Chapter 1: The Department of Mysteries
In her first three months working for the Department of Mysteries, Hermione had probably done more cleaning and organizing than she had in the rest of her twenty-two years combined. Not that she was slob by any means, but things at the Ministry had been... neglected.
Arthur Weasley and the rest of his department brought in a few large loads of boxes filled with artifacts every week. Artifacts deemed questionable were immediately sorted out and dealt with by the appropriate department. The rest were sent to a storeroom fitted with a massive extension charm. This particular storeroom also housed magical artifacts previously confiscated, found benign or useless, labeled, and catalogued by the old, hunched witch who had managed the storage facilities. Moira Trunkett had died two years ago in the very storeroom where Hermione sat staring dismally around her at the vast expanse of dusty boxes, two-story-high bookshelves, and hundreds, perhaps thousands of scrolls covered in tiny, illegible scrawl.
After Moira's death, what with the Ministry still in upheaval and uncertainty as all officials and Ministry workers were investigated for ties to Voldemort or the Death Eaters and any sympathies which had led them to assist the advancement of Dark Magic and blood purity measures within the Ministry, nobody had bothered to find a replacement for old Moira.
Once things had settled down in the Ministry and in the magical world in general, the state of the storeroom eventually became a problem. Even before Moira's demise, her system of organization was murky, at best. Apparently she had been able to make perfect sense of the organized chaos in storage, and could be counted on to find any item within a few minutes's time. The poor wizard who had been attempting to sort out the room in the interim before Hermione was hired had been highly dismayed to discover that the entire room was under a spell that prevented summoning charms from working. Most every part of the Ministry buildings were under such basic anti-theft charms, in fact.
While her task was not glamorous in the least, Hermione had taken pleasure in it at first. Then, as it became clear that she would not be given any interesting assignments for quite a long time, the small joy of setting things to right soon dimmed. She was glad to be able to tell Ron and Harry that she was not authorized to discuss her assignments with them, since there was absolutely nothing of interest to tell.
"Of course she'll never tell us anything interesting," Ron had lamented to Harry shortly after Hermione had landed the job.
"Honestly, Ron, there's nothing interesting to tell," she replied. "I have the lowest possible security clearance of anyone in the Department of Mysteries. The house-elves know more than I do, and they aren't even allowed in the offices, just the corridors and meeting rooms after hours."
"So, what do you do, then?" asked Ron.
Hermione sighed. "I can't say... but it's nothing exciting. I might try to transfer out to another department if I get the chance."
Thus far, she had spent weeks attempting to figure out Moira's cataloguing system, to no avail. She had started the mundane task of sorting the boxes left since Moira's passing, labeling artifacts and placing them in piles on the concrete floor. Most of it was junk. Some of the books held her interest and some of the newer Muggle odds and ends were foreign to her. Though it had been years since the war ended, she had not returned to the Muggle world or sought out her parents. She was terrified to find them only to discover that her memory charms were irreversible. The thing about messing with the memories of people, especially Muggles, was that the more often certain memories were targeted, the more likely the chance of permanent brain damage.
The charms on the storeroom also prevented her from levitating objects. The best she could do was lighten the weight of the boxes with a charm and stack a few of them in her arms. She spent most days crouched over boxes or schlepping them back and forth as she worked out her own system of organization.
On this particular day, Hermione was taking a break from her mind-numbing work, reading an old Charms text while eating her lunch. She could have gone to the break room (she was allowed in there, at least), or gone out for a bite with Margaret, the giggly secretary from the front office, but the book had caught her eye and she did not dare take it out of the room.
She was so engrossed in the text that a knock on the storeroom door startled her enough to drop the book and jump to her feet.
"Hermione?" called a nasally voice, belonging to her supervisor, Richard Goode. He opened the door and poked his head in.
"Yes?" she asked, walking toward him, heart pounding from the interruption.
"Have you taken a break today?" he asked. "I haven't seen you emerge at all from the storeroom, and I know how you tend to get... involved in your work."
"Oh! Yes, actually I'm eating my lunch at the moment."
"In here?" he asked incredulously.
"Well... yes," she said. "I, uh, didn't feel much like going out today."
He stepped around the door and surveyed the room, the stacks of artifacts, and finally, Hermione herself.
"Hermione, I appreciate that you've tackled this project with such, ah, determination... but you really should leave the room every now and then. We Department of Mysteries folk may be a bit strange, but we don't bite. You might enjoy some amount of, ah, social interaction during the workday, I daresay."
Hermione smiled and said, "I suppose that would be nice."
"You haven't found anything... interesting... have you?" he asked, rather seriously.
"Nothing but dusty old books and all sorts of Muggle odds and ends," she said.
"Well," he said, seeming unsure what else to say. "I'll leave you to it, but please do come out and reassure us you're still alive and breathing now and then."
"Will do," she said politely. He slipped out of the room and shut the door behind him. Sighing, she bent down to retrieve her book. As she straightened up, the label of a nearby box she had recently unearthed caught her eye.
Albus Dumbledore – Storage Requested – Sorted, it read.
"Dumbledore?" she whispered. What might he have sent to the Ministry and why? Obviously anything interesting would have already been removed, but she was compelled to pull the box out and lift the lid anyway.
There was not much left inside – just a few books, maps of the school, a pair of candlesticks featuring the school crest in raised relief, and an empty jewelry box covered in runes.
Beginning to feel very sad, Hermione picked up each item and turned it over in her hands. One of the books turned out to be a second copy of The Tales of Beetle the Bard, identical to the copy she now owned.
Hermione smiled as she wiped the dust off the cover. She began to thumb through the pages, memories from their year on the run surfacing in her mind. There was a metal bookmark left in the middle of the book and she pulled it out to get a better look at it.
It seemed to be made of silver, featured the outlines of a writhing mass of serpents at the top, and was inscribed with a poem. Hermione read it aloud with breathless interest:
"A man's virtue cannot be known
Lest he show it to the light
In death may his nature own
The living truth once kept from sight"
Below the poem were runes that said, "If you are alone, speak and believe, 'I trust Severus Snape.' "
"I trust Severus Snape," she said, her voice cracking. The bookmark emitted a short flash of light that caused Hermione to squint. Through her eyelashes, she saw a face take shape, made of light and dust from the air. It was the face of Albus Dumbledore.
"This is a message for Hermione Granger," it said. "In accordance with my will, my copy of 'The Tales of Beetle the Bard' now belongs to her. If you are not Miss Granger, kindly return this artifact to where you've found it. Miss Granger – Hermione, my dear – please find yourself a seat somewhere private where you won't be interrupted or overheard. When you are ready, press your thumb over the center of the circle on this bookmark."
A few minutes passed, during which Hermione scurried away to a secluded corner of the storeroom and cast Muffliato. She pressed her thumb down in the middle of the circle made by the mass of engraved snakes, and the metal warmed slightly under her touch.
"Very well, I trust we won't be overheard," said Dumbledore. "What I am about to reveal to you, Hermione, you must not tell anyone... especially Harry Potter."
Hermione felt tears well up in her eyes, as she anticipated what this vision of Dumbledore was about to tell her.
"I trust Severus Snape. Yes, even in death, even in death by his hand. There will come a time when Severus must speak to Harry. There is information that must be shared – but not until the time is right. When such a time comes, Hermione, do all that you can to assist Severus in this task. He will seek Harry out when it becomes necessary. Until then, my dear, only you can know that Severus is indeed still on our side."
The vision paused and seemed to stare straight into her soul, unblinking. Hermione was now crying in earnest.
"There is something else with which I must burden you, Hermione." Another long pause, and now Dumbledore seemed to be holding back his own tears.
"It is highly likely – practically certain – that Severus will not make it out of this war alive. This is one of my greatest regrets. You will... understand why... later."
Dumbledore stopped, removed his spectacles, and fiddled with them before returning them to his nose.
"You, my dear, are perhaps the only witch in the world I would entrust with such a request. I understand if you refuse it. The task is a dangerous one."
The vision of Dumbledore paused and sighed heavily.
"If Severus Snape dies, I would ask you, Hermione, to bring him back."
Another pause, seemingly designed to give Hermione a moment to digest that information.
"Not by any Dark means, no... I would never ask that of you, my dear. Dark magic wouldn't provide a true return to life in any case, as Tom has discovered. I'm afraid we will have to use Time, and only under certain circumstances will it be possible."
Hermione's breath caught in her chest. Surely he was not suggesting that...
"That all I can say at this time. Should this task become necessary, seek out my portrait for further counsel."
The bright vision dissipated in a smoky swirl, leaving only the dust in the air behind. Hermione's mind was reeling in confusion and excitement. How had she received the wrong copy of the book? She flipped through the pages, which were exactly as she remembered them down to the hallows symbol written in ink and a torn page near the back of the book.
"Someone made a replica," she breathed. "But why, if this one only ended up in a box in this wreck of a storage room?"
It was not the first time Hermione had wondered just how some of the valuable artifacts she occasionally came across while organizing the storage room had come to be there, forgotten. Surely someone would have wanted them for a museum or personal collection – but instead they sat in dusty boxes.
The mystery of the replica was pushed aside for the moment as Hermione started pacing the floor, still holding the book. She had to go to Hogwarts. She had to get to Dumbledore's portrait. She would have to keep McGonagall from asking questions, which meant she would have to get into her office without her knowledge.
Hermione finished out the day in a haze of anticipation, even though her logical side kept reminding her that anything Dumbledore might have wanted her to do involving Time was now impossible. Meddling with time farther back than a few hours was dangerous – anything more than a day would have far-reaching, impossible-to-predict consequences.
Still, she must know what message the portrait had for her. She clocked out for the day and returned home to her tiny flat, where Crookshanks was waiting impatiently on the arm of the couch.
"Yes, hello, Crooks," she greeted the Kneazle as she shut the door behind her. Crookshanks leapt from the couch and started twining through her legs, purring and twittering at her. On occasions when she came home late, he was standoffish and disgruntled for a few hours.
Dinner was takeout eaten over a book, her usual Thursday routine. Tomorrow night was dinner with Harry and Ginny. Saturday she would be at the library, where she usually spent her mornings before finding a spot for lunch in Diagon Alley. Ron was taking her out Saturday evening. Sunday evening she was invited to the Burrow for dinner. It was an open invitation, but Hermione went only once a week. She loved the Weasleys, but their chaotic home was overwhelming in large doses.
Hermione sat down at her desk and pulled out a bit of parchment, smoothing it unnecessarily with her palm before putting quill to paper.
I would like to schedule a meeting with you this week. Anytime after ten would be fine – my hours at the Ministry are flexible. I've come across something rather interesting in my work and would appreciate your expertise.
She sighed as she finished the note and set it aside. She would send it tomorrow on her way to work. One of these days it would be nice to have her own owl.
Hermione was distracted and apathetic all day at the Ministry, and spent most of her time searching for more items she suspected were not technically supposed to be in storage. By the time she left, she had a stack of ancient tomes and first edition texts – some of which were autographed, a charm bracelet that had a large golden heart in the middle with the initial T. L. S. engraved in curling script, a set of silver candlesticks with decorative bowls and trays, and an entire box full of yellowed scrolls covered in runes.
Moira Trunkett was not a simple storage manager, but a collector of rare and valuable artifacts and manuscripts. As far as Hermione could tell, there was nothing bewitched or otherwise magical in the trove, other than the bookmark Dumbledore had left for her. If she was not so eager to get to Hogwarts and investigate what Dumbledore had wanted her to do, Hermione would have been more motivated to find every last one of Moira's stolen items that day.
She left work a few minutes early and took a long, luxuriant bath before dressing and preparing to meet Harry and Ginny. Crookshanks knew her weekly routine and was in a mood since she would be leaving for the evening. Perhaps it was time to find a companion to entertain him while she was out.
This evening she was meeting Harry and Ginny at a new bar that had just opened in Diagon Alley, called The Fanged Pixie. One of Ginny's teammates was playing in the featured band that evening. Hermione arrived first and made sure to choose a seat in a dark corner as far away from the stage as possible.
Ginny and Harry found her ten minutes later and slid into the booth across from her.
"Sorry we're late," said Ginny, looking flushed. Harry hid a smile and studied his menu intently.
"Hey, Hermione," he said after a moment, grinning at her.
It would seem her friends were still firmly in the honeymoon period of their marriage, a year and a half later.
"This menu looks great!" exclaimed Ginny. "What are you having?" she asked.
"I haven't even looked yet," said Hermione. "I was... thinking. Let's see," she said, reaching for the beverage menu.
"Er, sort of," said Hermione, scanning the beer selection. She was not much of a drinker, mainly for budgetary reasons at the moment. She was saving up for an owl and a few nice things for her apartment.
"Do you still like working for the Ministry?" asked Harry, knowing very well that she was finding it increasingly dull.
"Overall, yes," said Hermione. "Though, I do hope there is something else for me there soon. What I'm doing now is... er, well, it doesn't give me any influence or insight into the way things are run."
Harry seemed to make a decision about his dinner, and folded the menu shut.
"Well, I'll be done Auror training at the end of the month. I can't wait for it to be official."
Hermione smiled and said, "I'm proud of you, Harry. You've done really well."
The waitress hurried over to take their orders. When she left, Ginny started looking around the room.
"I haven't seen Irene, have you?" she asked Harry, who shook his head.
Hermione decided it was time to address the elephant in the room.
"So, how's Ron been?" she asked. "I'm sure you've heard about... er, us."
"Yeah," said Harry softly. "It's great, Hermione. Really great. Molly and Arthur are so excited to see you again."
Ginny gave her a serious look and said, "Ron's happier than I've ever seen him, honestly."
Hermione smiled a little, blushing under their close attention.
"I'm sure it's a lot of pressure... but we're all happy you and Ron are back together."
"I'm happy, too," Hermione said, and she was – but her cautious optimism about the future of her relationship with Ron was nothing to the enthusiastic anticipation he so obviously felt about their upcoming date on Saturday evening.
"The past year has been hard for both of you," said Ginny sympathetically.
Hermione nodded and a short silence followed. She and Ron had gone their separate ways about six months after Harry and Ginny's wedding. It had been a terrible break-up, with Ron both furious at her and devastated when she insisted that she loved him but could no longer date him.
He had gotten it into his head that they would be married before the year was out, now that Harry and Ginny had tied the knot. Hermione had repeatedly warned him not to ask her, that she was not ready and would not be for a while, perhaps years. Ron had bought a ring and asked her to marry him less than a month after one such serious conversation, in which Hermione had clearly told him she did not want to marry young and would not be ready for children in the near future.
"What about what I want, Hermione? I love you! I want a family with you! I don't know what the Muggles are about, insisting that people wait until they're almost thirty to settle down... but that's not how magical folk do things."
"Ronald Weasley!" she had shouted, indignant. "It's not my being Muggleborn that's causing our problems! If you love me, you'll try to understand how I feel. I want time to build a career – I don't even know exactly what that career will be right now. There are so many options, so many things I want to do. We don't need to rush into marriage just because Harry and Ginny did!"
"So what you want is all that matters?" he said hotly.
"No... Ron, I want to get married, eventually. Why does it have to be now? We could get a flat – "
"I've told you, that not how wizards do things!" he shouted, throwing his hands up in exasperation.
"Ron. You've been staying over at least twice a week. Everyone, your parents included, know you are. Why must we pretend otherwise?"
He simply glared at her before storming off and slamming the door on his way out. It was not the first, nor the last, of similar arguments. Finally, Hermione had told him that she was done talking about it and that they should just put the argument aside for a while. If he had not agreed, she would have ended it then.
So it was inevitable, then, when he dropped to one knee and held a ring in her face a few weeks later, that she put an end to it all. It was causing her too much heartache to continue denying him what he apparently wanted above all else in life. Perhaps they were not meant to be together – they were very different sorts of people, after all.
Why was she trying it again with Ron, then? All that was logical and stubborn in her protested the decision, but it came down to the fact that she loved and missed the hot-headed, mushy-hearted, sincere young man who was just as stubborn as she was... and the fact that he showed up with flowers and a long, heartfelt apology after her first day of work at the Ministry.
He claimed he was done pressuring her to settle down. He promised he would consider moving in with her if all went well, even though it would upset his mother and the norms of the magical community. He could not live without her, he said with convincing conviction, a sentiment Hermione found charming if not overdramatic. After the initial shock of finding herself suddenly single, it had been sort of nice to only have to worry about herself. Her tendency to turn into a hermit, reading obsessively for days on end until Harry or Ginny came by to check that she was indeed still alive aside, single life in her own little flat with Crookshanks had been a surprisingly easy adjustment.
"Hermione?" Ginny's voice brought Hermione out of her reverie. The waitress was back with their drinks, and had apparently just asked her a question.
"I'm sorry?" she asked.
"We've just run out of the Centaur's Red Bow," she said apologetically. "Is there something else I can get for you instead?"
Hermione quickly picked another brew and the waitress apologized again for the inconvenience before leaving.
"Rotten luck," said Harry. "I suppose they've been busy opening week."
"Seems like it," said Hermione, watching two more large groups of people file inside. It had grown much warmer and louder in the past few minutes.
Ginny and Harry discussed Quidditch for the next half hour, mainly the Holyhead Harpies, which was Ginny's team, and their chances this year for the Cup. It was not looking good, apparently. Ginny was in the middle of giving a play-by-play of the last practice when Irene showed up and the two women made high-pitched noises of greeting before hugging.
"Do you have a minute to join us?" asked Ginny.
"Yeah, sure," said Irene. "Er, mind if I squeeze in beside, you..."
"Of course," said Hermione. "You must be Irene – nice to meet you."
"Sorry!" said Ginny. "I completely botched that introduction. Irene, this is Hermione Granger."
"The one and only!" said Irene. "It's an honor to meet you, Hermione."
Hermione smiled and thanked her. It had taken a while to get used to being a celebrity alongside Harry after the war.
"I can't stay long," said Irene. "We've got to go set up... how's life, Harry? I haven't seen you in a while. Are you a real Auror yet?"
"Just about," Harry replied, grinning. "How's your shoulder?"
"Ah, never been better!" said Irene, patting her left shoulder. "They patched me up right quick. I'll be back at it again tomorrow. Oh! That's my cue... gotta go!"
She jumped up and straightened her body-hugging ensemble.
"Wish me luck!" she said, and hurried off.
The rest of the evening was a loud blur of music and competing groups of voices. Hermione stayed for quite a while, even dancing with Ginny and some of her teammates. Harry hated dancing, but Ginny managed to get him out on the floor for a song.
When Hermione was ready to leave, long before Ginny, Harry offered to walk her home.
"I'm just going to Apparate, Harry," she said, "but thanks for offering."
"C'mon, Hermione... let's walk for a bit. I, uh, need some air," he said.
"Fine," she said, and Harry went to tell Ginny he'd be back. She responded by giving him a long, hard kiss and a tipsy grin.
"Okay," he said, returning to Hermione. "Let's go."
"So what's up, Harry?" Hermione asked once they were outside.
"Oh... nothing, really," he said. "I just wanted to escape the bar for a minute."
Hermione wasn't sure she believed him, but she nodded.
"What about you – you all right?" he asked.
"You mean, am I nervous about my date with Ron tomorrow?" asked Hermione. "Ah... no, not nervous. Just uncertain. I mean, he's said it's all behind us – but you know how Ron can hold a grudge. I want to believe him, but I can't help thinking it's not over."
"He seems to mean it," said Harry. "For what my opinion is worth. I think... I think he's realized being with you is more important to him than, er, anything else."
"I hope so, Harry," she said softly.
Harry stopped at the end of the block and watched her Apparate home. He looked so solemn just before the world blurred that she felt a pang rise in her chest. He had been almost as upset as Ron when he heard they had broken up.
Hermione uncharacteristically went straight to bed without reading a single page in her book. She was tired with the weight of anticipation and the exertion of spending a long evening out.
The next evening, she spent entirely too much time on her hair. The results were remarkable, though. She loved being able to easily run her fingers through it, something normally an impossibility. They were going out to a much nicer restaurant than Hermione was used to frequenting. She was wearing the dress robes she had bought for the Ministry's award ceremony and celebration following Harry's victory over Voldemort. It was a deep midnight blue garment that had a subtle, shimmering glow about it and hugged her waist and hips before billowing out and flowing like dark, shimmering water to the ground. It was nice to be able to wear it again, though she feared she might be somewhat over-dressed.
Hermione would have preferred a more sedate, simple reunion for their second first date, but Ron had been so excited about taking her out for a fancy evening that she had agreed without reservation at the time.
Pulling on her sensible flats underneath the dress, she searched her jewelry box for the heirloom diamond studs her mother and father had gifted her on her sixteenth birthday, willing herself not to dwell on the memory.
Ron was exactly on time, his familiar rap on the door coming at precisely 7 o'clock. Hermione squared her shoulders and opened the door with a smile.
He looked impressively dapper, she thought, her smile creeping wider. Ginny must have had a hand in his preparations for the evening.
"You look really nice," she said, as he started to speak. He laughed and blushed.
"Here," he said, holding a bouquet of roses out to her. "For the most beautiful witch in the world."
"Oh, Ron... thank you. Ah, just let me... go put them in some water." She lifted the flowers to her nose and inhaled, still smiling, as she led Ron inside.
"Your place is looking great," he said. "I like the – er – plants."
"Thanks," she said. "They're from Neville. He gets a wonderful discount at the greenhouse. He brought me all these plants, ones that were going to be thrown out that he nursed back to health."
"Ah, well that's... brilliant," said Ron. "I suppose you see him often? How is Neville? Haven't seen him since Harry's wedding myself."
Hermione gave him a look and said, "Neville is doing great. He's just started dating Hannah Abbott."
"Ah, right," said Ron, looking relieved.
"Well, shall we go?" she asked.
"Yes, wouldn't want to be late," said Ron, holding the door for her to walk out of the flat. They Apparated to Rebecca's Star, the finest dining available in Diagon Alley.
"Shouldn't be anybody we know in here," said Ron with a laugh.
"That doesn't mean we won't be recognized," she reminded him.
"True," he said, as they entered the restaurant.
They were seated in a quiet corner, thankfully away from any prying eyes. Hermione wondered if Ron had payed extra for that privilege. She was honestly wondering how he was paying for this extravagant date at all. Sure, living at home rent-free had it's perks, but Ron was still not through Auror training. In fact, much to his chagrin, he was behind Harry, who would start receiving full pay soon. Hermione knew for a fact that Ron had given nearly all of the money he'd been awarded after the war to George to get the shop back up and running.
It was then that Harry's quiet interest about the evening made sense - he must have financed it. Hermione was both touched and horrified by the thought.
They made it through dinner with sedate conversation and some bewilderment on Ron's part, who seemed to be following her lead when navigating the etiquette of fine wizarding dining. Hermione was actually thankful to Slughorn for teaching his prized students such things, even though she had not enjoyed being in the Slug Club at the time.
After dinner, Ron suggested they take a stroll through the park.
"What about the Muggles?" she asked. "We look a bit – over-dressed – not to mention our clothes would draw attention."
"Well," said Ron slyly, reaching into his pocket. "I thought we could use this."
He pulled out Harry's cloak.
"Just like old times at Hogwarts," he said.
"Or I could just Disillusion us," Hermione reminded him.
"What fun would that be?" he asked, grinning. "The fun part is trying to both fit under here now that we're not kids anymore."
She laughed and said, "Okay."
They huddled together and walked through the park until they found an empty bench. Hermione cast a few charms to ensure their privacy, and they sat down under the cloak together, arm-in-arm.
"I love you, Hermione," said Ron suddenly. He moved to take her hand, rubbing his thumb over the back of it.
Hermione was silent for a moment.
"I love you, too, Ron. I always have." She didn't know why that truth sent a wave of melancholy through her that evening.
Another silence. Ron shifted his legs a bit and turned toward her, his bright blue eyes shining with happiness.
"I understand," he said. "You need some time... but I have to tell you, I still want to marry you one day, Hermione Granger."
He kissed her, and Hermione's heart leapt as if it was the first time – which she was remembering at that moment. It was the tears that started pouring from her eyes that made no sense.
"Hermione?" Ron gave her a worried look. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, ah..." She wiped her eyes. "I was just remembering the first time we kissed."
"Oh," he said, looking confused. "Was it that bad?"
She laughed and said, "No. It was wonderful."
Ron was quiet.
"This was a really nice evening, Ron," she said.
"Are you still up for dinner at the Burrow tomorrow?" he asked. "Mum is expecting you."
"Yes, I'll come," she said, even though the thought of the overwhelming welcome that awaited her was daunting. There would be no taking it slow – the Weasley clan, Harry included, would expect the relationship to pick up where it left off.
She received an owl from Professor McGonagall Sunday morning, telling her to come to Hogwarts Monday after work, if it suited her. Hermione could barely contain her excitement throughout the day, and her mind was far from the celebratory dinner that night at the Burrow. It was not officially a celebration, but it was obvious that was Molly's intent. She even made Hermione's favorite dark chocolate cake for dessert.