OH. MY. GOD. Please don't hurt me! I know it's been a very humongous ginormous long time since I updated. Colorguard season is over now, so I finally have more time to update! :) Of course, you know that I don't own any of this. Now let's get to the story!

Chapter Nine: Pieces of the Puzzle

Come to the Room of Requirement ASAP.

"Ron, come with me," Harry said as he burned the note.

"Where are we going?" Ron asked as he hurried to catch up to the black-haired wizard.

"The Room of Requirement," Harry replied as they dashed up the stairs.

"Hello?" Harry called out as he gently pushed the big wooden door open. Draco flopped back onto his chair, gulping down water. Hermione sat upright, scrutinizing a sheet of parchment.

"We've gotten the spells and charms to combine!" Hermione reported excitedly as she finally put the sheet of parchment down. She wiped beads of sweat off her forehead. "It was difficult work, but we figured out the pieces of the puzzle!"

"Excellent," Harry nodded proudly. "Has it been tested?"

"We tested it on rats and mice, much to Granger's protest," Draco informed him. "It was only after I gave a wizard's oath that I would not harm the creatures that she allowed for the testing."

"That's our Hermione!" Ron put in. Hermione sniffed and rolled her eyes.

"And…?" Harry asked.

"We Imperiused three mice in a group of ten (then did the same with rats), and all three in each trial were identified," Hermione replied.

"I conjured rabbits, cats, and dogs, and all were correctly identified," Draco reported. "I think we're ready to try it on humans."

"I'll Imperius Ron," Harry volunteered. Ron's eyes went wide.

"Why me? Why not Malfoy?" Ron protested.

"Draco needs to be alert to help Hermione with the spell, so that puts the two of them out of the running. And you can't cast the Imperius curse. I can," Harry explained. Ron sighed.

"Fine," he agreed grudgingly. "Let me brace myself first." Ron squeezed his eyes shut, then nodded after a moment.

"I'm ready," he replied. Harry suppressed laughter.

"Ron, I'm not going to hurt you," he replied. "Here goes. Imperio!"

Jump up and down, Harry thought. Ron began jumping up and down.

Now stop! Harry directed. Ron stopped jumping.

Balance on one foot, Harry ordered. Ron balanced on his right foot effortlessly.

"Deprehensio creatura sub a vomica validus satis inclino suus mos in ventus of iacio; deprehensio quod dico quisnam iacio talis an malum vomica; deprehensio quod attero malum vomica, aufero is ex creatura animus," Hermione incanted. She could see a fog of letters appear over Ron's head.

"Ron is under the curse," Hermione said. "Good, it detects it in humans." The fog formed more letters.

"The castor is Harold James Potter-- excellent, it knows," Hermione nodded. Suddenly, Ron's left foot slammed into the ground.

"Merlin, mate! I thought I was going to fall over!" Ron exclaimed.

"And it removed the curse," Hermione finished. "I think this spell is ready for Dung."

"What does that Latin mean?" Harry asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

"'Detect the creature under a curse powerful enough to bend his will in favor of the castor; detect and tell who casts such an evil curse; detect and destroy the curse, remove it from the creature's soul'," Draco recited.

"The only drawback is that we can't tell if he was under the Imperius Curse, you know?" Harry said, trying to be as gentle as possible.

"We thought of that," Hermione responded. "Well, I thought of it. So we came up with a second spell." She turned to Ron and pointed her wand at him. He put his hands up in the air defensively.

"Deprehensio vomica quod moror huic creatura animus; deprehensio quisnam subactus him ut is inhumanus vomica; deprehensio ut is penuriosus creatura eram subactus ut is atrox vomica," she incanted. Once again, a fog appeared over Ron's head.

"It means 'Detect the curse which lingers in this creature's soul; detect who subjected him to this cruel curse; detect when this poor creature was subjected to this terrible curse,'" Draco explained in low tones.

"Harold James Potter cast the curse," Hermione said. "It was cast on 29 May 1998 at 19:32:14." Harry nodded as he checked his pocket watch for the time.

"The time and date are right," Harry confirmed. "Looks like this is good to go. When are we going to see Mundungus, though?"

"There is a meeting coming up," Hermione said. "Perhaps we can try it on him then."

"Should we tell Sirius?" Ron asked.

"No," Harry said firmly. "The less people involved the better." Harry thanked Draco and Hermione for all their efforts, and then he and Ron headed for the exit. Once they were outside the door, Hermione turned to Draco.

"Good work," she said awkwardly, holding out a hand. Draco looked at her hand, then into her eyes. Without a moment's hesitation, his lips crushed hers.

"Hermione? You coming?" Ron called. Hermione reluctantly pulled away from the Slytherin, collected her things, then ran to the exit, calling out, "I'm coming!"

Draco put a finger on his lips.

I know that was short. I'm sorry! :( I'm on April vacation all this week, so hopefully I'll be updating again soon. Review, please! Reviews make me write faster hint hint ;)