Monster A/N- I just (as in 25 minutes ago) finished HBP. Needless to say, I'm in a bit of a daze... This chapter took FOREVER, mainly because I had a good portion written and things kept coming up (like canon! I had to reread everythingto make sure I didn't miss anything!)and ugh... So, finally here it is. And thanks to and MrsHarryPotter12for their insight.

Chapter Three Over

Ron's hands were shaking the moment he stepped into the conference room. He had met Georgette in the hotel lobby, and she had explained everything that was going to be happening at the prosecutor's office. First, the prosecutor would tell them all the strong points of their case, then Georgette would rattle off the weaker points and then the prosecutor would offer a deal. He was sure Ginny wouldn't approve of any deal, so he was trying not to get his hopes up for a quick end to the case.

The conference room was bright; the sun was cheerfully shining through the open windows and a slight breeze ruffled the papers on the long table in the centre of the room. The prosecutor, Nick Gates, was sitting on one side and a crooked nosed, blonde woman sat next to him. Georgette took a seat on the opposite side of the table; motioning for Ron to follow suit. "To what do we owe this pleasure, Mr. Gates?" Georgette asked, extending her hand.

He shook it, his face grave. "I didn't realize there was another attorney on the case," he admitted, looking at Ron curiously. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Weasley," he said, also extending his hand to Ron.

The blonde extended her hand and smiled. "I'm Heidi Jennings, the second chair," she told Ron before giving Georgette a quick nod. Georgette rolled her eyes.

Ron looked briefly towards Georgette, who nodded curtly. Ron turned back towards Gates and shook his hand before shaking Heidi's. After he let go, Ron folded his hands in his lap. Georgette pushed a wet towelette towards him, under the table and smiled at the curious expression on his face. She pushed it into his hands and looked back at Gates. "Let's get one thing straight. This case should have never gone to court six years ago, and I was strictly instructed by my client's solicitor to not accept anything more than parole."

"Ms…," Gates asked, his sentence trailing off when he realized he didn't know her name.

"Heath," she replied. "Georgette Heath."

"Ms Heath," he continued, fixing a steely gaze on her. "I resent that implication. We proved your client guilty once, we can do it again. The only offer on the table is murder two, fifteen to twenty five years. A chance for parole may be granted after five."

"No." Georgette stood, motioning for Ron to stand as well. "If that's the best you can do, I think we're done here."

"Wait," the blonde said, casting Gates a desperate look. "Manslaughter one, five to ten years, possibility of parole after three years."

Georgette didn't hesitate. "No. What part of parole don't you people understand?"

"You do realize," Gates said, a tone of desperation in his voice. "After we go into court, all these deals are off the table. When he's convicted, we're going to ask for the maximum punishment, life in prison."

"You do that," Georgette replied, setting her briefcase on the table and pulling a packet of papers out. She handed the packet to Gates and smiled. "Before I forget, this is a motion to suppress all statements given to the last persecutor, excuse me, prosecutor by my client six years ago."

"On what grounds?" Gates shouted, his face flushing pink. He began to flip through the packet quickly, his eyes scanning the papers. "Those statements were given-"

"After he specifically asked for an attorney and didn't get one," Georgette finished, flashing him a wider smile.

"His sister was present!"

"Yes, but at the time she wasn't a law student; she was in Healer training at St Mungo's, making her a resident, not versed in the fine art of law. And, quite frankly, if that's the best defensive argument you have for this, I can't wait to see you in court." She smiled at Ron, whose hand was still clutching the wet towelette. "Ron, I believe we have business elsewhere." She motioned towards the door and winked, earning a bit of a smile from the solemn looking Weasley.

Ron walked out first, holding the door for the older woman. As they walked down the hallway, questions began to flood his mind. As they stepped into the elevator, Georgette turned to him. "Confused?" she asked, setting her briefcase on the floor and bending down to unlace her heels. She stood back up straight and held them in her hand. "I know this isn't how you wanted to spend your days out of Azkaban."

"What was with the wet thing?" he asked, looking down at the limp cloth in his hand.

Georgette laughed. "Prosecutors have slippery palms, so I always keep a couple of those in my pocket incase I have to shake their hands, and I always pass it on to the client. It's something I've been doing since I was a rookie. They're like a good luck charm, if you will." She pulled several more packets of them out of her pocket and showed them to him. "Did you have any questions about what we were talking about back there? I don't want you going into court and not understanding what's happening."

"What was in the packet you gave him?" he asked, his curiosity getting the better of him. He had awoke in a foul mood, his dreams being plagued by Hermione's memory. He couldn't remember much from the dreams, but he just knew they had Hermione in them. During the entire meeting, he hadn't really been paying much attention, only catching the occasional word as he battled his memory for parts of the dreams. When Georgette stood, he hadn't understood the meaning of the words she and Gates had exchanged.

"It's what's called a motion," she began, taking the towelette out of his hand and dropping it into the waste bin in the corner of the elevator. "It's an official document that asks the court for something. The motion I gave him was one to suppress the statements you gave to the Aurors after you were brought in for questioning. Your sister and I read the transcripts, and when you asked for a lawyer, they should have stopped the questioning and gotten you one. By not doing what they were required to do by law, they invaded your personal rights, so everything you said after you asked for a lawyer isn't admissible in court."

"So that's a good thing?" Ron asked.

"Yes. In your statements, you admitted to seeing the victim and not liking him, you admitted to having steak at dinner, therefore giving you access to the knife. If Ginevra decides to keep you off the stand, the prosecution will have a harder time proving access, motive and opportunity, which works in our favor. Anything else you were confused on?"

"Not really," he admitted, shaking his head. Ginny had told him everything that was supposed to go on in the meeting today, and it had happened pretty much like she said it would, or at least what he'd paid attention to had. She hadn't had time to explain everything, she'd just told him to ask Georgette.

Georgette quickly put her shoes back on before the elevator's buzzer went off as they reached the ground floor. The moment the doors swished open, they were blinded by photographers' camera flashes. Reporters were shouting questions, pushing recording quills into their faces, hopefully awaiting answers. Georgette grabbed Ron's sleeve, dragging him through the ocean of reporters.

"Mr. Weasley! How does it feel to finally be free?"

"Mr. Weasley! How confident in your attorney do you feel?"

"Do you have anything to say about your conviction before?"

"What are your chances for getting acquitted?"

"What was Azkaban like?"

The questions began to swirl in his head, and he blindly followed Georgette through the masses. They reached the street, and she moved to stand in front of Ron. "My client has no comment on anything. Good day!" She had to shout in order for her voice to rise above the clamor of clicking cameras and nosy reporters' voices. "Ron!" she whispered urgently, tugging on the lapel of his robes. "Flag a cab, we're not getting away from them without one." She handed him her wand, motioning for him to hold it up.

Ron obliged, sticking the wand in the air in order to flag one of the cabs whizzing by. One stopped, Merlin's Quickie Cab written in red paint on the side. He opened the door, letting out a grunt of surprise when he was roughly pushed in from behind. Georgette quickly followed, slamming the door fiercely. The cab shook for a moment, and the cabbie looked back. "Don't slam the door so!" he shouted, glaring at Georgette.

"Sorry," she replied lamely, rolling her eyes. "Take us to Hogsmede, kind sir. And could you step on it? I have an appointment with the bottle of firewhiskey in my desk drawer and I don't want to miss it."

The cabbie grumbled before speeding off. Ron reached out to grab the hook, but after a hard turn, he found himself clutching the door handle. The cab lurched, and Georgette and Ron began swearing when the seat bounced them in the air. As the cab screeched to a slamming halt, Ron's door flung open. When the cab finally stopped with a loud pop, Ron fell out, landing on the hard pavement with a muffled thump.

Georgette laughed, throwing the cabbie what was left in her pockets. "Hey! You still owe me six knuts!" he shouted, pointing at the fare meter. Georgette dug around in her bag and tossed him a galleon.

"My next ride is free," she told him, slamming the door. He shouted at them, but by the time Georgette helped Ron to his feet, the cab had sped away, leaving an angry cloud of smoke as it continued to pop and groan down the street. "Cabbies," she said after a period of silence. "They just make you want to drink, don't they? That's Mickey, I think he's from New York."

Ron forced out a chuckle, brushing the dirt off the sleeve of his dress robes. "Do you mind having company during that appointment with the whiskey?" he asked. Today's events were beginning to put a load on him, and a drink was just the thing he thought he needed.

Georgette smiled and put her arm around his shoulder, steering him towards her office. "I think I'm going to like you."

XxX

Ginny pulled another pair of robes off and sighed. She couldn't find anything that made her look like a professional, and she couldn't afford to look like she didn't know what she was doing. She laid her head against the cool mirror and sighed, trying to muster up the courage to try on the next set of robes.

"Ginny?"

Harry was standing outside the cubicle, knocking on the door. Somehow, she had roped him into going with her, and she had forgotten he was sitting out there. "Yes?" she replied, wrapping her arms around herself.

"Are you all right?" he asked, putting his ear against the door. "I haven't seen you in awhile and I just wanted to make sure you were okay." The truth was he was getting extremely bored, just sitting out there, but he knew she was having a hard time finding a nice pair, so he didn't want to say anything that would upset her more.

Ginny sighed, grabbing the last set. "I'm okay," she replied, sighing heavily. "I just wish Mum hadn't given me her hips." She pulled them on, snapping the front snaps before turning around and inspecting herself.

This was the first set that didn't immediately draw all the attention to her hips, and they were just the right length. She turned around to inspect the back, and when she was satisfied, she opened the dressing room door and stepped out.

When Harry heard the door open, he reluctantly set his magazine down. If this one was anything like the others, she'd end up practically in tears. She had become very shapely, he had realized as he watched her try on the various sets. He still wasn't quite sure why she was so upset with every pair; he had thought she looked pretty good in everything.

He looked up, and as his eyes traveled her body, he realized this was probably the best set she'd tried on yet, mostly because she wasn't in tears. They were one of the most interesting shades of dark green he'd ever seen, and they weren't too long, like almost all the others had been. She smiled at him when his eyes finally met hers, and she turned around slowly to give him a view from all angles. There was no doubt in his mind that these were the best yet. They made her backside look amazing.

He shook his head quickly, before she could notice that his gaze had been on her arse. When she was facing him again, he nodded his approval and she floated back into the dressing room to change. Harry collected the bags they'd accumulated from the various shops in Diagon Alley, and once she stepped out of the dressing room, they walked towards the front of the store to pay.

As Ginny rounded the corner, cautious not to trip and fall into the rack of Muggle clothes display, she bumped into a petite brunette woman. "Bloody Merlin!" Ginny mumbled, grabbing onto Harry's arm as she steadied herself. "Are you all right miss?" she asked upon regaining her breath.

Hermione looked up, surprised to hear a familiar voice. "Ginny?" she whispered, her voice cracking with surprise.

Ginny's eyes hardened at the sound of her name, and Harry's mouth fell open. He knew this wasn't going to be a happy reunion, especially since Ginny had sent Hermione a letter about the retrial and Hermione had basically told her that wasn't a part of her life anymore. Harry read between the lines, realizing that seeing Ron again would just reopen old wounds, but he had been hurt by her dismissal attitude towards what was the biggest thing to ever happen to the Weasley family. While he was hurt, Ginny had been enraged. After receiving Hermione's letter, Ginny had cut Hermione out of all the pictures from her years at Hogwarts in a fit of rage. In between the swearing and tears, she had denounced Hermione as a friend and swore she'd never speak to her again.

"Hermione," Ginny said coldly, letting go of Harry's arm and smiling grimly. "Or should I say Helen? Tell me, how's your carefree life in Ireland coming along? Is what's-his-name a good shag?" Her voice had taken on a hollow quality, and her eyes had hardened considerably.

Hermione's eyes widened at the harsh tone her old friend had used. She hadn't expected this type of greeting, especially not from Ginny. Then she remembered the letter she had sent the redhead four months ago. "Ginny, I can--"

Ginny laughed hollowly, backing away from Hermione. Her eyes glistened with unshed tears, and as her face twisted in anger, a stray one found its way down her cheek. "What? Explain? Maybe you haven't noticed, but I stopped giving a damn about everything except my friends and family the day that verdict passed, unlike you. I don't care what you've been up to, who you happen to be living with or how fabulous your new life without complications like us is going. I really don't care, because I've come to terms with the fact that you don't care. Hell, you probably never cared. Why don't you go back to your Irishman and leave us alone?" Ginny's left foot snagged against the fabric of a dress and she fell into a rack of robes. The crash echoed through the store, attracting the attention of everyone who wasn't already staring at the two women.

Harry dropped the bags and rushed to her side; helping her to her feet as she struggled to keep her emotions in check. Hermione's eyes flooded with tears, and she stood rooted to the spot. Harry threw her an apologetic look before looking back at Ginny. Her head was down, hiding her face. Harry placed a hand on her back before looking back at Hermione. Leaky Cauldron, he mouthed, motioning his head towards the door. Hermione nodded, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Ginny looked up just in time to see the pain in Hermione's eyes. A tear coursed down her cheek, but her look of remorse was soon replaced with a grim, almost smug smile. "Now you know what it feels like," she whispered hoarsely, her voice breaking, "To realize that the one person you always thought you could trust with everything is a fake." She looked over at Harry and nodded, brushing the tears from her eyes and taking a deep breath. She'd promised herself a long time ago that Hermione Granger would never, ever get the last laugh when it came to their broken friendship.

Harry picked up the bags and walked away with Ginny, looking back a final time at his old friend. While he felt bad about leaving her crying, a small part of him felt it was only fair. She'd left without a word, and Harry had always felt that she'd just taken the easy way out without considering what it would do to the people she left behind. It doesn't matter, his conscience told him, you'll talk to her tonight. Maybe after that you can forget about her once and for all.

XxX

"The nerve of her!" Ginny exclaimed, pushing her way into the office building where Georgette and Ron were supposed to meet them. "I mean, I can't believe after all the shit she put us through she just shows up and expects us to forgive her! Just who the hell does she think she is?" Ginny's face was almost purple with rage, and as they reached the elevators going up to the seventh floor, she punched the button furiously.

"I know," Harry replied, trying to keep listening to Ginny's rant. Hermione's return had been unplanned, but Harry had almost been glad to see her. She'd been in the back of his mind since he received the letter she'd sent him four months ago. Ginny had rushed in before he could read it, shoving the letter she'd sent her in his face. The words written on the paper were a blur now, but he'd gotten the general gist of the letter: I don't want to see you ever again.

He hadn't opened the one she had sent him; he couldn't bring himself to face the fact she wasn't the Hermione he'd met on the train. He was positive his letter said something like what was said in Ginny's, and he almost felt better not knowing she thought he and his friends were burdens. This way, he'd always remember her for the girl she used to be.

Even with everything that had happened and everything she had done, Harry couldn't bring himself to hate her. She had been one of the first friends he had made at Hogwarts, she had always tried to keep him out of trouble no matter what he did and underneath her bossy and sometimes annoying exterior, he knew she really cared for him. Reading her letter and seeing in her handwriting that she hated him would crash his fragile memories of her, and right now that was something he didn't need. She was his last link to the happier times in his life, and he didn't want to lose them.

He looked down, not wanting to meet Ginny's eyes. She was still huffing, but now she was mumbling her thoughts to herself. He caught every other word, but by the tone of her whispered voice, he could tell they weren't words meant to betray happy feelings. Feeling a sharp pain in his lower arm, he looked down and realized Ginny had been clutching his wrist so hard, she'd drawn blood.

"Shit! I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed, unlacing her long fingers from around his wrist. Four nail marks were oozing blood from the thin flesh of his wrist, and his skin was quickly turning red. "Oh Merlin, Harry I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," Harry told her, wincing as he moved his wrist a bit. She pulled out her wand and tapped it against his skin, muttering a healing spell. "Thanks," he said, watching as the small cuts faded. After a few moments the red spots disappeared, and you couldn't tell anything had ever been there.

Ginny gently ran her fingers over the now invisible spots, making goose bumps appear on his skin. "Bad habit," she mumbled, turning her hand over and showing him four small scars on the inside of her left palm. "I do it all the time."

They looked up at the same moment, and as their eyes locked, he found himself closer to her than he'd ever been before. His eyes drifted to her lips, and just as she leaned forward ever so slightly, the elevator doors swept open.

He could feel the heat radiating off her cheeks as they both straightened up and avoided the other's eyes. Close, Harry thought, following her out of the elevator. He was careful not to let his eyes slip down her back. You're over her.

>>>>

To eckles: Hermione's reaction may sound odd, but that's the great thing about the human element. We're unpredictable and we don't make sense. Everyone copes differently, and while Hermione's reaction may be strange, it's not unreasonable. Thanks for the review!

More thanks to: hermione2, Ever in the Shadows, secretspells311, MissHogwarts1125, MIDNIGHT-PIXIE, ilikechicken, Pia, Vanessa-Black and Zabini, hplovesme, Marauder Angel, Beauty-Eclipsed, japanese-jew, Wytil and Quillian. To all of you: Most of your questions I can't answer without coming out and saying it. Just use your imaginations, and I'll tell you if you're right at the end...