Story notes: If you're a regular reader of mine & are wondering where this story came from, it was originally the first chapter of my series, "Glimpses," which I closed indefinitely and decided to post the two stories as individual oneshots.

Warning: Rated for mild language.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter franchise and am making no money from writing this. No copyright infringement is intended.

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The Aurors' Wives

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The level of arrogant idiocy that Wizarding kind was capable of displaying apparently knew no bounds. Even after everything they'd fought for during the war, after all the loss, all the sacrifice so that the Wizarding world—and, well, the world at large, in fact—could be free of tyranny, so that those of less-than-pureblood status could be treated as equals, house-elves and other magical beings deserving of respect and fair treatment were still second-class citizens at best.

At worst, they were slaves.

Hermione had been careless enough—angry enough, actually—to throw that word in the Wizengamot's faces, and they hadn't liked that, not one bit. Half of them were purebloods from old families, if truth be told, and happened to be slave owners themselves, despite Minister Shacklebolt's attempts to create a fair, evenly represented government.

Of course they hadn't liked being labeled as such, despite the factuality of the term. "If the shoe fits, wear it," Hermione had snarled, admittedly unwisely, in response to the outraged protests from the slave owners in attendance that had followed her usage of the phrase.

Hermione had her support in the Ministry, of course, including Minister Shacklebolt himself, but as he'd reminded her after the meeting this very afternoon, keeping house-elves was a tradition ingrained in Wizarding society that went back centuries. Unfortunately, it would take more than a decade or two to tear down that sort of species divide.

Also, perhaps even more difficult to repair than Wizarding attitude in regard to the barbaric tradition would be the attitudes of the house-elves themselves. The majority of them did not desire freedom, and though Hermione had argued fervently that this is merely the result of centuries' worth of brainwashing, her immediate objectives were to focus on the rare exceptions to this rule—the elves, like Dobby, who did desire freedom—and to create laws guaranteeing the fair treatment of all magical creatures.

The moment Hermione floo'ed into her darkened living room at the conclusion of her conversation with Kingsley, she kicked off her pumps, which then sailed neatly into the shoe closet by the front door. She then shrugged off her stifling robes, which soared into her laundry room off the side of the kitchen.

As she marched around her small, tidy house in her undergarments, turning on lights by hand, watering her plants, making tea, she was still shaking with anger. The house was quiet, disturbingly so without the blare from the flatscreen in the living room, always a telltale indication of Ron's presence in the house. When he was home, that damned thing was on, and Hermione was perpetually telling him to turn the thing down. She quite often regretted introducing him to television after the war when they'd started dating, because he'd since become obsessed with the thing, often gluing himself to it when he wasn't working.

Oddly, though, when Ron was away for "Auror business," as he called it, she missed the sound of the telly in the background. She missed storming into the living room and yelling at him to turn the bloody thing down or else she was throwing it out the window. She even missed the ensuing arguments, but more than anything, however, she missed the manner in which those conflicts more often than not resolved themselves.

The last time such an argument had occurred, Hermione had ended up bent over the bar separating the kitchen from the living room while Ron had his way with her…

Hermione's whole body warmed and her pulse sped up at the vivid memory. In retrospect, perhaps television wasn't such a bad thing. After all, those arguments it caused had led to some rather intense, mind-blowing shagging sessions. In fact, most of their arguments these days tended to culminate in a similar conclusion. She often considered with some amusement that all the rows they'd had in school had really been nothing more than foreplay. How would her younger self react to that particular grain of knowledge?

As she leaned against the sink, absently sipping at her Earl Grey, her attention was captured by the words that Ron had magically written on the refrigerator in his familiar untidy scrawl the morning before his departure: Happy anniversary, love. Three years, now that's something worth celebrating. See you when I get back, and we'll do that thing you've been wanting to do!

Of course, Hermione noted with a mixture of adoration and amusement, he'd misspelled "celebrating," replacing the second "e" with an "i." Abruptly missing him more than words could convey and craving the sound of his voice, she picked up her mobile phone, fingering it for a moment as she considered calling him. She knew that Ron probably wouldn't answer. In all probability the call wouldn't go through due to magical interference, but it was worth a shot.

"Hello?" Ron's voice bellowed in her ear as the call went straight to his voicemail. "HELLO? Hermione, am I doing this right? Well, since you're the only person who'd be calling me…well, fuck, this could be your parents—I mean, I just said 'fuck,' didn't I? Fuck." Beep.

"Hi, Ron, it's me—obviously," she said, feeling both amused and overcome with affection. "How many times have I told you to change that message? If my parents do happen to call you, I doubt they'll be too impressed by the sailor vernacular." She paused then. "Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I love you and miss you…and that I was just thinking of our last argument…and how we resolved it when you bent me over the bar…" She swallowed hard, her pulse speeding up once more. "Just to give you something to think about. Call me when you have the time. Happy anniversary."

She hung up with a heavy sigh, thinking that this wasn't exactly the way she'd envisioned spending her three-year wedding anniversary: apart from her husband while he was away tracking down some unknown dark Wizard. And still quaking with anger at those arrogant, short-sighted gits from the Wizengamot.

Finishing her tea in a couple of gulps, she decided that a hot bath was what she needed. A hot bath and some light, mindless reading.

In the upstairs bedroom where Hermione stripped, Ron's clutter was ever present. The work robes he'd worn in to the office the day before his departure still lay piled in the middle of the floor: She loved Molly, but the witch hadn't done her children any favors by picking up after them their entire lives. Actually, Molly hadn't done Hermione any favors by spoiling her children. Ron was still prone to whining and complaining when he didn't get three square-meals a day—although, in all fairness, he'd taken up cooking on occasion and was actually quite impressive at it—and after three years of marriage he still acted incapable of picking up after himself. It was yet another source of their rows.

As she grabbed her old reliable copy of Hogwarts, A History from the antique armoire her mother had given her and went into the bathroom to run her bath, Hermione considered that those rows with Ron had led to some rather…interesting results as well. Although, his rather skilled ability to shut her up hadn't made her cave on her stance:

There was absolutely no reason Ron couldn't ensure that his underwear made it into the hamper, and Hermione vehemently refused to pick up after him—and especially since magic made it easy for Wizards everywhere to be lazy. It wasn't as if he actually had to physically pick up his clothes and walk to the hamper. No, how exhausting that would be, Hermione thought sarcastically. All he had to do was wave his wand, and they would zoom in of their own accord, but apparently even that meager physical activity was too exhausting for some. And so the cycle continued: argument, make-up sex, argument again, make-up sex again…

Sometimes she suspected that Ron deliberately left his dirty clothing in the middle of the floor because it was his preferred method of initiating sex. She'd called him out on it once or twice, and although he'd denied it, he hadn't been particularly convincing.

Hermione sighed in pleasure as she slipped inside the too-hot water, her eyes closing as her thoughts lingered on her infuriating, lovable, currently absent husband. He'd only been gone for two days, but she missed him already, flaws and all.

She wondered whether he'd gotten her message yet. She wondered whether he was safe. Maybe she should try calling Harry, too, since the two of them were together.

Maybe Ginny had heard from her husband. Since Hermione had started insisting Ron carry a mobile phone, her sister-in-law had insisted on one of the Muggle devices for Harry as well, especially since she was nearing the end of her pregnancy. The arrival of James Sirius Potter was expected in only a couple of weeks, and it hadn't exactly been an easy pregnancy.

Hermione opened her eyes then, picking up her book from the bathtub ledge and attempting to submerse herself in the familiar, comforting text. She gave up on this seemingly vain task after reading the same page three times and retaining none of it, setting the book aside with a sigh of frustrated resignation. She became this way every time Ron was off on one of his Auror field missions. It was frustrating not knowing where he was or what he was doing, but he'd sworn a magical oath not to speak of what he was doing when he was away—not even to his own wife. And she'd learned over four years ago that asking Kingsley was pointless.

There was an old Muggle adage that her father was fond of: "Loose lips sink ships." It was the same principle in this case, but it didn't make the lack of knowledge any less aggravating.

And after her infuriating meeting this afternoon, she craved being able to vent to her husband. She could imagine what Ron would say to her in regard to the backward slave owners in the Wizengamot: "Those morons wouldn't know a hippogriff's arse from their own mothers—not that there's much difference, mind you. It's like Kingsley said, Hermione. It'll take some time—but if anyone can change the world, I know it'll be you." And then he'd make some playful comment about spew, and Hermione would role her eyes and pretend to be annoyed…

There was a muffled crash from downstairs.

Calmly, Hermione stood up, picking up her wand from the toilet seat and summoning a towel. Drying and dressing swiftly, she slunk down the stairs, pressing against the wall to avoid the creaky floorboards that she knew by heart. In all likelihood it was Ron, who'd gotten her message and decided to floo home to surprise her, or it could be one of the other Weasleys, or even Neville or one of their other friends, but being the wife of an Auror had taught her to walk on the side of caution. After all, just because Voldemort was dead and most of his known Death Eaters had been rounded up or killed didn't mean that evil no longer existed in the world; it didn't mean that Wizards no longer let their substantial power go to their heads.

If they didn't, her husband would be out of a job, and Hermione wouldn't be a prime target for the subjects that he hunted.

Hermione relaxed, lowering her wand when she saw that it was just Ginny, who'd evidently made herself some tea and had dropped her tea cup. She was cursing, one hand cradling her overly swollen belly while she brandished her wand with the other, cleaning up the mess she'd made.

Her long red hair hung down to her waist, her face was fuller than it had been prior to pregnancy, but Hermione thought her sister-in-law seemed happy and glowing, despite the discomforts of pregnancy. "Sorry, Hermione," Ginny said, looking up when Hermione walked into the kitchen. "I heard the water running upstairs and thought I'd make myself at home until you came down."

"You know you don't have to apologize, Ginny," she responded sincerely. "Why don't you sit down? Is everything all right with the baby?"

Hermione moved about the kitchen, refilling Ginny's tea cup as the younger woman lowered herself gingerly onto a barstool. "Yeah, I feel great…I was just wondering…have you heard from Harry or Ron today? It's just unusual for Harry not to check in…"

"No, but they're just busy, I imagine," Hermione said lightly, trying not to let her apprehension show as she filled a teacup for herself, taking a cautious sip. "Generally speaking, Ron calls every day, but there have been times when he's been too busy. I've discovered that fretting nearly drives me mad, so I try not to."

It was actually a conversation that the two women had had many times over the past several years. They were bonded by the fact that they were both married to Aurors, Aurors who happened to be partners and best friends—and, of course, by the fact that Harry was married to Ron's sister. Growing up, Hermione hadn't had many girlfriends, preferring the (relative) simplicity associated with the companionship of boys, and Ginny was her first true friend of the female variety.

"You're probably right," Ginny replied as she stared down at her cup. "I'm probably worrying needlessly. The stress can't be good for the baby."

"No, it can't," Hermione agreed.

"So how did it go today?" Ginny asked, changing the subject abruptly. "Your committee's meeting with the Wizengamot?"

Hermione merely groaned as she shook her head.

"That bad, huh?"

"Let's just say that I called the whole lot of them slave owners. Needless to say, they weren't impressed."

Ginny laughed at that: "If the shoe fits…"

"Yes, I also said that."

She laughed even harder, clutching a stitch in her side. "Bloody gits. Wish I could've been there for that."

Hermione couldn't help but chuckle along with her sister-in-law. "Yes, well, I fear that my less-than-diplomatic attitude may have delayed progress even further," she added seriously when her laughter had died. "They're never going to listen to me now."

"Who cares?" Ginny replied. "Kingsley's on your side and, besides, the old goats'll be dead in a couple of years, replaced by others with more modern Wizarding views. After the war, the younger generations—no matter their 'blood status'— are more inclined to be in favor of freedom for all races."

"It just…I find it frustrating that after everything that was lost and gained during the war that the 'old families' still have so much influence in the Ministry. There's still so much prejudice. I could practically feel the contempt the moment I entered the room. I may as well have had 'Mudblood' stamped on my forehead."

"Well, Rome wasn't built in a day."

"That's a Muggle expression."

"My husband was raised by Muggles," the younger woman replied with a dismissive shrug. "Barmy Muggles, but Muggles nonetheless—and speaking of, we're actually having Harry's cousin and the cousin's wife over for dinner on Friday, and I wanted to invite you and Ron. I figured if the wife's a total hag, I'll at least have you on my side, so it won't be completely unbearable."

"Wait, Harry's cousin? Dudley?"

"The one and only," she replied with a laugh. "They got back in touch a couple months back. Apparently Dudley no longer shares his parents' opinions about Wizarding society."

"I can't believe Harry didn't tell me!" Hermione stated, feeling astonished. No, she wasn't Harry's wife, but they were still supposed to be best friends, weren't they? She, Harry, Ron, and Ginny shared practically everything, so it was hard for her to believe that Harry hadn't told her and Ron about this new development.

"I'm not even sure that he's told Ron yet," Ginny said gently, as if suspecting what Hermione was thinking. "Reconnecting with that part of his life has been difficult for him, more difficult than he even wants me to know about, I think."

"What about his aunt and uncle?" Hermione asked curiously.

"As far as I know, it's only Dudley he's been in contact with. I think there's a part of him that desires to connect with his aunt, but…" Ginny's voice trailed off, and Hermione understood. His mother's sister had treated Harry like a second-class citizen. Little better than how a Wizarding pureblood might treat a house-elf, in fact. And yet she was his mother's only living blood relative, and Hermione knew from what Harry had told him that there was a time when Petunia and Lily had been close when they were children. Lily had loved Petunia.

"Well, Ron and I will definitely be there," Hermione said after a moment. "Assuming, of course, that the boys make it home before Friday."

"They should," Ginny replied hesitantly. "Harry said they should only be gone for a few days this time." She didn't say what Hermione was thinking, that there had been times when they'd only expected to be gone for a few days, and then two or three weeks had gone by. "Do you ever wish—?"

"That they'd refused Kingsley's offer five years ago?" Hermione said softly. "That they'd chosen careers in…Quidditch or anything else, really? All the time." She paused. "But this is what Ron and Harry enjoy doing. Catching dark Wizards is satisfying to them, and they're good at what they do."

"I know that," Ginny replied reasonably. "It's just…"

"I know."

The two women were silent, each lost in their own thoughts. Hermione's tea had gone cold, but she hardly noticed.

"Do you and Ron ever talk about having children?" Ginny asked after a moment. Strangely, it was a question that had somehow never been broached between the two women. Hermione figured that Ginny had assumed that she and Ron would someday, but her own pregnancy had made her ponder on it more often than usual.

"Yes, of course," Hermione replied immediately. "It's something we discussed before we got married. I always wanted children eventually, and Ron…well, I'm sure you can imagine…but it keeps getting put off because of our careers." She laughed then. "If I'll be honest, sometimes I wish for an accident—say the potion doesn't work properly, or I forget to take it by accident… You know, take the thought and rationalizing out of it and just allow nature to take its proper course."

"I know what you mean. That's how we got James here." Ginny rubbed her belly absently. "I went off the potion, and we figured if it happened it was meant to be. I didn't realize it would only take a couple of weeks!"

Hermione smiled. "For it to happen for us in the near future, it would have to be a real accident."

"Well, you're only twenty-three," Ginny replied with a grin. "I think you've still got a few more viable child-bearing years ahead of you."

"You think so, do you?" Hermione laughed. "My ovaries aren't about to shrivel up and die if an egg isn't fertilized within the next year or two?"

"No, I think not."

"Good to know."

Abruptly, there was a flash of green light from her peripheral vision, and Hermione glanced up in time to see Ron stepping out of the fireplace, his traveling cloak askew on his shoulders, a bundle of slightly wilted red roses clutched in his right hand.

"I just got your message, and I came as soon as I could get away!" Ron said as he treaded ash onto the area rug, and Hermione was on her feet immediately, meeting him halfway, his strong arms engulfing her. She still sometimes marveled at how much he'd filled out in recent years. Though still lanky, she appreciated the new broadness through his shoulders and his chest, and the washboard abs created by the rigorous physical training he was put through on a regular basis. "Happy anniversary, love," he breathed into her hair. "Oh, hey, Ginny—Harry should already be at your house by now—"

She was already waddling toward the hearth, maneuvering around her brother and sister-in-law as fast as she could. "Hey, Ron—Oh, and don't forget about Friday, Hermione!" Ginny called just before she vanished into the fireplace. "Thanks for the tea!"

"What's happening on Friday?" Ron breathed against Hermione's lips, but he didn't really seem too interested in her reply as his hands tightened on her hips, pulling her flush against his body. He smelled good, like his soap and skin and spearmint toothpaste and, well, just Ron.

"Dinner at Harry and Ginny's," Hermione replied, pulling back from him with a teasing smile. "Dudley and his wife will be there, also. These are for me, I take it?" she added, prying the now partly squashed bouquet from his hands.

"Hold up, Dudley?" Ron asked as she dug beneath the bar for a vase. She felt his eyes on her arse, so she arched her back for his benefit. "Harry's big, dumb git of a cousin?"

"Maybe he's not so dumb anymore," she replied simply as she used her wand to fill the vase and then placed the slightly wilted roses lovingly inside it.

"Whatever you say," Ron replied as she turned to face him once more, and she felt her body warm as his eyes flickered toward her chest, and the expression on his face was hungry, as if they'd been apart for weeks rather than mere days. "I missed you." His voice was a low, warm rumble in his throat, and Hermione shivered.

"You left your work robes in the bedroom floor again," she replied, trying to maintain a poker face. "Maybe you should go pick them up."

A slow lopsided grin formed on his familiar features. "Maybe you should make me."

"Maybe I will."

"Yeah, I'd like to see you try."

There was a moment of silence between them as they measured each other up, and she knew that he was silently daring her to try it. Her wand hand twitched, the spell on the tip of her tongue—

Ron was quicker, however: The force of his silent incantation caused her wand to sail out of her grip, landing neatly in his outstretched hand, and she felt a thrill of delight as he crossed the room in two quick strides and literally threw her over his shoulder none-too-gently and marched up the stairs.

God, yes, Hermione thought...

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A/N: To cite my source, I read somewhere (possibly JKR's website, but I can't be certain) that Harry and Dudley eventually became friends, often visiting each other over the years, so I thought I'd incorporate that into this a bit.