A/N: We're up to the second book (sweet Dumbledore, finally)! Which starts off with a bang. Seriously, a bang. Small warning: beware of upcoming sexual situations. It's nothing explicit. There's only a mention or two (or more) of soul bonds, harems, and scandalously underaged frick fracking. Yup.
I had far, far too much fun writing this chapter. I hope all of you enjoy, and I apologise for my atrociously inappropriate sense of humour.
"Harry took a deep breath, letting his lungs fill with blessed air. Stale and putrid air, but air nonetheless. Fawkes waved its wings, flying back as its last few tears fell to the Chamber's ground. The boy, scrambling to sit up and clutching his miraculously healed arm, didn't notice the worried look the bird sent him. Even if he had seen, he wouldn't have cared what this creature of the light felt.
'He's alive?' Ginny crawled towards him, tears making ripples through the blood and dirt coating her skin. Her usually prominent red hair fell to the background. But something else made Harry pay attention to this girl he'd dismissed as a silly fanatic. This was, simply, that her lips weren't moving. 'He's alive! He rescued me! HARRY POTTER RESCUED ME! It's like a fairy tale—'
'A fairy tale?' Harry interrupted her shrieks, rubbing his ears from the noise. Then he rubbed his eyes, as something was clearly wrong with them too. He wondered if the basilisk's poison had lasting effects. 'Are you out of your bleeding mind?'
Ginny's face turned even redder, due to a bewildered flush sweeping her cheeks rather than the drying blood. She leaned in close, ignoring his personal space as well as his scramble backward (though this brought him closer to the basilisk's corpse). 'You can hear me?'
'Of course I can hear you, you stupid bin—' he paused. Her lips really weren't moving. Now that he concentrated, he realised that her words were resounding in his mind rather than his ears. His annoyance shifted to mild interest. He issued a 'loud' thought, directing it towards her. 'Can you hear me?'
'eeeeeeEEEEEEEE! I'M IN HARRY POTTER'S HEAD! I'M IN—'
'Shut up!' Harry's annoyance spiralled back with a fury. He glared daggers at the girl, but she continued gibbering on about him, how this so made up for Tom breaking her heart, and how if she played her cards right she could…she could…oh. He inclined his head at her suddenly blushing form, both knowing full well what he'd 'overheard'.
'Sorry,' was Ginny's soft whisper, out loud this time.
'Nothing to be sorry for,' Harry had come to a quick decision. Kneeling close, he gently pulled her matted hair back. He concealed his current thoughts from her, making a note to figure out how to cure this. But not after a little…experiment. 'You've been through so much. I'm very glad you're okay.'
She blinked up at him, a frantic blush still in place. 'But you, you heard—'
'Shh,' he cut her off with a charming smile. A look at her extremely open thoughts satisfied him that she hadn't noticed the glint in his gaze. He leaned closer, fingers caressing her dirty cheeks. 'That you think I'm similar to Tom? That you like the resemblance? Or is it about what you wanted to do with him. What you want to do with me.'
'I don't hate you,' Harry continued to murmur, answering Ginny's 'internal' worries. He was now so close that his breath caught on her shocked lips. Fawkes had already flown off with a disappointed huff, but it wasn't as though he cared. Not when he had a new toy to play with. 'It's the opposite. Listen to my thoughts, you'll see.'
Letting feelings of love and compassion swarm to his brain's surface was remarkably easy. He'd been faking these emotions for years, after all. There was little difference between letting a grin appear on his face and projecting lustful thoughts to a scared girl longing for a hero. Or for a rebound."
—From Chapter 17 of R. Skeeter's, "The Rise and Fall of Harry J. Potter: The Chamber of Secrets".
"I've finished it."
Harry glanced up from the book he was only three quarters of the way through. He felt a knot in his stomach unclench, because Ginny was smiling. She didn't seem traumatised. Still, of what he'd read of the second 'biography', he wasn't nearly as thrilled. "Oh?"
"Yep." Ginny plopped onto the seat across from him, resting her arms and head on her knees. Her chipper gaze never left his. "All done. Skimmed over the boring bits which, clearly, you haven't been. Or you're just an atrociously slow reader."
Harry wasn't sure how to phrase his next question, because she seemed far too relaxed. Surreally relaxed. "Don't take this the wrong way, but are you alright? I'm not up to the Chamber yet, though I'd imagine…?"
"I'm fine." She squinted at him, as though trying to look through his head to the wall behind. She scooted closer, eyes narrowing in concentration. "Better than fine, actually. I've learned a lovely new thing."
"Really. Really?" He wasn't sure if he was more perturbed by the statement or by his wife's unrelenting stare. He fidgeted self-consciously and figured he ought to be worried about both. "From Skeeter?"
"Think of a word," was Ginny's nonsensical reply, leaning even closer with widening eyes. Her lips wiggled as though containing a laugh. "A phrase, anything. Doesn't matter. Just don't say it aloud."
Harry gaped at her. "What're you—"
"Potter, shut up and do it."
He closed his mouth, sighed, and did it. A weighty pause blanketed them.
"Ginny?" Harry hedged after a few seconds.
"Shush." She went cross-eyed, frowning. She climbed onto the table, sitting on her knees while not breaking her stare at him. "Silently shout out the phrase, will you?"
Though questioning both of their sanities, he did this as well. Another weighty pause engulfed them.
"'Pink toed elephants!'" Ginny triumphantly cried out. She frowned at Harry's incredulous expression. "Redheaded Harpies are sexy? I want to kill Skeeter? Flibbertigibbet?"
"Ah, no. To all of them. Wha—Ginny!" Harry sprung in surprise as she leapt onto his lap. He reflexively grabbed hold of her waist to keep her from falling. "What are you doing! You're pregnant, why're you—"
"Maybe it's activated by touch," she said contemplatively, lifting his shirt and poking his chest. "Harry, Hhhaaarrrrrryyy? Cccaaannn yyyooouuu hhheeeaaarrr mmmeee?"
"Sure?" He leaned back against the cushion, bewildered as she kept prodding him. He began considering which potions she might have been doused with. Or maybe the book's ending had driven her over the edge? "Not that I don't like you on me, but—mmph!" The words were cut off as her lips met his. Wrapping his arms more securely around her waist, he was about to forget the oddness…when she pulled away from him with a frown.
"So kissing doesn't work," Ginny all but pouted, staring at him accusingly. "Or did you hear me?"
"Course I heard you." Harry felt like he'd missed something. A great number of somethings. He also very much wanted to return to snogging.
"No, did you hear me in here." She poked his forehead, perfectly content to remain in his lap (after wiggling so that she was lounging against him). "I was shouting my thoughts! I'm starting to think I'm doing all the work in this relationship."
"If you're going to be lazy about it, no wonder it hasn't activated before now. Or are you hiding your thoughts?" Ginny's twitching lips barely held back a laugh, especially when confronted with her husband's gape. "Goodness, it's like you don't care we have a soul bond!"
"A soul bond." Harry blinked, still lost.
"A soul bond. Absolutely romantic and not at all oppressive, don't you think?" she hummed, relaxing against his partly-covered chest. "Comes with perks, too. Least, according to fictional Dumbledore. We can hear each others' thoughts, know each others' emotions, even share our magic! But there's negatives as well. Shame we'll die within moments of each other. Though, hmm, that's odd. I don't remember being resurrected when I was sixteen. Are you sure you went to limbo, love?"
"The hell?" He weakly glanced at the new biography and put together the unfortunate pieces. "Are you saying that Skeeter made up some magic—"
"—and claimed our souls 'bonded' when you saved me from the basilisk? Uh-huh!" Ginny nuzzled up to his stunned frame. "Strange that none of the others you've saved are also tied to you. Though there's a possible bit of foreshadowing there. My guess? Skeeter's paving the way for a huge amount of 'life debts' that you, you you, are currently using as incentive/blackmail to secretly run Britain. That, or she'll reveal that you have a harem. Maybe both. Probably both. We ought to announce that, in this hypothetical harem, I'm your first wife. We don't want Skeeter claiming the title for Hermione, since your bond from the troll is older than mine. Ron would make a fuss if we didn't clear that up. Though, hmm, are you bonded with him as well? That will fuel the rumours."
"Ex, excuse me?" Harry stumbled out, peering at his wife with growing horror.
"I've already had Luna owl me," Ginny's smirk was now clear. "Goodness, is she a speedy reader! She also saw the foreshadow and is put off we didn't invite her to join the harem. But she forgives us, says that she and Rolf are up for experimenting, and offered to prove her flexibility if there's a waiting list. Do we have a waiting list? Our telepathy seems to be broken, so I'd appreciate if you answered me orally. By 'orally', I mean the less fun version."
"Oh, and dear?" Ginny turned around to look at him in suddenly stark seriousness. He got the sense she'd been holding this back until the end. "Losing our virginities in the Chamber of Secrets, 'in the shadow of the basilisk's corpse', wasn't the best idea. Who knows how long it took to clean the blood and ink from our passionate bodies? Certainly not me, as I've apparently repressed the entire episode!"
Harry could only gape, struck speechless at last.
It was only after a minute of stunned shock (which Ginny spent tapping Harry's forehead to see if she could get the telepathy working) that the true implications of the situation hit him. Vaulting from the seat—while yelling an apology to his wife's squeak at being thrown from his lap—he grabbed his wand from the table.
Ginny rubbed her backside from the fall as Harry created the most panicked Patronus of his life. For a hundred hungry dementors had nothing on a horde of vengeful brothers-in-law.
"DON'T READ THE LAST PART! If you already have, it's lying! Absolutely fake. No need to kill me for your sister's honour!"
"Sister's honour?" a feminine voice interrupted the shouting Wizarding Saviour. The stag Patronus pawed the carpet, impatient with the multiple messages coming from its mouth. The three listening Weasley brothers watched in differing stages of interest and curiosity. "Very chivalrous. As though I'd need you or them to protect me! Especially after you bruised my buttocks."
"Chivalry isn't the poi…DON'T PHRASE IT LIKE THAT! It's like you want your brothers to murder me."
"Oh please. They aren't going to kill you."
"They're going to try! But really: Weasleys, the Chamber stuff didn't happen. EVER! OBVIOUSLY!"
Ginny's voice scoffed. "Like anyone would believe Skeeter. As far as a graphic sex scene goes—"
"Of course it's graphic, look who wrote it. I suddenly realise why they were giving this trash away for free," she pushed this aside. The three listening Weasleys watched the Patronus in dawning horror. "Someone ought to give that woman a birds and bees refresher. If she thinks someone's first time is all rainbows and unicorns, she needs to get out more. Though, to be fair, fictional you was contemplating strangling fictional me…like the orally bit, I mean the 'not fun' strangling. Not very romantic. Especially if you throw in fictional us being preteen, emotionally unbalanced, and covered in blood and horcrux guts at the time. Still, with no need for contraceptive spells…"
"Please, please stop talking. Strangling? No, don't answer! I don't want to know. But I'm begging you, I'm actually begging you to stop talking. This is going to the whole family, I can't recall it!"
"Well then, how about your harem—"
"I DON'T HAVE A HAREM!" he rapidly interrupted. "I'D NEVER CHEAT ON YOUR SISTER!"
"Course not, we're 'soul bonded'. If you cheated you'd die. Then I'd die, 'cause of the bond. Though now that I think about it that's horribly unfair to the non-cheater. Especially since you won't make an effort with our telepathy!"
"We aren't telepathic," Harry said tiredly before 'returning' to the message. "Look, none of Skeeter's garbage is true. Please don't kill me and, almost more importantly, never bring this up again."
The Patronus at last closed its mouth, rolled his eyes at the gawking Weasleys, and raced through the wall to its next stop. Weighty tension settled around the room.
"So," Percy awkwardly cleared his throat. He deftly closed the biography he was only mid-way through. "We'll skip that then."
"Speak for yourself." George flipped through the chapters of his own copy, glancing at pages at random. "Let's see. Giant spiders, Lockhart being a git, epic snake battle, Ginny wakes up, Harry doesn't die and…AHA!" He triumphantly snapped down the part in question, skimming through the sentences. But his amusement rapidly transformed. He stared at the book as though it'd become a rancid cockroach. "Oh. That's…uh…that. Huh."
"Why," Bill had slammed his own book shut as soon as the Patronus had mentioned sex, "the hell are you reading that?"
"It's like a blast-ended skrewt," George said in undiluted terror, gaze not leaving the page. "It's disgusting, you're not sure which end's about to erupt, and you're pretty sure it's going to kill you. But it's also so…urk…that you can't look away. I'll show you. 'Harry was—'"
"DON'T READ IT!" Bill and Percy cried out as one, but their protests were lost.
"'—certain the molten feeling within him wasn't from anticipation, basilisk venom, or phoenix tears,'" George continued. His expression resembled that of someone approaching a snarling nundo. "'It was, instead, from the exhilaration of having fiery red hair heaving beneath his hands, the stark moans from the girl under him—'"
Percy had leapt from his seat, unashamedly racing out the door. Bill also seemed ready to flee but was, for the moment, too busy glaring daggers at George. "I'm warning you. If you don't stop reading right now…!"
"'—pings of ecstasy jolting up as she entangled herself in him. The ecstasy was hardly from love. Rather, it was from the lovesick girl's desperate gasps of his name, words shouted as his hands delicately wrapped around her neck. Not that he'd squeeze: not yet. For now, it was a play with power. An amusement to see how far he could wind her around his finger. As a further benefit, he'd learned that inked blood made a decent lubri—'" George choked, stopping his recitation. "Is, is this for real?"
"Unfortunately." Bill was still glaring at him, dearly wishing to obliviate the last chunk of time from his memory. "So if you…you…why are you still reading!"
"It's that horrible," George moaned pitifully, turning the page with another wince. "It's only getting worse and, wait. Huh. Really? Can you use a basilisk fang as a—"
"I don't want to know!" Bill clapped his hands over his ears. "WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?"
"No, really. I'm actually curious." The younger wizard frowned. "I'd expect it'd be poisoned. But if it was drained, could it be used as a—"
"You're sick, you hear me? SICK!" Bill cried out. Only partly able to hide the sound of reading, he barrelled for the exit.
Lavender Brown had been happily eating a salad as she worked on her latest assignment. 'Assignment' meaning reading the latest, juicy biography, lips mouthing some of the more stunning phrases as she flipped page after page. Her argument that reading the sensational work was a study of every mental disorder known to mankind was rather weak, but she didn't worry about that. She'd had to justify far odder things in her work as a psychologist.
The Patil sisters sat across from her, lunches only picked at, both annoyed for highly different reasons.
Parvati pierced the book with a heated stare, torn between envy that she hadn't yet gotten her hands on a copy, and blatant desire to beg for spoilers. Padma was sending both her companions irritated looks. Poking at her shepherd's pie, she berated herself for choosing today to make a lunch date with her sister. She normally didn't dislike that Parvati brought Lavender along—the other woman's snippy humour was fantastic, so long as the conversation steered clear of their exes or latest flings. But that today also had to be the surprise release date of Skeeter's new book?
Not that Padma didn't fully intend on reading it at some point. The political debates these instant bestsellers were dragging up would supply her with plenty of articles and (if she was being perfectly honest) it was a bit amusing to see her Hogwarts' years from Harry Potter's point of view. Not that Potter had actually written these, of course, but it was still interesting.
This didn't mean she was enjoying silently storming in a Diagon Alley cafe, nibbling at her lunch while watching Lavender giggle or gasp, and as Parvati leaned closer and closer to the book out of her grasp. Every attempt at conversation she'd made had been either ignored or answered with a single word. She was close to stomping back to work early.
Padma gathered her patience and sought around for what she could use as a change of topic that could possibly engage them. But right when she'd been about to ask Parvati where she'd gotten her lovely crimson scarf, a piece of salad fell from Lavender's mouth. Loudly. Padma wasn't exactly sure how this was possible.
"No way," Lavender whispered. Quick as a wink, she'd dived forward so that her nose was touching the book. "They didn't!"
"I don't want to know," Padma said immediately, tired of the ridiculousness.
"I do!" Parvati retorted, sending her sister a warning look. Any thoughts of complimenting her clothing fled from Padma's thoughts.
Lavender raised her head from the book, eyes wide and disbelieving. "They. Had. Sex."
"The Potters!" Lavender squealed, glancing back at the biography.
"In the book?" Parvati blinked as though this would make the words make sense. "But they were twelve. No, wasn't Ginny in the year below us? Twelve and eleven. You must've misread."
"Like I'd misread this!" Lavender looked even less believing than the other two. "Heeelllloo graphic sex scene. It's like one of those delicious, trashy romances. I thought the mini-Dark Lord stuff was a hoot, but this?" She stopped talking, reading on (though both Patils were now staring at her). "Not much on his size. Parv, did you get a peek at that old ball?"
"What? No." Parvati was more surprised than insulted. "Like I wouldn't have told you if I had."
"True," Lavender agreed, eyes on the page. "Ohh, this is much better than my first time. Pretty unrealistic, actually, and…wow. Does Skeeter know that's impossible without losing a limb? Sure there's a potion, but it's hard to get hold of. I guess if you lost a few ribs?"
"Tell me," Padma lowered her voice to try and subtly get the others to do the same. They'd already been glared at by one passing old lady, a gnome on her shoulder sending them a similar beady look, "that you aren't reading a fictional sex scene about your friends?"
"I'm not the one making a fortune from selling this," was Lavender's reply as she turned a page. Her interest only grew. "Ginny's going to murder Skeeter. Harry will probably die of embarrassment, that man's too cute. Hope someone gets a shot of Weasley fainting…ohh, there's a thought. If I get to him before anyone else, I can read aloud about his best friend boning his sister!"
A man with a shaggy beard tossed over his shoulder coughed on air as he passed their table, eyes going round and face turning a tomato red. Padma sent him an apologetic look.
"I'm sure he's already seen this." Padma turned back to the others, feeling a headache coming on. She understood holding grudges against exes, but she'd always felt Lavender took it too far. Not that she herself was on fantastic terms with Ron Weasley, but still.
"Hold on," Parvati waved a hand to get their attention. "Harry and Ginny got together sixth year; it was the gossip of the decade, that. So what're they doing shagging second year?"
"That's your issue with Skeeter's accuracy?" Padma muttered. "Also, gossip of the 'decade'? You do recall a certain war, hmm?"
"Proper gossip, Pad. Sheesh."
"It's all explained," Lavender answered Parvati's first question, not pausing in her reading and not paying attention to the twins' argument. "Least, I think I see what's coming. Skeeter's building for a secret romance between the two. It's really twisted, actually. Massively toxic. She's written that Ginny was completely hung up over Tom—which is incredibly twisted, by the by, don't know how Skeeter thought this junk up—and that when he was destroyed she was shattered. Absolutely shattered. But Harry, being the dark, broken deviant that he is, swooped in to grab her. He claimed that he loved her, blah blah blah, soul bond, yada yada yada, and they sex it up in the Chamber of Secrets, covered in blood and evil ink!"
The Patils stared at her.
Lavender (intensely reading) didn't notice this. Or that her companions hadn't understood most of her statement as they hadn't yet read the text. She kept talking, eyes glued to the page. "Skeeter's so leading up to Ginny being obsessed with Harry. You know, the whole fangirl thing. Then with all the connections between Harry and Tom? Which, again, eww. But as Harry's depicted as a psychopathic manipulator with commitment issues, he'll probably string her along for the hell of it. There's all this mental symbolism in his thoughts during the shagging scene, but I'm not sure if it's implying Oedipal, serial killer, or homosexual tendencies. Probably the last. Maybe all three…oh. Wait, never mind. Their clothes are back on and they're at the rockfall. He's definitely gay. Bi. Whatever."
"What!" Parvati gave a strangled gasp in response to the entire statement, managing to look both disgusted and moments from grabbing the book for herself. Padma was merely revolted.
"I know!" Lavender answered, misunderstanding the exclamation. "Skeeter's given hints that she's twisting up Harry's sexuality, but whoa. His thoughts when he sees Weasley's face through the rocks? Ron Weasley, that is. I hate that redheaded git, but holy Circe! Those two had better end up doing the frick frack. Even though it makes no emotional sense with the sociopathic stuff."
"'Frick frack'?" Parvati murmured, still digesting the rest.
"Harry and…Ron," Padma managed to say, ignoring the rest of the madness for the moment. "You're saying Skeeter hints at them getting together shortly after Harry and Ginny supposedly shagged? Which, everything you just said is wrong, but what?"
Parvati shook her head, mouth crunching in confusion. "Also, who's Tom?"
Lavender focused on Parvati, giving her an unscrupulous look. "Tom. Tom Riddle, massive spoilers. Lives in a diary and is the wildest invention from Rita Skeeter's twisted mind that I've ever read. If Ginny doesn't sue over this alone, she's lost her marbles!"
Molly and Arthur sat in surprise as Harry's Patronus vanished.
The Weasley patriarch gave a chuckle, returning to enjoying his meal. "That decided it for me. No reading the book."
"Quite right. I had enough frights with the first one," Molly whole-heartedly agreed, buttering her toast. "More jam, dear?"
"No, I'm fine." Arthur paused. "I wonder. Should we ask what prompted the Patronus? The message was rather…frantic."
"Go ahead, if you'd like," Molly said simply. "I'm thrilled to have grandkids and have no intention of asking for details."
He hummed in agreement. A few seconds later he began again, more hedgingly. "This new book. Isn't it supposed to take place in Harry's second year and Ginny's first? That can't be right. Not with what was in the Patronus message."
Molly froze, the implications hitting her. The toast fell from her hand.
"Ah, Molly? Dear? …Mollywobbles?" Arthur said worryingly, knowing the look on her face and fearing she was planning the murder of either a best-selling author or her daughter and son-in-law.
"Hermione," came the whisper from the stag Patronus. A deathly silent whisper. The obvious attempt at quietness was off-set by the fact that Hermione had been in the crowded Atrium when she'd gotten the Patronus. The wizards, witches, hags, and vampires (though mainly shouting reporters) had hushed instantaneously in an effort from all to hear the 'private' message.
If Hermione hadn't been so horrified, or juggling to get to a more private place while balancing the case folders in her arms, she'd have been reluctantly impressed.
"Hermione, cancel my press conference. I'm hiding because the Weasleys are out to kill me. For the record, the book isn't true! Course it's not. But they're hot-headed. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Ginny told me it's graphic?" A terrified groan swayed out, met with chirping reporters as Hermione fled the scene (the stag humphing but following). "There's not a chance in hell I'm reading that scene, but can we shut down Skeeter for portraying minors in an, ah, compromising situation? NOT THAT IT'S TRUE! But still, pretty damn libelous. I'm begging you— actually, scrap that. I'm calling in all my favours! Every last one, got it? Convince her brothers that it obviously never happened! Tell the press also, of course, but I'm a bit more concerned for my life here. Or…oh Merlin."
Hermione raced from the Atrium into the Ministry, letting the stag gallop behind her and zig-zagging to avoid the reporters at her tail. Finding an open elevator she leapt inside, slamming the door as the Patronus continued speaking as the lift started up. She only relaxed once she'd slammed on the emergency stop, allowing her to be in relative peace to hear the message.
All through this, she silently cursed Harry and his rubbish timing with Patronuses.
"HERMIONE!" A new franticness entered Harry's voice as his pitch and volume raised, talking himself into a panic. "Charlie's vindictive as hell AND HAS DRAGONS! I remember Bill talking about, don't know, some ancient Egyptian curse? Doesn't matter. But it's a long-distance spell that cuts off—off—appendages! Ginny thinks I'm overreacting. She' s joking about me having a harem, can you believe her? Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled she's not depressed with all the talk of the Chamber. But she's taking it too far! She might tell her brothers where I am for a laugh! HERMIONE, DO YOU HEAR ME? I'M NOT SAFE! AT ALL! I…oh god. Her parents. I'm…I'm…I'll figure out something. I might be living under my Invisibility Cloak for awhile."
Hermione thought it'd be best to check on Ron.
Not that she was worrying he and his brothers might be on a raging manhunt but…actually, yes, she was. Some of Harry's paranoia had rubbed off, and she'd prefer to be overly suspicious than sorry. She'd also prefer not to lose her best friend and her husband, one from a brutal slaughter and the other from being thrown in Azkaban for said murder. As lovely as the Weasley boys were, they could get a bit odd when it came to 'protecting' their baby sister.
She eventually found Ron in the last place she looked but the first place she ought to have checked. He was sitting in their living room. At first glance, everything seemed to be okay. Rose were playing with Crookshanks by the blazing fireplace, cute and oblivious, while Ron was seated on the couch and alternatively tossing hexes at the ceiling or pounding his head against the table. He was also cute, but in a more demented way.
It said a lot about Hermione's state of mind that what she found oddest was that their fireplace was on. Squinting at it and seeing the curled up remains of a book, this was no longer as strange. She turned to the other problems. Patting Rosie's curls as she walked by and moving her and the purring cat further from the fire, the witch made a circuitous beeline to her husband. Sitting beside him (just as he'd started another round of not-so-gently pounding his head against the table), she pondered how best to approach this.
Shortly, she decided to rip off the plaster.
"You know they didn't have sex in the Chamber," Hermione said sympathetically (albeit bluntly). "I understand it'd be traumatising to read, but—"
"That's. Not the. Bloody. Problem!" Ron gritted out, emphasising each word with a headdesk.
Oh. That made things slightly less awkward. "If this is about the situation with Ginny and the horcrux diary being made public—"
"Disturbing as hell, but also not the problem! Like Harry won't go ballistic at anyone bothering her. Not that I won't help him but, sweet Merlin. That book." Another almighty groan as he continued trying to dent the table with his forehead.
Hermione was taken off-guard. She found herself feeling equal parts ashamed of her own assumptions and proud of Ron. Still, that left the main question. There was no shortage of questionable things in the second biography and she rummaged through them in her head. "Is it the spiders? I thought Skeeter had, at least, kept that part fairly accurate. Though after reading it, I have much more empathy for your phobia…ah, Ron?" She stopped again, fingers drumming. "This isn't about the spiders, is it."
He straightened with a weighty sigh, but as quickly flung his head back against the couch and closed his eyes. "I'm not going to attack Harry, Ginny can take care of herself, and I'm not bothered by the acromantulas. But I want to murder Skeeter so, I'm sorry, but I don't want to talk about it. Because I'm trying to stay calm. If I don't, I'm going to squash that bug. Repeatedly. Then sic Crookshanks on the remains. Which is all a horrible idea as it'll get me chucked in Azkaban, so I'm trying to keep my temper. And failing. Miserably."
Hermione patted his arm, still lost. "Was it the Lockhart nonsense? Because you know I'd never—"
Ron twisted around, opening his eyes to look straight at her. "I know, Hermione. Most of the book's rubbish. But the problem?" He gave an hysteric laugh, tossing his arms up. "The problem's not everyone knows it's fiction! Even worse, I'm not clueless. I know foreshadowing when I see it!"
"Ah." Her look became sympathetic, the pieces connecting. "You and Harry, then?"
"YEAH!" Ron sunk his head into his hands with a piteous groan. "Skeeter verified it. She all but verified it! I'll never be able to look him in the eye again. Because blimey, this is only the start! Who knows what Skeeter's leading up to and…hey. Let's kidnap her. She won't be able to write anything if she's in a teeny tiny jar!"
"You've done it before!" He was now remarkably cheered, gazing at his wife as though she was an angel. "Held Skeeter prisoner a whole summer, in fact. Brilliant you!"
"Well, yes." Hermione blushed, embarrassed at the reminder. "But I really shouldn't have…she just made me so mad…I was a child, a stupid teenager…"
"We'll do it again!" Ron exclaimed, a relieved grin now in place.
"No. We absolutely will not."
"We absolutely could! If our jobs have taught us anything, it's how to get away with murder!"
"Not that we're going to kill her. Probably maybe, at least. But kidnapping ought to be a snap!"
"I'm not kidnapping Skeeter! Once was bad enough," Hermione grumbled, though whether her annoyance was directed towards herself, Ron, or Skeeter was anyone's guess. "It was a stroke of luck she was so dazed she never pressed charges. I'm not going to capture her just because she might write that you and Harry had sex."
Giving a scarlet flush at his wife's words, Ron sent her a frustrated look. "You won't help? Fine, be that way. There are still two people even more pissed off at Skeeter than me, who'll happily agree to some kidnapping."
"The Potters aren't going to help you," she warned him. "Ginny thinks much of it is ridiculous but hilarious, while Harry's too busy running for his life to properly read the book."
Ron scrunched his brow, putting aside his disappointment for confusion. "Why'd he be running for his…oh. His Patronus. Seriously? He's stupid enough to think we believe the Chamber stuff?"
"I believe that Harry's too distracted right now to think clearly," Hermione tossed aside that she'd momentarily gotten on that bandwagon. "The man has two popular books accusing him of being a manipulative 'Dark Lord in training'! Add having his abusive childhood flung into the open as well as the press' hounding? I'm giving him a break for being a tinge irrational and paranoid." Something else occurred to her. "On another note? I highly doubt Harry cares if people think he's bisexual. Compared to the rest of the rumours, that is. He's far more hurt by the psychopathic comments. These books have his character killing small animals and contemplating murdering Ginny, for goodness sake!"
"Well, yeah. Course that's horrible. Makes sense he'd be mad about that. Obviously," Ron said with reluctant acceptance. His frown only deepened. "Priorities in order, I guess. Yeah. Course."
She gave him a sympathetic hug. "Don't get me wrong, you have every right to be upset by this. Anyone would be. But, if it helps, I'm sure you'll have plenty of company. I'd be shocked if Skeeter didn't also tie me to Harry and I'm fairly certain your idea with Malfoy will actually pay out. I'm imagining the fourth book won't be a barrel of laughs."
"Oh, eff this. All of it," Ron groaned, details of that year (and how they could be inventively skewed) coming back to him. "I'm guessing you'd frown on me 'leaking' that Harry and Viktor Krum—"
"Don't." Hermione knew precisely where this was heading. She made a mental note to drop her sometimes-pen-pal a note of warning if the 4th book was ever on the horizon. "That would only make things worse. Or need I remind you about ménages a trois?"
Ron's replying volley of swears wasn't reprimanded by his wife. Frankly, she was tempted to join in.
Charlie blinked at the disappearing stag Patronus. He yawned, laid back down, and snuggled further under the blankets.
"Charlie?" a petite blonde asked while returning to her curl beside him. Though bleary, she was more awake than he. "Was that—"
"My paranoid brother-in-law. He doesn't get time zones." Charlie yawned again, stretching a hug around her bare waist. "Go back to sleep, Irena."
"S'what I said."
Irene looked at his closing eyes, shrugged, and cuddled closer to him. After a pause she couldn't resist finishing her question. "Was that Harry Potter?"
She became slightly more awake. Rustling in bed, she propped herself on her elbows to stare at him. "Harry Potter. Harry Potter's your brother-in-law? Wait, are you a Weasley?"
A lengthy pause. Irene frowned, something else occurring to her.
"…you aren't actually going to kill Harry Potter, right?"
"In the morning," Charlie groaned against his pillow. Trying to return to sleep, he paid no attention to the conversation.
"Because that's really not a good id—"
"In the morning," he mumbled again. Then began to snore.
Irene cast another glance at where the Patronus had vanished. After a thought and a shrug she lay back down, wiggled closer to the now slumbering man, and returned to a peaceful sleep.
A/N: As you can see, I've taken a dive off the deep end. If there's an overused HP fic trope in existence, rest assured it's being stuffed into this story!