A/N: This is something that came about from a desire to reconcile how Ron and Family got anything they wanted and how Harry almost lost everything. Thanks go out to trp0522 for the suggestion of the title I used.
Full Disclosure: I borrow a few turns of phrase from Chris Dee. Her depictions of banter between Bruce and Selina are gold. There are a few lines that I couldn't resist borrowing from Doctor Who as well. I snagged the name Jimmy from Auror Captain Harry Potter. The Idea of granting wishes to deserving people by Norse goddesses belongs to Kosuke Fujishima. To my knowledge, the similarities end there. There are also a few mentions in homage to the great fanfiction writers whose work I greatly admire. I don't own Harry Potter.
Tears of Red and Gold part 1
Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny were gathered in the Burrow. It was Ron's 18th birthday and they were all planning to celebrate along with Ron's parents. The cake was nearly ready save for a bit more icing and the candles - Ron eyed it impatiently. Seated at the head of the table in recognition of his special day, he tapped his fingers loudly on the wooden table in irritation.
Hermione was seated just to Ron's right and was eagerly talking about a new book on ancient runes she had purchased. Ron tuned her out as she expounded upon her interests; though, Harry seemed to be interested.
Despite the festive atmosphere, Harry felt glum. He and Ginny and had never gotten back together despite numerous attempts on her part. Living through a war changes a man and Harry just didn't feel comfortable with Ginny after the Final Battle. Certainly they'd had fun during the week they had been together, but a handful of intense snogging sessions does not a long lasting relationship make. Case in point, their time together had barely lasted a week.
Leaving aside the squicky feeling he got when he thought of Ginny's hair - red, ugh. He repressed a shudder and found himself smiling as he focused on Hermione. She had an amazing ability to talk about normally uninteresting topics (like runes) and make them seem like the most fascinating thing in the world. It didn't hurt that her lips were gorgeous and that he enjoyed watching them move. He tried not to focus on the fact that she and Ron were currently trying to give dating a go, but he was sure he would be ready if Ron made the humungous mistake of letting Hermione go.
The cake had long since been devoured and Ron was leaning back in his chair feeling fat and happy... well, perhaps not truly happy. He was feeling a bit randy as well. He leered a bit at Hermione when her back was turned. She truly had developed a fine backside. He had been amazed at how much worth she had put on his worry for the Hogwarts house elves; after all, who would cook and clean and do up his laundry if the house elves got snuffed?
What frustrated him was how reticent she still was. Two dates and all he got was a little light kissing. He'd gotten further with Lavendar on their first date. On that note, Ron idly wondered what Lavendar was doing these days. He was shaken from his thoughts by Molly telling him it was time for presents.
Ron Weasley had done extremely well for himself. Loads and loads of quidditch stuff: various pieces of armor from his brothers sent via owl post, a complete set of quidditch balls from his parents, goggles from Ginny, and a Cleansweep broom from Harry. Hermione's gift, he opened in great excitement. He hoped it would be a note promising him certain 'special' favors for his birthday. It turned out to be a book on the Chudley Cannons. That was all. Naturally he frowned as he turned the book upside down and shook it vigorously to make sure no note was stuck between the pages - nothing came out. That Hermione looked hurt never crossed his mind. He was disappointed, but not dissuaded.
Leaning over to catch Hermione's ear, he whispered all the rude thoughts that had been percolating in his mind since fifth year. Before he could even finish his plans involving a banana and silk stockings, Hermione slapped him hard.
"Bloody Hell, Woman!" he yowled. "What is your problem? I'm your boyfriend and you're my girlfriend, couples do this sort of thing!"
Hermione had been staring at her hand as if she had never seen it before. Sighing, she turned her gaze back to Ron and began to explain. "Ron, we aren't girlfriend and boyfriend. We're not a couple. Right now, we're just two friends trying to see if we have a future together. At best you could say we're dating but nothing more than that." Her face flushed lightly in embarrassment as she looked guiltily at Harry before continuing. "I'm not ready to do that with you. In fact, that is something I would only do with my husband. If you're expecting me to do that with you, then I think maybe we should end it now."
The room was quiet as Ron's face flushed red in anger. The red imprint of Hermione's hand faded into the background of his reddening face.
"Bollocks! Dating couples do that all the time. Why, on our first date, Lavendar and me-" then he realized that everyone was staring at them. "Fine! If you're going to be that way, then get out of my house!
"Please, Ron. You can't mean that..."
There you go again! Always telling me what I can and can't do. Don't slouch, Ron; use your silverware, Ron; Wash your hands after you use the loo, Ron. Blimey! Does it never end?
Not liking the way this conversation was going, Hermione tried a different tactic. "
I'm just... I'm just trying to make you happy. It seems like that's all I've been trying to do since I've known you."
"Well, then you're doing a piss poor job of it," he said in a huff.
"That really hurts, Ron. I know you don't believe me and I know you don't really mean to hurt me, but your words hurts nonetheless."
"Then why don't you leave?" The sarcasm was dripping from his voice.
"Wha- I mean, I don't understand?"
"You heard me, Herms."
"Are you breaking up with me?"
"Nothing would make me happier. In fact, I want nothing to do with you anymore at all.
"Please, Ron. Just stop and think about what you're doing… Don't say something you'll regret"
"THAT'S IT! THAT'S THE LAST STRAW! GET OUT! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE AND LEAVE ME AND MY FAMILY ALONE!" he yelled.
Hermione couldn't move, her face was frozen with a look of disbelieving shock. "I... I... You...But...well, huh."
It was at that point that things began to get very, very weird, and for this group that really says something.
Hermione actually began to float off the ground. Her casual clothing began to shift and blur, as if someone were casting a powerful transfiguration spell in slow motion; her pale white skin started to glow with a pearly sheen and green tear drop marks were becoming visible on her cheeks and forehead. Everyone shied away except for Harry. He thought she looked beautiful and if there was one thing he was certain of, it was that Hermione Granger would never seriously hurt him. Some minor scrapes and bruises from the rapidly developing winds and flying debris around the floating Miss Granger were a small price to pay as he watched her age into maturity. Ye gods, she was gorgeous.
As suddenly as the winds began, those same winds abruptly stopped and plates, bowls and small pieces of furniture dropped to the ground with a loud clatter.
The glow died down and Hermione's feet touched the ground. The nearly blinding light reduced itself to a gentle, almost divine gleam. She spoke. "Molly Weasley, the contract to ensure the happiness of your children has been abrogated by one Ronald Bilius Weasley, one of the primary beneficiaries. In accordance to the Doctrine of Free Will and Destiny, all Divine reality adjustments may be rendered null and void should one or all of the primary beneficiaries decline action as per terms of the original agreement.
Molly was continually shaking her head. In a choked voice, she babbled, "No, No, No, it can't be. My babies, I thought it was a dream. No, No, No, it can't be. My babies..." again and again.
"Molly, what's going on?" demanded Arthur.
Hermione turned to Molly and her eyes began to shimmer. "Also in accordance to the Doctrine of Free Will and Destiny, all current reality adjustments still active will be terminated forth with." She turned toward Ron who was cowering behind an overturned, overstuffed, armchair. "Let it be known that what happens next is on your head Ronald Bilius Weasley."
As she finished speaking, her head ducked down and her eyes closed, she drew her arms in and clenched her hands in concentration. All of the sudden, she threw her arms, head and hands back with waves of azure light streaming from her. "DISPELL!" she cried and a wave of golden light issued forth from Hermione, spreading out in a circle. The ring of light thinned as it spread outward, briefly touching all around her then pushing outward to circle the globe. As the light touched each person in the Burrow, each fell unconscious, though for those beyond the Burrow walls, the energy became so diffuse that no one noticed anything out of the ordinary save for a slight tingling sensation.
Harry regained conscious but his eyes were still closed. Someone with a gentle touch and soft fingers had evidently moved his body from where it fell and had moved his head to lay comfortably on her lap. Fingers were gently being run through his already messy hair and a thumb was stroking daintily down his faded scar. It felt really, really nice.
"I'm sorry, Harry…"
He opened his eyes to stare up at his best friend. "Hermione?"
Her brow was creased with worry and a quiet sob escaped from her mouth. "Not exactly…"
Harry's eyes shot open in alarm. The colored tattoos notwithstanding, she looked like his best friend and longtime crush; though, perhaps a bit more mature. Was she an imposter?
"Don't look at me like that, Harry James Potter. I know what you are thinking and I can assure you that I am not an imposter. In fact, if anyone has the right to be called Hermione Jane Granger, then it's me."
His mouth dropped open. She had read his mind – not just guessed as she often did, but actually READ HIS MIND.
She rolled her eyes. "Honestly, it wasn't that hard. I know you well enough that I could have guessed at it and done just as well. As for the impromptu mind reading, it was a reflex and not something I meant to do to you after everything Snape had done to you. I am very sorry, I won't do it again without your permission.
Nodding his head, but still sporting a confused look, she went on to explain.
"I have only been Hermione Granger since the day I met you on the train."
"But, your parents… I've met them before; I've been to your house. How could you not have been Hermione Granger until that day in September 7 years ago?"
Hermione's lips formed a tired and ironic smile as she lowered her head and sighed. "I have a lot of things to tell you Harry, and I'd prefer not to have to do it a half-dozen times." She snapped her fingers and all the prone Weasley's lifted off of the ground, floated into magically righted chairs, stools and sofas and regained consciousness. "You've been silenced, and bound to those seats until I've finished my explanation. I don't have all day so I'm going to handle all the questions at the end. Just nod your head if you understand.
Arthur nodded, but Ginny, Molly and Ron just glared at Hermione and Harry as he still had his head pillowed on her lap.
Not-Exactly-Hermione cleared her throat and began to explain. "It all began on a bright and clear day here at the Burrow…"
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The events that led up to today may have started at the Burrow, but I would imagine that you're curious about where I began?
"What you have to understand is that before you met me on the Hogwarts express, I had a completely different life. I'm… oh Lords above, this is hard… I'm a goddess."
Harry's mouth opened to ask a question, but Hermione moved her hand to cover his mouth. "I'm going to be telling you a lot of things that are hard to believe. If I stop to answer every question in depth, we'll be here all day. I am not going to silence you, but I would appreciate it if you waited until the end as well.
He nodded and she continued her explanation but did not take her hand away from his mouth.
"As I was saying, I was a goddess (and actually still am) and I was searching around the British Isles. You have to understand, Harry. I'm actually much older than I appear. I'm… Well, you see… Oh Bother! I'M MARRIED."
Harry didn't say a word but his eyes widened in shock but then narrowed in concern.
Hermione sighed. It was deep and mournful and carried with it the impression of long and lonely nights spent apart. "Times are different from what they once were. In modern times, my husband and I both spent our time granting wishes to deserving mortals as per the dictates of the Norns, you've probably heard of them referred to as the Fates. It was good work, not too hard and not too easy. Monotony was not a problem for us; however, the center could not hold forever, I suppose.
One day, my husband failed to return home from his assignment. I was understandably worried as I loved and still do love him very much. I waited and waited, but he did not return. As you might guess, there are very few things in the wide world that can harm a god. I finally attempted to discover his fate from the Norns, but they were uncooperative. The Norns don't communicate the way humans do and they DO NOT under ANY circumstances explain themselves or their decisions… a lot like Dumbledore, I suppose. I'm certain they knew what became of my husband, but they would not tell me anything at all.
She sighed once more and then continued. "Not one to give up, I decided to search for him myself. I knew he had been assigned to a case in the British Isles and that is where I started my search. As you can imagine, I never found him, but I kept on looking. Eventually, another case was assigned to me and I went to grant a wish. Oddly enough, the recipient was right here in the Burrow.
Harry's eyes had relaxed, but upon this new revelation, his hand shot up to grip hers.
"That's right, Harry. I granted a wish to Molly Weasley. Her one wish, and keep in mind that when I'm enforcing a wish I can do almost anything, was simply that she wanted her children to be happy. I can't say it was a bad wish, but it was very inconvenient. Most wishes are finished as soon as they are made, but this one was interpreted by fate to be long term. Not a bad choice when you look at all it wrought, but when you consider that I could have done virtually anything she could have imagined, it does seem rather limited, don't you think?"
Harry thought so as well, though his face had taken a somewhat somber cast.
"I granted the wish and for a while it was easy. One son wanted to be Head Boy and a curse breaker for Gringotts, done; another son wanted to be Quidditch captain and a Dragon keeper, done; Prefect then later Head Boy and work for the ministry, done; Best pranksters and never get caught, done. It was actually pretty easy. All I had to do was fulfill their hearts' desires and I was good - wish fulfillment was easy. Their lives weren't 'perfect' because their desires weren't perfect. Despite everything, they had good heads on their shoulders and in their heart of hearts knew not to want too much… at least that is what the older children were like. I really ran into trouble with the two younger sons: Ronald and Jimmy Weasley."
There was much knocking and banging as feet and arms thrashed in their seats. They couldn't talk, but by Merlin they could make noise.
Hermione glared at the people arrayed around her. She snapped her fingers and the silence extended beyond their mouths to encompass their bodies. "Now don't make such a fuss, I'm sure you remember Jimmy by now. It isn't my fault that the Weasley bloodline had been cursed to only have male children for the past three centuries. You don't know how troublesome it was for me to circumvent that curse; the paperwork alone would have killed a mortal, but in the end, I finally succeeded.
Harry had actually yanked his own head away from Hermione and was covering his mouth with both his hands. He looked distinctly queasy.
Hermione looked apologetic and was gently stroking his back to try and calm him. "Sorry, Harry. Jimmy's greatest desire was to marry the Boy-Who-Lived. One of the limitations that even I have to follow involves Love and Free Will. You didn't like boys and so I couldn't make you fall in love with Jimmy. I could, however, make Jimmy into someone you could conceivably fall in love with – along came Ginny."
Harry threw up on the floor.
Cleaning up the sick with a flick of her wrist, she continued. I couldn't; of course, make Jimmy into a girl and leave any public record of Ginny having been born a male so all the memories, documents, and photos of her family were also 'edited' for content. I left Ginny's memory alone, but she just thought it was a miracle and didn't question it.
"Why didn't you tell me BEFORE I started dating her!" He fumed, but his gorge began to rise again and he quickly covered his mouth.
Looking truly penitent, she tried to explain. "It will all become clear as I continue my explanation. But suffice it to say, after we'd met, I wasn't a goddess, I was just Hermione Granger. I honestly didn't know until my full memories returned."
Harry's mouth was tight but he gave a brief nod that Hermione took to mean for her to continue her explanation. "To continue, I made Jimmy into Ginny and no one was the wiser. That may seem grandiose, but Ginny was happy as she was confident you'd now fall in love with her. No guarantees, mind, but I laid the foundation." Hermione actually looked sad after that pronouncement.
"Ron, was and until now has been my greatest problem child. His heart's desire started simply enough, he wanted to be Harry Potter's best friend. I arranged it, but he wasn't like the other Weasley children, Lord Almighty, he was greedy. Every time I fulfilled one wish, he wanted something else right away and usually it was an order of magnitude bigger. A lot like Dudley, if I'm recalling your description correctly. Anyway, I was almost constantly working on making him happy; it was truly unbelievable how quickly what most people would consider a passing fancy turned into an all-consuming, heartfelt desire for him."
"Case in point, he somehow got into his head that he wanted to meet a muggle-born after reading his Marvin the Mad Muggle comics. Again, there were considerations as to how far I can meddle with Free Will, so I volunteered myself for the duty rather than spend the inordinate amount of time necessary to figure out a convoluted plan to get an actual Muggle born to be his friend."
Harry raised an eyebrow. Was it really that hard to get a friend for Ron?
Correctly reading Harry's expression, she answered him. "It may have slipped your notice, Harry, but Ron is distinctly unlikeable, more so when he was younger and then again when he got older. Actually, there is only a small gap of time in his life when he was even semi-likeable."
Harry paused to consider this statement but Hermione kept on going through her story.
I had hoped to appeal to his better instincts to become his friend and planned to create some situation where he had a chance to shine.
Unable to control himself, Harry burst out, "You were responsible for the troll!" Hurt shone through his eyes that the moment they had become friends was contrived... it looked as though he'd been manipulated again!
Aware of the pained expression on Harry's face, she was quick to reassure him. "No, No! Admittedly, I was aware of the situation that led to the Troll, but I only manipulated the situation enough to try and get Ron motivated. Imagine my surprise when I found he was far more cowardly than I expected and you had to drag him to the toilet. Fortunately, the lesson I had given him in Charms class for the levitation charm finally came to the fore of his slow firing synapses and he was able to knock the Troll out."
Swallowing loudly, Harry hesitantly asked, "But if you knew enough to manipulate Quirrel's troll, why couldn't you tell us what was going on? I thought we were friends, Hermione?"
"We are friends, Harry – or at least you and Hermione were friends. I suppose everything will depend on whether you want to remain friends after you know everything." Completely unawares, Not-Hermione bit her lip and looked beseechingly at Harry. He scooted closer and she began her tale again in earnest.
"Hermione? But, you're Hermione, aren't you?"
Hermione began to massage the bridge of her nose. This was going to take some explaining.
To Be Continued.
Author's End Notes: I've written just under 30 pages worth of this story. This part amounts to around 8 pages. I will be posting the second part almost immediately, but I'm still cleaning up part three. I hope to end everything in part four. We shall see...
For ongoing stories, everything from Apaidan. I eagerly await more "A New Opening Night".
For completed works, Robst's "Knowledge is Power".