Title: Second Time Around
Chapter - ONE
Chapter title: Set up the Board - or - I Found Him
Category: AU, alternate universe …PGFH Post Graduation from Hogwarts
Word count: 7009
Pairings: HP-HG, CC-OQ, HP-GW and RW-HG (note the order, its important)
(This is not actually an HP-HG ship)
Warning (one): Unbridled butchery of the King's English is a common facet of this writer's modis operendi and it is only due to the extreme patience and understanding of my beta-readers who have made it possible for this tale to be at least, a bit readable. All praise to Harry Potter beta-readers worldwide who make fan-fiction written by amateurs enjoyable.
Warning (two): The tale you are about to read is not at all flattering to the chosen one, or the bushy-haired…know-it-all member of the Hogwarts trio. Modern Hero's are not perfect demi-God's, they are more often than not just human beings with real flaws. If you can accept this premise by all means read on.
Author's disclaimer: This story is based in the world created by J. K. Rowling, she owns all legal rights to the characters, setting, etc. - I am merely borrowing the contents of the JKR world for my own amusement and that of my readers. In other words…her characters…my plot…savvy?
Summary: It is said that; "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". What if this old saying was applied to Harry and Hermione? What if, in an attempt to protect Ron and Ginny from the Death Eaters, Harry and Hermione had concocted a plan which although successful, utterly destroys the loving relationships just starting to blossom with the two Weasley's they both adored. Can a happy ending result when "No good deed goes unpunished"?
And so it begins with: De-prolog part. You know the boring…background stuff.
Near the end of his sixth year at Hogwarts, Ron, after breaking up with Lavender finally confessed to Hermione that he loved her and they began to openly date. It felt too good to be true for Ron and the fates regretfully agreed, because just one day after Dumbledore's funeral their intervention occurred. Ginny, now suddenly single again, after breaking up with Harry the day before, and Ron, her thick-about-girls brother, along with about ten or twelve - sixth year students…accidentally walked in on Harry and Hermione in the act of a 'heavy' making-out cession in a charms classroom.
Devastated by what they had seen with their own eyes, the two youngest Weasley's were even more humiliated when the news of the Potter - Granger love affair became public knowledge amongst the Hogwarts student body. For soon thereafter a rumor began to circulate throughout the school that 'long' before Ginny had begun dating Dean or Ron became Won-Won, Lavender Brown's reluctant boyfriend, Harry and Hermione had 'found' each other in a romantic sense.
The rumor declared that although Rita Skeeter's article during fourth year was inaccurate at the time, its appearance in the newspaper had apparently planted the seeds of the concept of a romantic relationship between Granger and Potter.
The rumor went on to declare that although the actual date that Harry and Hermione began snogging was still a closely guarded secret, that this lack of starting date didn't really matter, for it was clear to everyone that whenever they 'had' become an undercover couple, the date still 'predated' any romantic involvement with the youngest Weasley's by at least a year.
It was also generally suspected by the rumor mill of Hogwarts that it had been Harry who had insisted on keeping the identity of his girlfriend under-wraps…out of fear for her safety. It was Harry's obsession with the protection of his top-secret girlfriend, which had led Potter and Granger to deliberately use Ron and Ginny as public cover for their undercover love affair. Their so-call relationships with the two Weasley's had been a cruel sham no more than a contrived hoax at Ron and Ginny's' expense.
When the truth of how duped both Ron and Ginny had been became known, both Weasley's had been humiliated far beyond what mere words could describe. Of course the female population of Hogwarts was for the most part far kinder toward Ginny's gullibility then the males were about Ron, mainly because of Ginny's popularity for one, and Harry's desirability as a boyfriend for another.
Most Hogwarts girls would have jumped at the chance to be the Boy-Who-Lived 'girlfriend' and being used by boys was old-hat to most teenage girls. Besides, Ginny had 'broken-up' with Harry before the truth was revealed and most students mistakenly believed that Ginny's discovery of the truth had been the primary cause for her break-up with Potter.
The same kind of excuse however, could not be applied to her brother however. For poor thick as a post Ron, had still been 'officially' Hermione's boyfriend when the sham of his virtuous relationship with the bushy-haired know-it-all had became common knowledge. Almost instantly, Ron became the laughing stock of Hogwarts for not being as bright as his sister and not seeing though Hermione's little romantic play-acting.
Ron had admitted to his friends that his third date with Hermione had come and gone with Granger still 'untouched." That was because, as he had informed his dorm mates prior to the truth being revealed, "Me and Mione discussed it and we decided that sexual intimacy should wait until after graduation." This literal hands off policy, clearly imposed by Granger had obviously only been in force for Ron. For this chastity deception had been revealed as a bare-chested lie when Granger and Potter had been caught in the act, with the know-it-all's blouse wide open…her lace bra fully exposed, with Harry's hands exploring the interior. Caught red-handed by their Housemates who had found Harry and Hermione 'devouring each other' in the charms classroom.
The generally accepted theory concerning the whole thing was that Ron and Ginny were used as Hermione and Harry's in-public Boyfriend/Girlfriend for the last few months of school, as part of a deliberate plan of the brilliantly book-smart Miss Granger to conceal the true identity of Harry's 'love interest' from the attention of the Death Eater's.
After they had been caught in the act by so many witnesses and their public relationships with Ron and Ginny revealed as a cruel sham that it was, neither Granger nor Potter saw any reason to hide their relationship any longer or apologize to their duped friends…the Weasley's, for their betrayal.
When confronted by the Weasley's, Harry and Hermione did not deny any part of the so-called 'truth' concerning the 'duped' rumor. Publicly humiliated and hurt beyond words, the two youngest Weasley's shunned their betrayers for the remainder of their time at Hogwarts and the summer holiday that followed.
In school, only the fact that Ginny had broken-up with Harry the day before the truth became known saved her the tile of gullible-fool that nearly everyone applied to Ron. In fact, that Ron had pursued the bossy know-it-all, a girl who had belittled him at every turn for years, made his being manipulated by her to conceal Hermione's true affair with Harry all the more degrading.
As fate would have it, both Ron and Ginny, were destined to end up standing side-by-side with Harry, Hermione and the rest of the Order and select members of the D.A. during the final battle with Voldemort not four months later. It should be noted however, that no words were exchanged between the four before, during or after the battle.
During the final battle of the second Voldemort upraising, which occurred in mid-September of 1997, Ginny somehow managed to kill Voldemort's pet snake and in revenge took an unknown ancient jinx that had been originally meant for Harry, and although she survived the battle, this particular jinx would cause her to suffer with a stiff left leg for the rest of her life.
Meanwhile Ron, in the ultimate act of sacrifice on the altar of unrequited love, stood over the wounded and stunned-unconscious Hermione Granger, the girlfriend of his former best friend Harry Potter, protecting her from four Death Eaters bent on killing Potter's now all too well know paramour, using his own body as a shield to safeguard Hermione's life.
Hit with three curses at the same time his shield failed, Ron was last seen rolling down an embankment screaming in agony with his entire body on fire. Luckily for Hermione, Ron's act of self-sacrifice however had not been in vain, for members of the Order and the former DA had used the time Ron had gained with his last stand defense to get close enough to drive off the Death-Eaters after the boy had fallen, finishing the job of saving Hermione's life.
Revived by Colin Creevey, and unaware of her fallen defender, because her own wand had been smashed by a spell just moments before she had been stunned, Hermione while getting up, instantly picked up a discarded wand laying on the ground next to where she had been revived. Now rearmed she got right back into the battle, far too busy to take the time to recognize that the discarded wand she was using had belonged to Ron.
It wasn't until the after the battle was over, when victory had been achieved against the Death Eaters and Voldemort had been killed by Harry in what was soon to be called a 'legendary duel,' that a heartbroken and sobbing in despair Molly Weasley, after searching over the now quite battlefield for her missing youngest son, came across the physically exhausted Hermione Granger sitting on a log resting, holding Ron's wand in her limp hand.
The confrontation between Molly and the betrayer of her son's love on the Hogsmeade battlefield never made it into the history books, and for good reason. History has a way of cleaning up the personal flaws of those they declare Heroes and being the "Savior of the Wizarding World's" one and only girlfriend made Hermione a hero by association. Molly herself would later be grateful for this quirk of society, for she had said things that day in anger which embarrassed her greatly in retrospect. Not that anything she said was untrue, far from it in fact, for her criticism of the girl she had once hoped would be her daughter-in-law had been in every particular…spot-on. Her embarrassment was based on having spoken to "that evil jezebel" at all.
It had been during this bitter confrontation that Ron's horrible fate had been revealed to Hermione and the knowledge of who had saved Hermione's life proved to be a totally crushing emotional blow for Harry's so-called girlfriend. Colin Creevey among others had been nearby when Ron had heroically died for the girl who had cruelly 'used' him as a shield just a few months before.
Colin had then explained in graphic detail, more for Mrs. Weasley's benefit than Hermione's, Ron's ultimate act of self-sacrifice, how Rod had willingly giving up his life for the girl he loved. A young woman, who as it turned out, loved Potter instead. Outraged by this news beyond description, Mrs. Weasley ripped her son's wand out of the disloyal Jezebel's unresisting hand. What happened next would haunt Hermione for years to come.
"Stay away from us Granger," Molly said with venom in every word. "If you come within ten meters of the Burrow, I'll hex you good and proper and the same fate waits that…that disloyal and traitorous, so called "Chosen One".
My son was a noble and brave young man, who gave his life for a …bossy slag who was not good enough to lick his boots. You and Potter clearly have no better understanding of what faithfulness and loyalty mean, than does a Malfoy, or how important such qualities are to a Weasley. I'm shamed by the fact that I ever let either one of you into our home."
"Mrs. Weasley, please…let me explain," Hermione began tears of regret and grief pouring down her cheeks, only to be forcefully interrupted.
"…Save it for someone whose youngest son you didn't use and discard. Remember what I said Granger, the welcome mat of the Burrow no longer applies to you or Potter. To me and mine, you're both the same kind of lying and deceitful scum that the Malfoy's are. Stay away from us if you know what's good for you!"
"You're not being fair, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione said in her own defense. "Your dim-witted son has blown this so-called romance between Harry and me, way out of proportion…as usual. He can be so thick about some things…"
- - SMACK - -
Molly backhand slapped the arrogant girl across the face forcefully. "MY DIM-WITTED SON, AS YOU CALL HIM… DIED, SAVING YOUR UNGRATEFUL ARSE" Molly screamed at the top of her lungs and then to everyone who saw it total shock, Mrs. Weasley, in a display of ultimate contempt, did something no one had ever seen her do before, she spat phlegm at the ground directly in front of the grief stricken Granger, before abruptly turning about and storming off.
All Hermione had to do was to look at the faces of the DA and Order members around her, all of whom had witnessed the confrontation between herself and Molly to realize that they shared an equally low opinion of her. Unlike Harry, Hermione had not gotten the free-pass from her peers that the boy who lived enjoyed over the betrayal of the two youngest Weasley's.
Lavender Brown in particular had blamed Hermione for the failure of her relationship with Ron and had never forgiven Hermione for using Ron' unwavering devotion just to shield herself from possible danger. Many more girls than Ron ever suspected liked him in a romantic sense but had stayed away because of the perceived 'love' that the red haired boy had for his bushy-haired friend.
To theses girls it was all but a crime to 'toy with chaste displays of affection' of the only boy in Hogwarts that respected and loved Hermione, while secretly acting the slag with her real boyfriend Harry Potter. Her cheating on Ron while keeping him 'off the market' to other girls who would have been happy to chat-him-up, didn't win Hermione any new friends among the teenage females of Hogwarts, in fact her behavior actually lost her the respect of the few female friends she had.
Now understanding that Ron had allegedly died defending her, died thinking that she was in love with Harry intensifying beyond measure the feelings of shame and guilt that she felt over her emotional mistreatment of Ron during the last six months of his life. The one and only boy to have ever said "I love you" to the bushy haired know-it-all and meant it.
For the tragic part of the erroneous public perception concerning the so-called Potter-Granger love affair was the fact that there was no 'love' between them at all. They had contrived to be caught red-handed more than half undressed devouring each other in the grips as part of a preconceived plan to keep the two Weasley they did love safe from Voldemort. With Ron dead, and Ginny despising them both with an indescribably intense hate, what point was there in exposing the charade now?
It had all started one evening when Harry and Hermione were up late studying, as they discussed the new found romance in their lives, the safety of their love-ones came up especially concerning Ginny. After years of rumors concerning the sexual tension between all three members of the 'Golden Trio' about whether or not they were more than 'just' friends, including a Daily Prophet article about the infamous 'fourth year' Harry and Hermione romance, they had paired off instead with the two youngest of the Weasley Clan. Thinking about it Hermione instinctively knew that worry over Ginny would affect Harry's ability to fulfill the prophecy, to counter this she came up with a plan to take advantage of the public belief in a Potter-Granger romance, to protect Ginny. The ever logical Miss Granger had purposed a plan to protect Ginny and after some lengthy discussion, Harry had agreed to it.
What Hermione purposed was to make a big scene of publicly breaking up with Ron while Harry did the same thing with Ginny. Then, to drive the point home to any spies within Hogwarts who might report the breakups back to Voldemort, they would have to 'stage' a Common Room snog-fest to give even more evidence of their relationship, hoping that would divert Death Eater attention off of Ron and Ginny thereby keeping both Weasleys safe until after the war.
Of course Hermione had forcefully argued that the two Weasley's involved couldn't be told the truth until after the last battle, because Hermione believed that Ron, well known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, would never be able to pull off the deception if he knew the truth. It frankly bothered Harry more than he cared to admit, that Hermione didn't seem all that concern on Ron emotional reaction to their impending break-up. This worried Harry more than just a little, because he honestly feared that his brilliant book-smart friend took far too much for granted concerning her boyfriend. Eventually however Hermione won Harry over to the plan when he was unable to argue anymore with his friend's logic.
With the goal of making their 'relationship' believable, Hermione had also purposed that to prove to their classmates that she and Harry had indeed been carrying on a long-term multi-year top-secret romantic relationship, they had to appear comfortable being intimate with each other. To do this she strongly suggested several rather intense 'snog-and-grope' practice secessions to make any kissing they did in the presence of others appear natural. Because as anyone will tell you, long term couples while snogging, appear totally comfortable in each others arms, meaning any obvious awkwardness during an embrace would expose the charade.
They were at the point of stopping one such "slap and tickle" secession, both having quickly come to understand full well, that there would never be any 'sparks' between them, when they had been caught, red-handed, half-undressed, by the very people they were trying to protect.
Embarrassed, and caught up by events, Harry and Hermione were stuck between a rock and a hard place, for the people they really loved now totally despised them. Fortunately for Harry, he had quietly broken up with Ginny the day before they had been caught. Hermione, however, hadn't gotten around to breaking it off with Ron. For Miss Granger, it was Ron's feelings of being inadequate concerning Viktor Krum all over again, but a thousand times worse.
Ron had not even seen Hermione snogging Viktor and he'd gone totally mental when he heard of it. When Ginny had let slip in a 'moment of anger' to her brother that Viktor and Hermione had not only snogged, but also implied that they had dated behind his back. Ron's reaction to the first bloke Hermione had repeated snogged had been the infamous Lav-Lav and Won-Won…fling, and months of hard feelings between them.
The thought that his two closest friends would do this to him, behind his back, was the kind of callus deceit that the true-blue and always faithful Ron found to be the ultimate form of betrayal. That this was the second time that Hermione had apparently kept the existence of a secret boyfriend from Ron and the way he found out about it only poured salt into an open wound, the emotional pain he suffer after that was indescribable.
That Ron's personal belongings abruptly disappeared from their shared dorm, didn't really surprise Harry nor did the fact that moving him into a private room for their last few days at Hogwarts, had been the idea of Harry's very disappointed Head of House Minerva McGonagall. Ron and to a lesser extent Ginny took pains to avoid Harry and Hermione for their last hours at Hogwarts.
Their plan exposed prematurely, their relationships with the Weasley's seriously damaged and in Ron's case emotionally crushed and publicly humiliated. Harry and Hermione with no other choice began to reluctantly date, partially because everyone else expected them too and partially out of an effort that 'in spite' of all the hurt they had caused to two they loved, they still hoped to still safeguard the people they cared about.
When Hermione and Harry began to realize the intensity of the mistake they had made with their half-baked protection plan, they came up with a ingenuous if hastily thrown together back-up scheme to 'set things right' with their heartbroken former soul-mates. Hermione's new idea had been for them to date for a month or two during the summer holiday, then break-up in a very public fashion just before school started. Then after allowing a week or two to let the dust settle, approach their Weasley's ex-partners separately and literally beg for forgiveness.
Hermione and Harry both acknowledged that in taking the Weasley temper into account, that there was no point approaching either Ron or Ginny until they had plenty of time to cool off. Ron, they both agreed, would be the harder one to win back, but Hermione arrogantly felt confident that all she had to do was calmly explain their noble 'protective' intentions, and she could instantly earn Ron's forgiveness. She flatly refused to answer Harry's concerns on her chances of wining back Ron romantically and for good reason. Harry personally didn't think she had much to hope for, beyond perhaps regaining a lost friend, but kept this opinion on that subject strictly to himself, again for good reasons.
So three days after Dumbledore's funeral Harry went back to the Durleys and Hermione reluctantly returned to her parents home, both having been informed in no uncertain terms by Professor McGonagall the acting Head Mistress of Hogwarts that their welcome at the Burrow had been withdrawn…permanently. The only reason Harry had agreed to pretend to date Hermione in the first place had been out of fear for Ginny's physical safety, it had been the only reason he had ended it with her at school after Dumbledore's murder.
So now, in addition to loosing Ginny as a girlfriend in order to protect her, Harry also found himself shunned by the best mate a bloke could ever ask for and cut-off from a group of people, the Weasley Clan, that he had come to considered as a second family. His owl posts to the Burrow were returned unopened and by mid-summer Harry even got a magical restraining order from the 'Ministry for Magic' demanding that he; "Cease the harassment of the Weasley family via-post." Feeling emotionally isolated like never before and stuck at the Dudley's for the entire summer-holiday, Harry began to feel resentment toward Hermione for her "half-baked protection plot" an idea which clearly had gone horribly wrong.
"WHY did I listen to her," Harry asked himself over and over in his lonely room, "Hermione is great at finding an obscure spell or making a rare potion, but Ron was the one who understands stratagems and tactics. How in Merlin's name, could I have been so stupid as to let her talk me into this disaster? This secondary plan of hers had better work, or I'll never forgive Hermione for loosing the love I had with Ginny."
Shunned by all the Weasley's after school let out and with a despondent Hermione spending the summer holiday with her parents. Harry, acting strictly on his own and operating out of his Aunt and Uncles home, had in the two months after leaving Hogwarts, hunted down and destroys all but two fragments of Voldemort's cleavered soul. Realizing his peril by late August, the dark lord launched an all out attack.
In a tragic bit of irony, the first time Harry had seen Ron or Ginny since being caught in the act with Hermione had been during the final battle, wherein a heartbroken Ron, had been no more able to stay way from Hermione, than Ginny had with Harry. During the fighting, as Harry learned after-the-fact, Ron had apparently sacrificed his life to save 'the faithless jezebel,' as Molly now called Hermione. While Ginny, who never strayed far from Harry's side during the fighting, had been in the thickest part of the fight getting wounded repeatedly safeguarding her disloyal ex-boyfriend.
An hour after the confrontation with Molly, when the Ministry Aurors had belatedly arrived, which started the entire Wizarding World celebrating their unexpected victory over the Death Eaters. The heroic couple, Harry and his publicly acknowledged girlfriend Hermione, suddenly found themselves being carried on the shoulders of the crowd through the main thoroughfare of the village of Hogsmeade.
Meanwhile, mostly overlooked and forgotten by everyone and pushed over to the sidelines was the Weasley Clan, who quickly gathered around Ginny's hospital bedside and mourned the passing of the heroic if somewhat romantically foolish youngest son of Arthur and Molly. No one in the family was surprised to see that Ron's sacrifice for Hermione go unreported by the press. Hermione felt deeply embarrassed by Ron's heroic death, so she didn't feel comfortable speaking about it, Harry, felt equally ashamed when he belatedly learned the details of his best mate's death.
Overwhelming guilt had kept them both silent, which of course made them appear all the more heartless and self-centered to those few who knew the truth, with those in the know including most, if not all, of the surviving D.A. members. Ron's funeral, if it could be called that, as no trace of his body was ever found, was a deliberately private affair.
Those who attended had been asked in advance to keep any knowledge of the ceremony from Granger and Potter, for obvious reasons. Harry and Hermione, caught-up in the official celebrations world-wide did not even know that a funeral had taken place until a week after it was over. They were hurt by being excluded from the ceremony when they finally heard about it, but understood fully why that had happened.
All attempts to contact the Weasley family made during summer-holiday in-between sixth and seventh year were rebuffed. After receiving the restraining order, Harry had owled Hermione and she had told him that her 'letters' to Ginny were also being returned unopened. The book-smart witch had tried everything she could think of to get even a single Weasley to "listen to reason" but all her efforts failed. Even a visit to the Ministry itself to see Mr. Weasley didn't work. For even the most open-minded member of the family refused to speak with 'Miss Granger' Arthur, in expressing his displeasure went so far as to slam his office door in the girls face. When that happened, at long last the truth of what she had done struck home, and when Ron gave up his life for her on the battlefield four months later, a large part of Hermione's reason for living died with him.
Harry was of course named Head-boy and Hermione Head-girl during their last year at Hogwarts, they were also pointed ignored by any of the DA veterans of the battle, especially anyone who knew the truth about Ron and Ginny unreported sacrifices for the "Ungrateful duo" as they were so dubbed by their…former friends and dorm-mates. Ginny didn't say five words to Harry that year and as the head-boy and girl have separate quarters in the castle, Harry and Hermione weren't surprised when they found themselves 'unwelcomed visitors' in the Gryffindor common room
After graduation, and again mainly because the public demanded it, not because they loved each other, which they did not, Harry and Hermione the living symbols of victory over the dark-lord, yielded to public pressure and were married. The rumor that the hero and heroine rushed into wedlock due to a pregnancy proved untrue but the Daily Prophet printed the rumor anyway. Their actual bonding ceremony was a huge public event that rivaled the weddings of the Muggle British Royalty and resulted in the same type of marriage, one created for show and not for love.
Although invited, none of the Weasley's attended, except Percy, which didn't count of course. Owl posts invitations were returned unopened and the wards surrounding the Burrow remained closed painfully tight when the newlywed couple came to visit.
Time passed as it always does and the darlings of the press, admired by millions world wide found themselves shunned in their private lives by anyone who knew the truth. This number remained relatively small, as people refused to think ill of the Hero and Heroine of the second Voldemort war. They both found new so-called friends who proven to be more often then not attracted to their fame more than anything else. The small list of friends they had lost was composed primarily of their old classmates from Hogwarts, such as Neville, Luna, Seamus, and Dean, the only true friends Harry and Hermione had ever made at school.
Deserted by their classmates, not only because of their betrayal of two loyal friends romantically but also due to their apparent lack of gratitude for Ron and Ginny's battlefield sacrifices left the only publicly acknowledged Hero and Heroine of the Voldemort war isolated and friendless. Hounded by the media and fame seekers, while shunned by former friends, Harry and Hermione were left alone, suffering in a private hell over their grief of what might have been.
Seven years pass:
And now the story beings
"Arthur, my God Arthur…Get In Here," Molly screamed at the top of her lungs, causing her husband of many years to rush downstairs and into the kitchen of their all but deserted home.
"What is it Molly, are Bill, Fleur and the grandkids here already, I thought they wouldn't be here until ten?" Mr. Weasley said puffing out of breath holding onto the back of a chair.
"No Dear, but look at this picture in the Daily Prophet. I found him Arthur; didn't I tell you he wasn't dead! Look here, it's just like I said…there he is…alive again!" Molly declared beaming with happiness.
Mr. Weasley sighed knowingly shaking his head sadly. He knew it was useless to argue with his wife when she had a 'sighting' of their dead son Ronald. So pulling out his reading glasses and bending over the spread open newspaper, Arthur leaned over expecting to find yet another fuzzy out-of-focus wizarding photo of someone with red hair, which his grief stricken spouse had imagined to be their lost son.
After seven years, she still scanned every inch of the Daily Prophet looking for him, and Arthur had gone on far too numerous to count wild goose chases trying to hunt down his missing offspring, all to no avail. He expected this to be no different than just another mistaken identity, someone who bore a slight resemblance to Ronald. This time, however, Mr. Weasley was in for a major surprise.
The single photo covered half the page; it was a crowd scene outside a hotel, and there in the center moving right to left across the page, was a single red haired, six foot tall exact living copy of Ronald Bilius Weasley.
Arthur did a double, then triple take, drawing up a chair he sat down and pulled the newspaper closer, examining the moving picture very…very carefully. Logic told him that what he was seeing was impossible; after all, it had been seven years. But that didn't matter, for everything about the red-haired man coming out of the hotel lobby crossing through the crowd and exiting from view as he walked out of frame screamed RON.
The bounce to his step, his height, his face and most important of all, the Weasley smirk on his face declared this person to be his long lost son. Wizarding moving photographs tend to repeat, showing the same set of images over and over again and Arthur sat there watching with cobra like fascination as the picture repeated itself, becoming more and more convinced with each replay that his eyes where not deceiving him
Standing behind her husband looking over his shoulder, Molly held her breath in overwhelming fear. There had so many false alarms over the years so many people who had faintly resembled her Ronald, her heart had risen with hope each time only to crash down again, it had only been her faith as a mother had kept her going, kept her searching.
Now she waited on pins and needles, fearing another let down, waiting for her husband to tell her that she was mistaken once again, that the young man in the prophet wasn't her son just someone who looked a little like her son. You can imagine her surprise when Arthur finally looked up from the paper with a determined look on his face and said;
"Get you cloak, I will owl Bill and tell him to drop off the grandkids at eleven. We are going to the Daily Prophet right now and ask some questions."
"Arthur, can it be, do you think it really is…?"
"I don't honestly know Molly, my head says no, but my eyes agree with my gut feeling, the way he moves, his smirk…that's a Weasley smirk if I ever saw one. I have to know this time Molly; I have to know for sure.
Twenty minutes later a copy-boy was escorting Mr. and Mrs. Weasley down a narrow stairway to the vault of the Daily Prophet where the pictures used in the paper were developed and stored. It was here that the photographers hung out in-between assignments in an area affectionately called the 'Den'
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley soon found the staff photographer who had taken the crowd scene picture they were so interested in. Colin Creevey a fellow Gryffindor and a classmate of Ginny's had transformed his hobby at school into a professional career and it had been he who had been assigned to cover the United Kingdom Wizard Chess Championship where the photo had been taken.
Arthur hadn't actually taken time to read the article attached to the picture and upon reading that it was taken outside a wizard chess competition, well, it was just more fuel on the fire that the man in the picture might indeed be Ron.
So after quickly disposing of the formalities and greetings, Arthur rushed manners a bit by getting quickly to the point:
"…Yes, yes Colin…good to see you too, but we came here on an urgent matter. Did you take this picture?" Arthur asked in a rush, holding out the picture for the young man to see.
"Yes sir I did, they wouldn't let the press inside so I planted myself outside to try to get a photo of the winner Jonathan Veselkin. He must have gotten out a side door, as no one got a picture of him that day, we had to use an archive photo and my boss gave me what for, because I missed him…"
"Yes, yes…whatever! …Colin do you recognize anyone in this picture, anyone you might have known from school?" Arthur asked in an impatient tone.
"Well let me have a look-see," Colin said looking closely for the first time at his own work. "Well I'll be damned…it can't be…he's dead isn't he?"
"Do you recognize him too…tell me who you see…please I beg of you?" Arthur said pleading
"It looks like your son sir, Ron. Damn, he even walks like Ron walked, but that's not possible…is it sir?" Colin asked confused.
"His body was never actually found, so officially he is still listed as missing in action and presumed dead. My wife has never given up hope that…"Arthur said to himself unaware that he had spoken aloud.
"Is there anyway to find out who the person in this picture is?" Arthur asked pointing to the Ron look alike.
"Not normally sir, it's just a crowd picture, but I do have contacts in the wizarding chess community here in London and can ask around if you would like. In fact, I am currently dating the shop assistant of the reining wizard-chess champion of England for the last few years, Jonathan Veselkin. He owns a small shop in Diagon Alley called 'Black-Knight Chess Ltd.' they sell Wizard and Muggle chess sets there and by post," Colin said informatively.
"I can depend on you being discrete about this can't I Colin?" Arthur asked the young man. "I am still employed by the Ministry and this is a personal matter. I am not looking for this to become another article in the 'Quibbler' like that hunt for the lock-ness-minister they reported on from Scotland a few years ago"
"Oh no sir, I will be doing this on my own time, I owe Ron big time. He saved more than Mrs. Potter's traitorous arse that night. Your son saved my brother's life and mine as well. Ron never did get proper credit for what he did that night either. I'm sure you read Hermione's tell-all book "The Golden Trio" well let me tell you…here and now, she left allot of stuff out. People who read that lousy book of hers get the impression that Harry saved Hermione that night…Codswallop I say. I was one of the lads that was actually there, on the battlefield. Harry was no where near his future bride that night," Colin said getting angry.
"Oh no…it was Ron that saved Granger's disloyal arse that night, I saw him standing over her…tragically funny wasn't it, the betrayal of Ron and Ginny's by the Ungrateful duo, another thing that didn't make it into Hermione's little 'so-called' - tell-all book…now did it? Merlin forbid that some tarnish should fall upon the shoulders of the hero of the Wizarding World, the 'great', the 'perfect'…Harry 'Saint' Potter," Colin declared with obvious bitterness. "I can't help but wonder sometimes, if Malfoy was right all along…about Potter and Granger that is?"
"I take it you're not a fan of the Potter's?" Arthur asked somewhat amused.
"No sir I'm not, you may not remember but I dated Ginny for awhile during our seventh year," Colin said shaking his head sadly. "I have seen with my own eyes what that piece of scum did to her self-esteem after playing her for a fool. So no sir, you can say I am not a big fan of either of the Potter's.
People like us don't get the same breaks as people like the Potter's, he's a mega-rich, world-famous Auror and she is climbing in the Ministry so fast I am surprised she hasn't gotten a nose bleed. She'll be the youngest Minister for Magic in history, mark-my-words, as for me, well…I hope to Merlin they both…rot in…" Colin declared with clear resentment.
"I understand Colin, believe me I fully understand," Arthur said patting the younger man on the shoulder.
"I use to try to get my editor to publish the truth about the two of them, but he won't. The people, he told me, prefer the myth of the two perfect heroes' and their bumbling sidekick. Every hero needs his comic relief and fate with the help of people like my editor, chose Ron for that role.
The entire world regards your son as little more than a clown, thanks to the impression Granger gave them in her book. All the serious things were done by her or Harry, all the light hearted sections were dominated by stories of Ron, and his insane jealousy over Viktor Krum. It's a subtle put down and most people don't read it that way, but I do. After dating Ginny for almost a year I kind of got sensitive to it all."
"You'll let us know what you find out?" Arthur said approving whole-heartily of the younger mans opinion of the great Harry Potter, the boy who along with unfaithful Miss Granger had emotionally destroyed his youngest son before using him as cannon fodder.
"Yes sir, you can depend on me to inform you of everything and you can also count on me to be discrete." Colin replied.
"That's good… let us know what you find and if you have any expenses. Well…I'm not a rich man, but I'll help out financially any way I can," Arthur said a little embarrassed at his constant poverty.
"No need to do that sir. We, my brother and I that is, we…sort-of owe you Weasley's a life debt, and if I can find Ron for you then my debt will be repaid." Colin said.
"Can I ask how you'll go about it?" Molly asked speaking for the first time.
"Sure thing, I'm going to see my girlfriend tonight see, she works in a wizard chess shop like I said and she knows just about every hard-core wizard chess fan in the UK. If she doesn't know what name Ron is using now, then I am willing to bet one of her friends does." Colin said with enthusiasm.
Unknown to both the Weasley's and Mr. Creevey sitting off quietly in a corner listening to their discussion about Ron was a man named Bill. The former personal photographer of Rita Skeeter, the 'discredited' ex-reporter of the Daily Prophet whose reputation and influence had been destroyed by the up and coming Mrs. Hermione Granger-Potter.
Listening in on private conversations had been a great way to get a story in the old days and now Bill who had lost prestige alongside of Rita, saw a chance at some long overdue payback. If he and Rita could find the long missing Weasley first, and get him to admit to being romantically duped by the high-and-mighty Potter's, that story might be embarrassing enough to bring them both down a peg or two. Well worth the effort in Bill's mind.
The race to find Ronald Weasley…was on!
To be continued