Hello everybody! It's Round 7 of the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition! This time I had to write about Arthur and Hermione - to my judge, the ship name is "Red & Brains", although in this case I've chosen familial/platonic/etc. Who doesn't love a little Arthur and Hermione in their day, right?! :D

HUGS EVERYONE! I'm hoping to have some more new writing coming your way in the next couple of weeks. Vacation time!


26 June 1998

It was a beautiful summer's day, almost a little too warm, considering how early in the morning it was. The garden of the Burrow, which had been in poor condition after the Death Eaters had come calling in March, was alive and well again. The heady, sweetish scent on the warm breeze combined with the pleasant, soft hum of insects' wings. As he strode across the garden, Arthur had the idea that it would be nicer working in the shed if he left the door open. He reached the door, preparing to unlock it, when he saw that it was already ajar.

Frowning, Arthur drew his wand and pushed open the door with his other hand. "Hello?"

There was a rustling noise from within. Had a gnome gotten in again? It wouldn't have been the first time, but then, that was why he had begun using magic on the lock… Then, to his surprise, he heard what sounded like a hearty sniff. He glanced back at the house; Molly was still in bed, where she had been for the last few days.

"Ginny?"

"No, Mr. Weasley—I'm sorry, it's me."

Arthur stepped into the shed and frowned as his eyes adjusted. "Hermione?" he asked.

She was standing beside his workbench, still in her dressing gown, which was much too big on her; she'd gotten very thin while she, Ron, and Harry were gone, and even the weeks they'd spent at Shell Cottage hadn't done very much to change that. Her hair, which she'd had to cut short after the ends had been badly burned in the fighting, was even bushier than usual, as though she'd just gotten out of bed.

"What are you doing out here?" he asked worriedly. "Are you all right?"

Hermione nodded, and tried to smile; it didn't reach her eyes, which were rather red. "I'm all right. I just—I wanted to take a walk, and—and I saw that the door was open, I thought you must have forgotten to lock it…" She trailed off as he looked at her. Hermione had many talents, Arthur knew, but lying had never really been among them.

"I'm sorry," she said at last, looking ashamed, "it was rude of me to come out here without asking…"

Arthur was surprised. "What? No, no," he insisted, "don't be sorry!" He smiled at her, trying to catch her eye so that she would look up from her own fingers, which she twisted anxiously. "It doesn't bother me a bit. I imagine you were looking for a little peace and quiet, is that it?" he asked.

She looked up and nodded. "I—I was having trouble sleeping."

"Me too," he told her honestly. She seemed a little taken aback by this. "I expect we aren't the only ones, are we?"

"No, I suppose not," said Hermione slowly.

"Well," said Arthur, giving her a smile as he approached his workbench and lifted up a box of Muggle tools, "my workshop is your workshop, Hermione. How can I help you today?"

"Oh, no, Mr. Weasley," she said, shaking her head. "That's all right. I probably ought to go inside, Ginny might want help with breakfast…" She faltered again and looked away, at one of the rather grimy windows of the shed.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Arthur asked quietly. "Whatever it is, I'm very glad to—"

Hermione made an odd sort of movement; it was partly a nod, and partly a shrug. She sat down on Arthur's workbench again. "What have you been working on?" she asked, her brown eyes wide as she looked at him, again trying very hard to smile. Arthur was reminded vividly of the first time he had ever met her, on the steps of Gringotts, when she was just twelve years old.

He considered her carefully for a moment. "Molly's wireless fell off the shelf in the sitting room," he told her. "Maybe you'd like to help me fix it?"

"All right," Hermione replied, nodding. "How can I help?"

Arthur opened his toolbox and set it on the top of the worktable, pulling forward a box that held the cracked casing and few stray pieces that had broken off of the wireless. He explained to Hermione what he thought needed to be done, and they set to work. Hermione seemed to relax as she worked; at the very least, she became chattier, and a little bit of color returned to her cheeks. They talked about some of Arthur's projects, the books Hermione was reading now, and carefully skirted anything that involved the pain of the last few weeks.

"What's under here, Mr. Weasley?" she asked, after about an hour or so. Arthur was trying to get the dented metal plating back onto the underside of the wireless, and Hermione had gotten up to look around the shed once more. She was now standing beside a stained canvas tarp that covered the remains of Sirius's flying motorbike.

"Oh," Arthur smiled. "Have a look for yourself."

Hermione lifted back the canvas, and gasped. "Oh, Mr. Weasley! How did you do it?"

"Well, I salvaged a lot of it from Ted Tonks, actually," he replied. "And I've been tinkering with it ever since. I thought it might be a good birthday present for Harry. I haven't got much more to do for it."

Hermione's hand rested on one of the handlebars. "He'll love it," she told him. Her expression became rather faraway and thoughtful.

"I think we've almost got this all set," Arthur told her, clearing his throat to draw her attention. He pointed at the wireless with his screwdriver.

"I can take it back inside for you," Hermione offered at once.

"There's no rush," he told her gently, and she looked embarrassed. She sat down on the bench again, and he could see the dark circles under her eyes, the sharp jut of her cheekbones beneath her skin. Suddenly, she didn't look very much like the little girl he remembered at all, and that seemed to put a constricting pain somewhere behind his ribs. There was a faint line of a scar on Hermione's throat; Arthur wondered where she'd gotten it.

"I'm sorry if I'm in the way," she said, looking down at her knees. "I really didn't mean to be out here so long. I just—I woke up today," she said, looking up at the ceiling, "and I remembered that it's my mum's birthday. She's turning fifty. Wherever she is."

Arthur turned his screwdriver slowly, securing the plate down, but kept his eyes on Hermione. When she didn't say anything more, he said, "You did something very brave, you know, sending them away. I know it wasn't easy."

Hermione nodded, and tears appeared in her eyes.

"It may not be what you want, but, just so you know…you have a home here, too, Hermione," he told her, and she met his gaze. "As long as you need it—as long as it takes to get them back here. And since it's you we're talking about, I don't think that'll be very long at all."

Hermione smiled weakly and sniffed. "I don't think they'll ever forgive me," she whispered. "And I wouldn't blame them."

"Oh, Hermione," Arthur sighed. He thought for a long moment and looked at her; her eyes were still swimming with tears. He looked down at the wireless set, still in his hands, and sighed again. "Speaking from experience, dear, there—there's very little that parents wouldn't forgive their children. It may take some time, and a little work…but the moment they see you—the moment they know you're alive and well, after all—" Arthur broke off, and gave Hermione a smile.

Then, suddenly, she was hugging him, and he hugged her back just as tightly. The shed was quiet for several minutes as he patted her back gently, and she hiccupped softly.

"Mr. Weasley," she said after a moment, drawing back. "I—I really appreciate everything—everything you've done for me. Not just this summer, but—well, always. And I'll always want to be around here, if you'll have me."

Arthur smiled and rubbed her shoulder. "You can't just stop being a Weasley, dear. I'm afraid we're a permanent affliction."

Hermione laughed and hugged him again.