Chapter 14: Reasons Why
Chapter 14 - Reasons Why
"Ronald you don't have to go in today or any other day as a matter of fact. As of this morning the restoration project at Hogwarts has been cancelled indefinitely."
There was stunned silence in the kitchen that lasted for all of two seconds before Hermione found her voice.
"Cancelled? What do you mean Professor? I don't understand. Why would they cancel the project now?" she asked with the look of surprise still on her face.
Just then Harry and Ginny entered the room and paused at the doorway taking in the same look on the faces of the other occupants.
"What has been cancelled?" Ginny inquired.
Mrs. Weasley quickly motioned them to sit as she explained.
"Professor Sherrard has just informed us that the restoration project at Hogwarts has been stopped Ginny." she said with a soft sigh while glancing at Ron.
"What! But why? Why would they do that? Has something happened at the school?" Ginny asked loudly.
"I would have heard if something had happened I'm sure." Harry informed them.
"It has nothing to do with the school I assure you." the Professor said sadly.
"Then it makes no sense. As soon as I get to school I will have a word with the Headmistress and get this cleared up." Hermione now started to get a bit incensed. She felt a soft tug on her arm and she looked at Ron who had surprisingly remained quiet up to now. He pulled her down to sit next to him and held her hand gently as he returned her look.
"They know about us Hermione. This is about us. It has started." he said simply before turning to the elderly gentleman. Ron held his hands up as another chorus of loud remarks were now levelled at his statements.
"I want to hear the Professor first so hold up. Tell us what exactly happen this morning Professor." he asked.
Hermione was stunned. Could this really be just a horrible reaction to her forming a relationship with Ron? How could this still exists in their world? After all they had fought for. She listened as the Professor spoke.
"I was summoned to a meeting with the Board and other Ministry officials early this morning to give a status report on the project. Robert and John were already there when I arrived and when the meeting commenced without you I suspected things were not all well." he started.
"I went through the project as we had planned it and informed them that we had just completed all the sections that were unstable as well as all the other difficult areas such as the staircases, landings and the roofs. We were now about to commence the rest of the school but we were ahead of schedule to complete by the end of March next year." he paused to take a sip of his tea then continued.
"I was then informed that since all of the areas that threatened the safety of students and teachers were now completed, the project was to be stopped immediately as the funding for completion was now needed elsewhere. When adequate funding was procured again, the project would be started back. I tried to reason with them but the decision had already been made apparently." the professor finished with a loud sigh.
Hermione could not contain herself anymore. She tried to stand but Ron refused to let her go of her hand.
"That is a bunch of nonsense! That funding was passed and approved by the Ministry at the start of the project. They have no right to withdraw it on some flimsy excuse!" she fumed as she now turned to Harry.
"Surely Kingsley knows of this. How could he let this happen!" she asked to no one in particular. "In fact I think I should go and pay him a visit to let him explain this misunderstanding." she said with new conviction.
"You don't have to go and see him...he'll be here in a few minutes actually." the professor now told them. "I also went to see him after my meeting and he wants to talk to you Hermione...and Ron. I told him you were both here."
Mrs. Weasley now jolted into action as her husband entered the kitchen with Charlie.
"Arthur. The Minister of Magic is on his way here to talk to Ron and Hermione. Oh I should get some breakfast ready." as she busied herself around the room.
As the others explained the news to Mr. Weasley and Charlie, Hermione spoke quietly to Ron at her side.
"Ron do you really think this is as a result of us...being together?" she asked.
"All the signs are there Hermione but I never expected something like this so quickly. Someone must have told them but I can't figure out who. No one really knows about us...well except for some of my family...so how could this happen so quick?
Hermione felt her stomach turn as she remembered her recent clash with Dickinson. He had accused her of being with Ron and she had never denied it. She groaned but out of anger more than anything.
"Dickinson knows about us...or suspects at least. I didn't tell you but I met him on Friday and we had a fight. He seemed to know about us and I let him have it but I never said we weren't together. I can't believe he would do such a thing!" she cried out. Ron squeezed her hand as he tried to calm her.
"Look I wouldn't put it pass old Dickwood to place the word to the right ears but it would have happened at some time Hermione. We could not have kept it a secret forever. We talked about this remember? We just have to deal with it...I hope you have no regrets." he trailed off tentatively. She quickly brought his hand up to her lips to kiss it briefly.
"No Ron. I will never regret what we have...I'm just a bit shocked I guess." she told him as Ginny's voice raised above them.
"I still don't get what they hope to accomplish by this move. Stopping the project is not going to break Hermione and Ron up...in fact if they know her, they would realise that it will make her more determined to put an end to this stupidity!"
Hermione could not help but smile at Ginny's conviction. She was about to let her know when she was interrupted by a familiar deep voice at the door.
"It's a warning. A show of the power they still hold. That's what it accomplishes." the Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt announced his arrival.
Everyone turned to the tall dark man as he was greeted by Arthur and Molly before he turned to the rest of the gathering. He seemed a bit surprised to see Harry but finally he rested his gaze on Hermione.
"Hello Hermione. It's nice to see you...and Harry again. I strongly suspected that you would have come to see me today but I thought it more prudent to speak to you and Mr. Weasley in private rather than at the somewhat exposed area of the Ministry." he said frankly.
Hermione though about what Ron had just said. They all would have to deal with it and she was not about to hide anything.
"I am grateful you are here Kingsley but whatever you have to say you can say it for all of us to hear. This is Ron's family and they are also affected by this. Please go ahead." she indicated boldly but still held on to Ron's hand securely.
"You must realise Hermione that there are still highly placed officials in the Ministry who still support the view of a highly segregated hierarchy in the Wizard World. While they would not have supported Voldemort's drastic and destructive methods they still nonetheless believe in some of his warped values. Don't be fooled...they are very smart and they are very devious. This is what I still have to deal with and this is one of the times where it raises its ugly head for me to remember it does exist." he sighed loudly as he finally took a seat.
Hermione quickly jumped in.
"But how can they just cancel the project with such a flimsy excuse as the lack of funding. Can't you do something about it?" she asked him.
"I said they were smart. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement with my support has recently asked for more funding in its fight against the death eaters. Harry here would know about this. They have been recent...activities and other worrying signs that they may be planning something. That request was denied a week ago citing a lack of sufficient proof. When I was told this morning that the funding was suddenly approved I was suspicious especially when I learnt that part of the funding would be coming from the Hogwarts project which had been cancelled. My inside sources informed me that the decision was mainly driven by the recent...association of yourself with Ron Weasley a known squib. I was outraged but I had no choice but to accept the decision as I was the one who pushed for the extra funding for the Auror Department." the Minister informed them sadly.
Surprisingly it was Patricia who asked the next question.
"Minister Shacklebolt what I cannot understand is this extreme prejudice towards Ron. He has proven himself in his work for many years with my father and he had done nothing wrong otherwise. Muggles of all kind are fairly accepted in our world so why is there so much...resistance to accept someone like him?" she asked genuinely.
Hermione remembered her similar question to Dickinson and his failure to answer with any reason. She wondered if the Minister had a better take on the subject.
"That's a good question Miss Sherrard but you have to understand how these people think. They believe the magical world represents the best of everything and everyone else not of the wizard world is inferior. Muggles are tolerated because they are not really a part of our world. They co-exist with us but they are apart...always. A squib is born in the magical world but possesses the worst possible trait...that of being a muggle. The existence of a squib announces the fact that there is a flaw in our world...something bad in our perfect place...and they are not willing to accept that no matter how accomplished he or she may be...and that's my take on it." the Minister concluded with a shrug as he turned to Hermione with a look of resignation.
"They will never go directly against you Hermione. They know you are too well know and admired in the wizard world but they could make it difficult for you and hope that you will...change your current position." he stated with a look of sympathy.
Hermione subconsciously moved a bit closer to Ron as she quickly replied.
"That will not happen." she said firmly
As she felt Ron give her hand a grateful squeeze, her mind was already trying to digest the situation and devise a plan of action. The Minister was correct. These people, whoever they were, were indeed smart but they were constrained by her position and stature in the wizard world. Ron and herself would just have to be smarter to fight them. Play them at their own game and not over react. That was what they wanted. She glanced at Ron who had his churning expression on. He suddenly looked up at them.
"What if we volunteer to work for free? I'm sure the Professor will agree although Robert and John both have young families." he said quickly. "With just the both of us, the project will slow down but they will have no excuse to have it stopped." he questioned.
"I have no problem offering my services for free Ron but what about materials and transport? And what about your room and board costs?" the professor asked.
Hermione now jumped in eagerly.
"I can ask the Headmistress to send out requests to the parents for donations for the material and other costs. I am sure they would agree to donate some funds if it means a safer and better school for their children. The Ministry can't fault or stop us from that. With respect to Ron, I can take him to his flat after work every day so that will not be a problem." she finished with a flush to her cheeks thinking too much of the last part as she heard Ginny stifle a snort beneath her breath.
"And my department can help with any transportation that you may need." Mr. Weasley suddenly interjected. "I'm sure I can accommodate your needs without a strain on my budget." he added confidently with a quick nod to Ron.
"Well, I can see that we have a plan. Excellent!" the Minister exclaimed. "Together we can work around this. I will inform the Board of this new development and that there is no need to cancel the project right away. Let them stew on this until they come up with another stumbling block. I will let you know what is happening as soon as I can Hermione." he said with a degree of satisfaction on his face as he stood up to leave.
Hermione also stood up but turned to Ron and spoke quickly.
"I have to get to school I'm already late. I'll meet you in your office at lunch time and I will let you know how it went with the Headmistress and we can plan further." she told him.
Hermione said her thanks and farewell to Ron's family before saying goodbye to Harry and the other guests. She picked up her bag and walked outside with Ron. As she looked around the Burrow, the beautiful day she had spent at the wedding felt like so long ago. Ron's hand on the small of her back however reminded her of their shared intimacy and for a moment she wished she could forget about all the new problems facing them and just apparate with him to his flat. Ron seemed to read her mind as he spun her around into a hug, engulfing her in his warmth. She held him tightly to her with the stark realization of just how much she needed him at this time. She had no idea how she would cope if the project was stopped and Ron had to move on to another one...somewhere far away. They had not planned that far ahead and it terrified her. She held him tighter in desperation.
"If our plan doesn't work...if the project has to stop...what are you going to do Ron?" she asked shakily into his neck. "Would you have to...leave here?...and what about...you know..." she choked out a small sob into his shirt. She felt his arms wrap even closer around her.
"Oh Hermione sweetheart. We are in this together remember? We will work it out just like we said. Project or not, I like the idea of you coming home with me every day. I love you and whatever happens, we stay together OK?" he said as he kissed her forehead then pulled apart enough to look down at her. She stared into his blue eyes as felt her heart skipped a beat.
"I love you too Ron. We stay together...no matter what happens." she whispered as she pulled him into a loving kiss that sealed their promise.
Hermione hurried out of the Headmistress office and quickly proceeded to the office where he was waiting. Her meeting with Professor McGonagall had gone well and she was bursting to let Ron know that the headmistress had whole heartedly agreed with their plan and that the letter she had drafted earlier would be dispatched immediately to all the parents of the school children. She had even offered a part of the schools private cash fund to ensure that the project did not stall. All that was missing was the approval of the Ministry and she prayed that Kingsley would come through for them. She had gone through her morning classes in a daze, hardly able to concentrate on anything else but their plan for the continuation of the restoration project...and Ron.
Even after his reassurance this morning, she was now prone to attacks of anxiety at the thought of losing him. She was certain of their love for one another but the idea of not being with him had shaken her earlier and she had to fight the constant urge to skip her classes to be with him. Of course she also wanted to be with him for purely selfish and admittedly some...indecent reasons. After all she was in love and her body seemed to have a mind of its own these days when they were alone. She blushed again as she recalled her wanton behaviour in his arms less than 24 hours earlier. Even though she was giddy with happiness and love at the time, she had meant everything she had said...and done. She would have gone with him willingly to his flat and she would have given her body to him fully. She was ready and the more time she could spend with him the better.
With her face flushed from these thoughts, she knocked briefly on his door and quickly entered without waiting. He was standing next to the book shelf packing away some of his books into boxes when he turned and smiled broadly at her and she threw herself at him and claimed his mouth with a longing that sprung suddenly inside her. She didn't stop until she realized that she had dragged him unto the couch a book still in his hand.
"Whoa Granger! Thanks for letting me breathe. So much for the sanctity of these hallowed halls. How about we save some for later." he laughed under her.
She sat up pulling him up with her and laughed with him as her face cooled down.
"Sorry. I was thinking of you for the whole morning and then I saw you...and I...oh sod it!...I'm not sorry at all. I can do that when I want to." she huffed at herself. Ron only laughed louder.
"You sure can. In fact I give you permission to do that as often as possible." he chuckled out. "My only concern is that I may have corrupted you beyond repair." as he accepted a playful slap on his hand.
"You have done no such thing. We are in the privacy of your office and all our clothes are on so this is perfectly acceptable." she rationalized before giving him a quick kiss.
"Well except for the fact that Robert has been outside my door for the last two minutes waiting for us to finish our...meeting." he smirked.
Hermione jumped to her feet straightening her robes and hair with her eyes wide with surprise.
"Ron you prat! Why didn't you tell me he was coming?" she whispered a shriek as she glared at him.
"Er...as I recall you didn't exactly give me a chance to say anything." he laughed at her as he walked to the door to let Robert in.
With a blush on her cheeks, she took the opportunity to bring them up to date with her meeting with the Headmistress. Ron had decided to transfer some of his stuff back to his flat as he would be hopefully staying there on a more regular basis and Robert had agreed to help him with the transport and to take him back to the flat until they received word from Kingsley. She would have to wait until after her last class before she could see him again. Feeling a bit self-conscious around Robert she quickly gave his hand a gentle squeeze as she kissed his cheek.
"I'll see you back at the flat then a little after 5:00 o'clock when I finish my last class. We can...plan a little further then." she said as her blush returned. There were other things she wanted to do besides planning. She bade them goodbye and headed back to her office to prepare for her afternoon classes.
At 3:20pm she was heading to her last class when the Headmistress hailed her out along the corridor. Hermione felt a sudden sweat on her brow as she waited for the news.
"Miss Granger I am glad I caught you so I could give you the latest update. The Ministry has agreed not to stop the project provided we can source our own funding but the project must be completed before the end of the school year." she said hurriedly a bit out of breath.
Hermione felt a mixture of elation and apprehension as the news sank in. Ron would be continuing here but they would have to move quickly to keep to the deadline which would not be easy. Kingsley was right. These people were smart and tricky. They would just have to be smarter and find a way. She suddenly had the strong urge to see him and start on their plans. She could not wait any longer.
"Thank you Professor McGonagall and I appreciate your support. We will make that deadline one way or another I can assure you." she said with conviction to the Headmistress before hesitating with her next question.
"With your approval, I would like to reschedule my last class today for later in the week? I wish to inform the other team members of the news right away." she asked knowing full well that there was only one member she wanted to see right away.
"Of course Miss Granger. I know you will work out your schedule. Well good luck and keep me informed if there is anything else I can assist with." the Headmistress said before continuing on her way.
Hermione's heart soared as she ran to her room to change and pack a small overnight bag. One should always be prepared! It was exactly 3:45pm when she existed the gates and apparated directly inside the tidy flat in Sunbury landing with a crack in the entrance hallway. She heard someone moving around the living room and moved excitedly forward.
"Ron I have some good news so I came a bit earlier than expected. I can't wait to let you know that..."
Her eager greeting was cut off by a streak of light and the force of the stunning spell crashing into her back from behind. She pitched forward with the sudden pain and fell heavily on the ground her mind slipping away quickly and the darkness overtaking her. Before she could register her shock, a dark shadow hovered over her and she vaguely heard the spell being cast again. This time she barely felt the pain as she passed out completely...