Chapter 3

Making this quick. Sorry I had a longer thank you to everyone laid out, but my word docs decided to close. For a panicked sec I thought I lost this chapter. All hail words recover file feature.

Thanks all for the favorites, follows, and reviews. I'm thrilled everyone is going with me on this ride. See you in another two weeks.

"Wednesday Addams?" Ron's voice cracks. "You took an Addams as a lover?"

Ron, Hermione, and Harry sit at Gryffindor table in the middle of a war battered Great Hall. The room is filled with the chattering of the students, professors, and alumni who had volunteered to help restore the old building back to its former glory.

"Ronald, please." Hermione raises her right hand in silent supplication. The fingers quiver. She tries to stop the motion. She cannot. After affects, she knows of the cruciatus curse. One of Bellatrix Lestranges gifts to her.

Ron ignores the motion. He ignores the pale, wane version of the friend in front of him. Ignores the scattering of cuts and bruises both on her face, and no doubt, hiding beneath warm black wizard robes. The red-headed wizard jumps to his feet. The force of the motion causes the bench to screech across the stone floor. "No," Ron says. He shakes his head. Grips at his shaggy red hair.

For a single moment, Hermione, Harry, and Ron are frozen in place. Three friends bound by fear, death, and unquenchable need. The desire for something that none of them could quench. At least not with each other. Damaged…although Hermione and Ron's issues have ever been insidious, supple animals. Slinking, stalking, and scurrying between dark shadows. Fame. The desire to be seen. Love. A thirst for people not within reach.

As the moments tick by, the room falls silent. Heads turn. Curious, world wary, and heart sick minds and hearts who need a distraction. Any distraction from the not so distant massacre.

Ron releases his hair. He stares at his friend. Hair falling in sleek curls. Hallow cheeks. Stamps of sleepless nights under chocolate eyes. Ever shaking hands. His heart beats a rapid staccato in his chest. He's losing her. As surely as Harry lost his scar, he is losing her. "Hermione! You can't. The entire lot meddle with the dark arts."

Their audience buzz. Gossip slips from lips far too use to frowning.

Hermione tries to ignore the hundreds of eyes trained on her. She lowers her hand, and wraps her arms around her torso. "You don't understand." She looks away from Harry and Ron. She trains her eye on the Great Hall's open doors.

"Ron man. Com'n. Not here." Harry stands. He pulls at Ron's arm. He shoots Hermione a look. "This Wednesday can't be that bad." Harry glances between the pair. Hermione determinedly looks away. Ron shakes his head. He jerks his arm out of Harry's grasp.

Ron snorts. An inelegant, brutish sound that Hermione knows Wednesday will never make. "The entire lot is worse than the Malfoys."

"I don't care." The words escape Hermione's lips on a breathe. Each syllable is strangled. Ron and Harry lean in to hear. Her friends. Ron's, and Harry's to some extent, affection is entirely conditional. That damned broomstick. It had started there. No it had begun even further back. First year. Nightmare. Troll. The young, eager, friend starved little girl rejected by both boys. Hermione blinks. No tears, Hermione vows. Not over Ronald Weasley. Not when Bellatrix Lestrange still haunts her dreams. "Wednesday Addams sees me. In the way no one else has, Ronald Weasley."

"So you're just gunna spread your legs for her then, are ya?"

Hermione freezes. She hisses out a breathe. Hermione tightens her fingers around her sides. She doesn't flinch when her nails bite into her flesh faintly through her robes. Hermione is a brain, but in this moment words of defense escape her.

Ron's face is red by this point. It looks horrid next to his orange hair. "Must be why Bellatrix got you on your back so easily."

Hermione leans back. She flinches. Shuts out the memory of the woman's screeches. Her black nails. Her sour breath. Hermione cannot talk. All she can do is hold back the memory. Try to prevent herself from entering full flash back mode. Deep breaths, Hermione thinks.

Ronald is still talking. Harry's voice enters the fray. The boy's face off.

"That's enough ickle Ronnikins," Fred elbows his way through the small crowd of students. Brown eyes glint. "Enough."

Ron huffs. He turns and storms off. Harry looks between both of his oldest friends. Ron livid. Hermione pale and trembling. He pivoted like a pendulum between the two. Then he remembers Hermione taking his side in fourth year, Hermione remaining at his side throughout the last brutal night, Hermione protecting him at the Malfoys. Harry stays.

"My brother's a git," Fred says. The one eared man slips a hand in his faded muggle jeans.

Hermione nods. She laughs. She's relieved it only sounds a tad hysterical.

"He doesn't deserve you." Fred places a hand on Hermione's arm.

Pain speeds up her arm at the touch. She holds in a wince. She forces herself to remain for a moment before drawing away. Normal. She couldn't bear to receive pitty. Not from a Weasley. Even a delightful one. After a very long, very painful moment, Hermione draws away.

"I—what Ronald deserves or wants doesn't matter. I'm promised." Hermione shrugs.

Fred nods. No more needs to be said. And Hermione Jean Granger is too tired, too sore, and too heartsick to converse with anyone else. Harry escorts her to the Gryffindor tower. At the girl's staircase, he kisses her forehead. The sweat, brotherly action causes pain to resonate from the spot.

That night she dreams of a moon pale girl with eyes of black obsidian. Hermione can almost touch her. It gives her hope. The day of reunion is nigh.

The end...for now. :)