Grâce au Malfoys

DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter and related characters are the property of JK Rowling, various publishing companies, Warner Brothers and whoever else. No monies are being made from this; I'm just indulging in playing in an alternate universe to real life.

AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Dedicated to AUDRIEL on and intylerwetrusted99 on .

First, my deepest gratitude to those who've reviewed my other story ('Seeking Hermione's Bean') on this site. I'm not much for responding to reviews but I am eternally grateful to those who've taken the time to say something about my work.

Second, my deepest apologies for not having updated that story. One last chapter to go but I'm having some difficulties re-writing that particular chapter. *sigh*

In the meantime ... this story's plot bunny reared up from somewhere and bit me on the ... well ...

A bit of a background.

This story was inspired by the wonderful short story "Thanks to the Malfoys" by the wonderful writing team broomstick flyer on . While I enjoyed their tale, I felt a little bit of disappointment since the story was – to my mind – somewhat of a cliché. Wonderful story, beautifully written but … "formulistic."

The problem was that it let loose a rabid, zealous and somewhat violent plot bunny which wouldn't let me go. So I asked permission from broomstick flyer to take their basic idea and run with it, which they graciously consented to.

My eternal gratitude to them … and also, to the Malfoys. (wink, wink)

Without further ado … Grâce au Malfoys. (French for "Thanks to the Malfoys")

Malfoy Manor (Five Days after the Final Battle)

It was the sound of giggling – something that had long been missing from Malfoy Manor – that brought young Draco Malfoy out of his contemplative mood. He'd been staring at the plate of bacon and eggs that their remaining house-elf had prepared for him. He just wasn't in the mood right now … too many things had happened in the space of only a few days for his mind and body to return to its normal equilibrium.

How swiftly the sands of time could shift, he'd thought. A little more than seven years before, he'd been on top of the world – well, on top of a tailor's pouf in Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, being fitted for his first set of Hogwarts robes. But he was on top of the world – he was a Malfoy, he was heading for Hogwarts where he would take his place as the rightful Prince of Slytherin, the world was his oyster …

How was he to know that the thin, raggedly dressed boy with the taped together glasses who was also to be fitted for robes would become his and his family's ultimate nemesis? How was he to know that the person he'd sneered at then would take his words to heart and turn away from everything that he - Draco Malfoy - held dear and destroy his perfect little world?

It was the sound of giggling – the refined, musical but seldom-heard giggle of his mother – so different from the insane sniggering of his Aunt Bella – and the never heard before masculine chuckling of his father that broke him from his mood. No, he shook his head - laughter wasn't an unknown thing in Malfoy Manor … it just hadn't been heard for so many months.

Or maybe for at least two years.

He left his seat in the dining room and was walking to the living room when the sound of a 'pop' was heard. For the longest moment he found himself tense and twitching – it took several seconds for his brain to engage and identify the sound as a champagne cork being released and not the sound of someone apparating …

He continued to the living room and came upon a strange sight: his mother and father, arms around each others' waist, champagne glasses held high, dancing.

Dancing?

That was a bit of a stretch, he thought – it would more accurately be called a jig not a 'dance' but still …

The jig abruptly danced when his mother turned around and spotted him in the doorway. It was apparent that they'd been celebrating earlier, to judge from their flushed faces and wide, wide smiles.

"Draco, darling!" His mother's aristocratic voice sang out. "Join us, join us! Pour yourself a glass, darling … your cousin Sirius would be so proud!"

The frown on Draco's face deepened further as his father Lucius chortled – a rather frightening sound, to Draco's ears. He hadn't heard that sound in years … the last time was during his fifth year, he recalled, when his father was at the top of his world, standing at the right side of the Dark Lord …

"Yes," Lucius Malfoy's jubilant voice said. "That mangy cur would be kicking himself right about now for not ever thinking of this. Marauders, my ass!"

A smile broke out on Draco's pointed face – not a nice smile, by any stretch of the imagination, but a smile that – like the chuckles and giggles of his parents – hadn't been in much evidence for quite some time.

"You did it?"

A bark of laughter from Lucius as he glanced at his watch – "The spell should be breaking just about now … I'd love to be a fly on the wall when they wake up and realize what they'd 'done'!"

Narcissa's giggles were approaching the insane cackle of her deceased sister but shifted to outright laughter as Draco replied, "I'd love to see Potty's face when he realizes what's happened!"

*

The Great Hall, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

The crowded great hall of Hogwarts was abuzz with the many voices of the witches and wizards who'd gathered in the evacuation and relief center that the still re-building Ministry of Magic had established in the school. It was a decision easily enough reached by the new Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt with the consent of newly-named Headmistress Minerva McGonagall and her deputy, Filius Flitwick.

It may have been inconvenient but Hogwarts was a central location – the whole magical world knew where it was, since generations of witches and wizards had studied there and it had always stood as a refuge in times of war. No matter the recent use to which the school had been put to, people still naturally gravitated there – the Ministry was still in disarray, both from the battle fought within its many levels and the 'emergency' evacuation of both traitors and non-interfering bureaucrats; Diagon Alley was still in the process of rebuilding as dazed shopkeepers tried to sort through their merchandise and memories; St. Mungo's was, for all intents and purposes, still full to overflowing from those injured or still in recovery from a year of oppression under Voldemort's boots.

But most important – the Chosen One, The Boy Who Lived, He-Who-Finally-Disposed-Of-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – was staying there. The word had quickly spread in the hours after the final battle – Harry Potter, triumphant and victorious, was staying in the castle, recovering from the battle. Along with him were his closest companions, Hermione Granger – The-Girl-Who-Destroyed-Mad-Bella – and Ronald Weasley, Best Friend of The Boy Who Lived as well as the his family. If that group alone could not keep out the remnants of evil wandering around, then no place in the world would be safe.

And so they flocked to Hogwarts – to find shelter, get a hot meal, to try and re-establish communications with loved ones or friends – or simply to feel safe once again, after a year of sheer terror and fatigue.

And perhaps, to get a glimpse of the Chosen One … to get the chance to shake his hand and thank him for what he had done … maybe kiss the hem of his robes if he wouldn't mind. And if Harry Potter was not available … his friends would do. It would be something to tell their children and grandchildren in the years ahead – years which many thought they would never have the chance to see.

The great hall was buzzing with conversation – unwittingly, they were all talking about the same thing, as well as giving surreptitious glances at a corner of the hall where a round table sat, surrounded by a veritable sea of red-haired individuals, broken only by an older woman with long black hair who bore a remarkable resemblance to the late, unlamented Bellatrix Lestrange and a slim, younger woman with long, silvery-blonde hair who had more than one pair of male eyes following her every move.

In the center of the group was a young man with messy raven-black hair and a pair of eyeglasses hiding verdant green eyes. He was sitting there silent, poking a fork disinterestedly at a plate piled high with food. One either side was a red-haired woman – the one on his left was an older, somewhat plump witch with fading red hair; the one on his right was younger, with a slight build but with a flowing mane of brilliant red hair. They appeared to be trying to comfort the young man seated between them; if one could listen in on their one-sided conversation, it would be apparent that they were trying to get the young man to eat even as they rubbed his back comfortingly.

The young man in question, however, would have none of it. It was apparent that he was agitated over someone or something as his hands nervously danced around and his head jerked slightly at random intervals. More than once both women – the younger and older one – would place a hand firmly on his shoulder to stop him from getting up.

The buzzing ended abruptly as the loud crack of apparition echoed in the hall – in the blink of an eye, wands were drawn across the hall and pointed at the location of the sound, even as people moved into protective positions at the different tables. The old saw that it was impossible to apparate into and out of Hogwarts had fallen as a result of the final battle – for some reason, the ancient wards surrounding the castle had collapsed (probably to Old Snake-Face's machinations) and it would take some time to power them up again.

The fact of the fallen wards was being kept quiet – still, it didn't hurt to practice constant vigilance especially as no one knew how many Death Eaters, Snatchers or assorted riff-raff were still out there, capable of doing damage or taking revenge … and, if rumours were to be believed, there were actually two of their number now missing from the castle and in fact, had been missing since the previous day.

The rumours had started out just that – unverified reports and whispered tales, until the witches and wizards realized that they had a frantic and panicked Chosen One on their hands … and then they realized that the Chosen One (although constantly surrounded by various people) did not have his constant companions Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley with him ... it was then that the rumours and theories exploded, which wasn't helped in the least by the refusal of those 'in the know' to respond to their questions. Most questions were met by either silence or an impatient shake of the head; the more insistent ones were met by hard and icy glares coming from people who'd fought and – in many cases – killed the minions of the most feared villain they had ever come across, and those asking simply tucked their tails and slinked off.

Hands and bodies relaxed as the people caught a glimpse of the new entrants to the Hall – a young woman with blindingly pink hair, carrying a baby in her arms, and a slim man with graying hair who looked exhausted, black circles around his eyes, shambling along as if he was in pain – which he probably was.

The buzzing in the Great Hall picked up once again, people whispering to their neighbors about the new arrivals. As with any community, gossip travels faster than the speed of light and – in the time it took the two arrivals to approach the table surrounded by redheads, the three had been identified and categorized, with their life histories (or what people 'knew' of their background) passing from lip to lip.

The raven-haired young man had surged to his feet at the sound of apparition but hadn't drawn his wand – not really a major requirement, seeing as everyone around him had already pulled out his or her wand. Doubly unnecessary as the male redheads had taken protective positions in front of and around him and his two female sidekicks, even as the other two females – one black haired and older, the other younger and blonde – had also drawn wands and were in a position to hex or defend.

Wands dropped as the newcomers were recognized and the black haired older woman moved with surprising swiftness to greet them, scooping up the baby into her arms and kissing its rosy cheeks – and rearing back in surprise as the scant hair on the baby's head turned blue. She looked accusingly at the mother, who merely shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "What did you expect?" before turning back to look at the hopeful eyes of the black haired wizard who was standing, tense, waiting for news.

Nymphadora Tonks sighed and lowered her head in seeming shame; her husband Remus Lupin dropped into a chair held out by Bill Weasley and gave another sigh – like his wife, his very countenance signaled defeat as he spoke in a low voice: "No word, Harry … Kingsley's got his Aurors out asking questions, but no one has seen hide nor hair of them."

Harry Potter slumped back in his seat even as the women on either side of him tried to comfort him – rubbing his back and arms, whispering consoling words … the younger female redhead grabbed a mug of tea off the table and tried to hand it to him but he waved it off, uninterested.

"Look at it this way, kiddo," Tonks said in a tired yet professional voice. "No news is good news – while we don't know anything, there is always hope."

The green-eyed gaze that was directed at her made her shiver, wondering if it was the sight of those Avada-green eyes that was the last thing that a mortal Voldemort ever saw before he moved off this plane of existence. She'd been out of it when Harry finished the lipless bastard off – for some reason no one will ever know, Bellatrix Lestrange had apparently changed the Killing Curse that she'd directed at Tonks into something else.

Tonks had fallen unconscious to the curse; unknowingly, her fall had distracted Remus enough for Dolohov to launch his favorite purple-flamed curse at him – but Remus' distraction and quick move to try and get to her saved him from the brunt of the Organ-Bursting Hex … he'd been clipped by the edge of the full-powered curse, enough to break some ribs and his upper arm but it had been enough … Dolohov's focus on him distracted the Death Eater enough that he didn't see the Reducto sent at him by Filius Flitwick – his curse had been perfect aligned with the Death Eater's head, turning it into a fine spray of paint even as Mad Bella was taken down by a much madder Hermione Granger …

Courageous DA members had reached the fallen husband and wife and used portkeys to transport them to St. Mungo's where emergency healers were able to resuscitate them …

These thoughts flashed through Tonks' mind in mere seconds – and she shook her head as she felt her husband's hand on her arm, forcing him to look away from Harry's chilling green eyes. The older wizard spoke softly, "She's right, Harry … as long as we haven't heard anything, there's still hope."

Harry Potter took a deep shuddering breath before he spoke, just as softly but with the pain and worry clear in his words: "I know that, Remus! But I can't help it … sh-they may be somewhere hurt, bleeding to death … being tortured for all I know! Sh-She's already been hurt enough …she's still hurting, Remus …"

"I know, cub, I know…" Remus' comforting words were matched by the older and younger red headed woman on each side, again trying to sooth him with comforting words. The younger woman spoke up, "Maybe they just eloped –"

The words were cut off as Avada-green eyes turned on her and Ginny Weasley gulped even as she felt herself moving back in self-defense. The wizards and witches around them tensed and felt a shiver down their spines as Harry said, "Sh-They wouldn't do that, Ginny … they wouldn't just up and run off without telling me … something's happened … I just know it…"

Only a few of the people in the immediate vicinity noted the sudden emphasis and slightly raised voice on the word 'They' – those who did notice knew an attempt at a cover-up or distraction when they heard one; of these, even fewer still knew the thought running in Harry's mind – 'Hermione wouldn't run and leave me but Ron might.' Bill and Fleur, in particular, since Ron had been hiding out in Shell Cottage for several weeks before finding his balls wherever he'd stashed them and went back out to look for his friends … Fleur also knew about Ron's desertion of Harry in the early part of the Tri-Wizard since she had been staying at Hogwarts at the time…

"Now, Harry, no need to worry so much … they're adults now … maybe they just wanted to, you know, get away for a bit…" It was Molly Weasley's turn to try and mollify the shaking wizard. She grabbed a mug and tried again to hand it to him, "Have some tea, dear, that's a good lad…"

"Harry…" Fleur Delacour-Weasley's throaty voice diverted Harry and he dropped the hand which had automatically reached for the mug in the Weasley matriarch's hand. Fleur caught the momentary flash of irritation in Mrs. Weasley's eyes and her half-Veela senses started screaming … there had been a twinkle in the matriarch's brown eyes a moment before that would have rivaled Dumbledore's infamous eye twinkles at their best … a glimmer of victory …

Fleur's thoughts – and everyone else's attention – was sidetracked by the sound of dozens of flapping wings in the Hall. Everyone looked up at the enchanted ceiling – one of the few still active enchantments in the ancient magical castle – and saw dozens of owls descending towards them, each one clutching familiar rolled-up bundles in their claws …

The Daily Prophet had arrived.

*

The Shrieking Shack, That Same Moment

Ronald Weasley's brain slowly woke up with his skin attuned to a most wonderful sensation – he was lying on his side in a warm, soft bed, spooned against someone soft and giving off a faintly woodsy but sweet aroma. His 'morning woody' was up and seemingly just as aware of where it was as he was: poking and probing at something warm and slightly wet 'down there'.

The next thing to reach his brain was the sensation of something soft and pointy poking at the palm of his left hand, his fingers were slowly stroking soft skin and he allowed himself to revel in the sensation even as his hips started pumping slowly, his woody aiming to find a nice, warm place to nest in ...

It was a beautiful dream, his mind relayed to his brain – only for another voice to pipe up, it is a wonderful dream ... one that he richly deserved. He was, after all, one of the heroes of Hogwarts ... the boon companion of the Chosen One. He had been the one to destroy the accursed locket that contained a piece of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's soul, found a way to break into the Chamber of Secrets and destroy another Horcrux ... defeated Fenrir Greyback ... and gotten a kiss from the girl of his dreams just before the main battle ...

A part of his mind wondered at that – there was nothing more trite or cliché than receiving a kiss on the eve of the battle, but another part of his mind shoved that thought away ... it was what he deserved after all ...

His mind wandered back to the past few days – it was everything he had ever dreamed of: fame, recognition, legend. Feeling the adoring eyes of wizarding Britain on him, he never really felt the burden of losing friends – his family, after all, had all survived ... they'd thought they lost Fred only to realize after the battle that he'd successfully shielded himself from the debris but got knocked out. It was a wonderful sensation, that adulation and awe – something that he'd first felt in Third Year when he was attacked by Sirius Black ... something felt only a few times in his life ...

Even the hard work of clearing up debris from the pitched battles in Hogwarts couldn't faze him ... it was only by pure coincidence that he'd found himself working near the kitchens every day near mealtimes ...

An errant thought struck him and he forced his eyes to open a crack – and then heaved a sigh of relief at the sight that greeted him: long, curly brown hair streaked with blonde highlights ... hair that he once called 'bushy' but could now call 'silky' ... and he closed his eyes in ecstasy even as his lower body took over and began to again start pumping more insistently, still seeking to find its warm, dark nest ...

It was – or is – a beautiful, warm, wonderful dream ...

Which exploded into a world of pain as a small, round elbow slammed into his side – he jerked up in open-mouthed shock, his now wide eyes and open mouth in a silent scream as his head swivelled around to find the source of that pain ...

Only for his brain and body to shut down in surprise at a sight that had so often populated the wettest of his dreams – a totally naked Hermione Granger was standing in front of him, hands on hips and legs spread apart - his brain went into overdrive as it greedily captured a series of images that will undoubtedly power more liquid reveries in the coming nights – the small bush of brown hair at the apex of long, slim limbs with just a hint of pink showing in between the spread-apart legs ... the delicious curves of her stomach, shiny skin surrounding a delectable belly button ... a pair of small but round breasts with pointy, light brown nipples, the same nipples that he'd been ministering to so lovingly only seconds before ...

And the face, that beautiful, lovely face that was straight out of a nightmare.

He felt his brain whimpering in fear as his eyes felt impaled by the blazing brown of Hermione's eyes – for a brief, brief moment he wondered if he'd really seen flashes of lightning erupting from those eyes ... in the next second, he realized that his hands had covered his ears in instinctive self-defence as the finely-shaped lips that he'd fantasized so many times wrapping around his wand was constantly opening and closing ...

His brain finally caught up and he realized that even with his hands covering his ears, he could still HEAR her, the loud, powerful screech that was as painful as nails on a blackboard – "RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY! WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"

A tiny, tiny part of his brain blubbered at the sound of that word coming from Hermione 'Watch Your Language' Granger – and it was that tiny part of his brain that kicked into gear and jump-started the rest of his body into action ...

Hermione had turned away from him, her rage at the situation blinding her to the fact that she was alone in a strange room with a boy, both of them stark naked without a single stitch between them. Her eyes focused on something red beneath the bed and she grabbed it in anger, totally ignoring Ron who had climbed up on the bed with one hand reaching out for her. She turned to him, her rage still palpable and, unknowingly, the red panties in her hand brushed along his outstretched hand and that was more than enough –

The two teens felt the all too familiar tug behind their navel that signified a portkey had activated and Ron found himself in distress since only one hand was available to cover an ear while the other ear was treated to an extended version of Hermione screaming ...

*

The Three Broomsticks Pub, Dining Room

Madam Rosmerta heard a faint thud overhead and found herself grinning. 'Newly weds,' she thought to herself, adn continued wiping down the bar.

She'd been pleasantly surprised the day before when Ron Weasley and his long-time friend Hermione Granger showed up and reserved the honeymoon suite before disappearing for a few hours – only to return, giggling and laughing. She'd nearly dropped the tray of butterbeers she was carrying when she saw them and realized the cause for the giggling and laughter – Ron had one arm around Hermione's waist while Hermione's hand was obviously under Ron's robes, playing with something other than his wand. 'Probably his wang,' she thought lasciviously and shook herself from her thoughts.

She'd grinned and given the amorous couple a thumbs up as they went up the stairs and winked slyly as Ron mimed putting a finger to his lips. 'Probably eloped rather than have a major production of a wedding,' she thought to herself – and frowned. Ron had pulled a money bag from under his robes when paying for the room yesterday – and he'd carelessly thrown several galleons at her when she quoted a price.

She'd known several generations of Weasleys – and the only time they were that free and easy with their money was when they were out of Hogwarts and working. Even then, they'd politely counted out the galleons owed her – not thrown them on the bar top carelessly ...

She shook herself from her thoughts as another idea struck her – 'where was Harry Potter?' She'd watched the three friends' interaction ever since their fourth year when Harry was finally allowed to go on Hogsmeade visits ... and while the three seemed inseparable, she always had a sense that Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were moving and communicating on a level beyond words.

For Harry not to be there for the wedding – even if it was an elopement, she expected that Harry would have stood by his best friends as a witness at least ... Rosmerta shrugged as she realized that the chandelier overhead was swaying in slow circles and she laughed outright. 'At least he's energetic enough ... hope I left enough food in the icebox for them. They're gonna need it.'

*

The Three Broomsticks (Honeymoon Suite)

Hermione's scream was abruptly cut off as the portkey landed them in a tangle of arms and legs on a king-sized waterbed in the middle of a large, frilly room. Ron's arms had instinctively gone around Hermione in a protective gesture – a move which was not appreciated by Hermione who had placed her hands on Ron's chest and given him a powerful shove away from her.

It was only the hugeness of the bed that prevented Ron from falling off the edge – as it was, both teens were now flat on their backs and staring up in mouth-agape shock at a large, flashing banner above their heads: 'CONGRATULATIONS AND WELCOME MR. RONALD AND MRS. HERMIONE WEASLEY.'

Hermione had drawn in a breath to start screaming but was quickly shut down as a bell started ringing on Hermione's side of the bed. Looking over there, they realized that an alarm charm was activated, drawing attention to a small bundle of what appeared to be pictures and various official-looking documents in both heavy muggle paper and wizarding parchment.

Frowning, Hermione rolled off the huge waterbed and stalked over to the dresser with the papers and pictures on it, totally oblivious to the fact that she was still not wearing a stitch of clothing – even the underwear that was a portkey was forgotten on the bed.

Ron, on the other hand, had rolled to his side and felt his heart stopping at the sight before him – Hermione standing tall, her back to him and showing off the most perfect derrière he had ever seen in his young life, outside of the Playwizard and muggle skin magazines Seamus and Dean had brought to the dorm. He was quickly lost in a haze of steamy images featuring his present self sinking his fingers into that delicious bottom even as he nibbled lightly on the fleshy lobes at the apex of Hermione's smooth thighs ...

And once again the dream exploded into a red haze of pain as something heavy landed on his head.

His loud 'OW!' of protest was totally ignored by the other occupant of the room who was staring in shocked silence at the pictures she'd spread out on the dresser. Rubbing his head, he looked at the thing that had bopped him on his noggin and vaguely realized that an owl was winging its way out of the room. Rubbing his sore head, Ron picked up the rolled up bundle and realized it was the Daily Prophet – unthinkingly and automatically, he opened it and felt his eyes bugging out as his jaw dropped in shock at the images and words on the front page ...

*

Malfoy Manor ...

Malfoy Manor was playing host to a sight that had never been seen in over a decade – three blonde, blue-eyed people rolling on the floor, laughing out loud. What made the sight totally incongruous was that all three were kicking up their heels as they roared in laughter ... either that or pounding on the floor with their fists or shifting into a ball as they held their stomachs after a fresh round of laughter ...

In the middle of the room lay a copy of the Daily Prophet with its screaming headline – "FIRST WEDDING AFTER VICTORY!"

And underneath, in full colour and glorious action – Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley exchanging open-mouth tongue kisses in front of an apparently Muggle clergyman looking up at the ceiling of a decidedly muggle office, arms around each other with hands apparently exploring somewhere out of view.

*

The Three Broomsticks (Honeymoon Suite)

For a long, long moment, Ronald Bilius Weasley's mind went blank as his eyes contemplated the moving picture in his lap. The first real emotion that broke through the blank slate that was his mind was elation – how this happened, how it happened, he didn't care ... this was his dream fulfilled ... this was his reward granted by a forgiving universe ...

How it happened, he didn't know and, in truth, he didn't really care. That he had no memory or recollection of the blessed event was of no consequence – the proof was in the pudding after all and the event was there in front of his eyes. How they'd moved from the quiet of their shared dorm to wherever the wedding took place was no concern of his ... all that he cared about now was that he and Hermione were married in the eyes of law and magic – and a small, carefully hidden part of his mind was jumping around in a dance of joy: FINALLY! He had something that Harry Bloody Potter didn't have ... he'd achieved something that Harry could never lay a claim to.

His contemplation of the picture was interrupted as a shadow fell across the page – he looked up and found himself mesmerized once more at the perfect picture standing in front of him – a still naked Hermione, artfully backlit by the sunlight coming in from the curtained window, legs spread apart, hands on hips ...

It took several seconds for his besotted brain to sort through the myriad stimuli clamouring for his attention – but finally, the alarm bells of his well-honed survival instincts broke through the foggy, hazy range of his mind.

Fact – Hermione's skin was flushed from hairline to toes, giving her skin an iridescent glow with a colour that would have made any Weasley proud ...

Fact – Hermione's curly brown hair was blowing in a breeze that he couldn't feel. His skin registered the fact that the room was chilly - unpleasantly cold in a way that he had always associated with the presence of dementors ...

Fact – his eyes may be deceiving him but he could swear that there were tiny fairies dancing around Hermione – but his brain kicked in and told him that those were not fairies but – gulp! – sparks flying around Hermione ...

Fact – Hermione's mouth was moving but no words could be heard. It took him a moment to realize that it wasn't that Hermione was silenced or that his abused ears couldn't hear anything ... it was simply that Hermione was speaking in a soft, low voice that was barely above a whisper.

This last fact fully engaged his brain and his hearing ratcheted to high gear in time to hear her: "Ronald Bilius Weasley ... what the hell is going on?"

His brain parsed that statement fully and his earlier euphoria flooded all over his mind and body – and he felt a goofy grin break out on his face even as his brain went on vacation in the steamy reverie of his living daydream. With a wide, broad smile, he held up the Daily Prophet with its revealing photo and said, "We're married?"

His eyes wandered down that magnificent body, taking note of the smooth legs ('does she shave her legs?' he wondered) and the slim ankles before travelling to the newspaper to contemplate once again the moving picture – and almost missed the sibilant voice hissing, "And how can we be married, Ronald Weasley?"

His head moved up from its study of the picture in his lap and found himself in a staring contest with Hermione's chest – eyes locked on the light brown nipples that were pointed straight at him, engorged into tight points from the frigid air (not that he realized it) and he mumbled, "Who knows? Who cares? We're married and that's that."

In the space of a nanosecond, Ron Weasley found himself hanging in mid-air, steel-clawed fingers wrapped around his throat, lifting him up from the bed as his ears were assaulted by a scream to rival Hermione's earlier outburst: "YOU DON'T KNOW? YOU DON'T CARE? WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO ME, RONALD WEASLEY!"

Before he could even squeak in protest, he felt himself flying backward – thrown there by a powerful burst of magic from the enraged witch. He felt himself slamming into the wall – and blinked as he realized that the walls had built-in cushioning and silencing charms. His brain, however, refused to consider that piece of information as his eyes finally locked on Hermione's face and he felt fear: true, gut-wrenching, lose-your-bowels fear clutching at his guts.

There was no denying the beauty of Hermione's face but it was a fierce, feral beauty. There was no sign of the focused, intent, and determined look that had been there when she took down Bellatrix Lestrange and cut down almost a dozen Death Eaters who were trying to get to Harry ...

There was nothing but pure, ethereal, fiery rage in that beautiful face – and Ron's survival instinct finally kicked into high gear. Synapses fired, nerve endings jumped – rational thought disappeared as primal urges took over. There was no need to go through the steps – no voice in his mind proclaiming, "Determination. Destination. Deliberation."

His brain simply took over and he felt the sensation of being squeezed through a small, small tube even as his eyes registered Hermione's small fist heading towards his face ...

With a loud crack, Ronald Weasley successfully apparated away from an enraged Hermione Granger ...

There was only one conscious thought screaming in his mind – a single thought that spoke of comfort, of safety, of protection, of home:

"MUUUMMMMMMMYYYY!!!!!"