Chapter 2:  Hermione's Plan


Time: Summer before Sixth Year

"I'm worried about Harry." Hermione tucked a dark curl behind her ear and looked at Ron.

"Well he has a lot to be concerned about," Ron replied slowly. "What with You-Know-Who and all."

"I know that."

Hermione sat at the Weasleys' kitchen table, her knees tucked up under her chin while her feet clung effortlessly to the edge of her seat. Ron sat across from her, his red hair contrasting vividly against his faded blue pajamas. An old chessboard was spread between them. It had lain unused for such a long time while they sat there that the black queen had left her square and was regally strolling around the edge of the chessboard sizing up her opponents.

"He's just become so withdrawn." Hermione sighed worriedly.

"How can he be anything but withdrawn? There are more reports of disappearances and Muggle murders every day." Ron ran a hand through his hair.

"But he won't even talk about it." Hermione unfolded herself and leaned forward, her elbow propped against the table, her cheek resting in the palm of her hand, while she studied the pile of half eaten cookies.

Ron took a long swallow of tea from an old chipped teacup and studied the chessboard for a moment. "I think," Ron said as he set the rather indignant black queen back on her square, "that Harry is afraid that we might be used to get to him. Or that we could betray him."

"We would never." Hermione replied angrily.

"I know that we wouldn't," Ron cut in quickly. "It's just that, what if we were forced to either through torture or Imperius?"

"It's not fair," Hermione grumbled.

"No," Ron agreed, "it's not fair. But as far as I know there isn't any spell that makes the world fair."

Hermione had just reached for another cookie but stopped when Ron said this. She looked at him closely, a gleam in her eyes that told Ron that he had just said something amazingly insightful and pertinent to the conversation at hand, but he couldn't figure out just what it was.

"That's it," Hermione sighed breathlessly.

"What's it?" Ron's voice was cautious.

"I have an idea. But I need to get some books." Hermione began to chew on her lip thoughtfully.

"Because you don't have enough books." Ron grinned at her. He was, of course, referring to several very large stacks on the floor of Ginny's room where Hermione was staying.

"I need to go to the library. Diagon Alley has an excellent library," she mused.

"I wouldn't know," Ron said between bites of an orange fig cookie. "There are so many more interesting things to do in Diagon Alley than go to a library."

Hermione rolled her eyes but said nothing. She had gotten to her feet and looked up the stairs. "He might," she muttered, "if I buttered him up well."

"Who might?" Ron asked interestedly.

"Percy." Hermione continued to look up the stairs as if expecting the former Head Boy to come waltzing down at that very minute.

"Percy? What does Percy have to do with anything?"

"Well your Mum won't let me go to Diagon Alley by myself will she? Percy goes there every day for work so maybe he'd agree to let me tag along." Hermione chewed thoughtfully on her lip. I've only got a month before we go back to Hogwarts, though." Hermione began to pace around the small table, completely ignoring Ron. "We couldn't even cast anything until we're back at school, don't want to break any laws, not yet anyway."

"Hermione," Ron snapped in exasperation, "what are you going on about?"

She seemed to hear him for the first time in several minutes. She smiled at him brightly and then threw her arms around his neck, planting a light kiss on a cheek that blushed bright red only a second later.

"What do you know about the Secret Keeper spell?" she asked him softly.

"What?" Ron's voice was painfully confused, but Hermione's smile only grew.


Hermione chewed her lower lip and turned the page of the decrepit old book in front of her. This just wasn't what she was looking for. With a groan of frustration she pushed her chair back from the table and got to her feet. She glanced at her Muggle watch and frowned, she was late. Percy was going to be furious if she wasn't at the Leaky Cauldron by the time he got off of work.

She shoved her notes and quills away and hurriedly scooped up her stack of books. She dashed through the library, placing books back onto their shelves before she headed to the counter in order to check out the books she wanted to look through that night.

The sun was beginning to set as she skidded out onto the cobble-stoned street of Diagon Alley. Percy was definitely going to be waiting. In the past Percy had always stayed as late as possible at work, owing to the fact that he liked to get ahead as much as possible, and also because the constant chaos of the Burrow got on his nerves. However, Barty Crouch's replacement enjoyed maintaining a very relaxed work place. He insisted on everyone leaving promptly at five. As for the Burrow, Fred and George had moved out the day after they got home from Hogwarts at the end of their seventh year. Without the presence of the twins, Hermione wouldn't go so far as to say things were quiet at the Burrow, but the chance of something exploding had certainly diminished greatly. With all of these changes, Percy, who was abysmally punctual was spending more of his time at home.

Hermione didn't even wait for the bricks to part entirely before she squeezed through the wall separating Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron. The heavy oak door sprung open loudly and several patrons looked at her with interest as she stumbled into the main room quite out of breath. Sure enough, there sat Percy Weasley, a cup of tea and the Daily Prophet on a small table before him. He made a grand show of glancing at an old- fashioned pocket watch that he had taken to wearing recently before looking at her.

"I'm so sorry Percy," Hermione apologized.

"I had always pictured you as the punctual type Hermione," Percy replied evenly.

"I usually am, I just got a little side tracked."

"Well, it's no matter." Percy pardoned her with a nod of his head. "Come and have some tea with me."

Hermione sat down at the small table while Percy poured her a cup of tea. She glanced at his newspaper.

"'Dark Mark Sighted Near Dover'," Hermione read the headline quietly.

The Dark Mark was sighted in the sky near Dover yesterday evening. Ministry officials claim it to be the work of some local wizard pranksters.

"From all reports," a Ministry official told this reporter, 'the wizards in question had a little too much fun if you understand what I mean. And no, we have determined that this has absolutely nothing to do with that wizarding family who disappeared yesterday morning."

"Honestly, they'd have to be blind to not see the connection." Hermione pushed the paper away in disgust.

"Well the simple fact, Hermione, is that there isn't any proof," Percy told her as he offered her a biscuit.

"Percy, you can't seriously be suggesting that-" Hermione started in surprise.

"I'm not," he interrupted, "and rest assured that the Ministry's Aurors aren't either. But there's no reason to frighten everyone if it won't accomplish anything."

"'Won't accomplish anything'? Of course it would accomplish something!" Hermione retorted angrily, her voice rising slightly. "Don't you think if everyone knew, if we were prepared, if we-"

"Hermione," Percy said softly, stopping her tirade in mid-breath, "you don't know what it was like then. I can only remember a little, I was very young. I do remember Mother and Father, they were so frightened, and everyone was frightened. Until something constructive can be done, I think that the Ministry should keep things quiet."

Hermione glared at him for a moment and then chewed angrily at her biscuit. He was wrong. Maybe if everyone knew, maybe if everyone worked together now, maybe they could make a difference. Maybe then the fate of their world wouldn't seem to rest on the shoulders of a few teenage wizards. Maybe then Harry could live a normal life.

"Well," he drained his cup, "we had better be on our way. If I don't have you back at the Burrow in time for supper I shall never hear the end of it from my mother."

Hermione didn't reply as she rummaged through her backpack for the little drawstring pouch that contained her floo powder. If Percy noticed her ill temper, he said nothing of it as he led the way to the back fireplaces that served the Leaky Cauldron as floo-ways. She stepped ahead of him and threw an extravagant pinch into the flames before her, hardly waiting for the flames to change colors before stepping into them.

"The Burrow," she called out before being whisked away in a burst of ash.


Hermione opened the door to Ron's room and stepped in.

Ron, who was sitting on the floor by his bed, looked up, exclaiming angrily.  "Oi! Can't anyone in this house knock! Oh, it's you Hermione. Sorry, Fred and George are here, making Mum do their laundry or something. You'd think that they hadn't even taken second year charms with the way they go on about doing the wash."

Hermione pulled the door shut behind her and dropped her bag onto the floor before collapsing onto the bed. "Has Percy always been so...?"

"Yes," Ron replied before she could even finish.

She groaned and closed her eyes. She had been at the library all day and was exhausted. As much as Hermione loved the library, it was very upsetting to not be making any headway.

"There's a letter from Harry," Ron muttered as he began reading a comic book.

"What?" Hermione asked sitting up. "Where is it?"

Ron pulled a folded piece of parchment from his pocket; it was looking a little worse for wear. It appeared to be splattered with pumpkin juice and a strange smelling stain marred one corner. Hermione glared at Ron over the top of it.

"I told you that Fred and George were here," Ron said without looking up.

Dear Ron & Hermione, Don't have much time to write. Wanted to let you know that the Durlseys say I can come. I'll take the Knight Bus tomorrow night. Couldn't stand it here another moment.


PS. Hermione, what on earth are you doing at the library? Can't you just relax during your summer break?

"So when Harry gets here, are you going to tell us what you're up to? I know that you aren't doing an early project for McGonagall like you told Percy." Ron tossed him comic book onto a pile and turned to look at her over his shoulder. "You aren't, are you?"

"No, I'm not. Look, I just don't want to say anything about it until I get some more research done, that do?" Hermione had been putting off telling Ron what she was doing. If it came to nothing, then she didn't want any of them to be disappointed. What if she couldn't do it?

"When you write to your parents later, tell them thanks for that mask, it's neat." Ron looked over to his extremely cluttered desk where a wooden tribal mask painted a vibrant red and hung with feathers was sitting. "How are they liking Zimbabwe?"

"Are you joking?" Hermione asked as she handed Harry's letter back. "They love it! Mum says that working for people who really don't have proper dental care available is a gift. And I think that Dad is having a spiritual reawakening."

"Well at least you got to spend the summer here instead. I can't see you out in the bush, no library for hundreds of miles. Whatever would you have done?" Ron grinned at her.

"I guess we'll never know," she replied sweetly without rising to his bait.

"Supper then?" Ron asked as he clambered to his feet.

Hermione nodded, slid off his bed and followed him down the stairs to where a nearly full house of Weasleys sat cramped into a too small kitchen.


They walked together towards the library, Ron on one side, Harry on another. She sighed happily. This really was how she always wanted things to be between them. Harry had arrived the night before and for his first official Dursley-free day, Ron and Hermione, mostly Hermione, had convinced Percy to take them all to Diagon Alley that morning.

"I wanted to stop by Quality Quidditch Supplies," Harry said. "I need to get a new jar of broom polish."

"Because you never can polish your broom enough," Ron told Hermione with a mischievous look.

"Ron!" Hermione gasped in surprise at his innuendo and gave him a not so gentle shove away from her.

He stumbled away laughing while Harry stopped to try and regain his breath. She glared at them both in disapproval.

"You two are such, such..." She seemed to struggle in finding an adjective that properly portrayed their level of immaturity. "Boys!"

She turned and began walking quickly away knowing that lingering meant that she too would start giggling over Ron's lewd remark. A brilliant display of color caught her eye and she stopped to watch the shimmering light that shone across a storefront window. Obscuras Books, the sign above declared. The magical window flickered and shifted, reminding Hermione of the Aurora Borealis, which she had never seen but had read a great deal about. It was lovely. She was unaware when the storefront door opened and a customer who wasn't looking where he was going walked into her.

Stumbling, Hermione saw that the customer was Malfoy. He glared at her coldly.

"Get out of my way Mudblood."

Harry and Ron were by her side in an instant. Harry helped her to her feet while Ron stepped forward angrily.

"You take that back Malfoy!" He shook his fist at him.

"Why don't you make me Weasley." Malfoy's face was pale but he didn't seem very perturbed that Crabbe and Goyle weren't present.

Ron was taken aback for a moment. There were no teachers, no house points to lose. He had never before been presented with such an opportunity. He wasn't about to let it pass him by.

Hermione gasped as Harry made a desperate grab for the back of Ron's robes but their friend pulled loose easily. Malfoy smirked then shoved Ron backwards. Ron stumbled to the ground with a curse. He looked up at Malfoy and the Slytherin boy paled, taking a step backwards. With a roar of absolute fury and more than a trace of wounded pride Ron launched himself at the other boy. Malfoy tried to evade Ron's punch but Ron was quicker and Malfoy flailed backwards as Ron's fist made a harsh connection to his chin.

"Ron," Hermione cried horrified.

Ron looked back for only a moment but Malfoy saw his opportunity and lunged forward into Ron, his shoulder barreling into Ron's chest. The two boys fell together into an outside display of antique scrolls. The display fell with a crash into the multi-colored window and glass showered over the two struggling boys.

A large man, obviously an incredibly irate shop owner, appeared in the doorway. "What have you done to my window?" he roared, drawing the attention of almost everyone within a block radius.

"We'll just fix it real quick," Hermione said hastily reaching for her wand.

"You can't fix these!" the man snapped at her, his iron hair going in every which way. "They're imported from Liechtenstein, crafted by the Graeme family. It's got wards all over it to keep people from copying it. I'll have to send it back to them to have it fixed. Cost me a hundred galleons, I'd bet my grandmother's broom on it. And you two," here he paused long enough to place a beefy hand on Ron and Malfoy's shoulders and hoisted them to their feet, "are going to pay for it!"

Malfoy made a derisive sound and jerked out of the grasp of the older man. He pulled out a sheet of parchment and scribbled out a promissory note. He tossed it casually onto the shattered Graeme window and stalked off without a backwards glance.

"Spoiled little snot," they heard the shop owner grumble softly.

"Ron," Hermione said softly as she began to dig through her bag, "Ron I've got five galleons."

"I can dash over to Gringotts," Harry added quickly. They both knew that Ron couldn't afford to pay fifty galleons, nor could his family.

Ron was looking ashen but determined. He leaned over and picked up Malfoy's note from ground. "Just go on ahead, I'll catch up to you at the Leaky Cauldron."

"Ron," Hermione said again and touched his arm, "let us help."

"Just go." His voice was very quiet.

Hermione was about to argue when Harry took a hold of her arm and gently pulled her away.

"We have to help him, Harry, let's go to Gringotts," she pleaded looking back over her shoulder at Ron as they turned a corner.

"He doesn't want our help," Harry told her as he led them through the crowd.

"But that's so silly," she said mournfully.


They didn't see Ron for almost an hour. They had finished one round of tea and had started another before he finally slid into their booth at the Leaky Cauldron. His coloring was mottled, patches of red contrasted to pale white. It was as if he couldn't decide between being nervous or excited. Hermione and Harry watched him expectantly. When he said nothing Hermione finally broke down.

"Well?" she asked.

"I got a job." Ron's voice was still stunned.

"What?" Harry questioned.

"I explained to Linus, he told me to call him Linus," Ron added hurriedly at Harry's look of surprise, "that I was fighting with Malfoy and that's how the window was broken, but also that I was fighting because he had insulted Hermione. He seemed to think that was somewhat noble. When I told him that I didn't have any money to pay him with, he suggested that I work it off."

Hermione poured him a glass of tea while Harry gave him a cauldron cake to eat; he was still looking rather peaked.

"That's good, right?" Hermione asked, unsure.

"Yeah," Ron said, "yeah, I think it's good."

Harry grinned and the tense look on Ron's face finally dispersed. He drank his cup of tea in one gulp and got back to his feet.

"We need to go tell Mum," Ron told them.

"But the library." Hermione broke in but her pleas fell on deaf ears as she was hustled back to the Burrow to spread the word of Ron's somewhat good fortune.


It was indeed a bit of good fortune, Hermione would often think later as she spent her summer days sitting at a table in the second floor loft of Obscuras Books. She could oversee the whole store from here, and the place was filled with dutifully cared for book and scrolls. It was far better than the Diagon Alley library, and Linus Leoquill, the owner, was so pleased with Hermione's appreciation of his collection that he had no qualms about letting her carefully paw through them without buying any.

Her eyes followed Ron as he climbed a rickety ladder; a stack of books balanced in one hand like a waiter while the other desperately clung to the ladder rung.

"I can't believe he won't let me use magic in the store," Ron grumbled down to her.

"Well he's had some bad experiences with underage wizards messing up their spells and sending books flying out the windows," Hermione replied primly while tracing the edge of the paragraph before her with the tip of one finger.

Ron turned more than was safe in order to glare at her. "I am quite capable of performing a simple Wingardium Leviosa charm."

Hermione snorted with ill-contained laughter and Ron's glare deepened. He was about to speak when the ladder began to wobble painfully. The stack of books went sailing through the air as he grabbed at the bookshelf before him in order to steady the ladder.

Hermione drew her wand quickly. "Wingardium Leviosa!" she cried and the books stopped in their gravitational tracks and floated patiently for a command.

"He lets you do magic," Ron muttered as he climbed down the ladder.

"Yes but I didn't break his window either."

"The broken window had nothing to do with magic," Ron retorted.

The tinkling of bells broke into their banter and Ron took the steps two at a time in order to meet the customer. Hermione leaned against the rail so that she could watch him. He complained about the hours, he complained about Linus, he complained about the books, but he couldn't hide the fact that he loved it. After only two days of working, Linus had decided to pay him, despite the window. For the first time in his life, Ron had his own money, he couldn't be happier.

Harry was happy too. He didn't come to Diagon Alley every day with them. He often just liked to be at the Burrow. He seemed particularly fond of spending time helping Mrs. Weasley, doing odd chores around the house. He listened when she talked and watched what she did. He was stridently absorbing what living in a wizard household meant.

"Are you ready?" Ron asked her as the customer departed. He was rummaging around in his robe for the key to the door.

Hermione looked up in surprise; she hadn't realized that it was so late. She had been reading a book devoted to the Fidelius Charm.

"What are you working on anyway?" he asked as she put her book away.

"I'll tell you tonight, after dinner." Hermione slid the book carefully onto the shelf; it wouldn't do if she damaged a book worth more than sixty galleons.

"Honestly?" He was so used to being told that she wasn't ready to confide her plans that he was shocked to hear a different answer.

"We'd better hurry or we'll miss supper," was her only response.


They sat together in the darkness, perched on a large, smooth stone that balanced itself over the small pond that was hidden from the Burrow by large clumps of foliage. The half-moon flickered on the water as the frogspawn clustered near the surface.

"So what are you doing that requires so much secrecy?" Harry asked. "It's not illegal is it?"

"No, not really," she said evenly. "Ron and I were talking about how you seem so withdrawn."

Ron squirmed as Harry looked at him questioningly.

"We know why you pull away, and it's understandable," Ron said quickly as Harry looked about to defend himself.

"But that doesn't mean we like it," Hermione added. "So I thought that maybe if there was some spell that we could cast so that we couldn't betray you, you'd trust us more."

"Trust you more? I trust you two more than anyone you know that. It has nothing to do with that," Harry replied strongly.

"And it shows," Ron snapped. "You were so forthcoming last year that you had the decency to not tell us that Dumbledore was sending you away from school for a month to hide with Snuffles."

"I couldn't tell you that, it would have put you in danger!" Harry had gotten angrily to his feet

"Sit down, please," Hermione wailed, this wasn't going at all the way she had intended. "Please Harry, sit."

Harry looked at his friends for a moment, deciding whether to comply.

"Harry," Hermione said again, "Ron and I are always in danger, we know that. Keeping things from us won't make us any safer."

She looked to Ron for support and he nodded his head. He still wasn't sure of where this all was leading but he trusted Hermione. She had done all that research after all.

"I've been looking into the Fidelius Charm. I think it could be adapted to bind three people to secrecy, not just one." Hermione bit her lip, unsure of how to word this. "We could make it so that a secret between the three of us could never be told. It couldn't ever be taken through torture or truth potions and it couldn't be given away." Hermione looked at the pond for a moment. The warm darkness of the evening seemed to belie the seriousness of their conversation. "We would never be able to betray you Harry."

Stunned, Harry sat back down. "Why would you want to do that?"

Hermione was taken aback. She hadn't really thought about that. Of course she wanted to do it, she felt that it needed to be done. But put that need into words?

Ron had an answer. "The world needs you Harry, and you need us. Can't turn our back on the world can we?" He joked to soften the deeper meanings.

Harry closed his eyes and thought. With his hair just as wild as it had ever been and his repaired glasses, he didn't look like the sixteen-year- old boy that he was. Instead he resembled a lost child, frail and delicate in the paleness of the light. Hermione was reminded again why she wanted to use this spell so badly.

"Do you." Harry began in a distant voice, "do you really think you can make the charm do that?"

"I think I can. It'll just take some time."

"Yeah, what can't Hermione do if you give her enough books?" Ron grinned.

They spent the rest of that evening sitting by the pond talking of less important things. It was epitome of their summer together. The warm night marked the sultry slowness that they spent their time till they left for school.


"Are we ready then?" Hermione asked softly, looking from Ron to Harry.

"You don't have to do this," Harry whispered hoarsely.

"Don't be a prat Harry," Ron snapped. The tension was making them all a little irritable. "No one ever said that we had to, we want to."

"I don't even know if it'll work." Hermione's voice was a frail murmur. "It probably won't, I'm only sixteen you know. The best we can hope for is that we won't accidentally blow up part of the Forbidden Forest."

"It'll work Hermione," Harry assured her. Ron nodded as well.

"How can you be so sure?"

The two boys looked at each other for a moment strangely puzzled.

"I just am," Harry said finally.

Hermione nodded finally, knowing what he meant. She pulled out her stack of parchments and began to reread her notes one more time. It had taken her longer than she had thought it would when she first had the idea over the summer. The end of the holidays came and went and then the first two months of school before Hermione had achieved, what she hoped, was a workable adaptation of the Secret Keeper spell.

The idea had seemed so perfectly brilliant that Hermione couldn't understand why no one had ever had it before. If the Secret Keeper spell could lock a secret into one person, why couldn't there be a spell to lock it into three? But her variation went much further than that, it had to. Her spell had to make the secrets safe. That had been the most time consuming part of her research, finding a suitable model for that aspect of the spell.

She had spent at least a month looking for something, anything that could have the affect of keeping something unspoken. And then, quite by accident, she had stumbled upon it one evening in her dorm room. Stumbling upon it is a bit untrue, however, in actuality it was dropped into her lap.

The book's title was Voiceless Passion. It was some ridiculous romance novel that Parvati had been reading. Lavender had been sitting with Parvati at the foot of Lavender's bed, cooing over something horribly romantic, when in a moment of complete rapture, Parvati had fallen backwards in a melodramatic feint right onto poor Crookshanks. The cat in question had given an offended hiss and swiped at Lavender. The book went flying through the air as the cat and two girls fought to get out of each other's way.

Hermione had frowned in disgust as the book, with a repulsively handsome man and an undulating woman wearing very little, landed squarely on top of her Ancient Runes text.

"Honestly," she muttered as the braggart saw her and dropped his maiden to the ground. He managed to give her a wolfish grin and a wink before she flipped the book over in disgust.

"Taken from her parents' home at an early age, the young but devastatingly beautiful Annabelle has struggled to survive. Being forced to work as a serving wench in her evil uncle's tavern, she falls victim to a particularly nasty Silencio charm and is unable to tell the handsome pirate Rodolpho Mast her true feelings. But passion as unbridled as this cannot be stopped by..."

Hermione stopped reading the summary and just stared at it a moment. It would be too easy, wouldn't it? A simple silencing spell? Why, they had learned Silencio in their second year. But it could work, couldn't it?


Startled, Hermione looked up to see Parvati standing expectantly in front of her, waiting for the book.

That had solved the puzzle as far as Hermione was concerned. Once she knew how to lock the secrets away with a Silencio, it hadn't taken much longer to finish the spell. Now they just had to cast it.

Hermione wasn't entirely sure what would happen. Oh in theory she knew what the effect would be the ability to share their secrets with each other but once it became a communal secret they would never be able to tell anyone else without the combined agreement of all three of them. It could be a hassle from time to time, but Hermione, Harry, and Ron all considered it worth that small sacrifice. Knowing the hypothetical outcome, however, is not always comforting, especially when concerning a bit of magic that had never been done before. They were all willing to make sacrifices, though, and with the frighteningly fast rise of Voldemort, what did they really have to lose?

"Our wands should almost be touching," Hermione said.

They stood together in a circle, their arms held high, the tips of their wands a few inches apart. A cool autumn breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees around them and Hermione nodded. Then they begun.

"Fidelius Taceo Pietas, Fidelius Taceo Pietas, Fidelius Taceo Pietas."

They repeated Hermione's incantation over and over again; their disjointed voices beginning to find harmony with each other's. Nothing was happening, and for a moment Hermione was afraid that nothing ever would, but then a small pinpoint of golden light flared suddenly between them. No bigger than a marble at first, then a snitch, it grew to the size of a Quaffle before it stopped. It was the color of vibrant, spun gold, it swirled and coalesced, vibrating, and pulsating.

They watched it entranced, not knowing what to do. Quite suddenly the ball split into three parts and sped up each wand. There wasn't even time to blink let alone drop the wand. Hermione felt the impact like a small bomb had gone off in her head and then she could feel Harry and Ron, closer to her than they had ever been before, together, in her, part of her.

Then the images came pouring into her, the secrets. Ron as a child burying his mother's eggs believing that he could grow chickens and then later blaming Fred and George. Harry breaking his aunt's favorite vase and then spending the whole day hiding in a bush in the front lawn. Ron stealing Ginny's mini goblin bank so that he could buy a bag full of sugar beads. Harry at the sorting hat being told that Slytherin would be a good choice for him; Ron cheating at chess when he thought Hermione might finally win; the core of Harry's wand; Ron's jealousy at the fourth year Yule Ball, and Harry's uncontrollable fear for his friends. The images wouldn't stop, Hermione felt like she was hurtling along the edge of some steep chasm in a Gringotts' cart. Faster they came, things she had wanted to know and things she would try to never think about again. They swirled in her head making her dizzy, tightening around her throat choking her. The visions came to an abrupt halt and Hermione slipped to the ground unconscious.

She awoke some time later to the sound of someone calling her name, a hint of worried panic poisoning the words.

"Harry?" she whispered as she opened her eyes to meet his.

"Are you all right? I couldn't get you to wake up." His voice sounded close to hysteria.

"I'm all right." Hermione let him help her to sit up. She glanced around, looking for Ron. "Are you okay Ron?"

Ron looked up from where he was sitting, the freckles standing out against the pale white of his face. He nodded at her, looking a bit queasy. "Was that supposed to happen?"

"Well, I don't rightly know, this is the first time that this spell has been used. Maybe we have to know each other's deepest secrets before it works," Hermione replied as she stood up.

"How will we know when it works?" Harry asked her.

"Why don't I go find Ginny and tell her that you really fancy her in that blue sweater she's got," Ron said with grin.

"Well that would be one way," Hermione agreed.

"We are not going to test this out on my relationship," Harry replied firmly, his face beginning to pink.

"I didn't know that one syllabic answers counted as a relationship." Ron ducked as Harry playfully took a swing at him. "Only joking."

"I'm sure that if we just give it some time we'll see if the spell worked or not," Hermione said firmly as she scooped up her notes and tucked them into her bag. "We had better head back to the school, the sun will be down in a couple of minutes and we don't want to be missed."

"Hey Hermione," Ron called after her, "you don't really think that Malfoy is handsome, do you?"

Hermione went scarlet. Of course, if she had seen all of their secrets, then they must have seen all of hers as well.

"Hermione?" Harry prompted as a look of horror began to form on Ron's face.

"Well it isn't as if I fancy a snog with him or anything," Hermione retorted as Ron began to make gagging noises. "But he has grown into his looks. That doesn't make him any less the nasty prat that he is."

Ron stumbled to the ground with a feigned heart attack and Hermione rolled her eyes, continuing on towards schools. It would be almost a week before they would know the outcome of Hermione's efforts.


"So who is Ron asking to Hogsmeade this weekend?"

Hermione looked up from her Potions book and gave Lavender a penetrating look. The other girl was trying hard to make her question seem innocent, but her infatuation for Ron was well known and she couldn't hide the nervous way her fingers were re-straightening an already perfectly coifed rope of hair.

Feeling sorry for her roommate, Hermione replied, "He's asking..." But the name of Susan Bones died somewhere in the back of her throat. Frowning, she tried again, but just as before the words wouldn't come.

She realized then what it meant. The spell was working. Hermione carelessly knocked her book to the side as she rushed past Lavender.

"Hermione?" Lavender called after her.

Hermione took the stairs two at time as she climbed down the girls' staircase and then back up the boys'. She threw open the sixth year boys' door without even knocking.

Ron looked up exclaiming, "Oi what're you doing? We could have been naked."

Hermione made a quick check of the room the other Gryffindor boys were absent. "Well you're wearing clothes at the moment so I hardly see the harm."

"What is it?" Harry, always the more observant, asked.

"It worked." Her voice was low.

"What worked?" Ron asked.

Hermione and Harry both turned to look at him.

"Oh that," he muttered. "How do you know?"

Hermione began pacing room. "I was talking to Lavender, and she wanted to know who you were asking to Hogsmeade tomorrow."

"You told her?" Ron interrupted. His interest in Susan was a highly guarded secret.

"I was going to," Hermione replied.

"You were going to?" His face was getting pink.

Hermione stopped and glared at him. "Are you going to let me finish?"

Ron returned her glare with equal bite, but after a moment he faltered and finally looked away. "Go on," he grumbled.

"As I was saying," she cast a dark look at him, "I was about to tell her and then I just didn't."

"How scientific," Ron said in a not too quiet voice.

"What do you mean Hermione?" Harry asked her as if Ron hadn't spoken.

Hermione continued pacing, her steps echoing on the stone floor. "The words just wouldn't come. I tried to say them but I couldn't make them come out." She stopped abruptly, sitting on the edge of Dean's bed. "It was the strangest feeling."

"This is good, right?" Ron asked her.

"Yes, yes it means that the spell worked," Hermione told him, although a bubble of anxiety squirmed inside of her.

A smile broke across Harry's face and Hermione's worry faded in the glow. There hadn't been much to smile about since coming back to Hogwarts. Muggle disappearances were on the rise and the Professors all looked worried. But the spell had worked. It wasn't much, but it was something.

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