Hermione Granger kept her Hymen in a jar over the mantlepiece. This showed she was an old-fashioned girl, because what was she doing with a mantlepiece when she could Apparate so readily?

The Hymen in question was preserved in a solution of Maiden's Tears potion, following its removal in her third year. Madam Pomfrey had said, "It's better to get rid of it now, dear, before you get sexually active, because it will only confuse the boys."

Hermione had looked blank.

"In the Wizarding world, contact with the hymen has been known to make even the hardest heart to melt - men are such weak little creatures - and unless you want to be followed round the castle by some spotty youth begging you to marry you, or spend your time here in absolute chastity, I'd advise you to have it removed, and save it for the man you want to marry."

Hermione had thought it all sounded a bit silly, but had gone along with it. Several hours spent researching in the library, had tracked the source of the myth down to Merlin and Nimue, and though she had her doubts about the truth of that particular story, it really wasn't worth taking the chance - or giving up sex till she was thirty.

So, as we said at the beginning, Hermione Granger kept her hymen on the top of the mantlepiece.

The thing was, that Ronald Weasley could clearly see the aforementioned Hymen and, being a boy with little tact or finesse, kept asking his girlfriend why she hadn't seen fit to bestow it upon him.

"I think we're a little young to think about settling down permanently," she said. "Besides, I've got at least three more books in the Encyclopaedia of Sex to work my way through, and we all know that you can't do that when you're married."

Ron, who wasn't very bright, took that at face value for several months, never once considering that his parents had a copy on their bookshelves and had produced seven children - the circumstantial evidence was strong that Weasleys at least did continue having sex after they were married even if it were dull, married sex.

He was, however, by nature a whinger, And as he couldn't whinge to Hermione about her hymen, he chose the next best thing and decided to whinge to his sister, on the grounds that she , too, was female, and therefore could be expected to provide some insight into the female mind.

Frankly, there is little he could do that was likely to demonstrate that he was unfitted to be let out in public without a keeper than this, because it assumes that all women are the same, that they are engaged in some secret cabal against men, and that Ginny and Hermione had something in common above and beyond both having a womb.

Ginny liked Quidditch.

Hermione liked books.

Ginny and Hermione both liked Harry, but that, oddly, did not bring them closer together.

Ginny did not like Hermione, not after Hermione had been the one to spend several months alone with Harry in a tent. Leaving aside the practical difficulties of conducting an amour in a damp tent, when hungry, and fearing for your life, Hermione did not like Harry in That Way.

It's hard to feel that way about someone when you have been metaphorically wiping their nose for them for seven years.

Plus, he snored.

However, Ginny could not believe that anyone would pass up Her Harry for a lesser mortal and, utterly betraying the Eternal Sisterhood of Women, she decided to take advantage of Ron's whinging to concoct a Plan.

(It is outside the scope of this fic, but you can imagine her getting her comeuppance in later life when Harry leaves her for Draco, thus slipping in an element of slash for Those Who Like That Sort Of Thing.)

"If I were you," Ginny said one afternoon when Ron had been whinging for several hours. "I would steal it."

Ron blinked at her. He was by no means a bright boy, but even he thought that was unlikely to be a good idea. "Erm, Hermione will be very cross," he said doubtfully.

"Nonsense," Ginny replied. "Women like a man who takes charge. Hermione is just waiting for you to ... sweep her off her feet, that's it. It's a test of your manhood."

Ron had always thought testing your manhood was restricted to rulers and pissing up walls, but his sister was adamant. Hermione's hymen would have to be stolen.

Hermione was not a flighty girl who would give her hymen to just anyone. However, she was now reaching the stage in her life when she was looking for some security, some stability, and someone who would actually remember to put the loo seat down when he had finished, and levitate the rubbish out when asked.

She had also reached the Second Volume of the Sexual Encyclopedia, and fancied trying out the more advanced positions. Ron was not an experimenter by nature. He preferred to stick to the tried and tested, the humdrum, the usual. Not for him the swinging from chandeliers in a pink corset with a whip between his teeth.

It made him dizzy, he said.

Pink wasn't his colour, he said. (Which was true).

Couldn't they just do it missionary style, he bleated.

It was all so dispiriting.

She flicked her new flogger against the sofa, admiring the crisp sound it made as it slapped against the material, and fondly imagining the squeal it would provoke from the right owner of the right backside.

Ron didn't have the right arse for spanking. It always looked faintly reproachful whenever she spanked it, as if it were pointing out that it wasn't its fault it was attached to Ronald. It was just a simple arse, attached to an even simpler arse, and it wasn't fair that it should receive all the punishment. It was punished enough by being sat on every day.

It sucked all the fun right out of things.

She sighed mournfully, and turned over another page in the Encyclopaedia. She just knew she wasn't going to be allowed to go past chapter three.

Bugger it. (Chapter four, Volume one, Ron withdrew his consent after it was pointed out they would take turns at being the buggeree as well as the buggerer.)

She was a witch! There had to be some sort of spell that could determine who should get your hymen, and, though she didn't set much stock by divination, she set a great deal of stock by her ability to cast charms.

Her hymen had to go.

Ronald had a certain animal cunning. You didn't live in a large family without working out way to outwit your fellow man in devious and sneaky ways, so as to get the largest piece of cake.

He also had a friend who had an invisibility cloak.

If he had had any sense of morality, then he would have realised that employing an invisibility cloak to steal your girlfriend's hymen was a sign that you were about To Do Something Wrong but he was a Gryffindor and they aren't noted for having a conscience.

(Contrary to JKR's opinions, it is Slytherins who have the most delicate consciences, for how else are you to enjoy yourself, if you don't know that you are sinning. The more advanced Slytherin takes an interest in comparative religion for both the amusement factor - if you're going to do sardines on toast as a miracle, it should really be washed down with a nice chardonnay, or why bother? – and for the wonderful sensation that comes with knowing almost everything you do, say or think is sinful.)

The cloak was acquired simply by lying to Harry. (He'd nearly been put in Slytherin, so had the vestiges of a conscience, and wouldn't have loaned the cloak if he'd known the truth. Also, he had a healthy respect for his friend's temper.)

Hidden under the cloak, Ron opened the door to his their flat and sneaked inside.

Hermione had the hymen in one hand, her wand in the other, and was casting some complicated charm. "There," she said, "now show me the way to true love, or, bearing in mind my doubts about the possibility of such existing, the nearest approximation thereto, involving respect, affection, and a bloody good rogering."

Ronald's disappointment faded. If he timed this right, a swift Accio would solve all his problems, and Hermione's doubts would be laid to rest.

He shrugged off the cloak, making Hermione jump. The jar slipped from her hands, and Ron cast Accio wandlessly. The jar flew across the room at him, he fumbled, missed it, and it carried on through the window.

"Bugger," said Hermione.

"No," said Ron, though whether that was at Hermione's Hymen slipping through his fingers or declining a sex act... I shall leave up to you.

They both moved swiftly to the window, but the Hymen had gone.

Hermione glared at Ronald and Ronald glared at Hermione, and then they both glared at the empty space where her Hymen should be.

"You idiot," she said. "What were you thinking?"

"You were going to cheat on me," he replied, claiming the moral highground whilst it was still available.

This was incontrovertible, but she is a Gryffindor and didn't feel guilty, and our Heroine, so we shouldn't judge her too harshly. It's not as if I've bothered fleshing out Ron's character, so no one should be feeling too sorry for him.

The argument was shaping up nicely – Hermione had thought their arguments were a sign of passion, but had come to realise it was a sign of him being an unreasonable git who wouldn't do as he was sodding told – when a knock at the door interrupted them.

"What?" she snarled as she flung open the door.

Snape and Lucius stood there. Snape was holding the jar containing her hymen, and Lucius was wearing a smirk. "I think this is yours," Lucius said. "We've come to return it to its rightful owner."

"We?" Hermione asked.

"That's me," Ron said, and tried to barge past Hermione to take the jar, but backed off in the face of Snape's glare.

"I'm sure it's not," Snape said. "Yes, we, Miss Granger. I was walking along underneath your window, when the jar fell out, landed on my head, and bounced off, to be caught by Lucius."

"Well," she said.

"Indeed," Lucius replied, and his smirk grew wider.

"You'd better come in then." Hermione opened the door further, and stepped back to give them room. Ronald was a little slower to move, but there was something menacing in the way that Snape loomed over him, and he gave way.

"Ah, the No 3 flogger," Lucius said, picking up the item in question. "It does give very good results, though I think the No 4 is more suited to a lady – it does have that added zing."

Ron winced.

"Hermione, you can't be considering..." he said.

Severus moved to the bookcase, and was inspecting Hermione's collection. "Only up to Volume two," he said, interrupting Ron. "Volume three is far more interesting."

"Oh?" she asked.

"Indeed," said Lucius. "I have an illustrated copy you might be interested in perusing. Shall we say... next weekend?"

Hermione nodded.

"Bugger," said Ron.

"I should think that's very likely," Severus replied, and smiled.