Here we go, here we go
Characters: Ron and Hermione Summary: Hermione wakes up and tells Ron what happened
He was still a little strung out from the Order meeting, and the resultant nightmare of being face to face with a female version of his former Potions Master. Try as he might, that image wasn't leaving his conscious mind in a hurry. The rest of his mind was still turning over and over all that had been said, how Hermione had been knocked unconscious, the fact she still was unconscious, worry for his daughter, and the looming sense that succeed though they had, dark times were again upon them.
All in all, his mind wasn't the peaceful place it had been a month or so ago.
Deciding that a bit of time with closed eyes might ease the turmoil, Ron bent low over Hermione's bed and rested his forehead on their joined hands.
Darkness. Glowing red. Wind howling out of an abyss.
Not while I love.
Slowly, so slowly, she drifted back toward the light. Toward Ron and Leila and Harry.
Something warm and weighty rested on her hand. Her lashes fluttered, and she opened her eyes to see Ron, looking ten years older, brow pressed to her knuckles. She shifted in place, body protesting at the movement, until she could stroke his hair.
He jerked awake as fast as if someone had stuck him with a hot poker, looking around wildly for a moment before realising that big, brown eyes were looking up at him.
Relief coursing through him in waves, he took her hand in both of his and smiled. "Welcome back, love." Without another word, he lowered and kissed her softly.
It was the sweetest kiss, gentle and slightly desperate, and she let out a little sigh of contentment. "Thanks," she murmured. "What day is it?"
"Friday," he answered, hand tightening on hers, continuing quickly to reassure her. "You're fine. You weren't injured at all, not that the Healer's could determine and believed me, we pressed them for every test they could possibly run. Near as we could tell, you were just sleeping," he finished.
"Friday?" Hermione gasped at the news. "That long?" It wasn't easy, but she sat up and grabbed at Ron's hands.
"Is everything all right? Did - did he come back? Is Leila safe, and the Ministry, and - "
He wanted desperately to say yes, to tell her that everything was fine. But she could read him better than any book, and wouldn't thank him for glossing things over. He settled, instead, for easing her mind first.
"Leila's fine, Mummy," he offered her a lopsided grin, "off on holiday in Spain with her grandmum until we suss out just what's going on. Mum balked a bit, but when I told her...," Ron stopped here and took in a deep breath. "The Dark Mark was seen again, Hermione. 'Round the time you were hurt. And her royal twistedness is back, causing her usual brand of tripe. The Order's met, of course, and---"
Ron paused, a trickle of ice slipping down his spine. "What d'you mean, did 'he' come back? Which 'he' precisely?" He might've asked the question, but he was fairly sure he didn't want the answer.
"The Dark Mark?" Hermione almost wished she'd hadn't regained consciousness. Jack Fraser had had a running bet that something like this would happen, and of course the Squad had emergency plans in case it did. But if it had, and the Squad had gone underground, then -
Her bracelet lay next to her wand on the nightstand, the silver links looking slightly tarnished but not completely black. Not completely underground, just preparing. And protecting the Ministry, as much as they don't deserve it sometimes.
Ron had gone sheet-white, and she knew it was time to tell him.
"Ron. It was He-Who-Must - Lord Voldemort." She swallowed. "All the incidents - they all lead back to the Veil, every one of them. I was checking again when - "
She shuddered at the memory. "Everything started to go crazy, but it was after hours so I was by myself. I sent for back up as soon as things started to go haywire, but no one had arrived when he tried to come through the Veil. Please tell me he didn't make it through."
The shudder was visible this time, and one he felt straight to the marrow of his bones. "N-No," he added a head shake in for good measure. "At least I don't...no one's seen or mentioned," he was starting to stutter again, his hand tightening on hers. "All we'd heard from was LeStrange, but...fuck."
Slowly, his eyes raised to hers. "How close was he, Hermione? How close to coming out?"
He had to know. Hermione took a long, deep breath to steady herself, then answered. "He doesn't have a body, Ron, so he tried to use mine." Her voice shook as she forced herself to continue. "It hurt - nothing ever hurt like that. But I thought of you, and Leila, and my parents, and - I thought of how much I loved you all, and I shoved him out."
Telling it was almost as draining as living it, and she sagged slightly against him. "I blacked out and that's all I remember. Someone must have arrived after it was over or I wouldn't be here, but - "
"Bloody fucking hell," Ron swore, unable to do anything else but move to sit on the side of her bed and draw her gently into his arms, his own body still shaking at how close he'd come to losing her. "Someone did, yeah, but we've no idea who. All we were told was that you were brought here," he just managed to keep the bitterness from his voice.
Hermione wanted to tell him that it was necessary, that they'd gotten her out and then moved to Resurrection Plan D-1. But how could he understand? And how could she risk the Squad by telling him? "It - I don't know, love," she murmured against his shoulder. "It - they should have told you. I wish they had."
"Yeah, well," he muttered, preferring to keep his thoughts about her co-workers to himself for now. The fact she'd always been secretive about what she did shouldn't have him surprised that they'd be just as secretive about what happened to her fellows.
It rankled, but they had more important things to concern them right now.
"We need to tell everyone. The Order. If that tosser's trying to come back, they need to know. Or if, God help us, he's already through...?" ron didn't finish that thought, because the idea was unthinkable.
"I don't think so." Hermione shook her head, mildly surprised to find that her hair was clean. Obviously the cleaning charms still worked, at least in St. Mungo's. "You said there was an Order meeting - was Professor Snape there? He'd surely know if anyone would!"
And there it was again the female Snape of his mind's eye, back in living colour. "If you're talking about the Dark Mark's, yeah, those are back. Snape's and Regulus'. But yeah, Snape was at the meeting. Though," he tried to figure out just how to say this, "he's, ah, had a little mishap with the magic going mental and somehow managed to turn female. Not just in drag, but a real...with...," he held his hands out in front of his chest.
"A little mishap?" Hermione's jaw dropped as Ron pantomimed breasts. "Was he - she - oh my God. He's a woman?"
"After a few stumbles, I settled on 'Professor.' Seemed easier. But yeah, not just a potions master in a dress, but the real deal. And unless this rot ends, I've a feeling that's only the beginning."
If this was the beginning, where would it end? And how? Hermione touched his cheek in sympathy. Ron never had had much use for Professor Snape, and this must have made it worse.
Ron laid his hand over hers, turning his head to kiss her palm. "I did manage to keep from staring, though, or putting my foot in my mouth. Either I've finally grown up or I was simply too pole-axed by the mere idea of it." He grinned, kissing her palm again.
Hermione had to grin back. "I wonder which of you was more stunned - "
Something flashed at the corner of her eye, and she automatically reached for her bracelet. The links were quivering, and she felt herself grow cold as she fumbled it onto her wrist. The quivering turned to a rhythmic squeezes as it settled into place, and she was out of bed and grabbing for her clothes almost before she knew it.
"Ron! Get the Order!" She knew without looking that he'd gone white enough to bleach his freckles. "He's back! Voldemort's trying to come through again! Oh God, there was no one there this time - "
He was so surprised by her sudden leap from the bed that he landed flat on his arse on the floor. "Wha...? Hermione, he's...how d'you...?"
Ron took one look at her, heard the frantic tone of her voice, and decided that he'd ask for explanations of just how she knew this another time. He dug into the pocket of his robes and pulled out his wand. Conjuring his patronus, he gave it the message that Hermione was awake (as well as where they were going) and sent the terrier off to Harry so he could sound the alarm. "Harry will tell the Order. I'm not letting you out of my sight."
She nodded quickly, then tapped out a reply on the bracelet. Ron's little terrier had looked peakier than usual, and she didn't want to spend what energy she had sending her otter to warn Sirius. "It could be dangerous, you know - you're certain Leila is safe?" She wanted to tell him to stay back for his daughter's sake, but -
"She's in Spain, love, and having the time of her life dipping toes into the sea with her grandmum and eating entirely too much chocolate. According to what Mum said, there's nothing at all unusual there at all and her magic is working fine. She's safe. And," he reached down and took Hermione's hand, "I'm going to see to it that her world stays that way."
"So am I," said Hermione. She forced down the crawling fear that both of them running into battle was foolish, that they couldn't risk Leila being hurt so badly again, that Molly and Arthur weren't her parents no matter how much they loved her -
And we'll have Harry with us. He's always brought us through before. He'll bring us through again.
He has to.
The bracelet began to pulse in the code that meant Plan D-2. Hermione squared her shoulders and prayed she would be up to what they both had to do.
"I don't know if any of my people will be there - most of them will be protecting the Minister and the Wizengamot. But - "
She threw her arms around him and kissed him, long and hard and deep. "I love you, Ron. No matter what." She drew back and gathered her strength to take them through the wards to the Squad's offices.
Ron barely had time to return the sentiment, and punctuate it with a kiss, before their hands had joined and they made their way once more into battle.