The End of the Beginning

Chapter 38

The next few days were hectic in the Burrow. There was already a crowd and it was getting bigger as Christmas day approached. Bill and Fleur had arrived the day after Hermione and Charlie came in two days after that. By the time Percy arrived with Penelope Clearwater in tow the day before Christmas the Weasley home was fit to burst with people.

Hermione felt oddly at home in the cramped conditions. It was far different than the small affairs she grew up on, but considering the current tenuous relationship with her own family she was grateful to have it. Besides, most of the people in the house felt like her extended family anyways.

While Harry, Charlie, Ron, Luke, Bill, George, Ginny and Aubrey all went out to brave the light afternoon snow to play quidditch, Hermione stayed on her pallet in Ginny's room. She had to make some last minute preparations for her plan.

There were two items on the pallet in front of her: one was a book on arithmancy that Luke had been interested in and the other was a small gold chain with a small golden snitch on it.

The biggest difference in the gifts was that the book was simply a backup plan in case she lost the nerve to follow through with her real plan. The chain was enchanted with a powerful spell that would reveal any concealing magic on the person who put it on. She had done her research to ensure it wouldn't harm Luke, simply pull him out from behind whatever spells he was using to hide something.

The problem was that wasn't sure that she wanted to go through with it. While it was harmless, something about deceiving Luke told her that it made her little better than him. There was also something about the girl Luke had been talking to, something in her voice that bothered Hermione. If Luke really was hiding something sinister, if her life were somehow in danger, how could that girl have sounded so sympathetic?

None of it added up to her. She wrapped the two gifts, the necklace in green and the book in red, and placed them next to her pallet. These were not to be given during the early morning scrum, but needed to be handled by her personally.

Hermione spent the rest of the evening debating with herself in her mind. It was becoming harder and harder to justify the use of the necklace. Luke seemed perfectly at ease around the Weasley's and no one seemed to think that anything was amiss. Not even Harry, who had the best instincts for sniffing out trouble that Hermione knew of.

"What's on your mind?" Harry interrupted her train of thought. He took a seat next to her on the bench where she had been watching the snow fall through the drawing room window. "And don't say "It's nothing" because I know better. You've been avoiding everyone all day."

"It's…something." Hermione looked down at her shoes, "I'm just not sure I want to talk about it right now."

"Are you sure?" She looked into his face and saw the concern written in his drawn eyebrows and frown. It reminded her of how Harry had looked at her under a starry night sky almost four months ago and how she had known then she would never have to deal with her problems without him anymore.

"No." Hermione felt her resistance ebb away, "Harry, there's something wrong with Luke."

Harry's eyes widened in surprise, "With Luke? What makes you say that?"

She described to him in detail both what she had observed during their visit to Hogsmeade and the conversation she had overheard at Hogwarts. She could see the gears begin to turn in his mind.

"It seems pretty obvious he's hiding something, but do you think you're in any danger?"

"Honestly? No. Something about how that girl talked to him makes me think it's something different; I just can't put my finger on what."

"Do you know who she is?" Harry stood up and began to pace.

"No, I heard her voice but I didn't see her and it'd be pretty difficult to locate someone by voice at Hogwarts."

"Is there someone you see him with a lot when he's not with you? She has to be someone he trusts."

"No, he's always with his quidditch teammates when he's not with me and no one really sticks out as a confidant or anything."

Suddenly there was a soft knock at the drawing room door and Ron pocked his head in. "Mum is shooing everyone up to bed, just thought I'd give you a heads up." Ron looked from Harry to Hermione, "Something up?"

Harry looked to Hermione and raised an eyebrow. Hermione shook her head to Ron, "No, Harry and I were just chatting. Thanks for the heads up."

Ron looked at Harry expectantly at Harry, but when he kept his silence Ron relented. "Alright then, 'night mates."

"Night." They both chorused back. Ron closed the door and they heard him make his way up the stairs.

"I don't like leaving Ron out of this." Harry said quietly.

Hermione sighed, "I don't either, but I don't want everyone worried about me."

Harry simply nodded and continued pacing. They sat that way for a few minutes in silence, both of them analyzing the possibilities. Finally Harry stopped pacing and sat down next to Hermione again. "Honestly I can't really whittle the possibilities down without any more information."

"I know…"

"What is it?"

"I may have a way to get some more information, but I'm not sure if I should use it." Hermione described the necklace to Harry.

Harry frowned, "I don't like it."

"I didn't think you would."

"Have you tried just talking to him?"


"I think you should try it." Harry took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze, "For all we know this is a big misunderstanding. Besides, nothing seems out of place with him to me."

"You're right Harry." She squeezed his hand back.

"Well it's not too often I've heard that." Harry smiled.

"Don't let it go to your head." Hermione laughed, "Thank you Harry."

"What are friends for?" Harry stood up, "Besides it almost felt like old times again, us sitting here trying to fit the pieces together."

"We've done quite enough of that for a lifetime."

"I don't know, it never loses its appeal to me." Harry stated simply.

Hermione couldn't help but blush, "Oh, Harry."

"Come on, let's head to bed. Tomorrow is Christmas." Harry opened the door for Hermione and she led them up the stairs, coming to Ginny's door first.

She turned and crushed him in a hug. "Merry Christmas Harry."

"Merry Christmas Hermione." Harry squeezed her back and gave her a contented smile before continuing up the stairs towards Ron's room.

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