, computer printouts, handwritten notes, open
books and press cuttings, sprawled on their stomachs on the floor, heads
together, deep in analysis of some problem or other.
The youngest of the Weasley boys was still tall with a shock of
red-gold hair and a dusting of freckles over his nose, which would spread
rapidly all over his body as soon as the sun showed itself. Otherwise his resemblance to the skinny kid
who attended Hogwarts for seven years was fairly minimal. Ron had broadened out. Wide shoulders and muscular arms hinted at
impressive strength in his upper body, and he had the slim but sturdy legs
often seen in a distance runner. He was
also handsome. There was no other way
to describe his smooth, aquiline features, striking hair and regular, even
smile, but Ron himself was refreshingly unaware of any of it; all he knew was
that he could never get a suntan in summer.
He had followed his father and elder brother Percy into the Ministry of
Magic, working for the subsidiary Office of Accidental Magic Reversal.
“Don’t mind me, will you?” he growled mock-seriously, at the tangle of
Lee and Hermione on the study floor. “I just came from a totally empty flat
wondering if there was anyone left alive in St. John’s Wood. What in Merlin’s name are you doing?”
Hermione rolled over and sat up, smiling at him.
“Hello, Ron,” she said, getting up to kiss him briefly on the cheek.
“Are you looking for food, drink, company or a mixture of all three?”
“How well you know me!” he replied, grinning. “And all three would be
absolutely marvelous, but I think, by the looks of things, I’m only likely to
get one.” Hermione crossed to the
“Well, I can certainly provide you with a drink,” she said, “and I for
one have had enough analysis for tonight, but it looks as though Lee is good
for another couple of hours.”
They turned towards the lanky, dark-skinned, former Hogwarts
Quidditch commentator who was still lying on the floor. Lee had also joined the Ministry on
graduation, but after a couple of years floating around not really finding his
niche, he had discovered Muggle computers and had managed to convince his
superiors that they were an area worthy of further research. Since then, he had transferred to the
Department of Developmental Magic and was happily tapping into keyboards all
day long. However, all the sudden
high-level interest in his machines meant that he was now seriously
overworked. The project he had online
with Hermione at the moment was being pursued in what little spare time he had
“Bugger!” he exploded, scrabbling through a pile of notes, scattering
then to the four corners of the room.
Hermione rolled her eyes, handed Ron a full glass and jerked her head in
the direction of the door. They left so
quietly that Lee didn’t even notice.
Hermione led the way down the long hall towards the big communal
kitchen with its huge range and scrubbed oak refectory table. Ron looked around admiringly at the clean
surfaces and tidy utensils and pans.
“Someone’s been busy,” he remarked.
Hermione looked affronted.
“Are you implying that my kitchen is usually messy?”
“Well, you have to admit that it’s not often this pristine.”
“I know,” she sighed. “I try to keep it clean and tidy because that’s
the way I was brought up, but when I’m literally working all the hours there
are, I don’t seem to have the time or the energy to put together the necessary
household spells.” Ron nodded wisely.
“You really need a couple of housemates. Oh, I know Fred lives here, but he’s just as bad as George: you
can go for weeks without seeing him and you only know he’s been at home by the
mound of washing he chucks into the utility room. I’ve only seen George to speak to once or twice in the last
month. I expect it’s the same with
Fred.” Hermione nodded, but didn’t
quite meet Ron’s eyes.
“So who do you suggest I draft into Harry’s House then?” Ron shrugged expansively.
“Most people’d give their eye teeth to live in a place like this.”
“Okay then: what about you?”
Hermione’s expression was challenging: Ron laughed.
“Is this a proposition? Or even
a proposal?” She gave a wry smile.
“I don’t have time for either at the moment, more’s the pity. No, I wasn’t serious, Ron, although you know
only too well I’d love it if you guys were to move in here.” But Ron was shaking his head.
“With Fred as well, and Charlie, when he’s home? No - the mix’d be too rich. Besides, it’s not good for a girl to be
stuck on her own with so many blokes: people will start to talk!” They laughed.
“No,” repeated Ron, pulling out a chair and relaxing into it, “I think
you need a couple of girls.”
“Trouble is, I don’t make girlfriends that easily,” mused Hermione,
aiming her wand at a kettle of water, which instantly spouted steam, and
remotely upending a pasta packet into a large saucepan. “I can’t imagine who
I’d ask to share a house with me - unless it was your sister, of course, but
she’s out of the question.”
“I wish she bloody-well wasn’t,” retorted Ron, crossly. “That Muggle
making her life a misery!”
“Watch the tone of the insults, sunshine,” she retorted, as an onion
leaped out of the vegetable basket on to a thick wooden chopping board. “Just
remember my Muggle origins and be careful.”
But Ron was too annoyed to take any notice.
“Ginny was the most natural sorceress in her year,” he began.
“Dumbledore called Mum and Dad in to warn them that she was proving to be very
precocious, and that they were going to have to help her control her
powers. Hey, watch it!” He ducked as a sharp knife sailed over his
head and quickly diced the onion.
“Sorry,” said Hermione, as she dumped the chopped onion into a frying
pan sizzling with butter, “Go on, Ron.”
Ron carefully smoothed his thick red/gold hair back over his head as if
checking it was all still there.
“Well, when she graduated Hogwarts with the highest practical NEWTs
anyone had seen for years (even better than yours, Hermione - although
apparently her written papers left something to be desired!), everyone expected
she’d romp into some high paid, high status job at the Ministry - Department of
Developmental Magic, for example - any one of a number of glittering careers! The next thing we know she’s shacked up with
this Muggle who’s convinced her she can sing, and that’s the end of her
magic. It’s been three years now -
surely it’s about time she gave him the push?”
Hermione nodded at a spatula, which obediently stirred garlic and
tomatoes into the chopped onion, then she delved in the fridge for some
“Could you just grate some of that into a bowl, please?” she asked,
handing him a hard yellow lump and a wicked-looking grater. Ron sighed and started to rub the cheese
against the mesh, careful not to bring his fingers in contact with the sharp
surface. He gave her a black look.
“You know I can’t manage a grating charm,” he grumbled.
“All the more incentive to learn,”
Hermione replied with a small smile as she shook the pan then turned the heat
up under the pasta.
“Well, Ron,” she began, carefully, “you are strictly not to talk about this, okay? It sounds to me as though the relationship
is about to die a natural death anyway.
Ginny is just clinging on to any shreds of hope she can muster. Let’s face it; she’s been lying to him about
her abilities for three years now.
There’s no way he’s ever going to accept that kind of deceit, so she
can’t exactly come clean at this stage, and she’s been suppressing her magical
powers for so long now that something’s got to give eventually. She’s between the devil and the deep blue
sea, and the only way out is forward.”
She shook some sugar and salt into the pan and began to grind pepper,
checking that the pasta was soft. Ron
went over to the kitchen wine rack and inspected its contents diffidently.
“Red okay?” he queried. She
nodded, deftly removing two warmed plates from the cooler of the two
ovens. There was a short pause while
she served the meal, during which Ron found some glasses and poured the
wine. A slightly longer pause ensued
while Ron attacked the meal with a gusto implying that he hadn’t been fed for
several days. Hermione smiled at his
enthusiasm, and ate hers at a rather more leisurely pace. Once Ron’s plate was clear, he gave a deep
sigh and sat back in his chair, savouring his glass of wine.
“That was so good,” he sighed. “You know, if me and the guys did move
in with you, you’d be forever in the kitchen!”
“Don’t you believe it!” Hermione shot back, her eyes flashing. “I’m
still capable of organizing a rota you know, and enforcing it - even with such
unpromising material as you lot!”
Ron turned down the corners of his mouth in mock-injury, but could not
sustain it in the face of such congenial surroundings and company. Eventually, he conjured the dishes and pans
into the dishwasher, and they retired to the old blanket-covered sofa at the
other end of the room. Hermione quickly
enchanted a fire, and they relaxed, finishing off the wine.
“End of a long day,” remarked Ron, glancing reluctantly at his watch
and yawning. “Time for me to get some shut-eye, ‘Mione.” He got up slowly, resting his empty glass on
the coffee table.
“Yeah, you’re right. I’ve got a
couple of important meetings tomorrow.”
She stood up and stretched langorously, the firelight casting shadows
across her translucent skin. Ron looked
“Thanks, love,” he said, smiling as he kissed her gently on the
cheek. He stared into her eyes and saw,
if not an invitation at least not rejection, so he kissed her mouth a little
more lingeringly. He was about to go
for broke when she stopped him, placing her index finger on his lips in a
surprisingly intimate gesture.
“Are you really prepared to re-open old wounds, Ron?” she asked
seriously, but a gentle smile played over her features. He looked away and shuffled his feet
“I might have been, until you ruined the moment!” he muttered,
crossly. Her laughter was gentle and
“Oh, Ron, where angels fear to tread, you have always managed to sprint
in at record-breaking speed!”
“Are you telling me I’m a fool then?”
“Absolutely not! You’re one of
my three very best friends ever and, as you know, I don’t suffer fools in any
way, never mind gladly! All I’m saying
is, just once, think about what you’re doing before you do it.”
“How do you know I haven’t already?”
Ron’s face seemed to be slightly flushed, although it could have been
the effect of the firelight. Hermione
softened. She held out her arms and
pulled him into them, patting his back gently as one would a child.
“I’m sorry.” Her words were
muffled in the shoulder of his sweater.
Ron buried his face in her hair, inhaling her sweet familiar fragrance
then he lifted his head to look at her, put a hand out to her cheek and kissed
her lips again.
“I’d better go,” he murmured into her hair, “before I do something
really stupid. Besides, Lee’s still in
your study - I’d better take him home before he falls asleep on the job!” Hermione clapped a hand to her mouth.
“Oh damn and blast! I forgot
all about Lee - and we’ve gone and eaten all the pasta!”
“Don’t worry - he won’t have noticed.
I’ll take him home and open a can of soup or something. Oh, by the way: both Lee and I are away this
weekend - not together I might add - although George is suppose to be home
tonight. I’ll give you a ring tomorrow
or something, but I won’t be back until Monday night.”
“That’s okay: I’ve got loads to do, and Colin Creevey’s coming round on
Ron’s expression was a picture.
“Creevey? Creevey? You mean the jerk
with the camera, year below us?” She
“What’s he doing round here?”
“Dare I say it, moving in?”
There was a flabbergasted silence.
“Please tell me you’re joking,” Ron eventually managed. Hermione burst out laughing.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” she said, and proceeded to tell him
about the outhouse buried in the depths of the jungle beyond the windows.
“Better take a machete,” said Ron dubiously, glancing out of the back
window. “You never know what you might meet in there - lions, dragons, maybe
even the lost tribe of the Incas.”
“Don’t worry: Fred is going to be here, and Ginny’s coming too, so I
think we’ll cope.”
“Well, I for one am glad to be missing this little charade,” Ron
announced, making briskly for Hermione’s study. “Don’t forget to tell me how it
goes, will you? If you ever get out,
that is. I tell you what: if you run
into any trouble, send up red sparks and I’ll issue a search party. Come on Lee!”
Throwing the study door open with as much noise as possible, Ron
marched in to retrieve his housemate.
“Last orders!” he announced. “Time, gentlemen, please! Chucking out now! Come on, man, let’s get home!”
But Lee was fast asleep on his piles of papers and snoring loudly.
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form
of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
Disclaimer: this is a non-profit enterprise. Everything belongs to J.K. Rowling, except the plot and David
Markland, both of which belong to Penpusher.
Tribute to: Susan Cooper’s incomparable “The Dark is Rising” sequence
for use of the “High Magic”; Dennis Wheatley for a plot device; and many, many
other fanfiction writers whose works of all kinds and in very differing genres
have been an immense inspiration to me.
The quotations used as chapter titles are too numerous to credit here. Full details available on request, but
Shakespeare and The Bible should yield most of them.
And all the thanks in the world to Becky (aka williara) for being a