[identity profile] mollivanders.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] prefer_my_life
Title: you have my word (which is about all I have left)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Ron/Hermione, Lupin
Author's Note: Word Count – 1,396. Like, I don't even know. Spies? AU War storytelling. Set sometime after HBP and includes elements from DH but is not consistent with that book. Written for [livejournal.com profile] crickets.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Warner Bros and JKR, even if she doesn't know what to do with them.

He hasn’t seen or heard from her for months; working behind enemy lines, it would be beyond foolish to attempt any unnecessary contact.

(That hasn’t made the separation any easier.)

Two days ago, though, Lupin had visited him in the dead of night with the news that she was coming in from the cold.

“For good?” Ron had asked, her missive clutched tight in his fist, but Lupin only shrugged, his face unreadable as ever these days. “I can’t tell you more than that, Ron,” he’d said. “For her own protection. You know.”

These days, Ron thinks he knows how Black had felt, when his own friends weren’t sure he wouldn’t betray them to Voldemort.

(Knew how Black had worried about himself, too.)

“Make sure you know it’s her,” Lupin says before slipping out the back door. “If she’s been made –”

“We’d have heard,” Ron interrupts, unwilling to entertain that possibility. Even still, he knows the rules, and he’ll be damned if he’s the one who betrays her in the end.

Lupin locks the door behind him and once again, Ron finds himself alone; surrounded by coded messages and attack plans that only he has the key to. Upstairs, Bill is still sound asleep, his only company these days.

Harry, out in the field, leading attacks on Death Eaters and searching for Horcruxes. Hermione, behind enemy lines, disguised with the Polyjuice that she makes so well, and that is her only protection against fates worse than death.

(Not her only protection; he knows this. He gambles on this.)

But now, at last, one of them is coming home.

+

He meets her two nights later, in Muggle London. He doesn’t ask how many times she’s changed disguises between leaving her Death Eater camp and getting to the rendezvous.

They’d chosen the place months ago, before she’d gone undercover. After capturing Pansy Parkinson, it had been Hermione who had come up with the idea of posing as her to sneak into the Death Eater camp. It had been Hermione who had convinced Ron to help her develop a strategy to first ensure she’d pass as Parkinson, and then rise in the ranks. It had been Hermione who’d insisted on not telling Harry anything, which left Ron in a rough spot aside from the fact that he was mostly cooped up at Shell Cottage, protected by the Fidelius Charm, and had only seen Harry once since Hermione had gone undercover.

(They used to play games at this, he thinks, and said they weren’t games.

They didn’t know the half of it.)

The park bench in front of St. Thomas’ Hospital is empty when he gets there, even though the evening rush is still in full swing. He settles on one end with his fish and chips and crosses his legs, waiting.

Would she come as herself? Would he even recognize her? There are things about Hermione he thinks he would always recognize – the rush of her gait, the way she spoke in long rushes of air, how her hands flew around her face when she talked and how she never seemed to go anywhere without a bag. All of that may have changed now though, what with being undercover. He imagines her whole identity transformed, pieces of her picked up and discarded as the task required.

He shakes himself into focus, criticizing his inner thoughts. It’s better not to think of the little things the war has stolen from them, that they will never get back. Not when much bigger, more important losses, loom just around the corner if they fail.

(But Hermione has never been a little thing; not ever.)

A woman catches his eye, leaning against the Thames railing barrier. Her entire air is unpracticed, but something about her seems familiar. Her long black hair is plaited down her back, and the bright red sweater she wears over black slacks seems wholly un-Hermione. Still…

He wanders over, tightening his brown flat cap over his hair more, and chucks his unfinished dinner into a rubbish bin. There’s a solid meter between them but if it is Hermione, he doesn’t want to disappoint her with his terrible spy skills. Not when she’s done so well, on her own, all these months.

So he waits, until –

“You know what this river always makes me think of?” the woman asks, and he hopes against hope that if it’s not Hermione, she can’t hear the nervous pounding of his heart. “Long life. Great power. It runs through this city, with all its revolutions and turmoil, and never changes.” A beat. “But great power comes with great responsibility.”

He nods, slowly releasing a great breath. “And great responsibility comes with great risk,” he replies. The woman catches his eye and a ghost of a smile threatens to break her face. “Fancy some dinner?” she asks, and his stomach rumbles in response. “I know just the place,” he says.

+

They take the bus to the Underground, and take a train to the other side of the city. Hermione doesn’t say a word the rest of the way, but her hand in his communicates the tense alertness of someone who is never off call. He guides them to a smoky pub with a neon purple turtle flashing in the deepening gloom, and when the door swings shut behind them, she raises an eyebrow at him.

“Really? This place?” she asks and he grins. “There’s a dance floor downstairs. Seems like a good place to switch your outfit.” Her eyebrows quirk in approval and she follows him downstairs. The downstairs is already crowded, music so loud it could be felt upstairs through the bar floor, and in an unlit corner, Hermione effects her transformation. Wordlessly, she taps her wand to her hair, to her eyes, to her nose, and her true form shimmers before him.

“There,” he says, drinking her in, “that’s a bit better, isn’t it?” before she clutches him into a strong hug.

+

They make do with a rundown hotel, and while Ron knows that it’s beyond unfair, that Hermione deserves more than this and more than he can give her, she doesn’t seem to mind. She curls up against him in the bed and rests her head on his shoulder, breathing softly.

“How long until you have to go back?” he asks, running his hand through the tendrils of her hair. It’s thick and bushy, and he spots a few strands of grey. Strains of wartime; a badge of courage.

“What makes you think I’m going back?” she asks, staying where she is, and his eyes roll back a bit as she drags her hand down his stomach and under the sheets.

“Because,” he gasps, “you haven’t said you’re staying.”

She slows; stops. “True,” she admits. “I’m getting close though, Ron. And it’s not just research and intelligence for you and Harry, but keeping people safe while I can. So yes. I’m going back.”

“I knew you would,” he says instead, and rolls over to kiss her, drinking in every detail of her beside him. Thinks of trying to persuade her to stay; to come in for good. Thinks of the girl in her first year, determined and bossy and unstoppable. “I just miss you, is all.”

She curls a hand around his neck and presses their foreheads together.

(The games that they played as children.)

“Finish this war,” she says, and there’s a steel to her voice that he misses hearing; that Lupin doesn’t carry and that Harry doesn’t hold. They have other qualities but Hermione – Hermione is wholly different.

“Hermione,” he says, thinking of the stacks of paper and the hole he’s trapped in at Shell Cottage, but can’t look away from her stare. He swallows hard and in his exhale he shuts his eyes. “I promise.”

He falls asleep with her hands curled in his hair.

+

She’s gone by the time he wakes – never one for goodbyes, and in her place is the scroll full of intel for him to decode. By now she's meeting with Lupin, or McGonagall, or perhaps even Shacklebolt. Lost in his thoughts, he Apparates back to Shell Cottage without opening the scroll, but later when he unwraps it, there is a separate message for him inside.

I promise too, it reads.

(He holds on to it until he sees her again.)

Finis
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