Chapter One:

The whole court room fell silent, as Hermione stared fiercely into the sweaty face of a nervous criminal. She knew how guilty he was, and so did he. "You know very well your actions were illegal and vial," she explained furiously, tapping an impatient fingertip on the bench she stood behind, "If you didn't know, your face wouldn't be beaded with sweat." Hermione stepped down through the members of the Wizengamot, until she stood beside the nerve-ridden man. "So why don't you just admit to acts of ruthless-!"

"You have no proof that I killed the creatures!" he spat, slamming his fists on the arm of his chair desperately, "only that I was selling their blood! And that will not land me in Azkaban!"

"Unfortunately for you, Mr. Verkaufer," a cool voice clarified, "that's not up to you." Hermione turned back and stared up to the prudent figure sitting in the bench behind her, flashing him a subtle, pleased smirk. "However," he continued, frowning back at her, "it is a truth to say, Mrs. Weasley, that your evidence is lacking beyond the unlawful trade of unicorn blood." Hermione's heart sank and her grin quickly fell to an expression of deep disagreement. "So," Kingsley continued, ignoring her urge to debate and rising to his feet, "unless you can find this court indisputable evidence, proving this man slaughtered the unicorns from which the blood he was selling was taken, by his sentencing Tuesday next, Mr. Verkaufer will spend no more than six months in Azkaban."

As the court room erupted in chatter of personal feelings on the matter and side verdicts, Hermione ran over to the bench in disbelief, "But Minister-!"

"You are dismissed," he order to the Wizengamot. Hermione hastened behind him at his heels as he exited the bustled room. "Mrs. Weasley," he explained calmly as they stepped into the elevator, "I cannot bend the law based on your gut feeling."

"But you know I'm right," she pleaded, "he deserves more time then he's going to be sentenced! Because even if he didn't kill them with his own hands, he knows who did! He must!"

"Minister for Magic and Support Staff."

Kingsley turned to her as the elevator jerked them to a halt, "Then I suggest you work on getting him to turn in his supplier. Goodnight."

Hermione threw her hand on the gate as it began to close, and as Kingsley began to leave. "I won't stand for any injustice under my case rule," she explained furiously, grasping back his attention, "I'm not ready for a guilty man to walk away with just a slap on the wrist! Kingsley, you know you're sentencing him weakly, because you have the same gut feeling I do!"

He sighed regretfully, glancing around to see if they were alone. "Yes, I do," he admitted reluctantly, "but this isn't the Order, Hermione; gut feelings don't stand up the conduct of crime and punishment. I assure you, I'll do what I can. But in the mean time, go home and get some rest." She nodded, happy she had gotten through to the Kingsley she knew personally. "And I mean it," he demanded, "stop killing yourself over this; you look exhausted."

"I don't have much else to do," she commented, slightly irritated with him as she stepped back into the elevator. Kingsley left her with an apologetic look as the gates closed and she sped away, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed. She began thinking of her husband, which she often forced herself not to do because it interfered with her ability to get her work done. However, subtle comments on how tried or stressed she looked, made her remember how much she missed him and wanted him home.

She unbuttoned her vest and leaned her head back, resting it against the paneled interior of the elevator and staring up interdepartmental memos, feebly wondering who they were for and what they said. Hermione closed her eyes as the memos blurred together with lights the swung from the ceiling, and once again, thought of Ron. He had been sent away six weeks ago on hunt to find a group of werewolves that had once been loyal to Fenrir Greyback, and who still believed in the same ruthless tradition Greyback had taught them. They had been marked a low threat, all talk, but never actually caused any damaged. But as October 31st, when three young girls were found dead in a park near their homes with mysterious claw marks gashed across their faces, the Ministry had to make their arrest top priority. However, werewolves had always been sly, living underground, and being nearly impossible to capture, which made them extremely dangerous.

"Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

Hermione sighed and opened her eyes as the elevator slowed itself. There was an eager, squirrel-like, woman waiting in the corridor, balancing a stack of parchment atop a brief case."Alice," Hermione proclaimed, shocking the poor girl as she went to help her, "what are you still doing here? It's nearly eleven!"

Alice Gates was a young woman, just out of Hogwarts, who had come to the Ministry desperate for work. She lived with her grandmother and younger brother, who was a fourth year, and none of them had much money. "You left everything in the court rooms," she explained, nodding gratefully as Hermione lightened the stack of papers in arms, "I'm sorry that you didn't win the case, Mrs. Weasley. That horrible man deserves a lot more than six months in Azkaban."

"Trust me, Miss Gates," Hermione assured as they turned into her office, "I haven't given up on this. I'll find what I need. I always do." She lowered herself into her chair and began flipping through the files on her desk, simply assuming Alice had seen herself out and was headed home for the night. However, Hermione stopped reading half way through the notes from that night's trial when she realized she hadn't heard exiting footsteps. "Yes, Miss Gates?" she inquired, peering over the top of the paper at a seemingly concerned Alice.

She twisted her hands nervously, "I found you asleep at your desk this morning..." Hermione set the notes down and stared at Alice. She had drawn the conclusion the girl must've been a Huffelpuff in school based on the fact that the idea a stepping on any personal land mines with anyone was the girl's Bogart. "I-I just don't think it's healthy for that to happen two days in a row," she suggested, avoiding extensive eye contact.

Hermione cleared her throat and rested her arms on her desk, "I feel like you're onto me Miss Gates."

"I'm a woman, Mrs. Weasley," she shrugged, "It's not that hard to figure out these things about one another." Alice dropped of color, as if she couldn't believe she had said what she did, and Hermione felt her own face get warmer and warmer. "Goodnight then, Mrs. Weasley," she choked, scrambling from the office with a tail between her legs.

Dropping her quill in a quitter's manner, Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose where a headache was growing more and more painful. Alice was right, Hermione couldn't function through a day duplicate to the one she had just barely gotten through if she didn't go home. She needed a bed, and some tea, and to make sure Ginny was alright. So, she shuffled the papers that she considered highest priority, threw them into her case and stepped into the fireplace behind her desk. "The Potter's, Godric's Hollow!" she demanded clearly, tossing a handful of Floo Powder at the hearth.

To her surprise, her best friend was wide awake and sitting on the couch when Hermione staggered out from the living room fireplace.

Ginny picked the remote up off the coffee table, switched off the television, and Hermione found herself greeted by a severe glare of disapproval. "You were at the Ministry all night last night," she stated fiercely. Hermione stood frozen in front of her friend, who had apparently planned on waiting just to scold her. Hermione nodded once. "Hermione," Ginny sighed with slight impatience that she might've been trying to hide, "you can't do that! And it's the second time this week you have."

She was extremely irritated by this statement and stalked right past Ginny on her way to the guest bedroom. "I'm here to look after you, and to be here for you if you go into labor in the middle of the night!" Hermione retorted, hearing Ginny's footsteps start towards the bedroom, "Not so you can treat like some first year out of bed. I have a job to do at the Ministry, and right now, getting the proper sentence on that man is what's most important."

Hermione glanced over her shoulder as she turned down the bed and saw Ginny standing in the doorway, bearing a more-than-slight resemblance to her mother. "You've exhausted so much, its jumbled your priorities." she muttered dumbfoundedly, "Lets get a few things sorted out, yes? One: you're at the Ministry all night because you don't really know what else to do with yourself. You're like this every time Ron is off on a hunt; you revert back to your pre-Ron self, and do nothing but work. And secondly, nothing is more important to you than your family. You're just confusing yourself because you're nervous without Ron around to remind you that you're thrilled. The minute he gets home, its going to anything anyone ever hears about from you."

Without a proper response against what Ginny had just evaluated, Hermione continued to just glare at her as she threw her vest onto the foot of the bed. "I'm don't have to go in tomorrow," she mumbled with nothing better to say, "so I'll go in at noon." Ginny raised an eyebrow and snorted, obviously unimpressed by Hermione's solution. "Goodnight Ginny," she bade, her tone inflicted with more demand than well-wishing. After one last disapproving glance, Ginny wished her good night's rest and pulled the bedroom door closed on her way out.

The silence Ginny left behind was tense, but at least it was silence. And wrapped in the new found quiet, Hermione fell heavily onto her bed, not caring that her heels were still strapped to her feet, or that a necklace still cut against her throat. The pillows that contoured to her head were far to soft to deny for purposes such as removing shoes and shine. So she rested on the bed completely clad in business atire, her left hand across her stomach, and her mind racing with one last thought of her husband's ginger hair, before she drifted lazily to sleep.

Author's Note: So here we are, the new and improved Picking Roses, with the same backbone, just a bit more meat. Or, if you're a vegetarian, same roots with a bit more leafage. And have no fear, Ron is coming!