So sorry for the super long wait. I just couldn't get myself to write. I knew what I wanted to say but procrastination got the best of me. Anyway, here's the next chapter, and as always, I sadly own nothing but the plot.
Ron did not sleep that night. He kept thinking about the events of the previous night and how close he and Pansy came to being caught helping those muggleborns escape. It still seemed surreal that he was working alongside the Slytherin girl. She was the last person he would have ever imagined he would end up working with. And they were working to save muggleborns no less.
Realizing he would not be able to go to sleep that night, Ron got up and decided to get breakfast started for him and Pansy. Their meals were small and simple but they seemed to be better than what he had while traveling with Harry and Hermione. This group had better resources mainly because they were not opposed to stealing when they wandered close to towns and villages.
Thinking about this made Ron's mind wander to his friends. He should have never deserted them. He may not have been their greatest asset, but here he ran the risk of blowing their cover and getting them caught. He missed them terribly but he had no way of going back to them. This brought him to his current dilemma. He was supposed to be able to give Pansy information on his friends but there was not much he could say. Thorn was getting anxious for anything that would help him find Harry so he could turn him in.
Ron decided that he would convince Pansy to give Thorn false clues about the whereabouts of his friends. Then it would seem like Pansy was doing her job and they would feel less pressured by Thorn.
Just then Pansy woke up and groggily headed outside to clean up. She didn't even notice that Ron was already up as she walked out of the tent. Ron was usually the last to get up so he had never seen her just out of bed. He thought she looked cute with her hair messy and still looking sleepy. He wasn't sure what made him think of Pansy as 'cute'. Perhaps it was that they had been getting along these past few weeks or maybe because they now shared a few secrets. Whatever the reason, Ron thought that she didn't look all that bad anymore. She had certainly grown out of that pug-face look she had in her earlier years at Hogwarts. But her face was not the only thing that had filled out. She was curvier and had really nice legs…
Ron stopped with that thought. He did not want to keep thinking about Pansy that way. Sure they were working together now but he was still not willing to admit that he could see her as anything other than a partner in helping muggleborns.
Pansy came back in the tent looking more awake and her hair pulled up in a ponytail. She noticed Ron was already up and had breakfast waiting. She grabbed a plate and they both ate in silence.
After they finished their meal Ron spoke up. "Pansy, I think that it would be best to give Thorn some information on where my friends could be."
"I had been thinking about that too. But I don't want to make you say anything you don't want to," Pansy said.
"We could always give him fake information," Ron said cheerfully. "If you tell him you got me talking he will believe that I really am telling the truth." He was confident that such a simple plan would be enough to fool Thorn.
"What do you suggest we tell him?"
"How about we tell him that when I was traveling with Harry and Hermione, they talked about coming here to this forest? That would ensure that we spend some more time here while they go off on a wild search and it would distract them from finding anymore runaways."
"That does seem like a good plan. I'll tell him about it now before he mobilizes the others. He'll probably send people out looking for your friends as soon as I tell him."
Pansy went over to Thorn's tent immediately. The sooner they gave him the false information the sooner they could set their plan in motion. "Thorn, I got some information out of the Weasley boy. He says that his friends were thinking of coming here to these woods."
"Are your sure he wasn't lying?" he said with a mouthful of food.
"I've got him thinking he can trust me now," she lied. "After I defended him in front of you last night, he believes that I'm going to help him escape."
"Well what do we suggest we do? This forest is big; if they are here they could be anywhere."
"Send a few groups out in search of them. I'll lead a group myself and take Weasley with me. He might be better able to spot them."
They spent the better part of the next 5 days searching the woods. Thorn was getting really impatient but Pansy assured him that this was one possible place where they were thinking of hiding and that they may not be there yet. Everyday Thorn sent out groups of his men to search the forest. Pansy lead Ron and two other Snatchers through the woods.
That night, she was quiet as they walked further into the forest than they had the other days. She was thinking about Ron and how impossible it seemed that they would ever team up for anything yet here they were, working together to help muggleborns escape the Snatchers. He seemed different from when they were in school. He used to be the dimwitted sidekick who always followed Potter and Granger's lead. Now he took charge and was actually of some help to her.
He wasn't so bad looking either. He had really grown into his body and his red hair and freckles didn't bother her so much anymore. Pansy wasn't sure what made her change her mind about Ron but she could now consider him her friend. He understood her goals and helped her with her plans. She didn't mind that her thoughts of him had changed but she was afraid that he might not have changed his mind about her. She had showed him that she really had changed. She was no longer the selfish, spoiled brat she was in school. The recent events in her life had caused her to reevaluate her priorities. She just hoped he would see that.
Pansy was so lost in thought, she completely missed the fact that they had stumbled upon a muggleborn camp. It was too late though, the two Snatchers had spotted them too and before Pansy could think of a way to help them, the two men had caught the couple. Pansy had no choice but to instruct the two men to take the muggleborn couple to Thorn so they could turn them in to the ministry.
"Ron," Pansy hissed as they walked back to their camp, "why didn't you alert me we were getting close to those people?"
"I was walking behind you and those two. I didn't see them until it was too late!"
They walked in silence for a while before Pansy said, "Sorry, I didn't mean to blame you. I was distracted and didn't notice them either. What are we going to do now?"
"I think we're going to have to let Thorn turn them in. I don't want to but it might be the best idea. We would surely be caught helping them escape so that plan is out. And if we do turn them in, Thorn might be appeased for a while. That way he doesn't get suspicious of you for not helping him catch anyone. It has been a while since they have caught anyone."
"As much as I wish it wouldn't have to be this way, you're right. We just have to let Thorn turn them in," Pansy said with sadness.
They had caught an elderly couple. The woman reminded her so much of Agnes that turning her in to the Ministry broke Pansy's heart. She felt as though she were turning Agnes herself in.
When they arrived back at their camp, the couple was turned into Thorn. He was really happy with the capture. He congratulated Pansy and her group and he and some men went on to take the couple to the Ministry.
When they returned, Thorn announced that the Ministry had been generous with their reward and they would spend the night celebrating. Pansy didn't feel like celebrating though so she went back to her tent.
Ron joined in on the festivities for a while. It was best if the Snatchers thought that he really was happy to be catching muggleborns. After a while of watching the rowdy men drink and laugh he had enough and went to his tent. There he found a crying Pansy.
"Hey, Pansy what's wrong?"
"I can't…" sniff, "believe we let those...those beasts…" sniff, "turn that old couple in," she said between sobs.
"You know we had to. Things have been getting pretty hard for us," he said taking a seat next to her on her bed. "It was them or us."
"I know," she sniffled. "I just wish we didn't have to. The old lady reminded me so much of Agnes."
Pansy started crying again. Ron wasn't sure what he could do to comfort her so he just pulled her into a hug. They remained this way until she stopped crying and fell asleep in his arms. He didn't dare move her. They had been through a lot that day and the least he could do for her was to let her sleep. He lay back on the bed careful not to move her too much and held her as she slept. He had grown to care for this girl whose heart was finally in the right place. Now he could definitely say that she was his friend.