Stripped Bare

Chapter Thirty-Three

The Weasley home was in a state of tension. All of the Weasleys that had been at the hospital had returned to the Burrow almost instantly at the news. Molly attempted to smother her guilt at leaving her son by thinking of the many capable witches and wizards that stationed at the hospital. He would be well protected. Molly shook her head and looked around the room. Harry sat in an armchair with Ginny on his lap. Fred and George sat on the couch. Lavender stood inside the living room with Charlie behind her. Her entire figure screamed her nerves. Her arms were crossed tightly over her chest. She was aware of Charlie rubbing his hands up and down her shoulders in an effort to loosen her muscles.

"How about some hot chocolate, Lavender?" Charlie asked quietly. Lavender glanced over him and gave him a shaky smile; he read it in her eyes. She would do anything to get out of this too silent, too tense room. He gave her a tiny smile and steered her toward the kitchen. Charlie bit into his lip slightly as he thought of a way to break the silence that seemed to fall over them. "Why didn't you ever tell us that things weren't going well with Ron?" Charlie flinched as the question slipped from his lips. Lavender glanced up at him.

"Would it have mattered?" She asked. Lavender caught the way Charlie's body tensed at her question. Her eyes seemed to be fixed on the way he moved. His hands were steady as he poured his coffee and set her water on boil.

"We could have taken off the curse sooner…" Charlie said. His tone was strained with suppressed outrage. "It wouldn't have gotten to the point that you felt your only option was Hermione…" Charlie turned to her then. In his hand sat an aged yellow coffee cup. Lavender was fixated for a moment on the steam as it rose to caress the side of his strong jaw. "We would have done something, Lavender…"

"I tore apart their relationship," Lavender stated. Charlie did not have to question whose relationship she spoke of. It was something that they attempted not to talk about. "Why is it you all seem to have forgotten that?"

"Because they wouldn't have worked out anyway," Charlie stated as he lowered his coffee cup from his lips. That was another truth so many of the Weasleys attempted to ignore, but Charlie had seen it. "They were too different. Ron never seemed to be able to accept her for who she was…" Charlie shook his head. "But-"

"The threat's passed," Presley announced as he reappeared. Charlie and Lavender glanced at one another. They hadn't even heard him apparate into the house. Vaguely, Charlie could hear Mad Eyed Moody hollering "Constant Vigilance!" in the back of his mind. "Sting attacked some of the higher ups in the Death Eater circle. It won't be long before they all turn on him."

"Good," Molly couldn't help but breathe. "We won't have to worry about him then?"

"I didn't say that, Molly," Presley reminded. Sometimes he hated himself for what Hermione called his "most endearing" trait. He was brutally honest with his family and friends. Over the time he had spent with Sirius, he now knew where he got it from. "This could backfire. Instead of being enraged, they could be afraid…After all, that lot was never known for courage…" Molly let out a very long, aggravated sigh as she plopped down into the red armchair.

"So we're back to square one?" She asked. Her exhaustion was clear in her tone. Molly just wanted all of this to be over with already. The war had ended years ago, but they still had to clean up the mess. She glanced up briefly as Arthur squeezed her shoulder gently.

"Not necessarily," Presley argued. "Sting's now going to be suspicious of every man in his circle. He'll be looking closer for signs of discontent." The Weasleys exchanged a worried look. Sirius frowned deeply. Presley couldn't help but smile grimly as he watched the family figure it out. If Sting was more suspicious and searching for faults, Presley's life just became a little more endangered. "I'll be fine." He reassured everyone. "Sting trusts me."

Ginny glanced worriedly over her shoulder at her husband. Harry's eyes seemed to see through Presley. He was thinking of the last double agent the Order had. Voldemort had trusted Snape as well. She squeezed her husband's hand. Harry glanced toward her and smiled halfheartedly.

"I'm going to go call Hermione," Harry whispered to her as he slipped his hand out from underneath hers. Ginny nodded and followed him with her eyes as he walked out of the room. Vaguely, she wondered if any of them would ever fully heal from the war. As she looked around the room at the tense faces, she realized that they probably wouldn't. The wounds were too deep.

Hermione sagged against Spencer in relief as she closed her phone. Spencer's fingertips stilled their dance with her hair at the action. He pressed a small kiss to her shoulder and balanced his chin on her shoulder.

"Everything okay?" He asked. Hermione nodded and leaned forward to set her phone on the coffee table. The red blanket they had wrapped around them fell forward slightly as she leaned forward. Spencer tucked it closer around her as she settled back against his chest. She smiled softly over at him and squeezed his hand in thanks. Spencer could read the relief and conflict in her eyes.

"The threat's passed. He attacked some of his higher ups in the circle," Hermione informed him.

"But it bothers you because there has been a loss of life," Spencer stated evenly. She nodded slightly. He understood completely. It was the same emotion he felt when his team had to kill an UNSUB. Despite the men being responsible for the death of many, he couldn't find it in himself to be proud that it had been his hand or the hands of his team to kill him. The only consolation was that those men wouldn't harm anyone else and that those families got closure. So, he didn't wait for Hermione's reply. He simply tightened his arms around her and kissed her hair.