The Quest For Pandora

Chapter 4

Author's note: Once again, Thank you!

I own nothing

Less than two hours after leaving the ministry, Hermione was brushing off her clothes as she stepped through the floo at the Burrow. Despite her heated attempts to get the boys to divulge what had occurred the night before, they both remained adamantly tight lipped. She had finally left them in a huff and gone home. As soon as she had stepped into the shower however, Ron's owl had tapped at her window and an invitation to lunch had been extended. Ron had also promised to tell her what had happened last night, so she had let her curiosity get the better of her and had arrived immediately. There was no one in the hall, although a quick glance out the window showed her that most of the family was outside.

A clink of glass told her that someone was also in the kitchen, so she decided to check there first. As she stepped through the arch of the kitchen, her eyes fell on a shock of jet black hair. Harry was seated at the table, with his back to her, clutching a mug of what appeared to be coffee that he had just poured from a pot standing nearby. Walking closer and around to the front, Hermione noted with a start that a side of Harry's face was bruised purple as if from a sturdy punch. Sighing, she sat down beside him.

"I think the glamour's wearing off Harry". She stated in a deadpan. Harry barely moved at her sudden appearance beside him. He shifted slightly and then rubbed a hand over the back of his neck. "Long night 'mione", he rasped. "Will you tell me what happened?" she asked almost afraid of hearing what it was he had to say. Her fears were slightly allayed as she noted a small smirk form on her best friend's face. "Me and Ron had a small, disagreement, you could say". "Over what?" she shrilled. Without a word, Harry gestured outside just as Ginny Weasley whizzed by on her broom.

Hermione turned to get a better look out the window facing the large meadow outside the Burrow. There seemed to be a makeshift quidditch pitch set up and a game in progress. Ginny, Bill, Charlie and Cho Chang were on their brooms. Bill's daughter Victoire and Tonk's son Teddy were sitting on the lawn with Molly and Fleur. Ron and George were a little way off, on a bench under a tree and Ron seemed to have his head in his hands while George watched the game. Percy and his wife Audrey were on the other side of the ground with Arthur.

She turned back to Harry, "you fought about Ginny?" she asked. Harry shrugged wordlessly as a loud cheer rang up from outside. Hermione watched as the riders hopped from their brooms and shook hands, Ginny whooping loudly. After a while, she trooped into the kitchen, Bill in tow, and came straight for Hermione grinning widely. After a bone-crushing hug, Ginny tossed a smirk in Harry's direction as she leaned up against the kitchen counter. "Did you tell her about last night's adventure?" she asked. Harry only grimaced in reply. "How come you all know what happened and I don't?" Hermione asked not a little peeved at being left out of the loop. Bill grinned "don't get upset Hermione, we all know because we were there, and the adults know because Percy was there". "Percy?" Hermione asked.

"Alright look, it was my fault and I'm sorry" Ron announced walking into the kitchen, George trailing in behind him. Hermione could see Percy, Audrey and Arthur walking towards the kitchen as well. Bill sat down beside Hermione and leaned in conspiratorially. "I'll make a long story short; after a few rounds of drinks, the lads here began talking about girls, as boy do after a few rounds of drinks" Bill paused to take a swig of pumpkin juice. "Well during that all-important conversation, Ron saw fit, after a month away, to inquire from Harry here, just what he was doing with our baby sister". Hermione almost dropped the coffee pot she had picked up to pour herself a mug as she looked incredulously towards Ron while Ginny rolled her eyes and her head back. Ron stared mulishly at the ground "I said I'm sorry" he murmured. "Meanwhile, our Harry, who was sloshed to the brim mind, began well; logically, but stumbling a bit, explaining to íckle Ron here that what he does with our sister is none of Ron's bloody business, but Ron just wouldn't let it go" George continued.

"It all went downhill from there actually, Hi Hermione" Cho called out as she traipsed into the kitchen. Ginny and Cho played together for the Holyhead Harpies and Cho visited often, so Hermione was used to seeing her at the burrow. She smiled at Cho distractedly before asking "and then what happened?"

"They just got louder and louder" Bill continued, clearly enjoying himself. "And drunker" George added. "Until Harry couldn't take it anymore and yelled out something no man should have to hear about his baby sister, loud as could be for the entire bar to hear, just as Percy walked in. A few seconds later, Ron had clocked him one" Bill stated, struggling not to laugh. "a few seconds after that, they were both lying on the floor, drunk to oblivion, and the others got caught in the moment and just started throwing punches left, right and centre" he finished. "It was an absolute madhouse" George said reminiscently." "A free for all. They were punching each other after a while".

"What did you say to Ron?" Hermione asked turning to Harry. "I think the exact words were 'I shagged her thrice in your bathroom last weekend" Bill said finally giving into a fit of giggles. Hermione gasped, "Oh Harry" she breathed out, hand on her chest. "I was drunk 'mione, bloody drunk to my eyebrows. I'm sorry Gin" Harry rasped looking appealingly at Ginny. She stalked over, "that is Not. An. Excuse. Harry Potter", she emphasised each word with a smack upside his head. "Do you know how many hours of lecturing I've had from Percy since I woke up this morning? About keeping my virtue and saving myself for marriage and on and bloody on. Did you have to yell so loudly Merlin?" shaking her head, Ginny stalked out of the kitchen. Harry looked up a few minutes later and caught Ron's eye. They both smirked simultaneously, and Hermione knew that they were ok, although Harry probably had a lot of explaining to do and downright awkwardness going around.

As she processed this latest news, Hermione realised that Bill had said that Harry and Ginny had shagged last weekend. Did that mean they were back together? She sighed and shook her head, looking at harry out of the corner of her eye. Harry and Ginny had the most tempestuous relationship one could imagine. Ginny was all fire and Harry knew millions of ways of firing her up. They took breaks from each other almost continuously, claiming that distance made it hard to maintain a proper relationship. Ginny was off training and touring most of the year and Harry was off on missions a lot of the time too, so the separations made sense. What didn't make sense however was how those breaks always ended the moment they laid eyes on each other. They fought like mad but had so much passion and, dare she say it, love, that they always kept coming back to each other. Hermione knew that they would end up together someday; they couldn't not. And apparently, despite Harry's claims that they were on another of their breaks, they had made time to call it off last weekend. She smiled to herself; as long as they made each other happy, they could take as many breaks as they wanted as far as she was concerned.

Hermione realised through her ruminations, that she, Ron and Harry were now the only ones left in the kitchen as the others had drifted into the hall. Ron seemed to have come to the same realisation. "So, are you ready for Monday?" he asked, taking a seat in front of her and Harry. "yes" she said slowly, turning the mug over in her hands. "She's intimidated by Malfoy" Harry rasped before coughing into his hand. "What? Really?" Ron asked with a laugh. "No, I am not" Hermione replied sternly sending Harry a glare. "I merely said that he's changed since I last saw him. He's more, grown up" she finished lamely. "He's still the same twat he was in school 'mione, he's just put on more years". Ron said while he and Harry snickered.

Hermione hesitated, rotating the mug in her hands a little faster. "Is he really like he was in school though? Does he still believe, he's better than everyone? You know, because he's a pureblood? Because if he does, you know, I might not want to work with him. That much". She realised she was rambling, but she just had to say what had been bothering her ever since she found out that she'd have to work with Malfoy. Deep in her heart, Hermione knew she was a powerful witch and that her gift of magic had nothing to do with her blood status. But ever since Hogwarts, Malfoy in particular had made her doubt herself. His constant taunts and insults about her blood status and inherent inferiority had often left her self-conscious and depressed for days although she never showed it. All those feelings of inadequacy came to a head when she was being tortured by Bellatrix at the manor in front of Malfoy, who watched her; terrified, but doing nothing about it. She always felt that the reason he didn't even try to help was because he felt that she was not worth going against his deranged aunt for. Now, she knew she didn't fear Malfoy, but she feared his judgement. And going in for a potentially dangerous mission, she didn't know if she could work with a man who wouldn't deem her worthy of being saved or rescued. Harry, Ron and many aurors wouldn't hesitate a second to come to her aid. But would Malfoy?

Harry sighed and rubbed the back of his neck again. "Hermione, just to be clear, what he thinks or doesn't think about you is completely irrelevant. He just needs to follow your orders and have your back. And you can be sure that all of us will be there to make sure he does just that". "Yeah and c'mon Hermione, you know you can put him in his place if he even steps a toe out of line" Ron agreed. Harry stood up and stretched, "I honestly don't know if his views on blood status have changed. We don't really sit around exchanging worldviews. He does his job and leaves. He's generally polite and hasn't given us reason to doubt him yet". "Plus, he's actually good at what he does Hermione" Ron said leaning back in his chair, "he knows his potions, knows about dark artefacts and how to counter them, he's good in a fight. If we really do need him on this, he'll consider this just like any other job".

"But if he does or says anything that makes you uncomfortable, feel free to hex his unmentionables" Harry chuckled on the way out.

"Well, as long as I'm free to do that…" Hermione rolled her eyes and stood up. She linked arms with Ron and walked out of the kitchen and into the hall.