Chapter Two: Alpha Nine Emergency
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Harry Potter and the Rights to Life
Alpha Nine Emergency
Ron, Ginny and Hermione sat quietly in the study at No 12 Grimmauld Place reflecting on the circumstances that had brought them to their current location.
It had been a warm summer at the Burrow, with endless days of azure blue skies, dotted with the occasional white fluffy cloud. The Weasley clan, being Molly, Arthur, Ron and Ginny, together with the visiting Hermione had been staying there, enjoying a 'summer of recuperation' as Molly had termed it following the events at the Department of Mysteries.
Molly had been distraught to hear of her children's misadventure to the DoM at the end of the previous school year. She had rushed to Hogwarts upon being informed that four of her children, she included without deliberation Harry and Hermione though they are not strictly of her blood, had been involved in an altercation with Death Eaters at the Ministry and that injuries had been incurred by Ron, Hermione and Ginny.
Harry she was told was not physically injured, however she was informed of the loss of Sirius, and knew that Harry would perhaps of all her children be the one in most pain.
She had lobbied Dumbledore to allow Harry to stay at the Burrow for the summer, however she had been met with the same response she was always left with when confronting the Supreme Mugwump on matters concerning Harry.
"For his own safety he must return to his relatives" he had said, his blue eyes twinkling away like muggle fairy lights on a Christmas tree "The blood protection his relationship with his Aunt provides is tantamount to his continued well-being".
Molly had ranted and raved at the aged Headmaster, but he would not budge an inch on his insistence that Harry be segregated and hidden away with his awful Muggle relatives. At one point during an Order meeting when again Molly had petitioned to be allowed to see 'her child' Arthur, in a fit of bravery not before seen in the Weasley household, was forced to put a Silencing Charm on his wife in order that the meeting might conclude.
Arthur had slept in his shed, surrounded by his plug collection and assorted batteries for a week after that.
The days had gone by as they tended to do from then on, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were excused from chores for the most part, Molly insisting that they needed to rest after such a trauma as the Department of Mysteries debacle.
She had noticed also the change in the relationship between her youngest son and one of his best friends. She couldn't have been happier for the pair as she'd seen how they'd masked their growing attraction to each other over the past year and a half with ever more explosive arguments between the two. She'd thought it sweet for a short time that they'd perpetuated this charade rather than admit to their feelings, however once her ears started to bleed she had quickly disavowed herself of that notion!
Another thing that had not escaped her notice was that Ginny appeared to be more aggressive than usual, storming off at random times, muttering to herself while throwing rocks at the gnomes in the garden and spending an inordinate amount of time on her broom, an old Cleansweep 7 gifted to her by Charlie, high above the Burrow.
It was during Sunday lunch when the wards were tripped. Molly had managed to coax the majority of her brood to the gathering, except for Percy of course, who had not yet decided to apologise to his family and had not been invited. Bill was back in Egypt working for Gringotts, the Wizarding Bank run by the Goblins and Charlie was still in Romania as he could not get time enough off to attend.
There was laughter and bright smiles all round the table as Ron and Hermione sat side by side, each eating from their plates with one hand while the other two were 'otherwise engaged' under the table. Fred and George were regaling their Father with the tale of their adventure into Muggle London and trying and failing to explain to him how a cinema worked, both having ventured out to see a film with their girlfriends Angelina Johnson and Katie Bell the week before.
Molly was of course, fussing over her family, making sure each dish of food made the rounds of everyone at the table, watching with a wistful expression as her husband and children tucked in with gusto to everything she had prepared for them.
Molly's happy countenance faltered when her eyes landed on her youngest child, Ginny, sitting quietly between George and Arthur, eyes downcast and a blank masked expression on her face. Despite what most thought of her, Molly Weasley was not unintelligent. She understood that at times her love for her family overrode her better judgement leaving her prone to coddling, however seeing her children in pain, especially the youngest and her only daughter was not something she enjoyed.
There was nothing to be done about it however, Ginny was just as stubborn as any of the male Weasleys, if she was not prepared to divulge what was bothering her and making her moody then no one would be able to pry the information from her short of pinning her down and using legilimency on her.
It was as the family was finishing off the treacle tart Molly had prepared for them that the first inkling of something being amiss was recognised.
Fred was in conversation with Hermione about the latest review of the improved Wolfsbane Potion in 'Potions Weekly' - a magazine to which both subscribed, one as a necessity when creating pranks, and the other because it was good for 'light reading' when no books were to hand.
Hermione had just commented that the added Belladonna would only be effective if it was released in conjunction with the Monkshood rather than after the Asphodel powder dispersed, when her attention was drawn away from the conversation by a slight whirring noise from the wall opposite her.
Looking up Hermione gazed upon the Weasley Family Clock, upon which now stood both her own picture and that of Harry (currently set to 'In Captivity' at Molly's' request).
With a start, Hermione realised that the pictures that would normally have been stationery and 'At Home' were on the move, rotating slowly in a clockwise direction before finally coming to rest some 20 seconds later on 'Mortal Danger'.
With a shriek, Hermione's hand shot out to grip hold of Fred's forearm, hard. Fred winced at the unusual turn the conversation had taken before beginning to say
"You know Hermione, if you don't agree with my point of view it's no reason to get violent!"
Wordlessly Hermione gestured in the general direction of the clock, Fred's gaze swept upwards and his jovial attitude slipped in an instant to be replaced by something no one, especially Hermione could have expected, an heir of authority.
"Dad, Alpha Nine emergency", Fred hollered in the direction of the living room where his Father had retreated to tinker with the 4-plug extension cord Hermione had brought to add to his collection. Ignoring the flabbergasted expression on Hermione's face, Fred was up and moving to meet with George and Arthur who had both moved into flanking positions at the fireplace.
"OK everyone, the wards have been tripped" announced Arthur to the perplexed crowd that had congregated in the living room. At that proclamation Molly leapt into action, heading to the pantry and returning a moment later with two picnic baskets and a trunk which she passed to George.
Without a word, George turned sharply to the fireplace balancing the picnic baskets on the trunk, threw down a pinch of Floo Powder that Hermione hadn't realised he was in possession of, and disappeared with the words "Number 12 Grimmauld Place".
Returning her attention to Arthur, and at last regaining the use of her voice, Hermione asked,
"Mr Weasley what is going on?"
Arthur turned to the with the pot of Floo Powder in his hands, his eyes betraying a sense of urgency. Without speaking Hermione reached into the proffered pot and with a single motion, snatched hold of Ron's hand and pulled both of them into the fireplace to follow George.
And so it was that wordlessly and with a minimum of fuss, the Weasley Family abandoned the Burrow in favour of Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Subsequent checks by Bill (who had returned from Egypt) and by Arthur himself, had determined that the wards had intercepted a dark curse, however they had withstood the barrage long enough to delay the attackers and allow the Weasleys to escape.
Neither Arthur or Molly felt it wise to return to the Burrow so soon however, and made arrangements to settle into Grimmauld Place for the foreseeable future.
Ginny and Hermione sat side by side with their feet tucked underneath them on the two person love seat that they had dragged over in front of the fire crackling merrily in the hearth-- a stark contrast to the oppressive air that pervaded the property.
Ron sat on the floor, propped up against the love seat between the two girls, his Chudley Cannons book lay forgotten on his lap as he stared unblinking into the fire.
Finally, Ginny broke the tense silence.
"I wonder if Harry got our letter yet?" said Ginny, not turning towards either of her two companions, her gaze, like Ron's fixed on the flames of the fire.
Hedwig had arrived the day before with Harry's note for Mad-Eye Moody, the old ex-Auror and member of Dumbledore's 'Order of the Phoenix' and the trio had snagged her before she could leave in order to send a letter back to her Master.
"I'm sure he's fine" replied Hermione distractedly her reply answering the unspoken question of her friend. Hermione's Ancient Runes book sat propped on her lap but if she was honest she had not read more than a paragraph in the last hour, her thoughts were fixed on her two best friends, one at the Dursley's no doubt blaming himself the the events at the Department of Mysteries and the other sat in front of her- the side of his face illuminated by the glow of the fire.
With a huff of exclamation Ginny threw down her Potions textbook and made to stand up -- "I'm going to see Buckbeak" she announced as she straightened her t-shirt which had ridden up exposing the alabaster skin of her stomach, and with that she strode out of the room, the door clicking softly behind her.
Ron sat still staring at the flames, no outward sign visible of his having heard the exchange between the two...
"Ron?" asked Hermione running her hand through his now shoulder-length hair from behind, she couldn't get over how soft his hair felt as it cascaded through her fingers.
"Hmm?" replied Ron as his eyes slipped closed and he unconsciously leaned into Hermione's hand clearly enjoying the sensation. After a moment-- with his eyes still closed, and a purr worthy of Crookshanks-- he continued "What's on your mind 'Mione?"
Since the Department of Mysteries and the battle with the Death Eaters Ron had taken the initiative and had finally told Hermione how he felt about her. She had woken in a private room at St Mungo's to find him sitting in the chair beside her bed holding her hand while silent tears tracked down his face...
"Ron what's wrong? Don't cry" she said, her voice distant and airy much like Luna's although Hermione's was induced by several different painkilling potions. She made to sit up, but found her limbs unresponsive and like cooked spaghetti and she collapsed back down to the mattress with an 'oomph' which drew Ron from his revelry.
"Mione" he began-- tears still streaking down his face as he jumped up from the chair to make sure she was alright-- "I-I'm s-s-so s-s-orry 'Mione" and he broke down completely laying his head on her stomach weeping uncontrollably.
Hermione managed to bring one hand up to rest on the back of Ron's head as he continued to cry and she lay stroking her fingers through his hair until he had gotten his tears under control.
Ron raised his head from her stomach turning his red rimmed eyes to her-- "I just can't stand the-the thought of losing-oh God, of losing you. It ma-makes my chest clench and it gets hard to breathe and-
Hermione's heart soared at the hidden implications -- "Shhh... Ron it'll all be OK" she whispered, her voice nothing more than a croak through lack of use.
"N-no it won't be o-OK, I almost l-lost you 'Mione and I never told you - I never told you--" Ron broke off from his speech not because he didn't want to continue, but because the sobs were causing him to hyperventilate.
"You never told me what Ron? What's wrong? Please tell me." she pleaded with him, silently praying that his response would be what she hoped it would-- blinking owlishly she fought against the potions in her system trying to force her to fall asleep.
"I-- I" Ron stuttered, the implications of what Hermione had just asked him setting in. For the briefest moment true terror flashed across his features, only to be replaced almost as quickly by determined resolve. "IneverhadthegutstosayIloveyou" he spouted quickly, the tips of his ears rapidly progressing to match the colour of his hair.
Hermione's brow knitted together in concentration as she tried to puzzle out what Ron had apparently just said, the fact that her head felt like it was packed with cotton wool not helping-- she could have sworn that he'd said he loved her-- 'He doesn't love me' - she thought to herself 'he can't love me'.
"Ron-- what?" she said, confusion winning out. Ron, still tinged pink took a deep steadying breath and said "I love you 'Mione' not daring to meet her eyes. Hermione tapped the back of his hand to draw his attention back to her.
He looked up sheepishly expecting her to look appalled and disgusted with him-- instead Hermione gave Ron a dazed smile as she laid her head back on the pillow -- "Love y'too Ron" she mumbled as the potions finally took hold and she fell into a deep slumber.
Since that day at St Mungo's Ron and Hermione had progressed from their already close friendship to the beginnings of a romantic relationship. They had told Ginny of their involvement as soon as the trio arrived at the Burrow and Ginny couldn't be happier for the pair-- though she realised that she would be spending a larger proportion of her time by herself now than she would have before.
"Does this mean that you'll stop squabbling so much?" she had asked hopefully causing Ron and Hermione to look at each other before breaking down and laughing.
Gathering up her courage, Hermione posed the question that she had been wanting to ask ever since she had originally arrived at the Burrow some 4 days earlier. "What's it like?" she whispered softly, not wanting to ruin the moment the two were sharing.
Ron opened his eyes and tilted his head back further in order to look at Hermione-- he saw in her face a genuine curiosity and smiled at her- his bookworm.
"What's what like love?" -- Hermione's breath hitched at the term of endearment and a blush crept over her features.
"What is it like-- after the-- after the brains?", asked Hermione with no small amount of trepidation.
Ron immediately tensed and sat straighter again, causing Hermione's hand to slip out of his hair and fall listlessly to her side. He turned once more to face the fire, his eyes dull and glazed. In a monotone voice he said,
"It's strange. I can look at a book that I've never read before, for example your Arithmancy textbook, I can pick any chapter I want and before I've finished reading it I'll know exactly what it says-- I'll know what all the other chapters say too-- but I never knew before I started reading what any of it meant at all. It's thrilling and amazing and immensely frightening all at once".
Hermione sat listening intently as Ron continued without pause -
"I have all this information available, but it doesn't feel like my brain anymore. It's like someone else is in there- several someone's actually, it stings something awful- and every time something new comes up, it's like a little part of me is lost. I'll never get the chance to learn anything new, because the brains will have done it first and I'll remember, I'll always remember..."
Ron trailed off, his eyes glistening with unshed tears as he stared determinedly ahead of him -
"I'm scared 'Mione, really scared that one day, I'll wake up and I-I won't be me anymore."
Hermione shifted slightly on the couch, placing one leg either side of Ron, while still sitting on the love seat.
Without saying a word, she silently wrapped her arms around Ron's shoulders from behind. She would help Ron to cope - she would help him and she would save him if necessary. Her Ron.
Hermione leant down, her lips gently grazing Ron's right ear as she whispered
"You'll always be Ron Weasley, whether now or before the brains. You will always be courageous, brave, sweet, loyal... my Ron... don't ever doubt that".
She tightened her grip around his shoulders and snuggled into him from her position on the couch...
"No matter what you do or what you know, you'll always be my friend - I love you".