A/N: Well, here's the next chapter! Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter!!!

Disclaimer: I still don't own anything here.


An Auror's job requires many things, and being a good actor is one of them. It is very important to be able to hide one's emotions properly in a situation where intimidation is a key quality. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were not the three most famous Aurors of their time for nothing.

They were damn good at what they did.

They had more personal reasons for going after escaped Death Eaters and Dark Wizards than most other Aurors did. Most other Aurors had not been the prime target for the men and women they were hired to capture. Most other Aurors had never faced the Darkest Wizard to ever live face to face.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had.

And they had all the Auror tactics down to an art. Hiding their emotions from the outside world was one on which they prided themselves. However, the outside world was one thing; hiding their emotions from each other was quite another. They had, after all, been best friends for eleven long years, and they knew each other inside and out. It was impossible to hide their feelings from each other, and when one of them was happy, upset, angry, or worried, the other two could pick up on it immediately.

But picking up on emotions and talking about them are two entirely different things.

When they arrived at work the morning after they'd each been haunted by their nightmares, each instantly knew that the other two had suffered the same sleepless night as they had. However, just as Harry was unwilling to admit that his dream had any bearing in reality, he was also unwilling to admit to himself that Ron and Hermione had been tortured with the same sort of nightmare. If he refused to believe it, then it wasn't real. And although both Ron and Hermione were well-aware that they probably didn't dream what they did for no reason, they were both still caught up in the fight they'd had the day before and not willing to speak to each other about something as serious as those dreams could possibly be.

In fact, when Hermione came into work the next morning, Ron was not surprised when she greeted Harry normally and sent him a glare in way of a hello. He was also not surprised when she completely ignored his own greeting toward her.

Since they were so high in the rankings, they held their own practice with three separate offices for each of them. Their building was on a back street behind Diagon Alley that actually ran parallel to Knockturn Alley. It was a pricey, important looking building for three pricey, important people, and they all enjoyed the privacy it ensured greatly.

Of course, it also gave them the freedom to make rather questionable scenes that a public practice would not.

So, when Hermione walked to the front desk to retrieve her messages from the only other person who worked in their building, an assistant named Helen, Harry looked very determinedly at Ron and nodded. Ron interpreted the nod correctly and knew that it meant, "Go fix it before we have to spend a miserable day with an even bitchier than usual Hermione." Ron sighed and nodded his consent.

Getting up, he crossed the main room and stood behind Hermione as she conversed quietly with Helen for several minutes. Finally, she addressed him without even bothering to turn and look at him. "Ron, please stop hovering over me."

Ron took this as his cue to speak back to her. "Hermione, can I talk to you?"

He saw Helen look up warily; she was able to detect that something was definitely not right between the two, but she didn't say anything. Hermione did, however. She sighed loudly and turned to face him, saying a very simple, "No."

And with that, she stalked right past him and into her private office, closing the door loudly behind her.

Ron stared after her for a second before shooting a very quick and determined look at Harry. Without hesitating, he stalked down the same path she did and opened the door to office, entering without bothering to request permission.

Hermione turned to look at him angrily. "Don't you know how to knock?"

Ron completely ignored her and started right in on his reasoning. "Hermione, I want to talk you."

"So?" She looked at him incredulously. "I don't want to talk to you."

"Why not?"

"Because I have nothing to say to you!"

Ron fought the urge to roll his eyes at her stubbornness. "Well, I have a lot to say to you."

"You've already said plenty," she said sharply. "Now get out of my office right now, or you'll be sorry."

Ron raised an eyebrow. "What are you going to do? Throw me out?"

"Yes," she said defiantly.

Ron actually laughed at her attempt at bullying. "Well, sorry, but I've got about nine inches on you and about a hundred pounds, so I don't think that's going to work."

But just as Ron wasn't going to let Hermione bully him, she wasn't about to stand around and be bullied by him even if he was a lot bigger than her. Reaching for her wand, which was sitting on the edge of her desk, she pointed it at him and made her feelings quite known. "If you don't get the hell out of my office within in the next five seconds, I am seriously going to hurt you."

Ron wasn't stupid; he'd known Hermione since he was eleven years old, and he knew that she was quite possibly the smartest and cleverest witch he'd ever known. He knew that she was more than capable of exercising her threats to the fullest extent. However, he was going to get her to talk one way or another. "If you're going to hex me then go ahead and do it, Hermione, but I'm not leaving."

"What the fuck do you want?!" she said angrily, dropping her wand to her side and glaring at him. "I already told you that I have nothing to say to you!"

"And I already told you that I have a lot to say to you!" he protested just as loudly. "And I'm not leaving until you listen to me!"

Hermione continued to glare at him. "Well, then say whatever the hell it is that you think I need to hear and then leave me alone. I don't want to talk to you. I don't even want to see you."

Ron was quiet for a moment before approaching her with a quieter and calmer tone. "Hermione."

But she cut him off. "No, Ron! I'm sick of this! I'm sick of the bullshit! And I'm sick of you!"

"You don't mean that."

"Don't you dare fucking tell me what I mean," she said dangerously. "Because you obviously don't know anything about me."

"That's bullshit, and you know it." Ron paused for only a second. "Hermione, I care about you."

At this, Hermione let out a very derisive laugh. "You're such an asshole."

"Why?" Ron looked at her expectantly. "Tell me why I'm such an asshole."

"Because you're so full of goddamn lies!"

Ron looked at her as if he couldn't decide what to say next, as if he was completely bewildered by her claim. Finally, he shook his head once and said, "I am not lying about anything. Hermione, I have never lied to you in all the years that I've known you. Every single thing that I've ever said to you was the complete and utter truth, from the good to the bad. It's all been true; I have never lied to you."

"You're lying right now!"

"What am I lying about?!"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You're saying all this, 'I care about you' bullshit, but you stand around and let your mother talk about me like I'm some kind of whore or something, and you don't do a damn thing!"

"I've told her you're not like that!" he protested at once.

"You just don't get it, do you, Ron?" Hermione turned away from him slightly in disgust.

"I guess I don't," Ron admitted bewilderedly. "Because I have no clue what you're talking about."

She turned back around and looked at him meaningfully. "I would never, never let someone talk about you the way she does about me. And you know why? Because you're my best friend." She paused for a second. "And I thought I was yours."

"You are my best friend!" he said instantly without hesitation. "But you can't expect me to choose between you and my mother, Hermione."

Hermione closed her eyes for a moment and collected herself. "I would never ask you to choose between your mother and me." Opening her eyes, she stared straight at him. "Because I know what it's like to be motherless, and I would never wish that on you."

Ron didn't speak for a long moment, and then he crossed the office and took both of her hands into his own. "God, I am so sorry."

Hermione closed her eyes against he unfamiliar tugging feeling clouding them. And when Ron removed one of his hands and placed it against her upper back, she allowed herself to be pulled to him, and she pressed her face into his chest, one hand still holding onto his and the other hanging limply at her side.

She closed her eyes and allowed everything to wash over her. She didn't know exactly what the apology meant, but she knew it meant that things were fine between them again. And she knew that she could open up to him.

"I had a nightmare last night."

Ron slowly pulled away from her and met her eyes warily. Quietly, he said, "Me too."

Hermione regarded him silently for a long moment, and then she lowered her eyes to the floor. "They hit me with Cruciatus again, and I couldn't do anything about it." Her words were quiet and small, but Ron heard them perfectly. He couldn't think of a single thing to say, though, so he just stared silently at her while she continued with a question. "Do you ever think about that night?"

Ron furrowed his brow. "Then night when Voldemort." His voice trailed off, and Hermione nodded.

"That was the scariest night of my life." Her eyes rose several feet from the floor to meet his own. "It was scarier than when I found my parents' bodies."

Ron's whole inside ached for her pain, and he delicately reached his free hand up to her face and brushed it gently against her cheek.

Hermione closed her eyes briefly at his touch and then let them flutter open again. "Do you ever regret things?" she asked seriously.

With his hand still against her cheek, he said, "What things?"

Her answer was simple and direct. "Becoming friends with Harry."

Ron's eyes widened slightly in semi-shock that she'd asked that question. "What?"

"I love him; he's my friend," Hermione clarified. "But sometimes I can't help thinking that if I'd just stayed away from you guys when I was younger that I wouldn't have had to go through all that stuff." She bit down on her lower lip. "I would never have had to kill anyone. My parents would still be alive." Almost as an after-thought, she added, "And maybe my life wouldn't be as fucked up as it is now."

Ron, not quite believing that Hermione felt this way, looked on curiously at her. "No. I never regret being friends with him."

Hermione pulled away and leaned against her desk, her eyes once again finding a spot on the floor to focus on. "Then you're a better friend than I am."

"Do you ever regret being my friend, too?" He looked at her seriously.

Hermione glanced up and half-shrugged. "Not so much. But it's different; it's not really like I ever had a choice."

"Huh?" Ron was utterly confused.

Hermione predicted this and finished. "When I was eleven years old, you and Harry basically came as a packaged deal. I couldn't be friends with one of you and not the other. But you had a choice."

Ron processed this information and looked wordlessly at her.

Changing the subject yet again, Hermione looked up at him. "It's happening again, isn't it?"

Now it was Ron's turn to glance away from her. He knew what the "it" in question was, and he wasn't prepared to make a declaration one way or the other about whether it was happening again. Instead, he shrugged one shoulder and very quietly said, "I don't know."

"We killed him."

Ron didn't turn his head to look at her; instead he focused his attention on banishing the guilty feeling from his stomach. Then, very, very timidly, he said the one thing that frightened him more than anything else.

"At least we think we did."


So? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions on the plot and what you would like to see more of or less of. I love feedback!